Tension control?

I'm just curious how everyone manages their tension whilst knitting, I hear everyone has their own method.

Myself, I knit 'English' style and weave the yarn under my index finger, over my second and third fingers and under my pinky. What about you?


I'm also a thrower and I knit with the yarn over my pointer finger and wrap once around the pinky. I'm curious if with other people it's always a constant "flow" of yarn or if you just do some adjusting between stitches.

Warren's picture

I pretty much do the same thing: knit English style, wrap the yarn once around my pinky, over my fourth finger, under my third, then over the tip of my index finger.  As long as I have a relatively short amount of yarn between my needles and my index finger, the yarn flows pretty smoothly, I simply relax my fingers just a bit to let the yarn slide through.  If my working hand is too close or too far away from the needles, I have to re-adjust.

On a sampler, I did some two-color knitting, alternating between the Continental and English styles to change colors.  I plan to experiment some more with the Continental style as I can see that once I get the hang of it, it would be faster than the English method. 

james's picture

I find it often depends on what fiber I'm using.  Usually with wools, I wrap around my pinky and over my index finger.  Right now, however, I'm knitting a sweater in cotton and found i need to wrap around pinky AND ring finger before going over index finger.  If I don't do that, my stitches are sloppy, my gauge is off, and I'm a grumpy boy.  Of course, that extra wrap also means that the flow isn't quite as smooth and I'm required to adjust from time to time. 

ulf's picture

I knit the continental style. People here in Scandinavia don't beleave when I say there is another way of knitting in England and I have never seen anyone knit the english way. I hold the yarn over the left indexfingen and hold the yarn along with the needle with the other 3 fingers. The tension depends on how hard I'm holding the yarn and needle with these 3 fingers.

When I learned to knit I couldn't relate to the photos of thin female hands with fingers fully extended and the yarn woven between them.  Like drinking tea with the pinky sticking out or eating cake with a tiny fork, it was not at all the way I felt comfortable holding the needles.  I decided that what matters is the result rather than the method, and decided to do it the way that worked for me.

Anyway, I 'throw' the yarn by holding it between my right thumb and forefinger and control the tension by pressing the yarn against my palm with the other three fingers.  I'm able to re-tension the yarn just by pinching it near the needles and sliding my fingers away from the work an appropriate distance.  Another part of my tension control strategy is that I wrap the yarn closely around the needles without stretching it, so that it's just loose enough to slide easily.  I've watched people who knit very loosely, creating stitches much larger than the diameter of the needle, and somehow maintain an even tension, but I can't do that.  If I want larger stitches, I have to use a larger needle.

MMario's picture

It depends on the yarn, what stitch I'm doing, which needles I'm using and whether or not I'm paying any attention to it at all.

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

I am a continental knitter and used the wrap around the pinky mehtod originally but had to adjust frequently.  One day I was in my LYS and the owner said that she had seen other "pickers" wrap differently so they didn't have to adjust so often.  Not having access to other continental knitters, I set out to find another wrap that worked for me.  I now put the yarn over my left index finger, under the middle two fingers and over my pinky.  I maintain tension by lifting or lowering my middle two fingers.  This keeps the yarn flowing smoothly with no more pauses for adjusting.  WHEW...what a long winded answer!


Sounds like the excat inverse of what I do!



altivo's picture

I knit English style and this is a mirror image of what I do with my right hand. Same sequence, just on the other hand. It gives very good control, lets you work tight or loose as desired, and requires no adjusting pauses. Exactly as you say, for either style of knitting.

It depends on the yarn.  I hold the wool differently depending on whether its thick or thin as I find this effects the tension as well.  And an odd thing!  if my hands are hot I knit tighter!  I think the wool doesn't flow too well. My standard way is to loop the wool clockwise around my right little finger; under the two middle fingers and over the index to work it. Continental knitting is quite unknown in most of the UK.  I have tried it out but my tension is quite different - looser and rather erratic.

Aaronknits's picture

Like Stuart, I find that the way I hold the needles and wrap the yarn is different than how one is usually instructed.  It's comfortable for me and it works so I don't worry too much.  I find that I still hold the needles with my right thumb and forefinger, and I wrap with my middle finer while holding the yarn against my palm with the ring and little finger.  I get pretty even tension, but it differs on DPN's, straight, and circular needles, even if they are the same size.

JPaul's picture

I weave the yarn over my index finger, under my middle, and over my ring finger.  No pinky wrap, unless the yarn is very thin and/or slippery.  I maintain tension by keeping my fingers together, with the exception of my index finger which is extended to maintain some tension and guide the yarn around the needle.  I hold the needle with my last three fingers and my thumb, all very relaxed.

Even without wrapping the yarn around my pinky, my tension is usually tighter than average (I usually have to go up a needle size, or two even, to meet a stated gauge on a pattern).  Apart from how I hold my yarn, I try to keep an even tension by not dropping my yarn or needle if I can avoid it.  I find that I can adjust stitches on the needle, for instance, without actually letting go of the yarn or needle in my right hand. I also try not to work on the tips of the needles, so I'm using the full diameter of the needle.  I think that's one issue I have with Addi Turbos.  The points are so long.

charmingbilly's picture

i knit mostly continental but i've got freaky big hands (*gorrila mitts is NOT a nice thing to say, btw*) and i seem to control tension by bringing the yarn over the back of the hand, between the bird-finger and index finger with it coming out b/n the thumb and index finger.  

charmingbilly's picture

i knit mostly continental but i've got freaky big hands (*gorrila mitts is NOT a nice thing to say, btw*) and i seem to control tension by bringing the yarn over the back of the hand, between the bird-finger and index finger with it coming out b/n the thumb and index finger.  

potterdc's picture

Ok, I've tried to resist, but I just can't.  To manage tension while knitting, I find a glass of wine helps. Tongue out  There.  I've said it. Now it's posted and I can let go of it!

Think less, enjoy it more.