It is crucial to check your tension before you embark on a project. Tension is the number of stitches and rows to a centimetre or inch and is also known as stitch gauge. The tension determines the measurements of the garment so it is very important that you achieve the same tension as the designer. Don't be put off or swayed by experienced knitters who tell you that they never work a tension square, as they may have never questioned the strange proportions of their finished garment or why they needed more or less yarn than that quoted! A small difference over 10cm (4in) can add up to a considerable amount over the complete width of the knitted garment. However eager you are to start your project, take time to knit your tension square first: 15 minutes at that point can help to avoid disappointment later on.
measuring tension Using the same yarn, needles and stitch pattern that is quoted in the section marked
'Tension' in your pattern, knit a sample at least 13cm (5in) square. Then smooth out the sample on a flat surface, but do not press it.
To check stitch tension, place a ruler or tape measure horizontally on the fabric and mark 10cm (4in) with pins. Count the number of stitches between the pins. To check row tension, place a ruler or tape measure vertically, mark 10cm (4in) and count the number of rows.
Obtaining the correct stitch tension is more important than the row tension as some patterns have the length worked in measurement, as in 'work until measures', and so the number of rows you need to work to obtain the length is less relevant. However, with some patterns, such as where motifs are worked over a certain number of rows, the row tension will still be very important.
The size of the knitted stitch depends on the yarn, the size of the knitting needles and your control of the yarn. It can also depend on mood - many knitters will have experienced a tighter tension when stress levels are high! A loose tension can produce an uneven, unstable fabric that can lose its shape, while a tight tension can create a hard, unelastic fabric. Your tension may change slightly from your sample when you are working over the larger number of stitches needed for the garment.
Your tension will also affect the amount of yarn you use. Some knitters may find that they always need a ball less or a ball more than that quoted. For instance, when I knitted the scarf on page 52, after I had achieved the length I wanted I had 38cm (15in) of yarn from my ball left. A tighter knitter, whose stitches are smaller, will need to knit more rows to achieve the same length and may need to go into a second ball of yarn to complete it.
To shape your knitting - for example, along armhole, neck and sleeve edges - there are various techniques for increasing or decreasing the number of stitches on your needle. The different methods for increasing are described overleaf.
Increases are worked to make your knitted fabric wider by adding to the number of stitches. They are most often used when shaping sleeves or after completing ribbing on the lower edges of backs, fronts and sleeves.
Increases can be used decoratively to add detailing to an otherwise plain design (see the Raglan cardigan with fully fashioned shaping on page 108). Decorative increases like this are placed two or three stitches from the edge of the knitting so they can be seen after the garment has been sewn up.
Increasing when working stocking stitch is relatively simple, but when working more complex stitch patterns, check to see if your instructions tell you to work extra increased stitches into the pattern.
Yarn-over increases are usually worked in lace patterns, followed by a decrease to create a hole or eyelet.
2 Insert the right-hand needle into the back of the same stitch and knit it. Then slip the original stitch off the needle. You now have an extra stitch on the right-hand needle.
increase one ('inc one')
1 Insert the right-hand needle into the front of the next stitch, then knit the stitch but leave it on the left-hand needle.
1 Insert the left-hand needle from front to back under the horizontal strand between the stitch just worked on the right-hand needle and the first stitch on the left-hand needle.
2 Knit into the back of the loop to twist it, thus preventing a hole. Then drop the strand from the left-hand needle. This forms a new stitch on the right-hand needle.
yarn over between a knit and a purl ('yrn')
Bring the yarn forward between the two needles from the back to the front of the work, and take it over the top of the needle to the back again and then forward between the needles. Then purl the next stitch.
yarn over between purl stitches ('yrn')
Bring the yam over the needle to the back, then between the two needles to the front. Then purl the next stitch.
yarn over between a purl and a knit ('yon')
yarn over between knit stitches ('yf')
Take the yam from the front over the needle to the back. Then knit the next stitch.
Bring the yam forward between the two needles, from the back to the front of the work. Taking the yam over the needle to do so, knit the next stitch.
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