Knitting Blog

How to Rip Your Knitting: Techniques for Fixing Knitting Mistakes

It’s happened to all of us at some point: You notice a mistake far enough back in your knitting that you can’t tink. You must rip back. But is there an easier way to rip back your knitting without ruining what you’ve already done? Yes!

Here are a few simple techniques to making ripping back your knitting a lot easier, and a lot faster too.

Ripping Back Lifelines

Craftsy instructor Ann Budd ripping back a project in her class Save Our Stitches: Fixing Knitting Mistakes


Lifelines are a great trick that can be very helpful, especially when knitting a complicated lace or other charted pattern. A lifeline is a thin strand of yarn that is run through one row of your knitting. I like to use a strand of fingering weight mercerized cotton, but any yarn, thinner than what you are working with and sturdy will work.

I’ve used embroidery thread before, and some have even used unwaxed dental floss. To run the lifeline, you can use a darning needle and run it through the row. If you are using circular needles that screw on to their cables, thread the floss or thread you will be using through the key hole (the one used for tightening) and carry it along as you knit a new row. At the end of the row, take it out of the needle keyhole and there’s your life line.

With this lifeline, however, you will have to move it from time to time. If you place a lifeline 10 rows into your project then make a mistake 12 inches in, you’re not going to want to rip back all the way to the life line you placed at the beginning of your project. So be sure to move the life line up every couple of inches as you go.

Afterthought lifeline

An afterthought lifeline is the same as a regular life line only it is placed after you realized you’ve made a mistake. To do this you will use a darning needle and your waste yarn. begin at a point a few rows below where you’ve made your mistake. Thread the needle through the back of each stitch. To do this you will be lifting the bar on the right side of the stitch and threading from back to front. I find it easiest to do about 5-10 stitches on my needle before I pull it through.

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Just rip it.

Sometimes this is the easiest and fastest options. Before just ripping back your knitting take into consideration the yarn you area using. If it sticks to itself -think wooly and not slipper, or is relatively stiff (like linen), ripping back with this method should really be no problem. I’m pretty lazy about placing life lines so this is the method I employ most frequently. After pulling the knitting off the needles, I like to pull back to one row before the row I want to pick up. Then, I slowly pull out one stitch at a time in that last row and pick up the stitches with my needle.

The first time I saw someone do this I was terrified but it gets easier to do the more times you practice. And while I’ve done this with even a lace mesh project I was working on recently, I’d suggest you try it first with something that will be easy to pick up.

Unfortunately the hard truth is that you’ll probably meet quite a few problems as you learn and grow as a knitter. The Craftsy class Save Our Stitches will walk you through not only how to place a lifeline, but teach you how to drop stitches in order to fix errors, read your knitting, and many more helpful techniques.

I rip my knitting whenever it’s more than a couple rows down to fix. Do you rip your knitting or do you place lifelines?


Beverly Gaber

I have not done lacy knitting for fear I will not be able to fix an error. Will now try it and use a safely line! Sure hope it helps me!

Carol Thomas

Being knitter for nearly 70yrs, this tip is great on lacy patterns, and I have used it often. My Grandpa taught me to knit!!!! He could turn a sock heel like an expert on 4 needles!!! and he could also knit a new rib onto an old knitted garment without undoing the body of work…as it was War time wool etc was scarce, & I watched him – now I am a Pensioner & do not want to throw away good knitted jumpers but the ribs need help – Can you work out how he did this and help me…. thank you xx

Elaine Dunbar

This idea could save a lot of heartache when needing to rip out when using in intricate pattern. I’ll keep it in my treasure chest of great ideas!


Depending on the type of mistake, sometimes a strategic ‘dropped stitch’ approach can work wonders. I’ve reversed a cable-twist before and fixed it by just unraveling a few ‘columns’ of stitches and then reknitting them.


I’ve used the afterthought lifeline but didn’t know it had a name.

Here’s a trick I’ve used when I was truly desperate and had gone too far to go back: remove the error row and place both live rows on needles, then Kitchener stitch them back together properly.


If it’s a complex pattern – like something with a lot of lace work or a lot of movement, I will put lifelines in with each section that I complete. For instance, before starting (and after working) the lace portion. If it’s just a simple pattern, I generally don’t worry about it. Basically, if it will make me cry to have to rip it out, I put in a life line.


Like you, I’m a ripper. I’m also a world class tinker, who can tink as fast as she knits. In fact, I consider tinking to be the third basic stitch in knitting.

Barbara McCarthy

I rip back to at least one row before the mistake, pick up with a much smaller needle, then unpick back to the problem. This way I can keep count of my stitches, and pattern.

Michaela Rimer

I’ve been knitting for almost 40 years now, and I have ripped back more than my fair share. No life line, honest, too lazy. I do it the same way you do. I rip to about one row before the mistake and then knit back slowly. If it’s not too far down and not a lace or cable, I drop the stitch and fix it that way.


I am so glad i found this article. I’m a newer knitter, and have just started on my first sweater. I have a feeling this will save me tears! haha Will totally look into that Save Our Stitches class. 🙂


This is is so helpful! But I always have trouble threading in scrap yarn into purl stitches; I seem to catch the wrong row. It never seems as easy as picking up the ‘right leg’ instruction for knit stitches. Could someone explain how to thread scrap yarn through purl stitches as well? I need to use this technique to pick up stitches to shorten a cabled sleeve and add ribbing…



You can pick up the leg on all the knitted stitches on one side of the work and skip the purls. Then flip the work and just do the knits (which would be the purl in reverse side) and skip all the purls. I do them in contrasting color yarn so I can follow properly when I am getting back on my needles. So, you are in essence doing two lifelines here on both sides of the work. Am I making sense? New knitter myself so this has saved me, but my terminology is lacking. Good luck!


I run a yarn needle with contrasting smaller yarn right along the loops on left needle.

IF you are using Stitch Markers, do NOT run the lifeline through those markers.

Also, make sure to check as you’re frogging – no sense in going all the way back to the lifeline IF you see the mistake before then. If that happens, just use a smaller right hand needle, pick up the stitches, and continue to knit. There is a chance that you won’t have to get to the lifeline. Just keep it there anyway! Add a new one as soon as you feel comfortable that all rows are correct.

Remember to add back the stitch markers.

Biene Vallee

I finished an Evelyn Clark shawl, laid it on the blocking material and found a hole about 16″ from the end. The entire shawl, Happy Trails, knitted, no purls whatsoever. I have checked the shawl on how to begin frogging and it looks overwhelming. This blog is a godsend. Thank you.


Been fishing around looking for advice on ripping back a piece. Glad to find ideas on after thought lifelines. My piece is on a circular needle. Rather than using a waste thread, I found another site that suggested using a narrower gauge circular needle and another cord. Thought this sounded extremely clever. I haven’t tried this method yet, but it sure beats a do over of an entire piece!


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