How To...

Published on July 16th, 2014 | by Amy Kaspar


Tips on ripping out

What do you do when you’ve made a mistake?  Amy Kaspar gives us the low-down on how to backtrack when your knitting goes wrong…

We all make mistakes. Ripping out can cause heartache, but sometimes, it is necessary. Perhaps you overshot the length of a sleeve, or you noticed a missed set of decreases on one side.

Either way, we will be taking a break from technique this week, and teaching knitters the art of faith. You can do this.

Here are some tips on how to rip out without losing all of your hard work and starting over; again, you can do this. Taking out your knitting needle on a half-finished knitted piece is one of the more frightening hurdles to jump. So ask yourself…

1.  Do you have a circular needle handy? Ripping out is much easier when you pick back up on a circular needle, because you do not have to worry about which end to start picking up your stitches. You can also re-orient the stitches on the needle more easily before you go back to knitting.

Tips on ripping out - LoveKnitting blog

Tips on ripping out – LoveKnitting blog


2.  Can you mark your mistake? Place a row marker below the row of the mistake, so you know how far to rip back. The whole goal of this exercise, after all, is to prevent from ripping out the entire project and starting over.

3.  Write down your current row so that you know your starting point as you rip. If you are on Row 16, and your mistake is in Row 13, then you know to rip out the part of the row you finished knitting (Row 16), plus three more complete rows (Rows 15 through 13). A row is one complete rip from either left to right, or from right to left.

If you are ripping out a lace pattern, you may find it handy to insert a needle or a “lifeline” through the row below, into each stitch from front to back while working from left to right, first. This way, you will have a much easier time picking up your yarnovers. If you miss the end stitch or stitches by accident, no worries…these are the easiest ones to pick up if they are missed.

Tips on ripping out - LoveKnitting blog

Tips on ripping out – LoveKnitting blog

4.  Now, it is time. Pull out your knitting needle or needles. Place the knitted item on a flat table or floor, with the live loops on top as you face the item. Place one hand on your knitting, about two rows below the top, and gently pull the working yarn out with your other hand. If your pattern is mostly knit-and-purl (meaning not a lace piece), and your stitches hug each other fairly well, you do not have to be as gentle. Just remember to count your rows if you are in a complicated pattern.

End with the working yarn hanging off the stitch on either end of a row. A best practice is to have the right side of the piece facing up, and to end with the working yarn tail on the right. But as long as you remember where you are, it does not matter.

Tips on ripping out - LoveKnitting blog

Tips on ripping out – LoveKnitting blog

5.  Grab your circular needle…even if you were knitting on straight needles…and pick up the stitches one at a time by sliding the needle tip into each stitch. Do not stress out about which direction the stitches are facing, because the main focus is getting the stitches back on the needle.

6.  Go back to your pattern and figure out how many stitches you should have on your needle. Did you pull out any increases or decreases? Count your stitches. If you have too many, you may have picked up one of the end stitches incorrectly or accidentally pulled out a decrease from the row below. Both can be fixed when you get to it. If you have too few, you may have dropped a stitch or pulled out an increase from the row below. Again, it can be fixed when you approach the wonky stitch.

7.  Read your knitting. If you view your stitches with your working yarn to the left, then you are looking at the just-completed row. Read your stitches out loud and compare them to the pattern:  Knit 2, SSK (you see a double stitch that leans to the left), purl purl purl purl purl purl – so purl 6, then knit two together (you see a double stitch that leans to the right), knit 2. You should have kept track what row you just completed in Tip 3, so reading your stitches aloud should follow the last row you completed before you ripped.

Tips on ripping out - LoveKnitting blog

Tips on ripping out – LoveKnitting blog

8.  Here is where the circular needle becomes important:  Slip each stitch purlwise, one at a time, from the left needle tip to the right needle tip. You have counted your stitches, so you know if there are any drops to try and find. You have read your knitting, so you now want to make sure none of your stitches are twisted. As you are slipping, make sure the leg of the stitch that is closest to you marches slightly forward compared to the back leg. If not, turn the stitch around using your needle tip.

If you encounter a dropped stitch, you can either try to pick it up with the needle tip, or you can use a crochet hook to pull the stitch through the loose ladders that occur when you drop a stitch.

9.  You should be ready to knit at this point, but if not, throw what you have on a stitch holder and call upon another knitter. A second set of eyes, whether it is an instructor at your local yarn shop or your favorite Knit Night buddy, is invaluable. Often, we will rip something out and get too frustrated to see our knitting with a clear enough head to verify that we have fixed the problem. Ask another knitter to help you, either to reassure you did it correctly or to help you spot the mistake you were fixing in the first place.

Tips on ripping out - LoveKnitting blog

Tips on ripping out – LoveKnitting blog

10.  Knit the next row in the pattern. Did it work correctly? Yes? Then keep going! No? Then un-knit that row (just insert the left tip into the stitch below the one on the right needle, transfer it to the left needle, and pull your working yarn…over and over) and read your knitting again.

These are just some handy tips to ease your fears, but remember that knitting is a communal hobby. Do not hesitate to ask for help if you are afraid to make things worse. But remember, you can do this.

Tags: , , , , , ,

About the Author

Amy lives in Chicago and can either be found knitting, writing about knitting, designing knitted things, or watching professional hockey while knitting. There is also a necessary cup of coffee nearby at all times, Follow her on Twitter @thefiberfriend for more yarny bits.

Last updated: August 4th, 2017.

11 Responses to Tips on ripping out

  1. Donna Hume says:

    Hi Amy – thank you for these tips.
    I have ripped out many rows of knitting over the years, but have been more frustrated at the mistake than scared to undo!!
    I have used nearly all of tips at one time or another, but the one about using the circular needle to pick them back up is a new one for me.
    Thank you again from a renewed knitter in Sydney, Australia.

    Donna Hume

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Donna…Amy here…thanks very much for the kind words! I thought after the heavy topics I’ve thrown at you over the last two weeks, it was time to show ways to fix the flubs as well. 😉 PS…I lived in the building just south of the bus depot and next to the methadone clinic in Chippendale, south Sydney, in 1995. Your city is one of my favorites.

  2. Jody Long says:

    Amy you should of shown safety lines as well. This is another great technique! After every pattern repeat thread a length of waste yarn a lot thinner than what your knitting with through every st using a blunt needle. If you make a mistake in a busier or hard lacy pattern you rip back and all your sts are on the waste yarn ready to pick back up!

    Also you showed the needle technique to save them lacy yo

  3. Jody Long says:

    Also you showed the needle technique to save them lacy yo’s why not use a smaller knitting needle and weave it through all your sts then rip out and stitches will be on ya needles facing the correct way! That’s my method. X

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Jody…Amy here…thank you for the feedback and funny you say that. I was thinking of including lifelines until I realized they are a blog post all on their own! Stay tuned over the next few weeks, and I appreciate you reading. 😉

  4. Jean Giangarra says:

    It’s Jean! We met at Vogue Knitting LIVE in January. I am always interested in ANY tips possible so I read your article with interest. While I have used all of those techniques, it was mostly by pure chance. Now I have a logical, mindful description of what I’ve been doing by instinct. This will make it easier to help out some of my knitting friends. Since our LYS closed several years ago, we’ve been on our own. Thanks for the concise instructions.

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Jean…Amy here…so good to see you here! I don’t know yet if I’ll be in New York this year but I’m glad to run into you once agaon. Hope you’re well and thanks for the kind words!

  5. NORMA cADORIN says:

    Wish your excellant teaching could be saved as a PDF and printed

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Norma…Amy here…you can actually copy and paste the text to its own document and then save it that way, either in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format. Thanks for reading!

  6. Hester says:

    Dear Amy,

    This is m first encounter with your blog and thank you very much for the great tips on ripping. I would also ask if this valuable information could be saved as a PDF. I use my iPad most of the time and it’s so easy to save when they are in that form. Not so easy or near impossible otherwise.

    Cheers, Hester

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Hester…Amy here…glad you could join us on the blog! If you don’t have an option to save as a .pdf in the upper-right corner of your browser window, you can copy and paste the text onto a blank document and save it in whatever format your tablet allows as compatible. It is a two-step process, of course, but it certainly works. You can also save the entire page as a “Webpage, complete” and it will pull up this page when you click on your icon.

Back to Top ↑