It's story time. One time, when I was about 12 years old, I spent the better part of 2 hours stringing beads.
In the end I created the most beautiful, intricate pattern on a single strand of waxed thread. I was so excited to show someone what I had done, so I ran upstairs into the family room, holding the needle with my beads hanging down. “Look what I’ve created” I said to my Dad as he sat at the table, having lunch and watching TV. I held up the needle showing him the beaded necklace I created. Just then the needle slipped from my fingers and the whole string fell, with beads bouncing all over the hardwood floor.
I was devastated. I turned and started ran back to my room crying. I never wanted to experience that crushing feeling again!
Over my many years of knitting I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Mostly they’re a dropped stitch which I’ve been able to catch. I’ve been frustrated and mad at my knitting, but thankfully I’ve never broken down, cried and run to my room. That’s because have a secret weapon I use when knitting intricate patterns.
A lifeline is a piece of smooth, contrasting colored waste yarn that’s threaded thru your stitches which are currently on your knitting needle. It’s typically used in intricate sequenced work such as a lace pattern shawl. It’s placed at the last row of the sequenced pattern and indicates where you are in the pattern. The lifeline’s purpose is if you have to undo your work for any reason it indicates where your pattern begins. It allows you to drop back to the lifeline and start knitting your pattern all over again
The best place to put a lifeline is the last row of the sequenced pattern. This way, if you have to drop back, you’ll always start at Row 1 of your pattern. To insert, you will thread your waste yarn onto a darning needle, insert the needle into the first stitch at one end of your knitting needle and then thread thru each stitch in the row until you’ve reached the end. But be sure not to thread thru your stitch markers! Also, it’s good to tie a stitch marker at the end of the lifeline. This makes it easier to pull out your waste yarn when ready.
Lifelines come in handy when you’re knitting just about any project which includes cable work, colorwork, or even garter! Say you’ve started working on the wrong row after putting down your work, or you forget where you are in a sequence. Or, you’re watching an intense movie and you get so caught up that you stop knitting and then, when the scary part is over and you’re ready to knit again, you forget where you are in your pattern.
I typically use lifelines when I knit lace patterns and I tend to use several lifelines. One to mark the first sequence, another one to mark the second sequence, just in case I forget.
I learned my lesson when my Faithful Sherpa and I drove to Unionville, Nevada, in our ‘54 Chevy truck to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
I spent a week deciding on the yarn I wanted to use to knit my anniversary shawl. I finally settled on maroon tonal wool.
I started my project while we drove down Hwy 80.
“Set up Row: cast on 2 stitches., R1: (rs) kfb. K1. R2: K2. Kfb.
“Look at that rock outcropping” said my Faithful Sherpa as we went whizzing by at a whopping 48 mph.
“Continue in this pattern, until you’ve reached 14 rows”
“Babe, check out those rocks, someone painted them white and wrote a love notes in the sand”
We stopped in Winnemucca to buy food and wine then drove to the Old Pioneer Garden Country Inn.
We arrived just in time to cook dinner. After bringing the groceries in we cracked open a bottle of wine and started cooking. After dinner we sat down on the couch with our second glass of wine,
I picked up my knitting and we watch whatever movie we found from their extensive collection of VHS tapes. By the third glass of wine, we were too tired to keep our eyes open, so I put down my knitting and we went to bed.
The next morning after breakfast and a cup of coffee (ok 3), I sat outside on the patio and picked up my project to start knitting again. I kept staring at my work, not being able to figure out where I was in the pattern, was this row 10, row 12. I pulled out a couple of stitches, but still couldn’t figure out where I was in the pattern.
So, I ended up ripping out the whole project and starting over again. If I had my lifeline I wouldn’t have to rip everything out. And trust me, “don’t worry, I’ll remember in the morning” doesn’t work!