Winging it with Afterthought Pockets

Following on the heels of my make it up as you go along yoked cardigan which I’ve worn so much because it filled that ‘wardrobe staple go with anything’ remit, I decided another such cardigan was required. Again in fingering yarn, of which I have rather a lot. It’s mostly vintage and woollen spun and in some of the most striking heathered colours that I really want to be wearing it.

This time I decided to go with a V neck. Not finding just the right pattern, or that many top down V necks in 4 ply/fingering yarn that were predominantly stocking stitch TV knitting with straightforward construction and minimal finishing, I decided to wing it.

It’s been a little while since I started this cardy, over a year in fact, and since then some rather nice top down, 4 ply/fingering cardies have been released. My favourite is Isabel Kraemer‘s boxy Gramps Revive which has made it into my Ravelry queue because it also has some great colour blocking which is perfect for some of those not quite sweater quantities and leftovers from sweaters that I have…. But anyway I digress onto the next project before I’m done with this one… no familiar pattern there then…

One thing my yoked cardigan lacks, is Pockets. Yes, Pockets deserve that mid sentence capital ‘P’  in my view. I could go back and add them but I love it so much I’d hate to screw it up so I haven’t tried.

For the V neck I did a little planning on this front. I consulted Elizabeth Zimmermann who I was sure had something somewhere on afterthought pockets. It’s in Knitting Without Tears, and it sounded straightforward enough so I decided to go for it.

I did cheat a little, but justifiably so, I think. Elizabeth Zimmermann maybe the kind of person who finishes a cardigan, blocks it, tries it on, then takes a ‘look in the glass, and make[s] a wish for pockets’ and sets to, and does it. But I know me, I do me pretty well in this respect. I would just wear the cardy, always yearn a little for pockets, but never take it off long enough to actually start cutting into my knitting to make them.

So, I used the forethought afterthought heel approach and put in some nicely contrasting white yarn where I wanted the pockets to be. That meant there really would be no wearing it until the pockets were sorted. It’s clearly not a completed garment with a nice bright white row of stitches at the point where a pocket opening should be.

One pocket completed, one still to do. (Another bit of planning that paid off was to put a removable stitch marker at the end of those rows where I had made the buttonholes at the beginning. That way I didn’t even have to think where the buttons had to go to match up.)


I hope this adequately answers EZ’s prescient question regarding my chosen approach to this;

“what’s the sense of planning head unless you have to?”

Sometimes planning backs you sufficiently into the corner of having to do that which you really need to do to get the outcome that you want, but which you know you’d procrastinate over and risk never actually doing if that were left as an option.

But yes, my approach does mean you do need to think about where your pockets will go ahead of time. Elizabeth Zimmermann tries on her completed sweater decides where the pockets should go, where her middle finger hits her hip bone and snips and manages to get everything matched up and symmetrical etc.

Having knitted my cardy top down, I tried it on unfinished and worked out where I wanted my pocket to go in relation to my desired length as I went and then, based on my total stitch count, worked out my placement and matched up my pockets stitch count wise.

I found it really straightforward to count the stitches, mark the pocket sections off with safety pins, and double check everything was correctly marked with the work on my needle, rather than doing this on completed knitting, heck I even did it without my glasses and in iffy light in front of the TV. So my kind of knitting.

Whilst the waste yarn may seem like a little too much commitment too soon, had I managed to get the waste yarn in the wrong place, or changed my mind about pockets, I could have ‘unzipped’ it and kitchenered the 2 sets of stitches together. I would still have had the option to go with EZ’s preferred method of reading the finished fabric and working out where to cut to place the pockets somewhere else if required, so nothing lost really.

There is a down side to using waste yarn that EZ helpfully points out when further critiquing this approach.

‘It {the pocket] cannot be caused to disappear without a trace’.

This, she argues, is because you don’t have the yarn left from unravelling the stitches across the pocket opening to tidy up the corners of your pockets, plus you don’t actually take out an existing row in the work which I assume would ‘pull’ it up a little and make it less visible. But you do have a yarn end when you join the yarn to knit the pocket that you can leave as long as you like to do some neatening up.

Also I wanted a little pocket top/flap/placket (what are those actually called?) so wasn’t going for the invisible pocket effect anyway. Instead I removed the waste yarn as if my pocket were a sock heel, picked up my stitches, joined yarn on the left side, and knitted across the top stitches and purled across the lower stitches. Then I knitted my pocket in the round, like a sock heel minus the decreases and kitchenered the stitches together that the bottom once I had the depth of pocket I wanted. I could have used a three needle bind off, or simply cast of and sewn along the bottom of the pocket.


I then came back, joined in yarn leaving another longish tail, picked up stitches by knitting into each purl bump starting on the right hand side and knit a little garter stitch pocket top that matched my garter stitch hem, button bands and cuffs. This all left me 2 tails of yarn, one on each side of the pocket, to sew down the flap and tidy the corners. To be honest it only took a couple extra stitches when sewing down the flaps to neaten those corners.

I love the result, I’m waiting for it to cool down before even a light airy 4 ply cardigan is needed, but once it does I know this will be the one I reach for.

I think having now done forethought afterthought pockets, I feel much more confident about jumping in with true afterthought pockets. Maybe I need to rethink my blue yoked cardy. I recently washed it to photograph it for it’s project page. Maybe I need to have a closer look and think about popping some pockets in that one too!

What do you think? Should I? Will I?

All the Best,


2 thoughts on “Winging it with Afterthought Pockets

    1. Hi Judith,
      What a good point and one of the few things I didn’t photograph, so thanks for asking. I picked up the top and bottom set of stitches and then worked all these stitches in the round so the pocket is like a bag on the inside of the cardigan. Then I picked yp stitches to do the garter pocket top/placket. You could however knit down on the top set of stitches and then sew the sides and bottom of this flap to the cardigan, to make the pocket, and then use bottom set of stitches to knit up the pocket top/placket. I never feel that sewn down pocket flaps look as neat when I’m the one doing the sewing, hence taking the approach that avoided this.
      I hope this is clear- if not, do come back to me.
      As for the pattern, this is one I made up as I went along and I’m afraid I don’t have a pattern for it. Maybe one day – I like everything about it apart from the button band which tends to flip in so it needs some remedial work and a better solution should it become a pattern.
      Thanks again or getting in touch.
      All the best,

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