My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


To Mark Or Not To Mark

That is the question.

In the photo of my shawl in progress yesterday, you may have noticed that I have the pattern repeats marked with stitchmarkers. I have since removed the markers.

Most of the time, I prefer to knit lace without stitchmarkers. I put them in this project, because I took it with me to work on at the yarn shop on Monday. I knew I’d be talking to people while knitting, picking it up and putting it down mid-row, etc. In that scenario, I’m happier having markers to keep me on track.

But when I’m knitting in solitude (and this is how most of my knitting is done), I’m happier without the markers. I find that for me, they get in the way of the “big picture” of the lace. I also find it annoying to have to slip them as I knit. Even more annoying — when a marker is in the middle of a maneuver that requires that I move the marker one stitch to the left or right. Know what I mean?

Take a look at this chart:

This is an all-over lace pattern that has a 6-stitch repeat, which is shown on the chart with dotted lines. The even-numbered rows are not shown, because they are all simply purled.

Note that on Row 5 of the chart, the beginning of the repeat comes in-between a yarn-over and a double decrease (sl 1, k2tog, psso).

Okay, you start working Row 5 — you have three stitches before your first repeat marker, right? The chart tells you to knit 2, yarn-over before the marker. But you still have 1 stitch left before the marker. That’s because the yarn-over makes your third stitch before the marker, and that 1 stitch is part of the double decrease on the other side of the marker — that “sl 1, k2tog, psso” maneuver takes up only 1 stitch on the chart, because there is a yarn-over on each side of it there to compensate for those 2 stitches that are decreased. But because it is in the middle of a pattern repeat, you have to move your danged stitchmarker one stitch to the right before every repeat.

Of course, if you think ahead, you can make this move on Row 4 — as you purl across move each marker one stitch to the left (left instead of right because you are on the back side of the work, going in the opposite direction).

Still, I prefer to do away withe the markers entirely.

Lucy sez:

“I’ve got my eye on you!”


  1. I agree – I don’t use stitch markers much and certainly not if the stitch pattern does not keep the increases and decreases in the same set of stiches each time. I don’t like moving stitch markers, but there are some really cute ones out there!

  2. I did notice your stitch markers in your Herzblut Wollmeise shawl at Fibre Space on Monday. I’m tending to use them more myself these days, your shawl looks so daring without them!
    I’ve been looking through my new shawlette patterns and wondered if you noticed a difference between 2-ply yarn (that the shawlettes were done in) and multi-ply yarn, such as your current shawl. I’ve learned in my spinning classes that 2-ply is better for lace. Your Herzblut shawl is coming along very nicely.

  3. RedfordPhyl says:

    When I feel the need to use markers on a pattern like this, I use tiny rubber bands, like the ones used with braces. Before I start the row in question, I use my beading crochet hook to pull the bands through the stitches. Only takes a minute doing it that way. I use a colored marker to highlight the rows on the chart that need the extra attention. Easy peasy.

  4. As you know (now), I’m a hardcore repeat separating, stitch marker using woman. I have a hard time seeing “the big picture” sometimes, so it helps for me to immediately know if I’m off on stitch count within a repeat, because I HATE tinking back lace (but I will do it to avoid an error in the FO).

  5. Lynda Hitt says:

    I didn’t use stitch markers on the Stacy Shawl and wished the I had a few times when I was off by two or three stitches and didn’t know where. I was having a terrible time counting to 15 on that shawl for some reason but it’s done now and I don’t have to worry any more

  6. like you, I tend to use markers if I’m not going to be able to concentrate on the pattern or think I’ll have interruptions mid-row. It also depends upon the pattern: I’m more likely to use them with a more complicated pattern.
    .-= Ina´s last blog ..Adapting lace knitting instructions and weather update =-.

  7. crazycrafter says:

    Funny name, that! Herzblut. Huh. Never heard anything quite like that before!

    Hannah, age 12

  8. I always have to mark anymore. My brain can get interupted if some one sneezes! I can at least count between the makers to know where I made a boo. Of all the things I have misplace or lost since turning 50 I have to say I mis my mind the most!!!

  9. I do something a little like RedfordPhyl’s trick only I make markers out of loops of contrasting yarn with fairly long tails still attached. The tails end up stranded through several rows of completed knitting so I can pull a marker out and let it hang there while I do the next stitch, then pick it back up again.
    Every time I decide I don’t need them anymore, I end up very, very sorry.

  10. I’m not a fan of using the markers either. They don’t do much for me. I generally just ignore them.

    Plus, easy to lose on the subway.
    .-= Virginia´s last blog ..Still in the Boring Phase =-.

  11. I do not use stitch markers very much either. Your new project is looking great.
    .-= SockPixie´s last blog ..The American Girl Doll Retro Cardi Free Pattern is Ready! =-.

  12. I agree 100% with you. No life lines, either.
    .-= Chery´s last blog ..New Shawl =-.

  13. Thank you very much. I’m glad to know there’s another knitter who prefers working lace without markers. I only use them when I have trouble focusing or when pattern involves large number of sts.
    .-= southparknitter´s last blog ..Shearing day in the snow =-.

  14. I am definitely a stitch marker minimalist. I prefer very simple stitch markers and use them sparingly. I usually just use them to separate major sections like main pattern from border, or to indicate a center stitch. Otherwise, for me, they interrupt the flow of my laceknitting, and seem to lead to more errors if I have to move them about to create a particular stitch.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Ten Thumbs on Tuesday =-.

  15. I don’t mind using stitch markers. They keep me from wandering off track and i don’t feel that they slow me down all that much. The benefit outweighs the negative for me.

  16. fibercrone says:

    Except in lace knitting, I’m comfortable using markers. Up until recently I’ve used simple markers (rings or rubber bands) to separate repeats in lace knitting. The thing is, the more lace projects I knit the more problems I have with the rings slipping under stitches, especially yarn overs, which totally messes up the number of stitches within a repeat system. Lately, I’ve been thinking about using markers between, say, every third repeat instead of every repeat.

  17. I am also a stitch marker minimalist. I can’t stand all that slipping–I just want to knit and not stop! So I use markers that will clip to a stitch, and place them along major section boundaries or at each quarter of a circular piece. I’ll move them ahead as I knit to keep them in plain sight for quick checks.

    I’ve yet to use a lifeline, but if I ever do a complicated lace with patterning on all rows, I will probably need to. I tried true lace once and went down in flames–I’m pretty happy with simple lace patterns on every other row!

  18. @crazycrafter: it’s German for “heart’s blood”. I used to sing in German (had a German granny!), “Du, du liebst mier en herzen. Du, du liebst mier en sine.” I’ve probably misspelled part of that — it’s been a long time! My niece is your age and has been knitting for about a year now.
    .-= AnnBan´s last blog ..More progress, but it’s a slow event. =-.

  19. I don’t tend to use stitch markers either. Sometimes it is helpful for the beginning of a project when the repeats are still gelling in the mind, but after 2-3 repeats I usually can do the knitting in my sleep. Mostly I use my markers to remind me of where to increase and decrease in a sweater pattern. Very exciting!

  20. Same with so-called “lifelines”. I invested the time into learning how to read my knitting than bother with lifelines or stitch markers. If there’s a misteak, I find it on the wrong side row and can fix it. Much quicker, much more rewarding!