Tips to Avoid Knitting Disasters

comments (1) June 9th, 2008     

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Tina_Hilton Tina Hilton, contributor
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This knitting disaster comes from the needles of Plazajen, she went the wrong way with the cable-again!
This was recently pulled from the unfinished project pile; I lost the pattern before I finished the sleeves!
This knitting disaster comes from the needles of Plazajen, she went the wrong way with the cable-again!

This knitting disaster comes from the needles of Plazajen, she went the wrong way with the cable-again!

Photo: Courtesy of Plazajen/Flickr

Do not despair kind knitters, there is a simple way to divert disasters, leaving you unscathed and successful in your quest for a beautifully constructed garment. I have had my fair share of knitting accidents, and I determined that the root cause of these heart-wrenching catastrophes lie in the fact that I did not read the pattern completely and thoroughly before I embarked on my knitting journey. Would a ship’s captain begin a voyage without studying the maps and charts thoroughly? A successful journey requires that proper equipment and supplies are onboard and in good working order. A good captain always has a plan, a solid foundation of knowledge based on experience, a good crew, and accurate reference materials.

The same goes for knitters. Proper preparation will ensure that you will have a pleasant and successful knitting experience. Knitting should be fun and relaxing. If you constantly run into avoidable surprises and setbacks, you will not be a happy knitter.

Here are some simple tips to avert future knitting disasters:

  • Read your pattern before you begin. Do not just skim it over or do a speed read. Really understand what needs to be accomplished with gauge, appropriate yarn selection, and technique. If you have any questions, ask someone at your local yarn store for help and guidance. Fellow knitters are always willing to lend a hand, so don’t be shy about reaching out to your knitting buddies for advice. If it’s midnight, Google your questions, and you will have a wide variety of resources at your fingertips.
  • Photocopy the pattern. You may even want to enlarge the tiny print to save yourself from unnecessary eye strain. Place it in a handy plastic sheet protector to keep all of the pages together.
  • Make notes. It is a good idea to do this in pencil during your first reading and as you knit through the pattern. This will help make the instructions more understandable as you go along, and if you put the project on hold and pick it up at a later date, they will be invaluable.
  • Use stitch markers to hold your place. On the pattern, mark where you left off when you put your project on hold. Even if you think you'll return to the project shortly, sometimes, it ends up being quite a while before you get back to it.
  • Warning: Always knit a gauge of at least 4 inches square. I know you’re excited about getting started, but investing a little time up front will help you avoid some of the worst knitting disasters. With a swatch, you will confirm that you have the correct combination of yarn and needles. If you are not on-gauge, your size will be off, and you'll have a sweater fit for an orangutan or a Lilliputian. Tip: If your gauge swatch ends up having more stitches per inch than the recommended gauge, knit your swatch with larger needles. Conversely, if you have fewer stitches, try smaller needles.
  • Choose your yarn wisely. Selecting the right yarn for a project will help avoid knitters' remorse. If you are knitting a cable sweater, cables generally stand out best with a plied wool or wool/blend yarn. With a slinky fiber such as rayon, your cables will wilt and droop. Use a bumpy bouclé, and your cables will have warts—not pretty. A delicate shawl calls for a fine, lace-weight yarn. Substituting an afghan acrylic will look like a reject from the ’70s. Don’t do it! When in doubt, consult your local yarn store and nonbiased knitting buds.
  • Always buy extra yarn. Running out of yarn towards the end of a project will put anyone into a knitting nosedive. Make sure you look at the measurements of the sweater, and don’t assume that you are a medium in every pattern. It’s OK to bump yourself up to the next size if the measurements match. I always buy one extra ball of yarn as a safety net. Save your receipt; most stores will give you credit when you return unused balls.
  • Use reference materials. Invest in a couple of good, basic knitting reference guides. A compact book for your knitting bag and a big, super-detailed guide are must-haves for your reference library.

Recommended Books:
When Bad Things Happen to Good Knitters: An Emergency Survival Guide by Marion Edmunds and Ahza Moore
Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book by the Editors of Vogue Knitting magazine
Vogue Knitting Quick Reference: The Ultimate Portable Knitting Compendium by the Editors of Vogue Knitting magazine
The Knitters Handbook: Essential Skills and Helpful Hints from Knitters Magazine by Elaine Rowley
The Knitters Companion by Vicki Square
The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe


Be prepared, and you will avoid the most common knitting pitfalls. You will be a better knitter for it.

posted in: tips

Comments (1)

juliannelucindaa writes: thanks, I have trouble with everything I knit so any tips are welcome
Posted: 4:45 pm on June 10th
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