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10 Tips on Preventing, Catching, and Fixing Mistakes for Knitters

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10 Tips on Preventing, Catching, and Fixing Mistakes for Knitters

This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.


You’re at the end of the row and worked all the stitches but there are still instructions for 3 stitches left. How did that happen?

Most commonly, an error occurred because the knitter failed to pay attention. Distractions are everywhere; family members are talking, the phone rings, the TV is blaring.  If you’re a newer knitter, it’s particularly important to find quiet time to knit so you can avoid errors. Once you become more adept, multitasking becomes easier.

    1. Try to avoid mistakes before they happen. The row may have ended correctly with no instructions or stitches left over, but things may still be askew.
    2. Learn to “read” your knitting. Recognize how a knit stitch looks different from a purl stitch. Watch the direction in which cables move. Look at your knitting frequently as the stitch pattern develops to see if everything appears as it should. It’s easy to knit instead of purl by mistake; if you see the error now instead of 10 rows later, life will be much easier.
    3. Count your stitches after completing every row, especially if you are a beginning knitter. This may seem like a tedious task but you will know immediately if you accidentally dropped a stitch or looped the yarn over the needle and made a stitch when you shouldn’t have.
    4. If the error is on the row you just completed (or even the row you are still working on), you can unravel the row stitch by stitch and correct the error. You’ll find instructions for doing this by clicking here.
    5. Using stitch markers to mark every 10 stitches or 20 stitches when you have a more complex stitch pattern to keep track of can make it easier for you to keep track of your work. You only have to count the stitches in between a given set of markers to know whether that section of your row is correct. Click here for our stitch markers.

    1. A dropped stitch can be picked up and fixed with a crochet hook without ripping back. It’s best if you find this within 3 rows as it becomes much more difficult later and will distort the knitting (another reason to check for errors frequently!). Learn how to how to pick up a dropped stitch by clicking here.
    2. If you find an error many rows back, you can choose to leave it (unless it’s a dropped stitch, in which case it will continue to unravel and must be fixed). Some people can live with the error while others find it will always bother them and stick out like a sore thumb.
    3. If you want to fix it, you’ll need to rip back the rows until you get to the error. To do so, first mark the row to which you need to return with a safety pin or split-ring marker. Take the knitting off the needle, pull the working yarn and keep pulling until you are one row above the error. Then unravel stitch by stitch and place each stitch that is left back on the needle as you unravel. Be careful that you don’t twist the stitches as you do this; they should be in their normal position. If you do find a twisted stitch as you get back to your knitting, to untwist it either remove it again and place it back on the left needle untwisted or knit (or purl as the case may be) into the back of the stitch.
    4. Spotted a knit stitch that should be a purl stitch (or vice versa)? Drop the stitch down on purpose and then fix it with a crochet hook in the right direction! Now you can keep going with your project.
    5. Finally, keep in mind that a mistake here and there is okay! It gives your projects that handmade quality, and for the most part, it will not effect the usefulness and beauty of your finished project.


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