Category Archives: Gadgets


Techknitting is posting an interesting series on stranding, and as part of it, mentioned the use of Strickfingerhuts (knitting yarn guides/knitting thimbles), linking back to my original post on the subject.

For those who are unfamiliar with them, they are those gizmos that sit on the end of the left hand index finger, that are used by Continental style knitters (pickers) to hold and separate two or more yarns while doing stranded colorwork.

Adding some more detail on the subject, I’d like to address a problem TK points out as being common among those who hold two yarns in one hand while stranding – differential feed.

If a row has more or less equal numbers of stitches of both colors, both yarn strands are consumed at the same rate. But if a row has lots of Color A, but very little Color B, A will be eaten at a much greater rate, eventually causing the knitter to readjust his or her grasp of the yarn to even things out.

Those of us who do use Strickfingerhuts find that the differential feed rate problem is greatly minimized compared to trying to hold both yarns in the left hand unassisted. Yes, eventually the difference in yarn consumption catches up with us and we have to yank the strands even, but no where near as often.

We do however find that over time we prefer to put the dominant color (the color most represented on a row) in either the left or right eyelet to minimize the feed problem. There’s no hard and fast rule to this, it’s a matter of personal preference.

In stockinette in the round, I prefer to have the dominant color in the right eyelet, and the less represented color in the left. This helps when I lock in my floats:


Although I usually work stranding in the round, occasionally I have to do it in the flat. If I’m knitting stockinette in the flat using a Strickfingerhut, and I’m on the purl side, I prefer to have the dominant color in the left hand eyelet.

For the record, I notice no difference in the appearance of the finished product if I mix eyelets – sometimes putting the dominant color in one, and sometimes in the other. I do however note that some other Strickfingerhut users do, and advocate always keeping the background color in the same eyelet regardless of its relative dominance on any one row. Again, experimentation is your friend.

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The idea I hinted at yesterday has to do with magnetic boards. It’s not
something I can make at home, but it’s a set of improvements I’d like
to see made.
To recap, the standard issue magnetic board is very useful and very inexpensive, but it has some shortcomings.



appears to be the leading (possibly only) seller of magnetic boards.
LoRan appears to have been bought by or is marketing through the Dritz
line of sewing and crafting notions. LoRan boards come in several
configurations. Some have easel backs, so they stand up on their own.
Some of the easel backed ones have small pencil-holding ledges along
their bottom edge. Sizes appear to be 6"x10", 8"x10", and 12"x18".
There are also supplemental accessories including separately packaged
easel stands, plain gray metal/plastic magnet bars, magnetic bars with
rulers printed on them, see-through magnifying magnet bars, and special
packaged bundles of the base model boards plus accessories. There are
also "after market" vendors that sell other types of place-marking
magnets/magnifiers for use with magnetic boards.

My problem with the LoRan line are:

That it does a lousy job of protecting the charts while the work is in
progress. I didn’t realize exactly how lousy a job until I began using
my improvised solution. The largest LoRan size is bigger than I need
for 99.9% of my knitting charts. But the two smaller sizes are smaller
than standard US 8×11" paper (or the standard Euro A4 size of
210x297cm, for that matter). Charts put on the boards get bashed up –
even if both the board and the page are slipped into a page protector.
This damage is especially bad if the board/chart combo is stuffed into
knitting bags in between working sessions. My el cheapo scavenged
cookie pan’s raised rim did an excellent job of keeping my project
together and unrumpled, and keeping the magnets in place in between

2. The boards are flimsy and prone to bending and denting.
Once they are no longer flat magnets have a more difficult time
sticking. Again, my cookie sheet was thicker and (for non-cooking
purposes at least) resisted warping and denting better than the
commercial product.

The magnets are wimpy, and can’t grab
through more than a page or two, or are easily displaced in between
working sessions. This one is a balancing act. There are incredibly
strong magnets out there, but they would be difficult to move while
working. Finding just the right amount of stick to stay put when needed
and still be easy to move when necessary is difficult. Even more so
when you remember that for most low adherence magnets, the magnetism
slowly dissipates over time. What worked last year might be less useful
this year. My cut up promotional fridge magnets did a fine job
through up to two sheets of paper, but I like to keep all the pages of
a pattern together when I’m working. I’d want something a bit
stronger, perhaps something that could stick through a plastic
protective cover, plus three sheets of paper, but not necessarily
something thicker. The thicker the
magnet, the more difficult it is to read Think thick rulers vs. thin
rulers. Thick rulers are visually offset from what they are
measuring, making taking accurate measurements more difficult.

What I want is something like this:

Wouldn’t it be nifty if
that transparent magnet-through plastic cover was a full-sheet magnifier page?

Now, how much more would I pay for something like this above and beyond
the flimsy market standard? Not sure. If the least expensive packaging of the LoRan 8×10
sells for about $5.00 US (more or less), I’d pay around $15
for something this elaborate, provided the quality of the piece was
commensurate with the price.

Remember – if you see this product for sale out there, you saw the idea here first. [grin]


Innovation Update

from the UK has sent a lead on something that’s even better than the
narrow sticky notes I wrote about yesterday. She points us at
removable, translucent highlighter tape.

inexpensive. Even better, it comes in several widths and lots of
colors, and is packaged as either sheets of removable strips or in
dispensers like adhesive tape. From a quick product search, it appears
to be most widely used by teachers and professors for book
highlighting, and by pilots for annotating aviation charts. A Google
search on "highlighter tape" or "highlight tape" turns up a bunch of
sources. Here are several sources that has a pretty complete listing of
the available form factors (no affiliation):

advantages include transparency – being able to "look ahead" in your
pattern without displacing the mark, and availability in assorted
colors. Why colors? Two reasons. First, some charts come in color. One
might need to find a contrasting highlight to avoid "wiping out" one or
more colors shown on the chart. Second, I’m no educational or visual
perception theorist, but I know there are people who find reading much
easier if they view pages through colored filters. I wouldn’t be
surprised if some of the chart-shy have perceptual wiring that would
benefit from using color highlights, too.

I’ll be looking for this stuff to try out.

More goodies in office supply stores

written about knitting tools that can be found in hardware stores. Now
this train of thought takes me on another mental shopping trip – tools
that can be found in office supply stores. Some are obvious:

  • Drawing/drafting
    supplies – rulers, protractors, French curves, graph paper, tape
    measures, cartographer’s measures (people who do full scale dimensioned
    drawings and slopers might find these useful)
  • Calculators of all sorts
  • Filing supplies – sheet protectors, binder and loose files
  • Tote
    bags – Some of the smaller computer bags and the not-quite-briefcases
    meant for file-toting road warriors make excellent stealth knitting
  • Organizers – In-drawer, in-briefcase, and desktop organizers can be handy to corral knitting doodads
  • Typing stands – Great for propping up charts or leaflets

Some are less obvious. Here’s a smattering of the latter:

– clear plastic pages that can be run through printers or copying
machines. Need to grid up a picture or photo? Print a transparent sheet
up with a graphed lines in the same height:width ratio as your knitting
gauge. Lay that clear line-printed sheet over the image you want to
transcribe to knitting. Voila! Instant knitting graph.

Circular paper clips – Instant stitch markers.

Check files – Yet another possible solution for storing those circs.

Tomorrow – another wish list item.


Yesterday’s post got me thinking. (Always dangerous.)?

There must be tasks we wish our knitting or crocheting tools could do,
either as tweaks to existing products, or as entirely new items.
I’ve come up with several minor ones over the years. In the
spirit of Anne L. MacDonald* At the risk of compromising patentability
or re-inventing the wheel, I invite people to share ideas, and prime
the pump with some of my own.

Counting Beads

I wrote about these back in my Stupid Stitch Marker Tricks
post. This is intended to be an aid for people who are
working row count repeats or those annoying "Decrease two stitches
every sixth row" directions. It’s a chain with links large enough
to admit a knitting needle, and two different color beads, one at each
end. On the first row, the knitter puts the needle into the link
closest to the green bead. On the next row (or next right side
row if working in the flat), the knitter advances the needle to the
next link, and so on. If the links are used to count pairs of
rows, a six-link chain could count 12.

Inch-Striped DPNs

I know I’ve seen photos of WWII-vintage DPNs that were striped,
but I don’t know if they were striped off in exact inch measurements
(or 2 cm for our metric friends). If I had a set of striped DPNs
I could use them to measure off length as I knit, without fumbling
around for a tape measure or ruler.

Two-Tone DPNs

This idea could be used in combo with the stripes, above. I wrote
about this one in the post remarking on a really bad answer offered up
by Lion Brand. If one had a set of similarly colored DPNs that
had a different color marking one end of each needle, one could use
that color to track where rounds began and ended. (Yes, I know
most people look for the tail, but sometimes it can be less evident,
like when you’re knitting a flat motif center out.)? The knitter
would knit all DPNs with the same color end, EXCEPT for the one that
starts off the round. That one would be employed with the
contrasting color first. If we used red and green again, we’d
knit the first needle with the green end, so that the red end was
rightmost in the work. All successive needles would be knit with
the red end. As the knitter traveled around the work he or she
would know that when a red end presented itself, that was Needle #1.

Long, Thin Sticky Notes

This one is left over from my stitching days, although I sometimes do
use sticky notes to mark my place on knitting charts. I want a pad of sticky notes
that’s six inches wide and less than an inch deep. The sticky should be
along the long edge, not at the tab end. If it had? 10 to
the inch rules on it with prominent decads, so much the better. I want to use it to
mark off the active row of an active knitting or stitching chart. Having rules on the thing would help me keep my place on the chart and if the chart’s scale was 10 to the inch – allow me to do "speed counting."

Anyone have any other innovative ideas for working tools, storage
ideas, charting aids, or other new thoughts for here-to-for unknown
tools or tweaks to existing ones?

*Anne L. MacDonald is best known for her book No Idle Hands:? The Social History of American Knitting, but she also wrote Feminine Ingenuity: How Women Inventors Changed America.


It’s no secret that I don’t see as well as I used to. Between eye
infections and all-purpose aging, I need help. For most things glasses
work just fine, but there are a couple of minor annoyances even with
glasses. One is the teeny labels etched onto most circ needles –
especially the ones smaller than US #4s.

if I were one of the Super Organized, I’d have a system for storing my
circular needles. Perhaps one of the sorting hanger thingies (see
below), or a binder notebook full of pockets. But I have a lot of circs
and little patience for filing things away, so I make do. Most of mine
live in a hand-me-down wood box that once held a bottle of gift wine.
The lucky few among them get replaced in their original packaging. Not
all of my needles are lucky. The less fortunate among them live in an
incestuous tangle, stuffed into that same wooden box. Figuring out
which needle is which is always a challenge that involves finding the
size gauge that’s supposed to live in that same box, and playing "size
me" until the right one turns up. Either that or calling over one of my
offspring whose eyes function better than mine and having them do the
squint work for me.

I’m not this organized.

Enter my latest acquisition, hot off the gadget rack at my LYS.

It’s another clever invention from Nancy’s Knit Knacks
– the Circular Needle ID tag set. (No affiliation). Tags are packaged
in two sets – one for US#0-4, and one for larger needles.
(Engraved labels on larger needles are easier to see, so I didn’t buy
the larger set.)?

I can find and read these tags in my needle jumble with no trouble at
all. Needle ID bliss! Of course one still has to remember to put the
tag back on the needle after the project is over, and manage not to
lose the thing in between – but that shouldn’t be too hard. I’ve
stapled the little plastic zip bag of tags in the circ box and will stow
the tags there between uses.

I also note that Nancy’s has been busy, issuing a new needle sizing
gauge that goes down to 000 (always welcome, although I wish it went
down to 00000), and an electronic version of the old katchaa-katchaa
style counter. I don’t use the things but I know that many people
do swear by them. It looks like the electronic one can subtract,
which is nice if you need to rip back. I’m surprised though that
it seems to have only one memory register. It would be even more
useful if it could remember two things at once (like total rows, and
rows in the current repeat).

High tech

Low tech

affiliation here between Nancy’s and me. I am however impressed that
they manage to identify and market to so many niche needs, including
the whole Knit Kard info system, the yardage gauge, and the WPI
tool. There are lots of companies selling knitting notions, but
most seem to be content with the old standards. Nancy’s is one of
the few that seems to be actively seeking out innovation.


I’m sure others have blogged about this already – needles with built-in sensors that
log the stitch count for you. There’s a base station that
displays the count, and appears to have holders to park the needles
when they’re not in use.

I can’t find any confirmation that this has moved beyond prototyping
into the realm of a real product, but regardless of development stage I
would have some questions for the maker:

  1. Are the sensors adaptable to any size needle, or is the knitter locked into using only one size?
  2. What is that size, and how long are the needles?
  3. Does it equally sense the movements of both throwers and pickers (British/American and Continental styles)?
  4. How does it handle complex stitches?? For example, would it
    log a SSK as one stitch or three – counting the three movements it
    takes to produce it as separate stitches?
  5. Can you dial up or down to readjust stitch count and compensate for multiple movement stitches?
  6. Is there a memory function?? For example, if I sit down and knit today will it remember where I left off yesterday?
  7. Is it possible to get interim counts, kind of like the way you
    can use trip set on a car odometer to record smaller intervals??
    This might come in handy if one wanted to track a repeat in addition to
    tracking total stitch count.
  8. Does it handle row count?? (For most knitters, row count is a far more annoying tracking problem than is stitch count).
  9. Is there an upper limit? For example, if I work a flat piece in a
    tiny yarn, I could easily have a couple hundred stitches across, even
    on a 14-inch straight.
  10. Does the count span rows, or is it set up to track on a single row basis?
  11. How sensitive is it to spurious movements?? For example, if
    I bobble the needles as I reach for something or flip the work over, will that increment the

I’m not about to run out and buy something like this, even if my
questions were all answered, but it’s very interesting to see some
creativity and technology applied to the problem.

For me, low tech is still the way to go:? my stitch marker abacus
for tracking rows, and for those projects where I need to know count
across at all times (very few and far between), a series of stitch
markers placed every 10 or 25 stitches (or between repeats), as counted
out from the center.


Firefighters Socks

Several people wrote to ask where they could buy my Firefighters Socks pattern. You can’t buy it. No one can. It’s not for salebecause I give it away free at my wiseNeedle website. The links here (and in yesterday’spost) will take you directly to it. It’s written for worsted/heavy worsted yarn, and if you’ve never done toe-up socks with a Figure-8 toe or short-rowed heel, being at such a large gauge is a good pattern for a first attempt.


Thank you to everyone who wrote to say that thepostcards I posted yesterday were printed around WWI. I thought that was rather obvious, so I didn’t bother to note it. Most of the others on the site I mentioned were of the same vintage, with a smattering of earlier and later cards.

And a BIG thank-you to Spinnity, who was intriged enough by the sock card to comb through history sites (in French) to find out more about Romilly and its curious link to socks. She left a nifty comment. I’ll summarize her theories:

Romilly was a center of sock manufacture, with at least two large factories nearby producing socks and stockings. This line of regional specialty continues to at least March of this year, when Jacquemard, a major sock factory, closed. The town apparently has had the name “Romilly-les-Chaussettes” (Sock Romilly) for a very long time. Here’s her link detailing the passing of Jacquemard mills(for some reason it didn’t come through on her comment post): in French; in machine-mangled English.

Here’s another Romilly-les-Chaussettes postcard:

Again we see the stripes passing north and south of the heel. But the heel isn’t a short-rowed one of the type often seen on machine-made socks. It has a wide heel flap that wraps around the entire back of the foot, then a cupped bottom area. It looks like after the heel unit is finished, stitches are picked up along the heel’s foot-side edge, and the foot is continued tube-like from that point, incorporating live stitches from the top of the foot.

Apparently the tradition continues. I found mention of at leasttwo more sock factoriesstill in operation in the area around Romilly surSeine (Olympia, Aube Chaussettes); plus in true French fashion – a regulatory board or committee overseeing standards of manufacture and appelation.

Not in France Anymore

Having had a brief whirl through France, I turn to something that causes shudders of horror in every visitor I’ve ever had from that land: American packaged bread. Well, not the bread itself, but the little plastic tags used to close the bags. Continuing the series on indispensible but free knitting gadgets, I put forth the humble bread tag:

What use are they? Well, you can write on them then clip them onto things.

Have you ever been working on a garter stitch piece and forgotten which is the front? While you could remember that the front is the side that has the cast-on tail at the right or left (depending on your method of casting on), I for one can never get that straight. A bread tag with an “F” on it, placed on the front of the work can be a lifesaver.

Need to track the point where something tricky has happened? Bread tags can mark armhole decreases, sleeve increases, buttonhole locations, and the like. They attach firmly to your work, and rarely fall off. Safety pins work well, too but the coils of standard safety pins can get tangled in the knitting yarn, and not all of us have the fancy coil-less safety pins sold in knitting and quilting shops to hand.

I’ve used them for marking yarns in my stash. If I’ve swatched, I’ll scrawl the acheived gauge and needle size on a tag and affix it to the ball. I’ve used them to identify or otherwise mark swatches submitted to pattern publishers as part ofmy designproposals.

Bread tags arefree and completely disposable. You can break them to remove them from your knitting, and not feel you’re tossing away a good tool. (In my house at least they are a constantly-renewing resource and rank up there with wire hangers and AOL CDs.) They also come in lots of colors – good for any color coding scheme you wish to devise.

In a non-knitting mode, I’ve also found them very useful for marking the cables that plug into my routers. I know know exactly whom I am disconnecting when one gets unplugged, even if the shout of dismay wasn’t audible.

Finally, I know people who use them to mate socks before laundering. A bread tag through the toe keeps the pair together, andavoids thatdreaded One Sock Syndrome.

So if you’re looking for a way to make in-work/on-work notations, don’t pass up this humble resource. After all, it’s not like you have to rush out to buy some.


As I’ve posted before, I’m in the throes of moving. My entire stash, most of The Chest of Knitting HorrorsTM and the majority of my knitting tools are packed away in the storage cubby. Need however, does not sleep.

This weekend past I needed to work from charts. I like to use a magnetic board, but my slab-o-steel and fancy magnets were packed away with the rest of my goodies. I had several alternatives to the keeping-my-place problem. I could use plain old pencil ticks, marking off rows as they were completed. I could use yellow sticky notes to keep track of where I was. Or I could improvise a magnetic board.

Pencil ticks are a pain, and while they help me see what’s been done, they’re of little use mid-row, especially in a long, or wide repeat. Post-its are useful, but the stickum wears out, and any time I take a stack of them out of the Forbidden Drawer, the kids attack (corollaries to this type of household piracy include liberation of Mom’s Good Scissors, and unauthorized Scotch tape squandering.) Repositioning them is also trickier compared to just nudging a magnet bar.

As a result, I turn time and time again to my magnet board. I’ve gotthe standard issue 8×10 flat model:

Lo-Ran appears to be the leading (perhaps only) outfit marketing these.Boards come in several sizes both with and without pencil ledges at the bottom. Theyare marketed in several bundles, some with additional accessories. Accessory packs are also sold separately. Mine didn’t come with the little white magnetic ruler pictured, but I bought it a zillion years ago. I also don’t use the magnifying bars, stands, or other supplemental gadgets. The half-barrel shaped magnifiers distort too much for my liking, and as a Wandering Knitter – the less impedimenta, the better.

About the only down sides to using the boards are:

  • Even though the corners are now rounded off, the edges can be sharp. I suggest covering them with book repair tape or some type of tape that doesn’t bleed adhesive over time (NOT duct tape, woven electrical tape, or first-aid tape).
  • 8×10 is smaller than my pattern pages, so my copy gets battered;
  • Being thin, they bend easily. The magnets don’t stick well to an undulating surface, so I’ve had to resort tobangingmine back into shape with a rubber mallet a couple of times over the years.

If I’m using a published pattern, I make a photocopy and put my original back on the shelf (fair use under copyright laws – if I’ve annotated it with notes I want to keep, I staple it to the original and file both away after use; if not, I destroy the copy).I slide the copy into a plastic document sleeve or zip-lock bag, along with my thin metal magnet board. Then I use the magnets on the outside of the sleeve, positioning them as needed to highlight my working section. I place my magnet to cover the row above the one on which I’m working, sliding it up as I go along. That way I can see both the row I’m on, and the rows I’ve just completed. In knitting it’s rarely necessary to mark a vertical, but some people I know do position two additional magnets to frame a repeat, removing these vertical markers when they get to the final iteration and need to work any non-repeating stitches at the end of their rows.

Without my board thisweekend past, I had to improvise. My kid refused to let me borrow her magnetic paper dolls set, having seen my true nature when Iinvaded her K’Nex building toy set for rings to use as stitch markers. Not having a typist’s metal copy stand (remember those?), a tabletopmusic stand, or access to sheet steel and a machine shop, I raided the kitchen.

I found a flimsy, cheap Ecko raised lip cookie sheet/jellyroll panI bought back when I got my first apartment. You know the kind – the type of flat panthat warps at any temperature over 250F, and is guaranteed to burn anything baked on it. I’m sure you’ve got one squirreled away somewhere, making appearances to re-heat pizza or catch drips, but not to do any real cooking. Mine is the worse for wear, havingrecently been rescued froma three-year turn outdoors underneath the barbeque. It’s scrubbed clean, but it’s too nasty looking to use without foil between it and food.

Then I scarfed one of those promotional business-card style fridge magnets that breed with the same frequency as AOL CDs or coat hangers. This whopping big index-card size one came with the thank-you for your membership letter from WERS, a Boston-area Public Radio station based at Emerson College. (Just because I’m ancient doesn’t mean I have to give up on college radio.)

I cut the flexible WERS magnet into strips, slapped my chart on my pan and had my no-cost magnet board. While it’s not as flat as my regular fancy board, it is larger than my sheet of paper, so the edges aren’t getting battered. Also the pan shape has been very usefulas a tray forcontaining spare DPNs, pencils, and other items as I carry my knitting room to room:

My solution isn’t pretty or elegant, but it works; and using all scrounged materials – it was free.


A while back I asked for advice on buying one of those little hand-cranked I-cord knitting machines. I now present the outcome. This one is very definitely a boutique sort of item. Not everyone has use for miles of I-cord. I do.

I knit lots of baby booties using the pattern Ann Kreckel posted to the KnitList in the summer of 1995. The pattern is available at Woolworks.There’s a similar pattern in Taunton Press’ Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets. I make them as gifts for friends and family, or for charitable donation.

I don’t have any finished booties on hand right now and my sock yarn stash is in the storage cubby, otherwise I’d whip up a pair to photograph. I’ve modified the pattern a little bit, knitting the cuffwith fewer rowsso that it is more rolled than folded. I also like the look of I-cord rather than crocheted, braidedor longitudinally knitted ties. But I-cord is tedious. It takes me almost as long to knit the I-cord ties as it does to make a bootie, so I splurged on a gizmo to do it for me.

About three years ago I got sick of hand-knitting the ties. I looked at the Bond Magicord Machine, the Inox Strickmuhle, and a couple ofolder models I found on eBay.Both the Inox and Bond machines havechanged from the ones available at that time. Except for color, they’re now idential, both sporting little clear plastic sleeves surroundinga 4-hook needle bed.



My older version of the Strickmuhle has no sleeve, uses a different type of weight, and has a protruding arm to position the yarn feed:

Back when I bought this one there was a big difference in qualitybetween the Magicord and the Inox, with the Inox being much sturdier. Now they’re the same machine, so any differences will be in the accompanying documentation (if any).

You can see the hook-weight on mine(there’s a block of metal inside). On the newer modelsthe hook-weightappears to have been replaced by some sort of clip. Mine also came with a second slightly smaller collar (that’s the blue circle that you can see sticking up among the four hooks). In theory, the smaller collar should be used for fingering and 3-ply yarns, and the larger one should be used for sport and DK, but I’ve never found the two collar sizes to have any effect on ease of production or I-cord evenness.

My machine works best on fingering through DK weight yarn, with best results from sport weight (6 spi). I’ve forced some Cascade 220 worsted through it (5 spi). It worked, and I got I-cord that I later used in a fulling project,but I wouldn’t recommendit for worstedas a matter of course.There’s areal knack to using this toy, especially with heavier yarns. Starting a new cord can be especially trying.

I did pick up a couple of starting tips from the French language instruction card (it came with a French, German and English card, but my English card was missing) – When starting out, make a loop, then stuff the yarn end into the tube’s body. Hang the weight from the loop. Thenlay the yarn and turn the crank VERY slowly, skipping every other hook on the first round. You will be usingHook #1,Hook #3, then Hook #2 and finallyHook #4. After you get toHook #4 you can let the yarn feed without skipping hooks.The combo of constant weight on the dangling yarn, plustheskipping-hook row produces a nice even end and minimizes theun-caught stitchesthat can make starting a cord difficult.

Once acord is started, the thing does work quite easily. I often hand off my gizmo to one of my kids and have her crank out the required length. My weight isn’t as convenient as the spring clips, but I can move it up the cord if I need more yardagethan the 5-year old is tall. Ending off is easy. I snip the yarn and keep turning the crank until the cord falls through. Then I use a tapestry needle and the dangling end to thread through the cord’sfour loops. If I’m making bootie ties, I don’t bother making a two separate cords. Because starting is the trickiest part of operation I make a single cord that’s double long, plus a couple of rows – then snip the thing in the middle and bind off the two new ends.

Looking around, I see other people playing with these toys. Jenanne posted a summary of her experiments with the new version Bond and an Aran weight yarn (4.5 spi). Kate at Will Knit for Food also wrote about making I-cord from worsted weight yarns, then fulling it for bag handles.

Other than cost,limits on the weight of the yarns it can handle, the difficulty of holding the thing, the yarn and cranking all at the same time (I wish it had a table clamp), and some trickiness starting off a new cord, mybiggest disappointment is that the user is unable to alter the number of hooks being used. You get four-stitch I-cord. That’s all. One of the pre-1940s-vintage German-made all-metal machines I was tracking on eBay came with 6 hooks, and could be used with as few as two (sort of as a turbocharged lucet).

I also ran across the Hobby-Knit on eBay:

It looks interesting, but I couldn’t get anyone to confirm whether or not it could be used with a variable number of hooks. Also the very few of them that seemed to offered in operational condition were selling for upwards of $100. Much more than I could justify for such a trivial function.

If anyone knows more about this vintage toy, feel free to clue me in.


I love stitch markers. I use them for just about everything – the more the better! I buy them like popcorn, and make or improvise as many as I buy. They infest my house and are always found while sweeping up, in between cushions, and in the dryer’s lint trap. In fact, I’ve got two little dishes – one next to the washer and one on my dresser, both there for the sole purpose of catching stitch markers at convenient points in the laundry process.

I prefer rigid markers to bits of string or contrasting color yarn. I find for me they transfer from needle to needle faster, and because I often knit without watching my fingers, are easier to spot by feel.

Here are some of the things I use as stitch markers from the catch-all on my dresser:

Clockwisearound the outside and spiraling in, there’s a beaded lizard made for me by my Tween-ager; several split rings and jump rings bought by the bagful at the jewelry findings counter of my local crafts store; some flat gold-tone beads with large holes, and a heart charm intended for use on keychains (same source as split rings); a paper clip; three home-made beaded markers; a yellow flat split ring marker; three more home-made beaded markers (small size); two Susan Bates white plastic rings; an ancient Susan Bates split ring; red and blue Susan Bates flat rings; two coil-less safety pins, and two small turquoise rings “liberated” from my kids’K’Nex building toy set.

I tend to ue the larger decorated markers as row end or abacus markers; and the plainer ones as repeat dividers, or to denote other spots whereI need to pay attention. I don’t have any problem using the stitch markers with the dangling bobs. I let them hang on the side of my work that faces me. Since I sometimes need to use my “third hand” when doing maneuvers like decreasing across a marker, the beads make convenient grabbing tabs for my teeth. (Confession:I feel sort of responsible for foisting the beaded marker fad on the rest of you. Back in ’94 or so I wrote a post to the ancient KnitList that described how I used broken earring bobs and necklace pendants as stitch markers, and was beginning to make singlets expressly for that purpose.)

I used to use the coiled split rings (shiny red, above) to mark individual stitches – usually to help count decreases or spots that needed to line up when a garment was assembled. It has been a long time since I’ve seen these coiled guys in the stores, so I’ve switched to using either jewelry split rings or the safety pins instead.

The one type of marker I absolutely detest is the pig-tailed yellow split ring. I bought them only once and don’t remember the brand name. Those cursed pig-tails seemed to look for an excuse to snap off. They also dug into my fingers as I was working.


Marker Use #1 – Decrease/increase counters

I’m a counting disaster. I detest counting rows. I’m forever losing those little barrel-shaped counter devices that sit on the needle or hang below it. I am also a Wandering Knitter, so I don’t always have a nice settled place to put a pad and paper nearby, nor am I reliable enough to remember to click off the rows on a katchaa-katchaa counter.For the same reason pegboards or counting stones aren’t for me (I’ve got a sweater that ended up with a sleeve eight inches too long because someone kept eating the M&Ms I was relying on as counting stones). I’ve even tried the flipping the string over every ten rows gambit, but ended up pulling out my string. I need to have a tangible reminder to do something, placed directly in my work so that I can feel it. Everything else gets lost, or forgotten. Therefore being the only idiot working on my knitting, I have used markers to idiot-proof my knitting world.

In addition to just sitting prettily between pattern repeats, or marking where one switches attention from chart to chart, I use markers to help me keep track of those pesky directions that say things like “increase every fourth row six times.” If that was my direction, and I’d decided to add my stitch by use a make one (lifted bar) increase after the first stitch of my row, I’d proceed this way. On the first row of my increase section I’d work my first stitch, then place a thin marker and after the marker was set – work my first M1. Then I’d place another thin marker and work to the end of my row. The next time I needed to add a stitch, I’d again work the first stitch of the row, move my marker over, do a M1, then work across the row I’d work along, only having to keep track of how many plain right-side rows were between increase points because ALL of my increases accumulate between the markers. When there are six new stitches between the markers, I’d know I’d done enough.

I handle decreases in much the same way. The first row of the decrease section I place markers before the first stitch that I’ll be decreasing away, and after the last stitch that will be decreased away. Then I work my rows, decreasing at the rate specified until my markers touch.

I’ve got another little gizmo that I’ve used to keep track of the how-many-rows between problem. I’ve made two over the years, but I can’t lay hands upon either one right now. They’re probably packed away in the storage cubby with the rest of my knitting stash, but here’s an illustration:

This is a length of chain links with two different color beads at each end. Red and green are nice mnemonics to set up start and finish, but any color will do. The links are large enough to admit the needle size being used. I made one of these with eight links and one with six. I prefer the one with six because I can use it to count up to 12 rows by using each link to represent two rows. There are VERY few patterns that ask you do do something every 12 or more rows.

The way I use my counting-chain is to substitute it for the first marker in my string of decreases or increases, right in line on my working row. The first row of the six-row decrease set, I put my needle tip into the ring closest to the green bead. On the second row, when I get up to the counting chain, I slip my needle tip into the second ring away from the green bead. Third row, third ring, and so on. In this case, when I got up to the sixth ring I’d know that it would be time to do my increase again, and I’d return my needle tip to the first ring after the green bead.

Now if you see someone selling these after today, know that you saw it here first; and remember I was foolish enough to repeat my mistake of writing about an idea beforepatenting it. [grin]

Marker Use #2 – In-Line Abacus

As I said before: I’m hopeless at keeping track of rows. I’m a lousy and lazy row counter, and manage to muck up every row-counting aid – including placing safety pins every ten rows or slipping a strand of contrasting color string back and forth every ten rows. Instead I use stitch markers as an in-work abacus.

This technique uses two or three stitch markers – preferably ones that are unavoidably different both from those put to other purposes in the work, and from each other. It works best for straight pieces of knitting without edge increases or decreases, or texture patterns that alter the number of stitches on the needle. It can be used in a piece with any of these, but you have to remember to compensate, or you have to place the markers in a relatively unperturbed area.

Let’s say I have a straight run of plain old stockinette worked flat, and I want to keep track of the number of rows I have knit. I decide which of my distinctive stitch markers┬ádesignates ones and which designates tens. I knit my first stitch, place my ones-marker and keep working. On the next right-side row I advance my ones-marker two stitches to show that I’m in the middle of the third row. I keep going until I’m finishing the tenth row (it’s a wrong side row). At that point I remove my ones marker. On the next row (my eleventh), I work one stitch, place my ones-marker, then place my tens-marker and work to the end of the row. On the next right-side row, I work one stitch, keep my tens marker in place and advance my ones-marker two stitches. That shows I’m on the 13th row.

I can keep doing this for as long as required. Sometimes I need to introduce a hundreds-marker. Other times I move the counting markers in from the edge – mostly to avoid shaping increases or decreases, marking my point of origin with another distinctive marker that never moves. Using a point of origin marker I can even use my stitch marker abacus to keep track of rounds in circular knitting.

Of course there are disadvantages. Fiddling with the markers often involves use of that “third hand.” I haven’t swallowed a marker yet, but some have spun off to add to the feral herd of markers swarming in my house. I do find however that I am FAR less likely to forget to move a counting marker than I am to forget to spin a barrel counter, or make a notation on a pad. And unlike M&Ms – other people can’t eat my tracking device as I knit.