Learning to count stitches and rows is a fundamental skill in knitting. You’ll need it to check your knitting gauge, maintain your tension, and to follow the vast majority of knitting patterns.
For example, your pattern might instruct you to work 10, 12, or 15 rows before placing a stitch marker, or to knit a certain number of stitches so you can work an increase in a particular place.
But what if you’ve lost track of how many stitches or rows you’ve knitted, and you don’t know what to do next?
Luckily, counting your rows is actually incredibly easy once you’ve learned to read your knitting. There are some very simple tools and strategies you can use to understand what an individual stitch looks like and how to identify exactly where you are in a pattern.
Here’s a quick summary of the most basic method for counting your knitting rows:
Summary: How to Count Your Knitting Rows
- Make sure you’re facing the right side of the fabric.
- Rotate the fabric until you see columns of V-shaped knit stitches.
- From bottom to top, count the number of V-shaped stitches in each vertical column.
- Each stitch represents one row. If you count 15 stitches, you’ve knitted 15 rows.
- Do not count the cast-on row, but count the stitches that are currently on your needle.
In this guide, we’ll explain exactly how to count your knitting rows in various different stitch patterns including stockinette stitch, garter stitch, cable knitting, and more. You’ll learn how to identify different stitches and how to use tools to make row counting much easier.
With these skills, it won’t matter how many rows you need to count or how often you lose your place. You’ll be able to find the row you’re on in seconds without constantly marking it down on a piece of paper — making you a more efficient and more productive knitter!
What’s In This Guide?
- How to Count Your Knitting Rows Manually
- How to Count Your Knitting Rows With Tools
- How to Count Knitting Rows in Different Stitch Patterns
- How to Keep Track of Your Knitting Rows
How to Count Your Knitting Rows Manually
To count your rows without any additional tools, you’ll first need to be able to “read your knitting”. This refers to the ability to recognize the stitches you’ve already knitted and tell them apart from each other.
In plain stockinette, each knit stitch resembles a small ‘V’ shape, and each purl stitch resembles a small bump in the fabric. These two stitches are mirrored versions of each other, which means a knit stitch looks exactly like a purl stitch on the opposite side of the fabric, and vice versa.
With this knowledge, you can now start manually counting your stitches and rows.
To count the total number of rows you’ve knitted, face the right side of the fabric and count the number of V-shaped stitches you see in each vertical column, from the bottom of the fabric to the top. Each stitch represents one row.
If you count 15 stitches in the vertical column including the stitch on your needle, then you’ve knitted 15 rows in total and will be starting on the sixteenth.
To count the number of stitches in each row, count the number of V-shaped stitches you see horizontally, from the left-hand side to the right-hand side of the fabric.
The simpler the design you’re knitting, the easier it will be to count each row and stitch.
Here are some more detailed tips to help your count your knitting rows in plain knitted fabric and other stitch patterns:
Do Not Count the Stitches In Your Cast-On Row
When counting your knitting rows, ignore the stitches in the cast-on row at the bottom of your knitting. In most cases, the cast-on row does not count towards the total number of rows you’ve knitted.
Unless otherwise instructed, you should begin counting with the row above the cast-on row, and finish counting with the row that’s currently on your knitting needle – though the latter may depend on the exact pattern you’re working on.
For more advanced knitters, the first row of your knitting will actually depend on the specific cast-on method you began with. A long-tail cast-on, for example, will count as the first row. A basic single cast-on, however, will not.
This is especially important in order to avoid mistakes in more advanced knitting patterns. If the pattern designer instructs you to begin with a long-tail cast-on and then knit 10 rows, then it’s likely that number will include the first row that was created with the cast-on.
Many beginner knitters also struggle to understand if they should count the stitches that remain on their needles. The simple answer is yes: when counting your knitting rows, include the stitches that are still on your needles, even if they don’t form ‘V’ shapes yet.
Identify the Right Side of Your Work
Exactly how you count your knitting rows will depend on the specific stitch pattern you’re using. Every stitch pattern looks different on the right and wrong sides of the knitted fabric, which can make it more difficult to discern individual stitches.
Regardless of which technique you’re using, the right side of your work will typically be the smooth, neat-looking side that you intend for others to see. The wrong side is usually messier, bumpier, and intended to be hidden on the inside of the garment.
It’s easiest to count your rows in stockinette stitch, as this stitch pattern only shows knit stitches on the right side of the fabric, and purl stitches on the other. This makes it very easy to identify the columns of V-shaped knit stitches on the right side of the work and begin counting.
However, some stitch patterns can be more complicated to count. Garter stitch, for example, results in rows of both purl and knit stitches on each side of the fabric. Here, the knit stitches can be hard to spot, which makes it much harder to count. The fabric is also reversible, where both sides of the work look exactly the same.
If you need to count your rows in garter stitch or you need to count purl rows for any other reason, then you can count the u-shapes in your knitting instead of the V-shaped stitches.
Each of these ‘U’ shapes represents a single stitch in a row. By counting these from the bottom to the top of your knitting, you’ll work out how many rows you have knitted so far. If you count 15 ‘U’ shapes, for example, then you’ve knitted 15 rows.
Use Your Needles to Help You Count
If you’re finding it difficult to recognize each individual stitch in your knitting just by looking at them, it might be useful to use the tip of your knitting needle as a rough guide.
To do this, simply point to each stitch as you count from from the bottom to the top of the fabric. This will help you keep track of your progress, particularly when you have a large number of rows to count.
Tricks like this are especially useful if you’re working with a particularly thin or fuzzy type of knitting yarn, which can lack the definition you need to differentiate stitches from each other.
How to Count Your Knitting Rows With Tools
Once you’ve learned to manually identify your stitches and count your rows, you can start using tools to make your life a little easier. This will be especially useful when you’re knitting large projects and you need to keep track of dozens of rows simultaneously.
Here’s a detailed overview of the tools you can use to help count your rows:
1. Use A Row Counter
Row counters are cheap, versatile tools that you can use to record rows or stitches as you work. When you finish knitting a row, simply turn the dial or click the button to add it to your counter.
These tools come in several different shapes and sizes – you can place them on your needles, wear them as a ring or necklace, or simply have it next to you while you work.
Some row counters can even be locked to prevent the count from increasing if you accidentally press the button. They’re typically available for less than $10.00, and can make your knitting life much easier.
If you plan on counting your knitting rows with a stitch or row counter, we recommend choosing one that you can easily use with one hand. This saves you from needing to put down your knitting every time you finish a row.
Here’s a list of recommended row counters that you can see pictured above:
- KnitPro Row Counter Ring – ($24.56/£22.70)
- KnitPicks Finger Row Counter – ($3.95/£3.65)
- Row Counter for Knitting Needles – ($2.79/£2.58)
2. Use Stitch Markers
If you’re working on a large project and you need to count a lot of rows, you can use stitch markers every 5, 10, or 20 rows to help you keep track.
Once you’ve learned to count rows manually, you can apply a stitch marker every time you knit another 5 or 10 rows. If you need to count the total number of rows you’ve knitted later on, you can simply count the number of stitch markers you’ve used.
This is a great way to keep track of your knitting rows if you’re not interested in writing them down or clicking them on a row counter.
You can find stitch markers just about anywhere, in a whole range of different styles. For a cheap, basic option we recommend checking out stitch markers on LoveCrafts or KnitPicks. For more interesting designs and styles, take a look at Maskemarkøren or other independent designers on Etsy.
3. Use A Knitting App
There are dozens of free apps you can use to help count and track your stitches. In most cases, you simply download the app to your device and tap the digital counter to record each row.
Some popular apps include additional features to help your knitting process. For example, the Row Counter App lets you use multiple counters simultaneously, time your knitting, and even add reminders for particular rows.
How to Count Knitting Rows in Different Stitch Patterns
Counting your rows isn’t always easy, especially when you’re working with more complicated stitch patterns. If the pattern is reversible or can’t easily spot individual stitches, you’ll need to know exactly what to look for.
In this section, we’ll explain how to count rows in the most common stitch patterns and techniques including stockinette, garter, cables, and more.
Stockinette Stitch (Knit and Purl Stitches)
Plain stockinette stitch is the easiest pattern to count your rows in. As we explained in the instructions above, you face the right side of the work and simply count the number of ‘V’ shaped knit stitches in vertical columns from the top to the bottom of the fabric. You’ll see knit stitches on one side, and purl stitches on the other.
In most cases, you do not count the cast-on row in the total row count. However, you do count the stitches on your needle.
As you can see in the image above, there are 16 ‘V’ shaped knit stitches highlighted, and one on the needle. The top is the cast-on row, which we won’t count. In this case, we’ve knitted 17 rows, and the next row will be the 18th.
If you’re working in reverse stockinette stitch, the above method still applies, but in reverse. The purl stitches will be on the right side, and the knit stitches on the wrong side – so turn the fabric around and count your knit stitches from the back.
Generally speaking, it’s more difficult to count rows of purl stitches than knit stitches, especially for beginners. However, you may find that you need to because you can’t access the other side of the fabric.
Purl stitches look like a series of bumps in raised ridges. Each ridge consists of two bumps: one bump looks like an umbrella, and the next bump looks like a smiley face.
To count rows of purl stitches, simply count these raised ridges in a vertical line from the top to the bottom of the fabric. In the example above, we’ve highlighted 6 ridges, which means we’ve knitted 6 rows in that section.
If you find it easier, you can focus on the ‘umbrellas’ and ‘smiley faces’ instead of the entire ridge. In this case, every ‘umbrella’ is equal to one row. If possible, you can also turn the fabric around to count the knit stitches instead.
Garter stitch can look very similar to rows of purl stitches, but it’s not exactly the same.
Both stitch patterns show bumpy purl stitches in raised ridges. However, purl rows will look like knit rows on the opposite side of the fabric. There’s nothing in between each row, so the ridges will be fairly close to each other.
By contrast, garter stitch actually contains a row of knit stitches tucked between each row of purls. If you look closely, you will be able to see the small ‘V’ shaped knit stitches stacked on the bumpy purl stitches, which makes it look more spread out than plain purl rows. Garter stitch is also reversible, which means it looks the same on both sides of the fabric.
As garter stitch typically contracts, it can be hard to see the knit stitches amongst the purls, and to know which stitches you should be counting. You can’t count your rows like you do with stockinette, because it looks like both sides of the fabric are full of ridges, with no ‘V’ shapes to be seen.
To count your knitting rows in garter stitch, count the number of ridges you see from the top to the bottom of the fabric and multiply this number by two. Each little ridge consists of two rows, so if you count 10 ridges, you’ve knitted 20 rows. As usual, you can ignore the stitches from the cast-on row.
If you don’t like this method, you can also count the ridges on both sides of the fabric. Count the number of ridges you see on one side and then the other side, then add these two numbers together. The answer will be equal to the total number of rows you have knitted.
Cable knitting patterns produce beautiful results, but they can be difficult to count. It’s easy to figure out how many cables you’ve completed in total, but much harder to count how many rows you’ve knitted since the last cable was worked.
The ‘V’ shaped stitches will slant at strange angles to the left or the right, and the columns of stitches twist around each other – so how do you count how many rows you’ve knitted?
The easiest way to count your rows in cable stitch is to look for the hole where the cables cross over each other. Once you’ve identified it, use your fingers to gently spread them apart and count the ‘V’ shaped stitches above it. The total number of rows you’ve knitted will be equal to the number of stitches you count minus one.
To keep track of your cable rows, try placing a marker on one of the stitches every time you complete a full repeat. These markers will tell you where you’ve finished each full cable, so if the cable is every 10 rows, each marker represents 10 rows. This will make your cable knitting rows much easier to count.
Knitting in the Round
When you’re knitting in the round with circular needles, you’re essentially working up a tubular or spiral shape. When counting your progress, you’re actually counting your rounds rather than your rows – they’re the same thing.
If you’re working up a sleeve or a sock and you only care about the length of the fabric, you don’t need to worry about counting your rows too specifically. You can simply keep knitting until it reaches the length you need.
However, if you’re knitting a pattern that involves color changes, lacework, or shaping, you’ll need to know how many rows you’ve knitted.
To count your knitting rows in the round, simply count the number of ‘V’ shaped stitches you see in a vertical column from the cast-on row up to the row on your needles. Each of these stitches represents one row, or one full circular round of knitting.
Just like with flat knitting, most circular knitting patterns do not require you to count the cast-on row – though there may be some exceptions.
Rib Stitch, Moss Stitch, Seed Stitch, and Other Complex Patterns
We could go on for days about the peculiarities of every stitch pattern, but it doesn’t need to be that complicated. The principles we’ve outlined above apply to more complex stitching techniques, too.
Regardless of which stitch pattern you’re using, you will almost always be able to see columns of knit or purl stitches stacked on top of each other. If you stretch the fabric gently and stay focussed on one vertical column, you should be able to count the stitches to work out the number of rows you’ve knitted.
This is even true of ribbing, which creates a series of vertical ridges. In this case, you simply count the ‘V’ shaped stitches you see, just as if it were stockinette.
Ultimately, every type of knitting stitch is simply a loop made of yarn with a hole at the center. It doesn’t matter if it’s slanting a certain way, if there’s a purl bump nearby or if it’s shaped like a ‘V’ – if you can count these tiny holes in vertical columns, you can count your knitting rows.
How to Keep Track of Your Rows as You Knit
The ability to identify and count your stitches is an essential skill to have in knitting. You’ll need it to follow patterns, fix mistakes, and keep track of your progress.
However, you don’t have to manually count your knitting rows every time you want a progress update. If you can consistently keep track of the number of rows you’ve knitted, you’ll save hours over the course of a long pattern.
There are dozens of different ways to do this, from old-fashioned pen and paper to modern tools. In fact, you can actually use the same tools you use to count your knitting rows in the first place.
Keeping Track With a Pen and Paper or Dice
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. If you’re working an easy pattern with basic repeats, you can keep track of your rows by simply noting them down on a piece of paper or in the notes app on your phone.
As long as you don’t lose the note, you can stop and revisit your knitting at any time without forgetting how many rows you’ve knitted so far. Just don’t forget to keep recording each row as you progress – then you’ll need to count them again!
This method is cheap, foolproof, and stands the test of time. However, it’s not particularly practical if you need to knit hundreds of rows in a complex pattern.
The same goes for the old-school “dice” method. If you only need to record a few rows at a time, you can use a regular six-sided die to track your progress. Turn the die around every time you complete a new row, so the number on the die reflects the number of rows you’ve worked.
Using Modern Row Counters and Mobile Apps
As we mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of different tools available to help you keep track of our rows. You can find row counters that attach to your needle, wrap around your wrist, or are worn as a ring.
Row counters are arguably the most reliable and straightforward way to keep track of your knitting rows. They’re harder to lose than a piece of paper, and it’s much quicker to click a button on your needle than it is to pick up a pen or a pencil.
Every time you start or finish a new row, simply tap the clicker to record it. As long as you’re consistent with when you count and how often you’re counting, you can’t go wrong.
If you’re attempting a more complicated pattern, you might need to track multiple repeats simultaneously, at which point you might find it easier to use an app on your phone. This can be a lifesaver, but it’s not necessary for most beginner and intermediate patterns.
There’s No Substitute for Skill
Of course, the best approach to keeping track of your rows depends on the type of project you’re working on. If there are the same simple repeats over and over again, you’ll be fine with a piece of paper or a basic row counter. If it’s detailed colorwork or an intricate lacework pattern, you might be safer using an app.
No matter how many tools you use, you will still need to be able to count your knitted rows manually. You might forget to use the row counter, lose your phone, or abandon the project for weeks at a time.
In these cases, there can be no substitute for learning how to properly read your knitting the old-fashioned way.
To finish up, we’ve created a downloadable summary in the image below. It explains the simplest and most common way to count your knitting rows:
Does The Cast-On Row Count As the First Row?
When counting the total number of rows you have knitted, you typically do not count the cast-on row as the first row. If a pattern refers to “row one”, it is almost always the first row of knitting after the cast-on row.
While this is usually the case, it ultimately depends on the pattern designer and the cast-on method you used to begin your project. For example, the long-tail cast on method creates both a cast-on row and a normal knitted row, so you would count the cast-on row as row one.
Make sure to follow your pattern designer’s instructions carefully. If it’s important to the pattern, they’ll make sure to specify which row you should count as the first row. If you’re knitting your own pattern, you can decide which row you’d like to count as the first.
Do The Stitches on Your Needle Count As a Row?
When counting your knitting rows, you do count the stitches that are currently on your needle. These stitches have already been knitted – they might not look like classic ‘V’ shaped stitches, but they do count towards the total number of rows you have worked.
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