It won’t surprise you at all that we have customers come in every day asking for help with their knitting. We love to oblige. But there are a few common, one might even say universal rookie mistakes that it’s so easy to avoid, once you know what to look for.
#1 The Accidental Yarn Over:
When you knit a stitch, your yarn travels from the back of your work, around the back of the back needle, and naturally falls to the back.
When you purl a stitch, your yarn travels from the front of the stitch, around the front of the front needle and naturally falls to the front.
If your yarn starts in front of your work when you knit, an extra loop of yarn gets wrapped around your needle. This extra loop is not anchored at the bottom to the row that came before. It will increase your stitch count by one and leave a hole underneath it. (NOTE: this extra loop is also called a yarn over and is the essential component of lace where you want the holes!)
The most common time for these yarn overs to appear is when you set your knitting down or put it in your project bag. The working yarn can easily slip from one side of your work to the other and never cause a problem. Then when you pick your work back up again, you don’t realize that the yarn is on the opposite side from where you want it and knit blithely on, only noticing rows and rows on that you have a hole and too many stitches.
To Fix It: To avoid adding stitches and holes when you didn’t want them, just make sure that the yarn is in back when you are forming a knit stitch, or in the front when you are forming a purl stitch.
#2 The Accidental Short Row: If you stop knitting in the middle of a row, turn your work around and go back across the partial row you just knitted you have worked what we call a Short Row. It makes the stitches you just worked two rows further on than the stitches you didn’t finish.
Like the yarn over, it will leave a small hole though the yarn over hole will be round-ish and the short row hole will be more like a vertical slit. (NOTE: short rows are an essential component of sock heels and bust shaping where you want some parts of your knitting to be taller than others!)
The most common time for these short rows to appear is also when you set your work down in the middle of a row. To avoid making these accidental short rows, always look at your work when you pick it up. Find the working yarn and follow it toward your needles and find the stitch it is leading straight to. This is the last stitch you worked.
To Fix It: Put the last stitch you worked, and the needle it is riding on, in your right hand and proceed to knit as you always do, confident that you are going the right way!
#3 The Backwards Stitch Mount: If you look closely at a knit stitch when it’s lying flat, you will see it has two legs. When a stitch is on the needle, it is turned in profile and the right leg is closest to you and you knit into it from front to back. But some times you can see or feel that there is something just…well, weird and funky about a stitch. It might feel too tight when you begin to knit it. If you look closely at it, you can see that it is riding on your needle with its left leg closest to you.
Sometimes this happens when you are picking up stitches that have slipped off you needle. Sometime it can happen if you wrap your yarn around your needle in a clockwise rather than counter-clockwise motion. Either way, there is nothing to worry about.
To Fix It: Simply slip the stitch off the needle and put it back on so the right leg is closest to you. Or, better yet, just knit it through the right leg even if the right leg is in the back.
These are the simplest ways to avoid rookie mistakes and really start to be the boss of your knitting!
You know those patterns that ask you to cast on loosely, then proceed to tell you to try casting on over two needles to make it looser? Well, I’m here to tell you that is a terrible lie. And here’s why. The reason you want to cast on loosely is not so you can get your working needle through the stitches when you knit your first row. It’s so the edge will not be smaller than the knit stitches that come above it. A tight cast on will pinch the first few rows of knitting, giving a rounded-corners look. You want your cast on edge to be almost as stretchy as your knit fabric and you want it to be the same width as your work, with nice, even square corners. But here’s the kicker…the looseness of your cast on is not a function of the size of the stitches you are putting on your needle. It is a function of the space between those stitches. Let me say it again. It’s not the size of the stitches, it’s the space in between them that determines the looseness of the cast on.
Here…I’ll prove it to you.
Here I’ve cast on over two needles, Nice and loose, right? So loose that there’s even space between the needles. Big, loopy loose stitches.
When I take out one of the needles, there’s enough loose space in the stitches you could drive a truck through. This should be plenty loose.
But when I knit a few rows, you can see I am in trouble. The edge is round-cornered and bumpy. Yuk.
A closer look will show you that all I’ve done is distort the first row of stitches and make a mess on the edge. Sigh. Not what I was after at all.
Now take a look at this…
By holding my right fore finger between the stitches as I’m casting on, I can extend the amount of yarn between the stitches. This stretches the overall width of the cast on.
I can actually slide each stitch as far away as I like to achieve the right looseness in my cast on.
After knitting a few rows, you can see that my edge is the same width as my work and my corners are not distorted.
A closer look shows that the spaces between my actual stitches is the same as the spaces between my cast on stitches.
Keep a close watch the next time you cast on. You see exactly what I mean. And don’t let anyone fool you ever again. Casting on over two needles just makes a mess. Use your finger!