How To Attack Your Knitting With Scissors. And Live.

Step by step guide to cutting off cast-on edge with scissors. And surviving.


I can’t say that I have ever before likened myself to a brain surgeon. Or a heart surgeon. Or any kind of skilled miracle worker of the life-saving variety.

I am just not brain surgeon-smart. Or talented. (Don’t get me wrong, I know I am awesome. I knit, for goodness sake.)

But this week. I rose to new heights. Life-saving heights. It was almost as if I went to med school. Even though I didn’t.

I have been working on a new cowl. I swatched the thing first, even though it is atypical for me to be a by-the-book knitter. The swatch came out pretty dang fabulous, and I was basically doing my post-touchdown celebration dance in my head before I scored the goal (or cast on for that matter).

Because I never get ahead of myself or anything. And, yes, now I am mixing a medical analogy with a football analogy.

Bear with me.

Eventually I did cast on. But here’s the thing: I didn’t knit exactly what I swatched. I adjusted it. Just a bit. A few rows of stockinette between the garter edge and my first stitch pattern. I thought it needed more of a, uhm, transition.


The good news: my garter edge did not roll. This was my goal. Nothing irks me more in knitting than a rolling edge. Touchdown dance still on track.

Nothing can ever be so easy.

The bad news: now my cowl was folding where I added the extra rows of stockinette. I was having such a jolly time knitting along, practicing my Heisman trophy speech, that I didn’t even really notice until I was 100 meters in…Close to half way.

Time out. Lay on the field and cry. Roll into a little ball. Medic!

I knew one thing: I wasn’t going back. I had this feeling there was a way to simply undue the knitting from the cast-on edge. Fix it later. I had come so far.  I couldn’t stomach the idea of frogging the thing, fatal fold and all.

Sadly unraveling a cast on edge isn’t quite as simple as unraveling a cast off edge. The stitches lock, and you have to unpick each one.

There is not enough wine in the world to get you through that one. Unless you are more patient than I. Even so. Avoid at all costs.

Thankfully there is an alternative solution. A relatively easy and painless one, all things considered. It was scary, and it did involve cutting my knitting with scissors. (Did I mention I was knitting with a cashmere blend?) A first for me. But I did it. And I lived. If you are reading this, you can do it to.

Step 1. Lifeline.

Run a lifeline through the row of stitches you want to start at. I used a circular needle several sizes smaller than the needle I was knitting with. You could also use a piece of scrap yarn and a big needle.

Step by step guide to cutting off the cast on end of your project.

Step 2. Pray (I mean, cut).

Pray to your god(s). Cross fingers. Salt over shoulder. Take Xanax. Summon courage.

Start cutting.

Just be sure not to cut any of the stitches on your lifeline. Aim for the row below. Although here I cut two rows below because of the pattern transition, and it worked just fine.

Step by step guide to cutting cast on edge of knitting with scissors. And surviving.

Step 3. Tidy.

After cutting, you end up with lots of messy yarn bits. If you have a regular house keeper (who is someone other than you), things are looking good. Otherwise, you have to grab all those little suckers and clean up the row of live stitches left on your lifeline.

Step by step guide to cutting the cast on edge of knitting with scissors. And living to tell the tale.

Step 4: Knit on.

You should now have a clean row of live stitches. Notice there is also a new live tale on the far right. Reattach yarn, switch back to your regular needles, and you are good to go. Reknit your new cast on edge as desired.

Step by step guide to cutting your cast on edge with scissors. And living to tell the tale.

This now completes this Public Service Announcement.

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  • Reply Paula @ Spin a Yarn January 4, 2016 at 6:45 am

    OMG! You are much braver than I! Congrats on having the courage to just cut 🙂 I think I would have been losing my mind.

  • Reply Little Church Knits January 4, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Ah! An excellent plan!

  • Reply purepurly January 4, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Clever! I now recall my mother doing this when she needed to redo the cuffs of sleeves of our woollen sweaters!

  • Reply Stefanie January 4, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Good thinkin’ on your part and how brave you are to cut.

  • Reply jappremdesigns January 4, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    I am planning on doing something similar for a cardigan which came out too long. Iam going to try to save the ribbing, and reattach it after I cut off up to the desired length.

  • Reply Karin January 4, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I watched this like I watch ‘Jaws’… hands over eyes, quaking in terror! JK – but almost! 😉

  • Reply feelgoodknitting January 6, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Definitely a great technique to have in your arsenal! I’m not sure I’m brave enough for it myself, yet.

  • Reply Kat January 12, 2016 at 4:30 am

    Lady, you know I don’t even knit but I found this post and how-to to be fascinating (I didn’t know you could do this to knitting!). Obviously, I knew you weren’t going to cut the project to shreds, but I was still mildly nervous as you walked through hte steps. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Denial in Knitting-Let's Face It! - This Knitted Life January 27, 2016 at 4:45 am

    […] Scissors.  I know it sounds scary, but it’s possible. A slight pain, true. Scissors are a better option when your project is quite far along and the fatal flaw is closer to the cast-on edge. […]

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