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3 Stress-Free Ways to Count Your Rows in Knitting

Counting rows can be really stressful. When your pattern says, “Work 20 rows even,” don’t panic. With the help of a knitting row counter or the know-how to read your knitting, counting rows is a breeze.

The way you choose to count your rows usually depends on the pattern. A knitting row counter, for example, is perfect for more complicated patterns while reading your knitting works well for basic patterns that don’t have a lot going on.

Counting rows in knitting

There are a couple of strategies you can use to count your knitting rows, from using a counter to reading your knitting.

Here are a couple smart strategies for keeping track of your rows while knitting.

We’ll help you figure out which one is best for your situation, plus offer a few extra tips along the way!

1. Use a knitting row counter

Clover Knitting Row Counter

When your pattern is a bit complicated, row counters like this Clover Mini Knitting Counter (pictured above) can be really helpful for counting rows. I like to use row counters when I’m knitting lace, working short rows or doing a lot of shaping. Knitting row counters are also helpful if you’re following a pattern that has numbered rows or rounds because it can help you remember where you left off.

There are many different types of row counters out there, but we like this one from Clover for a few reasons. It can be worn as a pendant around your neck so that you can knit practically anywhere and don’t have to search for it each time you want to add a row to the counter. 

You can also add a row to the counter with the simple press of a button, so you won’t interrupt the flow of your knitting. Some counters have turn dials that require two hands to turn the counter, so a simple button like this one is definitely a feature to look for.

This counter also has a lock, so when you finish your knitting session you can lock the row counter in place and know that the number won’t budge, even if the counter is being shuffled around in your project bag.

Bonus tips

  • If you don’t have a knitting row counter, you can always use a pencil and paper to keep track. Just be sure you label the section of the pattern you’re counting so you don’t get confused.
  • There are plenty of digital row counters available for free. Check out our list of knitting apps for a few different options.

Reading your knitting

Sometimes it can be tedious and time consuming to use a row counter to count rows. If you’re working in a basic stockinette or garter stitch, you can “read” your knitting instead of counting the rows with a counter. Here’s how:

Counting garter stitch knitting rows

Counting garter stitch rows

In garter stitch, you have a combination of little ridges and V stitches in between them. If you look at the swatch above, you’ll see a row of garter stitch marked off in black. The tricky part, though, is that in between each ridge you’ll see a V stitch. That V stitch is not so easy to see unless you stretch out the work.

Because of that, one easy way to count garter stitch is to count only the ridges, then multiply by two. So for example, if you counted 3 ridges, then you have 6 rows of garter stitch.

This type of counting works well if the pattern says something like, “Work 8 rows in garter stitch.” You can simply count the ridges, counting two rows for each ridge, without using a knitting counter. It saves time, plus it’s always a good idea to practice reading your knitting. It can help you spot mistakes that you might miss otherwise!

Counting stockinette stitch knitting rows

Counting stockinette stitch rows

Stockinette stitch can be counted by examining the Vs. Check out the photo above. We’ve marked three stockinette stitches in black. One V stitch = one stockinette stitch. The Vs are stacked on top of each other, forming rows of stockinette stitch. The black marks are marking off three rows of stockinette stitch.

To count how many rows of stockinette stitch you have, just count the V’s running up and down. Easy peasy!

Bonus tips

  • Sometimes when I’m counting the V’s, my vision gets a little fuzzy and I lose my spot. To help me keep track, I use the tip of the knitting needle or a tapestry needle to point to the center of the V stitches when I’m counting. This lets my eyes rest and blink without losing my place.
  • If you find counting garter stitch to be easier, you can always flip the stockinette over to the wrong side and count the rows on that side instead.

Clover Locking Stitch Marker

Using a stitch marker

If you aren’t sure where to begin counting your rows when you’re reading your knitting, just place a locking stitch marker (like the Clover locking stitch markers pictured above) near the edge of where you need to begin counting. Locking stitch markers are great because you can lock them in place, then easily move them to another spot if you need to.

Do you have any strategies for counting rows in your knitting? Share them with us in the comments!

23 Comments

Kay

I have switched most of my row counting to the lightweight and plastic finger ring.
It’s residing on my index finger is a constant reminder to push the larger button for each row and the smaller button for a “start over”. I so often get caught up with the knitting process, particularly more complex patterns, to update the row for the “freestanding” counters. I have tried them all over the years and find the finger ring counter the more reliable for me. Perhaps you can feature one of these at a later time.

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Elise

So how many rows are there in the garter sample pictured above? Also how many in the stockinette sample?

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Shari

Great question, Elise! I am replying with my answer, which I hope will be confirmed by others: there are 10 rows in each sample, NOT including the cast on. Garter swatch= Cast on, then 10 rows (with the marked ridge being rows 5-6), and row 10 on the needle. Stockinette swatch= Cast on, then 10 rows (with Rows 3-4-5 being marked), and row 10 on the needle. Row nine is difficult to see in this photo because it is slightly folded under. Hope that helps.

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Maria Longoria

rats–i only count 9; i have trouble seeing the one/two rows on needle. Does Crafty offer the finger counter? might need to hire a human to count for me… thanks!

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Jane

You forgot to mention the Smarties system. 😉

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Judy

Do you get to eat a Smarty for each row? How about M&Ms 🙂

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biscuit

Ashley Little:
Thank you so much for explaining this so easily. I’ve tried to knit on my own without classes for years. Never been able to knit much more that a scarf be I was unable to count the rows and know how to count the beginning and ending stitches in the row. This helped me so much.
Do you have a class on Craftsy for beginners that explains everything?
Thanks again.

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AJ

I second the request Ashley made! I really need a brand new beginners class to help me learn all the tricks and techniques used in knitting. I don’t have a tutor or teacher so I am trying to learn by watching classes and videos on craftsy. Please let us know if a real simple elementary class is made for us newbies! And thank you very much!

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Irene Foss

Thank you very much for the tips for counting rows. My eyes get fuzzy too when trying to count the Vs and I have lost my place more times than I would like to “count” LOL.

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OHSue

I forget to click the row counter or move the marker or whatever method i have tried. What I do is insert my needle in the middle of a stitch the point the needle upwards towards your knitting, then count the ladder of stitches on your needle. This is especially helpful when counting for cables because you can put your needle in at the point of the last crossed stitches.

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Rebecca

OHSUE do you mean that you weave the cross bars on your needle? Maybe post a picture? I keep having to take out my cables because I forgot to keep track of the rows. Sooo annoying!

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toni kayser weiner

One of my all time fav counting methods is to use safety pins, for pattern knitting.
For example, if I am working on a 8 row pattern repeat, I hang 1 safety pin near the top of my knitting. On row 2, I add a second safety pin to the first (row 1) safety pin, making a “safety pin chain”. On row 3, I add a third safety pin, and so on until all 8 rows are completed and I have a 8 safety pins in my safety pin chain.
To start the next 8 row pattern repeat, I move the entire safety pin chain to the bottom of my knitting, usually the ribbing, and start all over again: 1 safety pin at the top of the knitting for row 1. The safety pins are attached to my work, so if I put it down, I know where I am when I come back to my knitting. If I have no safety pins I have been know to count with pennies, or pebbles, whatever is around!

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Kim

I like your method.

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Phoebebe

Re: number of rows in pictured examples. I counted 8 rows in each example, not counting the cast-on row or the row on the needle. Will someone please clarify?

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Jeanette Fitton

I like to use pen and paper. In a complicated lace pattern I’ll marked off each row when I complete it. For more simple repeats I use waste yarn, a tip from the Yarn Harlot. I place it over the fabric between stitches every second row. It looks like a basted stitch up the fabric and I can count that way.

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Suzanne

I use a small abacus that lays flat on my table. Not portable, but I don’t knit much anywhere except in my chair, and it is easily moved but no small children to mess with it so it works for me. I have had stitch counters but with the abacus I don’t have to put my needle down. I use the tip of the empty needle to move the bead on the abacus.

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Shamara Long

Great idea! My son came home with an abacus he made at school when he was in kindergarten using beads strung on pipe cleaners that was connected to a small piece of cardboard. Another method would be to string beads on a ribbon tied at both ends and slide a head down for each row. I have one attached to my swim bag to keep track of my laps.

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Jennifer McGown

I use the row counters that you fit on the end of your needle. I just turn the dial when I switch sides. When I knit in the round it helps mark the beginning of the round. I have 2 sizes – one for small to medium size needles and one for larger size needles. And the fit on crochet hooks also. When doing doing repeats I either use the counter alone or use with stitch markers to mark the different repeats.

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Dana Veach

@ Shari…I concur with your row numbering count on the swatches…10 rows counting the cast on row and the row on the needles…thanks!

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Megan Mills

TIP. Refinement for more accurate Garter Stitch ridge (aka reggie) row-counting which will be deceiving if you have done an odd number of rows: If you need to be really accurate count the ridges on each side and add them together. For example, if you have 9 ridges on one side, and 8 on the other (including the ridge right up against the needle on one side of the knitting) then you’ve done 9 + 8 = 17 rows, not 18 (9 x 2) and not 16 (8 x 2).

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Pennie H.

I agree with Toni Kayser Weiner I too use the pin method & have for many years it works like a dream this way so easy I have also used old school pencil & paper. Happy knitting everyone!

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Tifa

My best ever method that applies to any kind of pattern is the scrap yarn method. I find this very easy and not confusing at all, hands-free from any gadgets. I get a scrap yarn ling enough for the height of project. For exaple, knitting socks using fingering weight. Imagine the stress i had using the counter because i still have to manually count the Vs going up using the free needle. Sometimes i knit so fast oblivious that i had to mark my beginning row in rounds.
So now i mark my beginning stockinette row by wrapping the scrap yarn (of contrasting colour, of course) on the first knit stitch. Then i carry on knitting till i can visualise there are 10 rows from the marker. Or count again before wrapping scrap yarn around the beginning of the next round. I do these steps until i reach the desired length by counting 10-20-30etc before i start decrease fir the toes. I hoe many will find this cheap and simple method worthwhile.

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Carol

use a scrap of paper and punch a hole ( with your knitting needle ) each time you complete a row.

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