Monday, June 30, 2014

Oops! Crochet Mistakes: Knowing When To Save It Or Scrap It

We've all been there in that terrible moment... the moment in which you realize that your project just isn't working. Perhaps the colorful yarn you chose is completely clashing with the stitch pattern. Maybe you didn't check your gauge and the top you're working on is obviously way too small. It could be that you made a mistake back on Row 12 but didn't notice it until Row 27. Whatever the particular tragedy, one thing's for sure: Something's gotta give. This project isn't going to turn out as expected.

What is a hooker or brocheter to do? After you've shed a tear or two (which is totally reasonable!) and set your project aside for a few days, it's time to evaluate its potential. I frog and/or alter things all of the time as a designer. It's true! I can't allow any mistakes to sneak into a pattern sample because that would be unprofessional and confusing for my customers. I also wouldn't want to continue on with a design that doesn't look quite right. I want my designs to look awesome! One of the marks of a skilled crafts-person is the ability to be honest about your piece despite the time you've spent on it. Painters paint over their work when it's not fitting their vision. Jewelers melt down metals when the wax cast didn't turn out right. Sometimes what's best for the project in the long term isn't very pleasant in the short term. Here are some of my Save It or Scrap It suggestions.

Save It if:

- The error is minor. If there are only one or two stitches out of place it's usually not worth pulling it all out. You will probably be the only one who notices.

- It can be re-purposed. Can the skirt that's too small for you become a present for your little sister? Could a washcloth in an unexpectedly strange colorway be used as a dust rag? Can your comically stiff hat be used as a bowl? It may be worth it to you to finish your project and use it in a different way than you originally planned.

- You don't mind making another. If you have the time and materials/money to make the project again the right way, you may choose to finish the current project and use it as a learning experience. This is an especially good option when there aren't any mistakes but the yarn and project aren't a good match for each other. 

- The yarn can't be frogged easily. If your botched item is made with a very fluffy mohair, an eyelash yarn, or another highly textured yarn it may be quite difficult to pull it out. Very slowly attempt to pull out a single row. If you're having a lot of trouble and it's clear that the yarn will be ruined if you continue, don't frog it. It's better to fudge the project to the best of your ability and not waste your materials than it is to ruin the yarn and throw it away. You may then wish to start the project over with new yarn.

- It is an almost-complete, very large item. If you're 3/4 of the way done with a king-sized blanket before you notice that you've dropped a stitch, think very carefully about how best to use your time. If you've got the time and want it to be perfect it's totally reasonable to frog it and start over. However, if this blanket is a gift that's due in a week you might be better off finishing it and masking your mistake with a cute border rather than spending hours frogging and winding the yarn before you can start over, ultimately making your project late. Use your best judgement.

Scrap It if...

- You just started. If you're less than 1/3 of the way done with your project when you notice things aren't right, just frog it. It's worth it to do it the right way.

- It's a small project that can't be re-purposed. Even if you have totally finished that hat for your brother before realizing that it's way too big, you should still frog it and do it over. It's worth a few hours of your time to re-do a smaller project and have the item be used than to leave it and have it sit on a shelf in his closet.

- It's an example of your work. Will you be selling this item at a craft show? Is it being entered into a competition at the county fair? It this a sample for a pattern you plan to list on Craftsy? No mistakes allowed. I take a pretty hardline approach to this. When giving a gift to a friend or keeping an item for yourself it may be okay if there are a few mistakes in the finished object. However, if you are representing yourself and your work to the outside world it's not okay to compromise on quality.

- The yarn is expensive but easy to frog. If this is a yarn that you spent a lot of time fawning over before being able to work with it, you'll want to frog your project if it's not going well. You'll be disappointed if you end up with a mediocre project in a gorgeous yarn because you didn't want to go through the hassle of frogging. If you can frog that $27 indie-dyed sock yarn without hurting it, you should do it.

Do you have any "oops!" stories? Did you decide to Save It or Scrap It? How did your project turn out?

Even though frogging hurts in the short term, you'll be really happy when you've re-worked your project and it turns out beautiful. If you're sad about the time you spent on the item before finding the mistake, remember that this is a lesson learned and find peace in these words by the amazing Doris Chan: "No time spent crocheting is ever wasted."


  1. Great tips for considering whether or not to keep a project with errors. If it's a small "oops" then I'll usually just fudge it and and work around it. Sometimes I'll frog it. And sometimes I'll use it as the basis for a crochet or mixed media art project.

    1. From what I've seen of your projects on your blog, you are really creative and adaptive in your personal crochet style. It's really cool and interesting!


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