The vast majority of knitters go through life never having used a stitch marker. Even if they do need a marker for a project – to indicate a placeholder in a pattern repeat for instance, or to show where a round begins when knitting something in the round – they are quite likely to grab the nearest scrap of spare yarn, knot it into a little ring and slide it onto their needle. It doesn’t matter that it is cumbersome to use, won’t slip easily from one needle to the next, or gets inexplicably knitted into the fabric! It is only needed the once and can be discarded at the end of the project.
If, however, you are like me, and you love knitting complicated lace patterns, or intricate Fair Isle designs, then you find you need a constant supply of markers, and the little yarn rings are no longer adequate, indeed they are shown up as the irritating awkward things that they are, actually impacting your creativity and slowing your productivity .
I took up lace knitting about six years ago and immediately found that I had to buy some markers, as the pattern repeats were difficult to follow. I bought a set of five markers from my local yarn store, which had imported them from a women’s collective in India. They were fabulous, colourful paper beads made from recycled material, and they worked very well, but there was one small problem; the large ring that slips onto the knitting needle was a jump ring, and with use began to open slightly. It only took a very small gap to occur and my yarn kept getting caught in the ring, and I had to keep stopping and disentanging the yarn before I could continue knitting. I bought a second set, this time online, and since they were specially modelled polymer clay, they were quite expensive. But they were in the shape of chickens so well worth it! I experienced the same problem – the gap in the jump ring eased slightly open and the yarn snagged. So the price didn’t matter, the construction was the issue.
My husband, whose hobby is electronics, came up with a solution; solder the jump ring shut. He did this for the first set I had bought, and when I saw how effective the result was, I asked him to teach me soldering so that I could make some more markers.
I riffled through my jewellery box and came up with a couple of pairs if fancy, cheap earrings, the kind you buy to wear on holiday and then push to the back of a drawer when you get home. They were easy to take apart, and each pair yielded six or eight charms or beads. Once attached to 8mm jump rings – and soldered of course – these provided me with a tidy number of stitch markers.
Since then, I have made hundreds of stitch markers, from old bracelet charms and earrings, to new charms and beads found in the stash of shiny things left over from my jewellery-making hobby. Most I kept for myself, but some I gave to knitting friends and they encouraged me to try to sell them. I sell through my local yarn store, run by the lovely and supportive Mary, and in February 2016 I opened an Etsy store, listing some of my reclaimed and new one-of-a-kind stitch markers. It is early days yet, but I do see a market for well-made, unusual, slightly quirky knitting “jewellery”!