Intro: Knitting Stitch Markers
These are super-easy stitch markers. They can be made in a few minutes, cost little and require no special tools or skills, although a pair of crimp pliers would be useful. Knitters can slip them on the needle to mark where to work shaping (e.g. increases or decreases, short rows) or to divide up pattern repeats when knitting a lace pattern.
The instructions are for medium sized markers that will suit knitting needles between about 2.75mm and 4.5 mm (UK 12-7, US 2-7). You can easily make them bigger if you generally knit with thicker yarn, just use bigger beads and a longer length of tiger tail for each one.
The materials below will make 6 small stitch markers and one larger one, which I'll call the king marker. There are occasions where it's useful to have one that stands out from the rest to avoid confusion, e.g. when the pattern calls for a travelling marker that is moved from row to row.
Tools and materials
- 0.5m of tiger tail
- 7 tiny (1mm diameter) seed/rocaille beads
- 8 crimp beads, 2mm diameter
- 7 pretty beads, 6-8mm diameter
- One larger drop bead in a toning colour
- Wire cutters
- Crimping pliers (or ordinary pliers with smooth jaws)
- A 4mm knitting needle (or anything else of approximately that diameter)
Tiger tail is plastic coated steel wire that is widely used for jewellery making and is usually stocked by shops that sell beads. It comes in various qualities. For this project you need the fine, cheaper type, not the better quality 7-stranded type which is too thick to pass doubled through tiny seed beads.
Choose your crimp beads in a finish to match the tiger tail, e.g. gold, copper or whatever. The seed beads could be the same finish, or a colour that works well with the main beads. For the main beads, it's worth finding attractive ones rather than just using any old plastic beads that you happen to have lying around. You only need a few and they won’t cost much if your local bead shop sells them singly. I used moss agate for my pretty beads, with dyed mother-of-pearl for the dropper of the king marker.
Step 1: Making the Loop
Cut a 5cm (2") length of tiger tail and pass one end through a seed bead. Feed the other end back through it, to make a loop. Be careful not to bend the tiger tail too sharply or it will kink permanently.
If you have trouble getting a double thickness of tiger tail through the tiny hole in the bead, try another one, they do vary in size. (And as seed beads are generally sold by weight, you probably have dozens more than you need.) Also, check that the end of the tiger tail that you are trying to feed through the bead is cleanly cut and not splayed out. Trim it if necessary.
Then slip the loop onto your 4mm knitting needle and adjust it to give a loose fit with the ends of the tiger tail even. The loop should slide easily on the needle so that the finished stitch marker can be used on one a couple of sizes larger if needed.
Step 2: Adding the Bead
Now feed both ends of the tiger tail through a pretty bead and then through a crimp bead.
Gripping the two ends just below the crimp bead to keep everything in place, check that the loop still slides freely on the knitting needle. Adjust the loop size if necessary, then take it off the needle and hold it upside down, by the loop, so that the crimp bead doesn’t fall off. The crimp bead, pretty bead and seed bead should all be close together with no visible tiger tail between them.
Step 3: Crimping
Try to arrange things so that the tiger tail ends don't cross over each other as they emerge from the seed bead. Then use your crimping pliers, or ordinary pliers, to squash the crimp bead flat and make it grip the tiger tail firmly.
Crimping pliers have 3 zones within their jaws (see photo): a flat area to flatten the crimp bead, an area that curves it and an area that folds it over on itself to produce a neat finish. You need to use the three areas in that order. If you don’t have crimping pliers then you will be left with a fairly wide, flat crimp, but that's fine, the stitch marker will work just as well.
Step 4: Finishing
All that remains for this ordinary (non king) stitch marker is to cut off the ends of the tiger tail with your wire cutters. Trim them as close to the crimp as you can get.
When you make the next and subsequent markers, have all the finished ones hanging on the knitting needle when you check the loop size before crimping. This makes it easy to see if the new one is exactly the same size as the others.
Step 5: The King Marker
You could just make one of the markers with a different coloured bead from the others, but it's more fun to add a dropper. Use whatever length of tiger tail you have left, don’t cut it yet. Start off in the same way as before but, when you get to Step 4, leave the long end of tiger tail untrimmed, just cut off the short end where it protrudes from the crimp bead.
Feed the long end through a second crimp bead and then through the dropper bead. Thread it back through the crimp bead and pull on it to adjust the length of the drop until you are happy with it. The two crimp beads should be tight up against each other. Then mark the tiger tail where it emerges from the top of the second crimp bead, i.e. where it needs to be cut off. I've found it's very hard to trim the tiger tail short enough after crimping the second bead without damaging the first crimp, so I cut it to length before crimping. You can use a tiny dot from a permanent marker pen to indicate where you need to cut.
Remove the end of the tiger tail from the crimp bead and trim it with the wire cutters where you marked it. Push the lower crimp bead tightly up against the upper one and feed the free end of tiger tail back into it until it is pushing against the upper crimp and will go no further. It should be possible to hold it in place with one hand while you crimp the lower bead with the other.
Finished! Arrange the stitch markers on a large safety pin attached to a card and they make a lovely present for any knitter.