Frog IT! (How to Fix a Knitting Mistake in layperson’s terms)

September 12, 2019

Oops. You’ve made a mistake, now what? Do you know where to or how to even start fixing it? Do you know how far back you need to go to find stitches that are done properly? Can’t even bear the thought of ripping out your precious work? Never fear, Stitch Clinic is here. (I know it’s cheesy, what can I say, I’m a geek and proud of it!) Keep reading to find out how to fix a knitting mistake.

**Now why would it say Frog IT in the title? Well, when ripping out work, you just rip-it. rip-it. rip-it. Sounds like ribbit. ribbit. ribbit. Right? Just a little knitter humor and good terminology to know. When a knitter says they ‘frogged’ something, it means they ripped it out completely. Oh dear.

Knitting Mistakes Happen

Let’s first talk about how mistakes can happen. They can be in the form of miscounting, the wrong type of stitch, the wrong number between different stitch types, the wrong kind of increase or decrease, blah, blah, blah… They happen, that’s really all you need to recognize. The first step is recognizing you have a problem. Sometimes you recognize it right away, and sometimes you are completely oblivious. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Recognizing the Problem

I am working on a project, it’s one of my special year-long projects. You know the one that you are so excited about and start right away only to find out that life has other plans for you. And then summer happened. I don’t know about you, but I’m NOT a fan of knitting when it’s hot out. I melt in the heat without the help of a heap of wool on my lap. So needless to say, this project is taking its sweet time. But it will be sooooo worth it.

The color of the yarn is glorious. My favorite so far. I know the pictures will never do it justice, but believe me when I tell you it is electric! Picture the brightest royal bluish, with a hint of purplish color and then electrify it. It was first introduced here, a fabulous festival find from a little bit ago…

Photo of electric blue yarn next to a window
Biltmore Wool Barn Color 170

Now on to the pattern. This lovely pattern is from Ravelry of course. It is called Kate’s Poncho and it can be found here. It was created by Nice & Knit and can be found here. I don’t know the exact date I started it, I should get in the habit of writing such things down so I know exactly how badly I procrastinate. Might help me get better in the future?

Things to Remember Before Getting Upset

When beginning knitting you will mess up. A LOT! You will need to get some basic techniques mastered and then you should start challenging yourself to learn new, more difficult skills. And here is where one of my favorite quotes will come into play by one of my favorite artists, ever.

I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.

– Vincent van Gogh

Don’t be afraid to mess up and don’t be afraid to mess up when fixing your mess up. It’s just yarn, it can always be reused (unless of course some pet decides to destroy it and then you’re stuck), just wind it back into a ball and start again. There are techniques helpful for learning to know and lots of techniques to help fix mistakes too.

Frog IT! Ripping Out Your OOPS

So now what? Let’s see what my mistake is on this poncho:

The photo on the left shows how my increases should be progressing, a nice slow angle that is straight and consistent. As I was checking over my work, I noticed that the other increase area that should have looked the same way looked funny. The next two images show you how I could tell something was wrong.

In most patterns, increases (when you increase the amount of stitches on your needle) are done every other row. I messed up by not paying attention and only doing it on every few rows, hence it’s WONKY! So we need to get to the section just below the wonky bit. How do we do that without taking out what we know is good work below that? We use what is called a lifeline.

Lifeline – Ripping Out Safely

A lifeline is just what it sounds like. It is a way to save you. Or your work in this case. The nature of knitting stitches make using a lifeline possible. Each stitch in made by looping the yarn over the needle, making actual loops that are able to hold onto the cable of the needle and another yarn passed through them. Just like how a croquet ball goes through a croquet wicket, a lifeline can safely go into the loops without damaging the loops. Here is the process to make a lifeline.

Adding a lifeline to your work so when ripping out a mistake you don't go too far.
Get some contrasting yarn that is the same thickness or thinner than your working yarn

With contrasting yarn, you are going to use the thick, large eyed needle to go into each loop, in the order it was created, on your knitting needle. This is a circular needle (if you don’t know what that is, I’ll be doing a Favorite Knitting Things Edition real soon) so I just follow the needle cable all the way around. So start at the first stitch in the row going from right to left, in the same order the stitches are created

Adding a lifeline to your work so when ripping out a mistake you don't go too far.
Catching loops in the last row you know is done correctly.

See the green stitch marker? (Looks like a cute little lock, I love this kind of stitch marker) I traveled directly down so that the needle is going into the first stitch of the row, but several rows down. The row I picked was the last of the rows where I was just building up the collar, no increases or other techniques other than seed stitch. (Seed stitch is knitting purls and purling knits. Looks like I might need to do a post on stitch types, eh?)

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Better Safe than Sorry

(Sorry too for the old adage but they are just soooo true!)

I may have originally made the first two or three rows of the increasing rows correct, but I would rather play it safe and go allllllll the waaaaaaaayyyyyy baaaaaaaaaaack. Be consistent in catching the stitches. Always make sure your needle is inserted in so that the right arm of the loop is on top of the needle just like it is on the knitting needle cable. (It is on the right when looking at your knitting the same way you hold it for knitting, as shown above.) That way when you transfer the stitches back onto your needle, they will be ready to go and you will not have to reorient them, taking up time, not to mention it would be another opportunity to mess something up. This is one of those ‘tips’ that helps save time and energy later. DON’T FORGET to keep your stitch markers in their proper place. Simply use your contrasting yarn to catch the loop part of the stitch marker that is already in line with the loops of the stitches.

Adding a lifeline to your work so when ripping out a mistake you don't go too far.
This is why we use contrasting yarn.

Contrasting yarn is key here, we have a sea of purple, we want to be able to see the lifeline! We don’t stop here, we go allllll the waaaaaayyyy around the project, ending where we started. The lifeline is marking the part of our project that is done correctly, you want to make sure the lifeline is done correctly, so take your time!

Adding a lifeline to your work so when ripping out a mistake you don't go too far.
All the way around until you get back to the beginning.

Inspect your lifeline, make sure all the loops have the lifeline woven through them. You could even count your stitches at this point to see if you are on track. A lot of patterns have a stitch count at the end of each line so you can count and keep up with the pattern correctly. This one doesn’t have a count after the increases so I had to rely on my eyes to see that the error existed in the first place. (I can always check the instructions for the amount of stitches cast on at the beginning, that would help too)

The arrow shows that the lifeline is in the same position as the cable of the circular needle. This is exactly what we want. Now, onto the ripping! I sound a little too happy about that, this is fixing a mistake and moving backwards. I guess I should sound sad and frustrated. But let me tell you, I’m glad there is a fix to this kind of problem, otherwise I would be starting from scratch and NO ONE wants that…

Adding a lifeline to your work so when ripping out a mistake you don't go too far.
Follow the arrow

Watch how this all unravels (HA.)

With many rows to go, it can be done rather fast.

This is nearing the end of the section that is ripped back and finally arriving at the lifeline.

You’ll notice the yarn isn’t smooth or straight anymore. When it is knit up into a project, the yarn takes the shape of the stitches. This poncho was sitting for a while, so the waviness is pretty obvious. It’s like braiding your hair before bed and waking up with wavy hair when the braids come out, even if your hair wasn’t wet. It’s ok. You can use the yarn right away or if you prefer, you can roll it into another ball to give it time to relax back to straight. Some people will even gently dampen the yarn gently with steam then wind it into a ball so it can smooth itself out. I find this unnecessary, I’m more interested in moving on and I have never personally had any issues with it. I usually use wool or alpaca blends, not really much linen or cotton so I can’t say how it would affect the final product when using those types of yarn. This might have to do with the texture of wool that doesn’t cause issues knitting it up while wavy.

How to fix a knitting mistake -
That’s much better, error is gone and we are ready to begin again

Now that you are back to the ‘beginning’, get your instructions and pick up where the lifeline is. You can leave the lifeline in while you knit. I’ve done this when it’s been a particularly tricky part and I thought it might just get messed up again… Here is what my instructions look like after ripping out once. You’ll notice two separate lines of 1 2 1 2 1 2 with some crossed out. This pattern calls for the repeating of rows 1 and 2 over and over until I get to a certain length. I write down the number of the row I have just finished so I know were to start next time. The crossed out 1’s and 2’s was the first attempt.

Marked up pattern to help keep track of your progress.
I even dated the new line of 1’s and 2’s so I can keep track of my procrastination.

I have notes (and possibly some food stains….) all over my pattern. It is a mess. I suggest printing out two copies of your pattern, one to keep clean and pristine, the other to mark up so you know where you are and what you need to remember.

Tid-bit of the day: Did you know that unravel and ravel mean the same thing? Look it up!

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  • Reply Damien June 9, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    Can you do a lifeline with ribbing? That’s my current struggle at the moment, I keep missing a stitch or doing a yarnover, and I don’t catch it (and somehow the stitches get tangled), and then it’s a mess, and I have to rip it all out. I think I’ve restarted this hat four times. @_@ It’s rough because I have to do 7 inches worth of ribbing before I can switch out of it, and being able to use a lifeline would help.

    • Reply Marissa June 9, 2022 at 10:05 pm

      Absolutely! Just pay close attention to how the yarn/thread goes into the stitches. Keep it consistent with the legs of the stitch sitting the proper way. If you are doing ribbing, you usually don’t need to put any stitch markers other than the beginning of round BUT it does help if you put stitch markers every 10 or so stitches. When you move the stitch marker check your work. It’s easier to keep track and check 10 stitches at a time. Just beware of how the yarn lays near the stitch marker. See the post about stitch markers if you need too, just search the term on the top of the page. Good luck, let me know how it goes!!

  • Reply Linda Bock March 10, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you! I keep seeing LifeLine but no one has explained it so clearly.

    • Reply Marissa March 10, 2021 at 12:32 pm

      Glad it was able to help you, thanks for reading!

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