Simple Knitting Tip: Lifelines

I'm not like Jeanette. Jeanette is sweet and funny and talented (OK, so I'm a little like Jeanette). Jeanette, however, loves to knit lace. While I don't hate it, I'm not quite to the "love" stage. I do it, I am even designing a simple lace wrap, the test-knitting of which is very instructive, and even, dare I say it:  fun.  Now, since I'm not like Jeanette, this pattern will not be on the same level of lace (read: pro) as her lace patterns. This is the kind of thing Jeanette designs: Seabrook on Ravelry.  She designs lace for people like her who are not afraid of lace and/or love it. I design lace for rank amateurs and those who struggle with paying sufficient attention to the project to keep from screwing it up. Like my mother used to say, It takes all kinds.

I'm not like Wilma Rudolph either (whose story is simply amazing) but her quote applies to me:

I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.

When you realize that she overcame the effects of a childhood case of polio to go on to on to be the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in track & field in one Olympic games, that quote takes on a whole new light, doesn't it? While my own struggles with complicated knitting techniques are literally nothing like her struggle to achieve her goals, I am inspired to embrace that part of my character that very stubbornly does not quit. I tell my students all the time, especially the beginners, keep at it. You're bigger than those sticks and that yarn. Don't let them get the better of you. Because really, how sad would it be to give up on mastering a knitting technique with Wilma Rudolph as your role model?

I've had good times with lace knitting and times that weren't so good. There was the lace shrug for my daughter's prom that ended up just being stockinette stitch, for example. There was also that enormous lace blanket that I knit, so I know I'm not beaten.

Perseverance then is the name of the game. Another word for perseverance is "Lifeline." (OK, I may have made that up) If you're going to make anything of yourself as a knitter of lace (or at least conquer the fear or master the technique, as the case may be), you're going to HAVE to run a Lifeline. I know it takes valuable knitting time to do it. Trust me, I understand--some days my knitting time is scarce as hen's teeth (as grandmother used to say) (you're picturing a chicken now, aren't you, trying to remember if they have teeth) (disturbing imagery isn't it?).  Take that extra time now to save yourself the heartache of having to start over from the beginning.

If you don't know how to use a Lifeline, do not knit any lace until you go to and watch this video.

When you put in a Lifeline, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Write down the number of the row on which you put your Lifeline.

  2. Use a thread or a yarn that is the same size or smaller than the one with which you are knitting. Try to find something slippery (aka not mohair) because ideally you will thread that yarn through your stitches and never have to use it to save your project. Ideally you will just pull it back out and thread it through again further up on your project. Even if you never use it to prevent chaos, it's got to come back out again sometime.

  3. Make sure you have the correct number of stitches knit on that row (because if you have missed a YO, you will hate yourself).

  4. Don't put the Lifeline through the stitch markers if the stitch markers do not open. Don't ask me how I know this.

  5. Move your Lifeline every few rows. If your Lifeline is on Row 3 and you make a mistake on Row 26, you might need expensive therapy. Totally preventable.

  6. Put a Lifeline on a "rest" row. The project I'm working on now has a row of lace stitches, followed by a row of just knits and purls. This wrong side row is where my Lifeline goes and I run it after having completed this magic row.

  7. Also, lace knitting and lap cats are not always a happy combination.

Persevere. Put in your Lifeline. Conquer lace. You can do this.

Sometimes I use two Lifelines. Don't judge.