Have you ever had to frog your knitting? That might sound confusing, but it's just a fun way of describing what can feel like a sad and daunting way to fix a knitting mistake—that's because frogging in knitting (and crochet) is what you do when you need to unravel your project.
No one wants to undo their work, especially when it's rows and rows of stitches. But it can be much better to fix an error than to live with it and always know that it's there. Small mistakes may not show, but some are too noticeable to ignore—that's where frogging comes in.
When you need to go back to a mistake in your work, it might sound as easy as pulling and unraveling the knitting, and that's true—to a point. However, it's important to know what you're doing before you starting ripping so that you can get back on track again.
Frogging vs. Tinking
To undo your knitting, there are two methods: frogging and tinking.
To frog, you remove your knitting needles and start pulling the yarn to rip back all the stitches you made. You can frog one row or a whole lot, and if you're not paying attention, you might rip more stitches than you intended. Once you get the area where the mistake happened and you fix it, you need to insert the needles through all the stitches again, making sure they are all going in the correct direction. For this, it's helpful to know how to read your knitting.
To tink, you unknit one stitch at a time. In fact, "tink" is just "knit" backward, which is how it gets its name. When tinking you have more control over each stitch, which can be helpful for some types of stitches and patterns. The method takes a lot longer, so it's best for when you only need to go back a short distance to fix a mistake.
Using a Lifeline
If you're like most knitters, the first time you have to frog a project will be terrifying. The idea of undoing your work is devastating enough and the thought of not being able to get your stitches back in the right place makes it worse. That's where a lifeline comes in.
A lifeline is like a backup plan and bookmark for your knitting. It creates a safety line through the stitches so that when you are frogging you don't lose the stitches or rip too far. For simple knitting projects, you probably don't need a lifeline, but, they are especially helpful for knitting lace or other large or complicated designs.
To run a lifeline, choose a spot where you want to create this emergency stopping point. The end of a pattern repeat is usually a good choice, but it could be anywhere as long as you know where it is in the pattern so you can find your place again. Thread a yarn needle with a smooth, contrasting yarn, then slide it through all the stitches on your needle. That's it!
If you didn't run a lifeline, but need to frog your work, you can also use this same process to run the contrasting yarn through a row of stitches just below the mistake. You should slide the needle under the right leg of each stitch.
After frogging to the lifeline, slide all the stitches back onto the needle and you can carry on knitting!
Reusing Frogged Yarn
Sometimes frogging part of a project isn't enough. You might need to start over or simply abandon a project. When you frog the whole thing, especially on a long-term work in progress, you may notice that the yarn looks a little like ramen noodles.
That's not much of a problem when going back and fixing a mistake and then reknitting the rows, but the different texture and twist of the frogged yarn can make it harder to work with. Thankfully, just like hair that was curled, you can straighten the yarn with a short soaking.
Wind the frogged yarn into a skein and tie it in a few places, then place it in cool water for a little while. You'll see the curls and twist relax as soon as the water soaks into the yarn. Give it enough time for the yarn to saturate, then pull it out and gently squeeze the excess water out. Hang it to dry and now your yarn is as good as new!
Frog With Confidence
Mistakes in knitting are never fun to deal with, but they don't have to be tragic. Decide if a lifeline will help you, pay attention to where you need to stop, then take a deep breath and rip it!