I get asked about improving knitting tension all the time.
Bad, or incorrect tension is one of the issues the majority of newbie knitters face. I remember when I first started knitting, I was all fingers and thumbs! I was terrified that the stitches were going to come sliding off the end of my needle and all my hard work would be lost.
The result of that fear was that all my stitches came out looking far less than pretty. I mean, I’d started knitting after seeing photos of beautiful knitting, and mine did NOT look that way. There was nothing uniform about my stitches! There were big ones, small ones, some as big as your hea…. My apologies, I digress.
Anyway, my stitches were ugly and I couldn’t figure out why so there’s a good chance you’re wondering what’s up with your janky stitches too. Check out my top tips for improving knitting tension, and see if it helps fix what ails ya!
This is a big one, and as newbie knitter probably the most difficult. It’s easy to feel tense when you’re learning a new skill, the needles feel very alien to you, and you’re terrified you’re going to lose everything you’ve done.
The chances are, if you loosen up a little bit, you’re actually LESS likely to lose all of those stitches. Knitting will feel much more comfortable and enjoyable, and your final outcome will be much prettier. So, get a coffee (or wine), sit in a comfy chair with some music you love, and RELAX! Frankie says you have to.
2. Check how you’re holding your yarn
There is no right or wrong way to hold your yarn, it has to feel comfortable to you. However, the point of winding your yarn around your fingers is to create a steady tension from the ball of yarn to your needles, so there are things you can do to improve it.
This is how I hold mine:
3. Cheer up!
You might not expect it, but your mood can actually have an effect on the way your knitting looks. If you’re happy and chilled out (as mentioned in point 1) your knitting will reflect that. On the flip side, if you’re seething with rage, super upset, anxious, stressed and so on, that will ALSO reflect in your knitting.
4. Take a look at what needles you’re using
How do they feel? Do you like knitting with them? The chances are if you feel like they are clunky, too long, too short, have too much friction with the yarn or are far too slippy… They will contribute massively to your bad tension.
Just this week I started knitting a shawl, and I needed 4mm needles. All of my favourite ones were being used in other projects so I had to resort to a standard, long straight needle. I have always hated knitting with the traditional needles as they never feel right to me, and my tension suffered massively.
My advice is to find a type of needle that you love to knit with. For me, it’s my KnitPro Nova’s, which are nickel plated. Some people hate them because they are too slippy and don’t grip the stitches. It is all about finding out what works for YOU. It took me a long time to find out that I hated knitting with straight needles, and now circular needles are all I ever use.
5. Invest in a ball winder
My ball winder is hands down one of the best investments I’ve ever made (along with my KnitPro’s). When I say investment, it cost me £26 from my local yarn shop, and that was about 6 years ago. It’s been well loved and well used, and it’s still going strong!
A yarn winder does exactly what it says on the tin, it winds yarn. But, it winds it into a centre pull cake, which is so useful for getting good tension. It sits flat on the floor or table, and the yarn comes from the centre, so your ball of yarn isn’t rolling all over the place. It means that the tension from the ball to your needles is perfectly even all the time, which is basically what we’re trying to achieve.
You can buy these in most yarn shops, and you can easily find them online too!
6. Invest in a yarn bowl
If for some reason you don’t want to buy a ball winder, or you don’t like them, you can also use a yarn bowl. Again, this does as it says on the tin. It’s a bowl for yarn. They usually have little holes for you to run the end of your yarn through, which stops the ball rolling around the floor, which is usually a big culprit for bad tension. I posted a link to where you can buy my favourite yarn bowl in this post here!
7. Are you sprinting, or running a marathon?
If you’re going to settle in for the night with your knitting, there’s a good chance you will notice a difference in your tension than if you were just squeezing in a row or two here and there. This is because you usually knit a little bit differently as soon as you pick up your knitting, getting into the rhythm for it is fairly important. That’s not to say you can’t do little bits here and there if it’s the only time you get, but you may notice a longer stint is more beneficial for the appearance of the fabric.
8. Is the style of knitting right for you?
If you’ve exhausted all of these techniques and you’re still struggling (it can happen), there’s a chance that the classic knitting style just isn’t for you. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t knit! There are different styles of knitting which some people find easier than others. Continental and Portuguese are both great styles of knitting, I’ve tried and loved them both.
Now that you’ve read this, I want you to go and implement a couple of these tips for improving your knitting tension, and let me know how it goes. Has it worked for you, or do you think you need to try something else? You can let me know in the Facebook Group, Blissful Knitters, and I will try my best to help!
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