When we make a stockinette fabric, the process of picking up a dropped stitch is quite straightforward – we knit unravelled strands one by one through the dropped stitch to rebuild the column of knitted stitches.
When we want to pick up a dropped stitch in a project worked in garter stitch, things get a bit more complicated. If we examine one side of a garter stitch fabric, we’ll see that the texture is formed by knit stitches in one row and purl stitches in the next row.
That means that when we pick up a dropped stitch, we should alternate knitting and purling the unravelled strands through that runaway stitch.
In this tutorial, we’ll see how we can do it step by step.
If you are a visual learner, click here to watch every step described below in a video tutorial. You can also scroll to the bottom of this page to watch an embedded version of the video.
First, secure the dropped stitch as soon as you notice it. Take a safety pin, a locking stitch marker, a paper clip, a toothpick, or anything similar that you have on hand and insert it into the dropped stitch. We’ll call this little object a “keeper” because it keeps the stitch from unravelling further down.
Do not pull the project sideways until the dropped stitch is secured, or you’ll end up with many more loose strands to pick up!
We already know that we should alternate knits and purls when we pick up a dropped stitch. The big question is – whether we start with a knit or with a purl.
To answer this question, take a closer look at the fabric around the dropped stitch. Place your project on a flat surface with the bottom of the fabric closer to you and notice where the dropped stitch is located in the “valley” between the garter ridges.
If the dropped stitch is at the bottom of that “valley”, the first picked up stitch should be a knit.
If the dropped stitch is closer to the garter ridge at the top of the “valley”, the first picked up stitch should be a purl.
Insert the tip of the left needle from back to front under the strand that is the closest to the dropped stitch. Then insert the tip of the left needle from back to front into the dropped stitch and remove the “keeper”.
Now, we are ready to turn this loose unravelled strand into a stitch. Depending on the decision you made in Step 2, start with Step 4 or Step 5 described below.
STEP 4 – MAKING A KNIT STITCH
4.1. Insert the tip of the right needle from front to back into the dropped stitch.
4.2. Pick the unravelled strand and pull it through the stitch to create a new stitch.
4.3. Slip the original stitch off the left needle.
If this stitch is the last one in the column of fixed stitches, slip it to the left needle without twisting the stitch (that means that you would insert the left needle into the stitch from left to right) and continue to work on your project.
If you have more unravelled strands to fix, repeat the process we did in step 3 – insert the left needle from back to front under the strand that is the closest to the dropped stitch and from back to front into the stitch that we’ve just fixed. Remove the right needle from this stitch leaving it on the left needle.
STEP 5 – MAKING A PURL STITCH
5.1. Insert the tip of the right needle from front to back under the loose strand that we’ve picked up in Step 2.
Bring this strand to the front of the dropped stitch. Be careful not to drop it off the left needle.
5.2. Then insert the tip of the right needle from right to left into the dropped stitch.
5.3. Pass the stitch over the strand and off the left needle.
If this is the last stitch you have to fix, insert the tip of the right needle from back to front into this stitch and slip it from the left needle to the right needle.
Then slip it back to the left needle purlwise, without twisting the stitch.
If you need to pick up more stitches, slip this stitch to the right needle purlwise.
Then insert the left needle from back to front under the strand that is the closest to the dropped stitch and slip the stitch back to the left needle without twisting the stitch.
Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you turn all unravelled strands into a piece of garter stitch fabric that looks exactly the same as the fabric of your project.
After the project is blocked, no one (even you!) will ever be able to tell that there was a dropped stitch in that part of your knitted creation.