Thursday, 7 April 2011

Tense Times

I have been struggling with my tension or gauge.  I am a loose knitter.  There it is, out in the open.  My mother-in-law's partner even called me 'slack'.  I think he was referring to my knitting.

I am currently working on Jen by Kim Hargreaves.  It is knitted in Rowan Bamboo Soft.  I did a tension square on the right size needles and it was way out so I dropped three needle sizes and started knitting. (yes three!)

I finished the back only to find that it was 4 cm wider than it should be and 6 cm longer.

After much sobbing I decided to try to work on my tension.  I knew that the ribbing was probably a bit smaller than it should be so the problem had to be in the stocking stitch.

I am an English knitter or thrower.  I throw the yarn using my middle finger and wind the yarn around my little finger.  I have questioned everyone I know who knits as to how they do it.  All of them have had to pick up their needles to tell me!

I have tried holding it in my little finger and throwing with my index, winding it round my index finger and winding it round my little finger and throwing with my index.  It all felt very alien and didn't really work.  I cannot seem to get the flow of yarn through with more tension.

When I was much younger and first started knitting, my knitting was very tight.  It used to squeak along the needles and I have even been known to snap knitting needles.  As I got more used to knitting, it loosened up.

I thought that I should try to learn the continental method but it seems that it makes your knitting looser.

A Clanger with my knitting

Yesterday I came across an article in the latest Twist Collective.  It was all about getting gauge.  The article was an eye opener.  It showed the difference between a tension square knitted by the same knitter with the same yarn but one was with a metal needle and one with a wooden one.  The square knitted on wooden needles came out much bigger.  I had knitted my stocking stitch with a wooden needle and my ribbing with a metal one.  The article also said that everyone has a natural style of knitting whether tight or loose.  

For the last five days I have been a quivering mess about my knitting.  I couldn't make myself knit any tighter despite valiant efforts and it just made the whole thing unpleasant.  I went to knitting club last night and checked everyone out.  They all seem to knit tighter than me.  Oh woe, woe and thrice woe.  What can you do?

My main worry is that I use more yarn than the pattern requires.  Normally I would buy an extra ball to compensate (just in case) but I have a couple of Kim Hargreaves kits which have the required amount of yarn in.

I have decided to embrace my 'slackness'.  Where gauge is important I will use metal needles to try to improve it and also do a tension square.  I am also happy to go down two sizes of needles if that is what is called for.  Oh, and to try not to think of myself as a second class knitizen because I am loose.

If anyone has any other tips I would be pleased to hear them.  


  1. Dear one, you are not loose. You are relaxed & easygoing :-)

  2. Slack? How rude! I'm a loose knitter as well, so I feel your pain. I've had to frog the Lightweight Pullover I was knitting and start again with smaller needles. You are not alone.

  3. I'm also a slack knitter (a known side-effect of continental knitting) and through trial and error I now reduce my needle size by about 1 - 2mm.

    I don't believe in swatching but appreciate it could save a lot of heartache. Fortunately most of my knitting doesn't depend on gauge :)

    I do hope your knitting worries ease up some.

  4. I belong to the loose-knitters club too. I think you're quite right to embrace your own natural tendency and be happy that you aren't tense (except when you feel like you should be knitting tighter!). I always buy one more ball of wool than the pattern calls for (or two if they're small), and I do swatch and block the swatch, which helps. Going down three needle sizes is very common for me - I hardly ever bother to start swatching with the size the pattern calls for.
    I recently learned continental knitting, and I've found it's made my stocking stitch more even, but hasn't changed my looseness as far as I can tell.