Crochet A to Z: Keeping Tension

I’m doing the A to Z Challenge for the month of April with the theme “Learn to Crochet A to Z.” For more details, and to see previous posts, click here

Crochet A to Z-3

Hello! Today I thought it would be a good idea to talk about one of the biggest issues that plagues beginning crocheters – how to keep tension. This is basically the Goldilocks dilemma: how to crochet not too loosely and not too tightly.

Keeping tension is similar to gauge, which we talked about earlier this month. Both of them have to do with how loosely or tightly you’re crocheting. However, keeping tension refers more to the process of tensioning the yarn – what goes on while you’re crocheting – while gauge is more like the end result, since you measure after you’re done. So gauge is actually kind of reliant on keeping tension.

In short, keeping tension is making sure the yarn doesn’t come out from the ball too quickly, and you have some tension between it and your project. Does that make any sense? It’s easier to understand when you’re wrestling with it yourself. 😛

I think it all comes down to how you hold the yarn – because even if you have the perfect yarn and hook combination, if you’re holding the yarn sloppily, your crochet will be super loose and hole-y. And it can be really hard to learn how to hold the yarn – people always want to move right on to crocheting without spending time on holding a cumbersome crochet hook and winding the yarn around their fingers in a complicated manner. So I’m not going to suggest anything ridiculously complex. I just want to show you a couple ways to hold the yarn to help you keep your stitches consistent.

First of all, there are two main ways to hold your crochet hook: like a pencil or like a knife. I’ve found that the pencil hold works best for me, and it also lends itself to faster crocheting, I think, simply because you don’t have to move your wrist as much. I’ve always been better at using a pencil than a knife, probably because I’m a writer and not an assassin, so it makes sense I would gravitate to the pencil hold. I read a great article in an Interweave crochet magazine that showed about six more ways to hold your crochet hook (mine is called the “chopstick hold,” I recall), but the article said they all fell under two main categories: underhand and overhand grip. Or in layman’s terms, pencil and knife. :} If one doesn’t work for you, try the other way!

Also, the crochet hook you use can play a big part in your tension, too. I crochet more loosely with tapered crochet hooks than I do with inline. Metal or plastic will make a difference, too, as well as if your crochet hook has a handle on it or not. Handles can be a little cumbersome with the pencil hold, in my experience, but that certainly doesn’t have to apply to you! It might just be the way I hold the hook. 🙂

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This is how I hold my yarn. This is also how most of my students do it, possibly because they learned from me, but also possibly because this is, in my humble opinion, the simplest way. I’m all about the easy way. 🙂 I’ve done it this way since the first time I picked up yarn and hook, and I’m pretty much just gripping the yarn in my fist on my left hand. Not very dignified or fancy, but it does the trick. My left pinkie finger is doing most of the work here, pinching the yarn so it doesn’t come out too quickly. Then when I go to make a stitch, I sort of “scoop” the yarn with my hook from my left index finger. Actually, if you want to get a look at this in action, check out my crochet owl video tutorial here, because it is really hard to get a picture of myself crocheting! I apologize for that.

You can also wind the yarn around your pinkie finger so your finger has to do less work. I don’t like the feeling of the yarn sliding along my finger, though. Since I’m a fast crocheter, it gives me yarn burn. This works really well with slippery yarns, however. If you’re crocheting way too loosely, maybe this method is worth a try.

There is absolutely NO wrong way to hold your hook or yarn! If it works for you, it’s right. 🙂 I’m really interested to hear how other people go about keeping tension – I’m always looking for new methods to try, and it’s fascinating to see how my fellow crocheters do things! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

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