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Keeping Count

Lanesplitter with stitch markers

Lanesplitter with bling

I love stitch markers. I use them on pretty much every knitting project. I use them to mark edge stitches, increases, decreases, anywhere I have to remember to do something. When I’m knitting any kind of lace, I put a stitch marker after every single repeat, even if it’s only a few stitches. On the wrong side of the work (often just purling), I count the stitches in each repeat as I work my way across, so I can catch and correct errors (usually missed yarn-overs) before I’m two more rows down the pattern & wondering why I don’t have enough stitches to finish the row.

For my Lanesplitter Skirt, I cast on 130 stitches with a provisional cast-on, then worked on the bias. The total stitch count doesn’t change, but at the beginning of every row, you decrease one stitch, and at the end of every row, you increase one stitch. Now this may be the sort of thing that other knitters can remember without any trouble at all, but I know myself well enough to know that at some point, I’ll miss one of those increases or decreases. (Heck, I did that somewhere in my tiny gauge swatch!) So what to do? I could stop every few rows and count the number of stitches on my needle, but I really don’t want to have to count 130 stitches over and over again.

Or I could use stitch markers. I used four of them, which I first placed at 5 and 15 stitches in from either edge. After the first right side row, I had 4 stitches to the right side of the first marker and 6 stitches to the left side of the last marker. So at the end of each row, I know that the stitches in front of the first marker plus the stitches after the last marker must equal ten. When I run out of stitches at the start of the row, I move to the next marker, and replace the original marker ten stitches in. (Using the second marker also lets me easily orient one or the other markers if I happen to lose one.) This system has worked like a charm for me; my stitch count has stayed constant, and I haven’t needed to stop and count 130 stitches yet.

Rajkovich Designs Stitch Markers

Aren't they pretty??

When I first started knitting, I just used the plastic stitch markers from my local craft store. I lost so many in the sofa that I swore I’d never use the nice, jewelry-like ones that I saw women in my local knitting group using. But then my friend Brenda (a talented jewelry designer) gave me a set of her pretty stitch markers, and I have to admit: I was hooked.

So I bought some jewelry wire and beads and a pair of pliers and I made a set of stitch markers myself.

Homemade stitch markers

Not quite so pretty!

They aren’t nearly as pretty or as beautifully crafted as Brenda’s, but I like them, and I can replace them as needed if my sofa gets hungry.

Plus… they make my Lanesplitter-in-progress look pretty, don’t they?

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Tools

Stitch MarkersA lovely and talented friend of mine gave me this wonderful set of stitch markers the other day:

Aren’t they neat?  I know I will enjoy using them.  Not only are they attractive, they’re  a knitting tool that will make my projects easier.  (I can’t imagine tackling a complicated lace project without stitch markers.  Ouch!!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about knitting tools lately.  My husband loves to say that you need the right tool for the job, and I think this one of those cliches that became a cliche because it’s so frequently true.  When you have the wrong tool (or the right tool in poor condition) a simple or enjoyable task can become tedious or frustrating, and the results may not be what you hoped for.  If you’re going to chop vegetables, would you prefer to use a dull, rusted knife with a flimsy blade or a well-balanced knife with a good, sharp edge?

Knitting tools are no different.  Good tools can make your knitting easier and more enjoyable, and can help you finish your projects faster and obtain the results you want. 

So what tools are in your knitting bag?  First off, of course, are your knitting needles.  I blogged about my new pair of Signature knitting needles the other day.  They have very sharp, slick points, so I can execute even tricky stitches like k3tog or p2tog tbl with ease.  The cables are very flexible, and they turn freely where they join the needle, so my stitches won’t become tangled or distorted. These needles are expensive, but they make lace knitting easier and more enjoyable for me, so I think they are well worth the price tag.  I also have two sets of Signature double-pointed needles that I use for sock knitting.

I also use and enjoy my Knit Picks nickel-plated needles.  They are also very slick, so even bulky sweater yarns glide along them with ease.  The interchangeable needles make it easy (and afforable) to always have just the right length of cable, and I have found that I can swap between the circular needles and the double-pointed needles as I work from sweater to sleeve without worrying about changes in gauge.

As you can tell, I prefer metal needles.  I started out knitting with wood needles, but my stitches were so tight that I felt like I was fighting to move the yarn along the slightly “grippy” surface wood needles provide.  But I know other knitters who refuse to use anything but wood needles; they find metal needles too slick or too cold or too inflexible to use comfortably.  Still other knitters prefer needles made of plastic, carbon fiber (the same material used to make Stealth Bombers), or even milk

So I’m curious… what needles do you use?  And why?