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Isle of Purbeck shawl knitting pattern by annie claire

It took me six months to finish My Isle of Purbeck shawl. I even knit it in a heavy worsted fisherman’s wool, instead of the lighter dk weight yarn the pattern called for, thinking I could finish it faster.

I adore the shawl. It’s huge and squishy and gorgeous and it makes me so proud now that it’s finished. But…

Even as a seasoned knitter, the process was so frustrating. Every single row was a struggle (to no fault of the pattern, I assure you). I’d knit a row and rip a row. My count was off or I’d think I had the chart down intuitively and miss a stitch.

Mostly, I blame it on my boys and their perpetual need to be fed, and read to, and talked to. I mean seriously.

I don’t know about you, but lace knitting requires my full attention and distractions are a plenty these days. I’ve come to terms that lace knitting is just not in the cards for me at this season of my life, and that’s ok.

Knowing your limits as a knitter might be the single most important thing you can do to prevent mistakes from happening.

I’ve got the rest of my life to knit lace. For now, I’ll stick to patterns that I can knit while meals are cooking, during homeschool lessons, snuggling on the couch or while we’re sitting around the fire telling stories.


Here are four more tips I’ve learned over the years to prevent mistakes in my knitting.

1. Read the entire pattern before you begin

It can be so exciting to just jump right in and cast on for a new project, but I beg you… take a few seconds and read through the whole pattern.  Many times, the designer will have special notes, tips, explanations, or even updated eratta (corrections) at the end.  I learned this lesson the hard way.  For the life of me, I couldn’t get the stitch count to work out right on a cabled hat I was making for my youngest.  After the third time ripping back, I fudged the numbers to make it work.  Turns out that there was a correction at the end of the pattern, but of course I didn’t read the whole thing.  A hat that took me a week to finish, could have been done in an evening!


2. Finish the row

Don’t put your work away mid row.  It’s so easy to forget where you left off in the pattern and your stitches are sure to fall off the needles.


3. Count your stitches – at the end of each row

at the end of each row:

If you’re just going round and round on a stockinette stitch sweater, you probably don’t need to count your stitches.  But, if you’re doing something more complicated that requires you to have a certain number of stitches, it’s a good idea.   That way to can fix any mistakes right away, instead of finding your numbers are off three inches of knitting later.

or in each repeat section:

If your knitting has multiple repeats, counting each repeat section can help a lot! I did this on my Purbeck shawl, adding stitch markers after each repeat, so I would remember to count the stitches when I was finished knitting each section. Time consuming? Yes, but it was so much easier to catch my mistakes right away than to rip out a whole row.


4. Learn to read your knitting

Learning to read your knitting is one of the most important ways to make yourself an overall better knitter. Take some time to really study your knitted fabric. Look at how the stitches are positioned on the needles. Notice how a stitch or color pattern is lining up row by row? Maybe you twisted a stitch? Or dropped a stitch? By learning to read your knitting, you’ll be able to see your mistakes as they happen, being able to fix them faster and easier.

While making mistakes is a valuable part of learning and growing as a knitter, I hope these tips will help you have more fun with your knitting and keep you from having to rip back as often.

I’d love to hear from you!  What tips do you have for avoiding knitting mistakes?  Leave a comment below, so we all can learn from each other.  



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  1. Just found your blog, You have the right attitude about knitting lace! Believe me your kids will be grown before you know and then you will be happy to have lace knitting to fill the void. Wonderful blog!

    1. theresilientknitter says:

      Haha! Don’t I know it, time just flies by. I’m so glad you found your way here.

  2. I found your site via Ravelry. Some talk about comfort food, this site is comfort read. Thank you.
    An additional tip is to not skip checking your gauge. Just do it.

    1. theresilientknitter says:

      I’m so happy you’re here. Yes, such a good tip. I had to rip back a yoke that I’m working on now for that very reason.

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