Review: Easy-read Row Counters and Needle Gauges

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of trying out tools designed specifically for knitters who are blind or visually impaired. For me, typical needle gauges and row counters are almost always useless to varying degrees because their use requires that you be able to see well enough to read the numbers. I have done many things over the years to adapt needle gauges, including adding braille labels and memorizing the sequence of sizes on the gauge. For row counters, I have never been able to use a commercially produced counter. Instead, I’ve use everything I could think of to keep track of my rows including an abacus, a score card for blind board game players, braille tags on a ring, and an app on my phone. Most of these have one drawback or another, even if the drawback is mostly related to having a young son who liked to move all the beads on my abacus to random positions because it looks fun to play with. He is old enough not to do that now, but there always seems to be a child around who doesn’t know the rules yet. The best thing I ever used was a bracelet with beads in two rows. It had a row for ones, a row for tens, and markers that slid over the beads to keep count. That bracelet was given to me by a knitting friend and was great, but my attempts to make more did not go well. With that being said, I was thrilled to test out knitting tools designed for the blind. The best part is that someone else did the thinking and the developing to make something that works, and for once, I didn’t have to be the one to think of ways to create and adapt something all on my own.


Jocelyne Denault, the designer of these products, lives in Canada and teaches knitting to French speaking people who are blind or low-vision. There are gauges for knitting needles and crochet hooks as well as beaded row counters. I will go over each of these separately and follow the review with ordering information. There are a few sections to this post, so I have used headings at level 1 for each section to make navigation easier with a screen reader.



Easy-read Row Counter Bracelet



The row counter bracelet consists of five round beads and five square beads that slide, with a stationary bead or jingle bell in the center. The bracelet had a simple toggle and loops system to fasten it on your wrist. I was able to take it on and off without unfastening it, and my hands are an average width for a woman. For reference, my bracelet is a little over eight inches around when fastened. The round beads count as one each, and the square beads count as five, so you can count up to 30 with the bracelet. I use it just like an abacus, when I get to four, I move all the round beads back to the starting position and replace them with a square bead that represents five. It is incredibly easy to do, and the convenience of having the row counter on my wrist makes it that much better.


I can see how the bracelet could get tangled on your yarn depending on how you have everything set up. I didn’t have that problem as long as I made sure the project bag with the working yarn was not at an angle where the yarn would touch my wrist. I knit with the yarn in my right hand, the project bag is usually also on the right, and I still liked the bracelet on my right wrist better. Since the yarn is wrapped in my right hand, the left hand is free to move the beads without having to drop the yarn at the end of every row.


I really like that the bracelet works by sliding the beads because there is nothing else needed to mark your position. Think about how an abacus designed for the blind has that padded backing so the beads don’t slide unless you want them to. The way the beads are strung on to this bracelet creates the same effect, without the padded backing of course. The directions for the bracelet recommend moving all the beads to the center of the bracelet and sliding one bead away from the center when you finish a row, a repeat, or whatever you’re counting. For me, I prefer to begin with all the beads away from the center so I can move them toward the center as I go. That way, the beads that indicate the completed rows are all together in the center, making it easier to count quickly how many I have. It also works well in my mind that way because that is how I was taught to use an abacus. The wonderful thing about this, as well as many other things, is that you can use it in the way that works for you.



Easy-read Row Counter Necklace



The necklace is a larger version of the bracelet with ten round beads and 10 square beads, which would allow you to count up to 110. Wearing the necklace feels a lot like the days in my early 20’s when I wore a braided hemp necklace all the time.


I have not used the necklace as much because I tend to use Bluetooth headphones to listen to audio books while I am knitting. My current headphones sit around the back of my neck, and adding the necklace feels extra crowded. If that’s not a problem for you, the necklace will work very well. I like the idea of using the necklace to count rows while the bracelet keeps track of increases or decreases, but I haven’t needed that set up since I received these products a few weeks ago.



Easy-read Knitting Needle Gauge



A while back, I realized that my interchangeable set of Chiaogoo needles was a disaster. Almost all of the short tips I have were missing along with about half of the standard size tips. There were things in the wrong place in the case, and I was having a hard time tracking down what was on projects or actually missing. So, I sat down with my new needle gauge to straighten everything out. It was a trial by fire, if you will.


First, it is important to note that these gauges use the metric system instead of US needle sizing, so a little conversion is needed to use these if you are, like me, used to thinking of needles in US sizes. I wrote a separate blog post about the metric system including a conversion chart that you can read if you need more information on that topic.


The knitting needle gauge is made with clear acrylic, which means that it is thicker and sturdier than typical gauges made with cardboard or thin plastic. Another advantage to this is that there is absolutely no way to insert the needle if it doesn’t fit because there is no give in the material. Also, because the gauge is a little thicker, it forces the needle in straight, and I found that this helped me feel confident that I had the needle in the best fitting slot.


In the past, I have had to memorize the sequence of US sizes so I could use a commercial gauge, and I always seemed to be forgetting where I was, or it was really hard to feel the holes once I got down to US size 5 or so. This gauge solves both of those problems. There are ten holes on one side for the measurements 1 mm through 10 mm, and the other side has 6 holes for the measurements 1.5 mm through 6.5 mm. There are no skipped numbers and the smallest holes on each side begin with 1 or 1.5, so there is nothing to remember. Very distinct bumps beside each hole on the gauge make it easy to use by touch. All you have to do is find the hole with the best fit for your needle, leave it in place, and count up from 1 by starting with the bump next to the smallest hole until you get to the bump next to your needle. If your needle is on the side with fewer holes, they are half sizes, so begin counting from 1.5 instead. It did take me a minute to think with millimeters but using a conversion chart made this fairly painless.


I tested my Chiaogoo metal needles as well as my Knitpicks wood needles with this gauge, and both worked great. The needles fit perfectly into the holes, and there is no question if you are in the best fitting hole or not. Basically, if the needle doesn’t fit snuggly, or wiggle at all, it isn’t the right hole. I was also happy to learn that this gauge works perfectly for all but three sizes in my Chiaogoo set, which includes US sizes 2 through 15. Apparently, if I paid more attention to the not so random metric numbers that always show up after US knitting needle sizes, I would realize that they are all whole or half millimeters. For reference, the thre exceptions in this set are 2 = 2.75 mm, 3 = 2.25 mm, and 5 = 3.75 mm. these still did not cause much difficulty because the 2.75 mm needle, for example, was too big for the 2.5 hole and still wiggled in the 3 mm hole.


I really enjoyed using this knitting needle gauge, and I was able to reorganize all the tips in my interchangeable set with ease.



Easy-read Crochet Hook Gauge



Having a gauge for crochet hooks is a new concept for me. I have never heard of, much less owned, anything that I could use to check hook sizes before. I suppose it is possible that such a tool already exists in the commercial market, but if it does, I’m sure it would not be as easy to use as this one.


The crochet hook gauge is set up exactly like the knitting needle gauge except that there are slots to slide the hook into instead of holes. Again, I had to look up the metric equivalents for the typical US sizing that uses the letter system. Like the needle sizes, the only sizes without perfect matches on this gauge are a few of the smaller sizes such as B, C, D, and F. After that, they all match up well.


This gauge is taking me a bit longer to get used to using because I have never had a tool to check hook sizes before, but I think it is going to be a great help when I need a certain hook size and there is no one around to look at the size on the hook for me.



Ordering Information



A quick note about using a screen reader with websites where the native language is something other than English:


Since the native language for the website is French, you might need to adjust a setting if you are using a screen reader to keep it from trying to read English words with French pronunciation. I use JAWS, so these directions are specific to that program. With the browser open, type INS + v to pull up the quick settings dialogue, type “language,” arrow down to Language Detect Change, and make sure it is not checked. After that adjustment, JAWS will read English text correctly, even if the native language of the website is set to something other than English.


The boutique section is still mainly in French, but it is dedicated to these four products and it is easy to pick what you want to order based on the price. In the shopping cart, the buttons and forms read in English, and you can pay with PayPal or credit card.


English Product Descriptions


To order from the Boutique



Knitting and the Metric System

The United States is one of the remaining few countries that haven’t fully switched over to the Metric system, but with modern globalization, I believe it will only be a matter of time before that happens. In a lot of ways, I think the Metric system makes more sense, but I also know a full conversion would be difficult to say the least. I don’t think in meters or grams, and I don’t think many other people in the United States do either. At the same time, I constantly have to look up how many cups are in a gallon or how many ounces are in a cup, so I understand why this conversion is needed.  With the metric system, all of those conversions are much simpler because everything is based on factors of 10.


Knitting is one of the few areas of my life where I regularly come across metric sizing. While needle sizing and patterns usually include both measurements, there are times when I have to convert back to the US system because the pattern designer only uses metric measurements, and I can’t easily think in millimeters or centimeters. The conversion is fairly easy, with 1 inch = 2.54 cm, but I have recently started to get annoyed with using the US system for needle sizing because the conversion is not as simple.


IN the United States, the numbers that indicate needle sizes are basically arbitrary, indicating nothing more than that if you have a smaller number, you have a smaller needle. They are standardized to the Metric system, which is great, but why we don’t just use the actual metric sizing when we talk about needles is beyond me. I automatically began thinking of needles in the US sizing when I began knitting, and even though the Metric sizes are almost always listed in conjunction with the US sizes, it is still difficult for me to convert my thinking. Because of this, I decided that might help to begin memorizing the metric sizes for needles to make my knitting life a little easier. When you actually take time to compare the metric sizes to one another, it is a very consistent progression, and I’ve found that it has strengthened my understanding of needle sizes.


To help, I made an accessible PDF of Metric/US conversions that are relevant to knitting and crochet which you can download here if it would be helpful for you. For convenience, the information in the PDF is also included below.




Quick Length Conversion


1 inch = 2.54 Centimeters


Divide centimeters given by 2.54 to determine inches.


Multiply inches given by 2.54 to determine centimeters.




Knitting Needle Sizes



US Sizes Metric Sizes
0 2 mm
1 2.25 mm
1.5 2.5 mm
2 2.75 mm
2.5 3 mm
3 3.25 mm
4 3.5 mm
5 3.75 mm
6 4 mm
7 4.5 mm
8 5 mm
9 5.5 mm
10 6 mm
10.5 6.5 mm
10.75 7 mm
11 8 mm
13 9 mm
15 10 mm





Crochet Hook Sizes



Note that some brands might vary slightly, so be sure to check the sizing for your particular brand of hook for accuracy.


US Sizes Metric Sizes
B 2.25 mm
C 2.75 mm
D 3.13 mm
E 3.5 mm
F 3.75 mm
G 4 mm
H 5 mm
I 5.5 mm
J 6 mm
K 6.5 mm
L 8 mm
M 9 mm
N 10 mm




Palindrome Scarf and Hat

Photo of me wearing the Palindrome Hat and Scarf with green trees in the background - The scarf and hat are off-white with cables and ribbing.


Since it is summer, it is obviously the perfect time to finish a knitted gift that can only be worn in the winter. I cast on the Palindrome Hat in December of 2017, thinking that I would finish it, along with the matching scarf, while it was still cold enough to wear it in the winter of 2018. That didn’t happen, and it wasn’t ready for the next winter either. But, it is finally done, and my friend will not go another winter season without her very own hand knitted hat and scarf.


The first thing that caught my attention about this pattern was the name. As an English major, I am always interested in names and descriptions referring to anything remotely literary. As the pattern designer notes on her page, a palindrome is the same forwards and backwards, making the name appropriate for anything reversable. Palindrome is a free pattern with reversable cables on the scarf and hat that are combined with all over 2X2 ribbing for a casual and classic look that I really like. For the hat and scarf together, I used about 3.5 skeins of Cascade Venezia Worsted which is 70% Marino wool and 30% silk. It is a really nice yarn, and I can’t wait to se how it holds up with time.


I knit the hat for this set before I knit the scarf. I especially like this hat pattern because the 2X2 ribbing makes it very stretchy, and it will fit over your head even if you tend to wear your hair pulled up like I do. The knitting for the hat went fairly quickly, and then it languished alone in a bag while waiting for its matching scarf to be finished.


However, the scarf took longer. It turns out that knitting a scarf is an interesting adventure in monotony. I ended up using a locking stitch marker pinned to the edge of the scarf to counteract the illusion that I was getting absolutely nowhere. By moving the marker every time I added 10 or 12 inches to the scarf, my brain understood that the scarf was indeed getting longer, and it would eventually be done. Also, I don’t often think about how long scarves really are. Approximately 6 feet, in case you also don’t think about such things. This one turned out to be 6 ½ feet, which is nice because there is plenty of length to wrap and still drape nicely.


A six-foot rectangle presents a challenge to blocking that I hadn’t thought of before this. The last time I made a scarf was just after I began knitting and long before I had a clue about blocking. Soon enough, I learned the error of my ways. For a long time after that, I used 2×2 exercise mats for blocking, but I decided to retire those and buy two sets of knitpicks blocking mats a few years ago. Those are only 12 inches square, which gives you more options when you lay them out. I lined up seven mats on a diagonal on my bed because small children and a dog make using the floor a bad idea in my house. I didn’t pin the scarf because I don’t want to stretch it, only to make sure it dries flat and strait. Just for kicks, I put the hat on its own separate square. Using the smaller mats really made me appreciate having the right tools for the job, and I might just stop resenting the storage space the mats take up in my closet.


I am pleased with the way this project turned out, and if you are interested in knitting this scarf and/or hat, follow the links below.


Link to Palindrome Scarf Pattern

Link to Palindrome Hat Pattern

Link to my Palindrome Project Page on Revelry


Close up photo of me wearing the Palindrome Hat and Scarf with green trees in the background - The scarf and hat are off-white with cables and ribbing.