I wanted to show you how to fix hole in a sweater (or other knitted article) and as I started putting words and pictures with how I do it, it became more and more obvious that knowing this first would be extremely helpful. So, even if you don’t knit, keep reading . . .
A “dropped” stitch is one that falls off a knitting needle, or the thread above it breaks (like a run in stockings) so that it becomes disentangled from the stitch above it.
Knitting is just pulling loops through loops. When one loop pops out of the loop below it, it releases into a long loose bar, and can easily cause a chain reaction. But please do not panic, it’s almost as easy to pick those loops up again as it was for them to pop out in first place.
If more than one column of stitches is coming undone, first find the last/uppermost intact loop of each column and stick something (like a safety pin or a piece of yarn) though it, to keep that column from unraveling any further while you work on the others.
To pick up a stitch, get a crochet hook (mine is tiny – I found it in a heat vent in an apartment we rented in Madison, and it’s been in my knitting bag ever since – a little bigger one will probably be easier to work with). Stick the hook through the last intact loop, grab the bar above that loop with the hook, and pull the bar through the loop. It will form a new loop. Ta da! I think it’s easiest (and doesn’t cause twisted stitches) to have the hook facing down, grab each bar from above and pull it straight through. This does mean you’ll need to take the hook out and stick it straight through the new loop to pick up another bar, if your stitch has dropped more than one row.
One refinement; knit stitches are loops pulled toward you, and purl stitches are loops pulled away from you. So, to pick up a knit stitch, have the bar behind the old loop, and pull it toward you. To pick up a purl, put the bar in front of the old loop, insert the hook from the back, and pull the bar away from you to make a new loop, as shown above. That’s it! Not only can you now pick up stitches, if you’re paying attention you’ll understand the fundamental structure of knitting, and the difference between knit and purl stitches. Pretty cool, eh?
If you’re working with a bigger area of dropped stitches, pick up one column at a time by making a new loop from each bar, making sure to pick up the bars in their natural order. Move them around with your finger and check which ones connect to the adjacent stitches where to make sure. The two pictures above show picking up one column of purl stitches. When you get to the top of a column, put the last loop back on whichever needle is convenient to continue working, you can rearrange them when you’re done. Make sure that the loop is sitting on the needle the same way as the other ones which did not fall off – flip it the other way and check if you aren’t sure.
Move to the next column if there is one, and pick up the bars in order again, until all the top loops are sitting on the needles again. Look to see where the yarn you are working with is coming from, this is always the last stitch you knit. You may need to pass stitches which haven’t been knit on this row yet back to the left needle to get them ready to work. Remember to pass them with the needles tip to tip, which won’t twist the stitches. And we’re done!
Now that dropping stitches and picking them up is not so scary, we come to the second great thing about knowing this: you can do it on purpose to fix other mistakes. Say you look back and realize that three or four rows previous to where you are now, you knit a stitch when you should have purled it in your pattern. Instead of ripping out all the stitches you’ve done since then, you can just drop the stitch directly above the mistake, and let it ladder down as far as you need. Then, you can pick up each stitch as a knit or a purl, whatever you need to make your pattern right – and your mistake is fixed!
I was mostly done with the photos for this post, and wondering if they were clear enough, when I remembered that I already had drawings, scanned in and ready to go, from the handouts I make for in-person classes – a good thing!
If you have questions about this, or another topic you’d like to see featured here, just let me know. Happy making!
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