We all know them. We’ve all been guilty of at least some of them in the past or even still in the present. Although we may not always admit to them. Sometimes we get away with them. But more often we don’t. You all know what I’m talking about: Knitting mistakes.
These mistakes though are not dropped stitches and miss-crossed cables. They are the faux pas of the knitting world. Now there is no Knitting Police, and everyone can do their craft in whatever way they please. But we might just run into fewer problems with our passion if we tried to commit less of them.
I just recently failed to swatch properly which resulted in me ripping a cowl back to cast on. The edges rolled up. I had trusted the internet that had said an I-Cord Cast On would not roll up. But guess what: If you follow it with stockinette it still will!
So for your entertainment here are all the knitting mistakes I used to make and those I am still guilty of. Maybe some of you might even learn something from my mistakes. Or at least find them amusing.
Knitting Mistakes I Used to Make
1 – Using Low-Quality Knitting Needles
When I started out knitting and still had to build up my toolset, I tried to get a lot for very little. Of course, since I hadn’t bought at a sale that meant I bought low quality. The problem with low-quality needles is not just that they might not feel as good as others or break or bend more easily. Or that cheap wooden or bamboo needles without a coating could even splinter. They may also have a rougher surface which makes knitting with them tougher and hurt your hands over time. And worst of all, they may not have the correct size.
I remember that I bought a set of double pointed needles in 2.5 mm (I don’t recall the brand) and I had a tough time picking up stitches from a heel flap with them. There would always be a lot of gaps, and the stitches seemed huge even when I twisted them. Later when I upgraded and got a needle gauge as well, I used it on these needles to see how well needles would have to fit through a hole to have that size – and lo and behold, they weren’t 2.5 mm. They were 3 mm.
2 – No Swatches at All
This is probably the biggest mistake, and one most of us have been guilty of. When I started out or more precisely restarted my knitting career ten years ago, I never knit any swatches whatsoever. I didn’t even know you should or what a gauge swatch was. I learned all basic knitting stuff from my mother when I was little (so long ago, I don’t even remember learning it). To the best of my knowledge, she never knit a gauge swatch either. On top of that, I knit mostly small things in the beginning. Like socks. I could eyeball the size and try it on while I was knitting. And my wedding shawl didn’t have to “fit.”
I didn’t know that different fabrics behaved in different ways. That cables had less stretch than stockinette. That stranded knitting had even less elasticity and that you might have problems getting a fair isle sock onto your foot if you knit it with negative ease. I didn’t know different yarns of the same weight would knit to a different gauge.
For the most part, I got lucky. But there is a reason I haven’t knit a stranded sock in many many years.
3 – Wrong Yarn Choice
There is a lot you can do wrong with just the yarn you choose. A very soft yarn with a halo might be a pleasure to wear – but it can also pill easily. So don’t use it for heavy-duty items. Like I did on a pair of fingerless mittens. I have been pushing buggies (and similar) around for now 4.5 years. A sturdier yarn would have been a better choice.
Using heavily variegated yarns is fun. But it’s not such a good idea on intricate stitch patterns. I’ve had a few pairs of socks over the years where you couldn’t make out the beautiful cable pattern because the color was just overshadowing it.
And picking colors to combine them in a project has also not been one of my strong suits. Even now sometimes have problems with it. I can now at least pick colors that go well together. But I still mess up the contrast at times. I know how you can eyeball if something has enough contrast. That is by either squinting when you look at the colors next to each other or by taking a photo and turning it into grayscale. If you can still tell them apart, they have a good contrast. But I can’t always take a picture and edit it, and the squinting method doesn’t work as reliably.
4 – Assuming My Gauge Is Always the Same When Using the Same Weight Yarn
Just because I use the same yarn weight and needles it doesn’t mean I will get the same gauge. Yarn weights have a range of gauges and not all knit up the same. There are some quite thin fingering weight yarns out there and some thick ones as well.
A few of my socks turned out too long because I assumed I could knit the foot for the same number of rows every time. Nowadays I test out the length of the foot as I go for every pair of socks I knit. I eyeball Papa Wolf’s socks because I know how long the foot has to be before I start the toe when I try them on myself.
5 – Assuming the Pattern Is Written for My Row Gauge
Aka not even considering my row gauge could be off at all. This is why I have struggled with toe-up socks for a long time. The feet would always turn out too long even though I followed the pattern. The problem lay in my row gauge. I should have knit a swatch (see mistake 1) or at least measured the row gauge on the sock I was already knitting and then calculate how long the heel described in the pattern gets at my gauge so that I can start it at the correct time. (Read more on not getting gauge on Glenna Knits).
6 – Blocking Incorrectly
If I’m blocking parts of a sweater, I shouldn’t pin them to the exact dimensions of the pattern – unless I got gauge. I should just lay it flat to dry and make sure the shape is correct. If I have to pull on it too much, I may not get the shape I wanted.
7 – Knitting the Ribbing or Garter Edge of a Sweater With the Same Needle Size as the Sweater Even Though the Pattern Said Otherwise Just Because I’m Too Lazy to Look for Another Needle (or Can’t Find One)
It might not be so problematic with ribbing. That just gets a little wider but still draws in. But guess what can happen to a garter edge? It keeps folding up. I have a cardigan with that exact problem. Otherwise, it’s lovely. It’s all in the details. Lesson learned.
And now we get to the fun part.
Knitting Mistakes I Still Do and Just Can’t Seem to Learn From
8 – Impatience
Yes, this can be a knitting mistake. My impatience and eagerness to start the actual project make me skip steps. Important steps.
Now I do knit gauge swatches but usually as few as I think I can get by with (see the cowl I had to rip back). First swatch looks right? Then I won’t even try another. I wash the swatch, but sometimes I am too impatient to let it dry out flat. I may hang it over a radiator to dry if I can’t find a warm and flat surface large enough to dry it on. That can mess with the gauge though. Wet wool is heavy.
9 – Thinking I Can Knit Faster Than I Do
There are only a certain number of hours in the day. And just a few of those can I spend knitting. Why would I think that I can still finish a pair of socks in a week like I used to before the wolflings came along? Why do I have hundreds of sweaters in my Ravelry queue when it takes me a quite long time to finish one? I started another blanket earlier this year (double-knitting on top of that), I am not even halfway through, yet.
This is a problem that does not only apply to knitting, however. I have tons of unread books for example because I can’t read as much as I used to anymore (that still hasn’t registered somehow, even after soon to be five years as a mom). There are photo books I still want to make. Can anyone finally invent a machine with which we can stop time around us, please? Or make it, so we don’t have to sleep anymore?
10 – Leaving Too Short a Tail for the Longtail Cast On
It’s my default go to cast on. And I still have to do a cast on two or three times on occasion. And I usually only admit to the tail being too short, when I simply can’t cast on any more stitches. I just can’t listen to that inner voice screaming at me that the tail is too short. What is worse, I know there are ways around this problem.
11 – Admitting Too Late That I Won’t Have Enough Yarn for Another Repeat or Row
This problem is related to number 10. It’s especially annoying when I can’t seem to realize that the little bit of yarn I have left won’t be enough to bind off. I hate unpicking a bind of even more than tinking back. It’s fiddly and unproductive.
12 – Admitting to Mistakes Too Late
I’m very good at Knitter’s Denial. “Hmm, this looks weird somehow. But I did what the pattern said. I’ll finish and see what it looks like after washing.” When that little voice in my head keeps telling me that something is wrong, I should listen to it. I had to cut off and reknit a sleeve on Tiny Wolf’s Flax Light because of this. I missed an instruction and didn’t realize. Or at least didn’t listen to my instinct. Or my eyes telling me the sleeve did not have the same shape as the first one.
13 – Not Admitting That I Might Have a Size Issue
“This looks a little small, but I am sure it’ll be fine after blocking.” Or: ”This seems a little large, but I am sure it’s just my imagination.” No, it most likely won’t block out. And if that little voice I keep drowning out is acting up I should listen to it.
Knitter’s Denial is by far my biggest problem today. Almost all of the mistakes I still make can be attributed to either Knitter’s Denial or impatience. I know what I have to work on in 2018 then.
What about you? Do you fall victim to Knitter’s Denial? What other mistakes have you made or still make and how have they affected your knitting projects? Please let me know in the comments below.
For further information
If you want to know about Gauge Swatches check out my new mini-series How to Make Gauge Swatches Work For You Part 1: The Basics and Part 2: Possible Problems (will be out January 26th, 2018).
For more on yarn choices, check out this post on I Wool Knit: Choosing the Right Yarn for Your Project. Six tips for choosing the right yarn for your knitting project on The Village Haberdashery also has some nice information. Craftsy has a Yarn Guide and also a couple of classes related to the subject:
- Yarn Substitution Made Easy (*) with Kellie Nuss
- A Practical Approach to Color for Knitters (*) with Franklin Habit
- Know Your Yarn: Choose the Perfect Yarn Every Time (*) with Clara Parkes
- Mastering Multicolored Yarns (*) with Jill Draper
Affiliate disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links (links marked by (*)). That means that at no extra cost to you I will receive a small compensation should you choose to purchase after clicking on such a link. Please, read this for more details.
I am currently in the process of preplanning my first quarter of blog posts. I have a couple of exciting things I want to do. Expect some changes to this blog in the coming year.
There will be another quick “How To” post next week. Until then I wish you all happy holidays and that you’ll be able to finish your gift knitting without too much stress. See you next week!
Did you enjoy this post? Then please share it on Pinterest!