Why You Need a Row Counter for Your Knitting

Keep Track of Your Rows With a Simple Little Tool

Row Counters
A variety of row counters: the barrel type, kacha kacha and electronic counters.

Sarah E. White

Even if it's a simple pencil mark on your pattern, it's vital to your knitwear that you know where you're at in the pattern. That is why row counters are such useful little tools for knitters.

You have many options, ranging from a digital row counter to one that slips on the end of your needle and you can even make your own. One thing's for sure, with a row counter in hand you're less likely to lose your spot again.

What is a Row Counter?

Row counters are the general name for a variety of devices that are used to help keep track of which row you are on in a knitting pattern. The concept is very simple: when you complete a row of knitting, you tick off one mark on your counter. This helps you reference the place in your pattern and it's just one more way to prevent mistakes.

Counters are a very useful tool that almost every knitter decides they need at some point. Many simple repeats like a garter stitch scarf do not require a row counter. However, you will get lost in complex cable and lace patterns as well as many sweaters and wearable patterns without some way to track rows. Your sizing and shaping often depend on accuracy, and in the least, a row counter prevents the need to count a bunch of rows!

There are three basic varieties that you can purchase from the yarn store. 

A Barrel Row Counter for Your Needles

A barrel row counter can be slipped directly onto your knitting needle so it's always in sight. They are often sold as pairs; one for smaller needles and another for larger needles. If you're considering just one barrel row counter, be sure that it fits the largest needles you use most.

The counter numbers turn individually, making it easy to count backward or forward.

Keeping the counter on the needle means you're less likely to lose it or forget to mark your row.

Kacha-Kacha Row Counter

A kacha-kacha is a device that has a button on top that you press to move the counter forward (the sound it makes is something like kacha-kacha). You can also move the numbers individually by hand if you need to.

These devices tend to be bigger than needle barrel row counters.

They can often be threaded onto a necklace so you can wear it around your neck.

Many also have the benefit of including a lock. This makes it difficult for someone to mess up your row count by playing with the device.

Electronic Row Counter

An electronic row counter is another, higher-tech option. These can vary greatly by model and be as complex or as simple, as large or as small as you like. Many do, however, have the same basic function and will digitally keep track of your rows as you tick them off.

Most electronic row counters look like a stopwatch and are mounted on a ribbon designed to wear around your neck. Other styles include a watch band and a simple clamp or ring that fits on your finger.

You will often find four basic buttons: on-off, reset, up and down (to count off rows).

Some electronic counters have to stay on for the entire project (even when you're not knitting) or your row count will be lost. Others will store the count in their memory and can be powered down, but you're likely to pay more for this feature.

The majority of electronic row counters make efficient use of their battery life.

More Ways to Count Rows

These three devices are certainly not the only way to keep track of your knitting. Creative knitters have been devising unique ways to make row counters for years. Some are wearable devices you can buy and others are good, old-fashioned DIY ingenuity. It doesn't matter how you go about it, what matters is that you can track your rows and that you will actually use it.

  • Handmade Row Counters: One of the best places to find unique, handmade row counters is on Etsy. Do a quick search for 'row counter' on the website and you will be inundated with fun products to choose from. Beaded bangles are a popular option, though watch-like styles and barrel counters converted to stitch markers are also widely available. This search can also fuel ideas for a quick project you can do yourself.
  • DIY Row Counters: The best source for DIY ideas is, of course, Pinterest. Do a simple search for 'DIY row counter' and you will have plenty of options to choose from, including tips for making a simple bracelet. It may save you only a few dollars, but these projects are a great way to utilize your craft stash and take a break from knitting for a minute.
  • Pencil and Paper: If you want to go completely low-tech you can use a piece of paper as a row counter. Simply jot down which row you just finished when you stop knitting or make a hash mark for each completed row. Do it right there on your pattern so you don't miss a row or misplace the paper.