A skill that I have developed over time is the ability to fix problems in my knitting that happened...oh, let's just say awhile ago. Even if you've been knitting for awhile, even if you knit A LOT, there are going to be times when you should have gone to bed half an hour ago, or when you need to pick up and put down your work one too many times, when you think you know what the pattern says and just knit merrily along, or when you just plain misinterpret the directions. Or the pattern is wrong. Sometimes, there's nothing for it but to rip it out (or, as I am currently doing with three looooong rounds of Lucca, tink it, stitch by stitch). (The unrecoverable error there was that I forgot that I was to shift the beginning of round marker by a stitch, and my failure to do so meant that subsequent rows of the lace pattern would be misaligned. I had put in a life line, but not recently enough.)
But other times, a rescue mission is entirely possible. You may have to approach it with the mindset that it may still require ripping in the end. But if the fix is successful, you stand to save a significant amount of time compared to starting again.
When I made Drumlin, the cardigan I contributed to the CustomFit trunk show. I experienced a comedy of errors.
No? Well, it's only because the fix went well.
Here's what happened. I'd knit all five pieces of the sweater--two fronts, the back, and two sleeves. On to seaming! I started by matching the shoulders. Piece of cake. Then I set in the shoulders. More time consuming, but since CustomFit patterns are derived from your actual measurements and knitted gauge, the sleeve caps will fit into the armsyces smoothly, with only a little patience required. I moved on to sewing the side seams when the project came to a screeching halt. I'd knit a different number of rows of ribbing on the cardigan fronts than I did for the back. The fronts were the same, but they were both wrong, and didn't match the back. Total number of rows was correct; I'd just started knitting in stockinette when I should have continued ribbing.
As the pieces were knit from the hem up, there was really only one viable option for correcting the problem. I needed to snip a stich in each front, remove the relevant number of rows of stockinette, reknit those rows in ribbing, and then graft the new edge back to the main part of the piece. Annoying, but I had all of the necessary skills--the ability to count and identify the correct rows, to create the correct fabric by reknitting, and to kitchener it all back together.
If knitting the wrong number of rows of ribbing was critical error #1, critical error #2 was beginning the repair after 10 pm. Critical error #3 was doing it on my lap, instead of spread out on a flat work space.
And critical error #4 was snipping a stitch in the SLEEVE, and executing the ENTIRE repair operation on a piece of the sweater that didn't require it.
At that point, I may or may not have said a bad word or two, but I at least had the good sense to step away from the knitting, and go to bed. There was no possibility that I was going to improve the situation at 11:30 pm.
When I returned to the project (at a work table, in the light of day), I calmly reversed the procedure on the sleeve, and then repeated it on both fronts. The sweater pockets sit just above the area where this took place, but even before they were added, the fix was invisible, save for a couple of extra ends.
None of this would have been possible if I hadn't learned to look at a piece of knitting and translate what I see into distinct rows of distinct stitches. Learning how to look at a piece of fabric and see (or sometimes, feel) what is "off" is the first step into figuring out how to fix it.
The Uh-Oh! Class offered Saturday June 11th is all about understanding what "normal" stitches look like, and what it looks like when you've dropped a stitch, or split one, or accidentally added one. It's about developing the habit of looking at your work frequently, so you can find mistakes easily, and soon after they happen, when they are easiest to repair. (Imagine if I'd realized my ribbing wasn't deep enough right after I'd finished knitting it, rather than after I'd knit the entire rest of the front, AND another front, AND started putting the sweater together!) There are lots of ways we can prevent mistakes, and ways to recover from them when they occur, and we talk about those as well.