Tips on Counting in Crochet for Beginners

Most amigurumi patterns are made from circles. And making circles means that you will have to increase in a calculated and systematic way. This means you will have to count. There is no escaping it. According to my experience, this is disappointing news for beginning crocheters… the dreaded counting. But, you need not fret. In this article, I’m going to show you a system for counting for beginners.

Beginning crocheters tend to have difficulty counting because they are concentrating on performing the stitch properly… and before you know it, have lost count. It’s okay, this is not a disaster. To start, grab a row counter and a locking stitch marker.

article1Row counters are handy devices. They come in many forms: circular ones that stick on the end of your crochet hook (and that you need to manually rotate to advance to the next number), ones that hang around your neck (and click as a means of advancing), and even… these things called pencils and paper… Yes, many people prefer a post-it note and a pencil to keep count of what row they are on. These are all fine ways of keeping count, and it’s really a matter of personal preference. For example, if you carry your crochet projects around with you often, a row counter that sticks to your hook may be more useful than a post-it note, but it’s up to you. We3 will demonstrate using the hook-based kind of row counter.

In yarn world, there are two types of stitch markers. If you knit, you may be familiar with ring stitch markers, that are kept on your knitting needle as a place holder. Because crochet doesn’t keep stitches on a needle, it’s not surprising that this kind of stitch marker is completely useless to us. We need to use the second type: a locking stitch marker. This type of stitch marker has a hook that will lock onto a stitch and stay there until you take it off. This allows you to keep a place in your work as you continue on crocheting. And, there are different options available! Locking stitch markers are available in the plain plastic variety, and should be available at most yarn stores. In a pinch, a safety pin will do (although, if you have a choice, aim for the french safety pins, which lack the coil on the end that sometimes catches your yarn). And decorative locking stitch markers are making an appearance.

You are going to use these two items to keep track of your stitches. You will use the row counter to keep track of what round in the pattern you are on. And you will place the stitch marker at the last stitch of each round to keep track of where you started the round. That’s all you need to do. Let’s see how this works: step by step.

Okay, so those are your tools. Now get out your pattern. The first step is to ch 2, so no exceptional counting skills required there. The next round says to sc 6 times in the first stitch. Set your row counter to ’01’ to remind you that you are on your first round. To finish this round, you will need to count to six. At this point, it is difficult to use a stitch marker because the piece is so small, so you’ll have to rely on your memory.
Now you’ve finished round 1 (and hopefully, have a circle with 6 stitches in it). Increase your row counter to ’02’, to remind you that you are now on the second round. Place your stitch marker on the front loop of the last stitch that you just completed. This is pictured at left.
You are at the last stitch in the round. How do you know? You are directly above the stitch marker from the last round, meaning that this round is done.

Now it’s time for Round 2. Notice that the instructions say to ‘sc twice in next st, then sc in next st’, and repeat 5 more times. Here is where the stitch marker does his work. All you need to remember is that you need to ‘sc twice in next st, then sc in next st’ until the end of the row! So, sc twice in the next st, and in the next stitch, single crochet once. You just keep doing this until you are directly above the stitch marker, as we saw with the previous round. If you forget what you are supposed to be doing, just look at your row counter, which will remind you that you are on round 2, and check the instructions for that round.

When you have completed round 2, it’s time to start the process over again. Increase your row counter to ’03’, and move your stitch marker to the last stitch you have just completed. Now, just look at the directions. They say ‘sc twice in next st, then sc in next 2 stitches’. So, single crochet twice in the next stitch. Single crochet in the next stitch, and again in the next stitch. And, you just have to remember to do this until you arrive above the stitch marker again. And on it goes!

With this system, you just need to remember to increase your row counter and move your stitch marker at the end of each row. And before you know it, you’ll have your circle!


There is another part where the stitch marker is useful. Notice, after you complete the circle, this pattern tells you to do 10 rounds of single crochet. Looks like a lot of counting, but it’s not! Leave your stitch marker in place at the end of Round 10. You won’t need to move it soon. Now, just keep single crocheting. Every time you pass the stitch marker, you’ll know you’ve completed one round. At that point, just count how many ridges you see between your hook and the stitch marker, as shown at left (The arrow points to one ‘ridge’). This tells you how many rows total you have done. When you get to 10, you’re finished, and you didn’t need to count the stitches!.

This is the system I teach to all of my beginning amigurumi students, and it’s helped them not get lost in a maze of numbers. I’m sure it will help you get started, too!

Tags: , ,
Dec 15, 2008 | Posted by in Amigurumi Tips | 9 comments

Comments (9 Responses)

  1. Patricia says:

    Hello! First of all, I love all of the tutorials; they’ve been extremely helpful!

    I just thought I might share a tip on stitch holders. While the locking stitch markers are smaller, and generally more customizable, I find that paper clips work just as well. They don’t have the pesky coil like most safety pins (which can also hurt, ouch!), and can be used to color-code. They’re fairly cheap to buy in bulk as well, which is a definite plus.

    • Stacey says:

      You’re totally right… paperclips are a great substitute! You can also find ‘coil-less safety pins’ (same ouch factor, minus the annoying coil).
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Laura says:

    That koala stitch marker is cute! Where did you get it?

    • Stacey says:

      I made it using polymer clay… I just made little koala-shaped pieces, and assembled. Then, while the clay was still soft, I put in a little wire loop, and I baked it in the oven (to harden the clay). Afterwards, I added the lobster clasp to the wire loop to make a stitch marker!

  3. Gaby says:

    Hi there,
    Thank you for this wonderful explanation. It will help me in completing my project. I do have one question though. My pattern for an amigurumi lion says, “2sc in each st around – 12 sts.” Does this mean I stop at the marker or do I keep going for 12 sts. Because when I count out 12 sts I’m not ending at the marker. If I’m supposed to be then I know I am doing something wrong. Any help you can give me would be wonderful.
    Thanks, Gaby

    • Stacey says:

      Hi Gaby!
      Do you have 6 sts in your current round? If you do, and you place the marker, then you should end up at the marker again after you crochet your 12 stitches (twice in each st). If you aren’t ending up at your marker, try counting again. It’s easy to miscount the first round of 6, because everything starts out so small!
      hope that helps!

  4. Gaby says:

    Thank you, Stacey! I am pretty sure I have 6sts starting out. I will just keeping trying until I get it right. It may seem silly that I didn’t know this, but to know that I need to complete the round at the stitch marker is a huge help. Thanks again!!

  5. JenL says:

    Other DIY stitch counters include a bobby pin, a wire earring (finally a use for those lonely earrings!), and a twist tie. Also a piece of scrap yarn can be woven back and forth over the end of rows and pulled out at the end.

  6. Grace says:

    I appreciate the tip on how to count stitches. I will try again to make them in my crocheting.
    Thank you so much.

The shop is on vacation for the summer! Come back in September for a full restock!