Nov 26, 2014

WIP-Wednesday: HOW TO use Excel to Calculate Knitting

Today I want to show you how you can use Excel for some calculations you need to make when you are designing or knitting a garment. And of course I'm going to show you the progress of the sweater I am knitting for my man, as well as how you can knit the pattern I use for the sleeves.

The Progress
Let's start with the current progress of the sweater that I am making. I now have finished the first sleeve! :) Next step will be the other one of course ;) As you know, I am making a raglan shaped sweater, so the sleeves have to be knitted until the point where the armhole begins and the sleeves are going to be attached to the body.

Hopefully, for the next WIP-Wednesday post, I can show you how to put body and sleeves all together on one circular needle, so the raglan shaping can begin. :)

For the sleeves I am using the double stich. This is a stich that I found in one of Garnstudio Drops Designs patterns, a scarf for men.

Double Stich Pattern (in the round)
The stich is not that hard. As you can see, the Drops pattern is for knitting back and forth, but I am knitting the sleeves in the round. But that's not a problem at all.
So, for knitting this stich in the round, you first need to knit two set up rows and then start knitting the double stich (ds):

Round 1&2: *p2, k1; repeat from *.

Round 3: *p2, ds1; repeat from *.

Then repeat rounds 2 and 3.

Double Stich (ds) means you are knitting into the stich below the next knit stich you are having on your left needle. (see left picture below)
Insert right hand needle into the stich below (see picture in the middle) and knit this stich (see right picture below). That's it! :) For the next round, knit those double stiches as usual and purl the other ones as before.

Calculate your project using Excel
When I am designing or alternating a pattern, I often use Excel to make my life easier. Mainly, I'm using those three kinds of tables that you can see in the picture below.
They include the calculations that are most often needed in knitting.

Of course, first thing you always do when starting a new project: knit the gauge. When I do that, I fill in the numbers in the first table in the spreadsheet for this particular project and those numbers are save. (no writing down on some sheet of paper that gets lost over time while knitting the garment)

So, what does my standard Excel sheet calculate?
You can see in the next picture, the second table caculates the gauge numbers into measurements. And then I have a third table that's helps me calculating the increases and decreases I need to make and how to place them evenly.
All numbers that are calculated by Excel are in italics (and I also gave them a blue color, that is not so good to be seen, so that's why I also circled them in red ;) )
All the other "regular" numbers are filled in by me.

Ok, let's take a look at the second table that calculates gauge into measurements. So, what I do is, I fill in the measurement in cm that I need to knit and the table tells me how many stiches I have to cast on or how many rows I have to knit in order to reach the desired measurement for my garment.
For example, see the picture below, I want to knit 46cm wide. So, I fill in 46 in the first field and the table tells me how many stiches I need to cast on (or cast off, when I am a little further in the project) corresponding to the body part ( in this example) or even the sleeve or the ribbing.
The simple calculation or formula that's behind that is your wanted width (or height) in cm divided by the number of stiches from the gauge and this number divided again by 10cm.

That's the most basic calculation there is in knitting. But still, you don't need to sit there with your calculator and type in the numbers again and again, every time you need a new measurement. So, that's making it easier in my opinion.

The according formula for every calculation in this table is set for all other calculated ("blue") numbers.

Ok, the other most common calculation there is to make in knitting is increasing and decreasing and to distribute those stiches evenly. That's what I have the next table for! :)

I'm sure, you all have heard about the Magic Formula for even distribution of increase and decrease stiches. So, if you need to increase or decrease, what you are actually calculating is a right triangle from a mathmatical point of view, like you can see in the picture below.

Well, in order to get to know how often you have to increase or decrease to reach the diagonal shape that you want to have, the natural thing to do is dividing the total number of rows (t) by the the number of stiches to increase/decrease (s).

As we all know, in most cases that doesn't give us a whole number. So what now? Like in my example t divided by s equals 3,619. Unfortunately, it is not possible to increase/decrease every 3,169th row ;)

And that's where the Magic Formula pops in!
So, what you do is, you set a lower rate (l) and a higher rate (h) around that number at which you want to do the increases or decreases. (if you only want to increase/decrease on right side rows, pick even numbers)
And then you calculate the number of times that you need to increase/decrease at both those rates.

I don't want to "terrorize" you with the math at this point. Actually, it is not that hard kind of math ;) But if you're interested, Ysolda Teague from has this really great tutorial video where she explains everything step by step in about 10 minutes.
For this post I also re-named my variables like she does, so if you're watching the video, it's all the same here. (I recommend watching it for better understanding, but if you believe that everything is right and you don't need to see the video, that's of course absolutely fine as well :) )

So, now the first part is to calculate the number of times there need to be increases/decreases at the higher rate (y). As you can see in the picture below, the formula in Excel looks a bit confusing, so I wrote in a more "normal" way right beside the table for you. (just one last time: if you want to know where this formula comes from: watch the video! :) )

And secondly, you want to calculate the number of times  there need to be increases/decreases at the lower rate (x), as well. And that's it!
Now this is something, I really don't want to do with my calculator every time...

Ok, one last thing that I added to the Excel sheet: the sentence at the very end. When you've got all those numbers ready, sometimes it's still a bit confusing. So, I just wrote it out for myself and let Excel put in the numbers. Tada! No more confusion! Knitting life made easier! :)

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into how I work and what tools I am using. Maybe you are creating a spreadsheet like this for yourself now (if you need it, you can find an example for the different formulas in every picture of the second half of this post)
I like to put a little thought into things in the beginning of projects to make the whole process easier for me and be able to use all my brain power for other stuff that needs to be figured out along the way.
So, are you using Excel for your knitting calculations as well? Or do you prefer to use the calcuator?
I'd love to hear from you and your experiences! Feel free to leave a comment! :)

Have a great week everyone! :)


  1. Thanks for the article! I find it very interesting and well explained. I will pin it for future use.

  2. Thank you! I'm glad you find it helpful! :)

  3. Hi Stephanie...Thanks for this great tutorial...just one question do you have this sheet set up as a template or do you write it out each time you design a garment or accessory?

    Warm regards

    1. Hi Jacky!
      Thanks! I've been meaning to make a template for myself but haven't gotten to it yet. So, most of the time, I just use one I already used before and fill in my current numbers and just give it a new name ;) That's a little bit messy I know and also a little more work because sometimes you have to add something or take something away. So far it's been working fine this way but that's definately on the to-do list.

  4. Thanks for sharing, nice post! Post really provice useful information!

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  5. Hi Stephanie, thanks for this post, after all these years it still helps people. You mention a "second half" to this post, where can I find it please?, Thanks, Cheryl

  6. I think Ysolda's video is now here: