You may have heard about life lines and wonder about what they are and why they’re useful. I’ll tell you all about it in this post! In short: A life line in knitting is a temporarily inserted thread, to make sure that any dropped stitches can’t unravel down beyond the line you’ve inserted. This is particularly useful when knitting lace with a smooth yarn. Working lace back up with the correct stitches is much more complex than regular stockinette!
A life line can also be used for added security when you’re sure that a certain stretch of knitting is error-free. Just insert the life line and you have a safe place in your knitting to rip back to in the event you make a mistake in your knitting after that.
The technique for adding a life line is the very same as for putting live stitches on a piece of waste yarn or stitch holder, to work further on later on. The only difference is that with just adding a life line, the stitches are kept on the needle. With putting stitches on waste yarn, the stitches are pushed off the needle. The latter I also use when trying out the fit of sweaters, when the length of the cable of my circular knitting needles doesn’t allow for trying the piece on.
Many yarns are suitable to be used as a life line. Personally, though, I prefer yarn that is
- Thinner than my working yarn, so it doesn’t distort the surrounding stitches.
- A different color than my working yarn, so I can see where it is in my knitted fabric.
- Smooth, so it’s easy to both insert and remove it.
For these reasons I usually use crochet thread, a relatively heavy one.
Yarn: * Paintbox Yarns Simply DK, a good value, good quality 100% acrylic yarn, here in the color 155 Vintage Pink.
Needles: * KnitPro Zing Fixed Circular Needles. In this tutorial, I used the 4 mm (US 6) size with a cable length of 80 cm (32 inches).
Darning needle: * Hiya Hiya Darn It Yarn Needle, or any other tapestry needle, threaded with yarn.
Crochet cotton: Manuela N° 5 from Schoeller+Stahl, a 100% mercerized cotton 6-ply thread (200 m (219 yds) / 50 g)
Inserting a life line step by step
In this example I’m using a little stockinette swatch to show you how to insert a life line using a darning needle and thread. When doing so in a piece of knitted lace, you may find it easiest to do so after a plain knit of purl row if that’s possible in your patterning.
- First, make sure you have your thread and darning needle ready.
Don’t cut your thread too short, or you may not have enough length to thread through all stitches, and allow for some stretch.
- Next, take your darning needle and insert it through the first couple of stitches on the needle.
Move the darning needle behind the front leg of the various stitches. Take care not to pierce any strands of yarn.
- After the first few stitches, pull the cotton thread through, taking care to leave a tail outside the piece of knitting.
Then, you can insert the darning needle into the next couple of stitches and so on, to put all stitches on the thread.
- Now we have to secure the life line.
To do so, I prefer making a loose knot in the ends of the cotton thread.
- And this is the result!
When the life line is no longer needed, just undo the knot and pull the thread out of the knitting. Or follow the path of the life line through the stitches with a knitting needle before ripping back your knitting…
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