Thursday, 5 June 2014

To Row Counter or not to Row Counter

I don’t use a row counter. At least, not usually. For some time, I have kept this information under wraps as a dark and terrible secret, anxious that such a devil-may-care attitude might be somewhat frowned upon by my fellow knitters.

It’s not that I object to row counters on principle (I actually think they are a pretty ingenious invention), it’s just that I don’t really trust myself to use them properly. Whenever I attempt to get into the rhythm of turning a wheel or clicking a button at the end of every row, I regularly find myself stopping halfway through a row and thinking, in part-dread, part-frustration “...did I count that last row?”

Clover's classic row counter a.k.a. knitting register

Recently, the topic of row counters came up in the McAree office and the conversation that followed was surprisingly revelatory. Opinions on row counters within our small group of knitters ranged from Sarah’s admission that she never uses one to Susan’s confession that she would be unable to knit without it (“I feel naked without a row counter on my needles!”). Other members of staff, like Brenda, opt for creative alternatives, such as placing a Post-it note under the row they’re currently knitting, and then moving it down to reveal each new row.

An alternative row counter

For Susan, row counters are an essential part of any knitting project because of how they allow you to measure your work accurately. While many patterns simply direct you to knit to a certain length, say 35cm, Susan always uses a row counter to ensure these measurements will be absolutely the same for matching sides. As she puts it, “I like to be exact. The control freak in me needs to know that the two sleeves are exactly the same length!” Control freak? Possibly. Admirable dedication? Absolutely.

George and the baby pandas love row counters

This well-reasoned loyalty to the row counter is no doubt familiar to a lot of knitters. After all, knitting allows you to have absolute control over the colour, texture, length and fit of the garment you are creating. Why would you choose not to be precise when it’s so easily possible?

For me, I know the answer to that is that I will be so distrustful of the number shown on my row counter that, if the length matters, I’ll probably just count the rows of stitches on my knitting anyway. If it doesn’t matter so much (and I usually find it doesn’t), I’m happy to opt for the less-precise-but-still-good-enough method of using a measuring tape. In the words of Brenda, “It doesn’t really bother me if my knitting’s half a millimetre out”. While I very much admire those who can rely on a row counter, I just don’t see one in my own near future. Apparently I like to do things the hard way!

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