Thursday, November 5, 2009

Misleading Tension

Some of you may remember I was making a Forest Canopy Shawl. I did my tension square on 4mm needles as instructed and it was OK. I knitted the shawl and did 12 pattern repeats and 10 edging rows. Alarm bells started to tinkle when I realised I had only used 60g of Opal sock wool. They positively clanged when I looked at it and realised how small it seemed. I looked on Ravelry and everyone extolled the wonders of blocking - so I blocked it for all it was worth.

The result wasn't a Forest Canopy - more of a Thicket or Copse. It isn't even big enough for a headscarf.

So, after much musing and head scratching and unladylike language, I measure my tension on the shawl and it was 28 sts x 38 rows to 4" - much, much smaller than my tension square!!

After more thought I realised that my tension on 4mm Addi lace circular needles must be different to tension on the 4mm straight needles I used for my tension square. I went back and did another tension square using the circs and it was very different. I then did a tension square on dpn's and, lo and behold, my tension was different again. I have now frogged the shawl and will start again making a tension square on circs this time.

The moral of this story is: I must always do my tension square on the actual needles I will be using as different types of needles give different results.

On a positive note though, I have finished my spindle spun Alpaca. It weighs 100g and measures 350 yards - maybe I should use it for another Forest Canopy??????


Freyalyn said...

Isn't knitting fascinating? We think we know so much then something like this jumps up and bites us on the bum!

Christina said...

Your hand-spun alpaca looks great - I can't wait to see what you make with it.

All my life I have never bothered much with tension squares as I always found it came out right....
Until now.
First reason is that these days I often knit the body of sweaters in the round to avoid sewing up; I don't like circulars too much and always looked forward to getting back onto 2 straights for the sleeves - until I found that they were a visibly different tension. In my case, I always knit looser on circulars.
Second reason is that I/we tend to be knitting more stuff like shawls etc with more openwork or lace knitting on larger needle sizes than the yarn is "suited to" as it were. Tension variations here can be quite wide. I had a similar experience to yours with the "Ishbel" shawl.
Third and finally - I often use multiple different needles (of the same nominal size) on one project. But I have a lot of old needles and I found, again, that a one welt I had knitted was visibly quite different from the other - I had used two different pairs of "number 9s" and when I measured them, one pair was 3.5mm and the other 3.75mm.
Moral is I am more careful about all this now...

ra said...

Gosh, I'm surprised there was such a significant difference in tension between different types of needles.

Re: your previous post, I use Doves farm dried yeast in my breadmaking machine and that only has yeast and a rehydrating agent in it, no flour improvers at all (though if I recall Elizabeth David improvers are only ascorbic acid or vitaminC). Heartilly endorse the Shipton Mill flour though.