Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Friend the Stitch Marker

I find it strange that crochet patterns rarely tell you what to do with stitch markers. Sure many articles that outline the supplies you’ll need to begin crocheting insist that stitch markers will be a must-have, but after that you’re pretty much left up to your own devices to figure out when and how to use them.

Flat Objects
Crocheting in rounds I get, but as soon as I have to do rows, I find I always get mixed up on where to put the first and last stitches of my rows. My practice pieces come out either getting larger or smaller with each row, even though they’re supposed to be staying the same size.

As a result, I’ve started using stitch markers to show me where to place my last stitch long before I get there. When I’m making the chain at the start of a row I pop a stitch marker in the last link of the chain so that I know this is the last place I’ll make a stitch when I come to the end of the row later.

Repetitive Patterns

I just finished making this Float Away Scarf and through it all my stitch markers were a lifesaver. The pattern has a series of stitches that you have to repeat about a dozen times across the chain. Each time I made the last stitch of of this repeated section, I put in a stitch marker. That way if I arrived at the end of the row and things were uneven, I could easily see each time I had worked the repeated section and only unravel the piece up to the portion where I’d made a mistake. Much easier than unraveling a random amount and then trying to figure out which stitch I needed to do next to continue the pattern.

Here's a photo of the scarf while it was still in progress, you can see how I've placed the markers at the end of each repeat.

When working in the round to make stuffed animals I find it’s best to have two colours of stitch markers. Use one colour to mark the beginning of each round, and use the other one to mark the stitches where you will need to increase or decrease. I tend to drop stitches and get confused when I’m working on the decreasing rounds of a pattern. I use my secondary colour of stitch markers to stake out the stitches in which a decrease will need to be done before I begin the round. As I make my way around, I slip the stitch marker back into the last stitch of the decrease. When I look back and try to count how many decreases have been done I can see where the last decrease was made. It’s a bit more time consuming than just counting in your head, but if you're someone who easily loses their place it can save you a lot of unraveling.

Unlike knitting stitch markers, crochet stitch markers are open at one end or open-able (some click shut). If you’re not quite ready to spend money on markers, some common household items you can use in the meantime include paper clips, safety pins, small pieces of wire or pipe cleaner, twist ties, and even earrings that have wire backings.

Stitch markers should go under both arms of the V that is the top of your stitch, the same place where you'd place your hook if you were about to make a new stitch.

When purchasing stitch markers be sure to get ones that are small enough for the work you're doing. If you can still see a hole where your marker was after you pull it out, then the markers you're using are too big and they're stetching the stitches out of shape.

Want the Pattern?
The Float Away Scarf is a free pattern available from Knitting Daily and you can find it here.

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