Fixing Common Knitting Mistakes

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You’re a new knitter! Congratulations and welcome to a life long joy! Now, tell me the truth: Do you live in fear of being away from the person who taught you? Are you terrified that you will do something “wrong” and be stuck? Do you avoid looking at your knitting in case you find a mistake? Do not fear! I’m here to help.

First, know that these are all perfectly natural feelings in a new knitter. Fixing common knitting mistakes is easier than you might think. Here are the four most common pitfalls that new knitters experience:

1) Dropped Stitches (ack! don’t panic)

2) Extra Stitches (oh no! it’s growing!)

3) Twisted Stitches (this looks funny)

4) Tight Tension (I. can’t. move. the. stitches. on. the. needle!)

But, never fear! I’m going to tell you why they happen, show you to catch them early and, most importantly, how to fix them yourself! Let’s dive in.

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1) Dropped stitches

Why

Don’t panic.  This happens all the time.  A stitch will fall off in your bag or when you set your knitting down.  Or, a stitch can easily pop off the end of your needle when you aren’t paying attention. Sometimes it will work its way deep down into the fabric, but good news! It’s fixable.

Catch It

The best way to catch dropped stitches is to do the following:

:: Look at your fabric regularly to spot any unusual nubs of stitches hanging out or gaping row of ladders – eep!

:: Count your stitches regularly to make sure your stitch count is not going down.

:: Always stop knitting when you get to the end of a row.  Stuffing your knitting in your project bag mid-row is a sure-fire way to lose some stitches.

Fix It

You can do this! It’s actually easier than you might think. When you look at your work, the dropped stitch will be hanging out morosely at the bottom of what looks like a series of ladder rungs.  These ladder rungs are the working yarn from each row that came out of that dropped stitch. We’re going to pull that lost stitch back up the ladder rungs re-creating a stitch at each rung, or each row.

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:: Start by using your left hand needle to pick up the last stitch you see. The right hand side (“leg”) of the stitch should be in front of the needle. The ladder rungs of working yarn from the rows the stitch fell out of will be hanging out above it.

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:: Next, insert your left hand needle under the lowest most ladder rung.

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:: You should now have the old stitch and the working yarn (ladder rung) from the row above the dropped stitch on your needle.

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:: Insert your right hand needle into the dropped stitch and pull it over that first ladder rung that is on your needle.  Congratulations you picked up a stitch for one row!

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:: Now, repeat. Put your left hand needle under the next available ladder rung and repeat the steps above to remake the stitch for that row.

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:: Keep going. Continue to pull that stitch up each row, re-forming the stitch as above until you get to the top.  That line of stitches may look a little looser, but this will decrease in visibility as you keep working and when you block your work. Congratulations! I knew you could do it!

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2) Extra stitches

Why

The most common reasons that extra stitches occur are accidental yarn overs and inadvertent knitting into the space between stitches.

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:: An accidental yarn over occurs when you bring your yarn to the front of the work (as opposed to keeping it in the back). Then, when you go to knit the next stitch, the working yarn goes up and over your needle creating an extra loop on your needle as it makes that next stitch.

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:: Sometimes you accidentally knit in the space between two stitches.  Above, my needle isn’t going through an existing stitch, it is going underneath the working yarn from the prior row. This will also create an extra stitch.

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Catch It

The best way to catch extra stitches is to look at your fabric regularly to spot any unusual looking holes or places where the stitch doesn’t look quite right. Above is an accidental yarn over as it looks from the purl side.  Also, count your stitches regularly, if you are adding extra stitches, your count will go up.

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Fix It

The best way to fix an extra stitch depends on where it is located. The easiest fix, if the extra stitch was added within the last 1-2 rows is to simply pull the extra stitch/es off your needle.  The working yarn in the 1-2 rows will be a little loose and you might have a bigger looking stitch there, but it will be better than a giant hole.

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:: If you’re a perfectionist, and the offending extra stitch was recent, you can knit backwards stitch by stitch, (called “tink”ing) to reach to the offending stitch. You do this by inserting your left hand needle underneath the last completed stitch (see above) and pulling out the working yarn as you transfer the stitch from the right hand needle back on to your left.

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:: If the you’re a perfectionist and the offending extra stitch was long ago, you may just want to rip out your knitting (“frogging”) until you remove the offending stitch. Take your work off the needles and lay it down somewhere flat. Slowly pull the working yarn out of the stitches until you undo the extra stitch.

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:: After ripping out knitting, as you pick up each stitch, you want the right half of the stitch or “leg” of the stitch to be in front of the needle.  If one of the stitches has ripped down another row, don’t worry, just put the last visible stitch on the needle, note its location, and keep going.  After you pick up the whole row of stitches, return to the location of the dropped stitch. Simply use your new technique of picking up dropped stitches from above!

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:: If you just want to keep rolling with this lovely new craft, it’s your first project after all and mistakes will show that your work is  lovingly hand made, then, a great option is to knit two stitches together into one stitch, which will bring your stitch count down to the correct number.  Knitting two stitches together is often used in patterns to reduce stitches.

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:: But FYI, if you knit two stitches together over a extra stitch below, you will end up with a small hole in your fabric.

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3) Twisted stitches

Why

The biggest reason this happens is that a picked up stitch gets put on the needle the wrong way (left leg in front) or you knit through the back of a stitch.

Catch It

The best way to catch this is to look at your knitting often.  Every row or two, take the opportunity to look at the fabric and see how the stitches are falling.

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Fix It

Fix a twisted stitch by returning to the offending stitch by “tink”ing (explained above) or ripping out (explained above).   You can also stop right above the twisted stitch. Pull out any stitches above it and pull out the offending stitch (see photo above). Put the stitch back on the needle with the twist removed.  Then, follow instructions above for a picking up a dropped stitch. See how you are totally getting the hang of this!?

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4) Tension is too tight

Why

New knitters tend to hold their yarn really tight (you’re nervous about making any and all of the above mistakes, am I right?) and they knit at the tips of their needles for the same reason.  If you knit on the tips, you basically are making your new stitches smaller than the size of your needles because you are knitting at the narrow part.  Then, when you push your new itty-bitty stitch onto the rest of the needle, it’s all nervous-nelly-tight.

Catch It

When your knitting stitches are super snug to the needle and you have a hard time moving them back and forth, this is the best indicator that you are knitting too tightly.

Fix It
First, relax, you’re learning a new skill and new skills take time. With practice, knitting will come with ease.  These things will help:

:: Drop your shoulders and take deep breaths.
:: Start on bigger needles in the beginning as they are easier to work with. Size 10 needles are great for beginners.
:: Bamboo or wood needles hold the yarn a bit better than metal needles, which are more slippery. Use wood needles to be less fearful of losing a whole needle-ful of hard-earned work.
:: Make sure, as you knit, that each stitch is going fully on to the fat part of the needle before you begin your next stitch. This practice will result in more even stitches and a more relaxed tension.

I hope this little set of tips has helped. Knitting can be such a life long love. Leap over those first little hurdles and you’ll find smooth sailing!

This post was created as a MarthaStewart.com Contributor and was published there on May 21 2015. This means that I’ll be making lots of beautiful things to be featured on MarthaStewart.com. Go explore my profile and work there.

  1. Perf timing. I brought a finished cowl to Squam that had three plastic colored pins holding ‘dropped stitches’ hoping that I would find someone there at Spring Fiber session to help me. I got to busy with a new knitting project (yes it happens to new knitters too – multi projects) and never did ask what had happened to these lonely stitch groups. Thanks for this post for somewhere within these photos and hints there must be the answer to my problem!! yippee

    Judy

    • Judy, This makes me so happy! This should help – good luck! you can do it. xo anne

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  3. Julie

    such a great post, all of those tricks for fixing basic mistakes are crucial to developing knitting skills, because they happen to everyone sometimes. And I adore how your knitting matches your background lilacs, so pretty.

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  5. Rachel

    This is so useful! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Your welcome, Rachel!! I’m so glad you find it helpful! xo

  6. Lynne Janssen Brooks

    Thanks so much for great fixes! You saved the day tonight, Anne! I’ve been knitting a chevron baby blanket…hours into it…I realized I had put in a row of increases where I should have been decreasing. Never knit when you’re super tired! lol With your step-by-step instructions & photos, I was able to rip it out (with only minor sweating), get all 100 little loops back on my circulars (in the right direction!) & re-knit, whereas I would have been too afraid to do that before. Thanks much! Always love your posts/emails & looking forward to your book! Best wishes! Lynne

    • Hi Lynne! You’re the best to take this time to write me this message. I’m so glad that you found the tutorial helpful! It brings me such joy that I helped you with your knitting! yay! I hope your summer is fabulous!

  7. Doris

    Thank you for these tips. I taught myself how to knit (I do not think a couple of projects over 50 years ago counts. I am a leftie and my mother was not, those instructions did NOT go well!) I decided that I need to start somewhere and began knitting a throw to give myself lots of practice. Soon it was double the width. I figured out what I did, but did not know how to fix it. My knitting has gotten better during the project and I made the decision that it was just for me so would make a great piece to judge my growth! And I have cats, one of whom is all too eager to help cut the yarn and has put a few pulls into it already.
    Now that I know how to fix, I find that I have no mistakes in the last inch of knitting – so I am going to continue. At least I now hav e a reference!! Thanks again.

    • Hi Doris,
      I’m so glad that my tips could help you. It sounds like you are making great progress and learning well!
      Anne

  8. Shirley

    Thank you! Very useful ??

  9. Barb Sohm

    Knitting in the round and the two sides are hooked together; what did I do??

    • Uh-oh! It sounds like you knit the back side of the fabric opposite you as you knit. You can likely fix this, by purposefully dropping a stitch and then fixing it the same way you fix a dropped stitch. Knit until you are above the offending connection. Drop stitches purposefully above the connection until the sides become unconnected, then fix the dropped stitch as described above in my blog post. Hope this helps!

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