What Does It Mean to Frog Your Knitting?

Frogging your knitting when it's not working

Tracy the Astonishing/Flickr/CC by SA 2.0


Knitters love to use sly words and "frogging" is one of them. You may wonder what knitting a sweater has to do with the amphibian, and you are not alone. Frogging is, quite simply, the process of ripping out your knitting because of a mistake.

Why is it called frogging? Because knitters have a sense of humor and when you have to rip out a project, you need to find some way to smile!

Frogging and Tinking Your Knit Mistakes

Knitting mistakes happen to everyone. If you happen to notice a mistake on the same row you are on, you can carefully work backward across the row to the place where the mistake happened and fix it right away. This is a knitting technique known as tinking. If you didn't catch that, tink is knit spelled backward (again, a bit of knitting humor).

However, if you don't notice a mistake for several rows, you might be forced to do some frogging. If the mistake is substantial and has changed the look of your project (i.e., you accidentally swapped the right and wrong sides or missed a cable turn) the easiest way to fix it is by taking the project off the needle and ripping back to before the mistake. You will then have to put the stitches back on the needle.

This is called frogging because knitters are punny and when you frog, you "rip it, rip it." 

As quirky as the word is, it's not much fun to have to frog your projects. Yet, you will be glad you did rather than leaving a mistake that you could have fixed.

How to Frog Your Work Safely 

Naturally, talking about taking your knitting off the needle strikes fear into the hearts of many knitters, particularly if you've never done it before. It does get easier, and there are things you can do to make it less nerve-wracking. 

Knitting with a lifeline is a great idea when working a complicated or new-to-you pattern and it's particularly useful for lace and cable projects. With a lifeline, all you have to do it take out the needle, rip back to the lifeline—that's as far as you'll be able to go—and put the stitches back on the needle.

If you didn't plan ahead for making mistakes—and really, who does?—you can insert an afterthought lifeline before your rip. Use a contrasting, smooth yarn and a yarn needle to pick up the right leg of each stitch below the mistake. Then, remove the needle and rip as usual.

Tip: You can also stick a needle in the stitches at a lower spot in the project before you rip down if it makes you feel better.

Of course, you can also rip without a lifeline, which is what most people usually do. This works best with patterns that aren't too complicated. You should be comfortable enough to read your knitting and figure out where you ripped back to in the stitch pattern. You wouldn't want to start knitting again in the wrong place and have to rip again!

Another key to successful frogging is paying attention to stitch orientation when you pick the stitches back up. The stitch should flow around the needle without a twist. If you manage to put some stitches back on the needle with a twist, turn them around before you knit them. You can also work them through the back loop to straighten them out. 

A Complete Project Frogging

Frogging is also used when you rip out an entire project and start over. This can happen because you were knitting the wrong size, decided you didn't like the pattern or are unhappy with it for any other reason. It's a great way to save and reuse yarn and avoids a stockpile of unfinished projects you won't get back to.

Before you frog, it's important to think hard about whether to finish or frog a project. You don't want to regret your decision, so don't rip without careful consideration!