Ripping back in knitting is difficult and painful, right? The fear of losing the stitches and having a major ladder to fix in the work gives us knitting sweats. The pain of tinking* back for ages can destroy the joy of working on a new project, which consequently may end up at the bottom of the “come back to” pile for months or even years. Do you know what I’m talking about? If you do, you haven’t learned a few knitting tricks! Read on how to rip back relatively painlessly, without losing stitches and having to tink.
You’ll need the project part of which you want to rip back and a circular needle with a decent length cord and needle size at least 3 sizes smaller than the needle you are knitting with. I’m going to show you how I rip back using my size 2mm circular Karbonz needle with 100 cm cord. The project is a lace edge shawl I’m knitting on size 3.5 mm needles.
1. Identify the row in which there is a mistake. Pick the row either directly under the mistake row or even a little lower if you can’t see the full row clearly. You may not be able to see it, but I made a big enough mistake in the last repeat of the lace motif and need to go back to the last garter section. The picture shows a section of my knitting with the error. Anyone who knits lace knows that ripping back lace is tricky due to volume of increases and decreases, which mean the stitches cling and pull at each other. What I’m doing here is going back to the last row which I’m confident was knitted correctly and at the same time is easy for me to see. At the same time I want to avoid losing stitches and creating an even bigger problem
2. Take the smaller needle and pick up the stitches in your chosen row as if you were going to pick up stitches when you do a neckline or sock gusset. Take your time and make sure you pick up all the stitches in the row. Make sure you don’t split the yarn anywhere.
3. After you are confident you picked all stitches with the smaller needle, the scary moment: pull out the larger needle.
4. Pull the working yarn, ripping your work back to the circular needle.
5. You have successfully ripped back your work to the desired row. You can transfer the row back to a larger needle or knit directly from the smaller one, it’s up to you. I like to transfer the work back to make sure I have even tension. One thing to remember at this stage is the stitch mount. After transferring the stitches may be either Eastern or Western mounted so remember about knitting into the front (leading) leg of the stitch for straight stitches and into the back leg of the stitch for twisted stitches. I have written more about the stitch mount here and here.
Next time you need to rip several rows perhaps try this method and do let me know if and how it worked for you. I love hearing from you!
*Tinking means un-knitting back stitch by stitch, slowly, painfully and with soul destroying effect if you try to tink back more than one row.