What are some tips for fixing/combating uneven tension throughout a project?

Hi Jamie,

Even the most experienced knitter will find slight variations in tension within his or her work from time to time. We are knitters after all, not knitting machines, and small fluctuations add an element of handcrafted charm. However, if your tension varies a great deal, then it’s time to do some problem solving. Here

Hi Jamie,

Even the most experienced knitter will find slight variations in tension within his or her work from time to time. We are knitters after all, not knitting machines, and small fluctuations add an element of handcrafted charm. However, if your tension varies a great deal, then it’s time to do some problem solving. Here are four strategies that may help even out your tension:

  • Practice Makes Perfect
    Uneven tension can be a big problem for novice knitters, and there’s simply no substitute for experience. If you are new to the craft and notice your tension is fluctuating greatly, you probably need more practice – especially with basic stockinette stitch. Why not work up a few plain dishcloths in different needle sizes and yarn weights? This will give you a chance to practice while producing something useful.
  • Change Your Knitting Style
    If you learned to knit using either the English or Continental style, try switching. Your tension may improve by employing a different way of knitting. Another option is the Combination method which is characterized by purling “backward.” I settled upon this style early in my knitting career, and I’ve been very happy with the consistent tension it produces. For more on Combination knitting, read Diary of a Knitting Heretic by Annie Modesitt.
  • Tighten Your Knits – Loosen Your Purls
    Some knitters produce different degrees of tension on knit and purl rows. This can be resolved in some cases by working in the round which eliminates the need for purling in stockinette. If it isn’t feasible to work in the round, try using one size needle for knit rows and slightly larger or smaller size (as needed) for purl rows. If you have an interchangeable needle set, just attach the different sized tips to either end of the cord.
  •  Stay Relaxed
    Your mood and comfort can have a serious impact on your tension. My very first knitting teacher admitted that she tends to knit tighter when she feels cold or stressed, and it might be the same for you. So when you’re ready to knit, be sure to sit in a comfortable chair and have a sweater, fan and/or beverage at hand. Although many of us knit as a way to relax when we are upset, you may want to avoid jumping straight into an important project when your nerves are frazzled. Instead, cool off by spending the first 10 – 15 minutes on a project for which tension or gauge is unimportant, such as dish cloth or pot holder. Once you’ve settled down a bit, switch to your real project.

Whether you need more practice, a new style or a chance to chill out, one of these tips is sure to help you even out your tension and make your knitting shine.

Be sure to check out our website for more in our Ask a Knitter column.

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