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6 ways to relax your knitting tension

 

When I first started knitting my tension was so tight all my garments could be considered bullet proof; some could even stand on their own. It wasn’t very long before my wrists started hurting; it was a repetitive stress injury. Rest, ice and time away from knitting helped, but it came back as soon as I started knitting again. After extensive Google-ing, I diagnosed myself as a tight knitter. Luckily there are some steps you can take to loosen up your gauge and keep your tension steady. Here are 6 ways to relax your knitting tension.

 

Aiming for a lovely, even tension is a knitter's goal.
Aiming for a lovely, even tension is a knitter’s goal.

 

 

1 – Not strangling the needle

When you pull your yarn through the stitch, it is really temping to pull it as tight as you can to make sure that stitch doesn’t slip off somewhere. As you knit along the row, your stitches are all tight, but in order to knit the next row they must be loose enough to accommodate the needle.

The laws of physics prevent knitting like this indefinitely, the stitches just become too tight and it is almost impossible to get your needle under the stitch in the first place. Instead of tightening the yarn around your needle, try changing the position of the needles themselves, leverage makes a world of difference.

 

Don't garrote your needles!
Don’t garrote your needles!

 

 

2 – Hand positions

There are many different techniques to knitting; continental, English, Portuguese, free needle, picking, throwing, flicking, etc. If you’re having trouble loosening up your tension with the technique you’re using, try another technique. Just going from ‘throwing’ your yarn to flicking can have a huge impact on your gauge.

3 – Giving slack

This was the technique that helped me out the most. After I had pulled my new stitch through, I would wiggle the needle a bit to make sure the stitch had a good tension. This meant that I could slide the needle backwards and forwards with ease, but the needle itself was not in danger of falling out and dropping all my stitches. It’s something that needs to be practiced consciously and may slow you down at first, but it becomes second nature soon enough.

 

See how there is room between the needle and the working yarn? This helps to keep the stitches relaxed.
See how there is room between the needle and the working yarn? This helps to keep the stitches relaxed.

 

 

4 – Get the right grip

I wrap my yarn around my little finger as I knit. Most people do something similar to this to tension the yarn they knit with. If you’re squeezing the yarn with your little finger, or closing your fist around your working yarn, it will affect your gauge and make it tighter. Even if you aren’t squeezing the yarn on purpose there are a number of things that can cause it. If your hands are sweating, the yarn doesn’t slide as well; if you’re watching a very intense movie or TV show or if you’re angry. I make it a personal rule to never knit angry or change TV shows/movie genres half way through a project.

5 – Making slack

Everyone has knit from a huge ball of yarn that doesn’t want to give up the next several yards of yarn for knitting. You have to jerk on the working yarn or throw the ball across the room to get some easy yardage. If you’re having this problem, it’s definitely affecting your gauge. Re-ball the yarn or wind it into a center-pull cake. This will save your joints and the frustration of wrestling with your project.

 

Pull a length of yarn from the ball to make for easier knitting!
Pull a length of yarn from the ball to make for easier knitting!

 

 

6 – Going up a needle size

This advice is more for hitting a target gauge than loosening up your knitting. If there is a particular number of stitches per inch you’re trying to achieve. The needle size itself helps you get a similar fabric to what you would be getting if your gauge were exactly the same as the person writing the pattern.

 

Red Heart's Cordial in colors Neon, Jazzy, Natural and Sprout
Red Heart’s Cordial in colors Neon, Jazzy, Natural and Sprout

 

With these 6 ways to relax your knitting tension, hopefully you can find your way to your perfect gauge. Knitting at a more moderate tension decreases the amount of stress on your joints and can increase your knitting stamina. Regardless of tension, make sure to take regular breaks when knitting for a prolonged period of time.

 

 

About Michelle Nguyen

Michelle Nguyen is founder and creative director of Stitch Please Yarns. She originally got into the fiber arts business writing about knitting at her blog Stitches be Slippin, and now, also writes for KNITmuch.com.

2 Comments

  1. Sally Thibodeaux

    I’m definitely having tension issues. Thanks for all the great tips. I’m glad I found this site!

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