Top Tension Tips

If you’re an experienced knitter, the importance tension plays in knitting will be no surprise to you. It can mean the difference between a perfectly fitted garment and a garment fit for no one! Therefore, knitting professionals bear with us, and knitting novices take serious note as we go over some basic tips on how to make sure your knitting tension is correct and your finished project turns out exactly as the pattern designer intended.

The designer will have worked out the best tension for the appearance of the finished item and will give this in the pattern as the number of stitches and rows to a measured square. Your aim is to make sure that the stitches you create match the intended number.

Stitch size is affected by several factors:

  • the thickness of the yarn
  • the thickness of the needles
  • the type of stitch used
  • and the amount of yarn that you, the knitter, put into each stitch

Knitting a tension square

It is always best to knit a tension square before you begin any project so that you can correct your tension or change the needle size up or down. We suggest that you cast on at least 8 more stitches than the instructions for the tension square suggest, and knit for at least 6 more rows before casting off.

1) Checking stitch tension

Pin the corners and sides (as shown), being careful not to stretch the fabric. Using two more pins as markers, count the number of stitches recommended in the pattern and measure the distance between them. If your tension is correct it should measure the amount given in the pattern. If it measures more, your knitting is too loose; less and your knitting is too tight.

2) Row tension

For the row tension, place the pins so they mark out the number of rows stated in the instructions. If you are working in stocking stitch, turn your square over to count the stitches. Measure the distance between the pins. If your stitch tension is accurate but your row tension is slightly out, it shouldn’t make too much difference to the finished garment.

Correcting your tension

Sometimes it’s best to go back to basics – how you hold the yarn and needles while you knit has an enormous impact on your stitch size and therefore the tension of your knit.

Holding the yarn

By winding the yarn around your fingers like this, your little finger keeps the yarn at an even tension while your forefinger guides the wool around the needle to make the stitches.

Don’t stretch the stitches

Push the stitches up towards the end of the needle as you work along the row, so as not to stretch them as you knit and lift them off.

Good luck, and remember… relax!