July 12 2011 – thisisknit

Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to save your knitting as you work it, like a Word document or a game? Wouldn't it be good to look back at what you've done and know that whatever happens, you won't have to rip that part back? Today's post is a step-by-step guide to saving your work as you go. The trick is to use lifelines. A lifeline is a piece of contrasting yarn passed through all the stitches on a row. That's it. It just sits there, receding further down from the needles as you knit onward from it, minding its own business. At the end of the work, it just pulls right out, with no sign that it was ever there. The yarn can be anything smooth that isn't going to leave fibres in your knitting - in other words, crochet cotton would be excellent and mohair would be daft. Some people use dental floss (it works). To insert a lifeline, all you need is an ordinary yarn needle, threaded with your lifeline yarn. At the end of a section that you're sure is right, run the threaded needle through all the stitches, along the path of the knitting needle they're sitting on. If you're using stitch markers, just avoid them as you go, or they'll be fixed in place by the lifeline. When you've reached the end of the row (or round) and the lifeline's through all the stitches, that's it. Remove the yarn needle, leaving the lifeline in place. Then you just knit onward, leaving the lifeline in place. After a few rows, your knitting will look like this, with the lifeline peacefully marking your perfect section off from the current work. And there it stays, and it might never be needed. But in this scenario, something awful does happen. Something's gone wrong here: Not to worry - the lifeline is there to save the day. The stitches simply slip off the needle, and the rows back down to the lifeline rip out easily. When you get to the lifeline, the ripping stops. It can't go any further, because the stitches are held by the contrast yarn: At this point, you just put the stitches back up on the needle, and then start knitting. The lifeline stays there in case it's needed later on. Lifelines are usually recommended for lace (the sample being knit here is the Party Lace Scarf), but you can use them in all sorts of knitting. What about just before you start the heel of a sock or the decreases for a sleeve? Whenever you pass a point that you'd prefer not to have to rip back past, it makes sense to save your work. How often should you put one in? As often as you like - at regular intervals, like every tenth row or at the end of your pattern repeat makes sense. If you don't know what row your lifeline's on, it's little use, so write down which row you've saved on. If you're making lace with "rest rows", lifeline a purl row, because it's less fiddly to pick up a row with no yarnovers in it. Some people live dangerously, pulling out their lifeline to reuse the yarn for the next one further up. Let's just say that discovering a mistake on the second lifeline row after the first has been removed is enough to cure you of that tendency. It's safer to use several lengths of contrast yarn and leave them all in until the end. (Ask us how we know this.) And that's it - no more ripping out 50 rows of work because you've noticed a mistake only six rows down. There's something very relaxing about looking at the section below the line and knowing that no matter how badly things go wrong from now on, you don't have to do that bit again. Relaxed knitters make fewer mistakes, so having a lifeline in means you're less likely to need it. Funny, that! Thank you for all the lovely memories of the last five years that you shared with us when we asked a couple of weeks ago. The Random Number Generator has picked out a winner for our prize of an intermediate knitting or crochet class, and it's Lindy (rosknit on Ravelry). Congratulations, Lindy!


  • caroline: September 16, 2020
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    THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!!! this has made my day :D and probably changed my knitting experience for ever!! Big Love for this one x

  • This is Knit Blog · Turn back time: September 16, 2020
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    […] was meant to be purled, or this row was actually intended to be the cast off row. If there’s a lifeline in place, it’s probably several rows down. But the problem’s on this row, not far […]

  • This is Knit Blog · Household hints: September 16, 2020
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    […] were lots of other suggestions – dental floss as a lifeline and using the ruler in Word for measuring. We’re absolutely certain, though, that you have […]

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