Skill Builder: Fixing Mistakes
Hello again, beginning knitters!
Mistakes. They happen. To all of us. A friend once said to me that experienced knitters don’t make fewer mistakes—we actually make more of them, just faster.
Let’s tackle some key skills to help you deal with those mistakes.
A dropped stitch
Aiee! A stitch has fallen off your needle.
If you fall into a swimming pool, the important thing is to get out of the pool first, and then worry about whether your phone was in your pocket. Take the same approach when confronted with a dropped stitch: get it back on a needle first …
Safe, but maybe not quite right yet—stitch mount IS OFF
… then you can sort out where it’s supposed to be, and how it’s supposed to be set up.
For most knitting, our stitches should be positioned so that the right side of the loop—often referred to as the “right leg”—is sitting at the front of the needle.
the arrow on the right points to the right “leg” of the stitch; the arrow on the left points to the left “leg”
After you’ve picked up your stitch, if you notice that the left leg is at the front, as in the second image above, just take it off the needle and turn it around! Easy!
If you knit the stitch in that twisted position, it will tighten things up, and it won’t look right.
And look at the position of the yarn. If it’s hanging off the stitch you’ve just picked up, that means that you had just worked it, so then it goes on your right needle. If the working yarn is hanging off the stitch to the right, that means that your just-rescued stitch hasn’t yet been worked in this row, so put it on the left needle.
An unraveling stitch
If you don’t catch the dropped stitch straight away, it can unravel and drop down further.
the stitch is safe, caught on a removable stitch marker, but it has unravelled a few rows
Unraveled stitches can look pretty distressing, but it’s an easy fix. You need a crochet hook, one roughly the same size as your knitting needle, and two removable stitch markers.
Straight talk here: Fixing mistakes is best tackled in good light, on a flat surface. If you find a dropped stitch in your knitting when you’re out and about, just catch it with any handy removable stitch marker and wait for a good time to deal with it.
Once the dropped stitch is caught, you can handle the fabric without fear. Smooth out the fabric and make sure that the horizontal strands of yarn are all lined up neatly.
Before you start, hook a second removable stitch marker into the loop of the stitch BELOW the stitch on your first marker. You’ll leave the second marker in place as you’re working, as a safety measure.
Remove the first marker, and put your crochet hook into the front of the stitch, making sure the stitch is not twisted at the base—the right leg is on the right and the left on the left, as shown above.
Grab the lowest horizontal strand with your crochet hook, and pull it through the stitch, from back to the front.
Ta da: One row picked up! Repeat this step, pulling the yarn through from the back to the front, until you’ve worked your way up. When you reach the top, put that stitch on the left needle, right leg forward, ready to go.
And the little metal removable marker? That’s there as a security blanket. If your fix doesn’t quite look right, you can always let it drop back to the marker and try again, risk-free!
Tip: Before you declare it done, flip your work over and check the back—if you see any pesky loose strands, just drop down to the marker and have another go.
The Big Question: What if you spot the stitch on the purl side of your stockinette?
Easy! Save the stitch first with a removable stitch marker. Then flip the fabric over and work the fix from the knit side as above. No need to fuss with those pesky purls.
Next month: Fixing mistakes while knitting garter stitch!
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Thanks for such a thorough and well photographed tutorial. Even though I’ve been knitting for years now, I still enjoy reading about basic skills and I usually learn something. I never thought to use removable stitch markers. That is very helpful!!
Use a double ended crochet hook to fix a garter stitch project. You can flip from front to back, and the hook is always positioned correctly in your loop.
Thank you. That second stitch marker is a great tip. Really looking forward to tips on garter stitches.
Is there a tip for correcting a dropped stitch in Garter Stitch?
As always Kate shows the important things. IMO laddering down and laddering up are essential techniques for all knitters and not just for dropped stitches – you can deliberately unravel a column and fix any wonky stitch without tinking or frogging. After knit and purl this is the next thing I teach new knitters.
Thank you, good ideas!
Thanks Kate! The second stitch marker is a great idea.
Best instructions and visuals! It is so helpful to have a picture guide to refer to when correcting a mistake.
Thank you so much!
My first experience of an unravelled stitch in my youth must have been pretty traumatic as I got a frisson of anxiety just reading about it!
Thank you for those tips, Kate! I’ve been knitting for years and never thought about using a second stitch marker as a safety net… it would have saved a lot of unnecessary stress during past knitting rescues. I will definitely use two markers going forward.
Thank you for this! Is there a way to fix a dropped garter stitch?
A friend of mine taught me to turn the needles to pick up a dropped stitch. I went years and years without knowing this. Such an easy fix.
I had to laugh when you said experienced knitters don’t make fewer mistakes – they just make them faster!
I like your suggestion that knitters check the back side for missed rows. I’ve done this and had to try again… the missed rank leaves a wonky look.
Brilliant! I didn’t know this was a thing, but now that you mention it…
I still nearly faint at allowing a stitch column to unravel more than a couple rows to fix a wonky stich or mistake. (It’s like steeking, which still in spite of your fine tutorial still makes me nearly hyperventilate.) Thanks for the duh-obvious-but-never-thought-of solution of putting a stich marker there as a safety measure! This is one of those small things that make me a much more confident and a better knitter.
Great pics! What about a dropped stitch in garter stitch?
It would be great to have tips for picking up twisted rib
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