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Dear Kay,

This post is written by a knitter who loses count, who forgets where she is in the pattern, who can’t recall what size needle was used for the lump of knitting in the Knitopia tote bag in the bottom of her closet.

I write this from a place of great humility.

It’s a simple question, really: how do you keep from pfaffing up your knitting?

I have a few tried-and-true tips to share, but maybe I’m fishing for everybody else’s tried-and-true tips. Please chime in with your methods for keeping your knitting on the blacktop, out of the ditch.

Tip Number 1: Read the pattern all the way through.

I mean: really read it. Don’t fakeyskim it the way you slogged through all that crap about Huguenots and the Magna Carta—really dig in and imagine what the hell all those instructions are telling you to do. Elite athletes spend a fortune on sports psychologists who teach them how to visualize success. Well, knitter, visualize that buttonhole band! It makes a huge difference.

Tip Number 2: Write stuff on the pattern.

I used to make a copy of a pattern to work from if it appeared in a book or otherwise seemed precious and rare. At this point, I don’t really care—what am I, the Library of Congress? Mark up your size, cross out all irrelevant sizes (very satisfying), and be sure to say what size needle you’re actually using.


Write out those vexing combinations when you’re told to, say, throw a cable every 8th row AND AT THE SAME TIME increase every other row for 12 rows. I don’t know who can keep that all in mind, but it’s definitely not me.

Cross off the thing you just did. This isn’t necessary for simple patterns, but there are definitely times when Row 14 looks a lot like Row 13 but in fact is not the same.

Use all the technology available to you to aid in your navigation of the pattern.


Write free and unsolicited advice to the pattern designer when you’re really irritated.


Tip Number 3: Love your chart.

For lace and colorwork, be a weirdo and spend hard-earned, after-tax money on a chart holder. The knitting is trouble enough—at least let yourself get a clear view of the chart. And if you want to put yourself in a special category, laminate your chart so you can knit your laceweight shawlette while slurping spaghetti, and your chart will stay pristine.


Tip Number 4: Respect lace.

Use stitch markers for each repeat when you’re learning a new lace pattern.

Learn how to insert a lifeline so that you can rip back to a safe row. Here’s a great little tutorial from Very Pink’s Staci Perry, who gets an Academy Award for Best Manicure in a Knitting Video.

If a stitch or lace pattern has no chart, ask yourself why you want to make that pattern. At this point I can’t work lace without a chart. Most people are visual learners, so if a pattern has no chart, I honestly think the easiest thing is to go find another pattern that does. Why make yourself crazy from the get-go?

Miscellaneous Other Tips

Don’t knit hard things when you’re sleepy. That’s the beauty of having a pile of projects going at once: there is knitting for when you feel brilliant, and knitting for when you’re one nostril above the muck.

The three-strikes-you’re-out rule. When I make the same mistake three times in one day, I stop knitting. It’s not going to get any better. And if I continue, it may drive me to take up some other craft, like stock car racing.

The Most Basic Tip of All

It’s the skill that that takes practice to master: read your knitting. When I learned to knit, I never really understood the relationship of the rows of stitches I was working. I just knit. And purled. When I screwed up, I had no idea what I had done wrong. I think this may be the single biggest impediment to a new knitter: those first mistakes. It’s make or break, really—if you don’t get back on track, fast, it all seems sort of impossible.

Reading your knitting means understanding what your yarn is doing in each row. I can’t teach you how to do this in the confines of this post, but know in a deep way that if you can understand the relationship of stitches to each other, you will spot mistakes much faster.

Wishing you perfect knitting, or perfectly imperfect knitting, or just adequate knitting.



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  • Patterns on an iPad are awesome. Get GoodReader and mark that baby up! You can save a copy so the original stays pristine. And, you can add lines to track your chart.

    When casting on 225 stitches in fingering weight, as I did last night, put in a marker every 20 stitches. Check that it really is 20, before you carry on. Then as you approach the end, you only have to count groups of twenty. I used the contrast yarn as a marker by putting in a backwards loop (a stitch) as my marker. Saves having to find 11 little stitch markers.

    From there I had o knit 1 purl 1, and those markets helped me ensure I did t screw that up.

    • I use my iPad with PDF Notes to mark up my patterns. Sounds similar…and it’s free!

    • The contrast yarn as marker is so simple and so brilliant! Thank you.

    • This is GENIUS. Will be sharing with my students on Monday night. I’ll give you credit, LaurieM!

  • This rings so many bells for me. I would add that the tally chart/five bar gate is your friend (and how satisfying to look at all those rows adding up for patterns with repeats). And if you get a niggle that you may have made a mistake it is worth stopping there and then and checking. Chances are you have subliminally noticed that your stitches don’t look like they should do. And don’t wait till the end of the row, you know what suckers we are for rows with hundreds of stitches. Do we really want to be unpicking more than we have to?

  • I keep a notebook with my projects –even though I do read a lot of my patterns electronically, I still like to be able to work some stuff out with pen and paper. I also try to set up a project on Ravelry after cast on so I can keep track of needle, yarn, etc.

    I’m working the Yorkville Wrap from Knitscene right now and am grateful for a chart that middle-aged eyes can read right there in the magazine, without having to copy and blow it up or scan and get it on the iPad.

  • Two things I have never regretted:
    1) taking a few minutes to put in a lifeline. I buy extra dental floss just for my project bags. Comes with it’s own airline-accepted yarn cutter!
    2) typing absurdly detailed project notes on ravelry. I don’t often go back to read them, but when I do…they have enabled me to pick up a long-forgotten project and FINISH IT. Several times. They have enabled me to repeat a zippy little twist or turn that I made up on the fly in a project completed years ago and would love to repeat. Sure, the notes may read like the demented ramblings of a knitter talking to herself. I’m okay with that. And rav has the bandwidth to handle it 🙂

    • Up until about 2 months ago I did not know how to use the Ravelry filter, had no idea what a filter even was. Now I am grateful to read about the making project notes feature on Ravelry. Gee, have I been under utilizing Ravelry! At least I knew about dental floss, thought of it myself, actually.

      I generally recycle old envelopes and use them to keep track of my rows, when that is needed. For example, I will number 1–12 for a 12 row repeat and just check off each row/round as it is completed. When I have one of those “do this, while at the same time doing that” patterns, my check off becomes more complicated, but it really helps.


    • As a person who reads peoples’ project notes before diving into a pattern I want to say a big “thank you” for making your project notes. I have decided against a pattern, revised all sorts of pattern directions, and even copied whole sections of them into queue notes so I can incorporate someone else’s brilliance into my knitting. Thanks, thanks, thanks. I try to do the same when I list my projects on their pages. Don’t you just love Ravelry?

    • You can even get pre-threaded dental floss that comes with its own “needle.” Easier to thread through the stitches.

    • Epiphany!!! Dental Floss -a brilliant idea. Thank you, that is a much better solution than the cotton sewing thread I have used.

  • No lace chart = will not knit
    Need the chart to read the lace.

    Also, no lace when tired. Tired = mistakes

    Thanks for the knitting truths!

    And those heavy magnetic bookmarks – great for marking rows on said chart. And portable as well.

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  • Man, I am going to keep coming back to this post to see what people posted. Rav! Who knew to use it like that. I will from now on. I have FOs I am posting, and cannot remember what needle I used.

    Plus all this makes me feel human, and not stupid.

  • When I start a new project, I enter the relevant info into Ravelry. As the project advances, I make notes there, too, especially if I deviate from the pattern or run into something tricky. These notes help when it’s time to blog about the project.

    • Yes!

  • Knit Companion! I love this app. I can make notes: mark rows, track and enlarge charts. And sync between my iPad and iPhone. My pattern is always handy.

  • When I am knitting a pattern that uses a chart, I always enlarge that sucker! As big as I can get it. Then I get out the crayolas and color code each part so I can quickly find each sequence in the key. Especially helpful for cabling:

    sl 2 onto cn, hold to back, k2, p2 from cn – green

    sl 2 onto cn, hold to back, k2, k2 from cn – red


  • These are great tips, including the comments. One more thing for new knitters…learn to fix simple knits and purls by raveling down from current row. Don’t rip back every time there is an earlier error. As experience grows, even complicated lace can be fixed from above and mis-crossed cables too. But starting out, at least learn how to make knits and purls from above.

  • This post just made me go enter my latest project into ravelry. Why I don’t do this every time is one of my worst habits. Also, no knitting for me past 9 p.m. It’s too dark, I’m too sleepy and that’s mistakes just waiting to happen.

  • 1. If the pattern says to put in markers, JUST DO IT, even if you’re marooned in the office and have to use rubber bands or paper clips. Even if it’s just a swatch. Even if you know absolutely for sure you’ll be able to tell where to inc/dec/start a new repeat.

    2. Knit something into the swatch so 5 years later you can identify what size needle you used. I do a row of [X= needle size] yo k2tog’s.

    You can probably guess how I know.

    • I do the yo k2tog to imbed the needle size into the swatch too! And when I forget, I tie the appropriate number of knots into the tail of the yarn (e.g., size 7 needle gets seven knots). Difficulties arise if the needle is a weird non-integer size. Haven’t figured out how to do half a hole or half a knot.

    • I recently threw together a pattern, yarn, and needles and headed off. Once at my location as I began casting on and knitting the shawl I realized that I didn’t have any markers in my hastily thrown together bag. I searched through my purse hoping for a couple of safety pins to no avail. I ended up making makeshift markers by tearing off two squares from the peel off piece of an envelope I had bought at the post office and stuck in my purse as there was no trash can nearby. Must remember to a) read not skim the pattern– as stated in the article above, and b)always throw in a notions bag!

    • Excellent idea! Thanks!

  • I love your post today. It really struck a cord. Right now I am working on my first truly lace project (well the first one I will actually ever finish). Yes, I put the project on Ravelry (which is biblical and wonderful), I freely use stitch markers, and I pick very easy patterns right now. I started working with lace weight and perhaps that was nuts as it’s taking me forever to get this finished. But oh! What I have learned!

    Some angel on Ravelry said she copies each set of instructions on 3×5 cards. And the lights went on. I save my pattern in the Adobe format that you can make into a PDF and then copy and paste the instructions,section by section, onto 3X5 cards that are printable on my computer (use Word). This takes me some time but I really understand the pattern by the time I have finished ‘carding’. Then I punch a hole in the upper left corner, insert a 1″ (or so) metal ring and I have my set of flip cards. I can mark 19 repeats as I go, I can make notes as I go, I can record what I didn’t mean to do but it turned out great, the whole experience is on those cards. At first I thought I’d print a new set each time I made the same pattern but now I really love having the old notes. Just make sure to indicate at the top of each flip card which section it is so you don’t find yourself doing section 10 and then section 2. These cards have finally made it possible for me to do some lace!

  • Ummm…..Huguenot here. Not all of us are crappy. 🙂

    Good tips here–all of them. I like to make notes, make notes, make notes! Sometimes on paper, always on Ravelry. Sometimes I even make a photo of the puzzling part of my knitting and add notes ON the photo using Skitch. That photo agoes on my Ravelry page.

    I’ve not made as many Honey Cowls as I’ve seen on this blog, but I have knitted it over and over. On the first one, “reading” the stitches in slipped stitch part. When the light bulb came on, I photographed and labeled the parts. If I have a brain freeze now, I can go back and look at my photo note.

  • You’re dead right about that manicure…it has taken me fifty years of knitting to learn:
    1) fix that mistake, it will drive you crazy if you don’t and then you will have much more to rip
    2) I will never get smart enough to use a proactive life line. That would require multiple lifetimes. I will just spend my time being terrified of making a mistake in lace.
    3) lace and wine do not mix, tv and lace do not mix. In fact lace is a non-multi-tasking undertaking.

  • This phrase is perfect! “when you’re one nostril above the muck”

    I already have some knitting projects for this phase of life but the vividness of this image is just what I need to make all sorts of decisions about my daily activities that will better match them to the reality of my circumstances.

  • I use dental floss lifelines, but I tie one end to my hole in my interchangeable needle cable (where you can tighten it with that little key) this inserts the lifeline as you knit.

    I also recommend a serious, no screwing around, daylight balanced, old lady lamp. I do fear that one day the light will hit my bifocals just right and start my lap on fire. I live on the wild side. But it certainly helps to see your knitting if you want to keep track of a complicated pattern.

    I suspect one day when I’m really old and blind, I will knit nothing but scarves, hats and, dishrags. I’m going to knit the crazy stuff while I can read patterns and see the yarn.

    • Insert the lifeline as you’re knitting! Of all the wonderful, really wonderful, tips that I have read so far, this is the Wonder-ful-ist!
      Kudos! (and thanks).


      • “I do fear that one day the light will hit my bifocals just right and start my lap on fire.” LOL!!!!! So funny!

        • Just be careful when inserting a lifeline using a hole in the interchangeable needle (or the Addi cord that is designed for that) if you are using ring stitch markers. It’s not particularly useful (and causes rework and possible cursing) to have a lifeline that is oh, so carefully and neatly place right through the center of those lovely, helpful markers.

          Ask me how I know.

  • Notebooks. The spiral-bound, 8.5″ X 10.5″, sturdy-covered ones–not the flimsy mess you find so often. I keep my original patterns pristine, and re-write every stinking pattern in a manner that works best for me—including which needles and yarns I use for each one—and I tick off each row as it’s done.. If I make multiples of a pattern, it’s re-written each time. And I keep these notebooks, so I can cross-check what worked or didn’t in the previous item.
    And, because I can STILL make boo-boos, it’s all done in pencil, not ink. LOL!

    Does it mean that I carry a larger knitting bag and not some cute, little bag everywhere I go, even if I’m knitting socks? Yes. But it’s worth it!!

  • What a great post! Now I know that I am not the only one who makes copious notes! For many years I have always had an easy project, for evening and tv time, and a more challenging project, which needs quiet concentration, good light, etc. Guess which projects get finished first!! My two best rules are: don’t knit with black or navy yarn at night, and write down each row of repeats, ticking them off as I complete them. Or, in a really complicated pattern, each set of repeats, stitch by stitch, within a row. Thanks for all the great suggestions.

  • I’ll just say one thing – sticky notes. i have a stack of different colored sticky note pads on my coffee table (next to all my other knitting detritus) and i start a new one for each project. i start with the pattern name, at the top, sometimes i add the yarn name, and definitely add the garment size and the needle size. this is all just in case i forget what i’ve done before i add everything to my ravelry project page.

    and then i use the heck out of that sticky note: hash marks for every row that needs to be counted (in between increase rows, for instance; or if there’s going to be a second thing that needs to match the first thing.), little notes to myself about where i am in the pattern and any changes i’ve made. it stays in the project bag so i can take it with me when i knit away from home.

    i think i started this for the same reason you used to make copies of patterns – to keep the original pattern nice and pretty – but over time i realized a pretty pattern is a pattern that’s been well used. so on the pattern itself i circle all the numbers for my size, make notes in the margin, cross out sections that don’t pertain to my size, whatever needs to be done. but i still make my hash marks on a sticky note. a sticky note can be thrown out when the project’s done and no information is lost…. well, unless i forget to update ravelry first.

  • I would add, save that magical thinking for when you ponder fairies and unicorns. You cannot wish your way into a good outcome with a project for which you did not sufficiently swatch and plan. You cannot wish away a stitch that “just doesn’t look right”. You above all cannot wish away a twisted set of cast-on stitches.

  • So true, so true, so true. – I should do all that stuff. Sometimes I do.
    I did learn one great tip from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee: Cover your future, i.e., put the
    post-it over the future rows, not above them. It really helps.

  • Number 1 yes!!! I worked in a yarn shop where the owner and the other staff emphatically advised customers NOT to the read the pattern from start to finish before beginning. They actually believed this would prevent anxiety if they weren’t worrying about what they had to do next.

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    • good comments!
      Sometimes I glue paper patterns on to cereal boxes or other cardboard so they can be propped up and don’t get squished in a knitting bag. I ususally make copies to keep the originals lovely.
      I like the Knitcompanion App for when I am on the road and it also has a row counting funtion and you can make comments etc.
      I appreciate when a designer uses good pictures of what the pattern and shape are supposed to look like. I can figure out how to drape it over my shoulder all by myself.
      All good tips! nice post!

  • I always, always create a new project in my Ravelry notebook when I start a new physical project. I put in the yarn information and needle information immediately. That way, six months later, when I knit the second sock, I have a chance of making one that matches the first one. When I love the socks I made from the yarn and want to make another pair with the same yarn, I can look it up. Otherwise, there’s no hope. I rarely know what yarn I used for a particular project. Not sure why, I just don’t.

    I once paid after-tax dollars for a chart holder and magnet system, which worked well as long as I always sat in the same place to knit and no one knocked it over. It’s tragic when the chart holder falls, or is put in a knitting bag and the magnets slide kiddywampus on the chart. You’re left trying to match your knitting with the correct row number on the chart. Two words: highlighter tape! It stays stuck on the surface until you lift it and move it to the next row. You can shove the pattern in your bag and it stays stuck. My LYS carries it in tons of colors, but I hear office supply stores carry it, and you can always buy it on Amazon.

    I often use spreadsheets for those AT THE SAME TIME patterns. Actually, I use spreadsheets for everything. For a large project (like, say, a blanket), I’ll note how many rows or repeats I got out of one ball of yarn, so I can extrapolate to the finished item and be sure I have enough. I sometimes calculate the entire number of sts for a project (I know, I know), so I can tell exactly how far into it I am. That’s when you realize completing the fronts and back of a cardigan only gets you about 1/2 way through the project, and when you discover the button band is 10%.

    I will re-chart patterns if they’re too small or inconvenient to use as is, or if the symbols are not to my liking, or if they’re all on separate little one-repeat squares and I want to see how all the charts work together for the entire garment.

  • If at any point you feel the thought “I’ll remember that” creeping into your work in any form? Shut it down. Get up, get a paper and pencil and write it down. Really. Ignore similar thoughts like, “I’ll be right back to that” and “It’s just like the pattern except…”. That way lies madness. Not that I’d know or anything.

  • Let’s not forget to count regularly. It helps to do a row count frequently, and I suggest counting in groups of 5. If you’re easily distracted as I am, counting out loud helps keep a focus on the count.

    I also find the coils safety pin-like markers handy for a variety of functions, including marking the beginning of a row repeat or which is the right side of the fabric.

    • Counting. Now that’s an advanced skill. The Yarn Harlot once blogged about how she had trouble counting to 5, especially at night when she was tired. Someone commented that she too had this problem by saying “one…uh…where was I?…” Years later I’m still laughing!

  • I’ll chime in to repeat the Ravelry advice. Also, if a lace pattern doesn’t have a chart and I want to knit it, I chart it up. I have free charting software as part of a program called xfig (probably not on Windows). I’m sure it’s not the best, but the price is right and I’ve also used it to rechart confusing Japanese charts too. Put xfig into metric mode and snap to the grid the size of the 5 mm blocks, or use a better charting tool.

  • It’s funny, I consider myself a visual learner (adore cooking shows) but find I can get lost amid the sea of symbols in a chart. Even with a chart holder, it can get muddled especially when different designers decide to be cute and use different symbols. I’ve decided to give myself permission to embrace written text lace patterns. To each her own.

    • I have to confess to being one of those knitters who CANNOT deal with charts. The instant my eyes take in a chart my brain shuts down. Seriously. It is automatic. My brain apparently does not deal in symbols is what I have concluded. So, if a pattern is only charted, I move on to one that has written instructions no matter how much I may like the charted pattern. Guaranteed I will find another pattern that I like just as well. I will never be able to knit all the projects in my favorites/library on Ravelry anyway.

  • Wow! Great tips, especially not knitting hard things when you’re sleepy. What you should do when you’re sleepy: sleep. That’s right. When you wake up you’ll be a more competent knitter.

    I have a magnetic chart holder, too, but usually use a post it note and just keep moving it down the chart.

    I also use clip on markers to indicate things such as ten rows, twenty rows, or whatever, so I don’t have to keep counting over and over.

  • Ravelry. Charted pattern with your copious notes in plastic page protector (keeps highlighter tape from lifting the ink off your print out). Highlighter tape ABOVE the row you’re working on. And if you turn the end of the highlighter tape back on itself, it makes a tab so you can easily remove it and put it on the next row, instead of scratching away at the end trying to get it to come up off the plastic.

    • Yes, the sheet protector! I usually carry around my knitting, so the magnetic boards aren’t too useful. And I prefer the rolls of post-it tape to highlighter tape since it’s not transparent. Like this

    • Yes! Plastic document sleeves and highlighter tape! I have tried Knit Companion, but keep coming back to this method. That one piece of highlighter tape, when used on a document sleeve, lasts forever.

      I also will not knit lace that’s not charted.

    • Oh, I forgot: My most used tool is a plastic barrel counter that sits on the needle; you can get them for straight or circular knitting. I know some people swear by their clicky counters, but I need one counter for each of my projects, and the barrel counters are way less enticing to kids who might come along and click!

  • Great comments everyone!

    For those “at the same times”… get a Sirka counter. Trust me. Just do it. You can thank me later.

  • Oh Post-It notes!…where would we be without them?…..I also idiot-proof my lace knitting by stitch marking the repeats…the chart holder is a good tip – beats my daughters music stand

  • When swatching for gauge, leave the tail for the cast on long enough to tie knots in and then tie the same number of knots in the tail as your needle size. Working on a US 8, tie 8 knots. That, when faced with multiple swatches that all look kind of similar, you can tell which needle size gave you gauge.

    • Wow what a great idea – why didn’t someone tell me that 40 years ago?

  • I am a lazy row-counter user; I often forget to click/advance it at the end of every row. To remind myself, I like to attach those inexpensive rotating row counters to my work with a locking stitch marker that can be moved up the work as I knit. That way the counter is right at my fingertips when I finish each round.

    Here’s one:

    I’m also a big fan of the translucent highlighter tape for marking my place in the pattern. It stays more sticky/useful longer than standard sticky notes.

  • I use good notes on my iPad . I highlight and write all over the pattern, I can also pull it up on my iPhone if i don’t have my iPad. When i am finished with the pattern i just clear my markings if i want to make it new again,

  • Great tips! I’ve watched you read knitting and I thought it was amazing. I was so damn impressed! Btw- I may try a temari ball. What a great gift idea.

  • Funniest and truest remarks about knitting I’ve ever read. I’m now a new fan!

  • I agree with e very word you wrote!

    I’ll add: keep purchasing needles long after you feel you should no longer have to do this. I’m working on a hat with DPNs. I had the right size and strength in metal. Very frustrating, stitches kept slipping off the ends. Bought a set in birch and no slipping! The process should be enjoying, even if it costs a few bucks more.

    • Should be ‘length’ not strength! Hate this auto-correct on the mobile devices!

  • On the subject of increases/deceased, I found this life-changing.

    • I first read that tip in Maggie Righetti’s “Knitting in Plain English.” It’s a good one.

    • *Decreases
      Seriously, autocorrect???

      • Lol!

  • As a long-time lace knitter, I have a deep love affair with post-it tape. Basically it’s highlighter in tape from that can easily be moved. I like it much better than magnetic strips because I can control the length, I can color-code things (the stuff comes in lots of colors), and I can overlap it if, for instance, I want to mark both the rows and the stitch counts. It can be a little hard to find but it’s great stuff. Oh, and you don’t need a magnetic board for it which is really nice cause mine’s always got something else on it.

  • TIPS
    Enlarge charts that way you can cross off rows as you go

    Color code the same pattern stitches such as cables a color for each such as left, right, 4,5,6 stitch It makes it much easier to read charts

  • Great tips, thank you all! I love my BeeCount app for Android, I use it to count rows in a chart and can then link it to counters of increases/decreases, repetitions of the chart etc. Brilliant (although people tend to wonder why I fiddle with my phone all the time when I’m knitting).

  • I loved this post, and am so grateful for your good advice.
    I have one more thing to add, maybe someone else did and I missed it….

    I tended for many years to lose my various knitting project bags (with the projects in them.)
    This was, until I got a set of coat hooks which are ONLY used for knitting project bags.
    I have seven hooks set so low in my mud room that none of my kids will hijack the hooks for their coats,
    and each hook is designated for a particular type of project….

    Hooks #1 and #2 are near the back door, a quick place to grab things as I leave the house. On those hooks I hang bags with easy knitting for waiting rooms and knitting in traffic.
    The rest of the bags have knitting that requires more focussed attention.
    I just have to remember to put them back on their hooks.

    This is the only area of my life in which I am organized, but I hope it will inspire me someday to tidy everything else up.

    • You are my Hero. At last, an organizational concept I can really get excited about. And implement in the time it takes to install a few hooks.
      Now, where is my drill?

  • The first time I read the title I read it as “vigilante” — lots of interesting images!

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  • Do not knit difficult patterns while drinking wine. When a pattern tells you to do something six times in the row, put markers after each one so you can keep track and know when you have done six.

  • So many good tips in here, even for those of us who slack off on the Vigilant Knitting Best Practices. My best advice to share is: never rip out large chunks of knitting–or decide to rip it all out and start over–after 11 pm. Often the mistake that seems drastic or choices that look All Wrong are OK, or easily fixed the next morning, with just a little caffeine and patience.

    I’m all for writing in the margins of patterns and books. I love when I pick up an old pattern I used and see notes to my future self.

  • Great post, and great advice. I’ve recently started using the KnitCompanion app and it has made keeping track so much easier–but I still have to remember that human error in knitting remains possible, even with every tool in the book!

  • Amen. I’m the choir. Sing it!

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  • I agree with all of this. To add about sleepy knitting; this also applies to being ill. Ended up ripping out an entire lace shawl because I worked on it while under the weather.

    As far as losing ones place: I’m more likely to lose my place the longer I sit it aside. I can’t have projects hibernating too long. No matter how good my notes things never click quite right if it sits for too long. So finish it as fast as possible.

  • The only problem will taking great notes along the knitting way is that, when you pick up a 5-year-old WIP, you’ll know exactly where you were and how to keep going. Don’t do that. Just frog it and put the yarn back in the stash.

    • I think I love u as I sit here in hysterics. And my husband can’t figure out what is so funny about the comment.

      • So much good advice here! Maybe I’ll even take some of it!

        My strategies–stitch markers are amazing. I’ll use them for stuff that’s 10 stitches apart sometimes. Notes, notes notes! I put them on ravelry, on my blog and, when copyright is an issue, on my notes app on my phone. Actually, I tend to keep detailed notes there anyway, and transfer the relevant info to rav later. I use the notes app for keeping track of rows (will use an x/y format when there’s more than one thing going on at once), for keeping track of how much yarn I’ve used/remains, for jotting down random ideas about the pattern or any other method for recording what I was thinking. I enter projects on rav pretty much right away and track info about sizes and needles used there.
        One thing I’ve found really useful is to take photos of washing information on the yarn ball band and including it on my stash entry. When I use that yarn for a project, I’ll add that pic as a project photo so I will know the info even after I’ve (inevitably) lost the ball band.

  • My Sister-in-law was an incredible knitter who shared a few great tips with me.
    1. Copy your pattern and cut it up to fit into the little 4×6 photo albums you can get for under $1. Just the right size to fit into small project bags.
    2. Use those tiny rubber bands used for friendship bracelets as markers. I knit them into sleeve increases or decreases so it is easy to count how many have been completed They are inexpensive, easy to see, and very easy to cut out when you’re finished.
    3. Agree with all the others in the use of highlighter tape.
    4. Wind your yarn as soon as you can, so when you are ready for a new project, you are ready to go.
    Thanks to everyone for the great tips!

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  • I second the recommendations for highlighter tape – though I *do* use it directly on my copy of the paper pattern or chart. I also love the knit counter app on my iphone, which lets me set up reminders for the pesky decrease every 4 rows on this edge while doing something else problems.

    I also find I’m more successful when I take notes like I’m stupider than I pretend to be. It pays off.

    Finally, lace and say, the drugs you take so you can tolerate chemotherapy do not mix. Or at least, not well. That chapter over, and I do have the shawl to prove it.

  • When knitting cables I put a marker on row 1 of the repeat, on the first actual cable (not just the beginning of the row). That way I can easily count how many rows have been knitted before the cable action has to begin. I move it when the entire repeat has been successfully completed.

  • I still prefer a paper pattern, which I mark up to the max. I always consider the pattern a jumping off point, and by the time I make modifications, change the gauge, rework the sleeves, etc, I really need to keep track of all those changes. When the project is done, I put that marked up copy into a plastic sleeve, and keep it in a 3 ring binder; that marked up copy has more future value to me than a clean, pristine one might, especially if it turns out to be one that I make again and again.

    If I am doing something with extensive and/or complicated charting, I expand the chart as much as I can. If it is fair isle, I color in the dominant stitches of the pattern with a light colored pencil so that it is easier to follow. Then I take that to Kinkos and have it laminated. This usually costs a couple of dollars, and it makes it easy to prop up as I knit. That laminated surface handles highlighter tape like a dream, if I need to add note, I use post it tape. I usually cut out the key that explains the chart symbols and/or the color guide, and attach it to the laminated chart so that its accessible as I go along. This takes a lot of prep time before starting to knit, but in the end, it saves a lot of time as the knitting progresses

    Last tip: never cut a steek after 10:00pm, of after drinking wine. The outcome can be disastrous. This need to be done with a clear head. The same goes for the decision to frog three months worth of knitting: cooler heads may find a solution in the morning.

  • I have a solution for tip #2! The Sirka counter, an ingenious counter that keeps track of three different things at once. It’s so cool/unique/revolutionary that it has a patent. I don’t mean to sound like an infomercial, but the Sirka is one of those tools that will make you wonder how you could knit without it.

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  • Sign me up, baby.

    Also, if you are working a simple lace pattern with maybe a dozen or so rows that are repeated, and no chart is supplied, you can make a chart at

  • Lovely set of posts.

    And because I can’t always find my pattern when I encounter the same problem in the next project, I put notes in Ravelry! along with counting, counting, counting, yellow stickies, yellow tape (although I think pink might work better in some light), colored pencils, beer, wine (but not too much), and assorted bad vocab. I just got a Sirka counter, so that will be tested soon.

    I also think twice about lace. Rather do color work.

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  • Marker, markers, markers. Notes, notes, notes. And here’s a tip born of sadness: if you use a smart-phone row counter that’s not backed up in the cloud, find a way to back it up. Early and often. Tomorrow I will be ripping out a section of knitting because my phone, the only thing that knows which increase row I’m on, has died ’til it’s dead.

    Excellent post. So much good advice.

    • Can’t you find the increases you made and count them? This falls under the “reading your knitting ” tip. Please, please try it before you rip.

  • Stuff that helps me:

    Those plastic document sheets. I can take the pattern out and write all over it, and tile it with —

    — those little arrow-shaped post-it marker tab thingies (the plain kind, not the Sign Here kind) — I stick them on the pattern at the beginning of each row and don’t move them until I’m ready to start the next row.

    These page holder-uppers:

    Years ago a machine knitter told me that machine knitters use fisherman’s braided leader line for waste yarn/lifeline. It’s available in places that sell fishing gear. It comes in different weights, doesn’t cling to itself or to the working yarn so it unzips when you want it to, and is reusable. It is usually bright fluorescent green. I use it for provisional cast-ons, lifelines, emergency stitch markers. Braided kite string is really good too (and not fluorescent green) but a lot more expensive.

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  • I have a notebook (large, unlined, I think it’s a sketching notebook) that I keep on hand for everything I’m working on. I tuck the pattern pages inside, and each project gets its own page for all my scribbles to go on. This is especially helpful for me as I am notorious for just skipping the arm shaping and doing it completely different (usually I have to add depth to armscyes in order to make the sleeves the correct size, so I go completely off book), and I oftentimes make sweaters in fingering weight that were written for DK or worsted. It requires a bit of maths, but it’s worth it to get the end product that I want. The notebook ensures that I have all my maths written somewhere so I can refer to them later if I find an issue, or if I knit one sleeve and then abandon the project for something more interesting for a while I don’t have any difficulty when I finally come back to finish it. I also use the notebook to transfer my notes to ravelry.

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  • Mwah, ladies! 🙂

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  • Magnifying glasses. I seldom knit without them. They cost about $3.50 at the hardware store, and I got a 3X magnification, which is pretty big. Even the fiddliest little bits are easy to see, and I can look over the tops of them if I have to talk to someone. I don’t use them for anything else, so they stay in my knitting bag or right here on the table beside me.

  • I always swatch. I don’t necessarily learn anything about gauge (I swear, gauge swatches lie), but I learn other things. I can see how the fabric will look and feel. I can see what the stitch pattern looks like. Frequently, I swatch a bit and realize I’m doing the stitch pattern wrong – and it’s so much easier to rip out that little bit of knitting. Often, by the time I’ve finished the swatch, I’ve figured out how to read the pattern, which greatly simplifies things once I start my project.

  • When I’m working from a chart, I have learned that I can do very well with the first three rows and then it all becomes some big optical illusion (is it an old witch or a pretty young girl). So I make a copy of the chart and then I just cut off the rows as I go. And it gives the cat something to play with.

  • Love your blog!! Thank you!!

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  • Please add me to your newsletter. Loved this post – very helpful! Thank you.

  • It’s 2018 and these tips are all still so relevant.

    But what about when you have multiple knitting patterns with different numbers of row repeats??? Here’s a really helpful link to Skein Knitting and Crochet : Even though I had taped together the 3 chart patterns of Isabel Kraemer’s Eri sweater that together make up a 40 row repeat, I still found myself getting lost until I found the link above and made up my own Excel sheet of the rows. As I progressed, I just ticked off the rows knitted and as I had set up the sheet with 160 rows left to do (by the time I found the link), I could keep track of how I was progressing.

    This thread is such a mine of information, it should be in your Top 10 of most useful reads!

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