Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Hole in my knitting! Help!

"How did I make this hole in my knitting?"  "Where did this hole come from?" These are common questions on knitting forums.  If you have a mystery hole in your knitting and don't know how it got there, perhaps your problem is shown below.

rogues' gallery of mystery knitting holes
A Rogues' Gallery of Mystery Knitting Holes

Going around clockwise, and starting from the upper left, 

  • At 11 o'clock in magenta, a very common error, an enlarged stitch
  • At 12 o'clock, in bright blue, one of the larger types of holes: a compound error made of a dropped stitch combined with an inadvertent yarn over
  • At 1 o'clock in yellow, this is an inadvertent yarn over, another very common error, generally a roundish hole, but wider at the top than the bottom.  
  • Along the bottom, in the 5 o'clock position in red, we have a dropped stitch, also relatively common, sometimes showing as a triangle-shaped hole.
  • And finally, at 7 o'clock in bright green, we have a kind of vertical hole which results from a partial short row, a relatively rare error, perhaps the most mysterious of all when it happens. 

You can see the relative size of these typical errors on the background fabric, and the typical shape of each error in its close-up overlay portrait. To inspect more closely, click on any picture, above or below. 

Below is more about each error, taken in reverse order.

Partial short row

Mysterious elongated hole in knitting
In this illustration, the two extra (short) rows appear on the left side of this vertical-looking mystery hole

How it happened: This error can happen only with flat (back-and-forth) knitting.  What happens is, the knitting gets put down in the middle of a row.  Then, when it's picked back up again, you set off knitting in the wrong direction. So let's say you were knitting stockinette fabric and were working down a knit row on the smooth (knit) fabric face when you put the project down.  Then when you started up the work again, you mistakenly turned the fabric and set off purling.  In other words, you mistakenly set off going back in the direction from which you came,  instead of working further along the original row. 

This error is actually a species of short-row, so, besides making a hole, it also makes one side of the fabric two rows higher than the other side. Note that the stitch count does not change, only the row count, and that, only on one side of the hole. In the above illustration, the two extra rows appear on the left side of the hole. 

To avoid: If you always work to the end of the row before putting the work down, this mistake is unlikely to happen. If you can't do that, then make sure your running yarn is coming from the skein into the fabric onto the right needle when you pick up your work after setting it down, and this is true regardless of whether you knit continental, English-style or combo-method. (Mirror-image knitters: your running yarn comes into the fabric on the left needle when you pick up a project previously set down.) 

To diagnose: count your rows on both sides of the hole. If you're knitting flat, if the hole is mostly vertical,  if the stitch count is unchanged, and if the row-count is off by two between the opposite sides of the hole, this error is your culprit.  

To correct: There is no trick to correct this error so it is structurally identical to no-error fabric. If you're a perfectionist, you must pull out and re-do. On the other hand, if you're way past the spot where the hole appears and/or are discouraged by the idea of pulling out, take heart: in plain knitting, this is not a very noticeable error. Unless your yarn and gauge are both mirror-smooth, this sort of error will pass unnoticed by any eyes but yours if you simply close the hole by duplicate stitching over it. 

Miscellaneous--relationship to buttonholes: this error looks like a vertical buttonhole because it was created the same as the first half of a vertical buttonhole.  If you fear your front edge will flare or ruffle, and you need vertical buttonholes for a small button (pearl buttons on a baby-sweater, say) you can choose to make this "error" on purpose.  Work to within two or three stitches of the front edge, then turn the work and go back to the opposite seam. On the next row, work all the way through to the front-edge.  VoilĂ . You've created a semi-vertical buttonhole, while at the same time, the edge of the garment has been kept tight via the missing rows.  This works very well for a few buttons spaced some distance apart. But for a fancy garment with many buttonholes close together, this trick might make the front edge too tight due to too many missed rows at the front edge--if so, use the YO buttonhole described below, instead.

Dropped Stitch

Dropped stitch in knitting, leaving a hole.
Dropped stitch.  This one has the typical triangular shape, while the unmistakable dropped stitch sits atop a now-dead-end column.

How it happened: When a stitch falls off the (left) holding needle and lays there, unknit, but then the following stitch is knit normally, the stitch which fell off is called a dropped stitch.  If the error is not corrected before the next row is knit, the entire column of knitting headed by the dropped stitch dead-ends, the stitch count is reduced by one and a hole forms in the fabric over the top of the lost column. At the head of the lost column, there appears the dropped loop of yarn. Because the loop is not fastened into the fabric, then when the fabric is stressed, the loop may run out, forming a ladder, as in a nylon stocking with a laddered run. 

To avoid: I find it pays to count the stitches every few rows, to catch this sort of thing before it gets too far along. 

dropped stitch in knitting, side view
The diagnostic tell-tale:
the dropped stitch itself
To diagnose: if your stitch count is one (or more) off, check your fabric for the tell-tale loop and hole. It's certainly a dropped stitch if the loop of the stitch is sitting there, sticking out of the fabric. 

To correct: If you are only a row or so above the dropped stitch, consider ripping back. If reluctant to rip back because of the yarn you're working with (mohair perhaps?) you can try to wiggle some excess yarn out of the fabric above the error, then latch up. (Video link to latching up)

If you're not going to rip back (perhaps it would be discouraging because the error is too far down?) then try one of these tricks:

--Thread a large-eyed, sharp-pointed (crewel) needle with matching yarn. Anchor the yarn on one side of the dropped stitch by skimming the needle through the fabric leading up to the loose stitch.  Draw the yarn through the loose loop, then anchor the yarn on the other side of the loose loop. This fastens the loop into the fabric so it cannot run out.  

--An alternative is to anchor the yarn, then work a duplicate stitch binding the dropped stitch BEHIND a neighbor-stitch, as if you had worked a k2tog decrease at that spot. Then re-anchor the yarn on the other side of the duplicate stitch. This looks neater from the front but you get a three-stitch stack (the duplicate stitch, the neighbor stitch and the dropped stitch) so things might get a bit lumpy. If your yarn is plied, maybe duplicate stitch using just one or two plies instead of the whole thick yarn if you want to go this route. 

If the stitch count is very important for the pattern you are working, use the twisted-loop method or the nearly-invisible increase to add another stitch to your work in some inconspicuous spot, such as near the side seam. 

Inadvertent yarn over

Inadvertent yarn over in knitting, giving rise to a hole and a new column of stitches
Inadvertent yarn over: a roundish hole, wider at the top than the bottom, and giving rise to a new column of stitches

How it happened: This common error happens when you mistakenly catch the tail of yarn connecting two stitches over your knitting needle, so as to make a yarn over where you don't want one. A yarn over is shown in this linked post--the link shows how to make a yarn over when you forgot to do so in the row below, but the mistake we're talking about here is created in the same manner except that the yarn got caught over the needle by accident, rather than on purpose. As you can see from the above photo, the inadvertent yarn over gives rise to a new column of stitches, arising from a round-shaped hole.

To avoid: As with the previous error--the dropped stitch, which causes the stitch count to decrease by one, this error--the inadvertent yarn over also influences the stitch count, but this time, by increasing the count by one. I find it pays to count the stitches every few rows, to catch both of these sorts of errors before they get too far along. 

To diagnose: The shape of the hole is one clue, and the extra stitch in your stitch count is the tell-tale confirmation.

To correct: This error amounts to an increase, meaning more yarn has been put into the fabric on every round or row, by being knit into the new column. The best way to fix this is to go back and rip out. 

One alternative is to duplicate-stitch the hole shut, then correct the stitch count by decreasing away one stitch in an inconspicuous spot. 

If you're knitting flat, and the error is quite near one edge of the work or another, you could perhaps try to fix this by dropping the extra column (it will not run out past where the yarn over mistake arose). This leaves you with a ladder of slack yarn which you could try to pick, as best as possible, through the fabric to park it over by the side seam, where you can eventually lose the slack in the seam itself at seaming-up time. 

Alternatively, you could work all the slack to one spot, then cut the ends free and use a sewing needle or a knit-picker latch hook to work in the very short tails. However, doing this in the middle of a fabric is likely to show as a lumpy disturbance in the tension, especially if there are stacks of work-ins running up a column of knitting. on the other hand, if there's just one giant accidental YO in the fabric (perhaps the yarn was twisted onto itself, or knotted by accident, or snagged?) then cutting the yarn and working in the slack as ends is a good solution. 

Miscellaneous--relationship to buttonholes: A YO buttonhole is a well-known knitting trick, sometimes called a sheeps-eye. As stated, the YO increases the stitch count by one, which must be counteracted by a matching decrease. This link shows the YO buttonhole with the decrease worked first, then the stitch count is corrected by the YO, but you can just as well work this the other way around, making the YO first, then correct via a decrease on the following row.

Miscellaneous--relationship to increases: Sometimes a YO hole may appear where you aren't expecting one because you knit wrong into a planned increase based on a twisted tail (M1, backwards loop, e-loop, yanked increase, twisted YO or the like). In other words, instead of keeping the tail twisted so as to form the basis of a column of stitches, the twist was inadvertently untwisted by knitting into it "open," (from the wrong direction) thus making a YO where you meant to knit into the twist. You'll know this is your problem if you have a hole where you meant to have a twisted-base increase, and if your stitch count is what it should be AFTER the planned increase. The solution is to drop the column to where the YO appears, then twist the tail where the YO was, then latch back up again, basing the new column on the now-twisted tail. 

Compound Error: Dropped Stitch combined with Inadvertent YO

Hole in knitting, combo hole, dropped stitch plus inadvertent YO
Combo hole: dropped stitch + inadvertent yarn over

How it happened: This is a combo error. There are three ways I know of that this one happens. 

  • When you go to grab a stitch, you knock the stitch off by accident, but still perform the knitting action.  This action places an inadvertent YO in the column directly over the dropped stitch.  On subsequent rows or rounds, you knit into the YO or the column based on the YO. 
  • Another way this could happen is if you accidentally knit or purl through the halo or fluff of a fuzzy-yarned stitch instead of through the stitch itself. Then, as you keep knitting along, the fluff gives way and the hole appears. 
  • A third way is that you dropped a stitch on one round, but on the next round, your brain subconsciously notes there should be a stitch there. This is especially likely in a patterned fabric like seed stitch, basket-weave, double-moss or the like. The I-am-silently-counting part of your brain then tells your hands to create a knitted stitch onto a tail of yarn just above the dropped stitch, while the I-am-enjoying-myself part of your brain keeps watching TV. 

How to avoid: once you've knitted a round or row into the YO above the dropped stitch, this compound error doesn't change the overall stitch count, so you usually don't notice this one until you inspect your fabric. The good news is, it's a fairly evident hole--probably the biggest inadvertent hole of all--so you'll notice it fairly soon.  The other good news is that, unlike any of the errors above, this one's easy to fix perfectly. 

How to diagnose: A big hole with a dropped stitch at its base, while the overall stitch count has not changed? This is your problem! 

How to correct: Because the stitch count has not changed, the correct amount of yarn has been supplied to the fabric.  In effect, this is merely an interrupted column. Therefore,  ladder down to where the YO starts, then latch up from the dropped stitch. If you need to latch back up in pattern (seed stitch, etc.) this link has some tricks for you

Alternatively, our old friend the duplicate stitch will fix this without having to drop anything. Duplicate stitch through the base of the dropped stitch into the base of the YO. Use a sharp-pointed needle and pierce through the fibers of the dropped stitch so as to prevent it from becoming loose in the fabric, turning into an enlarged stitch over time due to fabric-stretching and wear. 

Enlarged stitch

Hole in knitting due to enlarged stitch.
Hole in knitting due to enlarged stitch

How it happened: This is a fairly common error. It can result from an inadvertent yarn over made in one row, and then dropped off the needle in the next row. The stitches on either side of the dropped-off YO soak up the extra yarn and become enlarged. Another cause is distraction, sometimes because you put down the work in the middle or a row or round, then pick it up again without adjusting your tension. Finally, another common cause of this error is "bunching," being an inconsistent way of knitting with too-long runs, meaning the fabric is not repositioned often enough. Here is a whole post about bunching.  

How to diagnose: If you have the occasional enlarged stitch, that's generally down to distraction or an inadvertent yarn over, subsequently dropped off. If you have lots of enlarged stitches, consider reading the above linked article on bunching.

How to correct: Enlarged stitches are a tension problem. You can correct it by picking the excess yarn away from the enlarged stitch with the pointy tip of a small knitting needle and distributing this slack evenly within the surrounding fabric. 

--Good knitting, TK

PS: If you're puzzled by mystery holes which don't fit into any of these descriptions, send me a description of what you think you did plus a photo via Ravelry (where I'm TECHknitter)  or via e-mail--TECHknitting at Hotmail dot com, replacing "at" with "@" and "dot" with "." (Facebook isn't a good way to contact me.)