9 Common Knitting Mistakes Beginners Make (And How To Fix Them)

Like anyone who is just beginning a new hobby for the first time, knitters want their project to look like it just stepped out of a designer knitting book. They want everything to go right from selecting yarn to binding off that final stitch, but it doesn’t always work quite that way. They often end up wondering how to fix common knitting mistakes.

Here is how to fix these mistakes!

  1. Knitting without Stitch or Place Markers

This is just like with crocheting, stitch markers are a godsend! These may seem like a hassle; big and dangly ones get in your way. Small ones may not slide easily on large needles. They all take time to put on the needles and add an extra step to move them while knitting stitches. Then why use them? They form a reminder while you knit.

From an easy stitch to complicated lace, stitch markers remind a knitter that something different needs to happen. When switching to a different yarn, a new stitch, or a pattern repeat, a marker says, “Hey, pay attention here.”

When first learning to knit, beginning knitters get lost in the techniques, the stitches, the feel of the yarn, and so on. Using a marker brings a beginning knitter back to reality, back to looking at the pattern to see what comes next, even just back to putting those last few stitches on to create a clean border.

The first most common mistake with someone who is just learning fiber art, whether it be knitting, crocheting, or so on, is typically either losing a stitch or gaining one. That’s why stitch markers are so awesome for beginners since it makes it easier to keep track of where you are putting your last stitch!

How to Fix It

If the pattern doesn’t call for placing markers, there is no reason why you shouldn’t work without them. Try putting markers at the beginning or end of pattern repeats, right after or right before a border edge, at a join when knitting in the round, or at a color change. All good options and up to you to choose which ones work best for you.

If you forget to add a marker while knitting a row, you can add a marker by using a marker pin. Which opens to move over the needle. Another option requires running a small piece of thread between the stitches over the needle. Make a knot in the loop. On the next row slip the thread as you would with a metal or plastic marker or replace with one of those.

For a project with a lot of rows, stitch markers work equally well for counting rows. Use a piece of contrasting cotton yarn or a yarn that won’t leave bits and pieces of fiber behind when removed. Take a small piece, tie a knot and slip it over your needle before the end of a row. Knit a set number of rows, such as 5 or 10, and add another marker. Snip out when ready to block your finished work.

If you forget to add one of these little markers, thread a needle with cotton yarn and gently run it through a stitch. Make a knot in the thread and you have another marker. Markers that open and close make another good choice for counting rows. These can be added while knitting the row or later.

2. Choosing the Wrong Cast-On

On the surface, every cast-on does the same thing by forming loops on a needle that get worked off by pulling yarn through them with a second needle. But a common knitting mistake made by many beginners can be to choose the wrong cast-on for a project or to change the cast-on suggested by the pattern designer.

Each type of cast-on has a purpose beyond forming those initial loops. A cast-on sets the stage for the garment. For example, with whatever it is you’re making, whether it be a sweater or even socks, the wrong cast-on can make the fabric tough and make it a fight to get the garment over your head or foot. It can also cause the garment to fall around you wrongly.

Cast-ons either give the edge of your project both stretch and elasticity or just enough stretch for wearing while supporting the remaining stitches in the garment. When you use a stretchy cast-on, such as a knitted cast-on, the edge of your project will move easily. However, if you use this type of cast-on for something like the neck of a dress that you want to lie flat, it may not support the stitches in the bodice, causing it to gap open rather than lie flat against your skin.

How to Fix It

If a pattern doesn’t state which cast-on to use, many experienced knitters use the long tail cast-on as their preferred cast-on method. Moderately stretchy with a hint of structure, the long tail cast-on works for most projects.

If the cast-on looks too tight, ripping out and starting over with a different one may be your best option! If the designer chose a specific cast-on, but your cast-on edge has too much elasticity, try casting-on with a smaller sized needle. Then move to the needle called for in the pattern to start the first row. Rather, if the cast-on has too much structure, cast-on with a larger sized needle, then move to the right size for the first row.

If the project has too much elasticity at the cast-on edge, use advanced finishing techniques to add definition to the edge.

3. Binding Off Too Tightly

The tension used when binding off helps give shape to your project. When you bind off stitches too tightly, several things happen.

  • It makes blocking your project to the right dimensions more difficult, if not impossible, because a tight bind off squeezes your stitches towards the center of the work.
  • Your cast-on for a toe-up sock may be perfect, but if you bind off too tightly for the leg opening, good luck getting that sock over your ankle. The same thing happens for neck or wrist openings.
  • It makes a rigid straight edge that doesn’t feel or look good, which most often contrasts with the softness of the remainder of the project.

How to Fix It

If you typically knit with a tighter tension, move your stitches to a needle one to two sizes larger than used for the project. Bind off with the larger sized needles.

If you normally keep tension by wrapping the working yarn around your fingers while knitting, drop it for the bind off. Instead, loosely drape the working yarn over one finger or between two fingers for picking up in the stitch. Let the yarn glide over or between your fingers to avoid the extra tension.

If you knit in the American or British style, hold the yarn between your fingers and wrap it loosely around the needle to make the bind off stitch without pulling it as tight as you would for a typical knit or purl stitch.

Most importantly, check the tension after the last bind off stitch and before you cut the yarn. If it looks too tight, carefully unpick the stitches, placing the stitches back on a needle and redo the bind off.

4. Selecting the Wrong Yarn for a Project

Whether knitting from your own design or from a pattern created by someone else, selecting the right yarn for the project helps assure the garment turns out beautiful.

Sometimes you’ll want to see if one type of yarn knits the same way as a different type or style of yarn. And that’s a great thing to do because experimentation when knitting, or any type of fiber art for that matter, makes for fun times! However, using the right yarn does have a purpose and knowing how different yarns drape, shed, knit-up, pill, and so on makes a difference. Additionally, yarn weight and color also play a role in yarn selection.

When a sweater pattern calls for a DK weight wool and you’ve chosen a fingering weight alpaca, not only will the gauge be off, but the sleeves and sweater will pool at your wrists and waist respectively because alpaca’s soft fibers drape more than wool. Maybe you want that look, but if not, why waste the effort?

Changing the fiber completely also affects the garment. Most animal fibers have a halo, with mohair and angora types showing the most halo. Halo here means “the amount of fiber of fluff you can see in a yarn ball”. These fuzzy tendrils of fiber add extra warmth to a knitted garment. When choosing them for a lace project, the halo hides much of the pattern.

Garments that need to stretch, such as gloves and socks won’t have as much stretch if knitted with fibers such as silk or bamboo. When using dark colored yarns, stitches become muted or lost, especially when knitting lace or any pattern with twisted stitches.

How to Fix It

When choosing yarn not called for in a pattern, look at the yarn label. Review the yarn weight and the manufacturer’s suggested needle size. If it matches the pattern’s yarn weight and needle size, and if the yarn is the same or similar fiber, then the yarn should work in the project.

When knitting lace and you want to use fiber that creates a halo, choose a pattern with more open work. The stitches will be more defined with a gentle misty glow from the halo rather than getting lost in all that fuzz.

Additionally, when knitting lace, choose lighter colored yarns if you want the lace design to be a prominent feature. When using dark colored yarns, the negative space of the open holes becomes the prominent feature. Choose which style you want to see in the finished garment.

If you want to use silk yarn when the pattern calls for wool, you must rework the gauge and watch the stitch tension. Without wool’s elasticity, silk yarn knits-up with more structure and less bounce, which means a garment may have a tighter fit.

5. Starting a Project Without Swatching

The bane of many a knitter’s existence, a swatch does many things for knitters of any experience level. It shows if the yarn you’ve chosen works for the project. It shows if you are knitting to gauge, which indicates if you’ll have enough yarn to complete the project, and if you need to adjust for sizing. It also shows the pattern, which lets you know if you chose a great yarn color.

Other benefits of swatching include:

  • Finding out if the dyer set the dye appropriately (if they didn’t, the dye will run when you dampen the swatch for blocking.)
  • Finding out if the pattern and yarn block well
  • Finding out if you like the pattern to decide if you should continue with the project

How to Fix It

Make a swatch per the pattern instructions. If the pattern doesn’t include a swatch size, then choose one that’s four times as large as the gauge. For example, if the pattern calls for 4 stitches to 1 inch over 4 rows, then knit a swatch that has at least 16 stitches and 16 rows.

The extra stitches and rows give you more to block and will show you how the piece looks.

6. Knitting Without a Lifeline

This was definitely the mistake I came across the most during my research. It happens to all knitters, but more so for beginners – stitches get dropped, wrong stitches get made, and knitting pleasure turns into ripping out your work or tossing it aside in frustration.

You can rip out each row and start from the beginning, but having a lifeline will save you some much needed time and will help ease your frustrations.

How to Fix It

Although not always so important if working a garter or stockinette stitch, a lifeline gives you help when stitches or patterns are more intricate.

Thread a needle with cotton thread, or even dental floss, and run the needle and thread through the stitches on your needle. Have the thread be a few inches longer than the width of the knitted row. Work the stitches for the next row without catching the lifeline in the stitches. If you do catch a few stitches, don’t worry, as the lifeline pulls through the work when you give it a gentle tug.

Some circular and interchangeable needles come with a lifeline hole pre-drilled in the connectors or the cable. Insert the lifeline through the hole and start knitting. The stitches move back along the lifeline without the extra work of threading the lifeline through the stitches with a needle.

If you do need to rip out a few rows, you only have to rip back to the lifeline. Fewer rows ripped out means you can get back to knitting so it is usually best to use multiple lifelines during a project. It gives you the option of ripping back even more rows if needed.

7. Knitting Without Counting

Have you ever lost your place in a chart or a set of written instructions? Have you ever dropped stitches without realizing it?

I haven’t always counted my stitches, but the frustration of working a row and ending up with too many or not enough stitches becomes overwhelming. Whether I was crocheting (I haven’t tried knitting yet!) a simple blanket with an easy stitch or something more challenging, my attention tends to wander sometimes and I end up with problems. Now, I’m learning to not make this mistake.

How to Fix It

Everything about knitting can be overwhelming to a beginning knitter. There appears to be so many things to remember and learn. Although counting stitches as you work doesn’t appear to provide much help, and it does take a bit of extra time, it makes knitting so much easier! You’ll quickly know if you’ve dropped a stitch or knit the wrong stitch, such as a k2tog when a k2 was required, or accidentally added an extra yarn over.

To save time when counting, count in groups of 2 or 5 stitches. This simple technique works well.

If you have a lot of stitches to cast-on, use stitch markers at specific intervals, such as every 10 to 20 stitches. This handy tip keeps you from counting and recounting hundreds of cast-on loops. You can quickly count these fewer stitches before casting-on more to ensure you put enough stitches on your needle.

You can make counting stitches for intricate patterns easier by counting the number of stitches in each pattern row. When a pattern calls for increases or decreases that constantly change the number of stitches per row, count the number of stitches in the chart or written instructions for each row. Knowing exactly how many stitches in each row helps you know if you have increased or decreased accurately.

8. Starting a Project without Reading Through the Pattern

Beginning and experienced knitters love starting new projects. Itching to get our hands around a set of needles, we cast-on and start knitting the pattern as soon as we can. But reading a pattern from beginning to end remains one of the key differences between beginning and experienced knitters and is a common mistake that beginning knitters often make.

Why is reading a pattern important?

  • Each pattern designer writes differently.
  • Publishers want to make the most of space, and many place notes or special methods in many areas of a pattern, not just the beginning.
  • Innovative stitches require new symbols in a chart that you may not have knitted before.
  • Knowing if or when you need to change needles gives you a chance to be cautious for when it happens in the pattern.
  • When knitting colorwork, knowing if you carry the yarn across the work or up the side keeps your work tidy.
  • If the pattern calls for slipping the first stitch, but you decide to knit it instead, knowing ahead of time that you’ll pick up and knit that stitch later in the pattern will make a difference in the look of your finished piece.

How to Fix It

Read the pattern from beginning to end before you start. Make sure you understand how to knit it, how to do the stitches, and that you have all the materials you need.

9. Starting a Project Without Looking for Errors First

Check for errors. More often than not, good pattern designers provide corrections.

How to Find Errors:

  • Type the name of the pattern and the word errors into the search field on the Internet. This usually results in a quick return of any pattern corrections.
  • Publishers may have the error. Locate the publisher’s website, search for the pattern name with or without the word error.
  • Check out a pattern designer’s website, blog, or Facebook page where they may post any corrections.
  • Review forums on sites, such as Raverly. Sometimes individual knitters and designers will post corrections there.

I know this seems like a lot of information, but these are some of the most commonly seen frustrations I found while looking for something to include in this blog post. I hope this doesn’t discourage you from trying it out. Any form of fiber art can be SO fun and is completely worth it in the long run!

What other knitting mistakes would you add to this list?

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