A Knitter’s Guide To: Fixing Common Mistakes in Lace Knitting

If you knit lace, two skills will make life a lot easier: first, identifying and fixing mistakes soon after they occur (because they will occur) and second, fixing mistakes without undoing entire rows of stitches. In this article, we’ll look at several common mistakes that occur in lace knitting, how to identify them quickly, and how to fix them without pulling out your needles—or your hair.

A TIP BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Even though mistakes are inevitable, you can minimize the possibility of errors by knitting a swatch to familiarize yourself with the lace pattern before you begin the project. Working the lace pattern over a few stitches will help you to discover where you are most likely to make a mistake. That way, you will be especially alert at those trouble spots when knitting the project over a large number of stitches.

TIPS FOR CATCHING MISTAKES EARLY

Use Markers

The best way to spot a mistake early is to place markers on the needle to separate the stitch repeats of the lace pattern. Doing so allows you to check your work as you reach each marker, rather than waiting until the next pattern row to find out that your stitch count is off. When you come to a marker, count the stitches backward to the preceding marker to confirm that you have worked the repeat correctly. If the stitch count is off, check the worked stitches between the 2 markers against the chart or written pattern to determine where the mistake occurred.

One Caveat about Using Markers
Sometimes a decrease will use a stitch or 2 from each side of a marker, so the marker will have to be repositioned when working the decrease. For example, let’s say a certain row of your lace pattern looks like this: k2, yo, k2tog, k2, yo, *sk2p, yo, k3, yo; rep from * to last 9 sts, sk2p, yo, k2, ssk, yo, k2. According to the instructions, there are 6 stitches (plus 2 yarnovers) before the first repeat, but you count 7 stitches on the needle before the first marker. Is this a mistake? Not necessarily. In this case, the first sk2p decrease needs to “borrow” a stitch from the stitches that fall before the marker, so only 6 stitches will be worked before the decrease and all the markers will need to shift over 1 stitch to the right so they fall before the decreases. The shifting of markers can make them more trouble than they are worth, and it might be a good idea to utilize another solution for checking knitting mistakes. One such solution is to learn how to “read” your knitting.

Tip: Washing and blocking will correct minor tension issues caused by fixing yarnover mistakes.

Know How to Read Your Knitting

One of the challenges faced by new lace knitters is knowing how to identify where a mistake has occurred by looking at the stitches that are already worked. The lace pattern chart can greatly help in this regard because it visually represents the knitted stitches. By comparing the stitches under—not on—the needle to each chart symbol, you can easily identify mistakes.

Example
The Lace chart below has a repeat of 12 stitches. The swatch in Photo 1 shows one repeat of Row 5 of the chart (highlighted in yellow). By counting the number of stitches on the needle between the markers, we can see there is a stitch missing (there are 11 stitches between the markers, instead of 12).

To identify where the mistake occurred, we need to start at the purple marker and read the worked stitches from left to right until we reach the green marker, while comparing the stitches to the chart as follows:

  • The first stitch to the right of the purple marker is a yarn-over that corresponds to the O symbol on the chart.
  • The right-leaning k2tog decrease corresponds to the charted / symbol.
  • The knit stitch corresponds to the blank box on the chart.
  • The twisted loop corresponds to the k1tbl symbol.
  • Then comes the center k3tog flanked by 2 yarnovers.
  • The next twisted loop corresponds to a k1tbl symbol.
  • The next knit stitch corresponds to a blank box.
  • The left-leaning ssk decrease corresponds to the charted \ symbol.
  • The chart repeat ends with a O symbol (for a yarnover) followed by a blank box (for a knit stitch).

But looking at the stitches under the needle, we see only a knit stitch and no yarnover eyelet, so we have found the mistake: The yarnover is missing.

ADDING A MISSING YARNOVER

A yarnover is an increase formed by laying the strand of yarn that connects 2 stitches across the top of the needle to form a hole in the knitting. There are a few ways to add a missing yarnover without having to “tink” (undo) stitches, depending on how many rows were worked before the missing yarnover was discovered.

Missing Yarnover on the Current Row

If the missing yarnover is on the current row and a few stitches were worked before the mistake was discovered, slip each completed stitch (without undoing it) from the right needle to the left needle until you reach the point where the mistake occurred. Locate the running thread between the 2 stitches where the yarnover should be (Photo 2).

Use the left needle to lift the running thread from front to back (Photo 3) to emulate the yarnover, then return all the slipped stitches to the right needle.

The swatch now matches the chart (Photo 4).

Missing Yarnover on the Previous Row

If the missing yarnover is discovered on the row above the mistake, use the left needle to lift the running thread from front to back, then work the yarnover as required for the current row.

Missing Yarnover Two Rows below the Current Row

Yarnover mistakes often aren’t noticed until the next right-side pattern row—two rows after the mistake occurred. Re-create the missing yarnover by using two running threads between stitches (Photo 5).

Insert the left needle from front to back below the bottom running thread and lift both running threads onto the needle. The top thread should lie to the right of the bottom running thread (Photo 6).

Pass the left thread over the right thread and off the needle (Photo 7). You can now work the stitch as required for the current row.

REMOVING AN UNINTENDED YARNOVER

Sometimes a yarnover is created unintentionally and must be removed.

Unintentional Yarnover on the Current Row

If you’ve worked a few stitches past the unintentional yarnover, slip each completed stitch from the right needle to the left needle until you reach the point where the mistake occurred and then simply drop the yarnover off the needle.

Unintentional Yarnover on the Previous Row

If the unintentional yarnover is discovered on the row above the mistake, drop the yarnover off the needle when you come to it.

Unintentional Yarnover Two Rows below the Current Row

If the unintentional yarnover is discovered on the next right-side pattern row, drop the stitch off the left needle to release the stitch from the previous row—the yarnover from 2 rows below will also ravel.

MISPLACED YARNOVERS

In some cases, a yarnover might be in the wrong location—say, to the left of a decrease rather than to the right. Combine the techniques described above to eliminate or add the yarnover. When shuffling yarnovers in this way, you might want to stop working the current row several stitches prior to the mistake—rather than working to the mistake—then slip stitches up to the error. After you fix the error, return the slipped stitches to the left needle. This will ensure that everything is in the correct place prior to working these stitches in pattern for the current row.

THE ART OF TINKING

Sometimes errors occur with stitches other than yarnovers, and fixing the errors may require tinking and reworking the stitches. (Note: Because lace is often knitted using thin, slippery yarn, you may want to practice tinking with a thicker, sticky yarn before trying it on your project.)

Knits and Purls

Position the working yarn as for working that type of stitch (in the back for a knit, in the front for a purl). Insert the left needle through the front of the stitch below the stitch on the needle, then allow the stitch on the right needle to slide off. Tug the working yarn to release it.

For a knit stitch, enter through the center of the V formed by the stitch.

For a purl stitch, insert the needle just under the purl bump.

Yarnovers

To tink a yarnover on the current row, simply let it drop off the right needle. If the yarnover was created on the previous row, tink the stitch on the right needle just as you would for a knit or purl stitch.

Twisted Stitches

To tink a twisted stitch, insert the left needle from back to front through the center of the stitch below the stitch on the needle, then allow the stitch on the needle to slide off.

K2tog or K3tog

To tink a k2tog or k3tog, insert the left needle from front to back through the center of all the stitches that form the decrease. You should see the right leg of each stitch of the decrease against the left needle. Let the stitch on the right needle slide off and tug on the working yarn to release it from the stitches.

Ssk or Sssk

Before an ssk or sssk is worked, each stitch of the decrease is slipped knitwise in order to remount it so that the right leg of the stitch is in back of the needle and the left leg is in front of the needle. This keeps the stitches untwisted once the decrease is completed. To tink an ssk or sssk, insert the left needle from back to front through the center of all the stitches that form the decrease. You should see the left leg of each stitch of the decrease against the left needle. Let the stitch on the right needle slide off and tug on the working yarn to release it from the stitches.

After the ssk or sssk is tinked, the stitches must be returned to their original stitch mount, with the right legs in front of the needle and the left legs in back.

Sl 1-k2tog-psso (sk2p)

Before the sk2p is worked, the first stitch is slipped knitwise to remount it. To tink an sk2p, insert the left needle from back to front through just the top stitch and lift it up and onto the right needle so that it sits to the right of the stitch on the needle.

Tink the remaining 2 stitches of the decrease as for a k2tog, then slip the lifted stitch to the left needle, remounting it so the right leg is in front.

Sl 2-k1-p2sso (s2kp2)

This decrease is worked by first slipping 2 stitches as if to k2tog, which remounts and reorders the stitches. The third stitch is then knitted and the 2 slipped stitches are passed over the knit stitch, creating a vertical decrease with the center stitch on top. The reordering and remounting of the first 2 stitches makes tinking this decrease a little tricky. Pinch the decrease below the needle, allowing the stitch on the right needle to slide off, tug on the working yarn to release it from the stitches.

Recapture the 3 live stitches by inserting the right needle through the center of the stitches.

Then transfer the stitches to the left needle, making sure that each stitch is mounted correctly, with the right leg in front of the needle.

Before you start your next lace project, make sure you know how to use stitch markers, read your knitting, and correct mistakes without frogging (ripping out), practicing on a swatch if necessary. Doing so will make knitting your lace project more enjoyable and result in fewer errors.

Roxanne Richardson is a certified master handknitter living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she designs and teaches. Find her weekly videos on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/roxmpls.

This article also appears in the Spring 2019 issue of knitscene.


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2 Comments

  1. Becky R at 3:06 pm January 7, 2019

    Very helpful article! Thank you so much for addressing so many potential errors with resolutions in one place. Finding a missing yarnover two rows below has always been daunting to me, but now I won’t be afraid to try to fix it without tinking.
    Lace knitting is so much more fun when you can read the stitches as well as understand time- and risk-saving methods to correct the inevitable mishaps.
    Much appreciated!

  2. Tina S at 7:20 am January 8, 2019

    Thank you so much for this article! I attempted to knit a sweater with lace detail and I basically gave up on it for the time being because I didn’t know how to correct my mistakes. I think I can attempt it again with renewed confidence!

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