I wish my tension were more reliable

I am knitting a few pairs of striped socks, all for the same person and with the same stitch counts. But my tension keeps changing!

It’s so frustrating. I’m using the same needles, same pattern, and same weight and brand of yarn – I’m even sitting on the same sofa!

One problem is that I sometimes forget how I tensioned the yarn around my fingers. Must remember to write this in my notes. (Because the socks are striped, I can’t just adjust the length of the overall sock.)

Does your tension vary from day to day or week to week like mine?

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I certainly see some variation in tension but in general it’s not enough to make much difference. Sometimes levels of stress or preoccupation with some problem will affect tension. Different methods for tensioning yarn as you suggest, can also contribute.
Are you using dpns, magic loop, or some other method for knitting the socks?


I have found that different colours of the same brand of yarn knit up differently. I noticed this when I made a striped sweater. Each colour felt different and I could tell the tension was different. For the sweater it didn’t make much difference though.

My tension changes if I wrap the yarn differently too.
Also if I am particularly warm, cold or have recently washed my hands.


Funnily enough, when I was younger and took up knitting seriously again (I learnt when young then had a break until age 30) my tension was much better. I certainly know more about knitting now, but the actual quality of the fabric I produce is worse.

It still looks fine to the casual observer, but if a knitting instructor compared my knitting aged 30 to my knitting now, they would notice the difference. One particular annoyance is that I used to be able to churn out perfect 1x1 ribbing – no more! I avoid it now or put it in with a crochet hook afterwards.

I do have a medical condition that affects my concentration levels. I finally managed to get to a specialist last year and we are working to find a treatment that helps. I wonder if my tension will improve when my health does?

I use magic loop for my socks these days. I had the same yarn brand (although not the same colourway) and same needles.

Oh, that’s interesting about feeling hot, cold, or recently washing your hands. I can see that would definitely affect the way the yarn passes through your fingers and even the way your fingers move if you are feeling cold.

I was using different colourways for the stripes. That’s a good point. I also dyed one of the colours myself, so maybe it fluffed up a bit in the warm water.

The stripes looked fine, and seemed to have the same circumference, but the row gauge was different. As I had calculated a certain number of wide stripes, the socks would have ended up longer. Argh!

I will undo, wash the yarn to get the kinks out, and try again.

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I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties you’re having and I certainly hope that you find a helpful treatment.
Something affecting concentration might just affect tension as well. It’s frustrating for sure.
Tension is such an odd part of knitting. For most knitters it starts out all over the place and then suddenly, it becomes nice and even or at least that’s what you aim for. Good luck with your treatment and with the socks.

Maybe a swatchnjn each colourway would help you work out how many rows for how deep you’d like each stripe. The sweater I made it didn’t matter if the stripe were a bit different etc but I can see how it would make quite a difference on socks.
Perhaps swatching could help with row count or possibly changing needle size a little for a troublesome colourway???

Thanks for this post! I was just having this conversation with myself the other day :slight_smile: Skin temp, weather, and moisture effects my tension. Also, the thickness of the yarn. It happens much less with chunky yarn than with thinner ones. The thinner yarn tends to tighten up around my fingers as I’m knitting.

One thing I do that seems to help when dry skin is the issue… I work lotion into my hands and then rinse them with water. Just enough to remove the residue so that it doesn’t get on my yarn. Then lightly dry them with a towel and wait a few minutes for them to completely air dry. Sounds silly, but it helps the yarn move more freely without getting lotion all over my project.

Try Norwegian style knitting. Arne and Carlos. Since I started and am now proficient all my tensions have disappeared. N.B. It’s not same as continental. Check it out. Deb