How to Measure Your Knitting in Progress

measuring length of knitting in progress

How to Measure Knitting Length is my most popular post. When I began knitting, I found that many resources didn’t show how to measure your work. Perhaps the assumption was that measuring was easy to figure out, but asking how to properly measure knitting is an important question. In this post, I’m readdressing my previous ones on measuring your knitting.

A sewer would never be without a tape measure, and neither should a knitter. Use a flexible, undamaged tape measure that includes both inches and centimeters. Specific knitting rulers can be used for measuring, but I prefer a standard tape measure for its accuracy and flexibility. Be consistent throughout your project by using either the metric (centimeters) or imperial (inches) system. Measuring a garment back in centimeters, and the front in inches results in pieces that won’t match up when it comes time to sew them together. The small difference between the two systems does affect measurements.

Measuring Knitting Length

Flat Knitting

To measure the length of knit fabric worked on straight needles, lay the piece on a flat surface, such as a blocking board or a low pile carpet. A blocking board is one of the best surfaces for measuring. Don’t place the piece on a slippery surface such as a wood table top. This type of surface is useable when a towel or sheet is placed on top. Also, don’t use your lap to measure. The wrong surface will give inaccurate measurements. Without stretching the piece, smooth the surface evenly spacing the stitches around the center of the needle. It’s easy to smooth out fully small pieces of a baby sweater, or a narrow piece as in the image below. Alternatively, when there are a large number of stitches on the needle, work across a row to the center, then smooth out the piece. A fully ribbed piece is tricky to measure because of its elasticity; stretch a little to reveal the pattern unless the instructions indicate otherwise. After smoothing the piece out, you are ready to measure. Place the tape measure from the base of the needle in the center area of the piece to the bottom of the cast on edge. Note: Read the instructions carefully because some pattern instructions might say measure to the last row of the border, or some other variation of this. Use the schematic for the measurement information.

how to measure knitting length
Measuring knitting length of a narrow piece
how to measure knitting length with many stitches on straight needle
Measuring length when worked across row to center

To measure the depth of a shaped armhole, measure perpendicular to the bottom edge, by lining the tape from the base of the needle to the first bound off row of the armhole. If there are many stitches, work to the center of the row, lay the piece flat, and measure from this point to the first bound off row of the armhole. Make sure not to follow along any slanted or shaped edge. When measuring sleeve length, measure from the center at the base of the needle to the lower edge, and not along the slanted side edge. Following along a slanted or shaped edge results in erroneous measurements – sleeves too short and armholes too shallow.

how to measure armhole length
Proper way to measure armhole length
how not to measure armhole length
Wrong way to measure armhole length – don’t follow curve

Circular Knitting

When working in the round, measuring length is not quite as easy as with straight needles. Smooth out the knitting hanging from the needle, or from the flexible wire portion of the circular on a flat surface. Measure from the base of the needle or wire in the center area to the lower edge. I find when measuring from the flexible wire, I must stretch slightly while smoothing for accuracy, so I prefer measuring from the base of the needle. With stitches on double pointed needles (dpns), place one of the needles with stitches over top the other needles, and smooth out the work to shape. Place the tape from the base of the needle in the center to the edge of the area you’re measuring. For example, when measuring a sock foot, place the tape from the back of the heel to the base of the dpn.

how to measure knitting on dpns
Measuring foot of sock

Note: Measuring length or width confirms that the gauge is accurate – the number of rows per inch, and also the number of stitches per inch of knit fabric.

Measuring Knitting Width

I didn’t include measuring knitting width in my previous posts. If the gauge of the test swatch is accurate, measuring the fabric width is not necessary. However, it’s a good idea to measure knitting width at approximately six inches or more in length to be sure your stitch gauge is still accurate. It’s most accurate to measure width further away from the cast on edge, because knitting tends to be tighter close to this edge.

To measure the width of knitting on straight or circular needles, smooth out the bottom section of the piece. Place the tape across the fabric from edge to edge, and not too close to the cast on edge. With a large number of stitches on straights, work across the row to the center, to reduce crowding of the stitches, then measure the width.

how to measure width of knitting in progress
Measuring width of rib piece, slightly stretched

Measuring the length of your knitting is a necessary step, and the above information should help you to measure your pieces more accurately. Measuring the width is a good check for stitch gauge accuracy.

Bonus Material – Conversion Factors

To help you read yarn labels and pattern instructions, here are some simple math calculations to convert between the metric and imperial systems of measurement.

Imperial to Metric

inches (in) x 2.5 = centimeters (cm)

yards (yd) x 0.9 = meters (m)

ounces (oz) x 28 = grams (g)

Metric to Imperial

centimeters (cm) x 0.4 = inches (in)

meters (m) x 1.1 = yards (yd)

grams (g) x 0.035 = ounces (oz)

A typical 50gram ball of yarn equals 1.75 ounces, and a 100gram ball equals 3.5 ounces.