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  • For years I thought Kay was Ann and Ann was Kay! This was reinforced by the photo at the bottom of your blog with the names under it. Is Ann taller? I know it’s not a knitting question, but I need to know if I am confused or not.

    • Ann is the taller of the two.

  • I would also argue the more practice you have the easier it gets. I recently didn’t blink, but did wait until morning, to take off several inches of cabled sleeves that were too long. If this scared the beejeebers out of you, just make a swatch and practice. Once you have a feel for it, you will not be so worried about working on your project.

  • I could use an Afterthought Lifeline in a few non-knitting aspects of my life.
    Let me know if you need a helpful knitting goat…coincidentally, pictured yesterday. Betula in particular will examine knitting very, very carefully and has a soothing, reasonable approach to the anxious “Should I rip this back?” question.

  • Is it too late to share my method for ripping back? (I’m always late to the party!). I just pull out the stitches to the row BEFORE the one I want on the needles and then I pull out one stitch at a time, putting each stitch on the needle as I go. You don’t drop any stitches and you can easily adjust how the stitch sits on the needle without concern for losing stitches. Not sure that this would work on lace patterns.

    • This is the same way I take out stitches. I usually put the stitch back on the needle and then pull out the yarn and move on to the next stitch, repeat, repeat, repeat. The stitches will all be facing correctly.

    • Of course! this is the way I always do it. It works with lace too, but best if there is a row of plain purl or knit in between the lace pattern rows.

    • This is what I’ve started to do. It’s slow but worth it IMHO.

      • I do this, too, but sometimes also tink back another row once I get them all on the needles again just to make sure.
        Ann, you sure have a lot of pretty knitted things in that header picture. And…ooooh, cat pictures! I’m allergic, so looking at cats is the only cat fun I can have. Quinn’s goat sounds fun, too.

  • Loved all the good advice. I am swooning over all the beautiful colorwork in the header picture. If only I could…..

  • I love the photos of the cats helping. Thanks for this.

  • Good advice and multiple ways. I have used them all with confidence. The first time is the worst!

  • I often do as Ruth mentioned, ripping out to the row before the one I want, but sometime I do what I call multi row tinking. I rip back one stitch to the row I want and insert needle then repeat. I find I can gently tug on the lowest level of yarn and see where I need to put the needle for the next stitch before I unravel down to it. It works well for me on slippery yarns. You do end up with several rows worth of yarn all over when you are done but not losing the stitches is worth it to me.

  • I have started adding a#cats tag to my Ravelry projects that include a picture of cats sitting on my yarn (usually when it’s blocking; not sure why they like damp cold wool).

  • Drafting and designing software have a “Back” button or an “Undo” button. I have often wished for the same in my life. Remember the big red “Easy” button? I want a big one that says “Back” that I could use for my knitting or painting or just general work and life mistakes.

  • Seeing pictures of your feline assistants was just what I needed this gray, rainy morning! Now I want to find a sunbeam and have a nap…

  • confession – I have been known to put an item needing to be unknitted aside indefinitely, as if being in that suspended state will fix the problem. I need to be ready to deal with the problem.
    When I am ready I make sure I’ll be unknitting to a place where I know I can pick up a pattern again, rip away until I get to the row in question, and carefully add stitches back to the needle. If some stitches are twisted I righten them as I knit the next row, or pull up stitches if any have slipped down a row or two.

  • These replies were so awesome, thanks to everyone. What a wonderful sisterhood of knitters!

  • I had no idea how many ways there might be to “unknit” errors. As a novice, I’ve been paralyzed for several months and put the piece aside. Now, of course, I don’t remember what I did wrong. Aaaaack. I will definitely save this post for reference. Thanks everyone.

  • I have never heard of the lifeline method. Thank you!

  • Carpino has kicked my butt…again. Around five inches in, I frogged the entire thing (again–this makes, oh I don’t know, three times? Maybe four?). I should have used lifelines, but I thought this time–this time–I was a more mature knitter, that I was paying better attention, keeping better track of the lace pattern, trying to be mindful of what I was doing in the moment of knitting. But I messed up, and with all the yarnovers and knit two togethers and knit into the back of the stitches, I couldn’t find my mistake. And when I ripped back, I lost stitches that I couldn’t quite find because of the lace. So, short question is: any additional advice about ripping back when working with lace? Many thanks.

    • Lifeline, lifeline, lifeline. Lace patterns often have alternate rows of pattern (usually the knit side or right side) and straight stitch (usually the purl side or back side). After purling the last row of a pattern repeat, run a smaller piece of yarn in a very different color through each stitch on the needle, using a tapestry needle. That way, if you have to rip back later, you will only go as far as the end of the last pattern repeat, so you’ll know where you are when you pick up the stitches. I’ve never knit lace that had pattern stitches in both directions, but I think this would work for that as well. After completing the last row of a repeat, put in a lifeline. Yes, it might mean ripping out 12 or 24 rows, but isn’t that better than throwing the whole thing in the back of the closet forever?

      • Thank you, Judy. “Lifelines, lifelines, lifelines” will be my new mantra.

  • LOVED this post! Excellent advice about ripping back – something that stresses me out every time because like Tammy, I’m always worried about “losing” stitches. But Ann – some of your comments just made my day. Literally Laugh-Out-Loud funny.

    “I chime in, trying to sound smart but ending up talking about my cat, as usual” and “I can’t wait to screw up something again so I can calmly take all this advice and zen out about it all”. Great Stuff.

    Thanks for the laugh – and the good advice!

  • I use purl cotton for lifelines. It’s smooth and doesn’t stick to whatever yarn you are working with.

    • I always use dishcloth cotton for held thumb or sleeve stitches for that very reason, no sticking to the project. I’ll remember the pearl cotton tip if I ever get brave enough to do complex lace. Thanks.

  • First thing we did together when daughter got home for spring break was rip back her hat. She had found the dropped stitch and snagged it with a safety pin. Sadly, she noticed it 4 inches after the texture changed. I had thought teaching her to fix it would have only involved a crochet hook and one column of stitches. While dropping down and laddering up a few less than have the stitches would have given her enough practice to assure she would be confident to do it on her own next time we opted to rip to the end of that pattern section and fix the stitch. (I actually lobbied hard for “design element”.)
    This will be her third completed project. Those 4 inches represented several months of down time. I think ripping it out bugged me as much as it did her.

  • Thank you, thank you all for this. I will never forget the day years ago that the owner of my LYS pulled out the needle and ripped back several rows to a mistake I had made, reinserted the needle and handed the piece back to me. I just about passed out. It worked and I was amazed, but like Tammy I am horrified of doing it myself. I usually tink back or just rip it all and start over! (I do use a lifeline with lace.)

    Pointing out that one can pick up dropped stitches or untwist twisted stitches (no-brainer if I hadn’t been paralyzed) helped a lot. I have new confidence and next time I shall rip!

  • I have used dental floss for a lifeline. It works so well! When I was done I put the floss in my tool bag for the next use.

  • These are great suggestions and I will save this column for future reference. If I may add one thing….I always wait for a sunny day to do my ripping. This way, I can see every stitch clearly, and feel good about life in general, which makes it all easier.