How to Knit with a Lifeline and Prevent Disasters

I’ve been knitting for 15 years, so I don’t often use a lifeline nowadays. When I first started, though, they saved my bacon on more than one occasion. While using one is fairly straightforward, there are some helpful tips and tricks to make it an even better experience. Today, I’m going to dig into what exactly a lifeline is, why you would want to use it on some of your knitting projects, and how to do so in the most efficient and effective way possible.


A lifeline is a strand of yarn or thread that has been pulled through the stitches of your project at a set point. It essentially acts like an additional needle or like the cord between two circular needle tips. It’ll hold the stitches so that, if you need to unravel at some point, you can take your work back to where the life line is threaded, and then your work won’t unravel any further. Once you reach that point, you can easily put your stitches back on your needles and start again.

Using a lifeline with lace knitting

Lace work is the classic scenario for lifelines. If you have very little experience with lace, I would encourage you to use a lifeline no matter how simple the pattern is. As you get more comfortable reading your stitches and making and fixing mistakes, you can make judgment calls about whether you need a lifeline or not.

Using a lifeline with brioche

Knitters also report that lifelines are useful when knitting brioche. Fixing mistakes in brioche can be a real pain, because a brioche stitch involves more than one strand of yarn doing different things at the same time. Unknitting those stitches and putting them back on the needles can create a real mess, especially in two-color brioche. Having a lifeline in place will save you significant amounts of frustration.

Using a lifeline with hard-to-read yarn

If you are working on a project with yarn where it’s hard to see your stitches, a lifeline can be useful there. This is especially true for yarn in dark colors, yarn with a strong halo from mohair or suri alpaca, unspun yarns, yarns with a significantly fluctuating thick-thin-thick-thin structure, very lofty woolen-spun yarns, and certain highly textured novelty yarns.

Where to insert a lifeline

There are few helpful questions to ask to know when to use a lifeline: 1. Where is a spot with mostly knit stitches where I can insert my lifeline? 2. Is that spot somewhere in the repeat where I will be able to easily identify it and resume working from it? 3. How often do I think I might need to rip back this work?

What to use for a lifeline

When choosing a yarn for your lifeline, keep in mind two key factors: it needs to be visible against your work, and it needs to be a smooth yarn so that it doesn’t snag your stitches. Usually, I choose a worsted-spun scrap yarn. I make sure it’s in a lighter weight than the yarn I’m using for my project. I also choose a piece of yarn in a contrasting color.

Curious to learn more about knitting or to dig deeper into lifelines? Click on through for tutorials, free patterns, technique tips, and more.

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