15 Common knitting mistakes

A massive list of frequent knitting mistakes and how to fix them – including tons of pictures and a video.

Are you a beginner and now you are wondering about common knitting mistakes you might not even realize you are making? Or have you noticed something that doesn’t seem right in your knitting and now you want to know how to correct a mistake? Then this post will be a goldmine for you because it comes with 15+ frequent issues I have distilled from sifting through thousands of comments here on my blog and my youtube channel.

Let’s dive right into it, and show how you how to fix knitting mistakes, eh? But make sure to read all the way to the end because there are some juicy tips further down below!

#1 Dropped stitch

fixing a dropped stitch with a crochet hook in knitting

The most common mistake beginners fear is probably a dropped stitch. Often, they think they have to unravel the whole project and start all over again. But that is not true at all. You can easily fix such a mistake with a crochet hook.

picking up the dropped stitch with the strand in back

It is super simple and works for both knit and purl stitches. For the latter, it’s a bit easier if you do it on the wrong side. And if a stitch just unraveled one row, you can actually lift it back to the left needle and use the strand in the back to knit it again.

>> Here’s my full tutorial on how to fix a dropped stitch.

#2 Knitting too tight or too loose

someone holding two knitting needles to demonstrate how to hold them in the left and right hand - both a bit like a knife
The way I hold my knitting needles

Another very common beginner mistake is knitting too tight. Now, I totally understand it. Everything is new to you, and your hands/mind still have to become accustomed to the motions. Still, often beginners end up gripping those knitting needles as if their life depends on it.

It’s very important to relax. Those needles should rest in your hands quite lightly. Except maybe for that very first row, the knitted fabric will support and secure the live stitches quite perfectly. So what can you do when every next stitch feels too tight to enter it?

  1. Remember to take frequent breaks to prevent cramps.
  2. Practise stitches in slow motion making sure that you gently tighten up every stitch by tugging at the working yarn but not so much as if you wanted to tie a knot.
  3. Consider improving your tensioning method. Maybe you need to wrap the yarn one more time or one less time around your pinky finger/index finger (or however else you secure it).
  4. A good nights sleep will help your mind and muscles to process the new techniques you have learned.
  5. Be patient. Practise will make you feel more comfortable with your needles & yarn. And at one point it will feel like a natural extention of your arms.

Also, keep in mind that the yarn you picked will have a big influence on the tightness of your knitting. The fuzzier a yarn is and the more friction it has, the looser and more relaxed you should knit, and vice versa. For example, I typically tension the yarn by wrapping it around my pinky finger twice, but for some fuzzy yarns, I only do it once while for some super slick yarns I sometimes even do it 3 times.

#3 Twisted purl stitches

comparing a normal purl stitch vs a twited purl stitch
If your stockinette stitch looks like this, with twisted stitches every two rows, you might be twisting your purl stitches. Highlighted: A normal stitch forms a V. A twisted stitch more like an incomplete X.

A very common beginner problem is related to purl stitches. Any textbook will tell you to wrap the yarn around the needle counter-clockwise. This is the golden rule for every single stitch. Yet, so often I see people doing it clockwise instead. That’s probably due to the fact that this is actually easier to purl that way!

This will cause two major problems: First of all, it will be very difficult to knit across those stitches in the next row and they will feel super tight. And then, when you do, you end up with a row of twisted stitches. This typically is not the desired effect and it is really important that you fix this as soon as possible if you don’t like the way this looks.

Note: The same can happen when you drop a stitch and you don’t put it back to the needle the right way. Any normal stitch should be mounted on your needle in a way that the left leg of the loop is in the back and the right leg is in front.

#4 casting on too tight

a knitted swatch getting wider further up due to a tight cast on

Your knitting seems to get wider the further up you go, despite not adding any increases? Or you finished a hat but now the brim is not stretchy enough to put it on your head? Often the culprit is a cast-on technique that is too tight for your knitting pattern. As a beginner, you often start out with only one method to start your knitting. And that is totally okay.

Still, you need to remember that different knitting stitch patterns (garter stitch, stockinette stitch, etc) will have more or less give. An experienced knitter would say they have a different gauge. Ribbings are super stretchy while a star stitch might be super rigid. And you need to adjust your cast-on accordingly.

As a beginner, the easiest way to adjust the stretchiness of a cast-on (or a bind-off for that matter) is by doing it around two needles or one or two sizes bigger. Here’s my full tutorial on casting on knitting with two needles.

#5 Adding yarn overs

A knitted swatch with an accidental eyelet - a common mistake
Do you have holes in your knitting? Then you might be adding yarnovers!

Another very frequent mistake knitting beginners make is accidentally adding yarnovers. You might not even know what a yarnover is but as the technique is so utterly simple, it’s very easy to create one by accident. A yarnover is nothing but a simple counter-clockwise wrap around your needle. Basically, whenever the needles unintentionally catch the yarn, this will be the result. Here are some instances:

1. Whenever you turn your work around, the working yarn should stay below your work. If it stays on top, you may create an additional loop. Or pull down a stitch to create a double stitch.

a swatch illustrating an common knitting mistake when starting a new row

2. Whenever you switch from a knit to a purl stitch and you bring the yarn forward, the yarn can get caught above the needle.

illustration showing how accidental yarnover are created when switching from a knit to a purl stitch
(1) The yarn is in front from the last purl stitch. (2) And when you bring the yarn to the back for the next knit stitch (2) it can get caught. That way, you can create an eyelet if you don’t remove the extra wrap from your needles (3).

3. When you are knitting in the round, here, too, the yarn can get caught and create a yarnover.

illustration showing how accidental yarnover are created when knitting in the round whenever you switch needles
This happens very frequently when you are knitting ribbings in the round and the yarn is in the front for the last stitch and you bring it to the front for the first stitch on the next needle

So, the golden rule to prevent this mistake and accidental yarnovers is simply always keeping the working yarn below the needle whenever you turn things around or you switch to a different knitting position.

#6 not investing enough time to pick yarn

a color wheel made out of yarn skeins

Picking the right yarn is 50% of the work. Pick a bad yarn, and your whole project will never have the chance to shine. Pick the right yarn and it’s so much easier to be successful.

It starts with simple mistakes like picking a woolen spun 100% sheep wool yarn for socks that would need a much more durable yarn to avoid holes but certainly doesn’t stop there. I know, in the times of indie yarn dyers and Instagram you get confronted with beautiful colorways 24/7 you simply want to have. But typically, you should have a clear project in mind before you buy anything.

Create a little checklist and buy accordingly:

  • Should your yarn be soft or durable?
  • Should it be smooth or textures?
  • Should it be light or warm?
  • Does it have to be machine washable?
  • Something that shows intricate patterns well or something self-patterning?
  • etc, etc

Here’s my full tutorial on how to choose yarn for knitting

Here are two more important tips you also need to observe.

  1. Yarn can stretch out dramatically after washing it the first time. So, when you plan to knit a fitted sweater, always check how a swatch behaves when it sees the water the first time. So often I see people knitting a sweater that seems to fit perfectly on the needles – and then they wash and block it and its 2 sizes too big and then they franatically google for ways to shrink it again.
  2. If you are knitting with multiple colors, especially from indie yarn dyers, definitely check if there is color bleed. Knit your swatch with both colors and wash it thoroughly to prevent a disaster later on.

#7 knitting in bad lighting

Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.

a simple necklight for knitting on a table

This tip might sound utterly trivial, but it is not. I seriously think that the biggest mistake you can do is is knitting in bad lighting. The better you can see your stitches, the easier it will be to enter them precisely. And that doesn’t only make knitting faster, it also prevents making mistakes. And if there is indeed a mistake, you will be able to notice it right away. Plus, squinting your eyes for an hour non-stop, is actually not especially good either.

I almost always knit very close to a window. And whenever it’s getting darker, I use a wearable craft light. These were probably the best investment I ever made in knitting. 20-ish US-Dollars that saved me from so many mistakes and made knitting even with dark fuzzy yarn a breeze.

Note: Also, consider wearing your glasses when you are knitting. It will help you see stitches much clearer and prevent extra strain on your eyes (and possibly your mind constantly trying to compensate for poor vision).

#8 Not taking breaks

I am sure you have been there before. It’s 10 pm, already dark outside, you know you should actually go to bed, but you just want to knit one more row. And once that one row is finished, well…there’s room for one more row, right? Gotta get to the end of this repeat, after all.

And this such a bad habit for multiple reasons. First of all, the longer you knit without a break, the less concentrated you will be and this leads to mistakes. And then, when you try to fix these mistakes without a fresh mind, things often get worse. And trust me, I am definitely not the only one who totally messed up a project beyond redemption 5 minutes before midnight.

Instead, whenever you notice yourself thinking “just one more row”, force yourself to take a break and turn it into a habit.

Also in that context, don’t slouch in the same armchair or couch for hours nonstop. A good stretching or strengthening exercise for your hands is equally as important. You might believe that you don’t need this as you are young and/or your hands don’t hurt even if you knit 4 hours straight. But you have to realize that your hands don’t deteriorate overnight. It’s a gradual thing and typically it’s 10 times as easy to prevent pain than to heal it. Once you have carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, you will be forced to stop knitting for weeks or sometimes months.

#9 Trusting charts or patterns too much

someone trying to get gauge with a special ruler and a knitted swatch

When people want to learn how to knit socks, they are often pointed towards sock charts. But here’s the thing: Most knitting charts date back to a time when there literally was just one kind of yarn and needles available at your local yarn shop. Here in Germany in my youth, that was addi needles, regia sock yarn, and everyone was a continental knitter. As a result, following those sock charts produces passable results.

These days the choices are abundant. Everyone is knitting with a different yarn, different needles, different techniques, and so on. So how would you expect a chart to work out when everyone is knitting with a different gauge? It just doesn’t work like that.

Yet, so often I get questions like: How many stitches do I need to cast on for socks? A scarf, a hat or a blanket?

And the answer is always knit a swatch and try to meet the gauge of the designer. Or use the swatch to calculate according to the measurements. If there is no gauge and no measurements, then that cast-on information is as useless as a wedding cake recipe with all the ingredients but no indication of how many ounces you need.

Note: As a beginner, and contrary to what I said so far, you should also learn to trust a pattern. So often I get questions via email pointing out mistakes that are none, simply because that person hasn’t read the pattern correctly. So always take your time and if you are unsure, ask a knitting friend (or in one of the many knitting forums).

#10 Not blocking your finished work

blocking as lace knitting swatch on a special mat

When I started knitting, I didn’t really understand why every experienced knitter talked about blocking. I wanted to wear my finished object right away and not wash it gently, stretch it gently, pin hundreds of pins to it, and let it dry overnight. Too much work and what for?

Well, if there’s one thing I regret then certainly not learning, or rather understanding why you need to block your finished projects. In the picture below, you can see a little lace pattern before and after the blocking process. The difference should be so striking that I don’t think I need to say more.

a knitted lace swatch before and after blocking - a huge difference

Blocking brings your projects into shape, and it will fix minor tension imbalances so your overall knitting will look much neater. Plus, a lot of yarns actually contain spinning oils and a gentle wash will remove these. There’s literally no disadvantage I could think of – other than if you overstretch or iron your finished work – or put it in the washing machine.

Note: If it’s a tubular object, try to cushion the edges so you don’t end up with visible fold lines or use special sock blocking boards or a sweater blocking board.

#11 Hating to weave in ends

I can’t even begin to tell you how often I read the following sentence: “Yeah, I finished that sweater long ago, I only need to weave in ends. But I hate weaving in ends”. Are you one of them? Well…

First of all, I have a full tutorial on how to weave in ends here on my blog that will make the process much easier. But basically, it boils down to using sharp tapestry needles that glides through the wrong side like butter or using special techniques where you don’t need to weave in tails at all. Don’t ever wait weeks (or months) until you tidy things up and you can finally wear proudly what you produced.

How to weave in ends - step by step

But more to the point, you really need to get your act together. Weaving in ends is part of knitting. Just like doing the dishes and bringing the garbage out is part of cooking. Sure you might not enjoy it but that doesn’t mean you can avoid doing it.

Besides, a tapestry needle is still a needle. I mean nobody is asking you to learn how to work with a chain saw or fire a crossbow. It’s a needle and you go through stitches. The sooner you work on that mindset, the better. A tapestry needle is one of many kinds of needles you need to have and use in your knitting arsenal, it’s part of it. Just like crochet hooks, double-pointed needles, cable needles, and circular needles. and it’s not easier, harder or less fun to use. It’s using a needle to go through loops and yarn.

12. USing knitting patterns the wrong way

a simple viewfinder to keep track of knitting patterns
A simple DIY viewfinder made out of cardboard to keep track of knitting

First of all, one of the worst knitting mistakes is not keeping track of your progress. Cross out sections you already finished, put your pattern below a clear foil if you want to re-use it, or build yourself a simple visor/viewfinder out of cardboard so that, whenever you have to interrupt your knitting, you will know exactly how to continue when you come back.

And in that context, learn how to read your knitting. It’s such a vital skill that will make your whole knitting experience so much smoother. Besides, it will put you in the position to notice mistakes in the first place.

Also, always make sure to read a pattern all the way to the end. Make sure that you have all the materials, test new techniques on a little swatch, and of course, make sure that you don’t miss any options or alternatives. Nothing is worse than knitting a raglan sweater top-down only to notice at the hem that you should have inserted those breast darts to accommodate your wide bust.

And of course, always take notes of any alterations and yarn choices so you can easily replicate the results in the future in case you want to revisit a pattern.

13. Being afraid to unravel

Frogging a project can be so liberating if it was a work in progress that has been lying in your project bag for a year or more. You know it, I know it, you won’t finish it anymore and even if you wanted to, you probably wouldn’t even know how to continue anyway. Unraveling these unfished objects will remove a burden from you and free the yarn for future projects that will bring you joy instead.

And this also applies to the whole knitting process. Your first sock, your first sweater, your first glove, probably won’t fit perfectly. Nothing speak against keeping them if it’s just minor mistakes, but there is nothing wrong whatsoever with re-using the yarn either. Just make sure to wash it before to get rid of the crimp.

Unraveling sections has to be seen as part of the process. Even if you plan out a pattern perfectly, things can go wrong and that’s totally okay, and then you unravel it partially, use lifelines, and rework a section or the whole thing until you are satisfied and it brings you joy.

Just like you will reword an email before sending, change or add ingredients or spices to the recipe you tried out and so. Embrace it and use it as a tool!

14 not checking your work in progress or trying it on.

knitting a swatch to check if it is double knitting yarn and a tape next to it to determine the gauge
Checking a work in progress to see if it’s wide enough

I already talked about taking breaks. But it’s equally as important to check your work in progress frequently. Every couple of rows, you should take a minute or two and check what you have knitted. A mistake is so much easier to fix if it’s only 1 or 2 rows below instead of 20.

And in a similar vein, do remember to try on your work in progress frequently. Put your stitches on a piece of scrap yarn if you are not working with circular needles, compare the parts of a sweater with something you knitted before or is part of your wardrobe. You can even use pins and stitch the pieces together temporarily. Never ever should you wait all the way to the end before you try something on.

15. Not taking care of your projects and yarn the right way

care instruction symbols on a yarn label
A yarn label with the care instructions

Always, keep the washing instructions. In fact, if you are knitting socks, you can use the label to store them. There’s nothing worse than ruining a handknitted garment in the washing machine (and in that context, learn how to read yarn labels). If it’s a gift, definitely pass these along. Some yarn companies even offer small little labels you can sew into the finished work with washing instructions.

Then, don’t put your handknitted sweaters on hangers, where they will stretch out.

And when it comes to yarn, put it in air-tight boxes (I buy these here on Amazon). This will not only keep moths away. It is also safe from pets, children, or an unsuspecting partner. And keep these yarn boxes out of the sun. Quite a lot of dyes will lose their vibrance when they are exposed to direct sunlight for a prolonged time – especially (but not exclusively) plant-based dyes.

And the same applies to your work in progress. Invest in a project bag. There are cheap ones available on Amazon for as little as 5 USD. If you leave your work in progress lying around on the couch, this is not only potentially dangerous – knitting needles can hurt a lot if you sit on them – it will also increase the chance for someone or something to mess things up for you (check out this list of essential knitting tools).

Reading tip: How to store yarn the right way

16. Picking the wrong knitting stitch pattern (curling)

a swatch in stockinette stitch curling at the edges and at the bottom
A swatch in stockinette stitch curling on the edges

One of the probably biggest beginner mistakes is picking the wrong knitting stitch pattern for a project. A lot of knitters start a scarf in stockinette stitch, only to notice that it curls in on the sides. And then they frantically google how to fix it.

While I have a full tutorial on how to keep knitting from curling on the edges, often the easiest solution is picking a different pattern. So, before you start a project, make sure you know what kind of fabric the pattern produces. Sometimes you need something stretchy (like for a hem of a sock or a hat), sometimes you need something structured (like a dishcloth in moss stitch), etc.

How to fix a mistake in knitting

fixing a dropped stitch with a crochet hook in knitting

The easiest way to fix a mistake in knitting is using a crochet hook. It works for a dropped stitch, but you can also intentionally unravel a stitch to fix it. For example, you can turn a purl stitch, into a knit stitch like this

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Instructions

  1. Insert your crochet hook into the dropped stitch. Your work should be facing you on the right side. Make sure you didn't accidentally twist the stitch. The loose strands should all be in the back of the dropped stitch.

    step 1 insert crochet hook into stitch from front to start fixing the dropped stitch
  2. Find the strand that connects the stitches in the row above. Be careful, sometimes the strands twist around a bit. You need to catch the lowest one.

    pulling the first strand through with the crochet hook
  3. Grab the strand with your crochet hook and pull the yarn through. This should create another loop around your crochet hook, aka a knit stitch.

    pulling the strand in the back through the dropped stitch using a crochet hook
  4. Repeat these steps until you used up all strands and you are back to your current row.

    fixing the dropped stitch several rows below with a crochet hook
  5. Slip the stitch back to your left needle. Make sure you don't accidentally twist it as you do.
    slipping the fixed stitch back to the needle knitwise so it doesn't end up twisted

Notes

If you don't have a crochet hook, you can also use a spare knitting needle. If you use your index finger to push the strand through, things should be okay. It will be much faster with a hook. Also, if you use a knitting needle, you have to re-insert your knitting needle through the front after each stitch. Otherwise, you will twist your stitches.

fixing a dropped stitch without a crochet hook using the index finger as a surface

Anyway, this was my list of knitting mistakes and how to prevent them. Comment below if you have a question or would like to add something.

15 common knitting mistakes and how to fix them

7 thoughts on “15 Common knitting mistakes”

  1. Hi Norman,
    I recently discovered your site and became a subscriber. I am an 86 year old retired lawyer from Canada, and have been a knitter ever since my grandmother started teaching me when I was just a young girl. I must say how much I am enjoying your tutorials, and still find new tips for improvement even after all these years. I love your writing style and sense of humour!! You should go on tour.

    I enjoy doing complicated stitch patterns and colourwork. My current project [https://www.berroco.com/patterns/fleurine] is my first real intarsia project. I started one years ago, but ended up ‘frogging” it (lol, love that term – hadn’t heard it before). I have read and reread your intarsia articles. Thank you for so much advice!!

    I have started working the front of the top rather than the back, because I can’t wait to see how the intarisia part works out. Only problem I am having is tangled wool. But I know my problem is that my bobbins are too large and too full, thus are heavy and keep unwinding. I have new smaller ones on order!

    Just wanted to say hi from Canada. My husband’s grandparents came from Germany, from Berlin. When they immigrated to Canada, they settled in Berlin, Ontario, which is now known as Kitchener, Ontario. I still have some of his grandmother’s wonderful Christmas recipes!!

    Stay safe, and keep those great newsletters coming.

    Betty

    Reply
    • Thx for sharing your lovely story with me Betty. And so happy to hear my tutorials help even such a seasoned knitter like you!

      Reply
  2. This is a great and helpful article. Thank you. May I make an observation about twisted purl stitches :
    Certainly wrapping yarn clockwise mounts the stitch with leading leg at the back and non-leading leg at the front of the needle, but it also makes a better purl stitch when doing rib because the transition between knit and purl stitches uses more yarn when wrapped anti-clockwise and the resulting fabric can be a bit sloppy. I therefore find it helpful to explain stitch mount, leading leg and non-leading leg to new knitters. Once this is understood it is easy for knitters to know that twisted stitches are made by knitting into the non-leading leg, and untwisted stitches are worked into the leading leg – no matter how they are mounted on the needle and whether knit or purl stitches.

    Reply
  3. I am not suggesting using twisted stitches in ribbing at all, but rather suggesting that for the purl stitch following a knit stitch that the yarn be wrapped clockwise, then on the following row that stitch be worked into the back of the stitch (ie the leading leg) to avoid it being twisted in the fabric.

    Reply
    • Well, Lyana, then kindly say that straight away the next time so others can follow your thought process. You just said to knit the first stitch twisted and skipped the second half.
      And while that may have been apparent to you, it will not be so for the ones reading your suggestions.

      Reply

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