Better Than Frogging: How to Fix Knitting Mistakes
I knit beautifully. Seriously. I am very proud of my knitting. I wear my shawls to the grocery store and my socks to work each day. People comment on the perfection of my knitting, asking where I got my sweater and then remarking, “You made that? It looks like it came from the store!” They never know that my work is filled with knitting mistakes.
My very favorite thing about making socks and sweaters is that I have the ability to correct myself. I may have to go back a couple of stitches to change a purl into a knit. I may need to pick up a stitch I dropped three rows ago. I may even have to rip out a whole sweater to fix a problem with the cast-on. But the thing is, I’ve learned how to fix knitting mistakes. It is super empowering. Here are a few of the methods I use.
If I’m lucky, I notice my mistake right away. Often, something won’t feel right: the colorwork or lace pattern isn’t lining up, my seed stitch is turning into ribbing, etc. I look down, check the pattern, and realize I made a mistake 5 stitches ago. Time to tink!
Tinking is “unknitting,” or taking out your stitches one at a time. (The name comes from the word “knit” written backwards—just like the action!) To tink your stitches, insert the left needle into the loop below the last stitch worked on your right needle. With that loop secured, slip the stitch off the right needle. Pull the loose stitch out. Continue in this manner until you reach the stitch where you made the mistake. Correct your stitch and knit on!
Picking Up Dropped Stitches
If I’m not so lucky, I don’t notice I’ve made a mistake for a few rows. For example, sometimes I drop a stitch but don’t notice until a couple of rows later. What now?
First, secure the stitch by using a stitch marker to hold the loop safely in place. Continue working until the needles line up above the dropped stitch. Then, using a crochet hook that is the same size or smaller than the knitting needle, insert the hook into the loose loop.
Use the hook to grab the yarn, going between the two stitches directly above the dropped stitch, and pull that yarn through the loop. Continue in this manner until the stitch reaches the row you are knitting. Slip the stitch from the crochet hook onto the left needle and continue knitting.
Securing Stitches with a Needle
If I’m really unlucky, I don’t notice I’ve made a mistake until several inches later. I don’t want to frog my whole sweater, but I do have to pull out several inches of knitting. How will I know where I am? How will I get the stitches back on my needle? There’s an easy solution: secure the stitches with another knitting needle before frogging!
Mark the mistake clearly with stitch markers, then grab an extra knitting needle. Make sure the needle is the same length as the working needle and the same size or smaller. (Smaller is better since this needle will be slipped into the stitches.)
Next, lay out the piece on a flat surface and look at the stitches. Find the row where the mistake occurred. Starting at the beginning of the row or round if possible, slip the extra needle into the stitches with the right leg of the stitch on top of the needle (this placement ensures that the stitches are facing the correct way when they are knitted again). You can use a ruler to help underline the stitches in the row. After slipping all of the stitches to the extra needle, take a deep breath. Know that all of those stitches are secure on the extra needle.
Now—frog! Pull the working needle out of the work and rip back to the point where the extra needle is holding those stitches secure. Sometimes this goes smoothly and all of the stitches in the entire row end up perfectly secured on the extra needle. However, most of the time, a few stitches escape. As the needle slipped into the stitches, it might have wandered up a row or down a row. This is also an easy knitting mistake to fix: slip stitches until you get to the missed stitches, then slip them back onto the needle. If you dropped a stitch entirely, pick it up with a crochet hook.
With these methods, you, too, can have flawless knitting. It’s easy to fix knitting mistakes once you know how!