5 Ways to Avoid Common Knitting Mistakes

I write about knitting mistakes a lot, probably because I’ve committed so many of them and I’m pathetically looking for some sort of validation (no, you are not alone). Some of my errors are technical: I confuse M1L and M1R, I lose count of what row I’m on, or I demonstrate a remarkable inability to knit consistent ribbing. Other errors are more logistical: I don’t buy enough yarn, I start knitting one size and end up knitting another, or I forget about buttonholes until I’m 5 inches into a pattern. I’m not one to flinch when I need to frog, but I’d really rather avoid it in the first place.

Kate Atherley’s newest course, Math for Knitters, is based on the philosophy that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (and provides the conversion table to prove it!) The key to fixing knitting mistakes lies in preventing them from even happening, so a solid understanding of knitting pattern math is the key to success. Here are 4 takeaways from Kate’s course:

1. Pay attention.

Do you want to knit that shawl in a different yarn than what the pattern specifies? Make sure you are accurately comparing the yardage: 300 meters is NOT 300 yards. Proper conversions are key.

common knitting mistakes

Yarn substitution by the numbers.

2. Don’t play Yarn Chicken.

When using a partial skein, make sure you have enough yarn to finish the job before you start knitting. Sure, that almost-full skein might be just enough for a hat, but why knit 93% of a project only to run out of yarn? Weighing your questionable skein is a great way to figure out how much yarn you actually have, and then check it against the pattern.

3. A simple highlighter is a mighty tool.

Knitting something that comes in multiple sizes with multiple sets of numbers in the instructions? Before you even cast on, highlight the right set for your size throughout the pattern, so your stitch counts, increases, and measurements are all correct.

common knitting mistakes


Gauge issues are one of the biggest sources of angst for knitters, and I have several tiny cardigans to prove it. As one designer friend of mine pointed out: you knit a gauge swatch no matter what—it’s up to you whether it’s 4″ x 4″ or an entire sweater.

Can you spot the math mistake in this article? To learn more, from yarn substitutions to breaking down the dreaded “reverse shaping”, check out Kate’s course!

Math for Knitters is a new streamable course you can watch at your own pace, anywhere, any time, on any device.

Happy watching!

Want to learn more? Check out these resources



  1. Rodney C at 8:35 am September 11, 2017

    The article is titled Five Ways, but only four are listed….

  2. Dorothy D at 4:41 pm September 11, 2017

    I agree with Rodney C. WHAT is hint #5??. Answer or you lose a customer.

    • Sally B at 10:36 pm September 11, 2017

      The math mistake is 5 are advertised, 4 are listed. Looks like you ran out of yarn!

  3. Pat P at 11:08 pm September 11, 2017

    The reason #5 is left out is because you need to go and BUY one of the books or items they have for sale and find out what it is. These articles are only lead-ins for their sales pitch! That is the only reason this company or any other business puts out these articles. Think they are meant to help you out?? That is so naive!

  4. Jenn at 8:40 am September 12, 2017

    I checked in with Allison just to clarify five tips versus four… she was having a little fun, and she doesn’t want you to feel cheated:

    “I apologize for any confusion. We were having a little fun in our post on math mistakes, and deliberately listed 4 tips when the post said “5”, and asked if our readers could spot the discrepancy. No hidden agenda here. If anything, Tip # 5 would be to read instructions carefully before you begin!”

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