How to Count Rows in Knitting

Have you ever lost track of how many rows you’ve knit? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just look at your knitting to find out?

Well, you can. Yay! And I’m going to show you how to count rows in knitting right now.

Most of us, at some point, get confused by where we begin and end our counting. Do the stitches on the needles count as a row? When a pattern tells us to increase every 4th row, does that mean we knit four rows, then increase, or do we knit three rows, then increase? And what does that look like in the knitting?

Basic rules for counting rows in knitting

Don’t include the cast-on edge in your counting.

Don’t include the stitches on the needles in your counting.

Count rows by counting all the V’s (knit stitches) stacked in one column. If you have a column of five V’s, that means you’ve completed five rows in your pattern. You’re about to work the sixth row.

If you get confused by the stitches on the needles, think of them like this: They’re incomplete. They’re waiting in the wings, ready to perform. They’re on deck, but not yet in play. That’s why you don’t count them.

Examples

Let’s say you’re cabling every 8th row. What this looks like in your knitting is that you have a column of 7 V’s completed. The 8th row is on the needles, waiting to be worked, but not yet counted. As you begin to cable, you’ll notice that it’s those on-deck stitches that are getting crossed, and you’re knitting into them. When the row is finished, you’ll have 8 V’s in your knitting, but they’ll be hard to see because they’ll be crossed now. The stitches that are now on your needles will become row 1 in the next cable repeat, but you haven’t knit them yet so they’re not counted.

Let’s say you’re decreasing every 4th row. You’ve already made a couple decrease repeats, and you’ve lost count. Look at your work. Find the last decrease you made. It will look like two stitches that are separate at the bottom but are overlapped and have only one stitch growing out of their tops.

Count the first stitch growing out of the tops as your first row. Including it, how many V’s are completed under your needles? Two full V’s mean you’ve knit 2 rows. Oops, that’s not enough! What you’re looking for is 3 full V’s worked, and your 4th row on the needles, ready to be decreased but not yet in play.

Let’s say you’re M1 increasing every 3rd round. Increases are interesting to count because they’re generally worked into the round or row below. You reach into the row below and pick up the running stitch, then knit into it twisted. So what that looks like when you’re counting from M1 increases is a tiny loop appearing in the middle of two normal stitches, with a normal-sized stitch growing out of it. When counting, don’t count the tiny loop. Start counting your rounds at the first normal-sized stitch or V. When increasing every 3rd round, then, you’re looking for the tiny loop as your landmark, and then there should be 2 normal V’s stacked above it and the third round on the needles, waiting to be worked. Now you can increase your third round.

When counting above a yarnover increase, first find the hole as your landmark. Look at it closely. There will be a kind of spread-out, horizontal strand of yarn forming the top of the hole, with a more normal-looking stitch growing out of it. That spread-out strand is the yarnover. Don’t count it. Start counting at the stitch that grows out of it. Count those V’s up the column as normal, ignoring the stitches on your needle. If you’re yarnover increasing every 5th round, there should be 4 V’s in the column. Then, you’re ready to work the next increase round.

Similarly, when you’re counting above a Lifted Increase (AKA LRinc or LLinc), you don’t count the weird stitch itself, but the first normal V that grows out of it as your first row. Take a close look at the increase. It looks like two stitches that grow out of the same base. It’s a two-headed V. 😉 Don’t count the two-headed part. Count the first stitch that comes out of the leaning-over head. Then keep counting up the column to see how many rows are under the needles.

Counting purl rows

If, for some reason, you need to count your rows in purl instead of in a knit column, look for the frowns. As I mentioned in The Anatomy of a Knit Stitch, stitches on the purl side look like smiles and frowns. The smiles are the running stitches, the “feet” that connect one stitch to another in a row. They’re the in-between part. The frowns (the downward-curving bumps or lines) are the tops of each stitch.

Find a column of frowns and count each frown. If there are 6 frowns stacked above each other, you’ve complete six purl rows.

Counting garter stitch rows

Garter stitch (where every row is knit) is funny to count because the tops of the stitches are harder to find. The V’s get smooshed behind the frowns and disappear. Most of us count garter stitch by ridges. A ridge is simply a complete set of two rows: one row of V’s and one row of frowns.

When you begin your garter stitch, place a marker at the beginning of your row or round. Now, you have a landmark by which to measure your progress. If the first row of your garter stitch is a knit row, which is normal, then from the right side, a complete ridge will look like a flat line of V’s hidden under the next row of frowns/smiles. Those two rows make one garter ridge.

When you’re working flat (in rows): If, from the right side, you see that your needle tip is at the left of your work and there are V’s directly under your needle, you’ll know that you’ve only worked half a ridge, or an uneven number of rows.

If you’re working garter stitch in the round: a purl ridge directly under the needles means one ridge set is completed. A line of flat, knit V’s directly under the needles means only half a ridge set is completed.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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  • Charli Y

    Thank you so much! I can’t get out to knitting classes due to chronic illness but I’m knitting anyway! This is soooo helpful. (: