I recently had a conversation with a fellow knitter about stitch markers. There had been a little confusion about removable versus non-removable stitch markers, and I realized that maybe some other folks would benefit from a little discussion about the types of markers and all the wonderful ways you can use them.
First up, there’s the non-removable kind. These can be a wide variety of objects, from spare bits of yarn that you knot at one end to circular or triangular bits of plastic. You could use metal washers that you find at home improvement shops. There are tons and tons of handmade options available from sites such as Etsy. Your local yarn store probably has a good selection, as well! (You can use our Store Locator to find a yarn store near you that carries Berroco yarns and probably has a range of stitch markers.)
These stitch markers have to be placed on the needles as you’re working. Many patterns indicate when to use them with the instructions “place marker.” On the following rows, when you come to the marker, you slip the marker from one needle to the other to maintain the marker’s position.
I love to use these kinds of stitch markers in many different ways. Many patterns have you place stitch markers when you are working a series of increases or decreases, so you know at which point you’ll need to work the stitches to make them line up nicely. I use them to cast-on large numbers of stitches to ensure that I end up with the correct number (or close enough). I also use stitch markers to separate out pattern repeats, so that I know pretty quickly when I get slightly off track. I wrote about using markers to indicate the lace pattern repeats of our Odora shawl, but you can also use stitch markers to differentiate between the cable repeats of this week’s free pattern, Emilia.
Then you have removable markers, or locking markers. These markers have an opening that “locks” into place. There are, again, a wide variety of these types of markers, or you could use safety pins (coiless safety pins are the preferred option, as those little coils can get caught in the yarn). These markers work well for both knitting and crochet.
These stitch markers can be placed on the needles as you’re working, but they can also be placed after the fact. They also can be placed in stitches themselves. Typically when you see an instruction to place a removable marker (as opposed to just “place marker”), the patterns are letting you know that you’re going to need to remove this at a later time. Also pay attention to what the pattern is telling you—in Davit, for example, there’s an instruction to “Mark first and last sts…with removable markers.” Since the pattern is saying to mark the stitches, you’ll want to place the removable markers on the stitches themselves, not on the needles.
This type of stitch marker also has a variety of uses! I tend to use them as both regular and removable stitch markers, but in that instance, it’s very helpful to have different colors of markers if a pattern calls for both removable and non-removable markers. I just started a new crochet project and I placed a removable marker in every 20 loops as I was starting to help me count the stitches. And you can place them in stitches as you are working crochet to help you easily find the start of a new round. They’re great to use when you’re picking up stitches and want to make sure you do so evenly. And if you need to keep track of your work vertically, as in how many rows you’ve worked, they’re great for that too!
Do you have any other tips and tricks for using stitch markers? Let us know in the comments!