For my second ‘Almost Master Knitter Musings’ post, I’ll talk a bit about tension problems. Not in your shoulders and back, but in your knitting.
For many knitters, the tension on knit rows is tighter than the tension on purl rows. Garter stitch, as well as knitting in the round, won’t show tension problems since every row is knit. But not everything can be knit in the round or in garter stitch! What’s a knitter to do?
One technique is to use a smaller needle for the purl rows, to adjust the tension in those rows. But, you have to remember which needle is which as you’re knitting. If you have two different colors of needle tips (for interchangeable needles) you could use one color of each as a reminder. I personally don’t like doing this, because it really only works for stockinette!
In order to tackle the problem at its source, instead of changing needle sizes to fix it, you need to analyze your knitting as you are knitting it. Purls are typically looser because more yarn is used to perform the stitch. If this is the case for you, then you can try to consciously tighten your tension when knitting purls, or tug on your yarn after each purl to get rid of that extra yarn. Once you get into the habit of doing this, then it can become second nature and you don’t have to think about it anymore. And voila! You have even tension!
Another method for dealing with looser purls is to change how you make your purl stitch. A ‘combined purl’ uses less yarn to make the stitch, which can make the tension more like the knit stitch. It seats the stitch backwards, however, so on your following row you need to knit into the back of those stitches to avoid twisting them. This is a very good technique when working with seed stitch or 1×1 ribbing.
The pesky purl stitch is most often the cause of tension problems when working cables and ribs. If you work at tightening your purl stitches, then your tension will even out when working more complicated stitch patterns, too!
For Part 2 we’ll talk about some other common tension problems.
Holladay, Arenda. ‘On Your Way to the Masters: Tension Problems’. Cast On, Fall 2002.
Stanley, Montse. Knitter’s Handbook. New York: Reader’s Digest, 2001.