I realized the other day that while I am always telling people to use stitch markers, I have not illustrated my favorite kind.
Because of the way I use (and lose) my markers, I have learned that the best way to keep enough around to both find and share, is to make my own. I have some rules about my stitch markers (try to contain your surprise):
1. Small Enough. Most stitch markers are way too large for the gauge I usually work with (size 0-4 needles). Using markers that are too large in diameter is not only awkward, it will actually leave vertical valleys in your knitting if the stitches have to stretch around them. This is exacerbated when you change colors adjacent to a marker (which I do a lot). You have to use the smallest possible marker (that you can still see and manipulate).
2. Snagless. I have yet to see any markers available in stores or online which are made the way mine are. When you make a stitch marker from a metal ring (preferable to a plastic one, because it will be finer, see above), the join where the ends of the ring meet will always be a point where the yarn can catch and snag. Undesireable. I have solved the problem with simple craft-store jewelry findings.
3. Pretty. When you are going to hold a tool in your hands for hundreds of hours, why settle for anything ugly? Making your own markers also allows you to have any and all the different colors, shapes and sizes you want. They are inexpensive, and make really good presents for your knitting friends.
When I first made my own markers, a few years ago, it was not possible to buy anything but plain round rings, or the safety-pin type that separate. You can now get really pretty markers very easily, but I still have not seen any that are made the way I do mine: Guaranteed Snagless. The secret is really simple, and today I'm sharing it with you. First, assemble the following:
The most important item in this collection is the small bracelet toggle. They are perfect for stitch markers because they are made in one single piece, with no join. I bought a package containing 9 sets of these yesterday, for $1.99. You'll be using the ring side of the set (you can save the bar side of the set for some other use. And when you find that use, please tell me what it is so I can divest myself of a million toggle bars I have saved). The other bits are readily available, and possibly already in your house. If you don't have the round nose pliers, it's really worth picking up a cheap set - I am not a jewelery or beading person, usually, but I have found many uses for mine. Have fun picking out your beads - just be careful not to have them too large or they will get in your way when you knit. 10 mm or smaller is a good guideline. I like to make my markers in sets of 2 because I use them to mark either side of a steek. So a typical project for me might have 3 sets of 2 markers (center steek, & two armholes), with each set in a different color so I can tell where I am in the round of knitting.
Arrange your beads in a pleasing order on the head pin. I like using bead caps on my markers because they remind me of tiny hats.
Use your round nose pliers to make a loop in the top of the head pin. Make sure to leave a little space between the top bead and the loop. You'll need it for the final step.
Slide the ring from the bracelet toggle set onto the loop you made in the head pin.
Hold the marker by its top loop in one set of pliers, and use the other set to snugly wrap the tail of the head pin around itself. Two or three times around is fine. Trim the end of the tail with your cutters, and gently smoosh it up against the core of the head pin so it can't catch on your yarn.
Finis! Keep making these until you are sick of it, or run out of one or more components. Having enough markers around is crucial so you won't cry or throw things when they get lost. I keep mine in a little clear box in my knitting bag. I bet at the moment there are 20 of them in there, just in case. Of what, I'm not sure. Global stitch marker shortage? Not now that you all know the secret!