We’ve all heard the one about the parentage of invention. More than once, I’ve found myself knitting late at night without the stitch holder I needed, or on the other side of a trip involving air travel, having neglected to pack all the doodads I needed. For some reason stitch holders seem to be the things I most often forget.

Yes, I know I could always just cut a length of my working yarn to serve as a stitch holder, but I prefer not to do that. I either don’t want to crack into another skein, or I don’t want the hassle of figuring out which is the stitch and which is the fastening yarn when time comes to transfer the stitches over. I could also just employ a bit of string, but that would mean that I’d had the forethought to remember some in the first place (and if I had done so, I probably would have remembered the stitch holders, too).

As a result, I’ve pressed all sorts of things into service.

Spare needles are a natural first grab. Stitches can be slipped onto a DPN and secured with a rubber band looped around both ends. Circs can be used as long, dangly stitch holders. But again – if I don’t have my full knitting bag I might not have these to hand. For larger yarns, chopsticks and pencils can also be used instead of DPNs.

Sneaker and shoelaces are good stitch holdersfor large numbers of stitches. The the skinny kind made for kids shoes that still have the reinforcement on the lacing end works especially well. Thread the stitches you need onto the lace, and tie the ends. Plastic lanyard string is also good because it is stiff and easily threaded through stitches, although shoelaces hold knots better.

Safety pins are a natural for small numbers of stitches. The coil-less ones work best, but if I’m without my knittinggadget bag, I’ll use the standard kind. I’ve also used paper clips, twist-ties from plastic bags, and once in a moment of absolute desperation – a hoop-type earring.

But the ultimate improvised solution is making one’s own stitch holders. Store bought holders will always be prettier, and will have nicer ends, but in a pinch late at night when the yarn shop isn’t open, these are viable substitutes. In fact I still have and use some of these I made when I was just starting to knit and had more time than money.

Tomaketwo stitch holdersyou need a wire clothes hanger and a pair of wire snips or cutting pliers (the kind with a cutting jaw), plus a pair of some kind ofbending pliers (the kind with either asmooth end or a ridged end for gripping and bending). The hangers that are too skinny to hold anything heavier than a dress shirt are the ones that cut the easiest. The snipping part might leave a bit of a burr on the cut ends of the wire. Nibbling away at the end with the snips will take off most of it, a file or rasp might be needed if you’ve got a really big burr that bodes to catch on the yarn. Wire hangers being so plentiful, and with each hanger supplying raw material for two holders, if my cuts are rough, I toss the snipped part and just try again. Cut one end a bit longer than the other so that you have ample length to fold over to make the hook that secures the holder. The last sketch below shows the stitch holder seen in perspective, so you can see how that end is bent:

Again, these aren’t perfect, but they’re cheap.

And what’s in the knitting gadgetpouch I (almost) always keep in my knitting bag? Here arethe contents of my best-equipped one:

The mid-size stitch holder next to the needles and pins is one I made myself from a coat hanger.

Airline travel is the main reason for not having this or a similar pouch of goodies in my knitting bag. Rather than poking through the thing and removing the banned pieces, I tossa spare calculator,tape measure, a couple of stitch markers and whatever else I rememberin the bottom of my knitting bag, but leave the tool pouch at home.

Have you other must-have tools you wouldn’t be without on a daily basis? Let us know!

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