chunky yarn with stitch markers on circular needles

Knitting with stitch markers

Stitch markers will simplify your knitting experience. They help you keep track of where you are in a pattern. Once you start using stitch markers you will wonder how you ever managed without them. Generally, they are used to mark a place where you have to pay special attention to your knitting. This allows you to knit without thought until you reach the marker. You then do whatever it is you are supposed to do, slip the marker to the other needle or remove it, and continue knitting.

Here’s everything you need to know about stitch markers in knitting.

Types of stitch markers

  • Ring stitch markers: A simple ring of metal or plastic that’s slipped onto the needle between two stitches to help with counting or to indicate a place where something special happens in the pattern. They come in different sizes, with and without a cute pendant, and are most comfortable to knit with if they are only slightly bigger than the needle. Make sure to use ones that are snag-free. They can be replaced with a scrap of yarn in a contrasting color.
  • Hanging stitch markers: Similar to the ring marker, the hanging markers are closed and must be placed on the needle when you reach the correct spot between two stitches. They are usually made up of a soft loop with a bead or other decorative piece acting as a weight. They are usually very pretty and can feel like jewelry for your knitting. I like knitting with them because the size of the needle versus the size of the stitch marker isn’t that important, and they are not in the way of my hands.
  • Locking stitch markers: This is sometimes called a crochet stitch marker, although it’s very much also used by knitters. It’s similar to a safety pin, except smaller and more round, and it can be opened and closed securely with a latch. This comes with the advantage that you can move the stitch marker if you have placed it incorrectly. You can also mark a specific stitch, rather than the space between two stitches, and you can use it to secure a dropped stitch.
  • Split ring stitch markers: It’s not quite a ring stitch marker, nor is it a locking stitch marker. Instead, it’s a spiral or circle with a small opening, so you can use it either as a ring stitch marker, sliding it along the needles, or as a locking stitch marker attached to a single stitch. I don’t like it. They are often cheap plastic ones with sharp edges that hurt my hands when I use them as ring stitch markers. And when I use them attached to a specific stitch, I find they sometimes fall off.
three types of locking stitch markers
Three examples of locking stitch markers: Safety pin from clothing label (these are great!), cute cherry charm with clasp from Expression Fiber Arts (no longer available, but they have other similar ones), and standard plastic ones that I got for free with a needle set.

When and how

  • A tool for counting. When you are casting on 300 stitches it is easy to lose track. Add a stitch marker for every ten stitches, and you will only have to count once. You can also add some stitch markers to help you count if you have a tendency to accidentally add or loose stitches.
  • Keep track of the right side. Add a locking stitch marker to the right side of the work to keep track of it. Most patterns will indicate which side is the right side with the abbreviation RS, or alternatively the wrong side with WS.
  • Mark a border stitch. If you are knitting something like a blanket with a border, it’s a good idea to place a marker between the border stitches and the regular stitches. It’s easy to remember to begin a row with X amount of border stitches, but I always forget to end the row with border stitches if I don’t place stitch markers.
  • Mark decreases and increases. It’s always helpful to place a stitch marker where you are supposed to make a decrease or an increase. For example, if you have a K2tog (knit 2 stitches together) decrease every row, place a marker after the two stitches that need to be knit together, and you can knit without thinking till you reach the last two stitches before the marker.
  • Mark pattern repeats. If you are knitting a pattern with repeating stitches you can simplify things by adding a stitch marker at both ends of the repeat. That way, if you lose track of things, you only have to count from the beginning of the repeat, and not from the beginning of the row. It’s also easier to spot mistakes.
  • Beginning of round. When you are knitting in the round, it’s customary to place a marker when joining in the round to mark the beginning of rounds. Every time you reach the marker you know that you have completed one round, making it easier to count.
  • Mark location of cable or other special stitches. Marking where something special happens, allow you to sit back and knit without counting, and still place the cable in the right spot.
  • Secure a dropped stitch. Always keep a locking stitch marker with you, especially if you like knitting on the go. If you drop a stitch you can secure it so it doesn’t unravel any further, and then fix it later.
knitted dishcloth on the needles with stitch markers
Example of how I use stitch markers. I have placed small ring stitch markers (from Chiaogoo) to separate the border stitches from the main part of a dishcloth. The hanging stitch markers (from Pretty Warm Designs) are separating the pattern repeats, making it really easy to spot a mistake. For this pattern, I need to have one purl stitch within every repeat at the same location for a given row.

Stitch markers and lifelines

If you are using a lifeline then you have to pay special attention to not put your lifeline through your stitch markers. If you do then the stitch markers get stuck on the lifeline rather than move up with the rest of the knitting as you progress with more rows. Maryna from 10rowsaday has a nice suggestion for how to get around this problem.

Stitch markers in written patterns

Some knitting patterns will tell you when and where to place stitch markers. They will indicate that you should place a marker with the abbreviation PM. They may also indicate when you need to slip a marker from the left needle to the right needle with either Sl M or SM. Removing the marker may be indicated with RM.

Cheap or free

  • Jump rings for jewelry, for example, these 500 for $ 6 on Amazon
  • Paper clips (instead of locking stitch markers)
  • Scrap yarn in contrast color (make a slip knot)
  • Plastic straws cut into tiny rings
  • Tiny hair rubber bands (best if colored, doesn’t work well on bamboo needles)
  • Clover locking stitch markers, 12 for $ 5.48 on Amazon
  • Stitch marker set on Amazon, for example, this 381 piece kit for $ 8.88

My favorite stitch markers

Cocoknits

knitting tools from Cocoknits
Cocoknits make simple, yet gorgeous stitch markers. These are three of my favorite products from Cocoknits: A flight of stitch markers, a magnetic bracelet to hold your stitch markers, and their locking stitch markers (that they call opening stitch markers).

Pretty Warm Designs

knitting stitch markers from Pretty Warm Designs
Pretty Warm Designs is my go-to supplier of hanging stitch markers. They have so many, and they are all darn cute. Here are two of their current designs, the blue millefiori glass markers, and the rainbow star markers, along with another product I am a fan of, their mini ring markers for lace and sock knitting.

Katrinkles

Stitch markers from Katrinkles
If you are not yet familiar with Katrinkles knitting tools, do yourself a favor and check them out. They have all sorts of fun and useful things for knitters. I’m particularly a fan of the increase/decrease stitch markers, the oh so cute acrylic sock markers, and their stitch marker bracelets.

ETSY Finds

Stitch markers found on ETSY
ETSY is a treasure trove of stitch markers. How about these fair isle sweater markers for your next sweater project, or the weather markers for your temperature blanket? And the cat heads are just adorable.

What are your favorite stitch markers?

Do you have any tips or trick for how to use stitch markers, and what are your favorites? Please leave a comment.

4 thoughts on “Knitting with stitch markers”

  1. I have so many pretty stitch markers, but my favorites are by far the bulb shaped pins. I bought a few hundred in Amazon for about $5. I save my fancy markers for the beginning of a round. Nice post!

  2. Loved the suggestion for cheap ones. Loved the links too! I never thought to use markers for a big cast on. I’m going to use that idea for a blanket I’m making. That might have stopped me from frogging it this week.

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