Posted by: jinniver | May 3, 2009

Counting my rows

A while back, I knit some hat and cowl sets for my mom and sister-in-law.  They were supposed to be Christmas presents, but I didn’t get them finished in time…partly because I kept losing my place in my sister-in-law’s cowl and having to frog and start over.

Un-Purled Cables for Christmas 2 (1)
Frustrated, but finished

I am notorious for losing track of where I am in a pattern.   I always assume I’ll be able to read my knitting–and while I’m getting pretty good at it, I’m not always good enough.  So I needed a way to keep track of what row I’m on.  I got a really cool hanging row counter that slides onto the needles for Christmas from Ann and Gloria at Knotty Girls…but it didn’t work well for putting the knitting down at the end of a row when knitting straight on circular needles–I kept forgetting I had it there and it would just slide off the needle when I picked it up.

Mostly, I was marking my rows on a slip of paper.  That would work well…right up until I couldn’t figure out which slip of paper went with which project.  Or until I lost the slip of paper all together (when we move in a few months, the movers are probably going to find a stack of papers with hash marks under something, I’m sure).  My final plan was to mark my rows on the pattern itself.  I didn’t want to go that route, because I like keeping the pattern as pristine as possible.  But I reminded myself that there was a reason I like my patterns to be on .pdfs; I could just print out another one…

…which is a good thing, since I started losing the patterns.

Then I heard about row counter bracelets.  A knitting friend mentioned them to me and described how they worked.  Despite never having made a piece of jewelry in my life, I figured I could probably figure it out.

I was almost right.

A row counter bracelet works basically like an abacus, where beads are slid through a divider of some sort to count off rows as they’re knit.  The version described to me had to different strands of beads, one to count the ones and the other to count the tens.  You’d count the first 9 rows by passing the ones beads through the divider, then when you’ve knit row 10, slide the ones beads back and pass the first tens bead through.  What was stumping me was the divider.  I had decided to use beads of 2 different sizes to indicate which were the ones and which were the tens, and I was trying to find a metal ring the right size that I could pass both sizes of bead through without them passing through so easily that they slipped back and forth on their own.

None of the options I tried worked, so I finally searched online for row counter bracelets.  I was only hoping to find an image that I could look at to see how others had solved this problem.  Instead, I discovered a number of tutorials posted by people who’d made their own version.  I checked out the free pattern provided by Sutherland Studios, and the minute I saw her pictures, I knew what the answer was:  instead of using a stiff metal ring, she’d used elastic cord that she beaded.   That allowed me to create a circle that was smaller than even the smaller beads, but that which expanded to allow even the larger beads to pass through.

Back to the craft store for some more supplies (which actually worked well, since the store was having a 50% off sale on all my favorite beads), and I was finally able to put together a bracelet that works.

row counter bracelet (1)

The smaller beads on top are my ones; the larger beads are my tens.  I added in the square beads as the 5th bead in both rows to help tell where I am at a glance.  The ring with the dark blue beads is my divider, and the turquoise bead dangling off the wires is the marker that tells me where to start counting…so that halfway through I don’t find myself staring at the bracelet wondering if I’m on row 45 or row 54…

row counter bracelet (2)

I wore it for a while yesterday, and it seems sturdy and comfortable.  I’ll be casting on for my February Lady Sweater soon, and the real test will come when I turn this yarn into a sweater for me…

3IG Wexford Merino Silk Just a Girl (1)



  1. Very nice. Love the bead colors!

  2. Love the bracelet! That is an awesome idea!! I have the same problem- can’t tell you how much I’ve frogged back because of that!

    And the cowl looks great! (you’d think something with cable twists would be easy to figure out- but as I have learned nope!)


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