Stitch markers are a valuable tool for knitting, and your use of them will vary depending on your personality, knitting ability, and how hard you like to concentrate. I use them a lot because I want my knitting to be as relaxing and easy as possible.
There are 2 basic types of stitch markers: ones that slip onto your needle to help you keep track of your stitches and others that are repositionable because they open and close. The latter style is the most versatile because it can be slipped on your needle or pinned to your fabric.
Within each basic type, there’s a myriad of styles. You can even tie small loops from leftover yarn to make stitch markers.
I recently completed the Cinnamon Girl Cardigan and it is the perfect project for which to demonstrate how to use stitch markers.
Using Stitch Markers to Track Your Stitches
Generally, I like to use color coded stitch markers to delineate certain parts of my pattern. This helps immensely with bigger or more complicated projects – especially when you are interrupted mid-row. When you have to put your work down, it is MUCH easier to figure out where you left off if you have strategically placed stitch markers.
The photo below shows a portion of my sweater. Chart A is outlined by green stitch markers, Chart B is outlined by purple stitch markers. There is a plastic stitch marker to mark the side “seam”. (The pattern instructs us to use the seam markers as they are useful for doing the waist shaping. There is no seam, but if there was, it would be there.)
I did not use markers to mark my twisted stitches. I recognize them well enough to be able to do them on the fly, but if you aren’t comfortable reading your knitting then you could mark them with a different color or type of marker.
To learn about reading knitting charts, check out our Reading Knitting Charts tutorial.
Using Stitch Markers to Track Your Rows
It can be hard to count rows in cable patterns. To keep track of which row you’re on, put a marker in a stitch in the row in which the cable is done. (Put the marker in a stitch you just knit off the needle; not the loop on the needle.)
Then, count the rows from the stitch marker to see where you’re at in the pattern. Use the same method for tracking on which rows to do increases or decreases.
I sometimes do this even when I’m using a row counter because I occasionally forget to adjust my row counter.
Other Uses for Stitch Markers
- Use a stitch marker to mark the beginning of your round. I like to pin my marker to the fabric between the first and last stitch of the round. If I forget where the beginning of the round is, I just find that stitch marker and follow the “path” from it up to the row I’m working on. Every 10 rounds or so I’ll move it up closer to the current round.
- When I’m knitting 2-at-a-time socks (or sleeves, or mittens,…), I always mark the beginning of the round (or row) as described above of the first sock only. That way, I can tell at a glance whether I’m halfway through or finished with a round (or row).
- Mark the right side of the fabric. New knitters find this especially helpful, though it can be helpful in some projects for more experienced knitters too (think ribbing).
Simply knit a few rows/rounds and pin a stitch marker on the right side of the fabric. No more guessing if your on a right side or wrong side row. If the stitch marker is facing you, you’re on a right side row.
- Delineate pattern repeats: If a pattern has a stitch repeat, it’s very helpful to put a stitch marker between each repeat. The benefit of doing this is that you discover your mistakes mid-row instead of the end of the row. For example, if a pattern says:
Row 1: *k4, p2, ktb, p2, repeat from * 5 times
(ktb=knit through the back loop)
This is a 9 stitch repeat so I would put a stitch marker after each set of 9 stitches. If you get to a stitch marker and you’ve run out of stitches OR if you have extra stitches left when you complete repeat before you get to the stitch marker, you know you either just made a mistake or you made a mistake in that section on the row below.
**NOTE: It is not common, but there are patterns that have repeats with differing numbers of stitches on each row. Stitch markers are not much help in those patterns. High levels of concentration are.
- Hold dropped stitches: This probably never happens to you, but occasionally I have a dropped stitch. It is quite handy to put a stitch marker through that stitch to keep it from unraveling until you can fix it.
- To keep track of long cast ons. When casting on hundreds of stitches, I like to place a removable stitch marker every 50 stitches to aid in counting. Use removable stitch markers so that if you miscounted, you can move the marker. Remove these markers before placing any markers called for in the pattern.
Aside from needles, stitch markers are the knitting tool I use the most. Each of the projects in the Knit Along Club includes lessons on how to use stitch markers (and other techniques) to enable you to speed through your projects with fewer mistakes and frustrations. Learn more at https://knitalongclub.com/.