“Check your tension”

good warning

so. i didn’t find anything too bad looking through my collection of old patterns. mind you, i did not read them all the way through and there could be very funny things in the patterns themselves. the old booklets i have from Patons have the following in a box marked ‘GENERAL INFORMATION’ about checking tension:

The garments in this book are worked to the exact tension given. They are closely knitted to insure a firm fabric that will wear better and keep its shape longer than a loosely knitted fabric. Check your tension. Before beginning your garment take the wool and needle specified. Cast on 20 stitches. Work 20 rows of stocking stitch and compare with the tension given in the instructions. All given tension in Beehive instructions is measured over stocking stitch. If your tension is too loose try a size smaller needle. If your tension is too tight try a size larger needle.

under that was this line: Be sure to work to exact tension give if you want your garment to work to correct size.

One Bernat book had this to say about their book:

Every effort has been made to have the knitting directions contained in this book accurate and complete; however we cannot be responsible for variance of individual knitters, human errors, or typographical mistakes.

guess that one didn’t get an errata. here’s their part on tension


The term “STITCH GAUGE” is the most important part of all knitting directions, since the sizing of any knitted garment is planned on this gauge. You MUST work to the gauge which is given or your finished work will not be the size indicated in the directions.


Cast on approximately 20 sts, using the yarn and needles which will be used for the body of your work. Work in specified pattern stitch for 3 inches. Bind off all sts. Block this knitted swatch and then, using a ruler as a guide, count the number of sts to 1 inch…

The rest is similar to the Beehive one, recommending to go up or down a needle size, although they do stress at the end that “The IMPORTANT THING to remember is that the size needle used does not matter, as long as your stitch gauge is correct.”

one Spinnerin Magazine also had similar instructions, but went on a bit about the size of needles used:


People knit differently. Some use aluminum needles, others use plastic; some use 14 inch needles, others use 10 inch; some knit tightly, others loosely. A needle size is given for each pattern with a gauge. The original garment was made on that size needle and at that gauge. BUT YOU, PERHAPS CANNOT GET THE SAME GAUGE ON THOSE NEEDLES. Therefore, since the garments has been charted TO THAT GAUGE, you must get the gauge, REGARDLESS OF THE SIZE NEEDLES YOU FIND YOU MUST USE.

Spinnerin actually goes into the math of why, if your gauge is off, your garment will not fit. Beehive also told you how you might go about adjusting their patterns – in 2 or 3 sentences, granted, but it was still there!

can you feel the angst of the pattern producers? it’s a never ending battle with us naughty knitters :) at least they weren’t acting like the designer from the late 1800s in the historical example from my last blog post.

maggie's hat

my current gauge dilemma is this hat for my roommate – of course i’m not using the recommended yarn. i did, however, get gauge, but it’s a hat so it needs to be stretchy too and it wasn’t stretchy enough. i ripped it out two repeats into the pirate pattern – the people at knitting group were pretty mortified. up the needle size and this is into the second time and i’m still not sure if it’s right. might be destined for a second rip and an even greater needle size – but the colors are perfect!  and they must be used for this hat… you know how it goes.

4 thoughts on ““Check your tension”

  1. To get the stretchiness you need to do each motif with a separate ball and not float the yarn round the entire project. ( I can give this advice, but I hate to take it!)…same as I hate to do a tension square and often start without one!

  2. Ah, if only we had the luxury of not having to worry about gauge when knitting! That would make life so easy.

    Thanks for the comment about the alpaca spinning, too. I would have chosen Corriedale or Romney to learn to spin on, but the Alpaca was free, so I figured it was better than nothing. I’m looking forward to doing some plying so I can get an idea of what the finished product will look like.

    P.S. – I loved the skeins you showed a few posts ago – the colors were so amazingly beautiful! Any chance of seeing some more of that in the future?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s