A knitting lifeline is pretty common knowledge to lace knitters. It is not common knowledge to those who have not ventured into knitting lace.
Lace knitting is all about yarn overs and decreases. As the piece get larger, keeping track of the stitch multiples and pattern repeats can become quite a challenge.
Two tools are employed to keep the knitter on track - one is using stitch markers to delineate the stitch multiples.
The second is the lifeline. A lifeline is simply a length of thread or yarn (contrast from working yarn) which is threaded through a row of stitches in a strategic row (like the end of a pattern repeat).
Now, consider that you are working on a sweater with a complex stitch pattern. You are several rows beyond where you inserted your lifeline. You find you have mistakes that you cannot recover in the current row.
Take out your needles and unravel back to your lifeline. The lifeline will prevent your knitting from unraveling further and provide a perfect guide to load those stitches back onto your needles with the correct orientation.
Using a contrasting yarn or thread (long enough to fit across the work with plenty of extra length to hang at each end) and a tapestry needle, go through each stitch on your needle being careful not to catch any of the live stitches with your needle.
If you are using stitch markers, be careful to NOT thread your lifeline through the markers - go around them.
It only takes a few minutes to put in a knitting lifeline and can save hours of ripping out and trying to get back on track.
This video gives you a simple demonstration of how to add a lifeline.
I recommend that any project that has complex stitch patterns is a good candidate for using a lifeline. You may even find that when one in place, you make fewer mistakes!
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