Lisa’s List: 10 Knitting Mistakes that Lead to Disaster

When I started working for Interweave, I answered the phones. Between sorting mail, proofreading articles, and ordering yarns, I answered the phone calls of customers who needed knitting help with our patterns. I was hired, in large part, because I knew enough about knitting to help people. And it turned out to be the hardest part of the job.

Let me tell you—diagnosing someone’s knitting problem from 1500 miles away, when I can’t see what they’re doing and they can’t explain it, and then helping them fix it, is tough!

From that experience, I learned that there are common mistakes that knitters make and don’t know they’re making. I have also learned, from my own knitting over the years, some common habits that will lead to knitting disaster.

Please, read this list and arm yourself against disaster! Learn from our mistakes so you don’t have to! For more tips and fixes, check out Kate Atherley’s Fixing Knitting Mistakes, available as an online course or video download.

KNITTING HELP: AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

1.     ADDING A K1 AFTER EVERY YO

With surprising frequency, people called my office and complained of stitch counts being off in their lace knitting. It turns out that some folks have learned to work a yarnover like this: Yo, k1. Every time, they finish the yo with a k1 that IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE PATTERN OR CHART. It’s a quirk with disastrous results, as you eat up the stitches in your row with unnecessary k1’s. And since they don’t know it’s wrong, they cannot figure out why the pattern isn’t working, no matter how many times they rip out and start over.

2.     KNITTING THE NO-STITCH

Some lace patterns change stitch count from row to row, either to create shaping or because of the nature of the lace itself. For such a pattern, the chart doesn’t have the same number of stitch blocks on every row. To represent this, we place shaded “no-stitch” blocks in these charts, which represent STITCHES THAT AREN’T THERE. They don’t exist. Don’t count them; don’t knit them; just skip over them til they’re white again. If you work them as stitches, your counts and pattern will be off.

knitting help

The twisted rib lace chart from a project in Interweave Knits Summer 2017 shows two important elements in lace knitting that can be misread by knitters, and/or can be lost when making black and white copies of charts.

3.     XEROXING CHARTS IN BLACK AND WHITE

If you copy a chart in black and white, you might lose key elements. Is there a red repeat box on your chart? You might lose this completely and not be able to identify where your repeat begins and ends. In a lightly printed Xerox, the shaded no-stitch boxes disappear and look like normal stitches. If you make a copy of a chart, do it in color and with a full toner cartridge! Or take a pic with your phone and keep your chart portable that way.

4.     MEASURING GAUGE TOO SOON AND ON THE NEEDLES

If you knit 1” of pattern and then measure gauge over that, while the stitches are still on the needle, it’s not going to be an accurate reflection of your gauge in the project. Trust me. I have a few 60” sweaters to sell you. Master the gauge swatch with this tutorial.

5.     LEAVING A VULNERABLE WIP ON THE COUCH

Unless you live alone without pets, this is a risky move. People and animals will sit right on your knitting, writhing around on it with all their body weight as they curl up. Then you have not only a ruined project, but a ruined night once the yelling starts.

6.     SWAPPING K1F&B AND M1

We all have our preferences, but some knitters swap these two increase techniques without accounting for the inherent difference between them—one is worked on an existing stitch and one is worked between stitches. Swapping these methods will affect your surrounding stitches and how you count them, so beware. Learn the k1f&b here and the M1 here.

knitting help

7.     TAIL TOO SHORT FOR LONG-TAIL CAST-ON

This isn’t a disaster, really, but it is SUPER ANNOYING on large projects with lots of stitches. There is a formula (available in this set of reference cards)  for measuring how long your tail should be, but I do it the lazy way and just pull out an absurdly long tail so there’s no way I’ll end up short.

8.     PLANNING TO KNIT ALL YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENTS AROUND DECEMBER 5

Just. Don’t. You’re going to hate your life and the holidays, to boot.

9.     PICKING UP STITCHES IN HOLES

When picking up and knitting stitches for a sleeve, neckband, sock gusset, or other element, do not be tempted to pick up a stitch in the big awkward holes at corners. Any time you pick up stitches in a gap that you’d really rather close up, you will emphasize that gap and make it permanent. Skip over gaps—by doing so, you will actually close them up.

10.  ATTEMPTING BRIOCHE BEFORE YOU KNOW HOW TO READ YOUR STITCHES

Brioche is the only technique I would call “hard” at this point in my knitting life. I’ve been in brioche classes where less-experienced knitters give up and walk out. Others swear a lot. If you aren’t able to read the stitches on your needle and know what’s happening—oh, that’s a yarnover, that’s a k2tog, that’s a slipped stitch—you’re going to have a hard time. Save this one til you’ve gotten more knitting experience. A nervous young lady on the phone will probably not be able to walk you through it.

11.  KNITTING WITH LONG STRAIGHT NEEDLES ON A PLANE

and dropping one during take-off and having it roll several aisles back and having to go on an awkward floor hunt once the seat belt sign is off.

12.  ATTEMPT TO TAKE YOUR KNITTING ON INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

India’s version of the TSA does not look kindly on pointy metal things, no matter how many inches of cable knitting are attached to it. Take my word for it, folks. I’ve heard of other countries that don’t allow needles in carry-ons; always check before you check that bag!

Photo Credit: Peter Zelei Images | Getty Images

13.  KNITTING WITH A KITTEN AND A FULL GLASS OF RED WINE

This has happened to me. Curious kitty, moving yarn, glass of wine on the coffee table. I screamed so loud when the chaos erupted that that kitty didn’t come out of hiding for hours. My fault, cutie!

Have you ever discovered a knitting quirk of your own that plagued your projects? Or made some other mistake that doomed your knitting? It’s all part of the journey!

Just keep truckin,

—Lisa


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5 Comments

  1. April L at 12:14 pm May 25, 2017

    Great article but for one tiny thing. Copy editor missed it. “Xerox ” is not a verb. It is a proper noun. You cannot xerox something.

    • Denise P at 8:43 am May 26, 2017

      Actually the word ‘xerox’ used as a verb was added to the Oxford English Dictionary some time back. Same with ‘velcro’. And I am sure both companies tried some serious litigation to stop it.

      I wonder if anyone was knitting while hearing evidence in the cases?

  2. Audrey T at 10:07 am May 26, 2017

    Oh what a cheerful way to start my Friday morning. I giggled until my husband commented, “WHAT are you READING?!?” 😀

    Yes, on several occasions I’ve been there, done that.

    Thanks for sharing!
    -Audrey

  3. Toni B at 5:18 pm May 26, 2017

    Cast on for Long Tail cast on. Just use two strands of yarn (from two balls of yarn or both ends of same ball) tie them together and begin casting on. When number of stitches needed are cast on just clip one of the strands and begin knitting.

  4. JUDY L at 11:05 pm May 26, 2017

    I love Lisa’s list! To add to Tip #11, a long circular is preferable to straight needles for airplane knitting. (I learned that the hard way!) With regard to Tip #12, last year I flew from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Delhi, India, and a few days later from Delhi to Dubai. I took my knitting in my carry-on and did not have any problems going through security with my Stiletto point Signature Needle Arts needles. I make sure that the needles are packed parallel to each other and tucked snuggly against the side of the bag.

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