Knitting Rules : Love it, or Leave it

Tell me if you know this one:

You’re knitting, knitting, knitting, but notice that you keep checking in with yourself about a weird spot twenty rows ago, “Can I live with this mistake?”

Or maybe you’re having doubts about the project. Or have a sinking feeling about the size or the yarn or the pattern, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape it.

Something. Is. Wrong.

Do you listen to that gut feeling, or do you push through it? How do you know when to say when?

How do you know if you’re knitting by force?

The first step to recovery is admitting we have a problem, and knitting by force* is a problem. How do we decide if it’s a legitimate deal-breaker or if we’re just having a momentary insecurity and need to push through? Let’s talk through a few scenarios.

  • You’re agonizing over a loose row several inches ago and no amount of tugging helps.

Option 1: What choice do you have? Ignore it. Hope it goes away. Tug at it. Keep going. Be annoyed every time you look at it. Forever.


Option 2: Fix it if you can. Gently tug the extra tension through each stitch all the way down the row until you reach an inconspicuous spot where you can draw the loose thread out and tie it off at on the backside, or frog back to the offending row, or make your peace with it and let it go.

For me, it always comes down to this: If I can’t make peace with it, that’s my cue to bite the bullet and take drastic measures.

  • Every few minutes your self talk sounds like this: “I don’t know… do I like this blue? Maybe I should have used the other one. No, it’s fine. I like it. It’s fine. – 2 minutes later – Why did I pick this light blue? I never wear light blue. What was I thinking?”

You’re going to learn to like light blue, damnit. (Just kidding)

There’s a wicked magical illusion that happens in yarn shops and fiber festivals, and the truth is – if you’re not a light blue person, a single project probably won’t change your mind. Eighty-plus hours and $100(ish) dollars is a lot to commit to a sweater you’re not in love with. Knit it as a gift or start over with something you’re happy with. Life is too short, my friend.

  • You keep holding your project into the bright light to see if you can see the stitch definition because, in the regular light, the texture is obscured by the black yarn and/or mohair fluff.

Cables-shmables. Who cares if I’m the only one who knows they’re there? [Raises hand. I care.]

I think we both know the answer. Don’t we?

  • Your hands tell you the yarn is itchy and uncomfortable and you hate it, but you’re sure that when you finish it’ll be way softer.

Maybe. Try soaking a swatch with wool wash to see what you think before you keep going. Many times the yarn DOES soften up quite a bit, but if you’re on the fence about it… it’s better to start over with something you know you’ll love.

  • You realize your gauge is off, but not until you’re 2/3 of the way through the body of the sweater.

It doesn’t have to be a mystery. Do the math so you know where you’re going before you arrive. Even being just one or two st off (over 4″) can make a big difference in size. Make sure you’re okay with what that difference will be before you continue to invest in the project; you might be a lot happier starting over with another needle size so you get the fit you want. (Want tips on how to do the math? Stay tuned next time!)

  • Your stitches look messy and uneven.

Some yarns can be a little squirrel-y, so it stands to reason that projects don’t always show their best side until the bitter end, post-blocking. But why wait to find out?  I almost always do a halfway-block just to make sure everything will come together the way I want it to. Sure, I block my swatches, but sometimes I have doubts about the construction coming together smoothly or I wonder whether the pattern will meld the way I anticipate. In top-down sweaters, specifically, I like to work until about 1″ past the sleeve divide (or so) and divide the project in half on two super long needles (front half/back half). I soak it right on the needles (but I angle it in the bath so that the actual needles are never in the water – just the cords). I press out the excess water and block it like normal – then I can decide after it’s dry. This almost always relieves my doubts, or it confirms – once and for all – that I need to start over. Note: This is a great reason to have multiple projects going at once; you can work on another project while you’re waiting on this one to dry. Trust me, the mid-project blocking process is totally worth it for your peace of mind.

  • You have to talk yourself into the project again. And again. And again. 

If you have to force yourself to love it, it’s not the project for you. End of story.

  • You hate the yarn. 

Friend, life is too short to knit with yarn that makes you miserable. Don’t do it. No matter how much time you’ve invested, starting over with better yarn can make a HUGE difference and will be well worth it.

  • You’re not having fun anymore.

We love knitting, right? If a project is making you doubt your sanity, curse under your breath, and/or consider switching to a new hobby, it’s time to rethink your life your project. When it comes to knitting: love it or leave it.

Here’s the truth:

Some of my absolute favorite sweaters are the result of projects I frogged. Sometimes multiple times. Last week I had to frog a project for the second time – a project that was on a company deadline and which, frankly, I didn’t have time to start again. But when that icky/nagging feeling hits I’ve learned not to ignore it. That third time made a huge difference and now – instead of having doubts – I’m in love with the result. I may have to stay up a little later and knit a little faster, but in the end, I’ll be glad I didn’t force myself to keep going.

A year or so ago I landed on a mantra (I can’t remember where I first heard it), and it’s been so helpful in making project decisions that I want to share it with you:

It’s either a hell yes, or it’s a no.

When it doubt, do a gut check. You’ll know what to do.

Knit like the wind,



*Not to be confused with the Jedi art of “knitting WITH the Force”

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