When we need to adjust the length of a sweater or change the bottom band on a sleeve, we wish we could undo the cast on edge, pull the yarn and unravel the work the same way as we unravel it from the bind off edge.
If you've ever tried to unravel the work from the cast on edge, you know that it is a gruelling process that can take hours and hours of our time. But there is a way to make the project shorter or longer that is quite easy to do in five simple steps.
Here's how it works:
If you are a visual learner, watch every step described below in this video tutorial.
First, decide on the length of the project.
If you plan to make it shorter, measure the project (or, better yet, try it on) and place a pin or a locking stitch marker to mark the desired length.
If you plan to add a bottom band, measure the length of the future band from the marker and place another marker. This will be our "primary marker". You can remove the other marker to avoid the confusion.
If you plan to make the project longer, mark the first row of the work.
If the project has seams, undo the seams to a spot that is a few rows above the marker you've just placed.
Now place the project on a flat surface so that the cast on edge is at the top. If the project is worked from the bottom up, that means you will need to turn it upside down.
This is the fun part. Take your scissors and snip the yarn in the marked row one stitch away from the right side of the work.
Carefully undo the yarn from the first stitches at the right side of the work.
Take a knitting needle in your right hand and pick up those stitches from back to front.
Continue to unravel the yarn stitch by stitch and pick up the stitches with the needle until you have all stitches comfortably sitting on your knitting needle. Remove the marker.
If the fabric is wide and the piece of unravelled yarn becomes too long to manage, feel free to cut it.
Attach the working yarn to the yarn tail.
Depending on the row you cut through, the yarn tail will be either at the right or the left side of the work. If the tail is at the right side, take another knitting needle in your left hand, and slip all stitches from the right needle to the left needle. Or, slide the work to the other tip of the needle, if you used a double pointed or a circular needle to pick up stitches.
Now finish off the project - make it longer, add a bottom band, or simply bind off all stitches.
A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
1. If you cut off a wide stripe of knitted fabric, unravel it and use the yarn to finish the project.
2. Because we picked up stitches from the side that is opposite to the direction of knitting, the stitches will be shifted by half-stitch. That does not show in stockinette or garter stitch, but it is quite visible if you undo ribbing. To avoid this, don't undo work in the middle of a band worked in ribbing. Undo the whole band, and then make it as long as you need.
3. If you are not sure about the length of the project even before you cast on stitches, use provisional cast on. When the project is finished, you can try it on and decide whether it's long enough. If it is, pick up stitches from the scrap yarn, attach the working yarn and bind off stitches. If you'd like to make the project longer, pick up stitches, attach the yarn and continue working in the pattern until the project is as long as you want.
This technique is especially helpful when we want to lengthen sweaters for kids. Often, a sweater fits well, but because kids grow so fast, the sleeves and the sweater itself can get too short within months. To avoid re-knitting the whole sweater, cut the bands, pick up stitches and work a few extra rows to add more length. The kids will be delighted to see that their favourite sweaters grow with them :-)