One of the most common mistakes in knitting is the dropped stitch. It happens to all of us at some time or another - and to some of us very regularly! In a single knitted garment there are often hundreds, if not thousands, of stitches, and so it would be more of a surprise if we didn't drop a stitch somewhere along the way. Most often we drop stitches when we are knitting too fast, or not paying close enough attention to our work. Sometimes this can be more likely to happen when we hold the work too close to the tips of the needles, or use very smooth needles that allow the stitches to slip and slide a bit more freely. Or, our fingers may simply just not recognize that something has gone awry.
Whatever the reason for dropping the stitch, it is thankfully relatively easy to fix! First, when you notice the dropped stitch, you may want to place it on a stitch marker or stitch holder to keep secure. If you're not able to return to the project until later, this will prevent the stitch from dropping any further.
If left unnoticed for too long, you may see a long line of stitches starting to unravel, like a ladder where the dropped stitches form little rungs. These 'rungs' are the stitches you need to rescue, one at a time.
First, you'll need to rearrange your stitches on your needles so that the left and right needles are on either side of the location of the dropped stitch. Next, find a crochet hook that is similar in size to the needles you are using. Insert the crochet hook through the bottom stitch (you may need to tug it up a bit with your fingers first, to make the loop nicely visible).
Next, hook the next stitch (or 'rung' of the ladder) with the crochet hook and pull it through the stitch. Congratulations, you've just rescued one stitch!
Just repeat these two steps until you have picked up all of the dropped stitches and placed the last one back onto the needle. The fabric may be a little bit loose or tight in some places, but the stitches will look just as they should. Any un-even fabric will even out once again after washing and blocking the final piece. As you can see, picking up a dropped stitch isn't too hard.
Although dropped stitches are usually considered cause for alarm, in some projects, dropped stitches are used on purpose and can be quite decorative! The ever-popular Clapotis scarf is a great example of this. Also, if you knit with wool most often you may find dropped stitches less troublesome to deal with, since wool is quite 'sticky' and does not unravel as quickly as smoother fibers such as alpaca, silk, or cotton. In any case, remember to check your work regularly and catch the dropped stitches as soon as possible, before they become a nuisance.