I’m past the center part now on the Paisley Shawl, and have finished the dividing section of K2, YOs. I’m pleased with it so far, although it’s tough to see well wadded up as it is on the circular needle. Still, you can make out some details if you squint at this:

See all those little stitch markers?

I’m a big believer in stitch markers in lace. I don’t use a lifeline, but I do mark my repeats – usually every repeat in a large piece. I find that doing so becomes a built-in proofing system. If the stitch count is off beginning the next repeat, I know something went wacky in either the previous one, or in the repeat one row below. I then have the option of ripping back or ripping down just that one repeat. There are complications of course if a decrease spans the juncture point between repeats, but in general this system has served me well. In this case I’m using three different types of markers. Large silver dinglebobs mark the beginning and midpoint of my rounds (the beginning one is especially elaborate). Small red rings mark the quarter points (my pattern is a square, knit center out, so the beginning, mid and quarter points each define a full side repeat set). Tiny silver color split rings mark each motif repeat. The split rings are crafts store specials, bought in a bag of 200 for less than $1.50.

Ripping Down

I know a lot of people are terrified at the prospect of ripping one repeat down. It’s not as scary as it sounds and can usually be done with success on almost anything. Yes, some stitches are harder to rip back, parse out, and reconstruct than others but it’s always worth a try. The alternative is ripping back entire rows. If deconstructing and re-knitting a section works, that saves the effort of redoing an entire row; and if selective ripping doesn’t work the worst that happens is that you’ll need to rip back that entire row anyway. So you can either luck out and save time, or if luck and skill fail you, you end up no worse than you would have been had the effort not been made.

To rip out a bunch of stitches vertically then re-knit them, it’s good to understand the nature of knit stitches and the way they are seated on the needles. I’ve mentioned stitch mounting and twisted stitches before. Recognizing the difference and seating stitches correctly is very important to this process. For starters, when you pick your stitches up after ripping past the broken part, you want to make sure that the survivors are mounted with the leading leg in front:

I start by identifying a good span surrounding the mistake. I don’t want to split a decrease, so I try to begin and end the segment in an area of plain stockinette or garter stitch. I find the corresponding section on my charted pattern, or if there isn’t one – I chart up the repeat and then identify the suspect bit. Note that if you are doing lace, colorwork or textures, this process is vastly aided by being able to work from charts. You can do it if you have prose directions and are thoroughly familiar with your repeat, but it is much harder to identify the stitches in the section that needs to be redone without a stitch by stitch representation of the work.

Once I have identified my bit to be redone both on the needles and on my chart, I isolate it. I’ll knit to just before it, then slide it onto a DPN of the same size as my working needles. This is one of the few times I use needle tips (or rubber bands). I plug the live needle ends before and after my broken section to prevent the balance of the work’s good stitches from leaking off and complicating the problem. Once I’ve got the section isolated, I ladder it back down past my error. I try to end on a row that’s easy to pick up. For example, rows with lots of increases and decreases or cable crossings can play havoc with stitch mounting, so I try to avoid them. The squeamish might like to thread a mini-lifeline through a row of good stitches below the error to make sure they don’t go down further than necessary, but I just take a deep breath and wing it.

When my suspect rows are unraveled, I end up with a bunch of strands suspended ladder-like between the areas of good knitting. I put the last row of good stitches below this mega-ladder back onto the DPN, taking care to mount them correctly. Then I take a second DPN and following the directions on my chart, and using the bottom-most string of my ladder, I re-knit the first suspect row. It’s usually a bit awkward there on the last couple stitches, but care and patience always defeats the problem. I repeat the process with the second row of the suspect area, using the now bottom-most string of my ladder. Sometimes I start each of these make-up rows at the right, working them all as right side rows. Sometimes I do flip the piece over and work every other row as if it were a wrong side row. It mostly depends on whether or not I’m working the whole project in the round or in the flat.

Once all the suspect rows have been re-knit and no ladder strands remain, I uncap the right hand needle and continue with my normal working strand across my "mainstream" row, working across the now rescued stitches. Once those are done, I uncap my left hand needle and continue merrily along my way as if no mistake had dared to intrude itself.

Give this a try the next time you look back several rows and spot a cable crossed katywumpus, or some purls that should have been knit. And if you’re timid, try doing it to a swatch on which you’ve made a deliberate mistake.

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