Open Daily

Mistakes happen. What to do about them?

You’re watching All Creatures Great and Small and you unintentionally join both fronts of your Ramona cardigan about 9” down from the neck (plunging neckline anyone?), and just keep knitting in the round, totally absorbed by the fantastic knitwear on the screen — not to mention the mossy stone walls — until you realize you were actually knitting a cardigan and not a pullover. (True story, it was an easy fix.)

So what to you do when you spot a mistake?

Is it an easy fix? Are you off by a stitch or few?

Could your problem be solved by adding an extra stitch or decreasing one or two stitches over the next couple of rows? Is it a dropped stitch that could be placed on an opening stitch marker to hold it safely, then retrieved with a crochet hook on your next row?

A few of our Ramona KAL knitters realized they were off by a few stitches this past week. They were in the raglan section, so it was pretty easy to set it to rights! 

Generally, choose a plain row to adjust for a mistake, meaning that you’re not on an increase or decrease row.

Our suggestion is to first identify which sections are off by a stitch or two. Once you know where (back, front, sleeve, etc) you missed a make-one, you know that’s the section where you’ll add a stitch. 

Try to add your stitch in the same manner you’d typically be increasing. In the case of the Ramona raglan increases, you always increase one stitch away from the marker that denotes your seam. You’ve got a plain knit stitch right next to the marker, with an increase next to that stitch. When you go to add the stitch you forgot in the section where you’re missing it, knit to one stitch before the marker (for a M1R) or knit to one stitch after the marker (for a M1L in the next section). 

Another great tip for the cardigan is that if you’re missing a stitch on the front of your sweater, make sure you’re increasing (or decreasing) one stitch away from the marker, not on the side where your button band will be.

The same is true for having too many stitches — simply decrease one stitch before the seam, leaving that plain knit stitch right next to the marker. 

Can you live with the mistake?

In the case of the plunging neckline cardigan, the answer was a hard no for this knitter. Another knitter may have made a different decision, determining that a plunging neckline Ramona cardigan was just the garment they’ve always needed in their closet!

Some knitters are categorically opposed to going back to fix a mistake — or they just don’t worry about it — while others couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t put their knitting to rights. 

One way isn’t better, it’s simply personal preference for each knitter. A lot of times it’s contextual, based on what you’re knitting, how far beyond the mistake you’ve gotten, how visible it is, etc.

Is it time to “tink” your work? 

Tinking is carefully un-knitting one stitch at a time. The word “tink” comes from the word KNIT spelled backwards — KNIT - TINK, get it? Tinking is used when the mistake isn’t too far back, maybe a few rows, and it’s definitely the preferable method when you’re knitting lace, brioche, colorwork, or other fancy stitchwork because you have lots of control and are less likely to lose a stitch along the way.

Is it time to frog your work? 

Frogging is when you rip-it, rip-it, rip-it out, so it’s usually used when the mistake is quite a few rows back. 

I realized that despite my best efforts, my Ramona cardigan was shaping up to be really, really roomy. Yes, I knit a swatch, measured myself and my favorite sweater, I did the math and I checked my math multiple times. But I still overestimated my size, which is a common occurrence for me. Because I’m a medium-sized person with larger-than-medium-sized shoulders, I always want to be sure my sweaters fit my shoulders, so I err on the side of roomy.

I knit to the waist decreases, then slid my Barber cord into my body stitches and tried on my cardigan. It was obvious that it was too big, and that was without the button band! I determined I would rip back to a few rows before the underarm split, and then knit one size down. 

And so it was time to frog a few inches of knitting. Good thing I love my yarn (La Pampa in colorway Marble by the way)! This is one reason we encourage folks to really love the yarn they choose. If you’re like me, you could be knitting the equivalent of more than one sweater — by the time I frogged the middle section and re-knit it — and then you’ll hopefully wear that gorgeous finished project for years to come!

Reframing mistakes two ways.

Let’s be honest, if you’ve got to take out a sizable portion of knitting, it’s a bummer. Here’s two ways you can think about it.

We don’t get many do-overs in life. With knitting, you can get a clean slate and go for perfection if you want. Whether it’s big chunks of frogging, just a few tinks, or ripping it right back to the beginning, if you want a do-over you can have one.

Understanding our mistakes is how we learn. It helps us learn the why of our knitting — like Patty Lyons likes to say — so we can really understand a concept and keep it in our memory. Sometimes our mistakes teach us things about ourselves as knitters like…

Pencil in the total number of stitches you should have by making notes on your pattern — even if those numbers aren’t included by the designer.

No knitting after 9 p.m. or when you’re already a little bit frustrated.

No movies with subtitles.

None of that type of knitting [fill in the blank] when you’re chatting with friends.

Or if you’re me, no lace knitting ever. Period.

Choose boring sports to watch while you knit tricky parts, and exciting sports for when you have acres of stockinette stitch.

If you encounter a mistake, we’re here to help you navigate it — Ramona sweaters or otherwise! Wednesday Knit Nights are a great time to pop in for help from us. We’re here each week from 4–7 p.m. with extra staff on hand. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published