Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Knitting : Markers

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Importance of Markers in Knitting

Don’t you just hate to count stitches in a knitting project - & there is a Lot of counting right from casting on to patterning to shaping to customizing ….. Markers help you keep track of short segments so that you do not have to count All the stitches All the time !!!

Whether one is just starting out, or is well-experienced, markers always come in handy at various stages & in all types of knitting. I have tried to capture & list these instances, while knitting this top/blouse last season . Note, however, that one does not need to use a marker for every little thing – my intention is merely to highlight as many possible uses as I could think of .

1. While Casting On :

When one has to cast on a large project, or one is working with thin yarn, the number of stitches to cast on goes up. Equidistantly placed markers are very handy to keep count !
I insert a marker after every 20 stitches while casting on, so that one does not have to go back & count from the beginning each time (this project required around 120 sts for border). No more fear of losing count due to distractions, etc.

2. While Increasing Stitches :

After the ribbed border, in a sweater/pullover, one is frequently asked to increase the number of stitches before starting on the pattern for main body.
These increases need to be spread out evenly throughout the border, for an even, clean look. Markers make it easy to calculate & space out these increases, without having to keep constant count. You can divide the increases between each segment delineated by markers & simply check whether each segment has the required increases.

3. When Starting Pattern :

A pattern is made up of many repeats along the length of the knitting. So once the border is knit, & the stitches are increased, one can count the number of stitches for each pattern repeat & relocate the markers accordingly. This can be done as one is knitting on the 1st row of the pattern.
I have used 2 different patterns (alternating with each other) in this example. One requires 23 sts, while the other 6. Hence the markers (represented by comma) are placed in this sequence : 6,23,6,23,6, & so on till entire length.

4. For Pattern Tracking :

The title says it all…
After a few rows have been knit, & the pattern has been repeated over the rows a couple of times at least, it becomes easy to track the next rows. Firstly, one has memorized the pattern by now, & secondly, the previous rows act as a visual guide. At this time, one can do away with the markers in step #3 if desired.
However, if one is watching the tele, or chatting, or there are other distractions, it might be a good idea to keep the markers in place so as to keep track of the knitting at all times. It acts as a double-check to reduce errors by immediate spotting & rectification.

I forgot to take pictures later - so engrossed in knitting ?! Hope the explanation suffices.

5. To Track Row Count & Shaping :

Markers can be placed along the side - at the start of a new repeat of pattern, or after a given number of rows. Eg. after every 10 rows. This helps to keep track of the number of rows already knit, without having to count each & every stitch/row vertically ! My general rule of thumb is 10 rows.
In my blouse, these markers remained very useful for another reason : the 23-st segment is a 6-row repeat pattern, while the 6-st segment requires only 4 rows to complete !

Markers at the start of rows help in another important way : When one is shaping the chest by increasing a stitch from waist upwards, the row where one increases, can be marked. This will come in handy when one starts knitting the other side (front or back); easy to track where an increase has occurred & repeat it. This keeps the increases on both the front & back of a sweater even & identical And when the time comes to sew the 2 sides together, the seam is very neat & even!
TIP : I use markers in a different colour, for the increased stitch rows.

6. When Pausing Work :
How often does it happen that one has to suddenly pause knitting & attend to some other life matters ? While I prefer to complete the row & then pause, it is not always possible. Sometimes one has to leave knitting mid-way through a row. In such cases, markers are of tremendous help – simply complete knitting the few stitches upto the next marker (i.e. complete the segment only, instead of entire row) & attend to the call. It is then so easy to re-start without having to use precious brain cells trying to figure out where to start …. This is especially true of lacy patterns.

7. When Decreasing or Shaping :

Dropping or decreasing stitches is called for while shaping the armholes, neck, etc. So, just as markers prove to be good guides while increasing, these can be equally helpful while decreasing. In case of lacy patterns, one can adjust the decrease based on markers, keeping the pattern as evenly shaped as possible.

TIP : Shaping is required while knitting Socks, too. Markers can come in handy when increases and decreases are made.

8. When Knitting in the Round :

When one is knitting in the round, with circular needles or open needles, a marker is vital to indicate the start of the row.

In conlusion, markers help to calculate stitches in casting on, in calculating stitches & placement for shaping (I like visual cues), keep track of knitting pattern & minimize errors.
Markers can “arrest” an error before you have gone too far down the row or knit too many rows !!! Usually, the very next segment or the very next row will not knit correctly & one can count the stitches between each marker to see where the error was committed. So immediate rectification can be done, thus saving a lot of time, unraveling, re-knitting, & heartburn ;-))


About Homemade Slip Knot Markers

How to choose.
I do not have any store-bought markers. Instead I simply use scraps of wool or thread.
But I learned the hard way & hence am sharing a few do’s/don’ts in choosing yarn for markers :
Choose yarn that
i)                    does not fray & hence lasts through the entire project
ii)                   is thinner than the main yarn/wool
iii)                 is a tightly wound/twisted yarn, not loosely twisted, hence easy to slip
iv)                 is in a contrast colour to the main yarn, to be easily visible
I have found crochet mercer thread to be Ideal. It does not fray easily, is thick enough to be clearly visible (unlike sewing thread), yet not so thick as to leave a space between stitches. It is also something that can be found in the home itself.

How to make.
Take a short length of thread & tie a slip knot. This is nothing new to those who crochet & knit - one has to start with a slip knot. If not, click on the highlighted term or here for many tutorial links on Google. 

If desired, one can make a permanent solid, immovable knot. I prefer slip knot because the loop size can be easily altered & adjusted whenever desired, by simply pulling on one loose end. Hence, these markers can be used on any size needle !
Secondly, if at any point I want to remove a marker midways, all I have to do is pull on the loop & the knot opens up completely & the thread can be slipped off anywhere, anytime ! No need to cut with scissors & risk cutting the yarn.

Make many such markers beforehand, so that while you are occupied with your knitting needles, all you have to do is pick up one of these already-made markers & slip it on the needle.
Since it is a slip knot, it can be tightened as much as desired. However, it is preferable to keep it slightly loose so that switching it between needles becomes easy.

While one is knitting, these markers are not knit. They are simply slipped on to the other needle.


What has been your experience ? Please share ….

Happy knitting :-)


  1. I didn't used to use markers in lacy knitting, but actually it really does help to keep track.

    1. I started off using markers only to keep count of rows, then discovered how effective they were in lacy knitting. Especially since 3 Complete row-wise pattern repeats to get it to memory ;-/ !
      Thanks for sharing, Jane :-)

  2. This post comes at the right time. I began knitting some gloves this morning, and realised that placing markers to keep track of increases in the thumb makes life a lot easier than it would be otherwise!

    1. So glad this helped, Manisha :-) I’ve never done gloves but you have a valid point !
      Hope you share pics of your gloves …. Happy knitting :-)

  3. I am not that good but have a wonderful little pattern for cable knit baby socks and didn't need a marker. but my mom would and she did larger projects and I just have trouble keeping stitches straight or even tension which seems to come with practice I think or at least I tell myself that to feel better.

    1. Actually, I’ve knit socks (baby) only once, that too as a learning experience, which I enjoyed thoroughly. So you may be right about not needing markers there.
      My Mom never used any markers at all; my MIL uses safety pins at times; I started using yarn & now thread. I tend to knit while watching the tele & if it is a film with sub-titles, you can imagine the tendency to make mistakes ;-P
      Even tension Does come with practice. I hope you take up your needles again – you are so immensely creative & talented !

  4. I am really just learning to knit, but this is very helpful. Thank you for sharing with us!

    1. I am so glad you found this helpful, Stephanie :-) Knitting is such a practical, relaxing, as well as creative stitchcraft & hope you enjoy your journey.

  5. I use markers for most of my knits, crochet and tatting. I created simply ones with a head pin and a bead for knitting and when I find cheap earrings with the snap closure these are great for tatting. I have also used scraps of contrasting yarn on occasion, especially when casting on. Great T*I*P*S

    1. Bernice, the snap closure earrings are a great idea ! I used to use scrap yarn too, till the time I used thick yarn markers for baby wool project – that left tiny little tell-tale signs :-( I was going to put up the pics, but totally forgot & pushed the "publish" button ;-/