I first came across stitch markers in Let’s Knit magazine. As someone with an appalling memory, I think they are a wonderful invention! A stitch marker is basically a memory aid. Have you ever been knitting away, in a world of your own or chatting with other members of your knitting group, only to realise you have missed a change in the pattern and now have to unpick? Annoying isn’t it?
The stitch marker at its simplest is a loop which sits on the needle - I know, they’re called stitch markers but usually they don’t go on the stitch, they go on the needle – when you get to the stitch marker it reminds you there is a change in the pattern. Here is a Swarovski Crystal Butterfly Stitch Marker and a yellow Multi Coloured Ball Stitch Marker on a 6mm needle:
You can use a stitch marker wherever you like, some examples would be: where there is an increase or decrease in the pattern or to indicate a colour change. If you need to keep track of a large number of stitches, putting a stitch marker every 10 or 20 stitches (even if there is no change in the pattern) saves you a lot of counting, meaning you can spend more time actually knitting. Another great use is when you are knitting in the round, the stitch marker goes at the end of the row so you can tell when you start a new round, this works with both circular and double pointed needles.
Stitch markers are very easy to use, you just put one on your needle wherever you want a reminder and knit as usual. When you get to the marker, move it from the left to right needle and carry on knitting, making whatever change the marker was there to remind you of, of course! It doesn’t matter if you are part way through a project, you can start using stitch markers at any point. The stitch marker can sit either side of the knitting, if you are using a marker with, for want of a better expression, a dangly bit, it is better to have the marker on the opposite side of your knitting to the yarn as you work the stitch:
For instance when you are working in purl and the yarn is your side of the needles then the stitch marker will hang on the far side of the knitting.
Otherwise, the dangly bit gets tangled in the stitch:
This is not a disaster if the ring is not vastly bigger than the needle, as you can slip the stitch marker off the needle and the ring should pass through the stitch:
Here I am using Excelana 4 ply in Nile green on 3.25mm needles with a Purple Shoe Stitch Marker, 3.25mm is the largest needle size this marker will fit.
Alternatively, you can use a stitch marker with a split ring, then if the worst does happen, the marker can easily be removed with a pair of pliers without harming the knitting. Stitch markers come in different sizes, it is advisable to use one with a ring which slides easily on the needle but is not too big, if you do get in a muddle, it will be harder to extract a marker with a significantly larger ring, also a large ring can get in the way and look ungainly. If you like to knit fast you may prefer to use a slightly larger size than is necessary to slide on the needle so that you can fit the tips of both needles into the ring at the same time, this makes swopping the stitch marker from one needle to the other a smoother and quicker process:
Here I am using Excelana 4 ply in Nile green on 3.25mm needles with a Pink Pig Stitch Marker. The largest needle this stitch marker will fit is a 5.5mm.
There are no hard and fast rules about sizing, it’s about getting a balance which works for you.
A stitch marker can be as simple as a bit of spare yarn tied round the needle or even a paper clip, however I think it is far more fun to use a decorative marker. Decorative stitch markers are jewellery for your knitting. If you take pride in your knitting equipment then you will enjoy using a stitch marker which is not only functional but also attractive to look at. Decorative stitch markers can make a bold statement, reflect your personality and interests or simply be pretty. They can even be a talking point at your knitting group!
All of my handmade stitch markers shown here are available to buy at www.shearergirlyarns.co.uk