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Ask Amanda: How do I count my rows?

Counting rows in knitting can be a tricky business. I had a lot of trouble learning to do it accurately – I’d routinely count the number of rows over and over, ending up with different numbers every time! Learning to count rows will make any knitting project easier (Hami, the tank top pictured, is a perfect example).

Stockinette is, in my opinion, the easiest fabric to use while learning to count rows. On the right side of the fabric, every row is a line of V’s (see the green highlighted row in the image below). When counting, go along one column of stitches – each V counts for one row:

Stockinette (right side)
Sometimes, if the yarn is especially fuzzy or multicolored, I find it easier to count rows on the wrong side of stockinette. Because the purl bumps are more prominent, it makes it a little easier to see the individual rows. Every row is a line of interlocking curves (see the green highlighted row in the image below). When counting, go along one column of stitches – each curved shape counts for one row:

Stockinette (wrong side)
If the yarn is especially fuzzy, I’ll stretch it out a little with my fingers to get a better look – each row starts to separate from its neighbors, making counting easier. Of course, you wouldn’t want to stretch the fabric like this if you’re trying to count a row gauge, since you wouldn’t get an accurate number! Below, you can see how the rows begin to separate, leaving recessed areas between them.

With garter stitch (knitting every row), the V-shaped rows alternate with curved rows, so it ends up looking like one row of stockinette, then one row of reverse stockinette. To count rows here, you’ll need to count one V, then the interlocking curves above it, then the V above that, and so on:

Garter Stitch
Even after you’ve learned to “read” your knitting and have mastered all the knitting basics, it can still be confusing when it comes time to count your rows, especially if you’re doing an unfamiliar or elaborate pattern stitch.

If you  start working on something a little more complicated, it’s probably a good idea to keep track of your rows on paper or with a row counter. The stitch pattern below, from Norah’s cardigan design Apropos, is a good example of the kind of project that would benefit from more concrete tracking, as the stitch’s unusual construction and wide open lace areas make it pretty hard to identify each individual row.


Though you may struggle or get frustrated, keep in mind that with some practice, you’ll be able to quickly identify the rows on your knitting projects, and begin to learn when additional tools will come in handy.

37 thoughts on “Ask Amanda: How do I count my rows?

  1. I’ve always wondered: do you count the loop on your needle as a row? And…when counting stockinette starting from a CO or garter edging, what does that first V look like? To me it looks like half a V and I never know if I should count it.

    1. Very good questions! It’s a little bit confusing, but the loops on your needle aren’t a completed row, they’re more of a “future row” – they will form the next row when you knit them. So, when you’re counting, only count completed rows, and not the loops on the needle.

      When counting stockinette starting from a CO or garter, the first row of Vs does sometimes look a little short and weird. If I’m having trouble identifying where the Vs start from the RS, I’ll flip it over and look the WS instead. The first row of purl bumps after the CO or garter edging will be the reverse side of the first row of Vs, and you can start counting with that row.

  2. Well done visuals, Amanda. Thank you!
    Lately I’m finding that inserting locking stich markers every ten rows helps me track.But every project is different.

    1. Thanks, Kate! Great point about each project being different – a trick that works great for one type of project might not work as well for something else. Experimentation is key!

    2. Hi Amanda
      When the knitting pattern ask to work 2rows of stockinette stitch Is it really 2rows or is it just a knit row then purl row?
      Thank you

      1. Thank you

        On Tue, Nov 26, 2019, 10:50 AM Knitting and Crochet techniques from the Berroco Design Te

  3. Knitting in a “vertical lifeline” (in a contrasting colour of cotton yarn or thread) will help the stitches to stand out and you will see them more clearly. As for lace patterns, counting the selvedge stitches should do the trick. What do you think?

  4. I hope you can help me. im knitting a boxed poncho for my daughter for her b-day. I cast on 130 stitches on circular needles. im about 10 inches away from finishing one half and have noticed that I only have 129 stitches on my needles. ive tore out 10 rows so far and still at 129 stitches. last time I counted there was 130 stitches. my question is should I continue looking to see where the mistake is or just finish it. I have it lying flat out and haven’t noticed any holes in my work. so it has to be at either the begging of the row or the end. any suggestion would be much appreciated.

  5. Great post with lots of useful information. thanks for sharing 🙂
    one of my patterns left me thinking though. it says: knit 6 rows in stockinette / stocking stitch knitting and purling alternatively

    does this mean: 6 times knit and 6 times purl or
    does it mean: 3 times knit and 3 times purl, 6 rows altogether?

    im confused. any help?
    thank you.

    1. Hi Martha,

      You pattern is asking you to knit a total of 6 rows. So you literally will knit 1 row then purl 1 row three times.

      1. Yes. When you knit a row, that makes 1 row. When you purl a row that makes a second row.

  6. This has been helpful! Thank you! I’m trying to teach myself how to knit and it is very slow going. But this post was very helpful. I’ll pull out my knittting again today and have another go at it. Thanks again!

  7. Thank you for your good explanation of how to count rows. I would like to know why you seemingly have columns on the right side of your “V”?

    I recently did a swatch of stockinette to check my gauge and had the same outcome as you. I have never had this happen before now. The yarn is a Worsted Merino Superwash.

    What causes this “line” in my knitting – and mine were more pronounced?

    1. It’s ofen to do with a slightly different tension on your purl rows. It is indeed more pronounced with certain knitters and yarns.

  8. I am somewhat confused about an instruction of a pattern that reads the following: Row 1-4: K3, * k6, p6, repeat from * to last 3 sts.k3. Here is my question; Do I knit 3, then knit another k6? Appreciate for your repsonse. Thank you.

    1. Yep! Pretend that asterisk is like a parenthesis. K3, *(k6, p6) repeat from * to last 3 stitches, k3. So you repeat the k6, p6 section until you have three stitches left. Hope this helps!

  9. Thank you for your explanation of “stockinette rows”…. I get it, now. Although if they ever start over in this tradition, I hope they use a different nomenclature!!!

  10. Just bookmarked this and copied & pasted the link into my “knitting techniques” document I keep. This is the clearest instruction on counting rows I’ve come across yet. The photos are perfect as well as the text. I’m making my first pullover sweater but chose the wrong yarn for this first time – Lion Brand Homespun (in ‘Mixed Berries’). While pretty, it’s a bit fuzzy and uneven so it’s throwing me off counting rows. I should have counted as I went but only thought of it when I started on the second side. I didn’t fully consider about joining the side seams. Now, looking at the two sides of the stockinette, I’ll be counting rows on the wrong side. Thank you so much! (The next hard part will be sewing the edges together.)

  11. Thank you for this amazing demo… and great idea of colouring the stitches and the rows. I was having such a hard time trying to count my gauge, figuring out what meant the row and what meant the st’s. Clear now… ! 🙂

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