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Dear Ann,

The other day I posted a photo on Instagram of the latest in my series of Sophie Scarf projects, and the internet went wild.

Wild, I tell you.

Everybody wanted to know what that running strand of orange (MDK Atlas, shade Clementine) was for. When I said that it was a yarn marker to help me keep track of rows so that I could space my increases and decreases correctly, the people clamored—clamored, I tell you—to know this secret trick.

You better come get your nan, I think she got lost in my DMs (my DMs). (Apologies to Lizzo.)

No tip is so self-explanatory that it wouldn’t benefit from Jen Arnall-Culliford showing you how to do it. In the video up top, Jen teaches the humble homely yarn marker.

Pattern: Sophie Scarf. Yarn: MDK Atlas in Citron, a lemony yellow that is lighting up the January gloom.

It goes like this: The first time you make an increase, you lay a strand of yarn (ideally in a contrasting color) over a stitch in that row. That yarn is a visual marker from which you count the rows (in this case 8 rows, or 4 garter ridges—I always prefer to count garter ridges) to your next increase. When you make that next increase, you flip the yarn to the other side of the work. Over time, that strand of yarn makes a visual record of the inchworm-like regularity of your increases and decreases. It’s super intuitive, and super handy.

It saves a lot of counting, a lot of squinting at your work to find the last increase row, and worry about whether you forgot to click your row-counter thingie or make a hash mark on a scrap of paper. The increases are marked right there in your knitting, plain as day.

This past weekend, I got the chance to sit and knit with Nashvillian Kelley Dew, who then also posted a yarn marker-on-Sophie-Scarf picture that lit up the world wide web. When knitters sit together, it’s amazing how much small-bore knitting know-how gets passed around. Everybody loves a sweet little trick. Sharing is caring!

One more piece of advice: don’t let that strand of yarn slip out of your knitting. It’s not the worst thing that could happen, but it’s better if it does not happen.

Love,

Kay

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73 Comments

  • Genius trick! I’m casting on a Sophie soon and now it’s going to be even more fun because of this.

    • Great tip ❣️❣️❣️ . Thanks and continuous success to you.

  • Thank you, Kay and Jen-great tip!!

  • What size needle did you use for your scarf?

    • I’m a loose knitter, I used a US 6.

  • Wow, what a game changer! My southern grandmothers didn’t knit, so thanks so much sharing this wisdom !

  • How ingenious! Thank you!

  • Really appreciate the tip. I am constantly second-guessing my self.

  • Kay, I’m just curious: the Sophie Scarf pattern is written for dk, and you are using Atlas, a “light worsted”. Did you use a smaller needle to get to gauge, or did you just let the scarf be a little bigger?

    That Citron Atlas is wonderful for January!
    Thanks!

    • p.s. I’m imagining a whole sweater of Citron — and I’m a “blah colors” person! Thanks for the inspiration!

      • I didn’t measure my gauge or the scarf. You can knit the scarf to the length you want by increasing until you get to the desired halfway point and then starting the decreases. My 6 scarves are knit to different lengths depending on how much yarn I had. This one is 36 stitches at its widest point. It grows a bit with blocking.

        • Did you size up on your needles for Atlas? I’m finding that Atlas on 4s is pretty stiff.

  • Love it! Just what I needed for my current project. Thanks for posting the tip and video.

  • Hmmm. Now I am going to obsess if I want to change from using stitch markers (paper clip style) to using this yarn marker method.

    • Passing a string back and forth seems like a fluid maneuver compared to handling stitch markers. (And you won’t snag your yarn on a paper clip!)

    • My thoughts exactly

  • Whoa! Knitting upgrade before 7 am ,today is going to be a good day! Poised to knit a Sophie any moment now here. Xox

    • One day you just realize you’ve got a Sophie on the needles, that you’ve tested positive for a viral knit!

  • I learned this recently from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot). After having accidently pulled the yarn marker out a few times, I now tie a bread clip to the bottom end of my marker to prevent this from happening.

    • This is where I learned this trick too. But all too often I’m too stubborn to use it. I thought about it just last night when I was counting rows on a hat I was making. Besides counting decreases or increases, I could have been flipping a yarn marker every five rows. It would save all the (hopeful, are we there yet?) recounting.

    • I think that’s where I learned that trick, too. I use it mostly for my socks & mark every 10 rounds, so I’m able to knit the same number of rounds for each sock & they match.

  • This trick has come at just the right moment! Thank you Kay.

  • This makes so much sense! That’s what we weavers do…

  • Keep it simple. Brilliant. Thanks for the demo Jen!

    • I love doing this too…i also use it when cabling to mark a change over. Anytime i have a pattern that repeats over a series of rows, i use this so i don’t have to work hard at counting when i lay my work down for a bit. I tie a “stopper” knot on the ends… Aka figure 8 knot or a safety knot. It’s a common sailing knot used to prevent a “sheet” (rope tied to a sail) from coming out of a block. I use that flat ribbon yarn so it sticks and you can see the stitch really really well. In my Christmas sock, i received a few pieces of really thin long tubing in bright colors… Supposed to hold stitches, like for a thumb, but i still prefer my big metal safety pin like things. If anyone has those stretchy tubes, this would be an excellent use for them.

  • Hurray, stitch markers come and go (often under the sofa) but stray pieces of yarn stick around like glue. I also like the bread clip idea – I need every safety back-up there is.

  • I could have used this when I made mine! Markers everywhere. Thanks so much for this..

  • Awesome tip, thank you! I am just about to begin my sleeves on a sweater and this is going to make it so much more enjoyable. Cheers!

    • I’ve got a Sophie Shawl on the needles, leapfrogging split ring markers. This makes much more sense. Switching now! Thanks.

      • That’s what I did for Sophies 1-5, until Lucy posted a photo of hers using ye olde yarn marker.

  • Best tip ever! Thank you ❤️

  • Going to do this. I can foresee less squinting at sock gussets.
    I’ve also been using Patty Lyons’ variant of marking cast-on stitches the same way, and haven’t had to frog a miscounted cast-on since.

  • I have been telling people about this for DECADES, with very few “takers.” Thank you for promoting this sanity and eyeball saver. BTW, a little/loose half hitch knot for the first placement helps it stay put. Also, if sleeves are made singly, keeping the row marking strand in place while making the second sleeve is another sanity saver and can help identify any changes in row gauge.

    • I’ve always called it a sleeve snake!! Marvelous for cables too. Funny. I thought I’d invented it!!

  • Yes! I’ve been doing this since learning about it in a Lucy Neatby online sock class.

    FYI if your yarn length is not long enough for a lengthy garment … just grab another scrap and carry on!

    • That’s where I picked up this trick too! I also use it to mark colorwork pattern repeats.

  • Great tip just in time for some upcoming travel knitting. I am on my 4th Sophie scarf! Thank you!

  • I do this (go me), using a short length of crinkly unravelled yarn, long enough to leap frog over itself for the next inc or dec. The curls hold it in place. Kinda cute.

  • I’ve used this technique for YEARS! It is great for sleeves!

  • Kay, have you thought about tying a knot at the beginning of the yarn marker? Might prevent an accidental pull out. Just a thought.

    • I like to live on the edge! In this case, I wasn’t worried because the yarn isn’t slippery, and I wanted to be able to pull the yarn along as the piece got longer. It’s not necessary to keep the increase/decrease rows marked for the whole piece, because once you’ve made the increase in the correct place, the yarn marker’s work is done.

  • “don’t let that strand of yarn slip out of your knitting”
    If you attach a button (any old stray from your button box) to each end of that strand, the button will prevent the yarn from slipping out of your knitting. When you’re done using the waste yarn to count, snip the buttons off each end. (It’s waste yarn! So what if you’re snipping off 6″ every time you use it?)

    • Great suggestion! Going to try this method and love the button idea to keep it in place!

  • Love this tip, I used it on my Trellis Top and it worked brilliantly!

  • Brilliant! I can see passing a length of string or yarn back and forth during the live knitting is the easiest way over handling those fuss-budget stitch markers! Thanks!

  • A very nice person named Lucy posted in The Lounge a photo of her Sophie Scarf and used this over/under yarn method. Because I always need to know exact details to feel confident, I asked about it and she kindly explained. It’s icing on top to now see a video. I will finish that Sophie yet. Well, I only got about 12 rows in so it’s sort of like beginning anew.

  • That might be a good use for that plastic tubing some of us are using for life lines or stitch holders…

  • So clever!

  • Awesome!

  • I like this method of counting very much but I wish the tutorial was on a garter stitch fabric!

  • I do this for socks in order to make them the same length.

  • Brilliant1

  • Great idea for marking the spacing between buttonholes!

  • It’s a great tip, one I learned from the Yarn Harlot.

  • Wow total game changer. I just finished my third Sophie Scarf… wish I had known this sooner thanks so much for this bit of genius!

  • Be careful of the yarn you use for your marker. I see red “fuzzies” embedded in the project when the marker is removed

  • I’ve used this since i first started knitting. I use it for everything….every 5 rows i just flip the yarn (embroidery floss in my case since its always smaller than the yarn). Ive left UFOs sitting idle then picked them up years later right where i left off. It’s the best trick in the book!

  • As others have commented this is brilliant. So simple/straight forward. I knit the Sophie Scarf last summer and am now knitting the Sophie Shawl. Wow how my mind drifts and this nearly solves the problem . . . while knitting!

  • Didn’t receive daily letter today January 27, 2023. What happened?

  • That’s brilliant. Will incorporate in my knits moving forward.Wow. Beyond helpful.

  • Having made a Sophie scarf recently, I adore you for sharing this tip. Perfect for my row counting foibles.

  • Thank you.will try it.

  • Great tip…and so timely! I’m about to start the sleeves on my sweater! Thanks so much!

  • This is a great trick that I “invented” a few years ago when attempting to make sleeves the same length. I clove-hitch a circular marker to the yarn marker and slip it along as I knit. This keeps the yarn more securely anchored to the work.

  • What a great idea….I’m knitting the Sophie scarf now and nearly going nuts trying to make sure I’m marking off each row as I go

  • Ok, somewhat related question to using the method with the Sophie Scarf. It’s working well, I’m in the decrease mode. However whether inc/dec I couldn’t get my yarn marker to match the “regularity” of your example. Then it dawned on me that you’re not marking the inc/dec stitch but on the non inc/dec edge. So the marker in this project either marks the end of the row 6 the inc/dec row or row 1 of the pattern? Now the yarn marker is consistent! Mystery solved!

  • I put a hanging stitch marker on every increase row. I don’t have to fuss with an extra piece of yarn. Both these methods seem pretty easy and obvious.

  • So simple a solution!
    Jen’s tutorials are always wonderful — she is a calm, steady voice; with expert explanations.

  • I’m about to cast on for an epic sweater. What a great tip!!!

  • This is a clever idea! I always use a row-counter-type stitch marker at the beginning of first row, and just count that way, adding 2 every time I knot out and back; and therefore I know when to increase/decrease. It has always worked for me, but I don’t see that anyone else has mentioned this here. Perhaps it’s not as straightforward as I imagine it to be?

  • genius! thank you! I am a fairly new knitter and looking for all these fun and awesome tips and tricks. Will share with my knitting group as well!

  • Do you use a darning needle?

  • I’m a slow knitter, so I start my big knits in the summer. I’m juggling two projects that both need close row tracking. I knew I had seen something like this recently, but couldn’t remember where or how it worked. Several “creative” search wordings later and here I am. Sooo much less tedious and more reliable than depending on my memory with other methods. Thank you!!

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