To Rip or Not to Rip?

There are some knitters for whom their craft is a tiny compartment of perfection. In an otherwise slap-dash, rushed, incomplete, messy life, knitting is something they can always keep trying until they get it right. If there is even a suggestion that a piece they are working on is wrong, or they lose count, or something isn’t working, they’ll rip it out. Often right to the beginning, whether they need to or not, just to get a fresh start. It’s often a point of pride, how many times they have to rip to get it just right. I have to respect that.

But I am not one of those knitters.

I hate ripping things out. I will cheat, over-block, felt, steek, serge, graft, duplicate stitch, whatever as long as I can get the garment I want without ripping. Heck, I’ll even be pretty flexible about the getting a garment I want part.

Sometimes, though, it’s nearly unavoidable… or seems that way, putting me into an existential crisis.

Take case #1 – top down tee. The point of it is to be pretty form-fitting, and the purported point of top-down (in addition to no-seams) is to be able to try it on as you go. However, this doesn’t tend to work out for me. Maybe because I am paranoid about having armholes that are too small, trying on top-down sweaters as I go ends up, as often as not, with  me making a sweater that’s too big for me.

I was good. I tried it on a few times to find the right place to join in the round and make the armpit, knit like three inches, and tried it on again. To find that it fit loosely over my (also shapeless) thick cotton shirt. Bad sign.

So what do I do? Keep going and give it to someone it fits? Or rip?

Case #2: Mithril vest, a Lord of the Rings pattern. This was a blitz of lace joy that was mostly completed in a week between projects. It’s deeply impressive lace, and very cleverly shaped. But the weird shaping means that you have to do some short rows after splitting for the armholes. This is fine; I’m good with short rows, and there was a very clever little chart. I did the ones for the back and completed the upper back, and was starting on the ones for the front when I realized.

The clever little chart which combines lace and short rows? on the back, where the short rows take place atop fairly plain knitting, you’re supposed to ignore the lace. So I’ve got this weird little triangle of lace on the back that is completely out of place. On an otherwise perfectly executed piece (if I do say so myself), this bit of misplaced holey-ness seriously offends me. But then again, it’s under my armpit.

So what do I do? Live with a severe imperfection, and try not to be overcome with regret whenever I put it on? Or give it to someone who won’t care? Or rip?

I can tell you that in case #1 I have already ripped and re-knit way past my mistake. I liked this pattern, I wanted something I would actually wear, and I hadn’t gone too far past the mistake. In case #2, I’m still  not sure. The idea of re-knitting the upper back is not my idea of a good time, but the triangle really bothers me. The vest is shoved in a project bag and sitting in time-out while I decide what to do with it.

What is the line your project must cross before invoking the wrath of the rip? Do you rip early and often? Do you hate it, but do it anyway? Do you take particular joy in knowing you have knit a perfect piece of knitting, no matter how many tries it takes? Are you like me, slowly accumulating a closet full of projects that went onto “time out” and never came out?

5 thoughts on “To Rip or Not to Rip?

  1. I hate ripping. I generally live with mistakes, unless the mistake is in the pattern and messes up the next rows (this comes up most of I don’t decrease where I’m supposed to– I can usually fudge a yo, but it’s way harder to not have a fudged ssk look dumb). If it’s a stylistic thing or a mistake I can look over, I definitely try to live with it, and if I can’t live with it, I try to just do a little surgery on the offending part, if possible. I hate ripping!


  2. I generally rip if the mistake is noticeable to me. When I knit Kelly’s lace wrap for Christmas, I had to do a lot of ripping because if I didn’t get that pattern stitch just right, you could see it obviously. But I did eventually figure out how to fix things on a smaller scale before major problems happened, so I could leave little mistakes in.
    When I knit an intarsia geometric pattern, I automatically figure I’m going to have to rip out rows here and there because every mistake shows; I just try to catch them early.
    If it’s too big or too small, yep, it’s got to be started over.
    I always figure, what’s another day or week of re-knitting when I’m going to live with the sweater for years?
    However, if I CAN fix it without ripping, heck, that’s a great day….it happens now and then, but mostly I just like to knit so I don’t care too much……give me yarn in my fingers and I’m happy.


  3. I rip…but then I’m a process knitter rather than a product knitter.

    I love your expression in the first photo…


  4. I usually rip because if I don’t, no matter how slight the mistake may be, my eye goes right to the mistake every time I wear the finished product, and then I seem to feel the need to point the mistake out to everyone. One of my favorite lines to myself when I have to rip is, “Am I in a hurry to finish this?” Then I convince myself that I’m not! However, one of the best knitting classes I ever took was one that taught me how to correct mistakes without ripping. Sad to say, you can’t always do that – you have to rip. I have been known to throw my knitting across the room 🙂 – those projects get a “rest” before I pick them up again.


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