I cannot count the number of times I have seen the question asked How do I save my work now that I have made a mistake? Or the emphatic statement of defeat It is ruined.
And the answer every time is You should have used a lifeline.
Which always leads to more questions…
But what is a lifeline? How do I use a lifeline? Do I need to put on in BEFORE I start knitting? Can I put in AFTER I start? What do I need to use for a lifeline?
What is a lifeline?
You are sitting there loom knitting one day, and you see a mistake you made several rows back. OH the HORROR!!! Then you yell out to your best friend, “Hey, Betty Sue! My work has a hole! I’m sinking fast! Throw me a lifeline!” That is when Betty Sue looks at you like you have lost your ever loving mind. Because Betty Sue knows that is not the way a lifeline in knitting works. And because Betty Sue is a cat…
If that is not how a lifeline works, then what exactly is it? Well it is a safety line that will help save your work. It is a piece of yarn that is run through all the stitches to hold them so that your stitches are safe if you need to rip your work back to that point and can be easily put back on the loom.
When do I need a lifeline?
There are different reasons to need a lifeline. Maybe you are working on a complicated stitch pattern and just want to make sure you have that added protection so you can take the work out if you make a mistake without losing the entire piece. Or maybe you are wanting to remove your work from the loom because you are decreasing or increasing and are needing to adjust your loom size when using the All-n-One loom or needing to change the loom entirely.
What is the best lifeline to use?
The best lifeline to use is yarn or string that is as follows:
– the same or smaller weight yarn than the yarn you are using so that it will easily go through the stitches
– a contrasting color from your work so it is easy to see
– a fiber type that will easily slide through the stitches like a microfiber or nylon
That last if very important if you are using mohair or another fiber type that easily gets tangled with itself. Otherwise, if you are using a well spun acrylic, then you can just use acrylic of another color.
Do I need to put it in BEFORE or can I add it LATER?
While it is easier to put in a lifeline before you need it, you can add one later. Adding it later can be trickier especially if it’s a more complex stitch pattern like cables or lace. In the case of cables or lace, it is always better to put it in first.
How to place a lifeline BEFORE needing it
When using a lifeline before you need it, you will need to check your work periodically for errors. If you do not find one, then you will remove the lifeline and place it again where you are. That way if there is a mistake then you do not need to take it out quite as far.
You will first need to cut your chosen lifeline yarn several inches longer than the work is on the loom. If you are working in the round, use a piece that will wrap around the loom twice. If working a flat panel, use a lifeline that is twice the length of the pegs being used. Or just wrap that yarn around the loom twice no matter if it’s in the round or a flat panel. If using the afghan loom or another type of figure 8 shape loom, follow the pegs with the yarn around it once then cut it twice as long.
Now you will need to run that lifeline through each stitch on the loom. There are 2 ways to do this.
You can thread your lifeline on a tapestry needle and run the needle through each stitch.
Or you can just use your loom pick to pull the lifeline through each stitch. This is my favorite method.
I like to pull it from the bottom of the loop like a purl but it can be done from the top like a knit.
Be sure and pull the lifeline to the side and back of the peg before going to the next stitch.
Now the lifeline is running through each stitch but behind the peg so it will not interfere with your next row of work.
Once you have the lifeline place, you will continue with your work ignoring that extra strand. When you know you haven’t made a mistake after working several inches of work, remove the lifeline by simply pulling it out. Then put it back in the stitches that are on the pegs and start again.
How to place a lifeline AFTER needing it
Like I said previously, some stitch patterns are very hard to add afterward. But if you are just working something simple like stockinette and discover something weird that you have no clue how you did but want to fix, you can add a lifeline into the work a couple of rows below the offending place. Then you can rip the piece back to that point and easily place the work back on the loom and start again.
You will need to use a tapestry needle for this so thread your chosen lifeline into that needle and let’s get started!
Find the edge stitch and run the needle though one side a few rows below the mistake. If it’s worked in the round, start with the stitch that was worked on peg 1 so the starting stitch will still be the same when placed back on the loom.
Then run the needle through the next stitch making sure you are staying on the same row.
This is what it will look like when all the stitches are on the lifeline.
Then you pull the previous stitches out until all you have are the stitches on the lifeline ready to be put back on the loom.
I hope this helps save some projects from being completely ripped out due to mistakes being found later. We have all done it and lost projects that we tried to save.
Lifelines are truly a life saver! And Betty Sue won’t be giving you that look…
Happy loom knitting!!