There’s a joy and utter thrill, to setting up your knitting space with a new pattern, new skeins of yarn all balled and ready, and a new excitement for a promising project. But somewhere in there all is disillusionment and sputtering when you have to unravel six rows, or worse, start over.
Following are some candidly confessed knitting mistakes and knitting techniques for saving or preventing the frustration to begin with.
1. Not Following Knitting Instructions.
Now, don’t be insulted. You might have heard the story of the guy who was building a model airplane, knew there was something not right, and kept putting the pieces together anyway. When he finished, the parts were on backwards, and so he stood up to walk away forever. As he did, he noticed something stuck to the bottom of his shoe: the assembly instructions.
It may seem obvious, but when you are knitting even the simplest of scarfs, keep to the pattern. TRUST the pattern. If it does not say M1, do not M1. Do not cast on an extra 20 stitches because you are sure that scarf looks too narrow. You will, as some of us have, end up with a throw blanket.
2. Hole-y Knitting, Bat Girl
Holes where you don’t want holes are depressing. With trial and error, you can find the right knitting technique for you—one that will do away with knitting holes in a cardigan that now looks like a lacey tee:
- Use the needle number called for in the pattern: the gauge (number of stitches per inch) will depend upon the right sized needles.
- Keep a consistent tension on your yarn: pulling too tightly or loosely in one place can cause gaps, puckers, or holes.
- Watch your actual stitches: an accidental yarn over or a yarn round needle (yrn), where the yarn is brought over the right needle before doing the next stitch, will create a hole.
3. Twisted Sister Stitches
Kind of like the days of pantyhose and trying to put them on after a bath when they inevitably twist and make you feel sideways all day, the twisted stitches you don’t want twisted make you feel the same way. Knowing one particular knitting stitch will remedy this:
For an intended through the back of the loop (Tbl.) stitch, you knit or purl into the BACK of the loop on the left needle, which makes the stitch twist. So to keep your stitches straight, keep from entering the right needle at the back and stick with side/front.
4. That’s Knot Right
There are knots you want and knots you don’t. Well, mostly that you don’t want. One of them is in balling your yarn. When you turn your skeins into a ball, you will likely come to the end of one skein and want to continue the ball with the next skein. Oh, to have one endless strand of yarn.
Do NOT knot the end of one and the beginning of the next. This will, as you can guess, add a knot to your knitting (and a good chance it will appear on the front/outside of your knit piece, of course). Instead, just gently twist the ends in the ball. When they appear as you are knitting, leave them loose-ended and at the back/inside of your piece. And do not cut to trim them all nice and neat. When you are finishing the piece, you can weave the ends.
Here’s where part two of the ‘do not knot’ knitting principle comes in: instead of knotting or cutting those two loose ends (cutting will merely make the piece come unravelled), weave the two ends with a darning needle.
5. Take the Lot
A simple and seemingly unimportant knitting workshop lesson involves buying the yarn for a new pattern: many of us learn the hard way that we cannot just buy our starter supplies, thinking we can return later when we run out. I still have unfinished pieces because the store I frequent stopped a particular line and I wasn’t wise enough to stock up in advance.
The same weight, colour, or texture can be sacrificed if you need five skeins and you buy two to start. When you return, the bin may be empty, or a new lot has come in and it is a shade off.
The yarn is dyed in lots, for example, so get all the skeins you need, even an extra skein for safe measure, so that the colour is the same, the weight is the same, and the texture and character is the same.
6. Tink Away the Tiny Terribles
As experienced knitters will tell you, knitting (or purling) the wrong stitch is a pain in the neck. It takes away from your flow, throws off your momentum, and it reminds you of just how human you are. You can easily un-knit or tink away (“tink” = “knit” spelled backwards) the mistakes if they are few:
Insert left needle into the mistake stitch loop on the right needle; pull slowly and easily on the working yarn as it un-loops. For tinking a mistaken purl stitch, remember to move your working yarn to the front and for tinking a mistaken knit stitch, remember to move the working yarn to the back.
7. Frog the Major Foibles
Clever knitters have not only given us the un-knitting term which is the un-version of the term knit, but they have turned “frog” into a verb: Yes, when they make a major knitting mistake with a row or several rows of a knitting project, they frog that mistake: the frog calls out, “Rip it; rip it; rip it;” and the knitter has to comply.
So when you are knitting along happily and do a double take on that row or chunk of wrong, take the following steps:
- 1st, be sure to compare your rows to your pattern or knitting instructions—making a note where to pick up again when you finish frogging.
- 2nd, identify where the mistake stops, so you can stop frogging.
- 3rd, stand over a table (and under good lighting) and lay the piece flat. Slowly pull the piece from the needle—knowing that the well-knit work will not all fly apart.
- 4th, calmly and slowly give a tug to unravel the mistake rows—realising to pull too quickly or roughly will tweak and bunch the piece and will make it harder to eventually return the loops to their needle. That is, try to keep the piece flat and calm, so the loops stay upright and in place.
- 5th, keeping in mind the working yarn needs to be at the point of the needle, re-insert the needle from the opposite end of the working yarn. As you return the loops to the needle, be sure to do so with the loops in order. And be sure to re-count, to assure that you have the same number of stitches you had before you began to frog.
8. Curls are for Ribbon and Hair
One of the most frustrating results of a first knitting project is how the finished piece, like a scarf, curls. Seasoned knitters will tell you this is the fate of the stocking (or, stockinette) stitch: in this stitch, there are knit stitches and purl stitches (k1, p1). One stitch, the knit, is shorter than the other, the purl. So the project inevitable curls.
To prevent gifting a friend a lovely rolled up version of a scarf, try k2, p2 (knit two rows, purl two rows), which will create less of a balanced imbalance, if you will and more of a ribbed pattern less prone to curling.
9. Getting Edgy
Some beginner knitters also have concerns when it comes to messy edges. They find bulges and bumps, they have loopy leftovers. Unable to re-knit and daunted by the notion of having to frog all the way down to the messed-up edge, they are stuck for the time being and stuck for future projects, as well.
One long-time knitter who explains knitting principles and knitting techniques suggests a way to prevent the edgy problems in the future…by always slipping the first stitch of every row: transfer the stitch from left needle to right needle without adding yarn, to make for a nicer, cleaner edge.
10. The Classic Knitting Mistake
We’ve all heard or seen or even committed the knitting mistakes that involve size—turning out a girl’s sweater that will only fit the family dog or making a man’s sweater with sleeves longer than his legs. The trick here is to learn to gauge.
First, take into consideration your knitting style: you may knit tightly and will therefore possibly end up with a smaller piece; or, conversely, you may knit loosely, and end up with a larger than called for item. What to do, then, is to test yourself so you know your knitting style, and, rather than changing yourself, testing the right gauge needles to match that personal style.Next, have the pattern you will be using as well as the yarn for that same intended project. (Other yarns for this test might yield different results.) Read the pattern for gauge (for how many stitches and rows per square inch). Knit a four- or five-inch square as a tester piece. Lay the piece flat, without stretching it. Using a ruler or knitting gauge ruler, measure out one square inch, and count the number of stitches and rows in that one-inch space.
Return to the pattern: if your stitch and row count is smaller than the pattern requirements, use knitting needles one size smaller than stated on the pattern. Likewise, if your sample count is greater, use needles one size larger.
With the upgraded needles, make another test sample. Measure again and match again against your pattern…, until you meet the gauge required.
Many of our mistakes are obvious, and just as many are those we obviously work out on our own by trial and error and according to our own personal knitting styles. What’s great to know is that there are hundreds of knitters out there as glad to talk about and share their experiences with knitting mistakes and corrections as there are knitters delighted to talk about the pure joy of knitting. It may be a solitary craft, but we are all in it together in the long run, glad to share our triumphs and our goofs. And more, when we make a mistake in knitting—unlike in life—we can frog it away!