Common Beginning Knitting Mistakes


It can be one of the most frustrating things, getting started on knitting only to find at some point that you've dropped a stitch, or accidentally cast on extra stitches. As a new knitter it can seem difficult if not insurmountable to try to fix these knitting mistakes. After all you're in your knitting infancy. Such mistakes can make quitting seem rather appealing, but part of becoming a great knitter is learning to perservere through the mistakes. Over time fixing mistakes will become easier, but it's still tough to have to spend the time having to fix them all the same.

It is hard to be a new knitter. Just when you think you've got the hang of knitting you end up with a dropped stitch, or way more stitches that you started with and suddenly you have to figure out a way to get your knitting project back on track. It can be frustrating to encounter problems in your knitting, especially as a new knitter. It's hard to work backwards and get to a point where you can even know where to look in fixing knitting problems. Check out these common mistakes that new knitters make and you'll be back to your knitting in no time.


Knitting too tightly

From the very beginning before you even have the time to make any mistakes one of the biggest challenges to new knitters is having a tight grip on your needles and stitches. It's true, when learning to knit, you're teaching your brain to have new muscle memories and your wrists do not know the best tension at which to grip the needles. Plus many knitters feel like they're less likely to lose a stitch if they hold on for dear life. However all this tight gripping is tough on the wrists. Once you get used to the knitting, after a row or three the knitting will even out and you would be grasping so hard at your needles. If you find that you are still gripping rather tightly take a deep breath and shake your hands at the wrists and give your arms a stretch before going back to your knitting. 

Dropping a stitch

Yes there is such a thing as dropping a stitch. If you happen to let a stitch fall off your needle it's called "dropping a stitch" because the unknitted stitch will unravel itself down to the cast on row, leaving behind a series of horizontal unknitted stitches. The good news is that this is something that is relatively easy to fix. If you're lucky enough you've just caught the dropped stitch within a row or two of dropping it can be easy enough to remedy. Here are a few good youtube videos that show you how to fix a dropped stitch. Before then be sure to get a small crochet hook ready, you're going to need it.

Check out these Youtube videos that show you how to fix a dropped stitch:

Accidentally creating too many stitches (or accidentally decreasing too many stitches)

When you're new to knitting it's very easy to drop stitches because you haven't mastered the rhythm of knitting. Even if you're paying close attention you're still getting used to the mechanics of knitting and it can be just as easy to create new stitches as it is to drop them. You might find when you've finished a few rows that your scarf has gone a little wobbly, by which it seems to get wider. Do yourself a favor, count your stitches. If you have more stitches than what you originally cast one then you've accidentally added some stitches.

If it's only one stitch it's easy enough to knit two stitches together and continue on your way, but if you're have added two or three it's probably best to tink back (that is undo your stitches one by one), or remove your needle and frog back a few rows and then reinsert your needle into the whole row of stitches to knit again, hopefully this time without adding more stitches. It can be a little scary to frog back your knitting, but with patience (and sometimes a smaller knitting needle than the one you were working with) you can easily remove the knitting needle, pull back the knitting, put the needle back and continue on.

Learn more about how to undo your knitting (aka frogging)

Here's a youtube tutorial on how to tink back your knitting:

Adding a new ball of yarn

It's one of the best things and worst things to happen to a beginning knitter, when you've gotten far enough along to have to add another ball of yarn. It seems like it could be complicated, but guess what it's not. The main rule: do not tie a knot. There are no knots in knitting, never. You might have the urge, but those knots are going to f-up your knitting and make it look like amature hour, so have the strength of mind to allow your newly added ball of yarn with it loosely attached at the edge until it gets more and more secured. 

Check out this youtube video on how to add a new ball of yarn:

Hopefully now you'll feel a lot more confident as a new knitter whenever you are faced with a knitting mistake. It's also super helpful to have a knitting book or two to reference whenever you encounter something new in your knitting that you don't know how to fix. Check out our page of Best Books for Beginner Knitters here.

The 5 Mistakes All New Knitters Make and How to Avoid Them

There's a reason that one of the most prominent learn to knit books is called "Knitting Without Tears". Learning to knit can be a difficult skill to master and new knitters frequently encounter mistakes early on. Mistakes can be so frustrating that they can bring knitters to tears if not make them give up on knitting entirely. Learn the knitting mistakes that most new knitters make and save yourself lots of frustration.

Signs You are Making a Knitting Mistake:

1) Too many stitches at the end of your row.
2) Not enough stitches at the end of a row.
3) The edges of the knitting are not uniformly straight, they seem to go wider to narrower.
4) Some stitches are sticking out more than others.
5) Some stitches look like they're too loose.

Check for Mistakes

Always count your stitches when you finish a row to make sure that you have the same number that your originally cast on. If you have too many or too few in that row you've either lost a stitch or dropped a stitch or accidentally added a stitch. That's the biggest sign you're making a knitting mistake -too many or too few stitches than you're supposed to have.

If you don't have the correct number of stitches, tink back on the row, which is to undo each individual stitch until you're at the beginning of a row. Watch carefully as you undo those stitches and see if there's any obvious difference between each stitch that can tell you what you may have done incorrectly.

Keep Your Yarn in the Correct Position for Knitting or for Purling

One really common knitting mistake that causes too many stitches is failing to keep your yarn in the right position when starting your next row. If you hold the yarn in the wrong position when starting your next row you can accidentally create an extra stitch. When you're knitting, you want to make sure that you keep your yarn at the back of the work. That means that when you insert your needle into the stitch to knit, you make sure that the working yarn is positioned behind the needle that you've just inserted into the stitch. When you're purling, you want to make sure that you keep your yarn at the front of the work, that is, when you insert your needle into the stitch to be purled, your yarn is in front of that needle. (see photos)

Keep an Easy Grip on Your Knitting Needles

Frequently check your grip on the knitting needles. It's easy for beginners to fear that the stitches will fall off the needles, but you needn't grasp the needles with the strength of an orangutan. Loosen your arms, shake out your shoulders, take a deep breath and go.

Make Sure You Pull Each New Stitch Completely Through the Old One

When you're unaccustomed to knitting you don't know what the action is supposed to look like, so it's difficult to tell when you're making a mistake. One mistake indeed is when you don't pull the new stitch all the way through the old stitch. You may lose your attention for a moment and think that you have the new stitch on your needle when you in fact have your old stitch which you have just simply slipped from one needles to the other.

Dropping Stitches

Dropping a stitch is when you accidentally lose a stitch off of your needles and it unravels. If this happens you can easily pull the stitches through one by one using a crochet hook. You can see some examples here, or you can undo each stitch until you get to the place where you dropped the stitch. This is one way that you end up with the wrong number of stitches with your knitting.

Knitting two stitches together by mistake

When done in the right spot at the right time, knitting two stitches together is called decreasing, but when you do it when you're not supposed to, you end up with too few stitches. If you realize that you've done this, just tink back to the beginning of the row, count your stitches and try again. If you don't have the correct number of stitches, keep tinking back until you.

Not Switching the Yarn to the Front or back of the Work in Ribbing

Sometimes it's hard to remember that when you're knitting and purling that your yarn has to be in the right place. If you keep your yarn in the front like when you're purling and knit the stitch, you end up with an extra stitch. This is usually called a yarn over and you do it when you need to increase a stitch, but when you do it by accident you end up with too many stitches and ribbing that looks all wonky. The same thing happens when you purl with the yarn held in the back as if you're knitting. So when you're knitting one and purling one for a rib pattern, you have to switch the position of the yarn from that back to the front to purl, and then from the front to back to knit.

These are the biggest mistakes that you can make in your knitting and just having a little bit of knowledge and being proactive about counting your stitches will keep you from making too many knitting mistakes.

If you're having too much trouble teaching yourself to knit and need a little guidance, check out our learn to knit section and find ways to learn to knit online at home.

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Announcing a New Feature - The New Knitter's Guide

newknittersguidelogoDo you remember when you first learned to knit? Do you remember how it soon became an all consuming passion where you had to know all the things about knitting? Do you remember how intimidating it was to first enter a community of knitters? When you learn to knit, you're not just learning a new skill you're learning a new way of living. That's why we've created The New Knitters Guide. It's a resource for new knitters to share everything they need to know about knitting culture so that they're not totally clueless at the yarn shop or at their first knit night.

If you're new to knitting and you want to know what the heck all of those other knitters are talking about, like who is the Yarn Harlot, or what exactly makes a yarn snobby and what is this ravelry thing that everyone keeps talking about then check out out New Knitters Guide.

Here's a sample of the articles you'll find:

Click here to

Have you been knitting a long time? What knitting secrets do you wish you had known in the beginning?

The New Knitter's Guide to the Yarn Harlot

newknittersguidelogoAs part of our New Knitter's Guide we're sharing all of the items that will help new knitters immerse themselves into knitting culture. The Yarn Harlot is one of our most prominent writers. A recommendation from her can send a knitting pattern's popularity into the stratosphere. That's why we've occasionally referred to her as the Oprah of Knitting.

If you've been knitting for a little while you may have heard whisperings of "of course you should knit this, The Yarn Harlot has made 8 of them". Who is the Yarn Harlot anyway and how can you find her? The Yarn Harlot is actually Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Canadian knit blogger extraordinaire. She gives talks on knitting, such as "This is Your Brain on Knitting" and teaches knitting classes all around the country. She along with Tina of Blue Moon Fiber Arts are the hive minds behind the Sock Summit knitting convention.

You could call her our fearless knitting leader, but she would probably scoff and refuse the title. However, she was the only one able to breathe sanity into the hoards of knitters upset with the US Olympic Committee when they stopped Ravelry from holding the Ravelympics and made them rename the Ravelympics to something boring like The 2012 Games.

The Yarn Harlot is the knitter with the most influence and authority in North America, if not the world. She speaks the truth about knitters and celebrates their idiosyncrasies -especially the things that non knitters would consider crazy. This helps knitters themselves realize that they are not alone in their knitting challenges. It makes knitters feel ok going completely insane trying to find that missing sock needle or re-knitting that sleeve for the fifteenth time.

She embraces knitting excellence whether it's in well-designed and thoughtfully tech-edited knitting patterns, or encouraging knitters to tackle difficult skills in the first knitting Olympics in 2006. She is the author of many knitting books that support and expand the 21st century knitting community. If you want to understand this latest wave of hand-knitting in popular culture all you need do is read the entire oeuvre of the Yarn Harlot.

There is a Yarn Harlot book for every stage of knitter. Read on to learn which book is right for you. These are listed in order of publication.

yarnharlotsecretlifeofaknitterYarn Harlot - Secret Life of A Knitter

This is the book that started it all, a book of humorous knitting confessions that prove that it's not crazy to be so passionate about knitting. This is a book for beginning and longtime knitters. The beginners will learn to avoid the mistakes that the Yarn Harlot makes and the long time knitters will rejoice in the shared experiences of knitting catastrophes.


atknitsendAt Knits End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much

The shorter version of Secret Life of a Knitter in little fun-size quotable bites. This is the book to have when you are having some serious knitting trouble and need to laugh.



yarnharlotknittingrulesKnitting Rules - The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Tricks

This is a great book for beginner knitters. If you want to know the easiest ways to knit hats and socks, understand stash management and your local yarn shop this is the book for you. It's a learn to knit book and knitting culture book all rolled into one. This is the best book to keep in your knitting bag in case you need a simple knitting pattern.


yarnharlotcastsoffStephanie Pearl McPhee Casts Off

This book is the most focused on knitting culture. Why do knitters do what they do and where do they go to do it. This is the book on knitting travel, yarn conventions, knitting politics, knitting heroes and more.


yarnharlotthingsilearnedfromknittingThings I Learned From Knitting Whether I Wanted to or Not

Knitting as the great personal educator. This is a continuation of the essays from The Yarn Harlot's first book Secret Life of a Knitter.



yarnharlotfreerangeknitterFree Range Knitter

Stephanie writes stories from the perspectives of all the different roles of the knitter, the beginning knitter, the experienced knitter, the frustrated knitter, the knitting author, and even the gift knitter. This is a book about what happens to knitters when left to their own devices.



YarnHarlotAllWoundUpAll Wound Up

This is the Yarn Harlot's latest book and some say her darkest. If you've read her blog you'll know that she's faced many challenges in the last couple of years and this book isn't nearly as light as her previous efforts. This is a good thing and represents growth on the part of the writer. If you want to meditate on how to use knitting to push through difficult times this is the book for you.


If you're a beginning knitter buy these three books and you'll be well on your way to being a part of the knitting community (and maybe even avoid a noobie knitting mistake or two in the process):

If you're having a rough time with your knitting:

The Guide for New Knitters - How to Know if Knitting is For You

If you're looking for a hobby, you could do a lot worse than knitting. You often hear of people always wanting to learn how to knit, but it seeming too complicated or not being coordinated enough. This is hogwash. Anyone can learn how to knit, but how do you know if it's an appropriate hobby for you?

You enjoy working alone

Knitting isn't filmmaking. You don't need a crew to knit a sweater. Knitting is something you do by yourself. Sure, you can knit a block with a bunch of other knitters to contribute to a blanket, but you don't need anyone else to do the actual knitting. You don't need someone sitting next to you to get gauge. You can always knit with other people if you like being social.

You need a hobby that you can take with you anywhere

Knitting requires needles and yarn. That's it. It's more portable than quilting or sewing or painting. It doesn't make such a big mess. Other people don't get distracted when you knit. You can knit in line, in a waiting room, on the train, on the airplane or during classes.

You can follow directions

A successful knitting project requires that you're able to follow instructions or get to know the rules of knitting well enough so that you can make changes to any knitting pattern without causing disaster.

Math doesn't scare you (too much)

To knit, you have to be able to count stitches, measure lengths, multiply to change sizes and keep track of the number of rows that you knit, not to mention any pattern repeats. If that sounds like too much work for you maybe you should take up bird watching.

You passionately LOVE color

Have you ever loved a color so much that you wanted to own anything you could in that one unique shade, even if it was just a dustpan? Imagine being able to work with that one color for hours, weeks or months, feeling it slip through your fingers as it knits into your new favorite scarf, sweater, or even socks? Knitting allows you to create a physcial manifestation of your favorite colors and textures that you can wear. If you don't want to wear your color, then maybe painting is a better fit for you.

You get a kick out of texture

If you don't like wool, no need to worry. There's still silk, cotton, rayon, bamboo -many different kinds of yarns to try and thousands of projects to knit with them.

You wish to cultivate patience and perseverance

Knitting will teach you a great many things, but first and foremost it will teach you patience and perseverance. The first time you cast on stitches for your first scarf (it's almost always a scarf) you will encounter difficulties. Your stitches will be too tight. You will accidentally add and lose stitches. It may drive you crazy (One knitting book is called Knitting Without Tears for a reason), but you feel a sense of accomplishment when you master your first knitted stitches and watch your scarf growing longer with every row.

You want your hobby to be practical

Knitting doesn't just make pretty objects, which are fine in and out of themselves, knitting makes useful objects; items that keep you and your house warm. If anything, knitting makes practical things more interesting. Suddenly you want to have a million pairs of socks, especially if you knit them yourself. You start looking forward to cold weather so that you have an excuse to wear everything you've ever knit.

So if you've been thinking of taking up knitting you might have a stronger impression as to whether or not it might work for you. If you think you want to learn how to knit, check out our learn to knit page and discover knitting kits, tutorials and books.

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