How To Pick Up A Dropped Stitch

Repairing Ladders:

How many times have you looked at your work and suddenly realised you’ve got the wrong stitch count and look to discover that you’ve dropped a stitch a few rows down now making a lovely ladder effect? There’s that moment when you wonder if you should rip everything back to below the dropped stitch or try to recover it. If you have only dropped a single stitch  then this article is for you as it’s easy to fix. However, if you have got multiple stitches that have dropped in succession or they are in a complex pattern (i.e cables) then you may be better off ripping out your work to before the mistake and correcting from there.

In a previous article called Rip It out Before You Tear It Out I discussed ways of ripping out your work to correct larger problems but I also discuss the benefits of using a “life line” in your yarny projects.

If you haven’t read this already please take a second to read through and find out why it’s helpful to set up these “life lines” throughout your work.

“Life lines” are a great tool to use if you have dropped a stitch because the stitch can only drop so far as you have a support thread weaving through somewhere below your active stitches.

So what do you do if you have dropped a single stitch? There are multiple ways of fixing a dropped stitch and multiple types of stitches that you could fix but I’m going to cover the basics in this article. In order to fix a stitch you will need the following:

  • Slightly smaller knitting needle to easily pick up the dropped stitch
  • Crochet hook for the crochet method (don’t worry if you can’t crochet)
  • Stitch marker or cable needle
  • Tapestry needle and yarn (optional)

Noticing The Dropped Stitch

Before we delve into the two different methods, I wanted to let you know how you can spot a dropped stitch and how you can stop it from dropping further down the column.  For finding a dropped stitch there’s the traditional stitch count (or a distorted looking pattern repeat) and also a ladder of bars going across your project (just like laddering some tights). For stopping a stitch from dropping further you will need either the stitch marker/cable needle or a tapestry needle and yarn.

Stitches And Ladders:

Of the tools I like to use when knitting, or even crocheting, I like to use stitch markers to either keep track of a large number of stitches or to mark out a change in the pattern. It’s always advisable to check your work periodically to make sure that you’re following the pattern and that you haven’t missed stitches.

Should you spot a dropped stitch or two – or even a wrongly placed stitch which can be corrected by dropping the stitch and redoing it – you’ll most likely have a ladder forming somewhere. The easiest ladder to spot is one that has recently happened as you’ll find a big gap where that stitch should be and will look something like this:


You can see from the photo that I dropped this stitch and it has been unraveled about 8 rows down. These types of ladders are the easiest to fix because you will not need to adjust the tension since you previously knit/purled the stitches which have now dropped.

The harder one to fix is a stitch that has dropped and you haven’t noticed and just carried on skipping over it. You will still have a ladder there but the stitches above will close off the gap that we saw in the previous picture.

Dropped Stitch

As you can see in the photo I have a ladder in the middle but a continuous row of knitting above which has adjusted by tension. Now, it is entirely possible to fix these mistakes without having to rip back to below the error. To do this you’ll need to fix it in the same way (see below) but manipulate the yarn to that the tension is evenly distributed across the fabric. If for any reason you cannot get the tension to look right, especially if you are working in a fine yarn or lace pattern, then it is perfectly acceptable to rip back your work. Here is what the corrected tension should look like after I have finished manipulating the stitches:

Manipulated Tension

How To Prevent A Bigger Ladder

Now that you can spot what a dropped stitch looks like you’ll more that likely want to stop it from laddering any further. This a very simple step and you’ll need to find the stitch that you have dropped and secure the stitch so that it doesn’t move anymore. You can either do this with a stitch marker (see above), thread some spare yarn through it, or use a cable needle.

Repairing The Dropped Stitch

Crochet Method

Having a crochet hook on hand (even if you don’t crochet) is super handy if you ever drop a stitch. This is my favorite method of repairing because I find that it’s really easy to keep the yarn tension the same.

To fix a dropped stitch in this way first pick up the dropped stitch and then pull the bar above the dropped stitch onto the crochet hook so that you have two loops and then through the dropped stitch; you’ve now just moved up onto the next row.

Repeat the process of pulling the above bar through the stitch on the hook until you have moved up to the row that you were on. Once you have got to the final loop transfer it back onto the left-hand needle and work as normal.

Knitting Method

The knitting method is very similar to the crochet method but comes with the benefit that you can use it at anytime  to fix a dropped stitch if you’ve only your project with you and no other notions or tools.

Do bring up a dropped stitch start by inserting your needle from front to back through the loop of the dropped stitch and then pick up the bar just above from the next row. I personally like to use a slightly smaller needle for this as the loops and be a little difficult to pick up.

Dropped Stitch

Once you have this set up on your right needle you will want to insert your left needle into the furthest loop on the right and pull it over the other loop and off the right needle: just like you would when binding off.

Repairing Dropped Stitches

Now pick up the next bar above the new stitch and repeat the process of pulling the right-most stitch over the next until you have worked all the way up to the row you were previously working on.

Correcting Tension

Finally transfer the stitch back onto the left needle and carry on knitting as usual.

Correcting Tension In Repaired Stitches

As you can see in the above picture the tension and stitch placement looks a bit off so it will need a bit of attention to set it straight. There are two methods I would like to cover for correcting stitch tension and placement:

  1. Gentle manipulation by hand;
  2. Using a tapestry/knitting needle to work away excess yarn

Manipulation by hand is exactly what it sounds like: using your fingers to gently pull the yarn into the desired shape. The easiest way I have found to do this is to grasp just below the trouble spot and pull down on the yarn to stretch it slightly as this will cause the fibers to contract and then relax when let go as you can see in the below picture.


Using a needle to repair tension is best used when the is an excess of yarn and you need to distribute it evenly across multiple stitches. Do to this start by choosing a side you want the yarn to be taken from (you can do both sides if necessary) and then insert the tapestry needle into one of the sides forming the V shape of the stitch. Pull the yarn through until you are happy with the tension of that stitch. Pick another stitch just to the side and repeat the process of pulling the yarn through until you are happy. You may need to give the stitches a small amount of extra yarn to compensate for the excess if you find that the excess yarn doesn’t seem to be decreasing, or, if you can work it to an edge where the excess can be pulled out in a tail you will not need to compensate.

So here were my tips on how to fix a dropped stitch in a simple piece of knitting. Stand by for another article explaining how to do this on more complex stitches or during a pattern.


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