Fixing Knitting Mistakes

I don’t know anyone who can knit a project without making a single mistake. Sometimes, it’s simply not worth fixing them. Sometimes they stand out like a neon sign — mercilessly. And sometimes they just make the whole project wrong. Today I want to focus on these situations and offer suggestions to deal with them.

Types of Mistakes

The misplaced purl: If you got a stitch wrong and quickly realize it, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. But consider fixing it as soon as you realize it’s there. The more rows or rounds you knit past the mistake, the more work it takes to fix it. Mark it if you plan to fix it in the next row.

Off to the races: I am often guilty of not reading far enough ahead in my pattern. I’ll happily carry on knitting a predictable section and then realize that I’m not sure what comes next. I discover that I completely missed a vital transition. Definitely a time to frog back to that transition and rework it from there.

Dropped stitches: As soon as you see a dropped stitch, lock it with a stitch marker or safety pin so it can’t unravel any further. If it happened many rows/rounds back, you’ll have to decide how you want to deal with it.

Oops, missed one: In projects like socks with an increase or decrease at the beginning and end of a row or needle, it’s easy to do the one at the beginning and forget the one at the end. Often, you can fudge this by doing that increase/decrease in the next row/round, or by simply dropping down to the row below, making the stitch and carrying on; provided you notice right away. Sometimes, it just isn’t worth the bother and it’s easier to just sneak an extra stitch in, or out, in a spot where it won’t show.

Whatever the mistake, you’ll need to make an assessment about whether it’s worth fixing or not.

Stepping Back

If the mistake doesn’t change your stitch count, the configuration of a pattern repeat or mess up the size or fit of what you are knitting, if it isn’t glaringly obvious, you don’t necessarily need to do anything about it.

First things first. Take a step back. Set your knitting down and walk away. Leave it for a while; come back when you are feeling calmer. Without zoning in on the mistake, lay out your project with the mistake facing. Step back a pace, and glance at it with a general gaze. No seeking it out allowed! If the mistake screams at you under this circumstance then fix it. If not (and it won’t mess up your pattern) carry on.

Note to raging perfectionists: just rip it apart and fix it already. LOL If it bugs you, you won’t be happy with the end result. We want our projects to be a source of joy and satisfaction. So, do what you need to do to that end.

Repair Methods

Tinking is what we call the process of backing off your stitches one at a time to get to the mistake. Do this when your mistake is in the current row/round and within a reasonable distance. The technique is simple. Insert the tip of the left needle into the stitch below the stitch you want to remove, release the stitch off the right needle and pull the yarn out of the stitch you are eliminating. Continue in this fashion until you make your way to the mistake. Undo the mistake, fix it and carry on. Just be careful not to twist any stitches in the process.

Laddering down refers do undoing just the stitches above where the affected stitches are.

Frogging refers to the act of removing your needles from your knitting project and ripping back to where the mistake is. (“Rip it, rip it,” like a frog croaking.) There are times when this is truly the best approach.

There are a couple important things to keep in mind before frogging.

Careful not to lose important marker information: If you have placed markers to indicate important aspects of the project, it’s important to place new locking stitch markers in the row/round that you’ll be going to. I would encourage you to put a marker through the two stitches on either side of where the marker would sit on the needle. Determining placement can be a little tricky depending on the complexity of what you are building. Do the best you can and then check against the pattern after you finish frogging.

I encourage you to use a very fine knitting needle to pick up the stitches in the row/round you want to rip to. It’s tedious but better than ripping too far, or dropping stitches as you rip it back. (It’s easy to get the odd stitch from the row above or below when picking them up.) Once the destination row is safely picked up, pull out the original needle and begin ripping out the unwanted stitches. As you approach the needle, slow down so you can prevent any stitches dropping. Put a stitch marker or holder into any stitches that are suspect to keep them from dropping as you go. Once the stitches are all securely back on your needle, replace them on the original needle, adjusting stitch orientation as necessary and positioning any stitch markers as needed.

A note about lace

Lace comes in varying degrees of complexity. For novices who are testing the waters and have not yet experience the trauma of lace gone wrong I encourage you to lay a “life-line” in your work. Thread yarn on a needle and pull it through the actual stitches of an entire row/round (ideally a “no-brainer” row) so that if you need to frog, you don’t have to start the entire project over. In a complex lace pattern it can be overwhelming to discern how to repair a mistake. Place a life line as often as you want to, to reduce the amount you need to frog should you have a dropped stitch or a mistake you can’t recover from. If you don’t absolutely have to fix a mistake in lace, don’t.

Picking back up

If you choose to simply frog back (or accidentally pulled your needle out of your work) without securing your destination stitches on a needle first, handle the work very gently. Know where the working yarn is and make sure that you are not pulling on it in any way. I recommend using a very thin knitting needle to pick up your stitches, especially if you knit tight. Take your time and be ever so careful that you catch all the stitches. If you find that some of the stitches have dropped below the row, just pick them up where they sit. Don’t try and repair them until you have all the stitches on the needle.

Carefully transfer the stitches back onto the original needle(s), being careful to check the orientation of each stitch and repairing any dropped stitches as you go. Once you are done, you’ll need to get your stitch markers back to where they belong, between the marked stitches. Once you have completed that, you can begin reworking your project again.

I hope you have found this helpful. Kudos to the You Tubers who created the videos I’ve linked to here.

Happy Knitting!

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