Ripping Back Without Ripping Your Hair Out

Every knitter has his or her own way of resolving the inevitable knitting mistakes. We shall skip over the painful first four stages of shock, denial, bargaining, and anger (for those are perhaps best worked through in a closed room with a glass of something soothing close to hand, and the music turned way up to mask the wails and screams) and sail somewhat serenely right on through to the final stage: The Fix.

Once again, I have called on Cap'n Frog, this time for his help in ripping back two inches of misplaced cables in my Gathered Pullover. (Sorry, Elizabeth K., I know you wanted me to leave the miscreant cables in as a badge of honor, but if I left them in, there wouldn't be a tutorial.)

Fix-It Method of Choice: In this case, I'm simply going to take the stitches completely off the needles, rip back to a round or two before the errors started, put the stitches back on the needles, and get back to knitting.

I am not using a lifeline, as this pattern is so simple overall that I do not have to worry either about losing my place in a complicated chart, or losing elusive yarnovers. I do, however, need to account for the four markers as I rip back.


The miscreant cable is on the left

I could, in theory, use the "drop down" method: drop each column of mis-knit stitches down and rework them vertically, so that I wouldn't have to re-knit all 192 stitches times 20 rounds (3840 stitches! Ouch!). However: In this case, there are misplaced cables where there is supposed to be only stockinette stitch, and cables use a slightly different amount of yarn over the same span as stockinette does. If I use the drop-down method on just the baadly-behaved stitches, and don't re-knit all the other stitches around them, then I could end up with a funny-looking patch where the tension would be all caddywhumpus (technical term). Caddywhumpus tension = Bad. So: rip and re-knit it is.


Steps 2 through4

Ripping back without losing track of where the markers belong. The more daring amongst you might simply note the placement of the end-of-round marker somehow, and then just rip away, with plans to recount and re-position the markers as you put the stitches back on the needles. I'm always afraid I am going to end up having all the markers off by a stitch or two…and of course, I would fail to realize this until I had another two inches of cables mis-knitted!). So here is a trick I use:

You'll need: some of those locking safety-pin style markers, as well as a few small dpns. The dpns need to be smaller than your working needles so that they do not distort the knitting too much.

Step 1: With the knitting still on the needles, lay the project on a flat surface where there is good lighting.

Step 2: Starting in the space denoted by one of the markers on the needle, thread a dpn down vertically through the rows, until it comes out one or two rounds below the mistake.


Step 5

Step 3: Make sure the needle goes cleanly through the "ladder" between the stitches and does not cross over one column of stitches into another.

Step 4: Once the dpn is in place, place another marker on the "ladder rung" of the row below where you want to rip out to.

Step 5: Repeat this for all the markers around the needles.

Step 6: Double-check to make sure everything looks correctly placed.

Step 7: Remove the dpns, and then carefully slide all the stitches off the needles.


Step 7

Step 8: Start ripping back. Enjoy the little "yarn popping" sounds and the sheer fun of ripping. Be sure to stop ripping when the loops above the "ladders" with the markers are the next row of live stitches.

Step 9: Holding the knitting in your left hand, support a section of live stitches with your fingers.

Step 10: Using a needle a size or two smaller than your working needle in your right hand, insert the needle from back to front for each stitch, threading the stitches back on the needle, one at a time, all the way around.

TIP: If you come to a stitch that looks twisted, or dropped, or wrong in some way, thread it on the needle anyway (if possible) and clip another marker to that stitch for later surgery.


Putting stitches back on the needles

When all the stitches are back on the temporary needle, use your real working needle to start knitting again, re-positioning pattern markers on your needles as you go.

When you come to a marker marking a twisted stitch, untwist the stitch before working it.

When you come to a marker that denotes a dropped stitch, use your crochet hook to loop the stitch back up into place.

Each time you fix a mistake, remove the marker alerting you to that mistake, and give a little crow of victory, because you've certainly earned it.

If you would like some really awesome step-by-step pictures on how to fix specific mistakes, then allow me to recommend a book that sits on my knitting table: Lisa Kartus' Knit Fix: Problem Solving For Knitters. It's a GREAT book, and I'm not just saying that because I work here, I'm saying that because my copy has chocolate and coffee stains all over it, badges of honor in my house!


Pssst! We're still collating the answers from the post on What do you need to be a fearless knitter? so we'll have those results for you, plus some exciting new knitting fun, in the weeks ahead!



Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? Aside from the Gathered Pullover: a rather untidily grafted hood on my husband's pullover that might need some Knitting Daily magic; and the Secret Knitting Daily project.


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