The humble stitch marker.
At least this is my very simplified take on the stitch marker. There are many glorious types of marker, from DIY ones like mine above to the beautifully hand crafted ones you can find on artisan shopping sites like etsy. There will be more on how to DIY your own stitch markers in my next post, along with some of my top picks for stitch markers you can buy on teh internets.
The point of this post is to show you how to use these in ways that may possibly spare you from going slightly mental and committing Hara Kiri with a knitting needle.
Why might you need to use stitch markers?
- To mark the beginning of a round when knitting in the round
- To mark the position of pattern decreases/increases (e.g. in raglan shaping)
- Counting stitches in long cast ons
- Counting stitches in large increase rows (e.g. PI shawls)
- Mark the right side of a piece with no obvious wrong side or right side
- Mark out pattern repeats, especially in lace
This knitting of lace is one of the things that forces me to use a lot of markers. I mean a lot of markers. There are 36 markers in this piece of lace. I sat and knotted 36 pieces of embroidery floss. Good times.
In the above PI shawl (Camping by the very wonderful Mwaa Knit) i have 576 stitches on the needle and keeping track of that many 16 stitch repeats can be tricky and result in the knitting needle stabbage we've already mentioned when you make a mistake and have to tink all those stitches, or worse still, you have to frog the beautiful and delicate laceweight yarn and risk breakage.
I've used a stitch marker between each 16 stitch pattern repeat to show where the repeat starts and ends, forcing me to focus simply on 16 stitches at a time, helping me not to get lost. I can easily check whether i have 16 stitches between each marker after i've knit a repeat, allowing me to see where i might have missed a yarn over or added one by mistake.
Another way stitches come in handy is for counting. Counting long cast-ons can be an arse, same with counting intensive increase rows (e.g. k1,yo to end). Place a marker every 10, 20 or even 50 stitches if you can get away with it. Breaking the row up this way spares you the horrible sinking feeling of losing count. The "oh man, was that 64 or 66?" or "Did I skip straight to 50 from 46?" Just count between the markers and then forget about it. Count your sections at the end and you know it's all good.I hope this post shows that markers are a useful addition to your knitty arsenal. They don't have to cost a fortune, you can make some on the fly using embroidery thread or some scrap yarn in a contrasting colour to and the same weight as the yarn you're knitting with.
So now i'm off to knit a bit of lace. Unfortunately all the markers in the world can't get me away from the fact that 576 stitches equals roughly 1 hour per round. Hari Kiri? Where are those knitting needles....