The Peaks and Valleys of the New Knitter

By Kay Gardiner
October 20, 2016

We happen to know where one could procure some Rifton.



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  • Bitter experience has taught me that practice does not keep you from making mistakes. I now just make worse mistakes faster.

    • …so thank you, thank you for these. They’re all bookmarked against future need.

  • A great refresher after starting a bindoff last night while debate watching. It turned into bindoff 10 stitches, twist 1 somewhere along the king, rip and start again I am becoming a fearless ripper when needed.

    • Ooh, I hear that. I hate ripping back bond-offs, which I know because I seem to have to do it a lot (like, Tuesday).

  • I’m sending this post to a new knitter who is terrified of mistakes and thinks I am some kind of miracle worker when I fix them for her. I told her that almost every mistake can be fixed on the following row. So you don’t always have to back up to fix it. You can keep knitting until you come to the mistake on the next row and then perform the correction.

    • Genius !

  • When I teach and students want to know how I learned to fix knitting, I explain that it was by making lots of mistakes. I try to let them puzzle it through while I sit there and make encourage murmuring sounds. It doesn’t always work. My sister in law brought me a scarf this week she set aside for two years because it had a mistake. It had no mistake At all.

  • And where is the YouTube for common mistakes made while talking to Mom on the phone?

  • Truly the GREATEST thing about knitting is that you can rip it out and start again*. This is a thing I always say to new knitters – it’s not like you cut your cloth far too small, or your pot exploded in the kiln because you didn’t wedge the clay properly**, or you poured salt into that cake instead of sugar. You can put things right in knitting just with the addition of time, and there is nothing to be afraid of. I’ve learned so much from making mistakes and fixing them.

    *except for some kinds of yarns you really should wait until you’ve practiced a bit to use. Kidsilk Haze I’m looking at you.
    **new potter here, quite convinced this will happen.

    • Yes. I always say, “I love knitting, because if a knitting project doesn’t work out, you can always turn it back into yarn.” Well, except for felting. And even in that case, everybody needs more coasters!

  • We had a kids’ knitting workshop this summer. Each night my friend and I would fix the mistakes. They made some awesome mistakes that defied decoding. We encouraged them that mistakes happen and experienced knitters still make them.
    I think that is how many a stitch pattern was invented.

  • The lady ripping out is brilliant. I have panicked reclaiming stitches before, but will no longer. I love her method .

  • Also important–knowing how to secure a dropped stitch you find after you’ve already bound off the project.

    • Not that that happened to me recently or anything.

      • That is the worst! Surely, Rev. Emily, there is some theological analogy to the mistake that you find after you’ve bound off.

      • Responding to Kay’s post below: Exactly, Kay! The theological meaning is “Revelation is not sealed.” That is, creation is always happening, new things are always coming forth, and even though you think something might be finished, it’s not finished. This is a very handy construct in knitting as well as in theology.
        Signed with love,
        Rev. Judy

  • I remember the first time I took a chance and tinked a single stitch all the way down to fix a mistake inches below, then “knit” it back up with a crochet hook and returned it to it’s rightful place on the needle. The POWER!

  • This is, perhaps, the greatest knitting post written anywhere ever. I learned how to knit about 30 + years ago but was a very intermittent knitter until 8 years ago. One of my biggest problems was fixing mistakes and I would say that it’s only in the last year or so that I become much more confident about it. I was actually thinking about this last night and realized that after years of knitting smaller projects that tackling a large sweater with many different things happening was what (finally!) made me more confident about reading my knitting and figuring out where I went wrong. I also keep trying to remind myself that yarn is just string. You can rip out string and start again. And again.

  • I got a kick out of the woman’s commentary in the “How to fix a serious mistake…” video! And I feel a little bit sorry for whoever made the serious mistake – haha! But that was very helpful and a good reminder that I am the mistress of my knitting.

  • I tell new knitters that a lot of their mistakes they make are things you do on purpose later for advanced techniques. They are just precocious. This seems to make them feel less frustrated and it happens to be true.

  • Somewhere, Elizabeth Zimmerman wrote some version of this: The only knitting mistake that really matters is splitting the yarn.” When I read it, I was set free.

    • Yes!!! Me too, Robin. On the other hand, now I feel quite guilty when I split the yarn.

      On the other, other hand, I also avoid splitty yarn/needle combos with extra vigor.

      I could REALLY use a visual aid to talking/arguing with Mom on the phone.

      • I repeat to myself – I only can’t fix it if I split the yarn- Don’t.Split.The. Damnit! Then I undo….Ditto on the visual aid…..

  • I am envisioning you arriving in a fiber ambulance of some sort- siren blaring, double parking as you rush in to save the day as knitting EMT.

  • The video was helpful — who would have thought of unknitting as you rip back that last row? A good trick. But I HATED her tone of blaming! Who the hell cares who knit that row of twisted stitches? Whoever she/he is, they are probably feeling humiliated and AWFUL about this video. This issue goes deep with me because I am married to a blamer, and 99% of the time it really doesn’t matter who made the mistake — just fix it and get on with your life.

  • Alright, what mistake did you make this time — cabling the pot roast when you should have whipstitched the bathtub?? (When arguing with mom on the phone, remember the phrase “Yes, I’ll clean my room .” Also, Olive claims she terrorizes only those handymen unworthy of her Food Lady.)

  • VK to the rescue again! I took up knitting in 1985 wholly under the influence of Vogue Knitting, and when the Spring/Summer issue of 1987 featured an article entitled Correcting Mistakes, I actually sat down and knit swatches full of the usual suspects so that I could practice those fix-it techniques. Best practice session EVER. I’m glad they’ve brought their tutorials to the internet world, and of course glad for every other talented knitter and crocheter who has done likewise.

    • PS: Kay, what are the color numbers in that Silk Garden scarf? Enquiring minds want to know.

      • One of them is 352 (the one with the blue streak). The other one that is just tweedy black, brown & white: I can’t find it. It’s not on the Knitting Fever website either so I’m wondering how old it is!

  • One of my best, most fun, knitting experiences came when I did a top down round yoke stranded pullover from the, now infamous, Baa-ble hat chart and didn’t count the stitches correctly when I divided the body and sleeves. I knit the body and one sleeve, went to do the other sleeve, and found I had put too few stitches on hold….so, I cut off the yoke and sleeve, and ended up with two sweaters. One from the original yoke, divided correctly, and the other from the body and sleeve that I joined and knit a yoke upward, and then another sleeve down…both are in my Ravelry projects,

  • My 10 year old is learning to knit — be still my beating heart! — and I find it so, so gratifying to take what she thinks is a Horrible, Stupid, Unfixable Mistake and straighten it out in a minute or two. (I really have no idea where that dramatic streak of hers comes from….. 😉 She still thinks I am magical, and I will take evert second of that.

  • So important! I am a self-taught knitter, from the pre-youtube era, and I think the most valuable thing that came out being self-taught is that I HAD to figure out my mistakes and how to fix them (or just abandon the project!), and it’s one of the things I emphasize if I’m teaching a new knitter. Yarn is such a forgiving medium and it’s one of the things I love most about it.

  • I have some of that tweedy black/brown Noro too, but no ball band to identify it. I agree with you, Kay, that it’s probably been in the stash for quite awhile. I knit some fingerless mitts out of it a few years ago, and have some partial balls left over. I have NO recollection of buying it.

  • Great post. My mom was my Go To for knitting problems. Even when I lived hours away. I wish I had listened more closely to her when she explained how she “fixed” them. She was a master at reading her knitting.

  • I especially enjoyed the fact the fixing a serious mistake, video featured a left-handed person. Yay, let’s hear it for equal-handed opportunity viewing! Thank you, thank you. No mental translation needed.

  • I’ve learned to tell new knitters that they can try to fix a mistake but whatever they do, don’t rip out everything and wind up the yarn. We can almost always fix the problem.

  • I knit as a young girl and then took it up again about 10 years ago. I am just now getting confident to repair my mistakes–partly because my local yarn store closed!! Thank you for your blog and all the information you provide–I really like the whole new website!

  • Fabulous! Thank you! I hope I never need them, but odds are I will at some time or other.

  • Great PSA. I remember the days. Not that I am that great now. I think I was better before.

  • Thank you, Kay!

  • I’m a new knitter and it’s so frustrating for me. I cast on then rip off, over and over. I’m trying to make the pom_pom scarf for my granddaughter but I can’t get past the 2nd row. I don’t know anyone that knits but I’m not read to give up just yet!!!


  • Check out The Rainey Sisters blog of 5/9/2016 wherein Susan Rainey takes scissors to Sally’s shawl to repair a wayward stitch discovered post-picot-bind-off that is as Sally said, “at the wrong end.” She snips, unravels down, ladders back up, splices, and re-knits the picot. Bring smelling salts if you go look.

    The Raineys are amazing knitters.

    • She does repair the stitch between unraveling down and laddering back up.

  • I was mentally cheering “yes, yes” through this whole entry. I have two lovely aunties who have been knitting since before I was born. They would always have a project going at parties and such throughout my childhood. I learned to knit from the chaplain at my college, and became pretty passionate about it a few years later. Now both of my aunties have come to me for help with their knitting, and it blows my mind. I showed one how to properly pick up stitches for a button band. The other one had stopped a stitch on a lace scarf, and I managed to fix it by reading her knitting, even though she’d forgotten to bring the pattern. Reading your knitting is so very important.

  • I totally know what you mean by mistakes that can not be explained in words–I teach 3rd and 4th grade girls how to knit, and they have managed to stagger me on more than one occasion! I too was an impatient knitter who got sick of waiting for her mother to help her, so I began to learn the basics of fixing mistakes. 8 years of teaching knitting later, and I can do a ‘stitch rescue’ as for almost anything, but I am still being amazed by the inventiveness of my tiny knitters. And myself…

  • This was an extraordinarily good post. I love reading all the MDK posts but this one is so spot on. I’m a terrible teacher and have not really been able to explain knitting to anyone. This gives me a direction to explain the loop-in-loop principle. Thanks!