Tools for Keeping Count:
Circular Needle Counters
 a circular needle counter

Even the most seasoned knitter has experienced a counting meltdown at some point. Normally it's triggered by such instructions as, "Inc 1 st at each side of next RS row, then each end on every following alt row 6 times, then 1 st each end of RS rows 10 times...."

Unless you have miraculous concentration skills, you'll need to develop a technique to keep track of those rows. Pen and paper can suffice as long as you always keep the pen and paper with you.

But if you're curious about other ways to keep count, consider a row counting device.

What Are They?
Row counters come in many shapes and forms. Some have holes with plastic pegs that you place into varying holes depending on where you are in the pattern.

Others operate like old-fashioned crowd-counting devices, resting in the palm of your hand and changing their displayed count each time you press a button with your thumb (these are often called "Kacha-Kacha" counters).

And finally, some row counters will slide directly onto your needles, where they're most likely to be used and least likely to be separated from your project. These on-the-needle counters are available in two forms: those for circular needles and those for single-pointed straight ones.

This review focuses on circular needle counters because I believe they have the most effective form of any mainstream counter.

How They Work
As the name implies, circular needle counters are intended for use on circular needles, especially when you're knitting in the round.

They have a slender, extended plastic loop that you slide onto your needle. The counter dangles below the loop, where it doesn't interrupt your stitches or your tension.

The two numbers can be used either together (if you're counting to 10 or above) or separately (if, such as in our earlier example, you need to keep track of rows and multiples of rows).

Not Just for Circular Knitting
Just because they're called circular needle counters doesn't mean these are only for circular projects. Their unintrusive shape is ideal for flat or circular knitting. Here's why.

Those counters made for single-pointed straight needles lack the plastic loop that slides onto your needle. Instead, the counter itself slides onto your needle, taking up an inch or more of valuable needle space.

The counter's bulk ends up dangling from the end of your needle, which can be cumbersome. Depending on the needles, the counter can also introduce a particularly distracting rattle as you work (which can be tempting to nearby felines).

By taking up so little real estate, circular needle counters integrate much more seamlessly into any type of knitting, circular or flat.

Do You Need One?
The answer to this question depends on your attitude about accessories in general. If you believe in minimal clutter, or if you already have a tried-and-true technique, then the answer is no. But I've found that even my home-grown solutions have their limits.

If you enjoy the prospect of accessorizing and have $3 to spare, do consider adding one of these nifty counters to your knitting bag. You may not use it right away. But when meltdown hits, you'll be glad you have one.

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