Stitch Markers: When and Where to Use Them
I discovered stitch markers accidentally, when I received a lovely crochet gift from my sister-in-law. The package included several crochet hooks, in a case, and stitch markers as a bonus. Of course, I was very excited about the hooks and case and didn’t think much about the stitch markers as I hadn’t used them before. Now I know just how important they are, as they have saved me from making many errors. Since then, I have experimented with different types of stitch markers in different situations and with different yarn types.
From Wikipedia, the definition of a stitch marker is: “In crochet, a stitch marker is a mnemonic device used to distinguish important locations on a work in progress. Crochet patterns have a mathematical basis, so stitch markers serve as a visual reference that takes the place of continuous stitch counting and reduces a crocheter's error rate.” I agree and disagree with this quote as I believe stitch markers are so much more than a visual reference, and I don’t believe they take the place of continuous counting – more on that later.
There are generally two categories of stitch markers: open and closed (or locking). Some sources seem to prefer the open stitch markers for crocheting and the closed stitch markers for knitting. As my focus is crochet, I cannot comment on knitting, but I will say that I find both open and closed useful in crocheting, but often for different purposes as one does have to be careful when using the open stitch markers as they can become loose or fall out of the fabric.
When to use open vs. closed stitch markers?
Generally, I use open stitch markers when I want a quick insertion and I try to choose the correct size of open stitch marker for the yarn. If you choose an open stitch marker that is too large for the yarn, it will fall out easily; therefore, you don’t want to place it in a crucial location where it would cause an error or a time-consuming re-count. Similarly, some yarn is very slippery and the open stitch markers will sometimes lose their position easily. In these cases, I prefer to use closed stitch markers as they are more secure and less likely to fall out.
Home-made stitch markers can also be used. Common examples of open home-made markers are yarn, in a different colour or weight, embroidery thread, and paper clips (plastic coated or plain). Safety pins and old jewellery can sometimes be used for closed stitch markers, but they can pull on some yarns and may pose challenges if they get stuck.
The beauty of stitch markers is that they can be used in a variety of ways: for marking or identifying specific stitches or locations on the fabric, or for holding or counting stitches.
Stitch markers are commonly used to mark or identify:
the first stitch on a crochet round. This is especially helpful to differentiate between the top of the first stitch and a ch 1 at the beginning of a round that doesn’t count as a stitch.
the last stitch on a crochet round
the turning chain, which can sometimes go unnoticed because it doesn’t have the same stitch top as the remaining stitches
an increase stitch
a decrease stitch
key stitch(es) in a complex stitch pattern
the location where another crochet piece will be attached
When used for holding or counting stitches, stitch markers are also very helpful in the following situations:
counting rows or rounds that have been completed, which is especially useful in plush yarns where stitch definition is difficult to see
counting stitches within a long piece of fabric e.g., placing a stitch marker every 20 stitches helps to break up the counting into small amounts so it is not so onerous
holding the last stitch made to prevent it from unravelling, especially if you have cats in the house or are travelling
holding pieces together while attaching them. This is quite helpful in making sure one side of the fabric doesn’t stretch more than the other and that the ends meet up when stitching or seaming together is finished.
When I read the definition posted above, I was struck by the phrase ‘takes the place of continuous stitch counting’ as I don’t know if this is possible. Perhaps it is just me, but I find stitch markers actually help me with continuous stitch counting, and if I don’t count, I inevitably make a mistake. And who likes FROGGING?
Keep Cozy while Coiling!