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Oops! Now what?

Jun 3, 2013

Being able to fix your mistakes is crucial to advancing beyond beginning knitting. In fact, after a beginning knitting class, I think an "Oops" class is the next step. This is where you'll learn to fix the most common mistakes that beginner knitters (all knitters, in fact!) make a lot.

In case you don't have access to an Oops class, though—I know many of you don't—I'll show you my two best fix-it techniques. A mini-class, if you will!

The first thing to know is how to unknit, or "tink" (which is "knit" spelled backward). Knowing how to unknit allows you to go backwards to fix a mistake so that you don't have to take your knitting off the needles. I use this technique ALL THE TIME. I mean it; I probably do a little unknitting every time I knit, which is every day, so . . .

Here's a video I made a few years ago that shows my way of unknitting, which is a little different from other people's method because I unknit from right to left instead of from left to right. Check it out:



Going from right to left is what allows me to get the tight tension on the unknitted yarn. I can get going pretty fast with this technique!

Unpurling: I use the exact same method to unpurl. With the purl side facing and the working yarn on the left, I put the needle into the purl in the row below, pull the yarn to the right to undo the stitch, and voilà!

Laddering Down to Fix a Mistake

This is a crucial skill to know, too, one that you can use to pick up a dropped stitched far below the row you're working on. Here's how do ladder down to fix a stitch, according to the fabulous book Knit Fix, by Lisa Kartus. (It's part of our amazing Beginner Knitting Kit!)
A Vertical Fix for Stitch Mistakes
While unknitting corrects mistakes horizontally, sometimes it's more efficient to drop
down vertically through multiple rows to fix a single dropped or twisted stitch, or
even to change a knit stitch into a purl and vice versa.
       
Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3
Trace along the column from the dropped stitch up to your needle. Knit or unknit to the stitch to the right of this stitch. Take the next stitch off of the needle and pull on either side of it to undo the column of stitches down to the location of the dropped stitch (or twisted stitch, etc.). To rescue a knit stitch, push the crochet hook through the front of the hanging stitch. Then pick up the first ladder (the one farthest down from the knitting needle. Position the ladder between the tip of the crochet hook and the hanging stitch. Pull the ladder through the stitch, back to front, and drop the rescued stitch off the end of the hook. Continue this maneuver until you've scooped every ladder through the loop below it, then transfer the stitch to the left needle. All fixed!
Pretty great technique, right? I use this one a bunch, too. You really do need a crochet hook in your notions bag so that you have it on hand to fix dropped stitches. I keep a size D and a size G in my knitting bag. The D works on smaller-gauge projects and the G works on everything from worsted-weight yarn on up to bulky. You can also add a J to your bag if you work on bulky and super-bulky yarn a lot; the G is a little small for super-bulky yarn.

Mastering these techniques will help you for years to come! There are lots more fix-it techniques to learn, so get our Beginner Knitting Kit for beginning knitters, which includes Knit-Fix, two more books, and four videos!

Cheers,

P.S. Did you learn a knit-saving tip when you were a beginner? Share it with us below in the comments!


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Comments

Amazima wrote
on Jun 10, 2013 8:03 PM

Great tips. What are the equivalent metric or UK (imperial) sizes for the crochet hooks?

Amazima wrote
on Jun 10, 2013 8:03 PM

Great tips. What are the equivalent metric or UK (imperial) sizes for the crochet hooks?

diane@66 wrote
on Jun 10, 2013 8:15 AM

Thanks bundles for your tips.  Been knitting for many a yarn and am still learning.  Diane

Chris Romano wrote
on Jun 9, 2013 6:56 PM

You don't say what to do when you find the mistake or how to correct it.

granmargie wrote
on Jun 8, 2013 5:51 PM

Well! I have knitted for sixty years and there is always more to learn. Loved the unknitting techniques. Margaret

dancejunky wrote
on Jun 8, 2013 5:00 PM

Lzmnv asks, "How do you fix a ladder problem in garter stitch?" I assume you mean laddering down in garter. You can either turn the work for each row so the knit stitch is facing you when you pull it through or use a double-ended crochet hook and just push it through to the back, instead of turning the work.

dancejunky wrote
on Jun 8, 2013 4:52 PM

Re tinking, for the yarn to be coming from the left, you must have turned your knitting around, right? Since the video is for beginners, it might be worth mentioning that. Ordinarily when you're knitting along, discover a mistake, and have to tink back to it, the yarn is coming from the right. I do the mirror image of what you're showing but go through the st from front to back to preserve the correct mount.

dillpickle76 wrote
on Jun 5, 2013 2:27 AM

I learnt to un-knit from you about 2 years ago, and I think it's the most valuable tool in my knitting-know-how arsenal! It's great to know how to do cables, cast on and off in different ways, block lace, join for knitting in the round, etc, etc, but being able to unknit effectively I'm sure has resulted in many projects being finished rather then being relegated to the naughty corner! I still get very cross at times when I discover mistakes, but I know I can fix them relatively easily which makes the whole knitting experience much more pleasant. Thank you :-)

Mar.. wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 4:32 PM

One of the best things I learned as a beginning knitter was about using lifelines. Putting a regular lifeline in has kept me from becoming frustrated when I have had to do more than tink a few stitches. To others they might think that they are crutches, I consider them a wise move. To me, they are an 'emergency kit' just in case I face a big problem. For lifelines, I prefer using 1/8" satin ribbon or extra thick pearl cotton.

Marlene

on Jun 3, 2013 3:42 PM

nothing is free!

bosley384 wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 2:55 PM

I agree with ludditebluejay's use of a 'lifeline' when knitting lace.  Just do yourself a favor, and don't be too anxious to remove the previous ones.  I am currently paying for being impatient and removing some.  Now I have to tink or frog about 6rd ows of lace.  

bosley384 wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 2:54 PM

I agree with ludditebluejay's use of a 'lifeline' when knitting lace.  Just do yourself a favor, and don't be too anxious to remove the previous ones.  I am currently paying for being impatient and removing some.  Now I have to tink or frog about 6rd ows of lace.  

on Jun 3, 2013 12:05 PM

Hello Kathleen,

Thanks for this wonderful tip. I like the "tink" method so much more than the ladder method, which I have done for years. And thanks for explaining everything so simply.  

bobbinalong wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 11:49 AM

When I tink, I use a size smaller needle.  It makes un-knitting go a lot faster.

 If I haven't put in a lifeline, I place a bobby pin around the stitch that I need to tink back to fix.   Then it won't accidentally drop down further when I get close!

If I am using the ladder method to remove a K2tog or SSK, I will ladder down two columns to the right and to the left so there is enough yarn on the row to distribute evenly.

Lizmnv wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 11:09 AM

How do you fix a ladder problem in garter stitch?

kipetrus wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 9:59 AM

I started using your tink method after learning it from the first time you posted this tutorial -- it's certainly made life easier!

NiamhsNanny wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 9:02 AM

I go "tink" this way as well ... Like tikidoc it seemed the obvious way of doing this.  I hate "ripping it all back as I never manage to pick up the stitches correcty :-(.

Love the tip with the crochet needle, for dropped stitches .... note made and crochet hook now safely in my "bag of tricks".

Thanks

on Jun 3, 2013 8:56 AM

When you're knitting a lace panel or another complicated bit, carry some tooth floss (or thin waste yarn) along with your main yarn every few rows.  Then, if you mess up, it's easy to frog back to the "life-line"; faster than tinking without the risk of frogging too much.

TammyT wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 8:43 AM

I unknit almost exactly like that! I knit English with the yarn wrapped around my right middle finger. When I unknit, I hold the whole thing the same way and unknit right to left the same way you do. It's always fun to find out that other people do things the same way. There's nothing new under the sun when it comes to knitting.

tikidoc wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 8:37 AM

That is how I unknit too.  I was not formally taught and that is just how it made sense to me.  I never realised there was any other way...

SilentG wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 7:56 AM

Tink- I needed that word!  I tink all the time.

MaryLowe wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 7:50 AM

I knit my first sweater during my first year in college (rich boyfriend -- what to do for Christmas?  a sweater!) and my roommate helped me through it and taught me how to fix the inevitable errors as they occurred.  Peggy was a gem!  

MaryLowe wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 7:50 AM

I knit my first sweater during my first year in college (rich boyfriend -- what to do for Christmas?  a sweater!) and my roommate helped me through it and taught me how to fix the inevitable errors as they occurred.  Peggy was a gem!  

allyson.mead wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 7:47 AM

The unkitting is brilliant. I knit "left handed" so most things are the wrong way round for me but that was perfect. I very often have to unknit when I nod off whilst knitting ,wake up and see what a mess I have made!

Terry1Jones wrote
on Jun 3, 2013 7:36 AM

Thanks for your help with knitting fixes.  I have been knitting backwords (to remove stitches) but didn't know about winding the yarn around the index finger.  Thanks so much.