Welcome back to the A-Z of crochet, which has had a few days off in the caravan with me (literally, the notepad where I draft my blog posts came with me in my WIP bag in case of sudden moments of inspiration).
Any way, this post is all about tension. Not the kind felt when someone interrupts your counting, or the sort when you’re waiting to find out the results of the judging at the village show where your carefully crafted cushion is sitting alongside all of the other exhibits. No, this is about the tension than determines the final size (and appearance) of your work.
Maintaining even tension is crucial to a neatly finished piece. Many crocheters (myself included), wrap the yarn around their little finger so that as it unravels from the ball it has to pass over their finger. There are infinite ways to do this, I just wrap it once around my finger and then over my index finger, raising my index finger so that the yarn is under tension. If you use a sewing machine then it will probably remind you of threading the top reel-if you didn’t do it, your cotton would wobble all over the place and your crochet yarn is the same.
In projects where gauge is important, your tension can have a real impact on the size of the finished article. This is why gauge swatches are important for things which are sized, such as hats and cardigans. Often patterns will specify the gauge, or the size which an item should be at a certain point. If your gauge swatch is too small, it is worth experimenting with a larger hook size, likewise if it is too large then dropping a hook size might help to solve the problem. Sometimes the difference in your tension can be so great that you have to change hook size drastically and the hook becomes unsuitable for the type of yarn, e.g. leaving spaces too big between stitches because the yarn is too fine for the hook. If this happens it may be worth looking at the pattern again and making the item in the next size up (if your tension is too tight) or down (if it is too loose) so that your tension changes the pattern size to the one you want to make.
Another issue which can arise because of tension is unsightly loops of yarn caused by tension being too loose. At this point it is worth looking at Youtube videos of how to hold yarn so that you can try out other methods. If your tension is too tight then you might also find that it is hard to insert the hook into the top of the stitches to create the next round or row. Here it is probably worth going up a hook size to see if that helps (this also applies to foundation chains).
As you can see, tension has the potential to cause a few headaches. A lot of it comes down to practise and refining your own method of maintaining an even tension throughout a project. Everyone has their own level and you may even find your tension alters depending on your mood, where you’re working and how you’re sitting, the type of yarn and the stitches used, along with many other variables! There are days when I work on a long term project and realise my tension has changed and I have to frog part of my work as it looks odd.
Have you ever had tension troubles? Do you have any tension tips or tricks?
I hope this post has been useful, and that your tension doesn’t cause you to reach breaking point (of your yarn or your temper!)