Frogging for Geeks

If you have to frog, you know it’s very easy to rip out the last row you worked.

But what if you find yourself in a situation where you need to frog the cast-on and first row you worked? Can it be done?

Think of your WIP as the stack of plates on the spring-loaded dispenser at a buffet. Which plate is the easiest one to grab? The top one. Does that mean it’s impossible to get the bottom plate in the stack? No, it’s not impossible, but it’s a whole lot more work.

The Geeky Part

There are terms that describe our buffet-plate situation:  last in, first out and first in, first out.

Last in, first out is frogging the row we just finished. It’s right there at the top, and all we have to do is pull the needle out of all the stitches. (But don’t! Do controlled frogging instead.) The last row we worked is the first one that gets frogged. The buffet plate on the top of the stack, the last one put there, is the easiest one to grab.

But first in, first out is a whole different thing. That’s trying to get the bottom plate, the first one put in the dispenser, out of the stack before we take all the other ones out first. Trying to remove the cast-on at the bottom of our WIP is exactly like that. Both situations are fraught with danger and stand an excellent chance of having a bad outcome.

Taking out a regular CO can be done, but it’s gonna be painful.


If you need to remove the cast-on, stop a minute and evaluate.

  • Perhaps you want to remove the ribbing, knit some additional length, then put the ribbing back on to make your item longer.
  • Maybe you’re making a scarf and want your original CO to now be in the middle of the piece, so you need to take out the CO, pick up the stitches, and work in the other direction.
  • The bottom part isn’t as neatly worked as the rest, so you want to take it out and make it look better.

There are better ideas than removing the CO.

  • If your piece is too short (or too long), please follow TECHknitter’s advice about changing the length of a knitted item. But note that if the main fabric is any kind of pattern, even just a knit-and-purl texture, the new bit will be offset by half a stitch (search for the first instance of the word discontinuity in the post) when you work in the opposite direction.
  • If you want to add length going the other way from the CO, then instead of trying to remove the CO, just knit up stitches instead. Knitting up stitches means that you poke the knitting needle (or a crochet hook, which can make the task much easier) through the fabric and draw up a loop of yarn. You do this all the way across the CO, giving yourself nice new stitches without the bother and trouble of trying to remove the CO. You’ll have one less stitch than you CO originally, unless you cheat a bit and knit up one extra stitch somewhere convenient.


If there’s even the slightest chance that you may want to take out your CO and do something different at that first edge, then do yourself a huge favor and use a provisional CO in the first place. It’s easy to remove a PCO because they’re designed to be removed.

As you near the end of your WIP, you may decide you don’t need to change anything at the CO edge. In that case, remove the PCO, catching the stitches on the needle, then bind off immediately.

But if you go ahead with your plan to do something at the beginning of your piece, you’re perfectly set up to do so.

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