You’ve seen it. It’s especially visible on the wrong side of stockinette stitch. I’m talking about the gap that happens between every two rows. Some knitters say that this gap is a minor imperfection that confirms that their project is handmade. Others try to avoid stockinette stitch altogether (I know, I did…).
It’s not that this gap is bad and ruins the look of the project. No. Hand knitting is not about being perfect, it’s about enjoying the feel of the fibre and the soothing rhythm of making one stitch after another.
If you do want to improve the look of the fabric and to get rid of that gap, I’ll show you two ways to do it.
First, let’s understand why the gap happens. It becomes visible when one of the two rows (either the knit or the purl row) is looser than the other one.
That’s why it never happens when we work in stockinette stitch in the round. There are no purl rows.
Usually, we tend to make the purl row looser than the knit one, but it may not be true for your personal style.
To find out which row is looser in YOUR knitting, take the same kind of yarn in two solid colours.
Cast on about 20 stitches and work in stockinette stitch (knit one row and purl the other one) changing colour in every other row for about 20 rows.
It is very important to be relaxed when you make this swatch. Don’t try to control your tension. Just let the yarn slide naturally, because we want to see where the gap happens in your knitting when you knit mindlessly.
You’ll get a stripy swatch like the one shown in the photo below. To make it, I cast on 16 stitches and worked for 20 rows.
Look at the wrong side of the swatch. Some ridges are multicoloured, some are in solid colour. On my swatch, there are ridges that are half olive and half orange, as well as plain olive and plain orange ones.
Look for the ridges in a solid colour (Click here to see how to do it). The gap will be above or below each of them.
If the gap is above the solid coloured ridges, that means your purl row is looser than your knit row.
If the gap is below the solid coloured ridge, your knit row is looser than your purl row.
My swatch shows a gap above every solid coloured ridge because my purl rows are looser than my knit rows.
Now that we know which row is looser, we can fix it if we do one of this:
The most obvious solution is to adjust the tension of the yarn. Wrap the working yarn around your little finger when you work your “loose row” (purl row in my case). The photo below shows how to do it if you hold the yarn in your left hand.
This way also works great if you hold the working yarn in your right hand. Click here to see how to do it.
Remove that wrap when you work the next row.
This way we balance the tension by making the loose row tighter and the tight row looser.
Click here to watch the video that shows how to do it
If you don’t want to change the way you hold the yarn, you can achieve the same effect if you change the size of one of the needles.
Before you start working your “loose” row, take a needle that is one size smaller than the other needle. If the difference in tension is big, you might need to use a needle that is two sizes smaller than the needle you use to work the “tight” row.
Use the mismatched needles throughout the project, and work your “tight” row with the thicker needle, and the “loose” row with the thinner one.
That’s it. Perfect tension and no gaps between the rows.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.