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Last night I was doing knit stitch on a practice piece of knitting in a small patch, 26 stitches long. When I got to the end I'd realised I'd messed up and I had 27 stitches. The yarn I'm using is very old (my mother in law gave me it to practice with but she last used it to make my husbands baby clothes...!) and a little frayed but not too bad to use, but I couldn't see where I had gone wrong even with most of the stitches being rather clear.

So in my infinite wisdom I un-did the last row thinking I could slip the needle back on and then go again, but this ended up with me being completely unable to get the needle back through the stitches. I tend to knit too tightly at the moment (I'm a beginner and only been doing this about 3 weeks! I tied off on the end and kept the knitting for reference but have since started a new practice patch).

If I slip a row off a needle like that, by accident or on purpose, how would I get it back on?

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When you have a row of slipped stitches that are too tight to fit back onto the original needle, you can pick them up on a different needle, such as:

  • Use a much smaller knitting needle. Eg, if you knitted originally on US size 8 needles (5.0 mm), use a US size 4 (3.5 mm) or smaller needle to pick the stitches up. The smaller needle should fit easily through the tight stitches.

    • If you don't have other sizes of needles, look around your home and see if you have something that could substitute. It just needs to be stiff and skinny. Like a bamboo skewer for cooking.
  • Use a 16" circular knitting needle. If the stitches are not too tight you can use the same needle size as the original; otherwise use a smaller needle size. Circular knitting needles have a short portion that's the regular thickness of a knitting needle, then a portion of narrow cable. Once the stitches slide over the regular needle onto the cable, you get a little bit of slack because the cable is so much narrower than the needle. (The reason to use a 16" circular needle is that 16" circulars have a shorter portion of regular needle thickness than longer circulars.)

  • If you don't own a smaller size of needle, use an embroidery needle and scrap yarn. Tie something on the end of the scrap yarn to stop stitches from sliding off. (Lots of things can work for this: a large bead, a pencil, a wristwatch...) Pass the embroidery needle through each stitch just as if it was a knitting needle. Once all the stitches are safely on the scrap yarn, you can safely transfer them to the original knitting needle. Or if they are extremely tight, transfer them to a knitting needle a size smaller than the original.

Now that the stitches are all on a knitting needle, them with the original size of needle.

PS: On your next project, work on not knitting so tightly. It takes some practice but it will pay off in the end.

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  • Thank you - this is really helpful! Definitely trying not to knit quite so tightly. – Aravona Jan 17 at 9:17
  • This has become easier over the last week or two as I've got better at tension, thanks again! – Aravona Feb 4 at 17:29
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An alternative solution is to unravel another row stitch by stitch and insert the needle into the loop that was just freed of the previous stitch. I found this technique especially usefull for more complicated patterns where stitches are added or knit together or crossed.

Take a close look at the top row: it's composed of small loops that usually sit on the needle. The right "leg" of a loop usually sits in front of the needle (towards you) and the left leg sits behind the needle (away from you).

The next row below that is composed of the same loops, but instead of sitting on the needle, they are sitting on the loops of the top row. Each individual loop of the top row is pulled through a loop of the second row.

If you carefully pull on the working end of the yarn, you can see how the top loop slips through the loop of the second row. Carefully insert the needle into the loop you just freed (of the formerly second row, which is now becomming the new top row). Keep the right leg of the loop in front of your needle and the left leg in the back.

If you have a complicated pattern where stitches are crossed or knit together, closely follow the working end of the yarn. The loop that was first freed should be picked up first, no matter where on the row it's situated. That way you recreate the order of stitches on your needle the way it was when you first knit that row.

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  • Yes, this is a good technique. Going stitch-by-stitch will help you find and catch any stitches that already slipped out of the last row. – csk Jan 17 at 17:41

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