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Knitting Tips: Controlling Tension

The key to successful knitting is to maintain an even tension. For most beginners this is easier said than done. The importance of even tension is twofold:

  • First, if your tension changes while you are knitting, and your gauge is off by even a fraction of an inch, you will end up with a garment that does not fit. For example, let us say you are knitting a sweater pattern for a 40 inch bust that calls for 4 stitches per inch (160 stitches total). If you are knitting at 4.25 stitches per inch you will end up with a sweater that measures 30 inches! The resulting sweater clearly would not fit.

  • Second, if your guage is not even, your garment will not only fit badly, it will also have an amateurish, unflattering appearance. So check your gauge frequently while you are knitting to see that it remains constant.

  • Whether you are a beginner or an experienced knitter, here are some tried and true ways to control the tension of the yarn.

  • Wrap the yarn twice around your index finger.

  • Wrap the yarn around your pinkie and once around your index finger.

  • Thread the yarn over your pinkie, under your palm, up between your index finger and your middle finger, and over the index finger. This takes a lot of pressure off your hand and may result in looser knitting so that you will need to use a smaller needle.

    I have also seen people control tension by carrying the yarn around their neck and sometimes hooking the yarn through a safety pin they clip to their shoulder. It really does not matter what method you pick. The critical issue is that you use your chosen method consistently and achieve an even gauge for the entire garment.

    It is also important to tension the yarn in such a way that you do not hurt your hands. Next week we will discuss Ergonomics for Knitters. These are exercizes and positions that will maintain healthy hands, arms, and shoulders and keep you out of physical therapy!
    Please check back every week for more helpful Knitting Tips from the Guru.