Solving Common Knitting Problems: Losing The Ladders

My elderly, but lovely, lace socks
Thirteen years ago, I started the Lacey Arrow Socks from the book Socks. I gleefully ordered itty-bitty size 0 needles, and the finest of creamy, laceweight silk-merino yarn. When the yarn arrived, as I recall, I sat down and cast on for the first sock almost as soon as the package was opened.Thirteen years later, I have a problem. In reviewing my UFO collection, I found the partial knitted sock tucked away in a box. I put it on, and discovered just how much my knitting skills have improved in the intervening years.The lacey half-sock, though lovely, has noticeable “ladders” at the places where one needle met another. A quick check of the last bazillion pairs of socks I have knit in more recent years confirmed: I’ve managed to Lose The Ladders. And since many of you have written in asking about this particular problem, I thought I’d share my lofty wisdom on the subject: Pull. The. Yarn. Tight.That’s it, folks. That’s the entire extent of my expertise on Losing The Ladders. I just give the yarn a little extra-special tug after I knit the first stitch of each needle, and presto, no more ladders. I think the only trick here is a mental one: pull a weensy bit harder than you think you should.
See the ladders? Allll the way down the sock!
Why does this work? Ladders are caused by too much yarn between the last stitch on one needle and the first stitch on the next, so a firm little tug ensures that there is no “extra” yarn. It might help to take a closer look at the other stitches on your needles so you can see just how tiny that little strand between stitches is supposed to be. Some knitters tug until the needles are gently touching each other—experiment a little to find the proper “pull” to use in your particular style of knitting.

By the way: The same rule applies whether you are using dpns, two circulars, or the Magic Loop method to knit your socks with.

If you need a little mantra to help you remember how to lose the ladders: Tell yourself to “give the yarn an extra tug so the stitches will be nice and snug.”

A bit corny, perhaps, but hey: Whatever it takes.

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137 thoughts on “Solving Common Knitting Problems: Losing The Ladders

  1. Nice to see the “old” socks back in the rotation after all these years! Thanks for the great advice. I started using two circular needles because I figured there would only be 2 ladders and they would be on the sides of the socks, not the front, back, and sides as there were with 4 dpn’s.
    In “Knitting circles around Socks” Antje Gillingham says to “squeeze the tip of the needle and the cable tight tog” to prevent a gap from forming. I have found that sometimes this makes a stitch that seems too tight and the stitches have to be forced on to the needle when you get to them on the next rnd, but it never makes a gap or ladder.
    Just got the Fall 2007 KNITS-as well as several yarn company catalogs—boy am I in trouble!!!!! Maybe I need to turn to the UFO’s before I look through the mag again!!! Thanks for tha great job you do.

  2. I have not had luck with this technique, but maybe I am tugging at the wrong time? Do you tug before the first stitch on the second needle, during the first stitch on the second needle, or what? Currently, I shift the needle break back and forth a stitch or two, but I’d rather use a simpler solution. Thanks!

  3. I also started knitting the first stitch at each join through the back loop and giving an extra tug and it seems to have worked. I’ve done two pairs on Magic Loop like that and checked closely with against the last pair I knit that I didn’t do this with. It looks like my ladder issues are all cleared up. Now if I could just get over my gusset issues… 🙂

  4. I use the same method as Sandi, and I think she’s completely right — it really is that simple (okay, if you can get it to work, but I always have and my fingers don’t know any better). Abby, it’s not so much a tug as just knitting that first stitch very firmly. When I’m on a roll and using aluminum needles, you can actually hear the clink of the new needle being knocked against the old one as I make that first stitch. My socks always have “corners” when they’re on the needles from pulling that first stitch tight — something that disappears once they’re finished.

  5. 13 years for those socks!! Wow! Those are old UFO’s. I am almost done with one UFO and close to closing our a second. Progress, progress, progress!!!


  6. Thanks, Gals, this IS a great tip. What about when you are knitting a Fair Isle cuff and you have to carry the second color over the gap. Is it just a matter of keeping a careful eye on the tension? My carryovers always gap.

  7. I lost the ladders when I switched from 4 dpns to 5 dpns. I also hide my ladders by ending each dpn with a purl stitch. This depends on your stitch pattern, always works with k3p1 rib or k2p2 ribs.

  8. You’ve inspired me to try a pair of socks. I’m sitting here for the next four weeks, (two down) with my leg up in a cast. Any tips for just knitting sock tips? I’ve got lots of leftover yarn and cold toes:)

  9. I was in a class with Annie Modesitt who recommended pulling the *second* stitch on the new needle tight; it avoids causing any weird tension issues at the join, and the second stitch is still close enough to lose the ladder.

  10. What also works well is moving the “ladder position” each row or so. Instead of keeping the needle joins at the same place row after row, move over a stitch or two to make the transition from one needle to the next less noticeable.

  11. The rule does apply when you use 2 circs, but I don’t think it has to be followed as strictly (maybe it’s just that less force is needed) because the last stitch on the needle you’ve just finished with is tightening against the cable, which is skinny, rather than against the needle. If you’ve been frustrated by ladders using dpns, I highly recommend trying 2 circs. It doesn’t work for everyone, but some (like me!) find it’s just the ticket!

  12. You are right on the button! It’s an age old problem for anyone first learning to use doublepoints. It also flows into the topic of knitter running into ladders when going from a knit stitch to a purl stitch. The nature of the yarn wants to allow a little extra yarn because of the direction its traveling around the needle. There are many solutions that have been written such as wrapping opposite directions, but then one has to remember where and when that was done on the following row to stay consistant and too many moving parts means too many things can go wrong. I have always liked the “gentle tug” method best. Thanks for educating.

  13. I must say I think that Knitting Daily is wonderful, but I’ve never felt compelled to comment before. Pulling that first stitch tight does not always work, in fact, it can sometimes create a larger ladder than if you knit the first stitch the same as usual. As I’m naturally a tight knitter, when I fist started making socks I knit the first stitch abnormally tight resulting in ladders so big an elephant could climb it to the heavens. One day, against the advice of every knitting book I’ve read, I decided to knit that first stitch loosely and ever since then, there hasn’t been any trouble at all.

  14. Good point. I’ve just started knitting socks on one circular needle using the magic loop technique, and I’m finding it much easier to lose the ladders. The flexible cable makes it easier to pull the stitches together when you change to the other half of the sock.

  15. One thing I learned early in my sock knitting career, (before the better trick of pulling the yarn tight) was to move the needles around, so that the space isn’t always in some stitch above and below. It works best on stockinette stitch on socks, because the spacing shows so clearly as a ladder, and there’s no pattern stitches to worry about.
    Every round or so, just pick up a stitch from the next needle.

  16. I, too, have “lost the ladders” over the years on my socks, and I have a couple more pieces of advice.
    If you knit with two circular needles instead of DPNs, you have fewer places where you change needles. That means fewer places where “laddering” might be an issue. So if this is a problem for you, consider switching to 2 circs or to Magic Loop.
    Also, I find I have less problem laddering if the new needle always starts with a knit stitch, rather than a purl stitch. For some reason, purl stitches seem more prone to laddering for me. So I do whatever it takes to make sure the first stitch on the new needle is always a knit stitch, even if it means my stitches are not evenly divided on the needles. You can always redistribute them at the heel flap, or whereever it’s important.

  17. So sad to see Stitch of the Day ending on Friday! I thought there were enough stitch patterns to last like a year… Must be the publisher changed their mind? Oh well. I did save some nice stitch patterns. Thanks – it was fun while it lasted! Will be trying my first DPN project soon — Thanks for the tip!

  18. Ladders don’t constitute a good reason to reknit tho, and newbies need to relax about it while they improve their skills. Washing any knitted garment is why so many older pieces appear to have such uniform stitches – it all comes out in the wash. The tension eventually balances, unless it’s a glaring difference in tension as intentional ones often are that are unvented to leave holes.

  19. I had serious problems with ladders when I was making the “Nicholas’s Fingerless Gloves”, but I found that if I made sure to arrange the needles so the first stitch on each needle was knit stitch instead of a purl, that cleared it right up (with an extra little tug, of course).

  20. In the beginning I thought all ladders disappeared after blocking. That is SO not true! I did learn to put the second needle on top, that helped tremendously, but I still have to tug just a little.

  21. Another ladder-eliminating trick (one that works better for me) is to continually shift the point where they could occur. Working on 5 needles, when I reach the end of needle 1 (with the new stitches on needle 5, the RH needle) I work the first 2 stitches from needle 2 onto needle 5 before starting to use needle 1 as the RH needle. And so on every time I reach the end of a needle. I tug also, but by moving the join any remaining looseness isn’t lined up with the preceding and following rows and seems to vanish in the first wash.
    If the pattern specifies inc’s, dec’s, or whatever by needle position (e.g., K2tog at end of needle 1), I use markers to keep my place.

  22. For me, pulling the first stitch really tight makes the ladder worse.
    Tightening the second stitch fixes it.
    Also, I do whatever rearranging is necessary to start with a knit stitch on each needle.

  23. In the longrun, ladders may be more the result of >too much OVERALL< tension on the yarn to begin with. Face it, you can't tighten up ANY stitches if the yarn is already very tight on the needles! I’m now adjusting yarn tension while knitting with a LH carry (in combination knitting): I make the first 2 Ks by rotating my lower arm from my left elbow (to hold the yarn a bit taut as it goes through the stitch); this makes those first 2 Ks nice and snug on the needles. For the rest of the needle I circle the R needle tip under the L needle so that the yarn gets scooped through the old stitch under its own tension (the move is kinda like drawing a check mark). I just started doing this a couple months ago, and my needles now glide through the stitches more easily (even if I now have to redo all my sock yarn gauges :<( )

  24. My method for eliminating ladders is the same as yours, with a slight exception: I find it works better to tighten the *second* stitch on the new needle. Not only does it take up the slack, but that second stitch helps lock it in place.

    And you don’t have to tug quite as hard, which is easier on the yarn

  25. I use dpns — usually 5 but sometimes 4 when the 5th needle just flat vanishes for no good reason. I knit or purl the first stitch on the needle firmly but not much tighter than usual if at all, but really tighten up on the second stitch and that seems to avoid ladders. I think it is almost impossible to really tighten up on the first stitch …


  26. I knew that pulling the next stitch snugly would eliminate ladders on my dpns–but I had a bad experience trying to do that on two circulars. Somehow,the tension got weird at the junctions and one stitch slipped under another–creating mini cables in my sleeves. It took me a while to realize what happened. And a while longer to rip and reknit . . .. Has this happened to anyone else? Any advice?

  27. I don’t seem to have problems with ladders on socks, but when I rib, or for that matter any stich that is knit before a purl stich ends up loose and unsighlty. Has anyone had this problem? Any solutions?

  28. Now.. what do you suggest to someone who pulls the yarn tight, so tight.. very very tight.. to loose the ladders.. and the ladders are still there. I’m yanking the yarn so tight it might break, keeping even tension across the needle and tugging the yarn after the last stitch on the needle, after the first stitch on the needle AND after the second.. and I still see small ladders… 🙁

  29. I cannot seem to remember to tug after the first stitch of each needle, but I have found that when using dpns, if I just knit the first stitch or two from the next needle all the time, the ladders disappear, and having only one slightly larger stitch each place, they too disappear as the socks are blocked. This works on socks, hats, sleeves, anything that is worked on dpns.

  30. Pulling the yarn tight and/or using 5 DPNs never worked for me. I still ended up with ladders.
    The solution that worked for me is to wrapped the yarn the wrong way around to make a twisted stitch, which makes it smaller. Just remember to untwist them when you get back to that spot and wrap the yarn the wrong way again. It sounds like a pain but really it’s not once you get into the habit!

  31. The good thing about 13-year-old sock UFOs is…they will still fit when you finally get’em done! (as opposed to garments worn on other parts of the body that seem to keep changing size from year to year…)

  32. Generally, if you pull the second (2nd) stitch tight on each needle, that will eliminate ladders. If you still have ladders, then turn it into a creative accent: thread a contrasting yarn through the ladders of the finished sock.

  33. Thank you for imparting such pearls (purls?) of wisdom! Haha!

    Those socks are only 13 years old? Mere infants! Those ladders nearly always disappear after a few washings. I’ve done a lot of textile work in a museum, and you can be sure that age only enhances the regularity of the stitches. They didn’t start out so smooth!

  34. I learned to crochet before I learned to knit (hey, I eventually saw the light) and I still have a lot of ‘thread crochet’ habits–wrapping yarn over index finger and pinching it in the pinky finger of the left hand, and giving a good *tug* after every stitch, which is VITAL in thread crochet for good even tension in cotton. Strangely enough, I’ve never had a laddering problem, and I’ve knit dpns and 2 circs. Could it be that us Continental knitters or former (or current) crocheters have a leg up on this one? I can’t think of any other reason why my socks never laddered–lord knows I’ve made just about every OTHER knitting error!

  35. My first sock had ladders but my second sock was so tight it was puckery! LOL I figured out the solution but got a little over zealous! I always give the first stitch of the new needle a LITTLE extra tug. I love the pattern and am glad to hear your’e going to try & finish them. Question: Do ladders weaken the structure of the sock?

  36. thanks and I love mantras,as they keep me going or knitting.This is so timely as I just started making socks again and that tug has solved my confusion!

  37. I’ve found that the best way to not get ladders is to remember you are knitting a round, not a square with corners. I hold the new needle “flat”, along with the old needle. The stitches then are lined up across the both needles as though you are knitting on a regular straight needle making tension so much easier to maintain. No ladders, no tight pulls (and possibly broken yarn), and no corners. I only use a 5 needle set, converting any pattern into fourths. I guess I’m set in my ways because I’ve tried and not liked both two circulars and magic-loop method.

  38. Thanks for the advice about how easy it is to knit socks. As I can knit & purl. I look forward to your sweater galleries. I’d like to be able to knit sweaters. Know just which style looks best on me. Sarah H.

  39. I usually use one circular and “magic loop” (I fell into that method after failing with 2 circs, and realising that “magic loop” was a method!), and do find it easier for the reasons people have said; mainly, that you’re tightening against the cable, rather than the needle point/body.

    The other thing I make sure to do is after I pull the needle out of the stiches just knit to begin the “other side” off the loop, is to readjust the tension on the yarn *before* getting started again – otherwise I end up with looseness caused by the switch over.

    Working the first couple of stitches a little tighter does improve things for sure, though; I’m not a tight knitter though, so I can see that wouldn’t be much help to those that are! Loosen up!

  40. I also just saw the notice that the Stitch of the Day will be ending in a few days. I do think it was generous for us to receive even a few weeks of stitches for free, but I do also remember that your blog entry announcement about the Stitch of the Day said that there were enough stitches to last for a year. I thought that the fact that they were only posted for 24 hours was going to be the main incentive to people to buy the printed books, but it appears that the publisher has changed its mind about sharing the majority of the stitches…though, isn’t the new publisher of these books Interweave? I hope you will explain what happened. It does feel like a “bait and switch,” but only because we were told explicitly that we’d be able to get all or most of the stitches by making a commitment to visit Knitting Daily each weekday over the course of a year. I hope that there is some other changing daily feature (maybe a “tip of the day” or “yarn of the day” or “tool of the day” to keep us wanting to visit even on the days when there is no new blog entry. It seems a teeny bit grinchy to pull this enticing feature right before the holiday season!

  41. @ MaryFitzhugh: “Magic Loop” is basically working with a single circular needle, over a smaller diameter than the needle itself. Half the stitches are on the “cable” of the ciruclar needle, and the other half are being knitted with the two ends.

    I believe there is a booklet about it published somewhere, but I’ve never seen it. Heaps of info can be found via Google though. 🙂

  42. OK, Sandy Wiseheart, you need to get a life. That lace sock is beautiful. Period. Or full stop to the Brits. It is like no other lace sock, and if you make the mate now, they will be two beautiful, individualistic socks! Nothing wrong with that. Linda

  43. Mary F, the Magic Loop method uses one long circular needle, such as #2-40″ needle. It works on the same basis as 2 circulars but you keep working from the back needle and pulling the cord through. It sounds strange but works very easily. You can make two socks at once also. You can google Magic Loop and find instructions.

  44. I find it is not just the first stitch but also the second and third I need to keep snug to prevent ladders. I also try to work the last and first two or three stitches close to the needle tips.

  45. I read only 2 paragraphs and knew I had to take time to add my story:I just finished a sweater that I began +/-17 years ago! The main problem was the stitch pattern and my choice of yarn didn’t go together. I would do a row or 2 and put it away. This summer I decided to finish those sleeves, or else! It’s done and fits. Valuable lesson was well worth the struggles in sore fingers.

  46. I have a hint for preventing ladders… if you can start each needle with a purl stitch, that tends to tighten up a little better than a knit (because of the angle of needle entry when creating the stitch). Of course if that’s not possible for your pattern, just pull the yarn tight!

  47. Re: losing the ladders, I have 2 good methods of ‘losing ladders’
    Knit 2 extra stitches on each needle, every time, thus moving the needle change along…voila! no ladder. Alternatively, divide your stitches on the needles where a purl stitch follows a plain stitch. It is much easier to pull tight when the first stitch on the needle is a purl stitch, and the last stitch on the previous needle is a plain stitch.

  48. I also find that if I knit the first stitch from the next needle onto the full DPN and THEN use my empty needle to knit across the rest of the stitches at each needle change this dramatically helps with the ladders. I only need to do this for the first 10 rounds or so and then I use the trick of knitting the first stitch on the needle, inserting my needle into the second stitch and then giving a good tug to snug up the gap.

  49. I find that knitting one or two stitches from the next needle, every time, eliminates the ladders.

    What a gorgeous sock! I have my first sock planned, but it’s pretty boring compared to that.

  50. In my “socks” class, the instructor had us moving 2-3 stitches to the adjacent needle. It prevented “ladders” and multiple markers (two colors) to differentiate the center and sides made it easy to stay oriented.

  51. I’ve found that if the working needles are above the others (i.e. let the non-working needles hang beneath the working needles) this goes a long way towards helping with the ladder problem.

  52. I think that you will have greater success in tightening up that stitch, by knitting the first stitch normally and tightening up the second stitch. When you tighten up the first stitch and go to knit the second one the stitch slacks off a bit. Helpful hint from EZ i believe. It works.
    If you are having a problem with your left leaning decreases. A space between the decrease and the stitch before, try this. Do the decrease. Now look at how there is yarn between it and the stitch before it. Just tightening up the decrease doesn’t remove this excess yarn. Holding your knitting, lift the needle straight up. Then tighten the stitch. Repeat until there is no excess yarn between the decrease and the stitch before. You have helped the stitches to re-seat themselves. This maneuver also helps after doing a cable crossover.
    I have never seen this advice given in any sock knitting directions. But I am sure lots of other sock knitters do it.

  53. I have to give myself a big pat on the back—I was doing the right thing without even realizing it!! I just finished my second pair of socks and they, like my first pair, are ladderfree. Knew my tight knitting would pay off.

  54. As someone else stated, I also pull the second, not the first stitch. I recently switched because I found that the second stitch locks down better – more friction keeps the stitch from loosening back up. My ladders are much smaller as a result.

    Love Knitting Daily – What a great posting and group of people!

  55. I usually use the magic loop method, and I make a habit of rearranging the cord when I get to the last stitch on the needle. That way the ladder position gets shifted around. Maybe it’s not necessary, but I’d rather be sure.

  56. Seems I have been doing it Right…tug that stitch and change the connecting place on the dpts….have you thought about actually ripping out that sock and starting over….ufo yarn and new sock with your improved skills….either way it’s a win-win….finish and wear those ufo projects…JH

  57. I tried the tug and for some reason it never worked for me. What has worked is moving the transition between needles a stitch or two each row.

    It also helps to know that the ladders will disappear with wearing and washing, and it doesn’t take 17 months (I had just read this post when I came here):

  58. We seem to be a clever lot. Some of us switch from one idea to another and some combine the lot. I didn’t realise that changing the position of the needles helped but that’s what I do at the end of every row, and I tug and I switch stitches back and forth. No wonder I lost the ladders!!!!

  59. I also knit the first stitch on each dpn tightly and have no ladders. On the heel flap, I knit the first two stitches tightly after the slip stitch at the beginning of each row thus avoiding any holes after the stitches are picked up on each side of the flap. Catherine

  60. I have to agree with Lynn G: A tinsy bit grinchy to pull the stitch of the day just as the books are available. After all, you said there were enough to last a year! Kind of a bait and switch that leaves a bad taste.

  61. Maybe it is becasue I am a tight knitter, but I’ve seldom had ladders. When I learned to knit in the round it was on a top down stocking cap. The pattern starts with 9 stiches and continues until there are 90. By the time I finished I was totally comfortable with circular knitting. Joanne

  62. Sometimes that extra tug (to eliminate ladders) works for me but sometimes not — I usually knit very tight, especially when using DPNs, so its difficult to make the first stitch even tighter. What works better for me is loosening up my other stitches! Go figure. Also, ladders can be minimized by using the tip of a needle to adjust (loosen) the stitches on either side of a ladder; its tedious but saves reknitting.

  63. Just to back up the couple of people who’ve already mentioned it–passing two already-knit stitches over to the empty needle has always worked for me to prevent ladders (so much so that I’ve never even thought of it as a problem until I read this post), and so long as you’ve got your markers in, it shouldn’t make any difference to the pattern.

  64. I had this same problem but I solved it in a different way. When using DPNs I take an extra stitch what swapping meedles so the change moves forward one stitch on each row. This works too.

  65. The transfer a couple of stitches to theprevious needle is a great solution to ladders if you are making a sock with plain knit, but could result in disaster if it is a patterned sock. the tug it snug method works much better when you are knitting a pattern, of course the ladders are less visible in a design, too, unless they are really, really loose.

  66. Just wanted to let you know the articles about UFO’s was just what I needed to finish 3 UFO’s waiting in the “pile”
    They mostly just needed finishing felting and blocking…..I do feel better about all of it, now to just finish the other 6…..oh well. I ususally devote January to finishing at least one or more UFO’s make me feel less guilty about it all. Cris

  67. If you use DPNs use sets of 5 that gives less stress at the joinings. Also try not to start a new needle with a purl stitch, the yarn lies differently for those and this gives a bit more ladder for me.

  68. I’ve also found that if you ‘do’ have ladders where you haven’t pulled the yarn tightly enough, they always disappear the first time you wash the socks. Honest.

  69. I also found using shorter dpns helps. I recently made a baby hat and had a problem with ladders. I decided to make matching socks, same yarn , same size needle, I only went down to 10cm needles and low and behold no ladders. Maybe it’s because the stitches don’t have the chance to stretch apart as much. Maybe they’re just my thing.

  70. Hi,
    I often just shift the stitches every few rows – so instead of having, eg, stitches 1 to 16 on needle one, I then have stitches 3 to 18 on needle one, 19 to whatever on needle two etc… then after a few rows just shift them back (or further round… whatever takes your fancy). Other than this, I try to have a purl stitch as my first stitch on the needle (funny how we are all so different :-)) I also work the first stitch tightly. Cheers!

  71. I’ve also found that if you ‘do’ have ladders where you haven’t pulled the yarn tightly enough, they always disappear the first time you wash the socks. Honest.

  72. I tend to row out when I knit, meaning I purl a tiny bit looser than I knit. (I sometimes knit Combination style to counteract this, othertimes I don’t, depends on my mood). Anyway, I’ve noticed that my ladders between stitches are TERRIBLE if the last stitch of needle 1 is a knit and the next is a purl. So I often shift all the stitches over by one, so that the last stitch on needle 1 becomes the first stitch on needle 2. Then I can just tighten after the first stitch as usual and no more ladders, whereas if I tighten the first stitch and it’s a purl, well, no amount of pulling tightens it up to the point where I’m happy with it.

    That’s probably just me. Also when I’m tightening stitches I pull extra on both the first and second stitch on the needle, but ESPECIALLY the second stitch. Don’t know why but this seems to help!

  73. When I first learned to knit with DPNs many years ago, my mother taught me to avoid the ladders by simply moving the last stitch on the current needle to be the first on the next needle. I have always done this and never once have I had a problem with the ladders, or pulling too tight! It is pretty slick, I think.

  74. I don’t remember who wrote the thing about continental knitting and not having any ladders, but it seems to be exactly the same with me, I’ve just never had the problem and I knit the continental way.
    And I also learned to crochet before I learned to knit, we were taught both in primary school and I liked both crafts ever since.

  75. I had LYS knitters tell me that the ladders would disappear with extra tugs to no avail. For me, and many other knitters apparently, it has been the angle of the doublepoints—a problem that I was able to solve by using a total of 5 dps instead of four. Tugging the stitches isn’t a solution for all knitters’ ladders.

  76. Sandi, that’s a great tip for me…I’ve just been knitting a year and have knit 1 pair of socks…isn’t it funny how we make something so simple, so very hard?

    I just wanted to thank you for Knitting Daily…I LOVE READING IT! You are a great writer and funny too! Keep up the great work!
    Merry 🙂

  77. Hi everyone,
    I have to agree with those above who say that knitting the first stitch or two on the next needle with the last needle works for me. It moves the areas of looser tension around, making them less noticeable.

    I have a question about 4 vs. 5 double-pointed needles. When a person says they use 4 needles, does that mean three are on the sock and one is used for the active knitting? or are 4 on the sock and another one used for knitting? I’m guessing that it’s the first of these.

    If the 5 needle method is the one with 4 needles on the sock and one doing the knitting, then that’s what I do. I like the “square” feeling of the 4 needles, and how they move with each other, and lie flat in a closed diamond shape when I put the sock away. They don’t seem to get in my fingers’ way as much as having the sock on three needles. 🙂

  78. So many good ideas!

    One of our readers sent me a submission for our Tips, Tricks and Trade Secrets ebulletin suggesting that snugging the SECOND stitch was as important as pulling the first stitch tightly.

    I tend to use markers on the needles and add one stitch to each needle as I knit around.

    Sharon Airhart

  79. Laddering is much les likely when using Magic Loop as the yarn of previous stitch is around only a cable and not a needle. Also it is easier to avoid a gap if you have the new needle stitch be a knit whenever possible as a purl leaves more yarn between needles for most knitters.

  80. Try and use 5 dpn’s instead of 4. It sounds harder, but is really easier, and less strain between needles means a lower likelihood of ladders. (along with Sandi’s slight tug as well).

  81. My darling Sandi,

    I’m curious, what will you do with your UFO sock now? Thirteen years later your knitting has improved and changed I’m sure, as you’ve pointed out yourself. So will you continue with the socks and have a sort of ‘before and after’? Or will you frog it? Or will you hang on to it for tutorial sake?

    My UFO count is low, and I have nothing over a year old. But that doesn’t mean a thing, now does it? Ten or so years from now I could stumble across a UFO from today! Perhaps that baby sweater that my son has already outgrown that I don’t have the steam to finish without a proud ‘TADA!’ at the end. But I don’t have the heart to frog. And I would never be able to… give it away!

    Just curious. Perhaps this is why we end up with so many UFOs? Nostalgic UFOs? Maybe they deserve their own sub-category!

  82. I have a question on knitting socks and inadvertantly adding a stitch when changing needles. I didn’t notice it until I had knit another 4 inches. I had a hole from a mistake yarnover added stitch. I didn’t want the hole so i dropped the added stitch all the way down to the hole. Now I have a serious ladder but not hole. I have been working on loosening the stitches next to the ladder but still have bad tension. Does anyone have any ideas of how to even out ladders other than washing? I think these are too big for washing and blocking to straigten out.

  83. Wow- thanks for all the hints. PUlling tight on the first stitch doesn’t work for me, and perhaps b/c I’m a tight knitter. More things to try.

    The lace sock is beautiful!

  84. When I first started knitting in the round I had ladders, so I tried the moving stitches method and ended up with spirals! I admit I gave up for a few years. I now put my needles straight as Star B also suggested, and that works a treat. But I do have problems with colour changes in intarsia knitting. I will give Justine’s twisted method a go.


  85. Has anybody read EZ’s (Elizabeth Zimmerman’s) “Knitting Without Tears?” On page 98 she gives a few remarks on socks. Here’s one: “Work the first stitch on each needle quite tightly to prevent unsightly vertical looseness where the needles join, or you may carry 2 stitches forward as you finish each needle.” Voila!
    Note to Robynn: (see following quote)
    “I don’t seem to have problems with ladders on socks, but when I rib, or for that matter any stitch that is knit before a purl stitch ends up loose and unsightly. Has anyone had this problem? Any solutions? Robynn” Yes, Robynn, I had this problem for years, then I learned that it is best to knit as close as practical to the ends of the needles. Any needles, any time. So you drop a few stitches. Most yarns are very forgiving and keep their position for a few seconds so you can pick them up quickly, if you are not distracted or trying to read or watch TV while knitting.
    Now my cables and ribbing are less “unsightly” — Hooray!

  86. Cat Bordhi said, in her recent “floating knitting retreat” on sock knitting..”the trick is to pull the tension tighter on the 2nd stitch on the needle. It will hold. Tightening on the first stitch doesn’t hold-it doesn’t have anything to hold against.” Works for me.

  87. I had heard about the dreaded sock ladders before I started knitting socks, and I decided that would never happen to me (I may suffer from a touch of perfectionism…). Well, when I did start knitting socks, I didn’t just give a tug to the yarn after the first stitch on the new needle, I yanked the heck out of it! I just couldn’t understand why I was still getting “ladders”. I figured maybe I wasn’t pulling hard enough. So I pulled harder. It got to where I could hardly move the needles, the yarn was pulled so tight. Finally, after an embarrassingly long time, I gave up. I just started knitting normally. Only then did I realize that what I was seeing weren’t “ladders”, but that the socks were actually pulling together at every “needle transition” because I had much tighter stitches there than on the rest of the sock! hee hee! I love my solution now: I just knit a few stitches from the “next” needle with the working needle. Hmmm. That’s clear a mud. Okay, n1 knits all sts off of n2, then goes on to knit a few sts off of n3 before using n2 to knit the rest of the sts from n3 and a few from n4, and so on. Get it? If the spot where the needles meet moves on every round (even if there is a bit of extra yarn) they won’t be “stacked,” and therefore won’t form a ladder. Easy solution! I also do this with magic loop by knitting the first 3-5 stitches, then pulling the needle through them so that they move to the “back,” and then going on with the rest of the row like normal.

  88. When I reach the end of the needle, I always knit one stitch from the next needle, so my neeldes are moving in a spiral pattern up the sock. Make sense?

    And because sock patterns are written to have the same column of stitches on the same needle through the entire process, I use stitch markers to mark the “end” of needle 1, needles 2, etc.

  89. Thanks for the explanation. I never quite understood what ladders were exactly. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones that has always pulled the stitch extra snug to avoid this. I read it in one of my instructional books when I first began knitting so I just have always done that.

  90. HI, Everyone,

    Just thought I’d mention that double point needles come in a short 6 inch length and this may help as you do not have to keep the stitches riding up and down the needles.

    Just a thought.

    N. Damico

  91. I don’t pull the yarn tight on the stitch as I knit it, but use the needle tip to pull open the stitch I am knitting into a little on the firts two stitches. That takes up the slack in the ladder from the previous round and distributes it into the next two stitches on the row that has already been knitted. (I am sure that was clear as mud.)

  92. What is laddering? Using 5 dpns, it’s where the length of yarn Between needles is longer than between other stitches. To shorten the length of yarn Between needles, always put the New needle Under the one just finished. Then,after working the first new stitch, quickly align all three needles, the old, the new lefthand and the new righthand horizontally as if they were one. Adjust tension. Voila!
    If I pull tight on the first or second stitch, I get a hillock, which looks just as bad as a ladder IMO. For me, the ladders and the hillocks are permanent and never block or wash out.

  93. To eliminate ladders I tighten on the second stitch by doing the following:
    Work the 1st stitch, insert the right needle into the second stitch…do not wrap yet…give a tug to tighten the stitch; then continue with the wrap and finish the stitch. Works great.

  94. I will have to agree with all those comments that endorse 2 circular needles vs. dpn’s. This solved my problem, and I don’t intend on knitting on dpn’s by choice again! I think some of my UFOs are going to be visiting the frog pond one of these upcoming cold winter days… 🙁 but the yarn is too yummy to just keep sitting there unused!

  95. If you’re doing a pattern that you can easily keep track of, what I do is knit (or purl, whatever the pattern says) one extra stitch after the end of one dpn, and do the same on each needle. It’s kind of a spiral thing, but it eliminates the ladders.

  96. Three years ago I decided to make ski sweaters for my husband, four kids, two sons-in-law & myself. When I got to the sleeves, I found I had ladders & after ripping out & starting over, using 4 or 5 needles at a time, I found that changing the number of stitches on each needle every round keep the ladders at bay. I also vary the number of stitches I change from needle to needle.

  97. In answer to the comment by Robynn T about purl stitches creating ladders between ribs, I have this problem too and I solved it by purling the stitches backwards on the front side (counter-clockwise around the needle). Then, on the back side, I knit those stitches through the back loop because they’re twisted stitches. Seems to create the correct tension without my having to change my generally loose knitting style.

  98. I use a combination of methods, knitting the first stitch on a new dpn then pulling the yarn to tension it properly over the join, but also I knit on a few extra stitches or a pattern repeat so that I never switch needles in the same place twice. Only thing to remember is to use stitch markers!

  99. Did I miss something? I thought that “Stitch of the Day” was going to last 365 days and when done would post every stitch pattern in all 3 books. Was I incorrect or did something change?

  100. But the work of avoiding ladders has another side. The ladder is not always formed because of a too loose first stitch. After tightening the first or second stitch on the new needle you need to remember to use care as the end of the needle is reached too. If the last stitch on the needle is enlarged as it is knitted it pulls the nearby stitches tight and leaves too much gap in that stitch thereby undoing all the careful work in the row before.

  101. To Ellen C with the cold toes: I saw a pattern years ago (would be easy to make one up)for people with a foot in a cast. Just cast-on toes up, then after the toe, add enough stitches to fit over the end of the cast for 1-2″, then crochet a chain tie on each side to tie behind the heel. Hope this helps. Terry

  102. In the past, I would move the ladder postion one stitch on each row, but for me that made circular ladders! I now tighten 5 stitches past the break, seems to work and with the Magic Loop method there are only two breaks, makes it much easier. I tighten right after the stitch is made and the needle is in the next stitch.

  103. Hmm, it seems that some yarn is more prone to ladders than others. Yarn with some nylon (or spandex etc.) has more give and I have less trouble with ladders than with 100% wool or cotton. But if, despite my best efforts, I get ladders, I have found that I can adjust the extra “ladder” yarn to the stitches on either side of the ladder and it melts away.

  104. I read this post and all of the comments with great interest. You see, I had been trying (unsuccessfully) to knit a double-knit hat for my hubby. Problem was I kept ending up with ladders. Well, I cast on for the hat again tonight. Guess what? No ladders!! The tip of giving the yarn a gentle tug after the second stitch when moving onto a new needle works like a charm!! So far 18 rows of the hat are done. Looks great!! Even my teenage daughter was impressed. Thanks so much for the posts and all of the wonderful comments they generate. They have been very inspiring and motivating.

  105. Your comments about UFO’s has prompted me to look into my Black Hole of UFO’s and look at them as potential Christmas gifts. I have decided to finish a pair of socks that I started 8 years ago when I took a sock class. One practice I have found to lose the ladders between dp kneedles is to always have a knit stitch as the first stitch on each dp needle. So, if the cuff of the sock is a knit 2, purl 2 ribbing, be sure each needle starts with the knit 2.

  106. I don’t have any problems with ladders at all. I knit my socks on size zero dpns, 3 needles in the sock and the 4th to knit onto. I use a 5th needle at the heel. My gauge is about 8.5 st/inch in Regia or Meilenweit. I tend to be a looser knitter, and people say I knit very fast. I think the more experienced you are, and the more efficient you are, the more the gauge, tension, and “ladder” issues resolve themselves. Or maybe it is just the knitting angels!

  107. To Ellen C. For the toe socks all you have to do is knit 1/2 a sock from the toe up and bind off just before the heel. Knitters Dream has a pattern for toe socks. Marilyn N.

  108. Oh, the tug method works for me! Years ago I realized I could eliminate the unsightly “ladder look” by tightening things up. I knit the first stitch on the dpn and tug before knitting the second stitch – works wonders! Leslie

  109. Im knitting my.. *first* sock! yay! and i got ladders. so i frogged it and cast on again. pulling it tighter works perfectly! thanks for that helpfull hint! 🙂


  110. I have ladders in my socks, I think lace patterned socks show less ladders, but than at least I have a warm pair of socks to keep my toes toasty out of the chill.

  111. Sandi,
    I knew I could count on KD for the solution and here you are! I’ve made (and completed!) exactly 1 pair of socks in my life with no real instructions except for the pattern. They’re big and loose but they’re warm for winter around the house. But it seems socks are the latest craze and the patterns are gorgeous. Then I spotted a new sock yarn at my local Michaels store, fell in love (again!) and decided I needed to learn what’s so wonderful about knitting socks. This yarn is Patons STRETCH Socks yarn, a light weight cotton blend and I decided that it might fix my “too loose” baggy wool sock problem. But then came the ‘ladders’ – again! I knew instinctively that your solution must be the answer but I thought I was doing that…obviously not. THANKS A MILLION!!! I’m dreaming of making a pair of delicious socks for everyone in my family in all kinds of colors and yarns…but then there are all those UFOs sitting at my feet and begging for my attention!!! What’s a knitter to do????? I LOVE KD!!!
    Julie in the Berkshires

  112. I taught myself to knit socks by reading the directions. I have no ladders, but I’ve run into a problem that I can’t seem to understand.
    After I’ve turned the heel and start to pick up stitches, I’ve noticed there are fewer stitches to pick up on the first side than on the second. Can anyone tell me if I’m doing something wrong?
    Thank you.

  113. I am knitting my first pair of socks and the gauge looks right but when I actually knit it , the sock is too large for my foot. Would you recommend changing the # of stitches around or just downsizing the needle?

    thanks a million in advance,