Rip It Out Before You Tear It Out: How To Correct Knitting Mistakes

So you’ve been knitting for a while and managed to get a good-sized chunk of that section done but when you look down and inspect your work you realize that you’ve made a mistake! Maybe it was getting your tension wrong and now your knitted piece is too big or too small, it  could be that you have missed out a stitch or two in a pattern repeat or you have somehow managed to decrease and increase in random places and that has now ruined your stitch count. However it happened it’s unlikely you’ll be able to repair it easily but you don’t want to lose everything that you’ve already made.

Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s time get ripping (or frogging). If you can save the rest of the project by only ripping out a portion of it then that’s fantastic but if you do need to rip out the whole thing then that’s still OK. There’s no shame in having to rip out a project and start again (I have done that far too many times to remember).

What we’re going to focus on here is the first issue of having something gone wrong in just one section so you only need to do a partial ripping out session. There are many ways of doing this but today we shall be looking at Tink-ing, Frogging, and The Life Line as they are all valuable methods I have had to use on many an occasion.


Tink-ing or backwards knitting (hence the name) it a great way to undo your stitches if you have spotted a mistake on the same row. It is a quick and simple fix that you can do without having to stop and prepare for, you simply get on with repairs and then pick up where you left off.

To tink your stitches insert your left needle (assuming you are knitting in the right-handed manner) into and behind the loop you have just created, transfer that stitch on to the left needle and pull out the strand of yarn. Repeat this process until you have got corrected the necessary stitch and then carry on as normal.

A quick tip I always use is to mark the incorrect stitch with a stitch marker so that you accidentally don’t go too far back. I personally like to use metal stitch markers as I’ve found that plastic ones tend to break.

Frogging: Rip-Rip-Rip Out Stitches

Ripping out your stitches – also known as frogging – is best done when a mistake cannot be repaired via tink-ing or by dropping the stitch and using a crochet hook to repair that column of stitches.

Before you actually get to ripping back those stitches you will want to examine your work and decide on a row that you will be comfortable working from again that is below the incorrect area. As you can see in the photo below I have inserted a knitting needle (one size smaller) through the stitches as that is below the mistake and an easy place to start again from.


To prepare your work for ripping back stitches you can either insert a smaller needle into all of the stitches or if it’s easier for you use a darning needle and spare yarn to save the stitches and then transfer them back onto a needle later. If you happen to pick up a stitch and it becomes twisted on the needle then simply knit through the back loop of the stitch and that will sort it out.

Once your work is ready take any live stitches (above the saved stitches) off the needle and start pulling the yarn back. I find that it is a lot easier to secure my work either between my knees or by having someone else hold it whilst I wind the excess yarn into a ball so that it doesn’t get knotted. Most frogged yarn will retain the shape of the stitch where possible and will have a crinkly appearance, as long as your tension hasn’t changed then you won’t need to relax the yarn and can use it straight away again.

The Life Line

The method is more of a preventative measure rather than a reactive one. For this technique you will be weaving a spare scrap of yarn to your live stitches so that if anything does go wrong you are already to rip back and don’t have to worry about trying to pick up stitches after you have made a mistake.

The reason I love the Life Line method so much is that for complex patterns it serves to keep different stitch types (yarn overs, purls, twisted stitches etc.) in the correct place and it also acts as a progress tracker for repeated patterns.

Life Lines can also be used multiple times throughout a project so once you are satisfied with a section and have moved onto the next simply pull out the spare yarn and use it to set up your next one.

For beginner knitters I would recommend using the Life Line method regardless of the complexity of your piece because no doubt at some point you will want to go back and redo a section.

Another advantage for new knitters is being able to easily find out which row you are on because it is so easy to lose your place. Life Lines allow you to have a set point which you can refer to time and time again.

If you want to start your own knitted projects but have never touched a pair of needles before the please see Learn How To Knit.

Let me know which method(s) you prefer to use, or perhaps you have a different one altogether and would like to share.

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