Tension you Wouldn’t Want to Cut With a Knife

One essential skill in a knitter’s repertoire is tension. Fairly new knitters might not know exactly what tension is, so I am going to give a definition before diving right in. Tension is the force you are exerting on the yarn as you knit. Some people knit very tightly, pulling the yarn tight after every stitch is formed, resulting in a tight fabric with small stitches. Other knitters knit more loosely, giving their work a more open appearance. Two knitters can knit the same project in the same yarn on the same needles and get objects that are two different sizes because they knit with a different tension.

I personally started with a very tight tension. When I would knit, I used to pull the yarn tight and create a very solidly woven fabric. Once I started getting pain in my wrists from knitting, I had to figure something out. I googled something along the lines of ‘ergonomic knitting’ or ‘pain in wrists from knitting.’ I got a result that talked about gauge and tension. There was a note at the bottom that mentioned tight tension and how it can cause pain because of the stress you put on your joints. From then on, I made a conscious effort to knit with a more relaxed tension and my problems simply vanished.

I have found tension to be something every knitter figures out for themselves at some point. You will knit enough that you gain tension through sheer repetition. The project I perfected my tension on was the Harry Potter Scarf. It was around the time that the last, or second last, Harry Potter movie was going to come out. I wanted to make a Harry Potter scarf with the burgundy and yellow stripes. I just winged the design and managed to make a long striped tube. I put tassels at the end to close it into a double thick scarf. Since it was knit in the round, I would sit and knit for hours without a break or paying much attention.

Of course, once everyone had seen the scarf, they wanted one too. I actually had enough yarn to do several; after about my 4th one, I had tension perfected. I was actually lucky I had a project like this to help me on my way; the same stitches over and over again was perfect practice. Knitting different projects all the time would not be the ideal situation to get to know your own tension, especially when you are stopping to check the pattern then starting again. Once you are a seasoned knitter, these things are no problem at all; but in the beginning, they can cause your garments to be lose in some areas and tight in others.