Archives for August 5, 2012

TKGA Master Hand Knitter 1 – Swatch 3

Week: 3

Currently Working On: Swatch # 3


I was a little bored this week.  I had to do a seed stitch swatch which I did not find very interesting.  I still have to block the swatch but I did notice that I had a few larger holes so I will probably end up having to redo it.

What frustrates me the most about seed stitch is the claim that there should be no holes at all in the fabric.  This doesn’t seem practical to me so I tend to aim for a consistent amount of “hole” to show.  To be a completely solid and dense fabric I would need to change needles sizes.  I can’t do that and still follow the requirements.  Maybe I’m simply not at the level I need to be in order to knit seed stitch correctly.

As with all basic knitting stitches the quality of the work depends on tension.  It’s always tension.  I have to admit that if I read one more time how “improving your tension” will fix an issue I might have a temper tantrum.  No doubt this is true but I already know that.  The real question that fewer people seem inclined to answer is how to improve your tension.  Other than practice of course.  Sadly this is also the truth but no less frustrating.

Tension problems seem to fall into two buckets: different sized knit and purl stitches or trouble switching between a knit and purl stitch.

If you knit and purl with different tension then either all your knit stitches will be larger or all your purl stitches will be larger.  This is obvious in “gutter” rows on reverse stockinette or a striped look on stockinette. To me this was by far the easier issue to fix. I was a tight knitter and I knew my purl stitches were too large.  However, I kept trying to make my purl stitches smaller but it seemed (and probably was) an impossible task.  It took my brain longer than I would like to realize I should make my knit stitches larger.

My advice to anyone having this problem is to try out different swatches.  Concentrate on either the knit or purl stitch and then try to work it both tighter and looser (smaller and larger) and compare the results.  Once you find what works best then it is back to that practice.  You need to develop muscle memory of the right tension to use but only after you’ve discovered what stitch should be worked tighter or looser.

My personal demon is the switching from knitting to purling and purling to knitting.  I have issues with both.  I’ve been trying to deal with this issue for close to a year and sometimes it feels like I make no progress at all.  However, I think I will wait until next week to get into that.  I want to start answering the questions for these swatches and since they are about tension that will be the perfect time to get into it.


Holladay, Arenda, “On Your Way To The Masters – Tension Problems.” Cast On Magazine, Fall 2002 p. 1-3.

Hiatt, June Hemmons, The Principles of Knitting, Simon and Schuster, 1988.

Stanley, Montse, Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook, Reader’s Digest, 1986.