Knitting itself, isn’t that difficult. The challenge comes in, though, when you have to understand what the stitches look like, fix mistakes, count stitches and rows.
I’m often asked does the cast on row count a Row 1 in my knitting? The cast on itself is not counted, however, some cast on methods create both a cast on and a knitted row. For example, the most popular cast on, the long tail method, creates both a cast on and a knitted row. So in this case, you would count that as the first row. If you do an easy loop cast on (recommended for beginners), it’s simply a cast on and not counted as a row.
Now that you know about the first row of knitting, let’s take some time to discuss how to keep track of rows and actually count rows in knitting. There are different ways to count rows depending on the stitch pattern you are knitting.
Read all the way to the end for tips, tricks and lots of how-to videos!
How to Keep Track of Rows
Scenario: You’re knitting happily away and you realize the pattern instructed you to knit 10 rows. Now what? How do you keep track of those rows and if you haven’t kept track, how do you count the rows?
Pen & Paper Method
A simple piece of paper and pen are my favorite way to keep track of rows. As I mentioned in the scenario above, my pattern instructs me to knit ten rows. The easiest way to keep track of rows is by making a tally mark on the paper after every row. Once you’ve made 10 tally marks, you’ve completed all of the rows necessary for that part of the pattern.
There’s also a more advanced method to this. Once you move into more challenging patterns such as shaped garments, cables, or lace, there might be more things to do on each row. Let’s say for example, I’m knitting a simple cable scarf. The pattern instructs me to work a cable row every sixth row. So in this case, I just make a list of the row numbers and at every 6th row, I write cable next to it so I know I have to cable on those rows only.
The advantage to using the pen and paper method is that if you put down this project for any length of time, (ie. 6 months to work on other projects), you’ll be able to pick up that knitting and know exactly where you left off.
Pro Tip: Many knitters think they have to keep the knitting instructions in their heads. You don’t! It doesn't make you a better knitter, just a confused one! Make notes of where you are in your knitting so you can go back to the project at any time.
Pen and paper isn’t the only way to keep track of rows. You can also use some really fun gadgets! They are called row counters and they usually have a clicker or wheel that you turn to keep track of rows by number. The counters go up to 99 and then restart again at 1.
Just know, row counters are really fun and satisfying tools to twist and click (think ASMR). Beware of family members coming in and clicking when you leave your work even for a few minutes. It’s happened to me and it’s not fun to have to go back and figure out where you are in your project. Now, if I have to leave my knitting, I just jot down the row number I was on. There are also some row counters with a lock button on them; it’s a handy feature to have!
If you like to look good while knitting (and who doesn’t), there’s even row counter jewelry! The Ablet is pretty beaded bracelet that keeps track of rows. It’s called a Knitting Abacus and you track the rows by moving beads from one side to the other. Genius!
How to Count Rows
We’ve all been there. Watching TV while knitting, chatting with friends, or just zoning out. You forgot to keep track of your rows. Now what? This is where being able to count the rows is really necessary.
Different stitch patterns result in rows looking differently as well. Knowing the what the knit stitches and purl stitches look like are the first step in counting rows.
How to Count Rows in Garter Stitch
Even though garter stitch (knit every row) is the easiest stitch to knit, it can be really confusing to count. This video from Lion Brand shows you how to identify the stitches and count the rows.
Garter stitch creates very heavy ridges made up of two rows. To count garter rows, just count the ridges 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.
Sometimes a pattern will state, “knit 5 garter ridges.” In that case, you’ll be knitting 10 rows total.
How to Count Rows in Stockinette Or Ribbing
Expert knitting instructor, Cheryl Brunette, shows you how easy it is to count rows. In this video, she counts on a 1 x 1 rib stitch, but you can just as easily count stockinette rows using this method.
How to Count Rows in Seed Stitch
Because seed stitch is alternating on rows between knit and purl, it can be very confusion when it comes to counting the rows.
However, Adrena Holladay has a really helpful video to show you how to count seed stitch rows. The first part of the video covers garter stitch, so tune in at 2:16 to learn how to count seed stitch rows.
How to Count Cable Rows
Knitting cables is really fun, but one of the caveats is that because the the twist, it’s hard to know what row you are on.
In the video below, Nancy Wynn shows an amazingly easy way to count rows in-between cables. As someone who consistently forgets to pay attention to rows with cabling, this is my new go-to method for counting them.
In addition, Marly Bird has a quick video that hows a knitting hack to keep track of cable rows.
That’s about it for today. We’ve answered whether or not to count the cast on as row 1 in your knitting, how to keep track of rows, and how to count rows.
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