Thursday, July 3, 2008

Matching 2 pieces of knitting without counting

click any illustration to enlarge
One of the most tedious routines in all of knitting is counting rows or stitches when you have to match two pieces. Is the sweater front as long as the back? Have you knitted both sleeves the same length? Are your two sock tops the same number of rows before the gusset starts? Here is a little trick to avoid all that endless counting and losing track and re-counting. Also, with this trick, you process both pieces at once (twice as fast!)

You will need:
  • a small-gauge circular needle (or two small regular needles or dpn's)
  • some safety pins or bobby pins
without counting

In the illustrations below, two pieces of stockinette, one green and one purple, are being matched to make sure they have the same number of rows knitted. The illustrations all show the matching proceeding from right to left--the same way as knitting. However, there is no science to this--you can proceed from left to right just as well.

First, fold both pieces to be matched so that one column from each piece is just at the fold line, then hold the folded pieces pressed together. Pick the plainest possible columns in the work, a column with as few pattern complications as possible--ideal is a column of stockinette stitch in each item.

Per the illustration below, use one point of the circular needle to poke through both arms of the first stitch of the chosen column in the front piece (green), then poke the same needle through both arms of the first stitch of the chosen column in the back piece (purple). The first point (illustrated in black) is fully inserted under the first stitch in the folded column of the green fabric AND the first stitch of the folded column of the purple fabric.
With the second point of the circular needle (illustrated in yellow) poke through the next stitch along the row on the folded column of each piece. As shown below, you now have two needle points poking through two stitches on each of the two pieces of your work.
As shown by the red arrow in the illustration below, the next step will be to remove the black needle and poke it through the third stitch along the folded columns. In other words, you are going to leapfrog the first needle past the second--moving the black needle from the first stitch to the third stitch in the folded column of both pieces.
As shown below, you now again have two needles poking though the work. The reason I prefer a circular needle for matching is because it is harder to drop one needle as you do the leapfrogging part of the trick. However, if you do not have a small-gauge circular needle, small thin regular needles or dpn's will also work well.
As shown below, you continue in this manner, leapfrogging each needle one additional stitch up the folded columns, moving each needle in turn.
When you reach about 15 or 20 rows, run a safety pin (more secure) or a bobby pin (much, much faster) through a matched stitch. There is no particular science to the placement of the pin--the idea is to place pins often enough so that if you DO lose track, you don't have to go very far back to re-start the matching process.

When you get to the top of each column, you will easily see whether your two pieces match--does the last needle inserted go through the top stitch of each column, or does one column extend further? If so, either pull out the excess rows of the longer item, or knit extra rows on the shorter item.

  • Matching is EASIER than counting--in both counting and matching you have to identify the next stitch but counting requires you to keep track the number of stitches, whereas matching does not. Obviously, you CAN count while matching--if you ARE counting, insert pins every 10 or 20 rows exactly to ease your double-check when you re-count--but the point is that with matching, you don't actually NEED to count--"losing count" is no impediment.
  • Matching is FASTER than counting--because you are poking both items at once, it goes twice as fast as counting each item, one at a time.
  • Finally, matching is MORE ACCURATE than counting because you are less likely to make a matching mistake than a counting mistake...
  • matching is mechanical--easier to do in a distracting environment (TV anyone?)
  • even when one needle is moved, the other one is pinning the work, making it harder to lose track
  • placing pins make it easy to go back to double check--simply repeat the "poke-two-columns-at-once" procedure, and make sure all the pins are, in fact, inserted in matching rows of the folded columns
  • matching by this poking method gives you a pointy tool in hand to explore any dubious stitches--helps avoid double counting one stitch or mis-identifying two stitches as one
If you have made beautiful, regular edges (by a chain selvedge or any other method) you can match along the edges, rather than along a folded column. However, experience dictates that in many cases, matching along a column is more accurate than along an edge, and this is especially true if there has been shaping along the edge.

without counting
The above illustrations and instructions show how to match length, row by row. The same procedure also works to match width, stitch by stitch (checking the width of two sleeves as they are increased, for example). Simply fold the two pieces so that there are two adjoining rows, then poke matching stitches along the row to count stitches.

--TECHknitter (You have been reading TECHknitting on: the easy way to match 2 pieces of knitting without counting)


Anonymous twinsetellen said...

Blindingly obvious - so why have I been counting all these years? ;-)

July 3, 2008 at 2:38 PM  
Anonymous martha in mobile said...

Brilliantly simple and simply brilliant!

July 3, 2008 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Miss 376 said...

Now why didn't I think of that before?

July 4, 2008 at 1:55 AM  
Blogger kibbles said...

I'm going to put this to good use on my first cardigan (currently on the sticks). Thanks for posting this. Your blog is so full of great information!!!

July 4, 2008 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Marcy said...

Hmm, very cool! I don't knit things in pieces for that reason...too hard to keep track of stitches. However, when knitting a seamless top-down sweater in the round, while you don't have to match front and back, you do have to match sleeves.

I have a method that I use for those types of situations. I use it for sleeves on a top-down raglan, and also for socks that I do on dpn's. It's a way to almost knit them at the same time.

I have two sets of dpn's of the same size. It involves a bit of counting, but only small amounts, so it's harder to get lost or make a mistake.

I use a piece of contrasting yarn weaved through the first few stitches of a row. Then I knit a few rows on one (not too many...usually somewhere from 4 to 8), then I drop that one and pick up the other one and knit the same number of rows. Since they are small numbers and you have the yarn marking the starting row, it's easier to count. When they both have the same number of rows, I pull out the yarn and weave it through the row at the top and continue on.

Another benefit to this system is that since you aren't knitting very many rows at a time, you can usually work on both items during the same knitting session, which helps keep the tension the same for both.

July 5, 2008 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger said...

I love your technique and am about to use it to make sure the front and back of a sweater are even. Thank you!!

July 6, 2008 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger dropped stitch 3 said...

Far out. I didn't even realise counting was so evil until now. I just thought it was a necessary annoyance. No more! Thanks for a GREAT technique.

July 7, 2008 at 2:12 AM  
Blogger Lorette said...

Simply brilliant! Matching instead of counting probably would be quite helpful when knitting is mixed with martinis, too. :-)

July 9, 2008 at 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me tell you about a quicker, simpler way to keep track of rows: Use a length of contrasting yarn, lay it between the needles so the first row will show the little "bar". Knit as usual, and every five or ten rows flip the yarn to the other side of the work....if you began front to back, flip the yarn back to front.

When you want to count rows or rounds you have little blocks marked off, do the same on the second sleeve, front, etc. I anchor the end of the contrast yarn with a safety pin, which also tells me which side the counting begins.

August 10, 2008 at 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will save me having to knit both fronts/sleeves/whatever at the same time! enormously less complicated, but the only way I could guarantee they'd come out remotely the same.

December 22, 2008 at 4:41 PM  

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