Hi All, hope you are enjoying the fabulous sunshine. In this weather not many people knit or crochet, so it's an ideal time to brush up on your techniques. As you can see I have mentioned the dreaded word Tension in the title, so for the few of you wonderful peeps that are still reading this, here goes. As you may know I work part-time in a wool shop and I can't count the number of times I have spoken to customers about their tension. I have come to realise this is a very sensitive issue and it illicits so many different responses. The classic responses are either 'oh that's okay I have perfect tension', or ' I can't be bothered to do that'. My usual response to these answers is a BIG SIGH and the start of my speech. Some of you may think the BIG SIGH is rude, but hey indulge me, I have lived 60 years to be able to offer Old Lady Wisdom. Old Lady Wisdom, by the way is to give advice whenever the occasion arises, whether it's welcomed or not. In essence I have become my mother. When I was in my teens, I was constantly mortified when my mother would talk to strangers without their prompting. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me, such was my embarrassement. Now I realise it's a kind of over fifties Tourettes.
These days I do it with gay abandon, I bet people hate me, but I don't care (thats another symptom of Old Lady Wisdom).
Back to tension and my big speech.
Firstly the most important thing to realise is all patterns are based on MATHS, oops another No No word that makes people weak at the knees. All the measurements, stitch counts, rows worked are based on the fact that X number of stitches and X no of rows equals Xcm/inches. So if you want your garment to come out exactly the same as the measurement in the pattern you have to match those numbers. It doesn't matter which hook/needle size you use, it does matter that you match those numbers.
Customers often tell me they have perfect tension and always use the correct needle size, as if that makes them a better knitter/crocheter. Thats the problem. It doesn't make you a better knitter/crocheter if you can match the tension using the needle size stated. It makes you a better knitter/crocheter if you can match the tension - full stop. I consider myself an excellent knitter/crocheter (modest to the last), but I have very loose tension. I can never match the tension stated on most ball bands using the stated needle size. I always have to drop a needle/hook size or two. I also have a loose purl, when I knit. If you are wondering how you can tell that you have either a loose purl or knit stitch, look at the reverse side of stocking stitch. If you able to see a gap between every two rows you have. At first I thought this was amazing because I could count my rows better. - ignorance is bliss. This means that I often use a smaller needle to work the purl rows on stocking stitch. I always match the tension.
I know most of you are so eager to start a project you never do a tension swatch, but it really is an important thing to do. It will make all the difference to your work. Try 2 or 3 different hook/needle sizes and play around. You don't have to make a large swatch, you can work it out over 5cm if you prefer or try to do one pattern repeat. I always do a swatch, whenever I start a new design because tension may vary with different yarns as well.
To highlight the importance of tension here is an example of the difference between my friend and me when working the same pattern. Pictured below are the beach huts we made using my pattern. I made the red beach hut using a 3.5mm hook and she made the yellow and blue huts using a 4.5mm hook.
It never fails to amaze me that people think nothing or starting a project without doing the tension swatch, but wouldn't dream of wallpapering a room without working out how many rolls they need. (Actually that's a stupid analogy, everyone always buys too many rolls). But you get the point. Sorry I know all this stuff is boring, but it needs to be said. So next time you want to make something give it a try. By the way for those people that say 'oh I always have perfect tension' with a big smile on their face. Congratulations, by the way my Dad is bigger than your Dad, so how about that.