Mission: impossible

Well, look at that. It’s a wee mitten missing it’s cuff, which is doubly sad because that mitten totally had a cuff last night.


I knew when I was casting on the mittens that there might not be enough yarn. I even asked Denny if she thought there would be enough yarn and she said (rather confidently) “No. That is not enough yarn.” I then rambled off things about small hands and little mittens and not putting much of a cuff and making them narrow and Denny looked at me and said “Still won’t work” and I said something about how I thought it would work but it would be close… and Denny looked at me, smiled and said “You can if you like”, and I knew then that I was hosed, but I started to knit anyway, because darn it, I do like to be right and there was a chance I was. Mittens are quick, so by about 10:30 I had a finished mitten, and trotted back to the scale to weigh the remaining yarn and the mitten itself. The mitten weighed more than the ball (although not by much. My victory was so close.) and if a mitten made from yarn weighs more than the yarn left to make another one, you are.. to put it poetically, entirely screwed. I felt badly about it for a second, Denny smirked about it for a minute, and then I dealt with it. This pictures is bad, but you can mostly see what I did.


I snipped one tiny stitch above the cuff, and began to weasel that strand out of the work, revealing live stitches above the row I was removing, and below. When I had the whole row pulled out, I picked up those live stitches from the mitten part, and I’ll ravel the now detached cuff to give me enough yarn for the other mitten. Since someone will ask, the reason that I didn’t just unpick my cast on edge and ravel it that way, is because ribbing cannot be ravelled from the cast on direction. Something about the knit/purl combo means it absolutely doesn’t work. (I know there are some of you who won’t believe that and are going right now to knit a little swatch and try it, and I encourage that. It’s exactly what I did when someone told me it wouldn’t work. Go forth and test.)


Now I’ve got a wee cuff I can ravel in the expected manner and also what’s left of the ball, and that’s enough (I weighed) to knit the second mitten. I just need to decide what I’ll make the cuff out of, and knit it downwards from those picked up stitches, and upwards for the other (nobody will be able to tell) and bingo. I’m once again grateful that I screw up enough to have developed a posse of skills to help me cope. The longer I knit the more I think that it’s not actually knitting well that matters (since I sort of don’t) but developing a wide range of skills to correct my rather impressive orbit of ways to arse knitting up.

209 thoughts on “Mission: impossible

  1. Well done – and what a great idea! Thanks for sharing it with the blog. That’ll help us to make the same mistake …
    These are going to be great mittens from great yarn.

  2. Your posting came at the perfect time…I’ve knit a Wonderful Wallaby and the sleeves look as if a Wallaby was going to wear it. Short stubby little things. Now I can fix it. I know I can. I know I can.

  3. Dude. I’ve totally tried to unravel ribbing from the cast on edge. Repeatedly. It never works. Maybe I’ll believe it now because some one else said it. Because I don’t seem to believe myself.

  4. Skills are always a good thing. I teach, and I focus on skills rather than content, because content can be looked up easily, but a skill is a valuable thing.
    Take care.

  5. And after you “arse it up” enough to acquire all those crazy fix-it skills, you blog them so that those of us who knit too slowly to amass such skills just piggyback off yours. Cute mittens too. And what a Canadian thing to be knitting in August.

  6. I completely agree with your assessment of knitting well vs. skill level. An arsenal of skills is essential. And I think I hear the deafening roar of knitting needles testing your rib statement!

  7. Love this project from beginning to end. This is one of my favorite colorways you could go either some shade of vanilla or brown or burgundy good problem to have! I am glad you are stubborn enough to make this work into 2 mittens. I am totally going to do the swatch.

  8. Such pretty mittens! Personally, I love mittens with complementary cuffs. I’d use some other handspun – one of the skeins I have that’s not even enough for a single mitten or a pair of fingerless gloves (I have lots, I’m bad at buying enough fiber for a real knitting project)

  9. I suddenly feel a burning need to leave work and go home and knit mittens. I’ve never knit mittens. I don’t even especially like mittens.
    These are lovely.

  10. Steph you have saved my arse so many times from things I have learned from your blog on correcting things and this is one I will use this week as the sleeves I knit on commissioned sweater are too long and i am not undoing the whole sleeve to correct it, i will how ever do what you have done
    The sweater is the silver belle from Vogue anniversary edition and which is a myriad of cables and when it was completed I found a cable which I had crossed in the wrong direction and I used your technique that i read a while ago to fix it
    I would never have thought of these things or had the courage if you had not done them online
    I could kiss you, thanks much

  11. I didn’t know that you can’t unravel ribbing from the cast-on. I’m still a new knitter (my 1yr knitiversary is in Nov.). Good to know. Those are beautiful mittens.

  12. Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in, but I’m just happy to see you worked the word “arse” in.

  13. It’s still August, but this morning called for a sweater and scarf, and my car was covered in dew. Your mitten looks rather comfortable considering the impending autumn. Thanks for the inspiration.

  14. Oh, so I’m *not* the only one who can’t seem to rip out ribbing from the cast-on?! D’oh!
    Yup, one of my favorite things about my knitting lately is the newly developed confidence that I can fix/fudge most things, and not minding the frogging of those that I can’t.

  15. Thanks so much for the mitten-cuff tutorial.
    There are so many things that patterns don’t tell the newbie knitter. We all appreciate your arsing things up so we don’t have to!

  16. Oh, Steph, you are a hoot. When I saw yesterday’s post, I thought, “Really? I don’t think that’s enough yarn to make mittens, but the woman knits way more than I do; maybe she knows some yarn-saving trick.” Little did I realize that you were in denial. *hearts*
    I’m laughing and filing this away in the card catalog of the knitting section of my brain. πŸ˜€

  17. Messing up is just another name for “an ADVANCED knitting lesson” even if it is self taught.

  18. Well, at least you don’t get discouraged. I think I might have cried, just a little, and felt sorry for myself. And I don’t think I’m clever enough to rip out the way you did-I’m not sure what I would have done.

  19. Sometimes I suspect you of arsing it up on purpose, so you can blog about it and save us from ourselves. . .

  20. Knitters never say die!!!
    (well, us totally stubborn ones, anyway)
    Thanks Steph for making my day, as always!

  21. I learned the hard way that ribbing doesn’t ravel from the cast on edge, and I’m still not sure I would have thought of this – or had the courage to actually do it if I had!

  22. OMG lady! You’ve spun the fibre, knit a mitten!!!!, then un-knit the mitten…all in the time it would take me to decipher the pattern for said handwear! You ROCK so much, and have given me much to aspire to.

  23. Actually it’s nothing to do with the ribbing. Knitting just plain doesn’t unravel from the cast on edge. You’d end up picking out every stitch no matter what the the pattern.
    Still, cute mitten.

  24. I’m so glad to see you posting regularly again. I was worried for a minute there even though I knew you were busy with SS09, there were also other things going on at the time that might cause you to dump the blog.
    Those are absolutely lovely mittens and thank you for sharing your technique and the idea that you can’t unravel from the cast on edge.

  25. Mittens are tempting – but I am a slow, novice knitter, and I learned the hard way last year that I feel badly when a child loses something I’ve worked hard on (luckily, it reappeared, and was not lost forever – but I experienced the emotions that WOULD have occurred if it were lost forever – not fun) AND since I am not so great at keeping even my OWN mittens in line . . . (why CAN’T a grown woman have strings on her mittens?) – well, I don’t think I’ll knit any mittens.

  26. Anybody who claims that “knitting is boring” simply does not appreciate all the opportunities for learning – both from the successes and the mistakes!

  27. Yes, exactly — whenever someone comments that I’ve gotten good at knitting over the last few years, I think to myself that what I’ve actually gotten good at is finding ways to correct mistakes and fix disasters that crop up, because I’ve resigned myself to never knitting anything smoothly and properly as the pattern says to.

  28. Thanks for saving us from ourselves, even if we might not know it at the time. It’s good that you have enough time to spin, knit, rip, and even breathe, now.

  29. Nothing wrong with a pair of magical, sunshiney mittens that have tastefully contrasting cuffs. It’s a feature, not a bug.

  30. I trust the Yarn Harlot . . . I believe the Yarn Harlot . . . I don’t need to try it mysel . . . ah, hell, I’m an engineer, I MUST TEST!
    (Can I rationalize it by saying the test is really to figure out *why* it won’t work???)

  31. This is why I don’t sew–knitting offers a wonderful plethora of possibilities for fixing screw-ups, most of which result in having enough yarn to fix/fudge the rest of the project.
    Thanks for the tip on raveling ribbing–I’ll take your word for it!

  32. So sorry to be the bearer of bad news . . . I believe there are knitters who will be able to tell. (Probably no one would notice, but distinguishing is entirely possible.)
    When viewed on the wearer, one mitten’s ribbing will have two neat columns of V’s laying side by side, the top of the V pointing toward the fingers. The other will have one, central column of V’s pointing towards the fingers, flanked on each side by half of a stitch.
    To illustrate:
    Ribbing knit up to the mitten:
    Ribbing knit down from the mitten:
    So, while some could tell, there will be few, if any, who would actually notice. (Unless they’re all reading this right now, and this post has begun a new mania of inspecting ribbing to determine which direction it was knit in relation to the body of the fabric. :o)

  33. Heh, reminds me of the time I had to knit several sweaters for a community theater production. One of the boys had the nerve to grow three inches in the week between measurements and try-on. I had to add length to sleeves and body, and you’re right.
    Cast on edges do NOT unravel. Your sanity, yes. The edge, no.

  34. I teach beginning knitters and I like to tell them that the reason I know how to fix so many different kinds of mistakes is because I have made almost all of them.

  35. Hilariously, I learned the bitter lesson about ribbing and cast-on edges a few weeks ago when I decided to “make-over” the cuff on a recently finished knee sock. I was baffled! BAFFLED, I tell you, as to why I could frog only one stitch before having to grab a tool and pick the next one out. I did this for about 10 rows before I saw the handwriting on the wall and grabbed the scissors and just whacked the whole cuff off. How could I have been knitting for 8 years and never have heard this??
    Not a week after my struggle, the topic appeared on one of my favorite knitting sites. And now, a few weeks later here it is again in a place where I was sure to have read it.
    Lo the thread of irony cannot be unraveled from the sweater of life.

  36. You have an impressive arsenal of skills, and know how to use them! I’ve learned this particular skill (snip and pick and ravel) for a couple of near disasters, and it’s a really good one.
    I love the bits of glitz in your yarn.

  37. Red. Do the cuffs in a red that will pick up the sparkly in the yarn. That will give you fire on an icy day.

  38. Is that the skein from the last post? It’s purty. Amen to your conclusion. One of the many, many, great things about knitting is that so many things can be fixed, and adapted, and a little yarn can go a long way when you constantly need to reknit things : )

  39. I ran out of a yarn for a striped scarf that was supposed to be symmetrical at the very, very end. I tried doing the same thing, and spent three hours corrected that itty-bitty inch I was taking off the end. Never again. http://www.ravelry.com/projects/lovimoment/noro-striped-scarf
    A knitter can look at it and tell something’s off, but my husband didn’t know the difference. But my husband also would not have noticed they were asymmetrical in the first place.
    I didn’t realize, however, that it’s because it was k1p1. Now I want to try that trick with stockinette.

  40. Yup, I agree. Which is why I have a nice pair of gloves that have different color pinkies. πŸ™‚ Ran out of yarn to do the last 2 fingers of the left glove, pulled out the pinkie finger of the right glove, knit the ring finger on the left, and made the pinkies red instead of black. Then it looked funny, so I picked up stitches around the cuff and knit an inch or so down in red so I could turn it up. Then did a duplicate stitch snowflake in the same red on the back.
    Voila! Just like I meant to do it that way πŸ™‚

  41. I think that’s one of the big difference between a knitter and a Knitter; the knowledge of how to deal with something that isn’t working.
    Love the mitten.

  42. Let’s hear it for knitter’s ingenuity! The yarn really is beautiful, I love the sparkle and the richness~ yet not overdone-ness of the color! I’ll be interested to see which way you choose to go with the cuffs… tone-on-tone, dark/light contrast,with that sparkle in there maybe something fluffy/furry/soft/sparkly???? hmmmmm…How wonderful you’re getting some time to “play” with yarn again! Enjoy!!!

  43. So clever….I would have ended up with different color fingertips or a mitten hidden underneath the couch.

  44. I’m a knitting teacher, and when a student comes to me with a problem and I can give them the solution, they think I’m a genious. Thankyou all, but the real reason I know what to do in a given knitting emergency is that I’ve screwed it up in the same way in the past, and had to figure out how to make it work. I don’t really have superhuman abilities, I’ve just had more experience at messing up knitting than you. When I give them the solution and they express amazement at my knowing just what to do, I always say to them, “Ask me how I know.” It also makes them feel better, that they’re not the only one to ever do such a stupid thing with their yarn. As if.

  45. Knitting just doesn’t unravel up, which when you think about it, is a very good thing indeed. Nothing would stay knitted!!

  46. Sorry for the repeat comments. It’s my first post and I don’t know how to delete. Sorry again!

  47. I see Annalea already mentioned this, but just to second it – they will look different and if I had knit the mittens they would forever look mismatched to me and they would drive me crazy and I would feel compelled to point it out to everyone I met. Then everyone would know I was in mismatched mittens and I could never wear them again. But that’s me.
    I would instead do a provisional cast on for the second mitten and then knit both cuffs. Bonus: no waiting to find coordinating yarn for the cuff – you can keep knitting. Other bonus: maybe you’ll have enough handspun left for a stripe in the cuff, and then it will look even more like you meant to do that all along.

  48. Would it have been possible to knit it from the tip of the mitten down instead? Or is that akin to the toe-up sock and completely off limits for you?

  49. (Sounds like the perfect candidate for top-down mittens, knit at the same time, from both ends of the ball. Note to self to remember this idea.) Good save with the cuff-ripping action! And gorgeous yarn. The stst shows off the warm buttery goodness perfectly. Okay, now I’m hungry for croissants…and marmalade…

  50. Project or Process? Will you or won’t you go the provisional cast on as Tracy at 1:20pm mentions? I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to find out.

  51. Wait wait, you didn’t divide and measure the yarn into two equal balls before starting? Um…
    Thanks for the unraveling tip.

  52. That posse of coping skills is what I call “lernin’!” And learning is really worth every mistake. It makes us all better knitters.

  53. If you lived in Pittsburgh, you could add black cuffs and they would be a hit. (Black & gold – Steelers & Penquins!)

  54. I stand in awe as usual. I don’t think I even knew that you can’t unravel ribbing from the cast on edge and yes you are correct, once I get home from work I will knit a swatch just to see. Not that I don’t believe you or anything but I was always the kid that touched the hot surface just to check that what my mom said was true.

  55. Phrases like “my rather impressive orbit of ways to arse knitting up,” are what make me just adore reading your blog. You almost always make me smile and giggle out loud at least a little bit.

  56. At least mittens are small and the amount of time spent on it likewise small.
    I love the close up the snippage, because it shows of the angelica so amazingly well. It’s easy to forget in the distance shots that the yarn is full of sparkle.

  57. Could this be the start of Christmas knitting? Maybe Lene can also get a head start on “The List”. Imagine what could happen if the list is 4 months long instead of 1?

  58. Yes, I once tried to unravel part of a knit/purl cuff of a finished sock – what a disaster! These were gift socks with a finish deadline. Unfortunately the whole sock was ribbed, and it was such a mess that I ended up unraveling it entirely and starting over. Learned a big lesson on that . . . .

  59. That’s not arsing it up; that’s just testing the yarn! Besides, you know you wanted a cute contrast cuff.

  60. Random thoughts on this…
    -umm, I would tell the woice at the back of my head saying “I told you so” to shut up!
    -I was so convinced if you say it is possible then you could do it…
    -now maybe I should go back to my spindle and spin some yarn up in complementary colors to stripe my fingerless gloves to be???
    – I am knitting for more than 35 years now, and never thought to unravel ANYTHING upward…(much less ribbing)
    – If I would have such a limited amount of yarn I wouldn’t even trust the scale… I would literally halfe the yarn (I don’t exactly know how to explain, I would double the yarn, then separate at the middle then make two balls from the two ends…)
    -then knit something from the top down (knucks…, toe up socks, etc…)
    -So you are human after all…
    -I am awed by your ability to think up ways to fix up “arse-ing up”…

  61. I make mittens from the top down, like socks from the toe up. Another way to work with not quite enough yarn. Now the afghan I found in my closet will have to be unravelled to a good stripe length. There’s nothing to be done about not enough yarn in a rectangle.

  62. What kind of scale do you have/ use? I dearly want one (I run into second-item fear a lot, and consequently have a lot of short socks) but the only scales I’ve ever used have electronic displays, reside in chemistry labs and presumably run to hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

  63. I would have had a bad fit, probably thrown something and had an extra glass of wine. Then, I would have ripped the whole damn thing out and thrown it in the corner.
    I admire your reserve!

  64. Speaking of a “posse of skills” one of my best moments at Sock Summit was realizing that “wow, yes, I DO know what I’m doing!” Thanks!

  65. You’d have thought one of the skills would be “Listen to Denny.”
    (But I bet you’ve already thought to save out just enough for a contrast stripe or two in each cuff, just to prove you intended the contrast.)

  66. Whoa!! I gasped in surprise to see a mitten! You must knit like the wind. It is beautiful and the cuff color will be great no matter what you choose.

  67. I think I would have knit the thumb in a different color and added that same color as a wide stripe onto the middle of the cuff. But still, you have to find something complimentary. I do love that yarn you spun! (Sorry, you may noy like my idea, that’s the problem I suppose with a blog, everybody tells you a different way of doing something whether you asked for any advice or not.)

  68. Ha HA! What fun. You just illustrated my favorite lesson in my Summit class. I was coercing my knitters into cutting their knitting. But I was going for shock value and asking them to hack it off. Sure feels like magic when you knit in the other direction and it looks great!

  69. For a good scale, maybe you could try a kitchen store, the ones with the overpriced appliances.
    They usually offer your choice of ounces or grams
    and are intended to weigh tiny amounts.
    But I swear I’ve ripped ribbing; I just had to
    pick out the cast-on, which doesn’t rip, and get
    it to where you can’t tell which way it was knitted.

  70. See, I would have thrown it in the closet to think about later. You’re dedication is admirable.

  71. Hurrah!!! I actually got to test drive that one last November when I couldn’t for the life of me unravel a moebius pattern that had been knit straight, then kitchener stitched together with a twist. I was doing one stitch at a time with much yanking and tugging and swearing. When I finally gave up and approached it from the other end, it came undone like greased lightning. I’m soooo happy to hear that I’m not the only one who couldn’t immediately see the solution. By the way, I bought the same fiber. Only SMALL mittens need apply? Cheers, Hazel.

  72. “The longer I knit the more I think that it’s not actually knitting well that matters (since I sort of don’t) but developing a wide range of skills to correct my rather impressive orbit of ways to arse knitting up.”
    I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I am always learning new things from my mistakes and like to tell new knitters to stop fearing them because mistakes are learning tools. =) Thank you for saying this in such a humorous way!

  73. clever, and it also allows for a long cuff, which (from what I can tell) is all the rage now.
    ps – belated congrats to the newly married couple, and to the loveliness of your three daughters.

  74. Looks like you just “unvented” something!Elizabeth Zimmerman would be so proud of you.

  75. “The longer I knit the more I think that it’s not actually knitting well that matters (since I sort of don’t) but developing a wide range of skills to correct my rather impressive orbit of ways to arse knitting up.”
    I am saving this whole entry for future reference but the above quote needs to be needlepointed on a pillow! It is definitely a keeper!

  76. hmmm…makes one wonder if 2-at-a-time toe-up…er…finger-up mittens would save some grief.

  77. Oh Steph! I am so glad you wrote this post!
    In one of my earlier lives I spent ten years worth of Tuesdays bolstering knitters’ confidence and helping them be happier humans. This technique of cutting off the cuff (or bottom rib of a sweater, usually) saved dozens of sweaters from the back of the closet floor, and floored dozens of knitters.
    I like it most because it teaches that we’re not about perfection . . . we’re about persistence . . . and there are workarounds to ripping out large and small “problems.” Best of all, it empowers people. Bravo!

  78. Are you going to find cuff yarn first, or do a provisional cast-on and knit the second mitten body/thumb first? (If you knit the second mitten first, then if there’s leftover gold yarn, you can have a stripe in the cuffs….)

  79. I am teaching a friend to knit, and I keep telling her that the mistakes she makes teach her something good. Mainly, how to fix mistakes, but also that there are other ways of doing things. It’s only a mistake if you didn’t intend on doing it that way right now.

  80. That’s totally awesome. Not the running out of yarn part, but the fixing part. I learn so much from your mistakes. Prior to reading this blog I just frogged and started over, now I do a little research through the archives and bingo, you have a way to fix whatever the problem.
    Hmmmm, just so we’re clear, this is a compliment. Really.

  81. Ha ha ha. That’s so funny. I consider myself creative, but generally only because I develop “unique” ways of overcoming inevitable challenges. Occasionally it results in stylishness, but often it’s, well, just unique.

  82. Loong ago, in what definitely seems like a different galaxy, I used to ride motorcycles. Offroad. And I was not good at it. However, I would tell DH, it takes much more skill to ride badly, because I have to get myself out of all of these messes. I am convinced that is also true of knitting, even though I knit much better than I ever rode a motorcycle.

  83. Gorgeous wool. Cute mitten.
    Very Clever & useful tip for unraveling rib!
    Thank-you, once again, for sharing.
    Two suggestions:
    1/ use a temporary cast on … just in case.
    2/ work with both ends of a centre-pull ball … make one mitten from the outside end, the other from the inside end
    … so you can work to the exact half skein. (Handy if you don’t have yarn scales.)
    Both suggestions allow you to add another yarn as a trim if necessary … at fingertips &/or wrist.
    Actually, When the same thing happened to me my mittens became fingerless & gained furry wristbands. πŸ™‚
    I was really hopeful the yarn was enough.
    Now they are favourites!!

  84. The sad thing is that I knew exactly where you were going as soon as you started talking about weighing the mitten. If it were me I would duplicate-stitch some cute motif (a kitten, a bunch of grapes, a radioactivity symbol, something like that) on the hands with the cuff yarn.

  85. Well, it is good to know that even *ahem* you make errors in judgment in yardage from time to time. Psst…listen to Denny πŸ˜‰
    No, seriously, it is very helpful that you post these things so that we can see what to do (other than going “arrrrgh” and pitching it into a deep drawer) to fix awkward little situations like this. Thank you very much, you may have saved me from some angry frogging in the future!

  86. You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Just think – if you were inexperienced at fixing mistakes, you might have unraveled the whole mitten in order to reknit the cuff in a different color, but you found a much more clever solution!

  87. I completely agree that being able to fix things is what truly sets you “free” as a knitter. and I was wondering how 46 yds would be enough for even a small pair of mittens πŸ™‚

  88. Perfect timing! I have a hand made sweater I bought used for $15 years ago and have trashed it. Of course, the sleeves were too long for little old me so I turned the ends over and made cuffs. Since I wear this daily at work, my desk and computer have worn through the turn row of the cuffs, and they are coming apart. I’ve put off repairing them as they were cast on at the cuffs, and I had a terrible experience a few years ago undoing from the cast on. Didn’t believe my own experience. Thought I had done something wrong. Seems I can’t learn a lesson until someone tells me what it is about. Isn’t knitting all loops which run without provocation when one loop drops? Thanks for the clarity.

  89. Thanks for the wonderful story. But shouldn’t the title be ‘Mitten: Impossible’ instead? πŸ™‚

  90. So, does this blog entry about the mitten with no cuff mark the beginning of the Christmas knitting crises stories? (Why, yes, I’ve read and laughed my way through your books! I’m also sticking to scarves and socks so the knitting gods don’t smite me for laughing while reading your blog and books!)

  91. My small kitchen scale (digital, inexpensive, lightweight, easy to store), works very well for weighing yarn.

  92. Mmmm, orange-y rustic-y goodness!
    I personally think it’d look smashing with a deep cerulean or cobalt blue cuff, but my color loves are… odd, at times. Whatever you choose it won’t look bad, though, that’s for sure!

  93. “The longer I knit the more I think that it’s not actually knitting well that matters (since I sort of don’t) but developing a wide range of skills to correct my rather impressive orbit of ways to arse knitting up.”
    Absolutely it! I am a fairly new knitter (2 years) and frequently work with other very new knitters… and all (including myself) feel much more confident about knitting when we learn how to fix our mistakes….

  94. You’re probably already finished with pair, but I keep thinking about those tiny skeins you spun recently (before the spinning fast) that were really too small for a single project. Now, I MUST return to my project @ fix cabling errors 4 rows down. Thanks for encouraging us to persevere!

  95. Fingerless mitts- that’s what I do when I know I won’t get a whole pair of mittens out of it… of course, I don’t live in Canada, where fingerless mitts might be an abomination…

  96. To Elsimom “(why CAN’T a grown woman have strings on her mittens?)”
    Who says they can’t? As Stephanie says “There are no knitting police.” I put strings on mine and I haven’t been laughed out of town yet (at least not for that). Do what works for you.

  97. I agree with you completely that a knitter’s experience doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t made but a knitter’s experience does make a difference in knowing how to fix the problem.
    Now I must try to find a missing cable needle I really need! If only my dogs could sniff out missing knitting supplies, I’d be a much happier knitter. I’m down to my last little tape measure out of 5!

  98. I can’t believe I forgot about this. I taught senior kindergarten for 19 years. One of the first things I taught them was to say out loud whenever they felt they had made a mistake, “A mistake is an opportunity to learn something new”. It was a real confidence and esteem builder and prevented that soul-destroying urge to view errors as disasters and a sign of stupidity. I always laughed when they were still quoting it to one another when they graduated from grade eight. I just love it when something originally seen as a negative can be given a positive spin. Cheers, Hazel.

  99. Some eyelash yarn might make a nice cuff- I normally hate the stuff, but it has its uses occasionally. I’m making a pair of 50% Alpaca, 50% Silk socks for my daughter with with eyelash yarn for the top edge (she’s 8) and it’s looking rather nice.

  100. Ooh!!!If you were “close” to the needed weight with a completed mitt, now that you’ve frogged the cuff, you’ll probably have enough to add a little stripe to each cuff with whatever other cuff yarn you decide to use. It would look so cute! Good luck!

  101. Isn’t it great to have an arse-nal of skills to employ when you arse something up?

  102. Atta girl…solving yet another screw-up. Who will know, and the end result will look fabulous whatever you decide.

  103. The only things which will unravel the wrong way are plain stockinette and plain garter. Almost anything else will prevent it: switching from knit to purl within a row, decreases, twisted stitches, cables, split stitches, all the increases I can think of, even (if I recall correctly) the left and right edges of knitting.
    This is presumably why so many hemmed patterns use either twist stitch stockinette or 1/1 ribbing for the hem: those are two stitch patterns which have something which prevents unraveling every single stitch, so the hem won’t fall apart if you drop a stitch. (Seed stitch does the same thing, but it isn’t really appropriate for hems.)

  104. Funny: that reminds me of when I taught ballroom dance for a living, and I would say to my students, “Recovery is a really valuable and important skill!” Ya can’t always hit the beat or coordinate your legs (or your yarn yardage, obviously!), but being able to recover and carry on and get back to having fun–now that’s a good skill to have, in any area! =)

  105. Sweet. And now your mittens can have good long cuffs, too, which is nice because wimpy cuffs are no fun on a wet and windy day.

  106. But now the yarn shortage has freed you to skip the skimpy cuffs and knit a glorious gauntlet akin to those in Anna Zilboorg’s Magnificent Mittens.

  107. Gorgeous knit up.
    So, THAT’s why I’ve had such a hard time unraveling ribbed cuffs…..

  108. You truly nailed it on the head: people who are good at what they do, are good because they recognize their errors, analyze the situation, problem solve the possibilities of solutions and go with the best of the solutions for the situation. Some solutions must be created…. Think about recovering from cooking disasters. And today for me, golf disasters….

  109. Steph,
    It’s been a while since I’ve commented, glad I got all caught up again!
    We had company in from out of town for my son’s wedding in July. None of them really understood the whole “knitting thing”, and none of them appreciated my knitting much. And the spinning, well that’s even less appreciated.
    However, when they went up to the top of Pike’s Peak here in Colorado, I forced them to take jackets, hats, scarves, and mittens. I got laughed at and they took them just to shut me up. It was 80 or so at my house, but they got snowed on at the top of the peak. Yes, they appreciate my knitting a whole lot more now.
    So much more that two pairs of my mittens and one alpaca scarf “accidently” got packed into their suitcases and I’m pretty sure they won’t be sent back.
    So, more mittens for me to make. If I run out of yarn, I’ll know what to do. Thanks for the unraveling tip, I thought I was the only one who had trouble with that.
    And to the person who wants the yarn scale….places that sell kitchen stuff like Bed, Bath & Beyond will have them for you. They like to call them kitchen scales for some reason. Mine has never been used for food. Sometimes they are on sale pretty cheap.
    Happy mitten knitting everybody!

  110. This summer I knit a “Booga Bag” from the first yarn I had ever dyed and it was all ready to be felted–which I planned to do when I returned home from the dog park. In the meantime, my bag had a scissor-related accident (SRA)–don’t ask–it was also a TRA (teenager-related accident). The results left my daughter crying and me, a bit nauseated. I threw the bag in a corner for several days till I cooled off, and finally decided to try to fix it. This required a lot of frogging and cutting away in order to get a clean row of live stitches (on both sides of the bag). I knitted patches in a contrasting color, did a kitchner join on the opposite side of each patch and sewed up the sides. Now I have a much more interesting looking bag, a sincere apology (from said teenager) and a story to go with it. It made me feel good that I was able to look at a real ugly knitting mess and was able to figure out a solution.

  111. Don’t knit well? Yeah, right. Whatever. So is weaseling a real technique? Like frogging? What’s with the animals?

  112. It’s just that were optimists. That’s all! We know that all our good yarn karma has to eventually catch up so we just keep on trucking along ignoring every warning sign because it has to work out! And when it doesn’t, well, that’s okay too. More knitting! And when we fix those mistakes we do feel awful clever, don’t we?

  113. wow! that really is impressive. i live in fear of screwing up cos i have very limited knowledge of how (or faith in my ability) to fix mistakes. perhaps you could launch a live tutorial??? πŸ™‚

  114. “The longer I knit the more I think that it’s not actually knitting well that matters (since I sort of don’t) but developing a wide range of skills to correct my rather impressive orbit of ways to arse knitting up.”
    Funny, this is PRECISELY how computer people work.

  115. Stephanie:
    I love learning from your “arsing up.” Why? Simply because you turn a knitting disaster into a knitting remaster.
    Brilliant! Keep on keeping on…

  116. Oh dear, I definitely, DEFINITELY know that ribbing can’t be ripped from the cast-on edge. It was a painful several hours of my life in which I learned that lesson.

  117. As I slog still on MY garter stitch version of hell, pity me… I just bought yarn for my first pair of socks and I can’t start! Furthermore, my dog just tried to attack that gorgeous new yarn.

  118. Cool mitten and cool lesson. I can honestly say I’ve never tried to rip out ribbing from the cast on edge but I’m sure that eventually I would have had to. Now at least I’ll know that it won’t work ahead of time and save myself the aggravation! It will be interesting to see what you choose to make the cuff out of because the mitten yarn is so unique.

  119. It definitely, definitely is way more about fixing the ways of screwing up than I originally thought. That, and being grown-up enough to swallow my pride and frog when it’s necessary.

  120. You’d think I’d know that but I did *not* know you simply cannot unravel, in reverse, a ribbed edge. I did just that on a wrap-type tank-top and it drove me completely bonkers because I thought I just wasn’t getting it quite right. 330 sts and it took me days on end to get the damned thing done. I’m confident that I’ll remember now. Thank you.
    The mittens are simply lovely and you’re making me want, more and more, to try spinning my own yarn.

  121. You need the Enchanted Knoll batt I have in my stash, it’s a lovely light magenta. It’d be a good contrast and you could stick with the whole handspun theme. Want it?

  122. Thank you for tip about ribbing and ripping. I honestly believed that only MY ribbing made it impossible to rip it out from the cuff.

  123. I had a similar problem (with gloves) and ended up with one “from the bottom up” cuff and one down from a provisional. I notice the difference a lot–the cast off edge doesn’t look like the cast-on edge. I guess I should try other cast-off’s. But, they do tuck into my sleeve, so I am the only one who sees them.

  124. Well, in a word – – cool. I also love how I’ve knit enough, and have screwed enough up myself, that I followed exactly what you did and what you will do – – and understand it!

  125. Y’know, it strikes me that that’s true about life in general. The reason we seem wiser as we get older is not because we’re actually much wiser, but because we’re better at getting ourselves out of trouble (after all of the years of falling into it). The mittens are sunshiney and gorgeous πŸ™‚ (off to knit that swatch…)

  126. I am so glad to learn from your research that you cannot unravel ribbing from the cast on edge. I’m sure you saved me from a bout of heavy drinking and self-inflicted knitting needle injuries!

  127. Ribbing (or any mixture of K and P’s) also prevents a provisional cast on from being easily ripped out … I’ve learned that one the hard way πŸ˜‰

  128. An expert carpenter and cabinetmaker friend once told me, ‘anyone can install a cabinet if nothing goes wrong- being an expert means you can make something look good even after you’ve screwed it up on the first attempt’- true of so many things!
    And I (because I’m too cheap to get rid of tiny remainders of yarn) periodically go on mitten binges where I knit two at a time and use up odd ends of yarn in stripes- I knit from both ends at once until I run out. Since the mittens are identical, it never occurs to anyone that I didn’t plan it that way! Generally I can get to within a yard of the end of the ball before I have to throw a scrap out.

  129. “Since someone will ask, the reason that I didn’t just unpick my cast on edge and ravel it that way, is because ribbing cannot be ravelled from the cast on direction. Something about the knit/purl combo means it absolutely doesn’t work.”
    I found this out on my own but thought I was just being dumbass about the ravelling rather than that the structure just prevented ravelling. I don’t know what it says about me that I assumed I was being dumbass about un-knitting something rather than that it couldn’t be done, but there you have it.
    “The longer I knit the more I think that it’s not actually knitting well that matters (since I sort of don’t) but developing a wide range of skills to correct my rather impressive orbit of ways to arse knitting up.” Yes! I think the same thing about my own knitting. My denial & creative problem solving skills have really increased since taking up the needles. πŸ˜€

  130. dare I say that you are like all things good and chocolate?!! as a feeble knitter, these sorts of posts just make me see that knitting is process, and malleable, and an entirely human endeavour. it’s plastic (in the best sense of the word, not the messing up the oceans and wild life kind of way).
    and may I add that Denny is not to be trifled with in things fiber-ly… she’s beyond string theory, well into things string praxis!

  131. I love Elizabeth @10:41…
    you know you waaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnt it!
    I love that wool!
    nice mitties

  132. The difference between and amateur and a professional is the professional knows how to fix their mistakes.

  133. There once was knitter named Steph,
    Who denied common sense in depth.
    So she knitted a mitten,
    As soft as a kitten,
    That ended in a quite lovely mess!
    You are a wonderful inspiration! You keep us real.

  134. Thank you. Mittens are on my list. At the top. Winter is coming on fast in Alaska; the fireweed is sending out fluff. And last winter my mittens wore out (they do it every other year). Unfortunately, they need to be rather thick here, so I use Maine wool with a pattern so everything is double. Too bad, because I am still hung up making socks after all that inspiration in Portland. On the other hand, it’s important to have several projects in several stages of completion.

  135. I learned the hard way that you can’t unravel ribbing from the cast on edge. It was on a sweater. Done in the round. That was too $%^& short once it was finished. I still want to cry.

  136. I sat for hours at the Strong National Museum of Play (Rochester,NY) for hours on Thursday Fixing a huge heel flap and heel mistake on my first pair of toe up socks two at a time magic loop. I kept wishing a sock knitter would wander by and help. But you are right, I have (some) of the skills to get myself out of these situations.

  137. Aha! That’s why the pair of soakers I’m trying to unravel aren’t unravelling. I’ve been stubborn and keep pulling the yarn through the loops while trying to figure out why it isn’t working. Thank you! Now I’ll go at it from the other end.

  138. Steph, I was wondering how small this little mitten is…scale wise? So so cute arghhh!!

  139. Forgive me for hijacking Stephanie’s blog. If there is a sock knitter out there who can give me some advice, I would greatly appreciate it. I can’t buy wool in my town. I drove 25 miles north today to a yarn shop and they didn’t have wool either. I got some Regia sock yarn, some Wool Ease and Bernat Sox. The owner gave me a pattern that called for Size 5 needles and sold me a set of size 3 needles. I am confused about the yarns and the socks I want to make. I have started 2 pairs over the years, but have not finished any. omg467atyahoodotcom Thank you

  140. Love it! I am not a great knitter by any means, but I’m as good as I am because of all the mistakes I’ve had to fix.
    I haven’t been brave enough to snip things apart like that yet…but what a great thing to know!
    (BTW, I was up in your neck of the woods (sort of) last weekend–Niagara Falls—we totally enjoyed our little visit to Canada!)
    Great yarn; great mittens!

  141. thanks for the laugh… and the good advice, as others have said, for life as well as knitting. πŸ™‚

  142. I love knitting mittens and used to run into this problem too. I learned, however, to cast on for the HAND using a provisional cast on. Knit both hands, then go back and knit the cuffs with whatever is left or another yarn. Also, knitting mittens top down can be of some benefit.
    And, indeed, you CAN unravel ribbing from the cast on. It totally sucks, but can be done. You have to do the cast on stitch by stitch, and then you can do a row at a time, but you have to feed the yarn through the last (or is it first) stitch of each row. Mmm…now that I’m thinking…I’ve done that to stockinette, but not sure I”ve done it to ribbing. Probably though. I usually would cut the cast on row off cause it was too much of a pain, then unravel the ribbing. It’s not too bad if the rows are short and there’s not too many, so the tail you’re pulling through that one stitch doesn’t get too long. Okay for a mitten, not a sweater though.
    But, that’s a pretty little mitten anyway!

  143. But you can unrawell ribbing from the cast on edge, you just need to use the ball your making as your ripping it out to weave through the knitted item a few times along the road… Still, I agree, it’s a lot easier to just cut it off and unrawell from the top (I’ve just been doing both since I knit a babysweather and because of a little jarnsupplier problem I had to find a solution, I unrawelled one rib from the cast on edge and one after cutting it off, guess which method is faster :P)

  144. This has absolutely nothing to do with your mittens…which I did find extremely entertaining btw. But to your verb Kinnearing. I was just watching BBC America and Greg Kinnear was on discussing how his name is now a verb etc…anyway made me have to check out your site and throw a KUDOS to ya!!!! Happy knitting

  145. Great idea but I don’t even want to think about knitting mitts yet even though it does feel like fall already:(

  146. Even better- you can explain what you did wrong and how to fix to the rest of us so we can learn from your mistakes. That makes you a hero to all knitting kind.

  147. Thank you for the new, fresh essays. I hope you had a lovely time at the sock summit. I am glad you are fitting back into a home routine.

  148. Wow, I don’t even understand what you did so I’m completely in awe over here. Love the mittens!

  149. Where the heck was this post like, four days ago when it would have saved me HOURS of wretchedness and heartache?! Where were you when I was doing fingerless mitts for my aunt, who mentioned “making them longer”, which I thought I could be soooo clever about…
    That’s right. I tried to undo the cast-on edge of the ribbing. Horrors.
    This was good though…now I know what to do next time, aside from cursing violently for hours and struggling to make up the right number of stitches. ^.^ Thanks!

  150. Could you please post something new? I miss you. Also a long time ago I wanted you to explain Kitchner stitch and you never did, and my toes still look awful. I mean my sock toes.

  151. That is why I knit two at a time from one ball from the fingers to the cuff. Same with socks.

  152. Your little mittens are adorable. I’m wondering what yarn you’d recommend for mittens for those of us allergic to wool. I tried straight cotton but they are pretty stiff. What yarn would you use if you couldn’t use wool or animal fibers?

  153. I am glad that you have said that you can’t unravel in that direction.
    It all went a bit wrong when I tried to explain that to my collegues. I had decided remove part of my sock cuff to make it match exactly to my finished sock. I exlained that I couldn’t just unravel from the cast-on down – so they tried to help while I was out of the room.
    Unfortunatly they started on my finished sock!

  154. Oh, yes – I know you are right, and you even can’t unravel only knit stitches from the bottom either. (I think I tried that myself, too.) I remember that my mom did pretty much the same thing as you did on a 2 color fairisle jacket for my younger brother. Only he grew from it before she could find time to finish it. So she picked out 1 row just like you did, then knit on one or two extra goes with the 2 color pattern on the now separated bottom part, and after that connected it all back on the upper part again. (With the 2 yarn colors and a mending needle copying knit stitches.) In Norway there is an old saying, “need teaches naked woman how to spin”. I guess that’s still true, even if “need” may be just the need to prove you’re right;)

  155. Brilliant. I have a topless beret waiting for the day I stumble upon half a skein of discontinued variegated red wool. I’m going to pick out the cuff instead. The alternative would be a contrasting yarn at the top, with the end result looking too much like a target.
    Thanks for the help.

  156. Hi, Steph
    We love you. Would love to be related. Is Bart one of your husband’s ancestors?
    Bartholomew Dunphy went from Ireland to Newfoundland, where he married, He then went to Prince Edward Island.

  157. Stephanie–that yarn is sparkyly! I can see it, so is it the same yarn that is more like an old penny in color from today’s blog? 9/7/09? It kind of looks like camel with a little peachy red in it. I am going to the site you recommended to buy some-I moved to SC and totally do not need mittens…but I am going to knit some, because I have grandchildren and sisters in law up north. And because I come from a long line of Canadians and it’s in my blood. That, and hibernating. Except it’s 72 degrees and sunny today. (:})

  158. Dear Stephanie, I am addicted to reading anything written by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and am so comforted to know that there are others out there who share my quirks. I am a novice knitter but I already have projects all over the house and in my handbag for any situation. Then I read the first chapter in Free-Range Knitting–I thought I was the only one. This is like having an online support group. As I work on a simple shell that should have been done three months ago, having ripped it out and started over three times, I can laugh about some spectacular misstep by the master that has a sweater with one arm longer than the other. I just finished my first ever pair of socks–it has one toe slightly longer and more pointy than the other–but I am seriously thinking of framing them instead of wearing them, I am so proud of myself. Keep writing and talking, we are all so much the better for having you share. Your adoring fan, Anne from Minnesota

  159. OK, my apologies to anyone having to read my message five times! My computer kicked me off that many times so I re-sent. Please ignore the redundant messages and forgive me for my poor computer skills. I will try to do better. Anne

Comments are closed.