How and When to Rip Out a Sweater

The knitter in me is cringing as I write this post. While I hate to admit it (almost as much as I hate to rip back sweaters) this is a necessary post. No matter how careful you are at some point you will probably have to rip back a sweater.

How and When to Rip Back a Sweater

Before we talk about how, let’s talk about why you might want to rip back a sweater. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

First,  you might rip out a sweater because your gauge is off. If you are knitting at the wrong gauge your garment will end up bigger or smaller than you intended. This might not be a huge problem if your gauge is only a little off or the garment your knitting has a bit of ease you can play with. But you might end up with a garment that will not fit and needs to be ripped out.

I recently knit a gauge swatch and I was a little lazy about it.  I only counted gauge over one inch areas instead of counting my gauge over a four inch area and calculating my stitches per inch from the four inch stitch count. This a problem is because I thought my gauge was 5 stitches per inch when in reality it was 4.75 stitches per inch. Had I counted the number of stitches in a four inch area and divide that number by four I would have known my actual gauge.

Second, you might just not like the garment you are knitting. It can be difficult to picture how a particular yarn will knit up until you actually do it. It is such a shame to put hours and hours into a project that you don’t absolutely love or isn’t your style. I’m not sure who said it first but,” If you don’t like it now you’re not going to like it 14 rows from now.” So do yourself a favor and rip it back.

Now lets get into the how. For this I am going to assume that you are planning on re-knitting the sweater or at the very least you are planning on using the yarn again.

First, you are going to need to figure out how much of the sweater you are going to rip back. Are you going to rip out all of your knitting or is there a portion that is salvageable? If you are ripping back to a specific point go ahead and insert a lifeline this way there are no live stitches to pick up.

Next, it’s time to take your knitting apart. If you’ve got a lot of ripping to do you are probably going to want some entertainment. So pour yourself a glass of wine and queue up your favorite show or a knitting podcast and grab your project.


Now you are going to start ripping back your project winding the yarn into balls as you go. You want to be careful not to end up with a tangled mess.


Once you have your yarn wound into balls it is time to soak the yarn and get all the crinkles out. This step is important because crinkled yarn is going to knit up differently than smooth yarn. For this I wind my yarn into hanks using my swift.

Once, my yarn is back in hank form I make sure they are tied securely and I put them in the tub for a soak. Then I squeeze out the excess water and hang them to dry.

I’m not going to lie, after I rip out a project the yarn typically has to sit in timeout for several months before I can knit with it again. Have you had to rip back a sweater? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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