No Tape Measure? No Problem!


  •   Posted on: 2020-08-04
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  • Tips & Tricks

Originally published August 12, 2011

These are the days of road trips — long drives out to The Gorge with the car packed to the gills, day jaunts out to the hot springs, weekend trips to the lake.

But here’s a dilemma I often run into: I’ve packed the perfect knitting project for the car, but a couple hours into it, I get to the part in the pattern where it tells me, work in stockinette stitch until work measures 26″.

Now, I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t accurately measure a piece of fabric by throwing it over your knee, on top of a dusty dashboard, or against the passenger window.

But, here’s what you can do. Keep that novel you packed handy (bonus points if it’s a hardcover), set it in your lap, and measure 1″ of your work. If you’re super assiduous and figured out not only your stitch count but also your row count when you were dutifully making your gauge swatch before even casting on for this project, well, then you are a better woman than I. But that works too.

Now to start with, do you know what a stitch looks like? You’ve probably noticed that as you’re knitting in stockinette, your work starts to make these tessellated little V’s, which mischievously alternate between facing up and facing down, every time you turn your head.

Each one of those little V’s is a stitch, and the best way to keep track of them is to pick up something sharp (like a knitting needle!), stick it at the bottom of one of the arms of these V’s, and then line it up with an inch marker on your ruler. This is your starting point. Now using your needle, count how many of these arms can stack on top of each other before you reach the next inch marker.

In this case, it’s 8. So if I’m getting 8 rows per inch, and I know I need to work 14 inches before moving on to the next step in the pattern, that means I can just keep on trucking until I’ve completed 112 rows. Now, does this mean I have to stop every half hour and re-count all these little V’s?

Heck no. I make sure to pack a row counter in my purse, hang it from my work (I slipknot it through my round marker so that it serves a double purpose of letting me know when I’ve finished a round and it’s time to advance the counter, and keeping it from getting lost in all the road trip rubble at my feet), and not think about my pattern again until I hit that magical number 112.

(Okay, so most row counters are only double digit, but trust me, at that point, you won’t be wondering whether you’re only a dozen rows into the project.)

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