I’ll never forget being a brand-new knitter, having no idea how to fix a mistake, and ripping my work out every time I made one. And I mean ripping all the way back to nothing. Total do over. (As I always say: If you only take one knitting class in your life, make it a fixing-mistakes class.) Gradually I figured out how to “tink” back to fix a mistake in the current row, how to rip out a row or two and put the stitches back on the needles, etc. One day I mis-crossed a cable and was irate at the notion of ripping out a lot of perfectly good knitting just to fix a couple of stitches. So I googled and came upon a Yarn Harlot tutorial about how to “ladder down” to a fix a cable error, and that blog post changed my knitting life.
In short: In many or most cases, if you’ve made a mistake and failed to notice it right away, it can be fixed in a targeted, surgical fashion. Take the mistake in my Channel cardigan seen above, where I had apparently spaced out for a moment on which row of the chart I was knitting and messed up the chevron pattern in one spot. It’s 13 stitches, 24 rows down, in a sea of otherwise flawless knitting. (Right in the middle of my lower back, in plain sight.) If I were to rip out all 24 rows from end to end, it would mean repeating about 6 hours’ worth of knitting. Obviously undesirable, and fortunately unnecessary.
Here’s all you have to do:
1 ) Knit to where the problem area begins, then slide only the affected stitches off the left-hand needle. In my case above, that meant freeing up the 13 stitches of the chevron repeat.
2) Take a deep breath.
3) Gently pull the first strand loose, effectively ripping out the first row of stitches between the two needles. (Everything that’s still on the needles is secure — you needn’t worry about the adjacent stitches.)
4) Repeat for each row of stitches until you reach the row where the mistake occurred. That will be the last row you pull out, leaving you with the live stitches from the previous row — the last one before you screwed up.
5) Put the live stitches back on a needle. (I like DPNs for this process. You may find it easier to pick up the stitches on a smaller needle, but make sure you do your knitting with DPNs that match your working needles.) Each of the loose strands will be your working yarn for reknitting those rows.
6) Starting with the first loose strand above the row of stitches on your DPN, reknit your row correctly.
7) Repeat with the next strand, and the one after that, until you’re back at the top of your work.
8) Slip the stitches back onto your working needle, ready to be knitted as normal.
It’s undeniably awkward to knit with a little strand like that, and you’ll almost certainly find your tension a bit wonky. I tend to pull too tight at the beginning of the row and wind up with extra yarn at the left end. If that happens to you, just take the tip of your needle and tug on the stitches to even them out as best you can, and trust that blocking will take care of the rest.
As many times as I’ve done this over the past few years, it always feels a little scary going in, but when you put those corrected stitches back onto your working needle, you can’t help feeling like a superhero.
NOTE: Please excuse these horrible photos — I wasn’t thinking of the blog at the time I was doing this! Several people on Instagram had asked how I was going to fix this mistake, and these are just screenshots from the unartful blow-by-blow I posted on my IG Story. Next time I need to do this kind of surgery, I’ll try to get better images.
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