Fan the Flames Knitalong—Week 2: Making Mistakes & Having Fun Fixing Them!

By Patty Lyons

I hope things are going swimmingly for all of you in Cowl Land, and I don’t want to jinx anyone but … I wanted to spend this week talking about one of my favorite topics — mistakes. If you want a quick review of what we covered last week, click here.

We all make mistakes; but somehow, when we make them in lace, they are a little bit more annoying.

Many knitters would say the goal is to avoid making them at all, but I say — what fun would that be! If we never made a mistake, we would never have the wonderfully smug satisfaction of fixing them.

For all those “ounce of prevention” folks out there, we will start by talking about how to avoid mistakes. The most important thing we can do in all of our knitting is to be visually responding to what’s on our needles. That means, instead of just charging ahead, stitch after stitch, row after row, we want to always be looking to see how our pattern is stacking up. One really helpful tool to assist you in this is stitch markers!

Save yourself frustration and rely on stitch markers.

As I mentioned last week’s post, stitch markers are so helpful! I used a unique color for the end of round, and then orange markers for the end of the fan chart, and green markers for each 14-stitch repeat of the flame chart.

These markers help in two ways:

  1. If I’m supposed to be using 18 stitches for the fan chart and I hit the marker and I don’t have enough stitches, I know I made a mistake in a previous row (probably forgot a yarn over). That means I can fix it NOW (don’t worry, we’ll get to that) instead of going on row after row and making even more mistakes.
  2. It also helps me put on the breaks when I’m doing a chart like the flame chart, which has a repeat. If I’m doing two repeats of the 14-stitch flame chart, then the markers help me remember to go back and do another repeat.

The other helpful tool I love to use with lace is the lifeline!

A lifeline is a smooth thin piece of yarn — or thread, or even dental floss — that you string through your stitches on a non lace row. In the case of our fan and flame charts, that would be row 1 of the fan (that would line up with row 1, 5, 9 or 13 of the flame). The idea of a lifeline is to have something to rip down to in case of tragedy. Stitches in lace often do not stay straight. Because of this, it can be hard to insert a needle into the stitches once they are made.

In the photo above, you can see that the lifeline is a few rows down and no longer going in a straight line, because it has moved with the lace. If I made a mistake, I could pull my knitting off the needle and rip down to that lifeline, and then just insert my knitting needle into the stitches held on the line.

To put in your lifeline, you can finish knitting row 1 of the fan (row 1, 5, 9 or 13 of the flame), then put some smooth waste yarn on a tapestry needle and start pulling it through the stitches.

Then just pull the smooth yarn through the stitches, and put the needle through the next few, until you have gone all the way around.

When you knit across the next row, just be careful to not knit into the lifeline. Just ignore it and work only the stitch on your needle. Once you’ve knit 4 or 8 perfect rounds, you can pull out the lifeline and use the same thread again to put in a new lifeline. Weirdly, I never make a mistake when I use a lifeline. I think it’s like having an umbrella with you means it’s not going to rain. (or washing your car means it WILL!)

With all those precautions, sometimes mistakes still happen. You might have a lifeline 7 rows down, but you make a tiny mistake in one place and you know you can fix it easily without ripping out all those rounds.

Now, I want to show you easy fixes for two of the most common mistakes- forgetting a yarn over and unkitting, or “tinking.”  These are fun to make on purpose so you can practice fixing them.

The first one has happened to EVERY lace knitter — forgetting a yarn over.

Sometimes there’s an area that just doesn’t look right and you want to “tink” (unknit) back a bit to fix it, but un-knitting increases and decreases can sometimes create a bigger mess than we’re trying to fix. Here’s a little “tink tutorial” I hope you’ll find helpful.

Well, now that we’ve explored every possible way to get out of our knitting jam, it should be smooth sailing from now on.

Next… it’s time to finish off our beauties with a special bind-off, fastening off for a smooth in-the-round connection, and (of course) blocking.

Click here to start WEEK 3


One Response to Fan the Flames Knitalong—Week 2: Making Mistakes & Having Fun Fixing Them!

  1. farmkiti says:

    The main thing I’ve learned is to count, count, count! I knit pretty simple things, but learning to count my stitches periodically has saved me many hours of frustration.

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