A lifeline holds a row of stitches so that if you make a mistake, you can simply drop the stitches off your needle, unravel your work back to the lifeline, and pick up the stitches that are held in place by the lifeline.
Lifelines can be used with any type of knitted project, but they are especially helpful when you are:
- Knitting complicated stitch patterns,
- Knitting stitch patterns that you are unfamiliar with, or
- Approaching a part of the pattern you are unsure of
How to Use Lifelines
There are 2 steps to using a lifeline. One is how to place it in your work, the other is how to use it when you discover a mistake in your work.
In this video, I’ll show you 2 popular ways to place a lifeline and how to pick up your stitches when you put one to use.
Written Instructions for Inserting a Lifeline with a Darning Needle
Use scrap yarn that is at least 10” longer than the width of your project. Use a smooth yarn that is the same size or smaller than the yarn you are working with.
While it will work, I don’t like to use yarn that is too thin. For example, I find it inconvenient to use crochet thread for my lifeline when I’m knitting with bulky yarn. It works; it’s just a little fiddly to pick up the stitches from the thread if you need to rip back to it.
Here are the steps:
- Knit until you’ve finished the last row of your pattern repeat, or to a logical place in the pattern (i.e., every 10 rows)
- Check your work to see if there are any mistakes.
- Count the stitches to make sure you have the right number of stitches on your needle.
- If everything is OK, use a yarn needle to thread the lifeline through the stitches on your needle.
- Continue the pattern, being careful not to knit the lifeline.
- Knit another pattern repeat (or to a logical place in your pattern).
- Repeat steps 1-4 and add a 2nd lifeline. Once the 2nd one is in place, repeat steps 1-4 by removing the bottom lifeline and reusing it – but check for mistakes between the lifelines before removing the bottom one.
It is helpful to use 2 lifelines because mistakes are not always obvious when they are near your needles. Sometimes they become more obvious after you’ve knit several more rows. The second lifeline is an additional measure to catch overlooked mistakes.
If you discover a mistake, drop the stitches off your needle and unravel the work to the lifeline that is positioned just below the mistake. Pick up the stitches from the lifeline and continue the pattern with the first row of the pattern repeat (or the appropriate row).