Sunday, September 26, 2010

Knitting 9-1-1

I've always found knitting repair work to be a fun challenge. It's like a puzzle to solve - missing stitches need to be found and replaced in the right order. I also find it very rewarding to save a hand-knit item that someone spent many hours creating.

Recently, one of our Ravelry group members was blocking her After Hours Shawl, and found that the border had begun to unravel. When I offered to fix it for her, other group members asked me to post some photos of the process to help them learn to do repair work, too.

The first step is to assemble some tools and to prepare the surgical environment. I gathered some double pointed needles (DPNs), blue tape, safety pins, small crochet hooks, matching needle and thread, the pattern, and most importantly, my OTT light. Then I made myself a large coffee (spiked), and put on a silly movie comedy that wouldn't require too much of my attention.

The knitter did a great job stablizing the area needing repair so that it wouldn't unravel any further. Here is what it looked like when I opened the box and spread it out.

The next thing I did was assess the amount of damage and figure out where to start. I untied the securing threads and carefully spread out the yarn. What I found was yarn tails for 8 rows that had partially unraveled, and I used blue tape to secure them to the table in the order that they would be used. I also noted by observing the bead placement, that the first two and last two stitches of seven of the damaged rows were intact. This is good news. The damage was limited to one of the pointy border motifs. Using a DPN I picked up the row 8 stitches at the end of the previous complete motif.

Now here's where the strategy part comes into play. What we are going to do is reknit each row, so it becomes important to know how how the stitch
es in one row "feed into" the stitches in the next row. When you are fixing Stockinette work, it's easy to see that the stitches in each row feed vertically into the stitches in the next row, forming nice straight columns. But with lacework, the yarn overs and decreases make things much more complicated. Consequently, I find it helpful to refer to the pattern and draw myself a map. I won't even try to explain my drawing, but be assured that it was helpful for me!

Here is the repair after completion of row 3.

Here it is after completion of row 6.

Here is the repair status after doing the bindoffs in row 8 which form the point. This left 6 live stitches on the needle that need to feed into the next intact motif. At this point, I find it nearly impossible to see exactly where each stitch should go, so I just wing it. Using a crochet hook, I grab threads from the lower part of the next motif and pull them through the remaining live stitches two-at-a-time, and then pull those resulting stitches through each other, effectively binding off 5 of the remaining stitches. Now I'm left with just one live stitch.

To secure this last stitch, I threaded a needle with matching sewing thread (now I know why I've been moving this thread around with me for the last 25 years!) Working from the back, I secure the thread tail by weaving it through the yarn as invisibly as possible, then pull my needle to the front side and through the live stitch, then take my needle again to the back side where is secure the other end of the thread tail. I hid my thread knots under the beads - hee!

The shawl is saved, and has been released from the Knitting 9-1-1 emergency facility to return to its knitter. I love a happy ending!


  1. Great job Dr.! Always said you do great work!


  2. Beautiful. You will never know that happened.

  3. That is sooo AWESOME~! I love learning new things ... thank You for posting this:)

  4. Thank you, it's like a miracle. It was just the worst feeling seeing it unravel, and I never thought it could be fixed!

  5. Oh...I know how it feels to have your work unravel or having to unravel it!! Great fear of mine!! Wonderful work fixing it :)

  6. I'm in awe. Reading the description of the fix felt like being back in Physics class again...

    However, on the third reading , I finally understood, and can now tackle a couple repairs of my own--not nearly as complex, but the fear factor is lessened!

  7. The repair work is amazing...You did a fantastic job, Doc.

  8. wow, you simply keep impressing me Dr. job.....

  9. What a great blog article....thanks for the help


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