Skipping the markers

It’s been a week of good knitting progress so far, and although attention to the Peacock Feathers shawl isn’t quite as far along as I’d like it to be (errr, only 5 weeks away until Sock Summit deadline, HEH), but it’s coming along nicely.


As often happens with lace patterns (and as I have often done myself when writing patterns, and I completely support this approach as an option), this one directs you to use stitch markers to denote pattern repeats on the lace rows. After the second chart or so, when I’d gotten to one of the rows requiring you to shift the markers left or right by one stitch, I decided spontaneously to just ditch the markers altogether. And you know what? It was the best decision ever. I found that I had been paying more attention to the markers than to the emerging lace itself, and that without the markers I was able to focus more on what the lace actually looked like – I was “reading” my knitting much more clearly. It was very much an “ahhhhh” moment.

Sometimes I often think with knitting patterns that if we could just write down what’s in our head, it would save us so much trouble. That if it were just possible to say “okay, so you’re making this lace pattern where there’s a skinny swooshy thing waving around alternating between these other larger leafy swooshy things, and there are yarnovers in between all of them, and you’ll do that for a while until it switches to something different,” then it would all work. But then on the other hand, maybe the process is about getting your own brain to come to that conclusion all on its own?

In the event that this is far too philosophical for a Wednesday, I’ll leave you with a picture of wee Athena, one of my two kitty companions this week. I give her until Friday before she figures out how to send emails and order from Amazon.


Catch you next time! Stay cool, and keep the knitting close by.


  1. pbiljana · ·

    I never ever used SMs for the simple reason that I don’t have any, where I live they don’t sell it and therefore don’t use it (it’s not a knitter friendly country, knitting is considered old lady’s staff, I have been kind of bullied because of my hobby in high school and just recently discovered how cool that is since I find a few knitters’ blogs and ravelry). I thought about buying some on one of my trips after I heard about them, but then again, if I was able to knit not even knowing such thing exist, why would I start using them now. Maybe I will make a few fancy SM, just to own them, since I’m so crafty anyway…

  2. I rarely use stitch markers. The center stitch of a shawl, the end of a round, but not between pattern repeats. I always found them distracting and like you noted, I learned to read my lace and can tell when I mess up a stitch before I get more than a few stitches along because it just doesn’t *look* right.

  3. It’s only a matter of time before you receive a copy of ‘catching mice for dummies’ πŸ™‚

  4. I used to religiously use stitch markers between all my lace repeats. Then I knit a shawl that suggested that I only use markers every three repeats or four. From there I graduated, on my latest shawl, to only marking the edge stitches and the center stitch. And you know? I totally didn’t miss them either! In fact, that was such a lovely, carefree knit. Perhaps stitch markers can be a bit like training wheels sometimes – it’s so nice when they come off!

  5. Athena is adorable! She looks like my Malcolm when he was a wee kitty.

  6. Nebraska Knitter · ·

    Lovely shawl! I have a love/hate relationship with stitch markers. Shuffling them around is a pain but I find it helpful to mark repeats to help with the inevitable tinking back. I think the craziest thing is the way my brain will pick up and make sense of some patterns more quickly than others. Very odd indeed.

  7. I think Athena is far more interested in her tail than in learning to use the computer. For now. πŸ˜‰

  8. Val Champ · ·

    I am still using stitch markers, but for some reason tonight as I worked on my shawl the chart finally started to “click” in my brain. I am new to charts and up till now I had trouble following them. They are faster for sure than written lines, and for now the stitch markers are my ‘safety net’

  9. lykkefanten · ·

    I usually only use markers to denote changes between sections, not in the lace pattern itself… As you say, it’s much more fun and satisfying “reading” the lace that is on the needles instead of paying attention to the markers.

  10. That little kitty is far too cute. (<– soft spot for fuzzy things… which may explain my weakness for yarn!)

    I've never used stitch markers when it comes to knitting lace. I love watching my lace unfold! Also, I feel like if you've really become acquainted with a pattern, soon you'll realize that you shouldn't be decreasing there and uh-oh, you made a mistake in the last repeat.

  11. Elizabeth · ·

    I often ditch the markers as well – I find them irksome to knit past, and as you say, they detract from reading the pattern.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about memory lately (funny what is motivated by background reading for one’s thesis!) and specifically about memory for knitting directions or charted instructions. When I memorize a lace chart, I don’t find it all helpful to translate it to words and memorize it out loud. Somehow, I need to internalize what has to happen – I don’t know if it involves mentally knitting those stitches, but I need to really understand what has to happen. And being able to read my knitting, and understand how the new pattern fits into what has already come, helps this process immensely. Stitch markers don’t seem to help it, particularly. I think I often bracket the pattern differently in my mind than it is on the chart ([SSK,K1,K2tog,YO,K1,YO] rather than [K2tog,YO,K1,YO,SSK,K1], for example), and thats part of my problem with stitch markers too.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t find stitch markers really useful in all kinds of situations, but less so for lace.

  12. Pretty shawl. Love the color and the lace pattern. I find that I use stitch markers sporadically. So far I’ve not made a lot of lace knitting, so maybe that is why. But, what I do knit, I often do absorb and modify from an existing pattern, and then knit what feels right. πŸ™‚

  13. I aspire to get to the point where stitch markers are obsolete but being new to lace, I’ve had to rely on them. I knitted a fairly simple lace cowl last week and didn’t use stitch markers. Big mistake and the project was frogged three times. : )

  14. I like stitch markers for reminding me that it’s time to do something different. I do a lot of my knitting on autopilot, and the marker says “hey! new section!”

  15. Dear Glenna,

    Please send tiny kitty. I will feed her tuna and she can sleep on my pillow.


  16. I love your aaaaahhhh moment! I still love the opportunity when stitch markers work well, but I am slowly getting better at “reading” the lace, and you are right that is so much more satisfying!

  17. michelle in cali · ·

    i do like using stitch markers on lace until i have knitted enough to ‘read’ the knitting. then i ditch them. i never remember that ‘move one stitch over; business.

    they are especially useful when knitting in the round to tell me when it’s a new row. so i like using them and i don’t use them. oh, the irony!

  18. I love your comment about understanding the pattern emerging rather than just relying on stitch markers! I’m so glad I found your blog! I really love your writing style!

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