Tight Curling Stitches

I can't get past 3 rows. My stitches become tight as I approach the middle of my second or third rows and the rows start wrapping around the working needle like a stake around a branch. When I try to straighten it, it gets tight.

What am I doing wrong? I am using 4mm needles and DK yarn, albeit both are very cheap.

Is it the way I hold the needle? Am I pulling on the yarn? There is something I may be doing wrong that is not addressed in beginners' instructions.


(apologies if this appears somewhere else, I may be duplicating accidentally)

Bill's picture

...be careful to NOT knit on only the tip of the needle...but be sure the stitches go onto the straight part of the right hand needle...sometimes that's where the tightness comes from...

Donski's picture

Its very common when you are starting out, I had the same problem, us men dont know our own strength :) Are you learning to knit English or Continental ? I knit English style throwing the yarn over the needle. I hold the yarn back through my right hand loosely only pulling the yarn tight enough to form the stitch, not pulling it too tight .

Keep the the last few stitches nice and spread on the right needle and use your thumb and forefinger to straighten down the knitting as you go. Be aware that every time you insert the needle for the next stitch a little twist is inevitable so compensate this by twisting it back on completion of the stitch with your thumb and forefinger. Sounds complicated but you will get the hang of it, it worked for me. Just need to think loose !

Also remember to shuffle up the stitches on the left needle so you dont try and PULL them to the tip of the needle to take them off, just be careful when you are shuffling not to pull them off the needle :) I did that a few times teehee..

Tension was the hardest thing to get right for me, but after knitting and knitting and knitting it kind of just happened.

KnitOneSipTwo's picture

You didn't say if you're knitting stocking stitch or garter. Knit stiches are infitessimily smaller (top to bottom) than purl stiches and slightly larger (side to side). Therefore, in stocking stich, the "right" side of the fabric will curl away from you on the sides, and when you cast off, will tend to roll toward you from the top. This is perfectly normal and is addressed when you block the fabric. (You can avoid this if you want by working a few garter stiches on both ends of the fabric, i.e. knit every row for the first and last 2-3 stiches.) This makes a nice border and helps to count rows. Depends on what you're making though whether it will work.

As the others have said, feed your stiches from your left needle toward your right, you don't want to try to knit midway down the needle or you find it impossible to get the yarn to move. If you knit consistently too close to the point, the stiches will get small and unmanageable.

The most important thing though is relax and go slowly at first - your muscles will memorize the correct method for YOU soon enough. Don't worry if you stitches are even, that's what blocking and an iron are for! Be calm and try to be untroubled and you tension will relax in the middle. (I know if I try to knit when I'm tense or when listening to GW Bush, I knit tighter - true story!) Alot of guys talk about the zen and relaxing effect of knitting, it's true, but you have to relax into the process - your stitches reflex how hard you're holding the needles and how firmly your pulling the thread - hold everything looser.

Let me know how it goes!

KilgoreTrout's picture

Yes, go SLOWLY and RELAX! Sounds like the only problem :P When I started, I always knit too tightly, thinking it would be too loose if I didn't. Take the risk of having a few "too loose" rows and knit much looser than you think you need to. From there you will find balance. And as Bill suggests, make sure you put the needle all the way into the stitch, not just the tip.

If wishes and buts were clusters and nutes we'd all have a bowl of granola.

AdrianG's picture

If you are knitting English method (where you throw the yarn forward around the needle) then you might be doing what I used to do. I was unconciously pulling the yarn tight with my right (throwing) hand so that the knit stich (or purl sitch for that matter) didn't slip back off the needle.

Now I don't grip the yarn at all once I've thrown it forward (the yarn just rests in a loop on my fingers)... and since then my tension has been 100% consistent and always matches the pattern suggested guage.

Taking it slow and relaxing is also a good suggestions and applies to so many things :o)



iTrain's picture

Thanks for your help. So this is what I have learned:

To do it English style (my preferred) try a garter, put it all the way in, not just the tip, relax and take it easy and it will come with time. Also, a little twist is inevitable, so I should use my thumb and forefinger to straighten it as I go. I should keep a nice spread and not be afraid to be too loose.

Sorry, I couldn't help it.

I have bought 8mm needles too and more bulky yarn (both very cheap) to practice and see how that goes. There are little rectangular pieces of knitted yarn strewn about my apt.

MMario's picture

deep breath. relax. shake out your hands and breath.

Now pick up your AK47 and blast the CRAP out of that ^(*^&(%$R*^% stupid knitting!

Too tight is common for many knitters; it takes a while to learn to adjust your tension to be consistent but not too tight. The curling should be self correcting, eventually - certain knit fabircs curl in one or the other directions; but eventually the weight of the fabric at least keeps it from curling around your needle.

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

YugiDean's picture

One thing I learned about knitting is that knitting loosely does not mean your work will have huge holes in it or anything. When I started the dog bed back in March (I can't believe it's been that long now), I HATED it because the horizontal I-cord stripe always hurt my fingers because it was so tight. I put it down and worked on other things until a few weeks ago when I picked the bed back up. I noticed the knitting went much more quickly, and when I came to the second horizontal I-cord stripe, it was nowhere near as tight or as difficult to do, and it only took me a few hours to do it (as opposed to the few DAYS for the first one).

All that is to say that somewhere along the way I learned to loosen up my tension and it made the world of difference. And the best part about it? When you look at the dog bed, you can't even tell where I loosened up. Granted, on a sweater, that looser tension could be the difference between a perfect fit and a not-quite-perfect fit, but I just wanted to point out that unless you go SUPER loose where everything's just hanging and flopping around, you probably won't even notice the difference except in how much more enjoyable knitting seems to get.

"Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread." --Richard Wright


Crafty Andy's picture

Visit Crafty Andy's Blog I used to knit Englsih and that was very easy to make tight stitches. I knit continental and the stitches are a lot more relaxed, but I personallyhave to make an effort to relax my knitting as I tend to make tight stitches, I usually go a size or 2 bigger on needles to get the gauge they call for. Knitting needs to be relaxed otherwise you will hurt yourself boy lol! I alternate between crochet and knitting and that seems to help me. Crochet may be tight as well, but I see the difference on my hands when I relax, don't watch action or scary movies while knitting lol!

QueerJoe's picture

When I first started knitting, I also found out I was twisting my stitches by wrapping the yarn in the wrong direction on my knit stitches.

Make sure you're inserting your needle in the correct direction and wrapping the yarn in the correct direction as well...otherwise you could get a very dense fabric as well.

And remember...we need pictures!