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The Trick To Counting Rows and Changing Colors Smoothly on Garter Stitch

Liat Gat - Founder

January 22, 2011

Counting rows on Garter stitch is a little more complicated than the "2 rows for every ridge" rule-of-thumb. Here I show you how to be sure of your rows, and also when to switch colors to make perfect-looking stripes on Garter stitch.

Doctor Who Scarf
Do you know the easiest way to count rows in garter stitch?

Making a striped garter-stitch scarf is a fun way to use up scraps and make your knitting more exciting.

Especially if you are a beginner, this will add a small challenge while you are practicing the knit stitch for the first time.

Garter-stitch is the bumpy, double-sided fabric created when you knit every stitch, on every row.

In my last blog post I showed you how to change colors in knitting and how to avoid cutting the yarn for each stripe.

Some patterns, like this Doctor Who Scarf by Chris Brimelow, call for you to knit a certain number of rows before switching to a new color.

On garter-stitch, how do you know how many rows you’ve knitted? The widely dispersed rule-of-thumb states that you should count each “ridge” as two rows of knitting. But it’s not as simple as that.

What about when you have done an odd number of rows? How can you tell? The trick is to NOT count the cast-on row, and to be sure to count the row of stitches that is ON your needles.

Colored Purl BumpsAlso, how can you avoid those ugly, two-color bumps from appearing at random throughout your scarf (like in the photo at left)?

Easy – make sure you only switch colors when the pretty side is facing you.

The following video shows you how to count your rows in garter-stitch, which side to switch colors on, and how to laugh at yourself when you mess up! I left in my mistake on purpose instead of editing it out, to show you all that it’s totally cool to mess up. Everybody’s doing it, man!

Watch the video to learn how I count rows on garter stitch:

How To Count Rows on Garter Stitch - Not Just Counting Ridges
How To Count Rows on Garter Stitch - Not Just Counting Ridges

To count rows on garter stitch:

If your tail is on the same side as your working yarn, you have done an even number of rows.

  1. Point your needle-tip to the right.
  2. Count the garter-stitch ridges, not counting the cast-on row.
  3. Each ridge counts for two rows. If you count 12 ridges, you have knitted 24 rows.

If your tail is on the opposite side as your working yarn, you have done an odd number of rows.

  1. Point your needle-tip to the right.
  2. Count the garter-stitch ridges, not counting the cast-on row.
  3. Each ridge counts for two rows. If you count 12 ridges, you have knitted 24 rows.
  4. Count the row on the needle as the last row. You should have an odd number of rows.

So that’s how to really be sure how many rows you’ve done in garter-stitch, whether or not you’ve done an odd or an even number of rows.

Keep Learning:

If you liked this tutorial on how to count rows on garter stitch, post in the comments!

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23 thoughts on “The Trick To Counting Rows and Changing Colors Smoothly on Garter Stitch”

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  1. Perfect timing thank you, today I was going to look up a video on how to count garter stitch rows.
    I’m working on a baby blanket and the first and last ten rows are garter stitch!!

  2. I am learning to knit but I am having trouble changing colors on the garter stitch scarf I am making. Is the “wrong” side always going to have that “mixed” color? How do I join the new color smoothly?

  3. Hello I am trying to knit a blanket, it has a pattern which has a boarder in the main colour around it, I am having great difficulty in joining the white into the pattern while keeping the boarder the main colour. The first row of the pattern has yarn forward to make a hole in the next row and changing colours is making a gap in the boarder and the pattern,

    1. Hi Helen,

      Sorry for the delayed response. I’d like to help you with your blanket but I didn’t really understand what issue you are running into. If the blanket is in Garter stitch, you’ll need to change colors on the WS (wrong side) only. You will be able to tell when you’ve switched colors on the WS, but on the RS (right side) it will look great.

  4. Thanks so much for this! It’s such a great clear view of how to do it properly! I’ve been knitting for many years, since I was a small child, and now into my 30’s I’m finally learning to make sure to do things properly and follow patterns correctly!

  5. I’ve been looking around for how to do this for ages! Very old blog post but so helpful! Thanks so much Liat!

  6. OMG I have been knitting for a few years (and yes I know this sounds beyond ridiculous) but I have never known how to count rows! Thank you soo much – after youtube-ing and googling “how to count knit rows”, I finally came across your clear cut video!! You are awesomee and thank you for finally teaching me how to count rows. :)

  7. Hi Liat,

    GREAT videos, this one and the one on counting St st. Thank you!

    Question about not counting the cast on row: The long-tail cast on, as I understand it, is an actual row of knitted stitches — or close enough, anyway, that some knitters, in some projects, count (use, not counting 1-2-3) the long-tail cast on row as the first row of knitting. It does have a purl-y bump on one side, similar to a knitted stitch. If we were counting (1-2-3) a long-tail cast on row, should I assume it would look like a row of ridges along the bottom + a loop above the ridges? Or does this just confuse the matter hopelessly?

    Many thanks for all your great work,

    1. Thanks Rebecca! In my opinion I think you should learn to not count the cast-on row as a knitted row, and here’s why:

      Most patterns call for you to cast on and then work a certain number of rows, and that’s why you need to know how to count – so that you can look back and check how many rows you’ve done.

      If they say “Knit one row,” they certainly mean for you to knit that row and count it, not look at the cast-on edge and say, “Well that counts as a row so I’ve already knitted the one row.” Does that make sense? I hope this helps!

  8. How do one count purl bump rows … 3 rows down
    The next round forms the ridge which outlines the top of the crown and gives the upper part of the hat. The folded ridge is formed on the RS of the work.
    Next Round: [Insert left needle into back loop of the st which is 3 rows below next st on needle; k this loop together with next st on needle] for every st to end of round. 145 sts.

    Thank You for Your Time…. Teresa

    1. Hi Teresa –

      Thank you so much for your question. I’d love to help you and I think that it would be a really great topic on the KNITFreedom forum on Can you please post your question there?

      Thanks! :)

  9. Dorothy Atkinson

    Sorry, Isn’t that something, here I am 76 years old and didn’t know how to count the rows. I have my trusty row counter around my neck. How do you count when you have knit and purl rows? I know the name but here it is 2.30 in the morning and my brain has turned to mush. By the way I would love to compliment you on your lovely speaking voice. I don’t know if you have ever taught school but you are a super teacher. Dorothy

  10. Dorothy Atkinson

    I have to go along with Renna. I wish you were here with me now while I’m trying to figure out the directions I have for the Origami Toe with Origami Heel.
    I knit 18 pair of socks using the fleegle heel and absolutely adore it. It is so neat. They were all toe up. These were for a community group called “Out of the Cold”. I thought I should spread my wings a bit a do this toe up but I can’t understand why I end up with fewer sts. when turning the toe. The abbrev. used are sskWSL. turn or
    p2togWSL. Turn. It has got to be something I’m doing wrong with the sts. left at the end when doing the first part of the toe. Directions say 1st row. knit 32, 2nd row. Sl 1 purlwise, here and through out p31 turn. Each row goes on the same until there are 15 sts. left in the centre between the Sl. 1’s . I’m ok so far, but then I get to Turning the Toe. which reads, Row 1 (RS) Sl1, k13, sskWSL, Turn. Row 2. (WS) Sl 1, p12, pttog.WSL Turn. and so on. I am supposed to end up with 32 sts. on the needles. but how can I do this if I am decreasing. It’s got to have something to do with the sl 1. sts at ea. end of the needles. Would you believe I have worked at this for a week, taking out, trying something else, but how many ways can I go wrong? Ha! I can’t leave it because I will go crazy, I MUST Conquer. I got your ebook for beginners. how neat can it be having a video right in the pdf file. I have been a knitter for years but there are so many new ways of reading patterns plus the fact the patterns are so different.
    Thank you, thank you for just being you and willing to share. Dorothy

    1. Oh no, you have worked so hard on this and it must be so frustrating for you. We will definitely help you with your problem.

      Can you please post your question in the forum? We will do what it takes to help you figure this out. Thank you, I am sure others will benefit from your question too.

  11. How do I do garter stitch with magic loop? I want to try magic loop to make my sleeves in garter stitch. I tryed, tryed, tryed… I’m pulling my hair out! Can you help me? thank you, thank you for taking the time.
    Lucie Rogers

    1. No, no, don’t pull your hair out!

      Just do one round of knitting, and one round of purling. That creates garter stitch in the round.

      If you want to be fancy and you don’t want to purl, you can knit one round, wrap and turn, then go back and knit the other way, continuing to wrap and turn at the end of each round (maybe locate this under the arm). I do this a lot.

      I hope this helps!

  12. Everytime I watch one of your videos demonstrating something I’ve already learned to do, I’m reminded once again of the time and anguish I’d have been saved if I’d had access to yor videos when I was learning. You are providing such a great service to the knitting community! I hope you don’t grow tired of hearing me say that, or think me insincere. I really do thank God for you, as you’ve been an answer to my prayers to become a better knitter; and,yes, I really do pray for help with my knitting! ;-)

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