Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fixing a run in garter or seed stitch

If you get a run in garter or seed stitch, it is easy to fix, as long as you keep your wits about you. (And if you already know how to do this, scroll to the bottom of this post for two shortcuts.)

Garter stitch, seed stitch
Garter stitch and seed stitch don't look much alike.  Yet if you go up a column in either fabric, you'll discover that column-wise, both have the same identical structure:  a stack of alternating knits and purls.

Row-wise, the fabrics differ--in garter stitch, every stitch along a row is the same, while in seed stitch, the rows alternate just like the columns: alternating knits and purls.

The upshot of this is that, although we have to establish the foundation stitch of any run-out column opposite-wise in each fabric, yet once we get started, we can fix single-column runs in each fabric by the exact same method, since column-wise they are identical.

Establishing the foundation stitch
Before we get started on the actual process, there is going to be a LOT of confusion if we lose sight of a home-truth about knitting:
  • a loop waiting to be worked is neither a purl nor a knit.  
That's right.  A loop just sitting there has the capacity to be either a knit OR a purl. It is not until a second loop is DRAWN THROUGH IT on the following row that the loop becomes transformed--frozen into position as a knit or a purl stitch.  (If this confuses you, you might want to consider reviewing this post.)

A loop sitting at the bottom of a run-out ladder shares this characteristic.  It is neither a knit nor a purl...yet!  It is not until we draw the next ladder rung through that bottom loop that the loop becomes transformed into a knit or a purl stitch.

Another important thing to remember about stitches is that knit stitches have their heads popped onto the BACK of the fabric, while purl stitches have their heads popped onto the FRONT of the fabric.  Stated otherwise, it does not really matter what lays at the foot of any loop.  It is the top of the loop--its head, which determines whether a stitch is a knit or a purl. (For further information about head orientation, consider reviewing this post.)

The consequence of all this is as follows.  The first step for correcting a run in garter stitch or in seed stitch is examine the two stitches immediately neighboring the lowest loop of the run out column, in order to determine whether the lowest loop ought to be transformed into a knit or a purl.  As this relates to the diagram, you can see that we are working in garter stitch, because in garter stitch, each stitch along any one row is the same as its neighbors.  The orange loop sitting forlornly at the bottom of the ladder has two immediate neighbors which are knit stitches (dark green), and this lets us know that it, too, must be transformed into that same kind of stitch--a knit stitch.

(By contrast, if the fabric were seed stitch, the fact of two dark-green neighbor knit stitches would mean that the orange loop ought to be transformed into the opposite of its neighbors--a purl stitch.)

This is a garter stitch fabric--every stitch in any row
is the same type as its neighboring stitches.  Therefore,
the orange loop at the bottom of the run must be
transformed into a knit stitch, so that it is same type
of stitch as its two neighboring stitches
(dark green), which are knit stitches.  (You can tell
that the two dark green stitches are knit stitches
by the fact that their heads are popped onto the
back of the knit fabric.)

Here's how to transform a loop into a knit stitch
Slip the stitches on the knitting needles along, transferring them from one needle to another as necessary until the run is between the needles, as shown in the diagram.  To transform a loop into a knit stitch, hold a crochet hook on the FRONT of the fabric.  Insert the hook into the lowest loop (orange) from front to back, as shown.  Next, reach up and hook the next rung of the ladder (purple).  Draw the purple rung through the orange loop.  Given the direction of insertion, the act of drawing through the purple ladder will pop the head of the orange loop to the back of the fabric, leaving the arms aligned on the front in a sort of a little "v."  In this way, you have transformed the bottom loop of the ladder into a knit.  At the same time, the rung doing the transforming--the purple rung which was drawn through--becomes the loop at the bottom of the run, waiting in its turn to be transformed from a loop to a stitch.

Insert crochet hook into the orange loop from
the front, then draw through the next rung on the
ladder (purple).  This not only transforms the orange
loop into a knit stitch, but also turns the purple
rung into the next bottom loop, waiting in its
 turn to be transformed from a loop into a stitch

Here's how to work a loop as a purl stitch
In our garter stitch diagram, we started with an orange loop which had to be worked as a knit. As stated previously, garter and seed stitch runs are corrected by creating an alternating stack of knit and purl stitches. Therefore, we know that the next loop after a knit stitch has to be transformed into a purl stitch. So, the next step is to draw through the following rung (brown) in the opposite direction--to work it from back to front, thus transforming the purple loop into a purl.

We can double-check that this is correct because in a garter stitch fabric, the bottom loop is to be transformed into the same sort of stitch as its two immediate neighbors, and these stitches (now colored pink) are both purls--their heads are popped to the front of the fabric. Therefore, the brown rung must be drawn through the purple loop in such a manner as to transform the purple loop into a purl stitch.

(Again, if the fabric were seed stitch, the fact of two pink neighbor purl stitches would mean that the purple loop ought to be transformed into the opposite of its neighbor stitches--a knit stitch.)

Specifically, whenever you need to work a loop at the bottom of a ladder as a purl, here's how: Insert the crochet hook from the back of the fabric, through the purple loop, from back to front, as shown. Then, draw through the next ladder loop (brown), working from back to front.

Insert crochet hook into the purple loop from
the back, then draw through the next rung on the
ladder (brown).  This not only transforms the purple
loop into a purl stitch, but also turns the brown
rung into the next bottom loop, waiting in its
 turn to be transformed from a loop into a stitch

To transform a loop into a KNIT stitch, insert the crochet hook into the loop from the FRONT and draw through the next ladder rung from that position.  To transform a loop into a PURL stitch, insert the crochet hook from the BACK and draw through the next ladder rung from that position (but keep reading down to shortcuts for an easier way!)

Repeating the process
Keep repeating this process, moving the crochet hook to opposite faces of the fabric and drawing the next ladder rung through the loop below. To get the crochet hook to the other side of the fabric, you've actually got to remove it from the loop you just drew up, pinch that loop with your fingers, put the hook on the other side of the fabric, and insert the hook into the loop you are pinching.

Once you have drawn up each new loop to alternate faces of the knit fabric, you will have created a column composed of a stack of alternating knits and purls, as shown in the last diagram, below.

final result: an alternating stack of knits and purls

I have illustrated the process in the conceptually simplest manner, showing the work as if it were always to be seen from the same side of the fabric.  This is fine for a dropped stitch or two, and this orientation makes it easy to understand, I think. However, here are two shortcuts which make this process easier to work if you should happen to have more than a stitch or two to fix.

Shortcut 1--fabric flipping
Once you have gone through the pinching-neede-switching-and-inserting process two or three times, you will see that it really annoying to have to insert the crochet hook from the back.  Luckily, as we all know, the opposite of a purl is a knit.  Therefore, when it appears from the front of the fabric that the next stitch ought to be a purl, you will find that it is much easier to flip the fabric around front-to-back instead, so that you are always inserting the crochet hook into the bottom loop from the front, thus transforming the loop into a knit stitch.  The back of the knit is a purl, so all is well.

Shortcut 2--double ended hook or double-ended latch hook
After you have worked a few runs as for shortcut 1, you will discover that even though flipping so that you can always insert from the front is easier than trying to insert from the back, it is still quite annoying to have to continuously remove the crochet hook, only to have to insert it again once the fabric has been flipped.  It is at this point that you might wish to consider buying a double-ended crochet hook or a special kind of double-ended latch hook tool called a "seed-stitcher."

With a double-ended hook, you can do all the latching-up from the front.  This is done by sliding the needle from one end to the other, using opposite hooks alternately, for each stitch to be made.  Although this sounds very complicated, it isn't--once you get  hold of a double ended hook you will see how much easier this is. Here is a link to a video showing how to use a certain kind of double ended crochet hook called a "fix-a-stitch" and here is another  link to a you-tube video by the makers of the "seed-stitcher" double ended latch hook tool,  also showing how to do this.  The second video shows machine knitting being latched up, but the same technique is used for hand knitting.  At 24 seconds, you can see the seed stitcher being pushed through to its other end to make a purl stitch after a knit stitch, at 35 seconds, you can see the seed stitcher being pulled forward to make a knit stitch after a purl stitch. Both the double-ended crochet hook and the double-ended latch hook work in the same manner, although you might find the latch hook easier to use.

Good knitting, TK
PS:  Special thanks to Joan Schrouder who first clued me in to the seed stitcher tool.
You have been reading TECHknitting blog on fixing a run in garter stitch, fixing a run in seed stitch


Boo's Mom said...

Please, please turn your posts into a book! I love blogs, but to have your knowledge in a book I could thumb through while sitting next to the fire with a cup of tea...

Jennifer said...

Thank you for the info. I always forget how to pick up the stitches. I've saved it for further use.
PS I agree that you should turn your posts into a book! :)

Knit -University said...

Add me to the cheers for you to put all of your fabulous instruction in a book.
Also check out the fix-a-stitch they make a tool for fixing garter/seed stitch in three sizes.

BeadKnitter said...

A double ended crochet hook! Wow! Why didn't I think of that? Thank you so much for this tip!

Cheryl S. said...

I bought a seed-stitcher several years ago, and I love it. It does take a little practice, though. For just a few stitches, I don't usually bother with it - but if it's a longer run, it's much quicker to use than a crochet hook.

Geri said...

Brilliant! Thanks for the tip.

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

I always flip mine around so I'm working from the knit side; it's much easier for me that way. But a double ended hook? Brilliant! Now I just have to find one...

Robin said...

Please add my second to Boo's Mom. A book of your wisdom, a log fire, and a cup of chai tea -- what more could a person ask for.

Lea-Ann said...

thanks for the review/link to our video and info on how to use the seed stitcher tool! Lea-Ann

PMcD said...

Perfect timing! I was about 4 rows from completing the garter border on the fourth side of an afghan (the project that's taken me 11 months from start to finish!!) when I noticed a dropped stitch about 30 rows back. Yikes!

As always, your explanations and diagrams are clear and easy to understand. Thank you so much, and let me second all the other commenters who have suggested that you publish a book (preferably something spiral bound....) with your "how tos."

AdaKnits said...

Brilliant (as always)! THis is such an improvement over my technique and great timing since a friend just asked me to show her how to fix this very problem in her garter stitch - sending this link right along to her! You are fabulous and... yes... I would also love to see your posts compiled into a book. It would be a true gift to the knitting world. :)

Carol said...

If the thought of publishing a complete book is overwhelming, please consider an e-book of what you feel is ready now, with updates when you think they are appropriate as Cat Bordhi did with her Sweet Tomato Heel e-book. You can correct errors, offer improved solutions, or add new content at any time.

Julia Thom said...

Thanks for the double ended crochet hook tip. I am one of those annoyed by garter and seed stitch pick ups. I've fiddled with it many times to avoid the flip fabric method. I'm sure I'll use your tip.

Leslie Goldenberg said...

Thank you so much for this excellent explanation. I'm working on a Veera Välimäki pattern in garter stitch. I was struggling to correct a dropped stitch. Your post helped me immensely to fix the mistake PERFECTLY! Much appreciated!

Kata. said...

To add, one does not always have to reinsert the hook. For a purl stitch, I insert the hook from above the loose thread into the stitch, which enables to make a purl stitch and then the knit stitch can be recovered. This makes for one insertion every two stitches.

phedre said...

I cannot thank you enough for this post. I'm an expert crocheter who is trying to learn to knit for the umpteenth time and doing a dead simple project (a scarf completely in garter stitch). It's taken awhile, but I've got the long tail cast-on, the knit stitch, and the slipped stitch edging down. What has nearly caused me to throw up my hands in despair and declare, yet again, that knitting is just too frustrating has been my inabiity to repair mistakes (in particular, lost stitches) without turning the whole piece into an irretrievable mess and having to start over. This after reading instructions in numerous books and on numerous other websites. Your explanation is the first one I've found that actually describes the structure of the stitches in a way that makes sense and shows exactly how to recover one that's gone missing. I have hope again that maybe I can actually succeed at this :-)

TECHknitter said...

Hi Phedre--glad to have been of service, and thanks for writing. Best regards, TK

Taryn Tarantino said...

knit stitches have their heads popped onto the BACK of the fabric, while purl stitches have their heads popped onto the FRONT of the fabric. Wow THAT is a huge help! thank you for sharing your knowledge, I can't imagine how I knitted before the internet was there 24/7 to help me fix my mistakes! :-)

Anonymous said...

I realize this post has been out here a while but just had to comment with a sincere THANK YOU! This is the most clear explanation of how to fix the problem I found while searching.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! I have struggled with this for years and didn't know there was such a thing as a double ended crochet hook; rushed to town and got one at Joann's ... awesome!

Anonymous said...

You're a Goddess for sharing this!! Thank you!!