Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What is the most common mistake knitters make?

This is a question I was asked by someone in the Seattle Knitters Guild.

What a great question! I did answer--and was a little surprised by my answer. But because it
is such a good question, I've asked it in many of my classes.

Responses I hear are among the following . . .

1. Working to the wrong gauge--either for the pattern or the yarn.

Good answer! Small differences in gauge can mean big results in fit. If you knit the wrong gauge for the pattern, your finished pieces won't be the size you anticipated.

But knitting the wrong gauge for the fabric is a whole other issue. Sometimes we force a different yarn to the gauge of the pattern, and the fabric is just not right--either  too loose or too tight. And when we get the wrong gauge for the fabric, there's not much we can do to fix it.

2. Choosing the wrong yarn for the project.

This is kinda related to the last point above: we pick a yarn that won't get the right gauge or won't produce an appropriate fabric for the garment. And producing a fabric that is not quite right is a much more difficult problem to anticipate. I've done this many times (and have a pile of garments knit in great yarns that need to be ripped out): the yarn was too stiff or too drapey and didn't give the right result for the project.

3. Not buying enough yarn

It has been a fascinating discovery to me that if you knit the piece in a different yarn you will not use the same amount of yarn! I think this so very counter-intuitive--that you can knit a second version of something . . . in the same size, to the same gauge, over the same number of stitches and rows, but in a stiffer yarn . . . and you will use more yarn! 

4. Choosing the wrong style.

We knit something that looks fabulous in the photo but really bad on us! Maybe this speaks to the optimism of knitters?

Okay, so that's a list of common responses, all very good, all very thoughtful, all very appropriate. But they weren't my answer.

What would yours be?
I'll tell you mine in a couple of days . . . .


  1. Interesting! I think that for garments, knitting the wrong size would be my choice for 'most common mistake'. It is hard to have an objective view of ourselves, and so many times I have seen people automatically go for 'medium' when really they need to be choosing 'small' or 'large'.

  2. Fiona, that's great one, one that people offer all the time, and one I forgot to add to the list! Thanks so much for posting!

    But it's not mine . . . .

  3. For me, it's all about fit. I've made so many mistakes by not creating enough ease, or not looking at the rest of the schematics besides bust size enough. If only everyone always wrote down how much ease they suggest for the garment to create the same fit as on the model!

  4. Great question! I agree with Fiona and collegeknitting. It is the fit of the finished sweater. Too often knitters pick their size and knit the sweater from start to finish without making any modifications (the sleeve or body length for example) to fit their own specific measurements.

  5. The four reasons that you list as having heard from others are very valid.
    I would like to guess what your answer was... Was it being afraid? ... being afraid to trust yourself to knit what you like? ... being afraid to customize a pattern if you see a reason to?
    Just a guess :-)

  6. I agree with all of the above about fit. I, too, wish that the pattern would include suggested amount of ease.

    I sewed for many years before I took up knitting, and got reasonably good at adjusting fit of a sewing pattern for the intended wearer. But I still feel like I'm floundering when it comes to doing the same for knitting patterns. I end up usually going for too big. Sometimes the piece is still wearable, and one of them is one of my favorites despite the size problem. I, too, have gotten hardened to ripping out when the fit ends up wrong. I think knowing the designer's intended amount of ease would be a big help.

    One last thing about fitting advice: you often hear "measure a similar sweater that fits you well and use those measurements". I haven't been knitting long enough or even bought enough sweaters that I *have* a similar sweater. That's why I'm making this new one!