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How to Become an "Expert Knitter"   *Buy this book on CD for offline reading!

table of contents Ľ chapter 3 (of 29)

3: Tension

is the measure of the number of stitches and rows that make up a certain area. Itís the foundation of a knitting pattern and correct tension is the most important discipline of knitting.

Buy a good tension measure or use a ruler. A tape measure can move when measuring, so only use one as a last resort.

If you are knitting a garment of your own design, the first thing you will need to know is how many stitches are necessary for the required width. Because knitting is gathered on to needles, it is impossible to measure across the width until many rows have been completed. Calculating the correct number from the tension means you will avoid lots of unpicking and re-knitting.

Length is a different matter. You can measure this easily, but if you are working a neck that has to be a particular depth, or needing to fit in pattern repeats or a placing a design, you will have to know the exact number of rows.

The tension, needle size and finished measurements are always stated at the beginning of a knitting pattern, and if the garment is to be the size expected, tension must be correct. The pattern writer uses the tension to calculate the size of the finished garment, and doesnít need to knit any more than a tension square to design the whole pattern.

The only way to ensure that your garment will be what you expect, and what the pattern writer has intended, is to work a tension square and make sure that the tension matches exactly.


Making and measuring a tension square

Tension is usually measured over ten centimetres or four inches. Using the needles and yarn suggested in the pattern, or a yarn that you have chosen, cast on ten more stitches than the number needed for ten centimetres. Working in the stitch over which the pattern states that the tension has been measured, knit ten more rows than the number needed to make ten centimetres. Cast off loosely.
Itís best to knit a large square so that you can measure the stitches easily without distorting the piece of knitting. Another reason is that when you knit, there is a natural tension which you donít settle in to immediately. A small tension square can be tightly knitted, and bear little resemblance to the true tension achieved when actually knitting the garment.

Look at the pattern to see if the tension instructions suggest ironing. If so, use a cool iron and donít stretch the square.

To measure, place the square on a flat, non shiny, surface. Never measure when holding the knitting over your knee or the arm of your chair. The measurements will not be accurate. Smooth out the square by patting it gently, then place a measure, tape or ruler on the fabric. Without moving the fabric or the measure, place a pin at the measurement you need. Just stick the pin straight in and after you have moved the measure, anchor the pin firmly into the fabric. Count the number of stitches and rows between the pins [pic 1,2].

Place the measure over the tension square. Count the number of stitches without touching the knitting for an accurate result.

The pins mark the measurement.

Repeat on a slightly different area to make sure you are right. This is now your tension with those needles and that yarn.

Pattern stitch knitting is measured in the same way as plain knitting, but make sure the marking pins are anchored firmly as you may have to pull at the stitches to get an accurate count. Pattern stitches often hide behind each other, and it is essential to know the correct number of stitches in a pattern sequence [pic 3].

Anchor pins firmly on patterned knitting.


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