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Stranded Knitting: Post 12, Using Markers (Video Episode 13)

Using markers

A whole section on using markers? Seriously?

Markers can be very useful…in more ways than indicating the beginning of the round.

Here is a list of how I use markers for stranded work. Granted some of these methods can also be used for non-stranded work…and odds are, you probably have used markers in all of these ways. Maybe you have a few marker uses not mentioned below. If so, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you have come up wit

Beginning of the round – This one is obvious. Stranded work is generally worked in the round, so a marker to indicate the beginning of the round is very useful. It is also helpful if this beginning marker is different from any other markers used. This can be as easy as using a brass marker as a beg rnd marker and the rest colors…or as cute as a squirrel as the beg rnd and acorns for the rest of the makers.

Counting cast on stitches – When casting on a large number of stitches, markers can be used to indicate groups of stitches...i.e. placing a marker every 10 or 25 stitches. You can do this a couple of ways. Count to the desired stitch number (10 or 25), stop and place a marker…or cast on a larger number of stitches, then stop, count desired stitch number and place an open marker. The later method allows you to cast on mindlessly until you get tired and then count.

Or you can do what I do….start off casting on 25 stitches, stop and place a marker…then get tired of counting and stopping and just cast on mindlessly and count later. :)

Set off steek stitches – Another obvious one. Placing a marker before and after steek stitches helps to delineate these stitches from the rest of the garment…and means you don’t inadvertently carry your stranded pattern right through the steek. (Ask how I know this!) These markers are also good for indicating when you need to work some shaping on either side of the opening for which the steek is a placeholder…i.e. front/back neck or armhole opening.

Set off motif repeats – Like most things that look complicated, when you break them down into smaller sections, the work becomes easier to manage. As applied to stranded knitting, placing markers between motif repeats reduces the work to the size of the stitch repeat. In other words, in a pattern with a 16 stitch repeat, instead of worrying about a round of 256 stitches, with markers you can concentrate on only 16 stitches at a time.

It is also helpful if these motif markers are different than the steek and beg rnd markers.

Indicate front and back – Sometimes it is useful to have different stitch makers for the front than for the back…if nothing more than to give you a sense of progress.

My favorite markers are the little rubber rings (o-rings). For the longest time, you could only get these rings in black and red. Armed with little bags of rubber rings, I used black makers for the front and red makers for the back. Somehow moving from the black markers to the red markers made me feel like I was getting somewhere…a sense of progress, like I said.

Now I can find these little rings in all sorts of colors…red, orange, green, etc. Do I still use them in different colors on the front and back of a garment? Usually not…hey, I am lucky to put a hand on any markers, as they are generally cohabitating in mixed colors in the bottom of my knitting bag. Time to clean out the knitting bag and sort the markers into colors? Yes. Do I have time? Not in the least.

Indicate sections of garment – Like separating motif repeats, when it comes to indicating sections of a garment, markers are the best.

· A marker at the right and left side can help with waist shaping, as well as where to place armhole steeks.

· A marker at center front can help with placing the front neck…especially a V-neck. This marker can also help with centering a motif….which we will talk about in a bit.

· Markers placed to set off thumb and/or finger stitches can be very useful when working on mittens or gloves.

· I am not much of a sock knitter (blasphemy, I know), but I would presume heel stitches as well as bottom and top stitches would be benefit from the use of markers.

Visual cue to weave in new colors – This is one of my favorites….mostly because I like to weave in new colors a few stitches before the end of the previous round. The trouble is I kept mindlessly knitting and before I knew it I was at the beginning of the round and I hadn’t woven in the new color. This revelation was followed by a heavy sigh (or loud-ish oath, depending) and tinking the round back a few stitches to do the weaving.

Now I have a different colored marker 6 or 8 stitches before the end of the round to wake me up to check to see if a new color was needed for the next round. This one marker considerably cut down on my tinking quota…and oath making.

Visual cue to end decreases – Not necessarily exclusive to stranded work, but you know those instruction that say something like “decrease 1 st on either side of the marker every 4th rnd 8 times” followed by the stitch count you are supposed to have at the end of the decreases?

Say this is a top down sleeve with decreases to the wrist....and the final count at the wrist is 56 sts after the decrease. I was doing the decreases as indicated and every so often counting the stitches on the needle to see how close I was to the needed 56 sts. One day it struck me how to use a marker to help this process.

Say your stitch count at the top of the sleeve is 122 stitches. If you subtract 56 from 122, you get a total of 66 stitches decreased. Since you are decreasing on either side of the marker, you will decrease 2 stitches per round. Then you count 33 sts (66/2) from the marker and place another different maker. (You can also place another marker on the other side of the central marker, if you would like, but it is not necessary.)

Then you can just decrease until you reach this new marker without stopping to count stitches or keeping track of the number of times you decrease. Now all I need to count is whatever the round count is before I need to decrease again...every 4th round...or every 6th round...etc.

You are probably reading this and thinking…that is a heck of a lot of markers, missy.

Here’s how I handle them…

Beg rnd - brass

Motif makers – any color but red, white, or black

Section markers (center front and sides) - red

Steeks – black

Visual cue markers - white

You understand this is when I have all of the markers separated into little color coordinated piles. The reality is I will sometimes use an open or locking marker hanging off of another marker for the beg rnd….or barring that, I’ll use brass or white…something that will stand out…as beg rnd and whatever I can put my hands on for the rest.

This “whatever I can grab” method does mean I have to pay attention to what job the markers are doing as I come to them. Sometimes easier on the front end isn’t always easier on the back end.

How do you use your markers?

Next time: Color dominance.


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