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:
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:
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:
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.