Sunday, March 21, 2021

Shrink Plastic Stitch Markers - A Free Printable

One of my favourite materials to play with is shrink plastic.  I just love the process of putting a design down onto something that looks like shiny rigid card and then being able to magically transform that design into something small and cute with a tactile dimension to it.

Over the years I’ve written about my adventures with shrink plastic, whether it’s converting my daughter’s first drawings into fridge magnets...

... or even my failed attempts at making my own shrink plastic.  Now that was interesting!

I should probably say, that this has inadvertently turned into yet another epic blog post!  I’m sorry, I do have a habit of trying new techniques as I’m going along, and this post would have been lacking if I hadn’t mentioned them.  I’ve made a 5-minute video that gives a basic summary of it here -

We’re heading towards the spring, in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and I’ve been incredibly thankful for my crafts that have been the perfect distraction from the current situation. At the moment, I’m designing and knitting a bag so that I can walk around the country park, near my house, with my knitting or drop spindle - I’m making a kind of traveling yarn bowl that will hang off my arm while I knit or spin and enjoy one of the few pleasures we’re allowed at the moment.

It’s quite a complex cable design, and so I really need some stitch markers that are more helpful than the pretty beaded ones I have been using.  Stitch markers that will tell me exactly where I am in my pattern so that I don’t have to concentrate quite so hard.

There have also been times in the past when it would have been really useful to label exactly which section of the seamless sweater, or which two at a time sock I was knitting.  You can get an awful lot of stitch markers from one sheet, so this is for all of those times that I’ve been slowed down because I lost concentration for a second and forgot exactly where I was in my knitting pattern.

I designed these stitch markers to be printed onto inkjet shrink plastic, but I’ll also show you how I made some using a classroom pack of shrink plastic, as I still have quite a lot left over from making buttons.  Inkjet shrink plastic is significantly more expensive than the regular kind, as well as having a slightly less sharp finish, so I thought I would show both options.

The first set of stitch markers I’m going to share are made from inkjet shrink plastic.

Materials Needed to Make Inkjet Shrink Plastic Stitch Markers -

Firstly, print out the stitch markers onto inkjet shrink plastic. You will find a printable PDF here.  I  designed the progress keepers to fit on both A4 and US letter shrink plastic and I managed to get 35 on there.  The backgrounds are all pastel shades as the colours will intensify when they are shrunk down.  This also means that there is no need to print them using the Best printer setting as you want the inks to be slightly paler before shrinkage.

Once you’ve printed the stitch markers out onto shrink plastic, leave the ink to dry for a few minutes before handling them, and then cut out the circles with small scissors.

I used the larger punch on my Crop-a-dile to punch holes where I’d marked the dots. My holes are 3/16” wide, or a little less than 5mm. Whatever you use to punch a hole, you need to remember that the diameter will shrink by about 50%.

* Next, heat the oven to around 160 degrees Centigrade or about 320 degrees Fahrenheit, and space your shrink plastic circles out on a baking sheet.

Put them in the oven and watch them shrink!

This! This is why I'm captivated by shrink plastic! It appeals to the inner child in me and takes me back to when I was 12 or so and my sister and I would make badges out of shrunken crisp packets and give them to our friends...

This little animated gif has been sped up 5 times, but it really doesn’t take long for the circles to start shrinking.   

Here’s how my stitch markers look after just two or three minutes in the oven. Like lots of little tiny plastic Pringles!   I rarely find that inkjet shrink plastic naturally flattens out completely and so I need to give it a helping hand. While they’re still hot, I like to flatten them down with the base of a glass, but you can use any smooth, flat object that is bigger than the item you are shrinking.

Once they reach this stage, this is as small as they are going to go. Don't be tempted to see if they'll shrink more if you leave them longer, they won't.  They will just go an unattractive yellowy/brown colour and possibly even melt.  Ask me how I know!

Take care as, at this point, while they’re still very hot, it’s possible to permanently dent or stamp into the shrink plastic. This is why you need to make sure that there are no marks on the underside of your glass and that the shrink plastic circles are well within the edge of the glass base.

I like to press the glass down and count to three before I move onto the next disc.  As the shrink plastic cools down, it hardens and becomes less malleable.  I find I’m only able to flatten out 8 or so before the plastic has cooled down and hardened to the point that a gentle press doesn’t alter their shape.  Remove the flattened shrink plastic stitch markers from the tray and pop the rest back in the oven for another minute or two.  Keep repeating the heating and flattening until you’ve flattened out all of the stitch markers. **

Here they are, all cute and colourful!


How to make shrink plastic stitch markers using regular shrink plastic

I have a big classroom pack of white shrink plastic left over from making buttons and so I wondered if I could somehow trace my knitting abbreviations onto the shrink plastic.  It’s certainly cheaper than inkjet shrink plastic and it might be helpful, if, like me, you already have a stack of non-inkjet shrink plastic.  I remembered that my daughter has a small lightbox for making flipbooks which will be the perfect size for tracing over...

Materials needed

Here are the knitting abbreviations that I think I need the most.  The good thing about tracing, rather than printing them is that I don’t need to plan how I’m going to fill a sheet.  If I realise that I need another stitch marker, I can just make one more, rather than having to print out a full A4 sheet to be economical - inkjet shrink film is expensive!

Cut down the abbreviation printout sheet so that it will fit under the smaller shrink plastic sheets.  You should be able to get 6 stitch marker charms out of 1 classroom pack sheet.

Tape the paper template under the shrink plastic and then tape the paper and plastic to your light source.  I’m using a copy board, but a phone, tablet, or even a window would work too.

Incidentally, it was at this point that I learned that this shrink plastic has a right and wrong side, depending on what you’re colouring it with.  I’ve always used the slightly rougher side, as this is perfect for pencil crayons, chalks, and dusting powders.  Contrary to the instructions, I found that I got a much better finish with Sharpies and the other permanent markers I tried on the smooth side as the ink bled quite a lot on the rougher side.

Then you can spend a relaxing half an hour tracing over the lines in whatever colours you like, remembering that the colours will darken when they’re shrunk.

Here are my traced shrink plastic charms all spread out on a baking sheet.  I love shrink plastic as it is so very forgiving.  My lines aren’t perfect, but when the writing is shrunk down, so will be the imperfections.

Follow the heating and flattening instructions from here * to here **

This is how the handwritten Sharpie pen tags turned out.  I love the clarity of these ones, the finish is so much sharper than the inkjet ones and they look much more handmade.

At this point, the Sharpie ones are finished enough to be made into stitch markers.  From past experience, however, I've learned that the inkjet inks need to be sealed if they are to have any kind of protection from moisture.

This, for example, is how my first set of unsealed inkjet shrink plastic fridge magnets looked after a couple of years on the fridge.  I imagine if I left my inkjet charms unprotected, they would become smudged with handling pretty quickly.

I put all of the charms in a cardboard cake box and sprayed them with Crystal Clear Protective Coat.  I don't believe it was particularly necessary for the Sharpie ones, but there was no harm in spraying them anyway.

The charms are all finished enough now to turn into stitch markers, but I couldn’t resist trying some gilding flakes that I’ve just bought on the inkjet ones...

To use Tonic gilding flakes on the charms you need

Holding the shrink plastic charm with the cross-action tweezers, carefully paint the edge with the Nuvo glue pen.  It took a little trial and error, but I learned that you need to let the glue dry a little before you apply the gilding flakes.  Thankfully the glue remains tacky, so there’s time to edge all of the charms with glue before moving onto gilding them.

Then, holding onto the charm with the cross-action tweezers, plunge the slightly tacky charm into the gilding flakes.  (A word of warning about gilding flakes; these things will go everywhere!  Take the lid off carefully and don’t even breathe heavily near them or you’ll be finding gilding flakes for days...) When you pull the charm out of the tub of flakes, they will have attached themselves to the glue around the edge. Brush off the excess flakes with a paintbrush until all that is left is the flakes that are stuck to your charm.

I think I’ll be adding gilding flakes to everything now!  I just love them!

To prevent the gilding flakes from rubbing off, I gave the charms a second coat of clear sealing spray.

They really are finished now, but I’m working on my resin bobbin project and, as I had a little resin left over, I couldn’t resist seeing how they would look with a glittery resin dome on top.  


Well, I loved them so much, I came back and finished them all off the next day...

You can see here, how inkjet shrink plastic often shrinks with a concave edge...

...but look at that shine!

Assembling the Stitch Markers 

I’ll show you how I make my two favourite styles of stitch markers.  The first clips to the front of the work, away from the stitches, and the second is designed to sit on the needle with the minimum amount of interference.  

Findings and tools used to make clip-on stitch markers

First, attach the jump ring to the charm -

Jump rings should always be opened sideways, rather than stretching them open to prevent distortion.

Close the jump ring with two pairs of pliers.

Thread a bead onto an eye pin.  I’m using a 4mm Swarovski bicone crystal.

This has to be my favourite jewellery-making tool!  The One-Step Looper.  It makes bending and cutting loops a breeze. Insert the wire into the tool between the cutters and through the hole on the opposite side and with one squeeze, it cuts and then bends the wire into a loop.  It's genius!

It doesn’t completely close it, so you do need pliers to finish the job, but they are great for getting consistently sized loops every time.

Open the loop sideways...

... and thread on the lobster clasp. Close the loop with the pliers.

Finally, open the remaining loop on the eye pin and thread on the jump ring attached to the charm.

I just love them!  They’re both pretty and sparkly while being helpful at the same time.

They’re going to look so cute hanging from my knitting!


Many people use this kind of rigid metal stitch marker between their stitches, on the needle itself, to denote changes in the pattern. While these would work on a smaller needle, I really don't get on with rigid markers that sit amongst my stitches.  I would rather use a loop of yarn than a metal ring, which is why I designed these charms that hang from a discrete cord.

How to Make Flexible Stitch Markers 

The flexible stitch markers use folding crimp ends and size 5 silk beading cord instead of lobster clasps, otherwise the materials and tools are the same.   I’ve seen similar stitch markers made with tiger tail, but I prefer the flexibility and drape of silk beading cord. I’ve also made this style of flexible stitch marker with much less expensive Chinese knotting cord and it works just as well.

Follow the stages above to hang the charm from a beaded eyepin.

Pinch the sides of the folding crimp end with a pair of pliers so that there is just enough room to squeeze the folded silk beading cord inside.

My silk cords have been cut to 4.5cm, which will be long enough to fit around most needles. Fold the cord in half and place the two strands in the centre of the folding crimp end.

Carefully fold over the sides of the crimps so that the cord is covered, and lightly held in place but not crimped down.

Pull gently on the cord so that the ends are just inside the crimp area...

...and then squeeze the fold-over crimps with a pair of flat-nosed pliers to securely hold the silk beading cord in place.

When you’ve tightly crimped down the silk beading cord you can then open the free eye-loop, attached to the charm, and attach the cord.

One completed flexible stitch marker!

If you’ve got this far, I do hope you’ve found it helpful.  Please pin this image to Pinterest.  It really does make a difference!

Copyright - I have provided the free printable stitch markers for personal use.  Make them for yourself or give them as gifts, sell them to raise funds for charity, but please do not sell them for profit.  

If you post images of your own versions on the internet, I’d love to see them.  Use @craftmehappy on Instagram to share them.

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to make the Shrink plastic stitch markers.  If you click through and purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you.

Recommended Blog posts

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Child's First Drawings

Shrink Plastic Buttons

Shrink Plastic Teacher Gifts

Shrink Plastic Craft Fail


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