Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Tension, Please! :)

I've received several requests for help this week all on the same issue: tension! So I thought that perhaps discussing it here would help others too.

Technically, in crochet, tension is the balancing act we perform when each yarn over or loop is created with our hook.  Put the "death grip" on the hook, or on the "feed" of the yarn, and your stitches unhappily shrink. Or worse, yank yarn away from completed stitches to ensure they're "taught" and we wind up with a much smaller than usual stitch.  Or, keep the "feed" as loose as a goose and the stitches become very deformed.

So how do we deal with our (a)tension issues?  First, stay relaxed. Try not to crochet in environments that will effect your emotions -- such as crocheting during the evening news; your tension will change with each story they report!

Second, ensure you're lifting the crochet hook UP off your work with each loop you "pull up."  If each stitch is created with the hook resting against the side of the work already created, then the stitch is going to be a bit tight -- and squat!  This usually means you'll end up needing to create additional rows, and using more fiber. Remember to lift, lift, lift!! that crochet hook up.  The more you lift, the taller your stitch will be -- and also more relaxed!  To see this in action, watch this clip -- look how nice & high the loop is pulled up!

And while we're on the topic of squat stitches, if you're a "yanker" -- break that habit!  If you're yanking your yarn after each stitch is created then you are robbing your stitches of the fiber needed to help them stand proud and tall!  How much of a difference can it make?  Well, take heed from a lady I helped awhile ago ... she was crocheting a shawl that called for two balls of mohair.  She came to me when she was on her 6th ball and was at the halfway point of her project.  I asked her to crochet some stitches while I watched and bing! I knew instantly what the problem was. Once I pointed out to her that she was a yanker, short changing, her stitches, it made a world of difference!

Sometimes it's hard to see if we're short-changing our stitches, so I recommend having a cro-friend or teacher observe our stitching technique.  If you don't have such a person available, most digital cameras have built in videoing options -- video your hands in action and then watch the video.  As you watch, remember that the (a)tension you put into your technique is well worth the effort!

If your tension is "loose as a goose," well that just means you haven't learned the balancing act yet.  Keep at it, try different holding techniques (both yarn & hook), and practice, practice, practice.  Eventually it will all fall into place!  :)
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