Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mark It

    Our Ravelry Knitaway Group spring KAL for the Bird's Nest Shawl from Folk Shawls is moving along beautifully.  The knitters have chosen some fabulous yarns for this one.   I believe I am the slowest  knitter among them though I realize that part of it is I am so easily distracted. Perpetual spring fever, I call it.

      When knitting lace however, getting distracted can be a real problem.  Lace is particularly unforgiving in terms of stitch count.  Do not think that you can just "fudge" at the end of the row and have the pattern work out on the next pattern row.   Believe me..I've tried.  Especially on long rows of lace, keeping track is easier if the row is broken up into repeats.  Use markers to do this.  You see I have two different markers in the shawl above; the first marker indicates both the beginning of the lace pattern and the beginning of a right-side row.  I use a fancy marker for that prime spot because it is really annoying to work a right-side row on the wrong-side and vice versa.  The string markers are placed every so many repeats of the lace so that I know if the lace pattern hasn't worked out when I knit to each marker, my error is between the markers, with just a few stitches involved.  This ends the agony of realizing you have knit 344 stitches and gotten off on your pattern back about stitch 99.  Without markers between the repeats, that happens way too often and makes lace knitting rather miserable for many.  Use a marker every repeat or every two or every five, your choice.  It's a tool to make your knitting pleasant for you.  As I am fond of saying to my students, a marker is your friend.

      I know.....some of us are soooo good at knitting that we don't need no stinking markers.  Right.  And some of us are so good at ripping that we look for reasons to do more of it.  I use markers.  And I seem to have quite a collection of them.  Below are some of my favorite fancy markers, shiny and bright, like jewelry for my knitting. I usually reserve these for a special place like the beginning of a round or a seam line.  For me, too many beads makes my knitting too heavy and adds to fatigue in those long hours of design knitting.  I am even more picky.  Fancy markers have to be functional and not just pretty to stay in my knitting bag.  More than one fabulous looking marker with a snaggy join or sloppy, weak ring has ended up recycled into my bead box and I shop very carefully for them now with functionality in mind.  Below are some of my go to favorites.  Though I sadly have not kept track of the makers of each of these handmade beauties, I psychically send them my gratitude each time I slip one of their creations onto my needle.
    And then there are my favorite plain markers, the totally functional, not so pretty but essential tools in the knitter's tool kit. These markers help you count, but they also hold a dropped stitch, or mark a special shaping row, and some can be moved when needed.  They are inexpensive, lightweight, and if you lose one you don't cry (unless, of course, you've also then lost your place in your knitting.  Rats!).
     What do I use the most?  The home made string marker with a long tail is my favorite of all.  I make sure that I always have some string available in my knitting bag to make markers or stitch holders.  The long tail is especially functional in keeping the marker in place when, as so often happens in lace knitting, a yarn over wants to go hopping on over to the next repeat.  I just give the marker's tail a tug and it zips back into place, neatly corralling the yarn over.  Also string markers do not tend to jump out of the knitting like solid plastic or medal rings do.  That's what I like about the rubber "O" ring markers (far right) too, they do not "fly".  Safety pins (coilless please), and safety pin-like markers can be moved and clip in and out of your knitting as needed, as do the old standby "chicken ring" split ring markers.  All handy tools.
     I am a basic organizer nerd and I use the very common variety of plastic divided carrier to hold my markers, functional and sturdy.  I think these were originally created to carry fly fishing flies.  Mine is always in the main knitting tool kit, within easy reach of the knitting nest. 

  And though these plastic organizers now come in tempting bright colors with glitter (oh my!),  I like to be able to see what's in my carrier, so it's basic translucent white for me.  Except of course when I find a tin I cannot resist.  I use my "Smoochers" tin in my travel supply bag.  It is not organized but it's compact, holds what I need when traveling, and makes me (and other knitters) smile.  And yes, I bought the candy just for the tin.  Ever done that?
   So what markers do you have in your bag of knitting tricks and why?  I'd love to know.  You may have something I need to add to my collection.  And please join us in the Knitaway group spring KAL on Ravelry.  We're having some fun.

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