Many patterns will tell you to “work in pattern for ____ inches / cm.” So measuring your knitting is an often-used, important skill. Here are some tips for getting accurate measurements.
The standard for how to measure knitting is different from the “counting your rows” standard. When we’re counting the number of rows we’ve worked, we do not include the cast-on edge or the stitches on the needles.
But, when measuring, we want to include the entire length of fabric. So we include the cast-on edge and even the unfinished stitches on the needles.
Lay your knitting on a flat surface. Arrange it and its needles so it’s neither stretched out nor scrunched up.
To measure length in knitting
Grab a straight ruler and line it up so the zero line is at the bottom edge, just as if you were about to measure a piece of paper or a desk. (A fabric ruler will work fine, but they’re less reliable in this instance because they can become distorted over time and because they don’t lay flat. If you use it, stretch it out taut to measure, but don’t pull too hard or you’ll stretch it permanently.)
Lay the ruler on top of the knitting away from the edges or any other distortions in the fabric.
Measure from the bottom up to the tops of the stitches on your needles.
To measure width in knitting
Arrange the ruler so the zero line is touching the outside edge. Lay it across the middle of the fabric, away from the cast-on or the needles. You’re looking for a place where the fabric is the least distorted. This is where a straight ruler comes in handy. You can use it to gently press the edges down if they’re inclined to curl. Measure across to the opposite edge.
To measure from the last decrease or increase
This is what you do when, for instance, you’ve finished a sweater’s waist shaping, and now you need to knit ___ inches further before the arm hole shaping. Or when you need to measure from the arm hole shaping up to the start of the shoulder shaping.
Find the landmark in your pattern. It’s a good idea to mark decrease or increase rows in some way when you make them so you don’t have to search hard for them later. Use a piece of contrasting-colour waste yarn, a safety pin, a stitch marker, or even one of those cheap, plastic hair elastics. You can put it directly into the stitch or between stitches, as long as it stays in the same row as you continue knitting. If you’ve used a cheap hair elastic, you can just cut it out later. (Thanks to my friend Laurie for that tip.)
Now that you know where your landmark is, measure from its row’s top edge up to the top of your stitches on the needles.
If you’re looking for info on how to measure gauge, not length or width, check out this previous post in the series.
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.