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When Knitting Takes a Wrong Turn

Jul 17, 2013

When I was a beginner knitter, I made lots of mistakes! I usually learned from them, but there was one that I made over and over: accidentally turning the work before I was at the end of the row.

This happened because I put down my knitting mid-row. There's a reason seasoned knitters say "let me finish this row"—a lot!

I started calling this mistake a wrong turn. When this happens, you'll notice a little hole in your knitting, along with some loose stitches and a stitch that's tilting sideways a little bit. If you look closely at your knitting, you'll also see that one side of the work is slightly longer than the other side.

Here's what it looks like:

A wrong turn in knitting. Images from Knit Fix, by Lisa Kartus
There are lots of cool tricks to fix problems in knitting; unfortunately, the only way to fix a wrong turn is to do a U-turn, unknit or ravel to the hole, turn your work, and resume knitting in the proper direction.

I think the important thing here is to learn to recognize the wrong turn in your knitting so that you can fix it before you knit too many rows beyond it.

"Reading" your knitting is an important concept in our craft. If you think you've made a mistake, gently spread out your knitting on a flat, well-lit surface and really look at it. If you're knitting with a dark yarn, you should also lightly rub your hands over the work; you might be able to feel a problem that you can't see. Look at both sides of the knitting because a mistake may be more visible on reverse stockinette than on stockinette, for example. You'll use this knitting technique all the time!

Locating the working yarn. Images from Knit Fix, by Lisa Kartus
If you do need to set your knitting down in the middle of a row—and you will have to, at times—remember to look for the working yarn when you pick it up. It's attached to the last stitch you knitted, on the right-hand needle (photo at right). Find your working yarn and continue knitting from right to left.

I've said it before and I'll say it again—learn to fix your mistakes; it'll make you a much better knitter!

Designer and teacher Kate Atherley's new video workshop Fixing Knitting Mistakes, is an invaluable tool. You'll learn how to fix 50 mistakes that knitters most often make.

Kate even teaches you how to fix mis-crossed cables. When I first fixed a cable, I felt the greatest sense of accomplishment!

And you will too. Download Fixing Knitting Mistakes today. For more knitting instruction, subscribe to Craft Daily, our new streaming video site!


P.S. What's the biggest knitting mistake you've ever made? Leave a comment below and let's commiserate!

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ArlettaFaye wrote
on Jul 21, 2013 6:11 PM

I teach knitting and tell my students to prevent a wrong turn to remember that if you put your work down in the middle of a row that went you pick it up to work again that the yarn should be coming from the right needle. So just say right is right. That even goes for working the round. The only time the yarn will be from the left needle is at the start of a row.

Jules934 wrote
on Jul 20, 2013 10:44 PM

When Knitting Takes A Wrong Turn....   Since it's just one row in the whole sweater, etc, is it really necessary to frog it?  If there is no complicatied work (Decreases, Increases, Cables, etc) above the error, couldn't one...

X   drop a few stitches on either side of "wart" and run them down to the error.  

X   reknit the error, simulating a wrapped turn.  There'll be some slack from the dropped stitches.  Those few sts could also be done with a smaller needle, or a bit of yarn could be tied in.

x    reknit the dropped stitches, adjusting the yarn to keep the work smooth as one progresses back to the discovery point.

Some unevenness may remain, but washing, blocking, steaming -- whatever the finishing work may be will remove a lot of that and only the knitter will know.

Sister12345 wrote
on Jul 20, 2013 10:56 AM

One of my first projects was a hat for my son. I realized I'd made a wrong turn after quite a few rows, and rather then tear it out, I just made another wrong turn coming from the other end to even it out. Not something I'd do with a nicer project, but trust me, for a guy's everyday hat, it worked fine.

mazzyd wrote
on Jul 20, 2013 6:07 AM

Over the years I have made many many mistakes, including many a wrong turn, and in the past I always had my Mum to help me out....all the time tut tutting and wondering how I could make such a silly mistake! Sadly we lost Mum a few weeks ago, and the craft has lost a true expert. She was a wonderful and gifted knitter, a talent that I have only inherited in a very basic way. But I still enjoy my knitting and the challenge of a new pattern or garment.

Mum did teach me not to put my knitting down in the middle of a row.....mainly because she said it left an uneven mark in your garment if left for too long, but I can absolutely relate to the avoiding wrong turns field of thought!

MoonBear1 wrote
on Jul 17, 2013 6:06 PM

The biggest knitting mistake I ever made was persevering with my first multi colour cardie all the time thinking it didn't look quite big enough. I was in my early teens so over confident beginner knitter!  The cardi took some months. When it was eventually finished, seamed and all the ends sewn in - I attempted to try it on.  Big Disappointment. It was so tiny I couldn't even get my arms into the sleeve. The mistake was pulling the loose yarn far too tightly on the reverse side.

The cardi had taken so much time and effort that every time I feel tempted by fairisle again - I get a mental picture of the Disaster - and that total failure was over 55 years ago. Instead I pattern my woolies with complicated Aran or colourful Entrelac. Much less frustrating. Lol.

on Jul 17, 2013 1:37 PM

I would echo your comments about the need to learn to first recognize a mistake and how to correct it. One cannot be an independent knitter until this level is achieved.  I have recently realized that the classic mistakes that novice knitters make are usually the basis of more advanced techniques - your example would be the basis of the short row technique(s) and all the various applications.  Did all the advanced techniques originate from mistakes?  

kitkat1976 wrote
on Jul 17, 2013 11:40 AM

My biggest mistake is trying to improvise part of a pattern without thinking it all the way through. Especially disastrous when knitting a carefully engineered sweater pattern.  I have made this mistake more than once with different sweater patterns. At least I am learning what parts of a sweater pattern I shouldn't improvise.

One of these days I'll go back and fix/finish hibernating sweaters.

allyson.mead wrote
on Jul 17, 2013 10:47 AM

I have ben known to get a cable twisted the wrong way and not notice until I have stitched up the garment. If the customer says anything I say that it is the "hand made" effect-no one else will have the same mistake!!x Allyson,Pluckley,UK.

on Jul 17, 2013 10:01 AM

I've probably made all the mistakes possible over the years, but my offering in the "boo boo" category is cabling a whole row the wrong way and not finding it until about 6-8" later. It is still patiently awaiting it's fix--about 5-6 yrs now.

Bev Hagen wrote
on Jul 17, 2013 9:55 AM

Years ago I knit my dad a cabled fingering yarn.  Beautiful it was, and he wore it almost every day.

Then one day I was following him into the dining room, and lo and behold, one of the 6-stitch cables IN THE CENTER BACK stood out because his careless daughter (ME) had turned it the WRONG way!

I skipped telling him, since he's worn it that way for several years; I have no idea if he realized it had this flagrant errorand just didn't tell me out of love.  But that mistake is still in my mind twenty years later!  Bev Hagen

emm37 wrote
on Jul 17, 2013 8:35 AM

I've been a knitter for 64 years, but just a few months ago, working on a cardigan, I cast on for the left front, got about 35 rows into it, and had just added the backing for the pocket.  I laid my knitting out to admire the nice pocket and realized that the pocket back and the left front did not match!  I had picked up the wrong yarn in my basket and it didn't match (or even come close) to the rose color of the sweater.  After some laughing and some regrets, I unraveled it, found the right yarn, and began again.  The pocket patches were knit before I even began the sweater, but I didn't pay attention when I pulled the next ball of yarn out of my basket!!  Lesson learned the hard way -- make sure only the right yarn is in your basket!

on Jul 17, 2013 7:28 AM

Hmm, as I knit continental way, that will not happens, because the yarn has to follow from right handed needle to my left hand ...

I prefer to finish the row that the stitches cannot slip down accidently ...

And who is making mistakes? It is just a new design element featured by myself :)

BirgittaR wrote
on Jul 17, 2013 7:21 AM

I once saw a TV show about muslim craftsmen whom after inspecting their finished items always ADDS a mistake if they've done none as they say that "Only Allah is absolute (you can of course exchange Allah for any God or Higher Being/Power of your choice).

Since then I leave my mistakes in (rather then unravelling as I used to) calling them my Allah-faults. It is also good for my own well-being as I don't have to be so perfect - AND it makes the item very special too!

: )

Birgitta from Sweden