A stitch marker is a small ring that can be slipped onto a knitting needle to mark off sections in a project. They can be made of metal or plastic and come in a variety of colours and sizes.
Some companies also produce stitch markers that can be clamped onto the needle like pins.
Why use stitch markers?
- To keep track of where a row starts and ends while knitting in the round;
- To more easily keep track of pattern repeats (lace or texture) while knitting either flat or in the round;
- To make sure a garment with a "spine" (a shawl, for instance) keeps its spine in the same place;
- To make counting easier while casting on a large number of stitches.
Specific instructions as to the use of stitch markers often appear in knitting patterns. The abbreviation "pm" means to place a marker at that point in the pattern; "sm" means to slip the marker to the other needle. Note that the absence of references to stitch markers in a pattern doesn't mean that you shouldn't use them, especially when first tackling lace projects with multiple repeats across a row.
Stitch markers can be purchased at just about any knitting store or website. They are often sold in packages of between 10 and 20.