Illustration of how you can drop down a column to fix a knitting mistake

How to fix a knitting mistake by dropping a stitch on purpose

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There are three basic methods for correcting your knitting mistakes: You can unravel, sometimes called frogging, you can undo stitches one at a time, called tinking, or you can drop a stitch on purpose to ladder down a column. In this guide, I will take you through the drop-down-to-fix method. You will need a crochet hook! First I will go through when you use this method to fix knitting mistakes, and then I will go on to how it’s done both in the basic case of fixing a single-stitch mistake, and more complex situations. Here is an overview of the topics that are covered:

When to drop down

Dropping a stitch on purpose allows you to undo all the stitches in a column without affecting the rest of the knitted fabric. You ladder down till you reach the mistake, fix it, then redo all the stitches in the column. Voila! If you have learned how to fix a stitch that has accidentally dropped off the needle, then you already know how to do this!

The drop-down-to-fix method is perfect for when you discover for example a knit stitch that was supposed to be a purl, many rows down, or even just a few rows, but in a project with many stitches. The two other methods will have you undo and reknit every stitch between where you are and the mistake, but by dropping down you only have to undo and remake the stitches in the column above the mistake.

Imagine you have made a single-stitch mistake 10 rows down in a project with 300 stitches on the needles. There will be 2700 to 3000 stitches between you and the mistake. Tinking back 3000 stitches is out of the question because the very thought of that is enough to make anybody want to cry. Unraveling, preferably with a lifeline, is an option, but you would still have to reknit the 10 rows. How long did that take you in the first place? Something like that can destroy your mood and your motivation. When I first started knitting and I would discover a mistake, I would always decide to not care about it and keep knitting, and then a few rows later, I would regret it, because I am a perfectionist, and then I had even more knitting to undo and reknit. Once I learned the drop-down method, my woes were over. Instead of having to redo 3000 stitches, you only have to redo the 10 stitches in the column above the mistake. All of a sudden you can correct the offending stitch in minutes rather than hours. It’s a game-changer!

The type of knitting mistake you should fix by dropping down - a single incorrect stitch, several rows down.
Example of the type of mistake you want to correct by dropping down. Can you spot it? It’s a single-stitch mistake about 8 rows down, in the column where the cable joins the needle – a missing purl stitch, disrupting the diamond brocade pattern.

Can you correct multiple-stitch mistakes?

When we mess up a pattern, quite often our mistake is not just a single stitch that needs to be changed from a knit to a purl or vice versa. When we miss a count, we often shift a whole section of the pattern. This is why it is such a good idea to use stitch markers to help you stay on track in your pattern count, so you discover your mistakes early. That will allow you to simply tink back a few stitches, correct the mistake, and knit on. When you discover a mistake much further down in the work, then you will have to evaluate if you can fix it by dropping down, or if it is better to unravel and reknit the whole section since the mistake.

It is absolutely possible to fix multiple stitch mistakes by dropping stitches and laddering down. This photo is from a brave knitter from the KnitPal Facebook group for beginners that fixed a cable that was twisted the wrong way.

If the mistake is only a few stitches next to each other, then you can drop the top stitches of all the affected columns at the same time, let them unravel down the columns to the mistakes, and use your crochet hook to fix them all at once, working your way back up the column. I am not gonna lie – it can be a bit scary to drop 5 stitches off the needles and let them ladder down, while you are wondering if you know what you are doing. But, it is much easier than it looks. If you have successfully corrected a single column this way, you can do 3 columns, and if you can do 3, you can do 5. You’ve got this! If you are worried, add a lifeline in the row below the mistake. It will prevent your dropped stitches from dropping too far, and if it all goes horribly wrong, you can simply unravel to the lifeline, like you would have done if you had opted to fix the mistake by frogging instead. No harm done. Your knitting is safe.

Fixing a single-stitch mistake by dropping a stitch

The easiest type of mistake to correct with the drop-to-fix method is a single-stitch mistake i.e. changing a single purl stitch to a knit stitch or a knit stitch to a purl stitch. I wrote this earlier, if you have learned how to capture and correct a dropped stitch, you already know how to ladder down to correct a single stitch. It can be done using only knitting needles, but it is much easier with a crochet hook or a fix-a-stitch tool. I always like to start by marking the stitch that needs to be fixed with a small string of yarn or a locking stitch marker.

Identify the wrong stitch and mark it with a locking stitch marker then knit until you reach the right column.

You knit until you reach the column where the mistake is, and then you drop the top stitch of the column off the needle tip and let it ladder down to the row below the mistake. Each ladder corresponds to a stitch that needs to be remade, starting with the bottom ladder and working back up the column with a crochet hook. Staci from VeryPink Knits demonstrates how to correct both a purl stitch to a knit stitch and a knit stitch to a purl stitch on a background of stockinette fabric in this video.

Making corrections in garter stitch

It is a little more complicated to fix anything in garter stitch because you have to alternate between recreating a knit stitch and a purl stitch. Here’s a video from VeryPink Knits showing you how to correct a dropped stitch in garter. Remember, it is the same whether you drop a stitch on accident or on purpose to correct a mistake.

Staci demonstrates how to create a purl stitch by moving the next ladder to the front of the current stitch and going through from the back of the loop with the hook to catch the ladder. An alternative is to flip the work over every time you are remaking a purl stitch. A purl stitch is just the backside of a knit stitch, so if you flip the work and work your hook to make a knit stitch, you will create a purl stitch on the other side.

Recreating a knit stitch from the front and a purl stitch from the back of the work.

The best tools to fix knitting mistakes

Which crochet hook to use

You will want to use a crochet hook that is roughly the same size as the needles you are knitting with. It is fine if it is a little bigger or smaller, but it will be more difficult if the hook is not the right size for the yarn. When it comes to fixing mistakes in knitwork, I always like to use crochet hooks with a slim handle. There are many situations where it is useful to push the hook through the loop to the other side, and if there’s a big ergonomic handle you cannot do that. The one I am using in the photos is a Tunisian crochet hook from an interchangeable set, and that works very well. If using a regular crochet hook, I highly recommend The Susan Bates hooks that also have an ultra-slim design.

Using the fix-a-stitch tool

A crochet hook is a knitter’s best friend but there is an excellent alternative called a fix-a-stitch. The fix-a-stitch has a hook on both ends and you can use it to fix both knit stitches and purl stitches from the front of the work, much faster and easier. Take a look here, how it is used to repair stockinette, reverse stockinette, and garter stitch.

Fixing a multiple-stitch mistake by dropping down

In principle, it is exactly the same to drop several stitches, but it is certainly more confusing. That is why I like this next video by Roxy. She fearlessly drops 8 stitches and unravel them all at the same time, showing how they don’t actually drop any further than you want them to. She also uses a neat trick with a locking stitch marker to keep the extra ladders out of the way, minimizing the confusion. Finally, she demonstrates how you can reknit with smaller knitting needles which is certainly easier than using a crochet hook when there are a lot of stitches involved. I still like to use the crochet hook for the final few stitches of every row, when there’s very little slack left. Watch the whole thing, and save it for when you need it.

Fixing a mistake on the edge stitches

It is one thing to drop and ladder down somewhere in the middle of the work, and quite another to do the same thing along the edge of the work. Instead of having a strand of yarn per row, you have a long loop that is involved in two different rows. Sounds scary? It is not all that bad. Take a look at this excellent video by Suzanne Bryan:

Practice makes perfect

We all make mistakes when we knit, no matter how experienced we are. The good news is that once you have mastered the three basic methods of correcting mistakes, you will no longer fear making them. So go ahead and knit up a practice swatch and try changing purls to knits and knits to purls. Practice makes perfect!

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