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Fixing mistakes: how to tink

As we’ve been helping knitters in the shop over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a few instances when folks make a mistake, and then need to undo their mistake and do the work correctly. In knitting, this is called “tinking”, because “tink” is “knit” spelled backwards.  🙂  And what we’re really doing is reversing whatever knitting we just completed.

(As an aside, this is one huge advantage of crochet over knitting.  Taking out work is incredibly easy…just pull on your working yarn until you get back to where your crocheted work is correct, and carry on.  One loop to pick up, right as if the work you messed up never happened.  It’s really a delight after years of fixing knitting errors!)

This is a super-helpful skill for a knitter.  If you know how to tink, you can confidently fix almost any mistake, because you can just undo your work until the mistake is gone, then carry on again.  After learning to knit and purl, cast on and bind off, I’d suggest tinking as THE next most important thing to learn.  This is how to tink, in words, photos, and a video (at the end!).

The first key to tinking is to put some tension on your working yarn.  This helps open up the most recent stitch so you can see what to do next.

The goal here is to find the loop on the row BELOW the current working row that was worked last. This is the last stitch that slipped off your left needle.  We’re going to put this stitch back on the left needle, and remove the working yarn. We’ll call this the Last Loop.

Insert your left needle from front to back through the Last Loop.  Pull your right needle out of the last stitch on that needle, and pull it out using the tension you have on the working yarn.  Now there is one more loop properly placed back on the left needle, and one less mistake stitch on the right needle. Keep doing this until you have gotten back to where your stitches are all correct again.

Practice this on a swatch of either garter or stockinette.  See if you can put 10 or so stitches back on the left needle from the right needle.

You can tink lace or cables, too.  If you are tinking lace and come to a point where two stitches are knit together, just insert your left needle through both stitches and move them together.  If one or both stitches is seated backwards on your needle (for example, if they are part of a SSK stitch), then slip them purlwise back to the right needle and then back to the left needle to have all your stitches facing the same direction.

Tinking a SSK stitch

With cables, just as when you hold stitches aside when you’re working them forwards, you have to hold stitches aside when you tink.  In the photo below, I’m tinking a 2×2 cable–after taking the stitches out of the first 2 stitches on my right needle, I put them on a cable holder while I tinked the next 2 stitches, then I move the stitches from my cable needle back to the left needle in the proper order.  Everything is back as if I had never knit the cable.

As with everything knitting (or life, really), the key is practice.  If you need to practice tinking, make a swatch in smooth worsted or bulky yarn of stockinette, then try to take out a row.  Try a cable and see if you can take it out.  And if it doesn’t work the first time, try again.  And again.  And as always, we’re here at Yarnia to help you out when you need it! Cheers!

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