Don’t get me started. Mistakes. I’ve made them all. I once invented "upwards knitting", which nobody believes, because it just isn’t physically possible. Believe me. It is.
There are many mistakes you can make as a knitter, but with a beginner's eyes I've identified a few specific ones which my more experienced knitting pals don't seem to make and which you might encounter at the beginning of your knitting adventures.
1. READ THE PATTERN BEFORE YOU START
It’s super easy to just get stuck into a pattern. You’re all excited and keen and all those jolly things, so you don't bother reading the pattern and just jump in... and then, you realise you don't know how to do something. Or your stitches look out of line. Take five minutes to read the pattern, understand how it all works and fits together (if you're making a shaped project, which bit is made first?), and what all the abbreviations mean. Then get started.
2. KEEP NOTES
Following the pattern is all very well, but if, like me, you have the memory of a small rodent, you may not always remember where you were if you put down your project for half an hour to go and manage your life. If you don't want to write on your pattern (which, we'd suggest you don't, since you might want to knit your project again, and... things could get messy), use a notebook. Keep tally marks for the number of stitches you've done in each row (especially where numbers might be different if you're increasing or decreasing on subsequent rows), and count which rows you've already done. Tick things off, note things down, and don't let yourself get lost.
3. DON'T CAST ON THE WRONG NUMBER OF STITCHES
While crazy über knitters may be free-styling it all the way, knitting patterns are designed to be followed. A bit further down the line, you may be able to identify things you'd like to change to suit you, but if you're a first timer, we'd definitely advise you to follow the pattern to keep things hassle free. The first fundamental is casting on the right number of stitches. After you've cast on, count how many you have on the needle (do it in 2's to speed up your counting!), and then count them again. And maybe even a third time, just to be safe. Make sure your cast on number matches what the pattern says. Getting this right now can save you all sorts of headaches further down the line.
This photo shows you how to count your cast on stitches.
4. PURLING? DON'T FORGET TO BRING YOUR YARN FORWARD BETWEEN YOUR NEEDLES/STITCHES
In some patterns, you might be doing both the knit and purl stitch in the same row. Remember, for knit, you need the yarn at the back, and for purl, you need the yarn at the front. When you're alternating between these two stitches, this crossover between the knit and purl stitches can result in crazy mistakes. If you forget to move the yarn to the right place, you might end up wrapping it around the needle, and - ta-da! On your next row, you discover an extra stitch on your needle and... a hole. The trick here is: don't rush. When the pattern tells you to go from a knit to a purl, take a sec to think about it, carefully bring that yarn forward between the needles (not over them - you don't want a hole!) and purl as normal. When you go back to the knit stitch, carefully move the yarn back between the needles to the back of your work. Check out our tips page for help on knit and purl.
4. STITCHES SLIPPING OFF YOUR NEEDLE
Slippery yarn. Slippery needles. Hands that are just learning the ropes. Stitches can be slippery little suckers, and that means that sometimes one can fall off the end of your needle and plop into the unknown. Once you are more familiar with what your knitting looks like, you'll be able to pick up stitches that accidentally fall off (we'll write more about this in the future!). But for now, just try not to do it: when you're beginning, take steps to stop it happening in the first place.
- Keep your yarn nicely spaced along your needles, and don't let it bunch up near the ends where stitches might fall off. Keep your stitches in a workable place near the tip of the needle, but not too close to the end!
- When taking a break from your project and it's heading back into its project bag, push your stitches back along your needles away from the ends, bunching them down to the far end of your needles. Maybe stick the needle tips in your yarn ball to act as a stopper.
Hopefully this should stop any naughty little stitches slipping off when you’re not looking!
5. ACCIDENTALLY KNITTING A PURL STITCH AND VICE VERSA
As a beginner little mistakes like this often happen: you are happily knitting away a bunch of stitches, only to realise too late that you’ve knitted where you should have purled. This is especially likely to happen if you're alternating stitches along a row - for example if you're doing rib for a hat band or a decorative pattern. You may feel you've ruined your knitting. Don’t worry. It's not the end of the world. All knitters, regardless of whether they are beginners, make mistakes - but being a beginner will up the frequency of them. How you deal with them is what’s important. There’s usually two camps here –
- Carry on regardless. Unless your mistake is likely to cause a big problem later on in your work, just work out where you’ve gone wrong and carry on correctly from this point. If you've just realised you purled once instead of doing a knit, you might have a tiny visible error on your knitting when you’re done, but absolutely no-one will notice and hey, you’re new to knitting, what are a few little mistakes! It's a record of your learning journey! You can always sew buttons over them, pretend it’s part of the pattern, or choose that spot for all future food and beverage spillages.
- Try and fix it. This is a little more complicated for a beginner but not out of the realms of being do-able! If you've only done a few stitches, it's possible to 'backwards knit' and undo the last few you've done to get to the mistake you made. If you realise your mistake was a few rows back, but absolutely needs correcting, it might mean you stripping back, which is a bit more of a faff. We'll write more on making corrections at a later date - so unless you're confident, try approach #1, or ping us a message if you're desperate!
Those were just a few of the tips we figured might be most helpful for starting out. Have you got other mistakes you've made? Feel free to share your most common beginner knitter mistakes with us – we’ll do our best to help you overcome them! Until then, enjoy the knitting, and don’t stress the mistakes. They really are learning experiences.
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