|tight, uneven knitting tension
tension. It would be great if we did, but we don't. Instead we work to "get gauge", or make our swatch have the same stitch count per inch as the pattern recommends. One type of knitter seems to have more trouble establishing gauge than others - the tight knitter. This problem starts when you first learn to knit, and if you don't break it, it follows you for the length of your knitting life.
I'm talking to and about the knitters whose wrists hurt from trying to force the needles into each stitch. The knitters whose work never slips off the needle because the stitches are strangling the needle. The knitters who can't imagine how people perform the magic trick of cabling, because every time they try, they break the cable needle due to extreme stitch tension. Does your stockinette stitch always look wavy, even after blocking? Then this is for you.
|wavy knitting due to knitting too tightly below,
corrected tension above
How do you stop choking the needle? First, commit to breaking this habit. Just take my word for it, this works. In between every step of the stitch, let go of yarn and needle and put your hand in your lap. Put your needle into the stitch- hand in the lap. Wrap the yarn around the needle- hand in the lap. Draw the new stitch through the old- hand in the lap. And start again. After the first couple of rows, it gets much easier.
|check your tension
When you pick up your work next time, repeat the exercise. Do this until you check the last row you've worked, and it isn't tightening up. You'll see that it doesn't take too many sittings. You're most susceptible to going back to tight knitting when you're on autopilot. But after a few sittings, regular tension will become second nature.
Why do your garments suffer when you strangle the needle? Because all the added tension you put on the yarn stresses the fibers. They no longer behave the way they were designed to. Flexibility and loft are lost, and twist is exaggerated. This exaggerating causes the knitting to twist or bias on the diagonal as the yarn tries to return to its relaxed state. Everything you do to the fabric you've created after it has been knit in very high tension breaks down the yarn, causing pilling, more twisting, messy edges, and irregular wear patterns. Enjoy the fruits of appropriate tension. You'll find it's faster and much more satisfying.