At the Same Time

By Tabetha Hedrick

When you start out on your first sweater pattern, you’ll quickly notice a little phrase, “At the same time.” For beginners, this can be a mysterious, confusing term, but we’ll break it down today.

“At the same time” is exactly what it says; “something” will be worked simultaneously, whether it is both sides of the neck or neck/armhole shaping. It means you just need to pay closer attention.

Working Both Sides of the Neck “at the Same Time”

This begins with setting up the neck opening and separating each shoulder on either side.

Let’s pretend the pattern says this:

“Bind off center 10 sts. Join new yarn and, working both sides AT THE SAME TIME, on every RS row, decrease 1 st at each neck edge twice.”

Are you nervous yet?

Step 1: Work up to the neck opening as indicated in the pattern. In this case, we are going to work up to the center 10 sts. Go ahead and bind those 10 sts off.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2: After you bind off, work to the end of the row.

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3: Turn to the WS and work up to the neck opening where your stitches end directly before the bind off edge. Here, you are going to drop your current working yarn.

Step 3

Step 3

Step 4: Get a new ball of yarn and we are going to join it to the stitches on the other side of the bound-off neck edge. With that new yarn, work to the end of the row.

Step 4

Step 4

Step 5: You’ll notice that you now have two working yarns and two sides of the neck. At this point, we are going to treat each side as if it was ONE row. That means, now that you are on the RS again, you are going to work with the current yarn in your hands to the neck edge (working the decreases as indicated in the pattern). In this case, work until 3 sts before the neck edge, k2tog, k1 … THEN, you’ll drop that yarn, pick up the yarn that is on the other side of the neck, and work as the pattern indicates to the end of the row.

See, it’s ONE row, but two yarns. Don’t you feel better now?

Step 5

Step 5

Working Multiple Shaping Sections “at the Same Time”

These situations demand that you pay a little more attention so as not to confuse your shaping segments, but if you grasped the neck separation, this part is a piece of cake. Let’s pretend that we are going to work neck shaping AND armhole shaping, like so:

“Decrease 1 st at each neck edge twice and AT THE SAME TIME, bind off 3 sts at beg of next 2 rows.”

Onward, then …


Working the Armhole

Step 1: First, take a look at what happens at the beginning of your row. In this case, we have to bind off 3 sts, so that will be the first thing we do.

Step 2: After you bind off, continue to the neck edge and work your decrease as indicated. Move to the other side of the neck, work your decrease, and then work to the end of the row.

Step 3: Here’s the last part of that pattern — bind off your 3 sts at the beginning of the row and work as usual.

I hope this clarifies that sneaky little phrase a bit for you. If you have any questions about it, leave a comment to this post.


Tabetha HedrickTabetha lives by the belief that joy comes when fully participating in the present moment, especially when it comes to fiber. Surrounding herself with yarn through knitting, designing, spinning and teaching ensures that blissful continuity. For patterns and class schedule, visit her website at

16 Responses to At the Same Time

  1. Alisa Cutcher says:

    THANK YOU soooo very much for this!!
    I was getting super intimidated about trying to do a sweater that wasn’t just rectangles….now I feel up to the challenge thanks to your photos and captions.

    You ROCK!

  2. Sandra Verrender says:

    Thank you for showing me how to do this. I haven’t done this before so I have bookmarked this page as a reference so I can always come and check that I’m doing it right and have a practice. With what you have shown me I feel more confident to do it.


  3. Debbie Crews says:

    OMG…I’m sitting here at work, hectic as ever and I read this, it’s so simple all I can do is LOL! I feel sooooo much better! For the first time I don’t feel like I’m being spoken to in a foreign language,(though knitting patterns can be just that a foreign language for a novice like myself). I’m visual and hands on. I’m now an official groupie of “Splendid Sticks”. Great name by the way…Debbie C.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you sooooo much. I am knitting a sweater for my daughter, and the pattern is way beyond my skill. However, I am a perfectionist, and it is coming along nicely, even if I had to rip the first 10-40 rows out and start over 8 times! (I have yet to successfully rip back a row or two, since there are lace rows where I can’t seem to correctly pick up the correct stitches.) Now that I’ve finally made it to the neck shaping, the instructions completely confused me, even after I looked them up in my “teach yourself how to knit book.” Your instructions, and annotated pictures will allow me to begin the process with confidence. I was afraid that I’d worked so hard to get this far, only to find that I’d hit a wall. I didn’t think I had it in me to start over after completing the body, and the back armhole shaping. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  5. Danae says:

    Hi there, what a helpful post, thanks! I unfortunately only have one ball of yarn and my pattern is calling for this. Is there any downside to just working up one side and then doing the other so I don’t have to unwind my whole ball of yarn and cut it in half?


  6. Daphne Eves says:

    If a pattern says Dec 1 stitch every 2nd row 20 times and every ŕow 10 times does this mean at the same time or does it mean do each step separately, one step at a time?

    • Kara says:

      I’ll preface this by stating that I do not know your pattern, so there may be other instructions that state something more specific, but based on how you wrote this, you would do these separately. First dec every 2nd row 20, then when you are done, every row 10 times. Good luck!

  7. Catherine says:

    Kara, this is great, and the best explanation I’ve seen. I still have a question, to be absolutely sure. My pattern, which is on a circular needle for a cardigan, says (after some decrease rows): Decrease only on back and shape neck as follows: Knit to second marker, sl marker, k1, ssk, k to 3 sts before next marker, k2tog, k1, sl marker, knit to end. Repeat last 2 rows 4 times more, AT THE SAME TIME, when piece measures approx 10 cm from beg, bind off from neck edge 7 sets once, 5 sets twice… You get the idea. If I’m binding off from the edge, how do I use two separate balls of yarn? Sorry if this is elementary, but I’m trying to make my way through it!

    • Kara says:

      Usually, when you are told to use a second ball and you see the phrase AT THE SAME TIME, it means you will work on the neck area with the one ball, then drop it and then work on the bind off sts with the other ball. Without seeing what’s on your needle or understanding the entire pattern, I can’t be fully sure that this is what you need to do, but it seems that this is the case.

      Hope this helps and good luck!

  8. Karen says:


    I have 6 stitches on the needle. The pattern reads , Cast off,knitting2 stitches together at each end of row at same time.

    Cannot move on as stuck by how I accomplish this, can you help? Thank you x

    • Kara says:

      Karen, you would bind off as usual, but instead of casting off 1 st at a time, it sounds like you would cast off 2 at a time until you bind off all 6 sts.

      Hope this helps!

  9. Valerie Gulledge says:

    My pattern said,” Bind off 9 sts at the beg of next 2 rows, then 10 sts at beg of next 4 rows. AT THE SAME TIME, bind off center 26 sts for neck, then bind off 7 sts from each neck edge once. I don’t understand the AT THE SAME TIME part.

    • Kara says:

      Hi Valerie,
      That means that you are working both sides on that same row. Did your pattern also say to join a new ball of yarn? Good luck!!

  10. Sharon says:

    I’ve just started knitting after a gap of about 40 years and I’m stuck! I’m knitting a coat for my little dog (so if I make a few mistakes it won’t matter!) and it only takes one ball of wool. However, when shaping the leg openings, the pattern says join second ball of yarn and bind off 4…… But I only have one ball of yarn because that’s what the pattern calls for. Should I snip the yarn and leave a long loose piece hanging and then join it in later? I’m really stuck and would very much appreciate your help.

    • Kara says:

      Hi Sharon,
      I know this issue very well, when working with one ball. All you need to do is reel off a separate ball of yarn from your current ball. Just make sure you have enough to work the little leg openings, which actually shouldn’t take much. Good luck!!

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