I know a lot of regular readers of this blog will probably skip this post. It goes without saying how important it is to knit that little square, so it always surprises me when I hear from a reader who has missed this out!
I spoke to a lady recently who was certain the pattern she was following was wrong, because it wasn’t the length suggested when she reached the armhole shaping. She said she had the right needles and the recommended yarn, but her work just didn’t measure what it was supposed to. I asked the obvious question – had she made a tension square? Her answer was no – she was a very experienced knitter and her stitches were always the right gauge. So how did she know that she would knit to the same gauge as the designer?
This is a common error among knitters who are keen to cast on, and may not understand the importance of first knitting a square. I’m always really surprised that experienced knitters want to skip this step. Tension squares are often considered boring and time consuming, and although I understand the need to just get going, often making my little swatch will satisfy that urge anyway. Plus, I’d rather know that my garment is going to fit before getting all the way up to the armpits.
This little 10x10cm square will give you so much information about the size your garment will turn out. As a designer, it’s absolutely crucial I do this in order for you to knit something the same size that I did.
For instance if I make a garment which I say will fit a 36″ bust, it will only fit that size if you are knitting to exactly the same gauge I am. If you are tighter, it will come out much smaller, and no matter how experienced you are and how even you know your stitches will come out, you don’t know what my knitting is like in that yarn, and as the pattern is based on my knitting, and that yarn, you need to make sure you are working to the same tension as me.
It’s also important you have the row tension right. That means not cheating and just knitting a few rows! All those little increases that are made throughout the body and the sleeves, x times every x rows, are based on that little square of x sts per cm.
And did you know, your tension will also change depending on what sort of needles you use?