Yarn Stitch Markers for Lace Knitting

Whenever I knit lace, admittedly I look for pretty patterns that stay neatly between my stitch markers.  Even though the lace for Ishbel is simple, its set-up doesn’t allow for such structure.  Part of the pattern has a 3-stitch decrease, which gives the slant to the pattern.  However, this decrease also falls at the end of a pattern repeat, which means a pattern marker falls in the middle of the decrease. The marker needs to be removed to create the decrease, and then replaced.

To resolve this problem I did two things.  First, I moved the repeat over, so that the decrease began the pattern repeat.  Second, I decided to use strands of a contrasting yarn to weave in and out of the pattern.  This would allow me to not worry about markers falling off, or needing to be slid off needles with the potential for being dropped on the floor.  I chose to continue unraveling my poor Albatross Socks* and use its yarn.  The wine red of the yarn contrasts nicely with the turquoise of Ishbel, and its hard twist and fineness make it durable enough not to unravel while being used.  Also, it doesn’t stick to the turquoise yarn, or flake off little fluffs of color that will need to be picked out of Ishbel later on.

Yarn for Stitch Markers

It actually makes sense to use leftover yarn for stitch markers.  They probably did before the advent of modern knitting tools, such as plastic and metal rings to slide onto needles.  These markers could have been knotted into loops and strung individually between stitches, or as separate strands, woven back and forth as the knitting progressed.  I tried the former years ago, just because I didn’t have enough plastic ones.  They worked great – until I knitted them up into the pattern!  So, I came up with the idea of strands, which I pop back and forth as I work my pattern.  Not very easy to knit up a strand of yarn, and easy to move the strand from front to back, or back to front, using the hand not holding the yarn – for me, this is my left hand, as I am a right-handed knitter.

I have also found that a yarn has to be rather hard and un-fuzzy to work well.  Cotton yarn, if mercerized, is very nice because it is a firm thread.  Unmercerized cotton yarn is linty, and sheds onto the fabric being knit.  If you use cotton yarn for a stranded marker, be aware that it might want to unravel – cotton yarn doesn’t stick to itself like wool does.  Woolen sock yarn with a tight twist is one of my favorites to use for a pattern marker.

Making the Stranded Yarn Markers

To make yarn markers is very easy, and is just like making a pompom in the first steps. I use a book to wrap the yarn around. This book is about 5×8 inches. The yarn is wrapped around it, and then cut on one end only. Thus, the strand will be about 10 inches long.

Because the yarn was in a sock, it is all kinky, but this is actually a nice thing! As the yarn is used, it curls up, and stays out of the way of the turquoise. And, because it is wool, it actually lies close to the body Ishbel while I knit.

Setting Up Yarn Stitch Markers

Once the strands of yarn are cut, begin knitting the pattern as required. Wherever the stitch pattern begins and ends is where a strand is laid across the row below it, in between the last and first stitch of each lace pattern repeat. I usually drape the strand evenly, front and back, to lessen its chance of falling out, or being tugged out. As you progress in your knitting, the chances of the yarn being pulled out lessens.

Continue laying out the strands until the entire pattern area is marked.

Observe Your Knitting

As you can see from the above pictures, the strands are placed along the pattern repeats. This was done as the lace was established on the knit side. Returning along, purling, you can see what the strand will look like when you have knit passed its initial placement, turned your work, and are now purling.

This picture shows you what to do: simply bring one of the strand ends forward (or backward, your choice). You have now marked the next row.

This picture shows marking strands on either side of Ishbel’s fabric.

As your knitting progresses, you will begin to see the advantage of using stranded yarn to mark pattern repeats. I let the beginning of the strand dangle on the wrong side of the fabric; for Ishbel this is the purl side. The reason for doing this is that it does not leave a contrasting line dangling where it can distract me if I need to check my work. As the picture below shows, the strand weaves in and out as the knitting progresses.

On the front side, the yarn strands do not detract from observing if the lace pattern has any mistakes. If you look carefully, you can see the red yarn slants a bit here and there – that is because of the 3-stitch decreases creating diagonal stitches.

Finally, the strands will work their way through the entire pattern as Ishbel progresses. Even if there is not enough length for all the pattern repeats, a gentle tug will pull the stranding markers through the fabric. When Ishbel is finished, I will simply pull out all the yarn markers, and re-use them in another project.

Another Reason for Stranded Yarn Markers

In addition to using strands of yarn as markers for Ishbel, I have used them whenever a pattern calls for a regular marker movement.  Simply picking up a strand of yarn when the marker is ready to be moved is so easy compared to

  • slipping off a stitch,
  • manually removing the marker,
  • replacing the stitch on the left-hand needle,
  • putting the marker on the right-hand needle, and
  • continuing until all markers have been moved!

Anything to make lace knitting easier is worth doing, don’t your think?


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