Knowing how to Count Rows is essential to any knitting project. In this tutorial, you’ll learn to “read” your knitting to count rows in stockinette, garter stitch, and knit and purl patterns.
If you’ve ever followed a knitting pattern, you’ve probably laid down your project, only to pick it back up later and think, “Wait, which row was I on? How do I know which row I’m supposed to knit next?”
Well, the answer lies in the one skill that can make the difference between a confident knitter and a confused, frustrated one.
It’s called “reading” your knitting, and it’s one of the most important skills you’ll learn. When you know how to read your knitting, you can tell where you are in a pattern, when you’ve made a mistake, and how to fix it, just by looking at the knitting. No more unraveling an entire project just because of one mistake.
The first step in learning to read your knitting is being able to identify the stitches. You need to be able to tell whether a stitch was knitted or purled, and know which strands make up the actual stitches, and which ones do not.
If you haven’t already read Part 1 of this series, Counting Stitches, be sure to read that one first. It’s important to know how to identify individual stitches in the fabric before moving onto the next step: learning how to identify and count your rows.
Counting Rows in Stockinette Stitch
Stockinette Stitch is the easiest fabric to count rows in. The fabric has a knit side and a purl side, but we will be counting from the knit side. (If you want to see how to count rows from the purl side of stockinette stitch, see the video below.)
In Part 1 of the Reading your Knitting series, we learned what a knit stitch looks like in the fabric. 1 V-shape made from 2 diagonal strands equals 1 knit stitch. When we knit stockinette stitch, the knit stitches appear to stack on top of each other in what we call a stitch column. One stitch column is illustrated in the photo below. The red lines mark the v-shaped knit stitches in this column. As you can see, there are 10 knit stitches stacked on top of each other in this column, so we have a total of 10 knit rows.
Counting Rows in Garter Stitch
Garter stitch can be a little trickier to count your rows in with the same method we use for stockinette. Instead, the easiest way to count rows in garter stitch is to count the ridges. See those wavy ridges in the fabric, marked by the red wavy lines? Each ridge is 2 rows. So we count 2 rows for each garter ridge, as illustrated in the photo below.
Counting Rows in a Knit & Purl Stitch Pattern
Shown in the photo below is knitted moss stitch. This stitch alternates 2 rows of “knit 1, purl 1” with 2 rows of “purl 1, knit 1”. It creates a “checkerboard” of knit a purl stitches. The knit and purl stitches are marked with the red lines. Each curved horizontal line indicates a purl stitch, and each v-shape indicates a knit stitch. If I laid my work down and picked it back up later, I would determine which row I need to work next as follows:
Make sure the work is facing you as though you are getting ready to work across the next row. In other words, the needle with all the stitches on it should be facing the same direction as if you were picking it up to work across it. The tip of the needle should be pointing to the right, and you would pick it up in the left hand to knit.
Now let’s look at the stitches that are currently sitting below the needle. If we start at the right-hand side of the row (where the working yarn is coming from), we see that the first stitch below the needle is a purl stitch, and the next stitch is a knit stitch. (See top right-hand corner of the photo.)
So we know that the last row worked was a “purl 1, knit 1” row. Now, this stitch pattern requires working that row twice, so we need to know how many times we have already worked that row. We can see that the “purl 1, knit 1” row right below the needle has another row of matching purl bumps and v-shapes sitting right below it. So, we know that the “purl 1, knit 1” row has been worked twice. According to the stitch pattern, the next step would be to work the “knit 1, purl 1” row twice.
Watch the video below for a detailed, step-by-step demonstration of how to count your rows in these knitted fabrics.
Once you understand the structure of the knitted fabric and how to count your stitches, you’ll be better able to identify where you are in your pattern, even when you lay your knitting down and pick it up again later. Knit and Purl combination stitch patterns will make a lot more sense, and will be easier to work without frustration.