June 18, 2011

Correcting your Tension in Hand Knits

Since I usually knit in the round and rarely purl (if I do it's sporadic, usually in lace), my tension during purl stitches have loosened up over the past year. Some knitters knit looser while other purl looser. The affect can be shown in the following photos. 

The first photo is the affect that uneven knitting has on the right side of stockinette. Some "V" stitches are longer than the row above. On the back side the uneven stitches are even more pronounced with visible rows. I searched google for a solution and answers ranged across the board:

I remember a while back someone online said it would block out but this simply did NOT happen for me. Maybe overtime it would but till then, my knitting would look sloppy. Not what I was looking for.

  • use a different stitch that doesn't highlight your uneven knitting (this can alter your over all gauge)
  • knit in the round and go seamless (not always possible)
  • use two different sized needles; the smaller sized needle for the type you knit looser (essentially a crutch) 
  • figure out which stitch you knit looser and consciously change your tension until your tension change is satisfactory. This is the most timely solution, possibly the most frustrating, and can be the hardest but it isn't a quick fix or avoidance like the others. 
So how do you figure out which is looser, your knit or purl? The method I liked best was on knittsing's blog. Essentially you cast on about 20 or so stitches and knit a swatch with alternating color bands, 4 rows each, carrying the color loosely up the side (I preferred using 6 rows).

When you're done bind off and turn your swatch so the rev St st side is facing you. Stick a needle or pin in the ridge then turn your swatch to the St st side. If it's in an odd row (1,3,5) than your knit stitches are loose. If it's in an even row (2,4,6) than your purl stitches are loose.

After that I'd practice a bit with your new tension without distraction until it becomes second nature. Problem solved. Swatching and figuring out which stitch I made looser took about 15 minutes. Playing with my yarn tension and practicing afterwards took probably another 20 minutes but the tension is sticking and it showed in my work.

After I corrected my tension using this method, the backside lost the visible gaps between rows and the front looked even.

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