Alternative Crochet Accessories

By Claire Ortega-Reyes – 18 Comments

We’ve all seen those crochet notions or accessories in craft stores. Some make us go, “oohhh,” and others, “how could this possibly help me crochet?” Regardless, most of them really just are what they are called: accessories AKA things you can do without. Some of them really do help with crochet work, and some even regard them as necessities in completing any project. These items can be quite expensive though–and won’t fit in all craft budgets. Don’t dismay, you just might have something around the house to substitute for that store-bought crochet accessory.



Stitch Markers
Use these to secure the end(s) of your work so they won’t go unraveling unattended. They can also mark a specific part of your work. There are many types of stitch markers out there, but here’s a tip: you can use paper clips and safety pins instead. You can even use stray strands of thread, yarn, or wire. As long as it stays in place (and can be removed without wrecking your project), it works.

Stitch or Row Counter
This little things tick away the number of rows or stitches needed–so you won’t have to rely on your fallible human memory to do so. You won’t have to buy this at the store though, if you have a phone or tablet with you, you can use that to track your progress. Use the notes feature, or apps for counting. Going old school works, too–use pen and paper. Another alternative is using your improvised stitch markers, marking every 10 or 20 rows for easy counting.

Blocking Boards
For crocheters who love making wearables, blocking boards make life (and blocking) simpler. The down side is that they can be costly, and they are difficult to store. Use rubber mats instead (those we use for kids work great). My personal favorite are those colorful rubber mats in puzzle shapes, that interlock with each other when assembled. Use only the number of pieces needed to block your work, then dismantle and store when you’re done.

Yarn Containers
Sometimes I believe that yarn skeins have lives of their own–how else could you explain the way they always get tangled, unruly and disorderly? Various containers have been invented to limit their activities. You can use a round tissue dispenser to dispense thread or yarn while working–this prevents the yarn from bobbing around (ever so annoyingly). You can also try using ribbon or a sash to wrap around the yarn skein–tighten the knot around the center-pull yarn as it grows thinner.

I’m pretty sure you all have genius ideas for substituting everyday items for store-bought crochet accessories–after all, crocheters are known to be quite resourceful! Please share similar tricks you have found useful in your crafting in the comments below. Happy crocheting, everyone!

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18 Comments

  1. Panya says:

    I use hair pins [like these: http://is.gd/4RkPVq (for a momentary hold) and paper clips (for an overnight hold) as stitch markers. I do have some “real” markers that I’ll use to mark every 10 rows or a repeat in a large project, but I dislike the ones I have [they're sort of scratchy, and I'm always afraid they'll muss up my yarn].

    I recently bought a couple packages of those interlocking foam floor tiles to use for blocking. I also got a large hardboard [like a pegboard, except it doesn't have holes] to put underneath the tiles so I can easily move the entire thing around if needed.

    I put my working skein in a small glass mixing bowl on the floor in front of my seat; it can spin around all it wants but doesn’t go anywhere, is protected from the floor, and the heavy glass keeps the whole lot where I want it [learned the hard way not to use a light-weight bowl!].

    One thing not mentioned is a hook grip/cushion — I like to use those foam things sold for pencils [like this: http://is.gd/Togzoh. They’ll fit right on to larger hooks, and for a smaller one I cut it in half length-wise, then super-glued it back together, making sure it fit tightly around the hook. I love that they’re easy to buy/replace, and more importantly, easy to slide off to see the hook size on the thumb grip/finger rest.

  2. What a sensible posting. Thank you!

  3. Ika Masume says:

    I use bobby pins for stitch markers.

  4. SoSaje says:

    I love the heavy glass bowl idea! I may have to use that. :-)

    I “solved” my addiction to fancy stitch markers … um … by learning to make them myself. So I don’t know if adding another craft really simplifies anything, but I have all the fancy lobster claw stitch markers that I could ever want now! :-)

  5. Great points Claire! One item not mentioned here are yarn bobbins, probably because they are actually useful and also inexpensive. Although I know how to do other arts such as painting I abandoned most years ago (lol) and focused on crochet simply because it does not require a lot of materials, is very portable, not messy and can be inexpensive (depending on materials used). Usually all I need to crochet is yarn, a hook and a plastic yarn needle. A common safety pin is one of the best stitch markers.

  6. Margarita says:

    Whenever I have to go with my dad to a doctor’s office, or any place where there will be waiting, I’m always happy!, because I know I will have plenty of time to crochet. To store my yarn, especially if it’s not a brand new – really thick- skein, I use an empty “wipie” container: the round canister type. I simply put the skein in, and pull my end through the little hole where you would pull out a wipie, and voilá, No tangles. I also use a little bit of contrasting color of yarn to mark my rounds. It has turned out easier than the store-bought markers or even paper clips, which sometimes tend to fall off.

  7. Margarita, I love the idea of putting yarn in the empty wiper containers. That will also work for tapestry crochet. Each skein or ball of yarn can be placed in a different container – one for each color if there are too many colors.

  8. Bananas says:

    I have 2 kids and 1 too many hobbies, so instead of buying a row counter I made my own, so I found this website
    http://www.sutherland-studios.com.au/free/rowcounter.html And I’ve gotten so may compliments on it. Now I can keep track of my rows and still look fabu

  9. Molly Kiely says:

    I use a ribbon or contrasting colour of yarn as a row marker — just overlay it on the row between the last stitch and the start of a new round. It doesn’t snag or catch, I always have some around, and you just pull it through when you’re finished.

  10. Linda M. says:

    A two liter soda bottle works well for a yarn holder. Find the ones with the removable black plastic bottom. Remove it with a knife, cut the bottom off of the bottle, put your skein in with the end of yarn going through the pour spout, and put the black plastic bottom back on. I love the little plastic safety pins for markers. I bought a package at Hobby Lobby–also there is a wooden yarn winder known as a nosepind. You can use a wooden spoon or a Q hook also to wind your yarn around it. Look on u-tube to find out how. I stick these balls of yarn inside a small zip plastic bag and pull the yarn out–zipping it up almost closed. The ball of yarn stays clean and is easy to pull the yarn from the middle of the ball.

  11. Linda I agree, the zip lock bags work great! I usually use them when travelling or crocheting on the go. I use the sanwiich bag size and also the larger size depending on the amount and type of yarn I am working with and I also zip it until it is almost closed when I am pulling yarn through. At home I sometimes use the more innovative and unconventioal items when I am doing large tapestry wall hangings etc. with a lot of colors. I haven’t tried the two liter bottles, but that sounds like another great idea!

  12. Bethintx1 says:

    I love M&M’s minis containers for holding my yarn needles & stitch markers. I use the long containers (usually available at holiday time) for crochet hooks. I also use them as a nostepinne. I trap one end of the yarn in the lid an wind the yarn around it. You can make beautiful center-pull balls with them. (There are plenty of how- to videos on using a nostpinne to wind balls of yarn)

    I have one to put in each project bag so I don’t lose my hook & when my skein of yarn gets loose and tangled I wind it into a ball using it.

    I use a crystal Lite drink mix container for my loom knitting picks.

  13. Sandie says:

    If you use safety pins, I suggest getting the coil-less kind though I have used the large curved regular ones with success. I have messed up a number of projects when the thread got tangled in my pin. I purchased some of those plastic ones and strangely, the unopened package has disappeared. LOL I never got to try them. I generally use them for marking xx number of rows for counting purposes. To hold the place in my project I use what I call Lil’s Knot – it’s sort of a slip knot which can be undone easily when you come back to it.

    I have also used the mini M&M containers for needles and such. Never thought of winding the yarn around them though. Good idea.

    My daughter’s MIL made me a couple of cloth bags which I can put my yarn in and hang upside down with the center pull thread hanging out. I have found these useful. They are like short plastic bag holders. I also have used ziploc bags and bowls and grocery bags and purchased containers. My yarn often finds a way out. I think it has a life of its own. LOL

    I don’t have a counter. I just jot down a mark on a piece of paper or I might make a photocopy and check off the rows or rounds as I do them. Some patterns require a highlighter as you go through the row too.

  14. Lynne says:

    I also use bobby pins as markers. They will hook right around the stitch and the padded tips help keep it from snagging anything. They will lie flat against your work if you need to roll it up and go. Also, they’re cheap, small, and if you need to, you can store them in your hair! LOL

    If I need to count rows, I put a bobby pin in the first one, then depending on how many rows I need, put one every 5 or 10 to make it easy to count.

  15. Dana says:

    Very nice post, Claire. If I could afford to, I would indeed get all the little doo-dads possible as I love little gadgets. For right now…

    For Yarn: It stays in the bottom drawer of my little plastic chest of drawers on wheels. The yarn can’t escape and go anywhere, stays clean, and is easily tidied away. Unfinished projects go in there too.

    Stitch counting: Old school match counting method on paper. Four strikes vertically with a 5th horizontally for every 5 stitches. It’s slow, :). Now want to try a bracelet like the one Bananas posted in her link above.

    Needle grips: I saw some of those pencil grips in our $3 store and think maybe it’s not crazy to use them for hooks after all. Thanks, Panya. ^_^

    Carrying yarn: Why didn’t I think of a Ziploc Bag before, haha. I’ve also seen some totes with eyelets near the top to string the yarn through.

    Thanks for sharing all your ideas. Ciao.

  16. Panya says:

    Dana — my husband bought me a tote sort of like this: http://is.gd/Yp4cQB [with an eyelet in the cloth part], but I don’t use the eyelet. One of the first times I tried it, my yarn ended up tangling inside the tote and it was a huge pain trying to untangle it while the yarn was still threaded through and attached to my project. I use the tote mostly for storage [I'm a homebody ;-)], but if I happen to take a project somewhere, I just open the drawstring and ignore the eyelet.

  17. Dana says:

    Hi, Panya. Don’t remember where that yarn tote is from, but it was just the usual flat thing with grommets inset.

    I would be weary of tangling too, but I’m guessing that happened with manufacturer wound yarn? My BF usually unwinds her yarn and wraps it around an I-shaped cardboard bobbin. That also helps ensure that if the yarn has any flaws, you find them early. (Happens sometimes with acrylics.) A ball winder is a faster, but expensive, option.

    Was your yarn actually a center pull? Sometimes they get knotted too. Hm. Off to read the post on “making a center pull ball”.

    Thanks for your reply. Ciao.

  18. Bev says:

    I often use twist ties as markers. I fold the ends up so the wire doesn’t poke out and it is nice and smooth. I had one project in particular where having a selection of colours allowed me to colour code my markers and identify several places in the piece at a glance.

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