The Purl Stitch

If you’ve already learned to Cast On and make The Knit Stitch, the next step is to learn the Purl stitch. Knits and Purls are the foundation of knitting and no project can be completed without them. As you work with both, you’ll notice that knits look like purls on the back and purls look like knits on the back. This uniformity allows the knitter to create solid sections of knits or purls as needed. Typically, the knit side is the “right” side or the side that faces outward when the project is finished. But sometimes, as with the green blanket featured at the top of my blog, the purl side is the right side with the image standing out in knits to present a finished face. Either way, you need to know how to do both stitches to do anything.

Hold the yarn to the front of the work. Insert your right-hand needle into the stitch from the right side of the stitch.

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Right-hand needle entering right side of stitch

This time, unlike with the knit stitch, the right-hand needle will remain in front of the left-hand needle.

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Yarn over right-hand needle

Yarn over and push the loop back through the stitch.

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Loop is pushed back through stitch

Slip the stitch off the left-hand needle.

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Slip stitch off left-hand needle

Rinse and repeat.

Continue purling in this manner across the row.

When you work one row of knits and work the next row as purls, you will create a block of material with all knits on the front and purls on the back. This is called a stockinette stitch, and it is a common stitch in knitting. Some patterns may have sections of cable with sections of stockinette in between, so instead of detailing how many stitches to do it may simply say continue in stockinette stitch for those sections. Sometimes it’s abbreviated to St st. I plan to also post a glossary of common knitting abbreviations and what they mean, so check back if you’re having trouble deciphering a pattern.

That’s about it for the foundations of knitting. Practice casting on, knitting and purling until you get the hang of it. You can make practice blocks in stockinette stitch, or switch up the stitches you’re working with to create different textures. Check back for guides on simple beginner projects like a ribbed scarf and simple mittens. These types of projects are great for practicing your stitches and creating lasting items that are lovely to have around for the cold winter months.

Follow my blog for more knitting tutorials and the scoop on my latest projects.

Happy stitching!

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The Knit Stitch

If you’re new to knitting, or even just looking for a refresher because it’s been a while, you’ve come to the right place. Every project is built one stitch at a time, and the knit stitch is essential to any knitting project. But first things first, you have to cast on. If you don’t know how to do this, please see my other tutorial post, Cast On, and then come back here to learn the knit stitch. If you’ve already got your beginning stitches cast onto your needle, this is a great place to start. So without further ado, let’s knit!

First, let me note that typically the first stitch is slipped and not knitted when working back and forth in rows. Sometimes this stitch can stretch out and look sloppy, but a simple fix to that is to simply tighten the stitch as you continue to knit. You’ll know what I’m talking about later as you get into it. For now, just move that first stitch over to the right-hand needle and then knit the second stitch.

Hold the yarn to the back of the work. Insert your needle into the stitch from the left side of the stitch, moving the needle front to back.

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Right-hand needle going into the left side of the stitch

It will look a little funny at first, but trust me, this is correct. Your right-hand needle should move behind the left-hand needle and the stitch should look sort of twisted.

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Right-hand needle is behind the left-hand needle

Now you wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle to be pulled through the stitch on the left-hand needle. This is called yarn over.

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Yarn over the right-hand needle

Now pull that loop up through the stitch, bringing the right-hand needle back to the front of the work.

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Loop pulled through stitch onto right-hand needle.

Slip the stitch off the left-hand needle. The new stitch on the right-hand needle is holding it now.

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Slip stitch off left-hand needle

Rinse and repeat.

And that’s basically it! Keep knitting in this fashion across the row. If you make a mistake, such as  entering the stitch from the wrong direction, it will twist your stitch the other way. See my post Dagnabbit for instructions on how to take out stitches.

Always remember that practice makes perfect, so keep at it. Your first few shots at knitting are likely to result in uneven stitches or stitches that are too tight or too loose. This is all part of the learning curve, and eventually you’ll get your stitches to the right tension to easily work with. Don’t sweat it, just keep practicing your stitches to get them nice and even.

Next up is your other essential stitch, The Purl Stitch.

Follow my blog for more knitting tutorials and the scoop on my latest projects.

Happy stitching!

Dubline Cardigan

My grandmother recently commissioned me to make a sweater for my mother. My mother has been getting nostalgic lately and mentioned a sweater gram had made for her when she was a little girl and how she loved that sweater. So gram decided to dig out the pattern for the sweater to see if I could convert it for an adult size and surprise my mother with it.

Unfortunately, the pattern was in sort of a poncho style that we all agreed would look pretty terrible on an adult. I’m also not great at converting patterns and I didn’t want to push my luck.

So, we decided to pick out a different pattern.52022220 I recently purchased the knitting pattern book Celtic Journey from Knit Picks and it has a ton of beautiful sweater patterns in it. We settled on the Dubline Cardigan for this project because it seemed cozy and has a cute hood. But boy was the pattern complicated!

Let me begin by saying I’ve only attempted one sweater before, and I still haven’t finished it. This was my first time actually completing a sweater, and while it was frustrating (see my post titled Dagnabbit) I was able to complete it successfully. I’m upset at myself that there are a couple of little mistakes in the bottom of the sweater that I didn’t notice until I was done, but I did not want to take apart the whole thing. Thankfully, they’re the small sort of mistake that nobody but myself will notice.

The pattern calls for using Knit Picks Swish Worsted yarn, which I truly would have loved to try but you have to order it. Swish is 100% Superwash Merino Wool, and I’ve been dying to work with a washable wool for some time now. But we were too excited to get the pattern underway, and the selection of wool yarns available locally just wasn’t cutting it. So we settled on a worsted acrylic yarn by Lion Brand.

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We wanted to do a lighter color than the one shown in the picture, but we also didn’t want a variegated yarn because we felt it would detract from the intricate cable patterns.

The Lion Brand Heartland acrylic in the color Grand Canyon had just the right amount of variation so it wasn’t entirely a solid color, but the variation was subtle enough so as not to detract from the cables. It’s also a very soft yarn and was just wonderful to work with. The fact that it’s machine wash and dry makes the garment easy to care for, too.

For this pattern, you first work your sleeves to the desired length. I subtracted a few inches from the sleeve length because my mom is less than 5′ tall and has short limbs. One of her biggest issues buying clothes is that the petite section is still a bit long on her, especially sweater sleeves. For some reason, petite size sweaters never seem to have shorter sleeves. Once you work the sleeves you’ll slip the live stitches onto a stitch holder to be worked in later.

The body of the sweater is worked as one piece, so you will need to keep track of two different knitting charts as you go. Each front panel is a different chart, as the cables are going in the opposite direction. It was a bit tough to get the hang of at first since I don’t do a lot of chart knitting, but I found that once I’d gotten a system down I enjoy chart knitting more than written instructions knitting. Once you learn what your symbols mean, you can easily tell where you are at a glance, and the chart is built to look like what the cables look like when you do them.

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This is my mistake, don’t do this. Decrease into the cables, not next to them.

 

For my first crack at this, I decided to forego using stitch markers and try to keep track mentally. Don’t do this. Use the stitch markers. It’s much easier to think of the garment as different sections when you use them. I don’t own stitch markers, so I just tied off little segments of scrap yarn and slipped those over my needles. You’ll find that as you improvise different solutions in knitting, you don’t really need all the fancy supplies that are available out there. As long as you have your regular straight or circular needles and a few sizes of double-points, you can make do.

One of my bigger mistakes while working this pattern (pictured above) was not following the directions verbatim. It never specified that when you decrease around the sleeve that you’ll be decreasing directly into some of your beautiful cables. I felt like that couldn’t be right so I decreased alongside my cables only to realize later that not all of the cables continue to go up over the hood. Hence the inspiration for Dagnabbit. If you make the same mistake, you’ll realize that you’re making your sleeve opening too small to fit an arm through and you’ll have to go back. Don’t make assumptions when working this pattern, just do exactly what it says.

Another mistake I ran into concerning the sleeves with this pattern was the sleeve placement. While working this pattern it has you set up your different sections with stitch markers (front left, front right and back). It tells you to bind off a certain number of stitches before and after the marker (removing the marker as you go). I did this, I did not count my remaining stitches, and I continued to merrily decrease away around my sleeves only to realize rows later that I had a different number of stitches for both of my front panels. I figured out how I did this so you don’t have to make the same mistake.

When binding off stitches, typically you knit two stitches and then pass the first knitted stitch over the last knitted stitch and off the needle. Knit one more and pass the last stitch over. Rinse and repeat. But when you’re doing this in the middle of a knitted row to make a hole, you need to make sure you’re not binding off stitches you’re going to continue to work with. What I did is I worked to the number of stitches in front of the marker, then instead of knitting two stitches to begin binding off, I knitted just one and passed one of the stitches from the front panel over it. I did this at both markers, which shifted each sleeve opening backward by one stitch, causing each front panel to have a different number of stitches.

Had I bothered to pause and count the number of stitches for each of my three sections, I would have caught the mistake right away. And perhaps if I’d left it nobody would notice the mistake too badly. But I’m a perfectionist and I just couldn’t leave it. I had to go back and take the sleeves off entirely, put them back on their stitch holders, and fix the openings. Very, very frustrating.

Thankfully, those were the only two glaring mistakes I had to go back and correct. Occasionally I got a cable going the wrong way, but that happens just about any time you’re cable knitting. I finally completed the project and was about to sew up the hood.

Now the hood I did a little differently than it called for in the pattern. The pattern will have you decrease some stitches and then increase again to create a little more support and keep the garment on your shoulders. Once you’re done increasing, the hood is worked straight up until it reaches a specific length and you either bind it off and sew it or you can graft it. But I noticed that in the pictures there was a point on the back of the hood that I didn’t care for. So I decided that when I got to my top few rows I’d decrease some stitches in the back to reduce the point a bit.

The hood still has a little bit of a point, but it’s much less than the original in the pattern. I only decreased a total of 4 stitches over 2 rows to get this effect. For a more rounded hood, decrease more stitches over more rows.

The pattern allows for the option of binding off and sewing or grafting the hood, as I mentioned earlier. But I felt that binding off and sewing would detract from the lovely band of cables that continues to go up over the hood and it would create an odd seam. So I opted to graft the hood top. Grafting essentially creates another row of knits or purls (or both) that finishes off two rows of live stitches. I will post a grafting tutorial at a future date. I grafted this hood from the point to the front.

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As you can see, the cables are going in opposite directions and the middle where the grafted stitches are is not cabled. If the cables were going in the same direction, I would have attempted to continue the cabling seamlessly over the top of the hood. As it stands, though, the cables go in opposite directions so there really wasn’t a way to continue the cables. For this pattern, it is more important for the cables to go in opposite directions so the two front panels have symmetry than for the top of the hood to be flawless. I also think it’s important to try to graft the stitches so that the hood lies flat and does not have a seam. If you’ve never tried grafting before, give it a shot, it really does finish this project in a way a seam can’t.

Once all that is done you have only to sew up your sleeves and you’re done!

Honestly, had I not made so many errors in the sleeves to start with, this would have taken half the time it wound up taking. But now I know, so any future sweaters should come along much easier. So without further ado, here’s my finished product!

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Follow my blog for the scoop on my future projects and knitting tutorials!

Happy stitching!

Cast On

When learning a new craft, it’s easy to want to rush through the basic steps and dive right into that first major project. You think to yourself I see so many people do this it can’t be that difficult, can it? Then you hang yourself up on simple details, get frustrated, and throw your tangled ball of yarn and needles in the corner and forget about it for a month.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlways get the hang of the basics before diving in. Practice makes perfect. Beethoven didn’t start right out with creating Fur Elise, he had to learn the basics of music first. And the first step to any knitting project is casting on your stitches. Well, what in the world does that even mean? Casting on means getting all your beginning stitches onto the needle, and there are actually a few methods of doing so. Try them all and see which one works best for you.

The Easy WayI know what you’re thinking. Oh, this is the easy way, so why should I read any of the other ways, I’ll just always use this one! Well in the words of Admiral Ackbar: it’s a trap! Don’t fall into it. This method is one I reserve only for times I need to add more stitches in the middle of a project, such as mittens. (I’ll post a mitten tutorial at a future date). While the method is definitely easy, it can create uneven stitches and be difficult to get started with if you base your entire project off of it. Still, it is a necessary method to know when doing certain projects, so here it is:

Make a slip knot and place it on your needle – this is how every casting on method begins.

Take the longer strand of yarn (the tail gets ignored) and twist it into a loop.

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Place the new loop on the needle and pull tight. Try to resist the temptation to pull it too tight as that will cause your stitches to be very difficult to work with.

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Repeat until you have enough stitches on your needle.

Easy, right? Why wouldn’t you just do that all the time? Well, I’ve found that when you begin a project using this method, the stitches stretch out when you insert your needle into them trying to do your first row and it takes longer and makes you frustrated. That’s why I reserve this method for times when I need to add stitches in the middle of the project.

 

The two-needle wayI must make a confession, here. I’ve never actually used this method. In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I cracked open the “learn to knit” instructions page on one of my pattern books. I’ve always used the way my grandmother taught me, so this is a weird and wild thing for me to discover. Unlike the easy way and the way my grandma taught me, this cast on method goes onto the left-hand needle instead of the right and you make use of both needles. Here’s the play-by-play:

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Make a slip knot and place it on your needle (this time to the left!).

Insert the right-hand needle into the left side of the stitch going front to back and wrap the yarn over the right-hand needle.

*Going from the left side of the stitch with the needle is referred to as “as if to knit”

**Wrapping the yarn around the needle is referred to as “yarn over”

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Pull up a loop through stitch and place the new loop on the left-hand needle.

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Insert right-hand needle between the last two stitches.

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Yarn over and pull up a loop.

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Place the new loop on the left-hand needle.

Repeat the process of pulling loops up between the stitches and placing them on the left-hand needle until you have the desired number of stitches.

Easy enough, but I’m not sure how easy they are to work with once you get them all on the needle. I only cast on a few stitches for the purpose of this tutorial, and I didn’t much care for the way they seemed cramped on the needle. But if you try this out and work your first row and love it, then by all means keep doing it.

 

The way my grandma taught meThis is my tried-and-true method for casting on stitches, as I mentioned earlier. This method is a bit different in that you will be carrying the tail throughout the process, so you have to start with a looooooong tail. The length of the beginning tail will be determined by how many stitches you need and what size needle you’re using.

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Make a slip knot and place it on your needle. Make sure you have a nice loooooooong tail.

Hold the needle in your right hand, and wrap the yarn over your left hand like so:

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Make sure the tail is over your thumb and the longer strand (coming from  your ball) is over your index finger. Spread your thumb and forefinger apart, and trap the yarn ends in your other fingers.

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It looks and feels funny at first, but I promise when you get the hang of it, it’s quite fun. It looks a little like cat’s cradle when you have the proper grasp on the yarn.

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Take the needle and move it up under the front yarn coming off your thumb (this is your tail).

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Keeping the tail over the needle, move the needle back and over the front of the yarn on your index finger. Be sure to steer clear of the back strand of yarn coming off the index finger.

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Grab that section of yarn you just went over and pull it toward you through the gap.

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Now you essentially have a loop wrapped around your thumb, you want that loop on your needle. Remove your thumb from the loop and press down on the tail under the loop with your thumb.

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As you press down with your thumb, the tail will slip back around your thumb as it was in the original starting position. This is a good thing.

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Pull tight (but not too tight!)

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Tilt your left hand back again so it looks like the starting position. Repeat these steps until you have enough starting stitches on your needle.

Now I know that that was a lot of detailed pictures and it feels really complicated. But seriously, give it a try. A good try. Once you get the hang of it, your needle will be flying under and over your strands of yarn and your left thumb will be smoothly circling in and out of the loops, pressing down to tighten and returning to the original position as if on its own. I’ve done this so often that I can cast on without even looking or thinking about it, merrily counting the stitches as I binge on Netflix. I pause now and again to double-check my count. I find this method to be super fun and it really does feel like you’re doing cat’s cradle.

I know some of you may wonder how do I know how long to make my tail?! And the answer is trial and error. Especially when casting on for a large blanket, it’s tough to say what length to start with and there really isn’t a set formula. I usually wind up with a super-long tail even when I’m done casting on all my stitches, and when this happens I just trim it to a reasonable length. Sometimes you’ll run out before you’re done casting on and have to start over again, moving your slip knot further up the yarn. It can be frustrating but stick with it because it really is a great foundation for your project because it keeps those beginning stitches from stretching out. And no, you won’t run out of yarn by using this method. I typically wind up with a good bit of leftovers once my project is done and I always use this method.

 

And that’s it! You’ve just learned three methods of casting on your stitches to start your project! Now you can graduate to learning your knit and purl stitches. I promise it’s not that hard. Try starting some sample squares using each of these cast-on methods to see which one you like to work with the best. My preferences aside, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Basically, as long as you get the right number of stitches on your needle, you’re doing a good job.

Pat yourself on the back and grab another cup of coffee, you’re well on your way to becoming another knit-tastic individual.

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Happy Stitching!

Charting Woes

 

I said in an earlier post that I would attempt to create a knitting chart forOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the leg warmers I designed. Attempt being the operative word, there. So far I’ve had trouble finding decent free or at least inexpensive software to use for this task, and the options are limited.

Chart Minder is a free web app you sign up with an email address and password and can easily create knitting charts. Your charts are stored online so you can access them from any computer. While the web app is pretty straight-forward, I find it lacking in options.

I like my cable charts to indicate at a glance how many stitches need to be placed onto the cable needle and how many total stitches you will be cabling. This is typically done by stretching the symbol across the appropriate number of stitches. Unfortunately, Chart Minder does not have this function. It simply has the left and right portions for the cables, and it is up to the user to determine how many stitches are cabled.

Another issue I find with this web app is a lack of a key or legend. You have your stitch palette you pick your stitches from which is viewable on your own patterns. But when browsing through other public patterns others have created, there’s no telling what they want you to do. It simply assumes that all the symbols are universal and does not allow for any variations.

Yet another issue (and this may seem small) is that you cannot select a section of stitches and make them all one stitch at once. For example, to add purl stitches I had to click each individual box as a purl. It’s almost as tedious as doing the actual knitting but not nearly as fun.

Stitch Fiddle is similar to Chart Minder in that it is a web app you sign up for via email address and password. This one has the added benefits of incorporating a legend so you can actually read someone else’s published pattern and is also able to select a group of stitches to make it all the same stitch at one click. But other than those two benefits, it has all the other shortcomings as Chart Minder.

Knitting Chartmaker on ticksyknitter seems to also be a web app, but one I didn’t bother to sign up with. It appears it is geared toward colored stockinette charts and that’s about all I could find browsing the published charts.

Stitch Mastery is a downloadable software for PC, Mac or Linux. I downloaded the demo version and I have to say it is pretty much what I was looking for. It offers symbols that actually cover the total number of stitches you’re cabling with, visual design features, auto-detect of repeat sections, conversion to written instructions plus much more. It can be found here.

However, the full version must be activated by purchasing the activation key for £60 (about $86.67 by current conversion rates). The demo version only allows a chart of 12 by 12 stitches, which was enough to fool around with and know I like it but not nearly enough to really get creating with it. And I just don’t want to spend that much on good software. In today’s technological age where nearly any app or program can be found in a free version, I’ve gotten quite spoiled. Since I don’t often create patterns, I can’t justify the cost.

EnvisioKnit is similar to Stitch Mastery in that it is a complete downloadable program to design knitting patterns. It seems to have a comprehensive inventory of knitting stitches as well as a draw design function and does pretty much the same things as Stitch Mastery. I didn’t bother to download the demo, though, as the full version is $99. If you’re interested, it can be found here.

Intwined is yet another downloadable software, although a bit more affordable. At $44 it seems like a nice compromise between the free web apps and the expensive downloads. It has the cool feature of being able to add stitches to the stitch library but doesn’t seem to be as aesthetically pleasing. It still exports the charts and written instructions, but I wasn’t able to get hands-on with it as it doesn’t seem to have a demo. If interested, info can be found here.

KnitBird looks lovely and seems to offer most of the same standard features as other downloads. Export charts as images, insert text, upload images to convert to a chart, draw stitches etc.. But at €59 ($67.12 at current conversion rates) it’s on the pricier end of stitch design software. It also has complicated install instructions that most users would find daunting. I am tech savvy enough to pull it off, but I am also notoriously lazy. If interested, it can be found here.

There are, of course, many other free web apps and paid downloads to fool around with. I simply do not have the time or energy to try them all (again, notoriously lazy). I’ve also seen a few blogs about using Microsoft Excel to create patterns, but I dislike the necessity of downloading knitting fonts. I would much prefer a downloadable software specifically designed to create knitting patterns for around $20. I do this so infrequently I can’t really justify spending too much, and I’m already pretty good at creating written instructions so a program that will do it for me automatically is not necessary. Why pay for more bells and whistles than you’ll actually use?

I hope this has been informative if not particularly useful since I still haven’t settled on a program. I need to mull this information over a bit more before deciding, and will update accordingly. Follow my blog for all things knitting and updates on current projects!

Happy Stitching!

Dagnabbit!

No matter how experienced you are at your craft, odds are there will come a day where you make mistakes. Big or small, experienced or not, glaringly obvious or maybe nobody will see it, mistakes are a frustrating part of the crafter’s life. I have made a few such blunders in my current project, and am now in my second time undoing the glaringly obvious mistakes and having to do it all again.

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Above, you can see that I’ve been decreasing my stitches directly beside the cable. This is forming a sleeve on a sweater. Turns out, I should have been decreasing right into the cables, because the cables themselves do not continue to move upward beyond the sleeve.

$^%!^&$@#^&@$&^U^!T*

Needless to say, that’s a lot of rows to have to take out.

So, I decided to take the opportunity to take detailed shots of how to unknit what has already been knit. It’s tedious, takes just as long as it does to knit, and is super frustrating. This is why I hate to make mistakes at all. But learning how to unknit is still much easier than tearing the entire project out and starting over again.

Unknit the knit!

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Insert the left-hand needle front to back through the knit stitch.

Make sure that when you do this step, you are inserting your needle into the stitch your loop is coming through (the next row down), not directly into the loop.

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Transfer the stitch onto the left-hand needle, and slide the loop off the right-hand needle.

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Now your stitch has been unknit.

Rinse and repeat. Over and over again until you get back to the spot where you first goofed.

Unpurl the purl!

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Insert your left-hand needle into the purl stitch front to back.

It helps if you hold your yarn up tightly to open up the purl. You’re going to want to attack the purl from the side but resist the urge. Doing so will twist the stitch and you’ll have to untwist all the stitches that get twisted. Go front to back.

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Transfer the stitch onto the left-hand needle and slip the loop off the right-hand needle.

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Now your stitch has been unpurled.

Rinse and repeat. Over and over.

Like I said, it’s tedious business. It takes a little while to get the hang of undoing the stitches that have been done, just like it takes a while to get the hang of making the stitches in the first place. But it’s still a heck of a lot easier than starting from the beginning again. Remember to have patience and resist the temptation to tear the needles out entirely. Keep your yarn from getting tangled, and take a deep breath. Your project is going to look just fine once you get it finished.