Fixing 3 Common Mistakes in Knitting

If you’re a newer knitter (or even if you’ve been knitting for a while) one of the toughest things to master is how to fix common mistakes that everyone makes in their knitting. Today we’re highlighting some tips and tricks for how to avoid tinking or ripping back every time you find an error.

For most of your repairs, you'll need just a few items that are typically found in your knitting bag: removable stitch markers, darning needles, and a crochet hooks or repair hook (our laminated birch repair hooks are pictured below, and are perfect for stashing in your notions pouch!).

Dropped Stitches

By far, the most common problem in knitting is that pesky dropped stitch. You’re knitting along, getting into the rhythm and enjoying yourself and all of a sudden your knit has a run in it! Don’t panic - just follow the steps outlined here.

  1. Catch the stitch. If you’ve got a locking stitch marker or a safety pin handy, the best thing to do is to catch the loop of the stitch as best you can, keeping it safe until you can repair it. In a pinch, a length of waste yarn threaded through the loop will also do the trick.
  2. When you’re ready to repair, work your knitting up to the column where you dropped the stitch. We usually find it easier to repair dropped stitches from the right side of the work, but it can be done from either side, depending on your comfort level.
  3. Using a small crochet hook or a laminated birch crochet hook, snag the stitch that’s on your stitch holder, remove the stitch holder, and gently begin to crochet the loops in formation back up to your working needle. When you get to your working needle, slide the stitch back onto your left needle and continue working in pattern. After you complete your fix, the tension in that column of stitches may be a little off (either a little loose or a little tight), but that should even itself out in washing and blocking. Congratulations! You fixed your dropped stitch!

What happens if you find a dropped stitch while you’re blocking a finished knit? This is every knitter’s nightmare, but it does happen every so often. Some of the steps here are similar to save your newly-finished project:

Use a locking stitch marker, safety pin or waste yarn to catch the stitch as soon as you find it. Then you have two choices:

Option #1: Let your knit dry (working with a wet knit is near impossible!) and, once dry, pick out your bindoff, return the stitches to the needle and repair the stitch using the methods outlined above.

Option #2: Secure the dropped stitch into your knitting and leave it as-is. If the dropped stitch is far enough back in your project, it may be difficult to pull the dropped stitch all the way up to the finish because there isn’t enough yarn in the dropped stitch column to add the stitch in each row. Rather than ripping back, you can pull the yarn through the stitch (removing the locking stitch marker) and thread each end of the yarn through to the wrong side of your work. Weave in each end of the length of yarn into your project, securing the dropped stitch in place to prevent further damage.

Stitch Mistakes

Occasionally you’ll look down at your work and find that you knit when you were supposed to purl or vice versa. If it’s just one or two stitches and you’re not knitting an intricate pattern, you can fix them using the method above. Otherwise, here are the steps you should follow:
  1. When you’re ready to repair, work your knitting up to the column(s) where you spot your errors.
  2. Drop the column of stitches all the way down to your error.
  3. Using your crochet hook, fix the errant stitch, and work your way back up the column of stitches, much like you did in the previous instructions. When you get back up to your working needle, slide the stitch back onto your left needle and continue working in pattern. Again, after you complete your fix, the tension in that column may be a little off (too loose or too tight) but that should even out in washing and blocking.

What if the error you find is in a lace pattern or something that is quite intricate? While the thought of ripping back to fix it might seem scary, it can be done! Here are some tips that may help:

Lifelines. These can be a knitter's best friend! A lifeline is a piece of yarn threaded through a row of stitches that can make it easier to rip back to the beginning of a pattern repeat. Your lifeline can be inserted either before or after you’ve discovered a mistake (oh hindsight!). As the name implies, they can make ripping back considerably easier, especially if you need to fix a mistake that is several rows down.

Here's how to insert a lifeline into your knitting:

  1. Thread a tapestry needle with some lightweight waste yarn (we usually use fingering weight) or dental floss (yes! You read that correctly!) and carefully thread it through a single row of stitches. You can put a lifeline into your knitting at any time: either when the stitches are on the needle, i.e. right after you’ve finished your repeat, or later, after you’ve discovered a mistake.
  2. Once you have your lifeline in place, you can take your knitting off the needles, and rip back to your lifeline. This is much faster than tinking one stitch at a time! 
  3. When you’re ready to begin knitting again, simply thread your knitting needle back through the live stitches and start knitting. You can leave your lifelines in as you continue to knit giving you safe points to rip back to if you need to.

Mis-Crossed Cables 

As you get more adventurous in your knitting and move on to knitting cables, you’ll probably end up miscrossing a cable sooner or later. Building on the tools we’ve already learned in fixing mistakes above, here is one approach to fixing a mis-crossed cable (hint: this is also a great technique for fixing mistakes in lace knitting!):

For this repair, we definitely find it easier to work on the right side of the work. You can use a lifeline in this process if you wish - place it just below where the error is. However, sometimes it’s hard to find the correct row of stitches where the cable starts. If this is the case, don't worry - just take a deep breath and make your best guess.

A few additional supplies will make this process easier: we like to have our Lace Blocking Mats and T-pins handy.

  1. When you’re ready to repair, work your knitting up to the column where the miscrossed cable begins. 
  2. Pull the appropriate number of stitches off the needle. If you have a 4 stitch cable, this will be all 4 stitches. If it’s a 6 stitch cable, this will be all 6 stitches, and so on. Intentionally drop these stitches down to where the mistake occurs, pulling one row out at a time and secure the loop above your work using a T-pin. Work carefully down the rows sequentially, pinning each loop above your work so you can reknit them in the correct order.
  3. Once you have reached the mistake row and pulled out that row of stitches, use a DPN or cable needle to knit back up to your working row. Remember to follow your pattern carefully. In this case, there is a cable row, followed by a return row where we knit the knits and purl the purls.
  4. Continue in this manner until you have reached your working row and place the stitches back on your left needle to be worked in pattern. Reworking cables definitely creates some tension issues, but these should be resolved with a good wet blocking.

What if your mis-crossed cable occurs in a more complicated pattern and affects a larger number of stitches? Here is a very clever video tutorial showing how to use duplicate stitch to "correct" any mis-crossed cables.

Like many things in knitting, your approach to fixing a mistake will come down to personal preference. Some knitters will do anything to avoid ripping back and re-knitting, while others may find the thought of dropping stitches and doing battle with mis-crossed cables anxiety-producing. Our goal with today's post is to five you a few more tools to fix common fixing mistakes, and the confidence to use all of these techniques without fear!

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