The vast majority of knitters and crocheters 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 or crocheting in a spiral – they are quite likely to grab the nearest scrap of spare yarn, knot it into a little ring and slide it onto their needle or loop it through a crochet stitch. 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 eight years ago and immediately found that I had to buy some markers, as the pattern repeats were difficult to follow and the yarn loop markers were inadequate. 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 disentangling 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 of 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 early attempts at jewellery-making. Most I kept for myself, but some I gave to knitting friends and they encouraged me to try to sell them. Since opening the Etsy store in February 2016 I have supplied stitch markers to USA, Canada, Hong Kong, France, Spain, Denmark, and lots to the UK.
Not content with making markers from charms alone, I now design and make themed sets of markers, around ideas such as Deep in the Forest and Dreaming of the Sea – two of my most popular designs. My customers appreciate looking at and handling beautiful things and these marker sets are beautiful! I have lots of ideas for more themes this year.
If you have never used stitch markers before, then take a look at my article on How to use Stitch Markers to see just how easy they are to use and what the benefits are in using them.
Garnet is the birthstone of January, and what a glorious colour it is. Rich burgundy red, with a deep shine; garnets are like little nuggets of warmth.
Garnet is actually a group of stones with a similar crystalline structure – rounded crystals – and colour, a reddish brown. The name derives from the Latin for grain, granum, because of the rounded crystal structure and because of the similarity to pomegranate kernels. The basic chemical composition is aluminium silicate, and the gemstones within the group – pyrope, almandite, and spessartite – each has a different chemical addition which gives it its different colour. So pyrope is magnesium aluminium silicate and is red with a brown tint; this is the type most commonly sold as garnet. Almandite is iron aluminium silicate and is red with a violet tint; and spessartite is manganese aluminium silicate and ranges in colour from orange to red-brown.
You may think that an article explaining how to use something as simple as a stitch marker is superfluous to requirements but I have been asked how and why I use them, even by experienced knitters, and I have found that a short demonstration is usually enough to convert someone to using (or at the very least trying) these extremely useful knitting tools.
This short video shows me knitting a fair isle tam in the round. The pattern has eight repeats, and so I am using eight markers, seven are the same design marker; the eighth is larger and is used to indicate the end of the round. The pattern I am knitting is the lovely Winter Forest Tam available free on Ravelry.
The finished tam looks like this, knitted in Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal, a lovely soft nubbly yarn perfect for fair isle projects:
I hope that, having seen the video you, will try using stitch markers. I’m sure you will find they help you in knitting both simple and complex patterns.