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Monday, April 18, 2016

Mini Tip Monday - Using Lifelines

Today I'm starting a new series called Mini Tip Monday. Every Monday I'm intending to post a mini tutorial. Once I get my new mobile phone in a few weeks, I'm hoping to start doing Periscope videos again and I'm planning to do a live Mini Tip video on Periscope and a blog post with a photo tutorial on the same topic.

I thought I'd kick this new series off with one of the most useful tips I've ever learnt - using lifelines. A lifeline is simply a strand of yarn threaded through your stitches. Find a piece of yarn in a contrasting colour but be careful about colours bleeding. The yarn should be smooth and a little thinner than your knitting yarn. Unless you're working with 4ply/fingering weight or lace weight yarn. In those cases I'd use a 4ply/fingering weight yarn.

This winter when I was teaching at Artesano, I discovered the KA yarn leader which is nylon (at least I think it's nylon) cord. Machine knitters have a similar thing called ravel cord. The advantage of this yarn leader is that it's smooth and won't stick to your yarn. I've used my yarn leader a couple of times now and love it.
Photo by Artesano

I also know some people use dental floss as a lifeline.

You can also use the KA yarn leader for afterthought socks (or thumbs on mittens or pockets etc). I've cut a yarn leader into shorter lengths to use for afterthought heels on my socks. Above you can see the row of knitting in yellow - that's my yarn leader. When I finish the sock, I will undo that row of stitches and add a heel.

Here's how to put in a lifeline:

1. Thread your lifeline on to a blunt tapestry needles. Some interchangeable needle tips have little holes (the little holes used to tighten up your needles), you may be able to get your lifeline/yarn leader through there (I think dental floss will fit through the holes). 

2. Thread the tapestry needles through the stitches while they are on your knitting needle (if you use a circular needles, push all your stitches on to the cable as it'll be easier to get the tapestry needle through).

Once you've threaded the lifeline through all your stitches it'll look like this. Depending on how many stitches you have and how long you'll need to leave the lifeline in place for, you may wish to tie the ends of the lifeline together to make sure it doesn't get pulled out by accident. 

One word of caution: if you have stitch markers on your knitting needle, make sure you don't thread the lifeline through the stitch markers. Also, as you knit the first row after the lifeline, be careful not to catch a strand/ply of the lifeline when you knit.

As you continue knitting the lifeline will stay on the row where you inserted it. If you make a mistake a few rows later, pull your knitting needle out and unravel down to the lifeline and your stitches will be sitting neatly on the lifeline, ready to be put back on your knitting needle.

If you don't make a mistake, simply pull the lifeline out.

When and how often do you put in a lifeline? Well that depends on you and your knitting. You may wish to put a lifeline in when you start a new pattern repeat. Or if the pattern repeat is a lot of rows, you may wish to put one in every 10 rows, every 5 rows. You can also use a lifeline before you start a complicated bit of the pattern, or before you start shaping. Anytime you're worried about making a mistake that'll be difficult to undo and you're concerned you'll ruin your knitting, a lifeline is a useful tool to use.

Lifelines can be used with any knitting that's difficult to undo without messing it up. I use it when I'm knitting lace, cables, fair isle or any time I'm not sure if the next section will work out and I may wish to unravel. 

Using a lifeline makes unravelling your knitting less stressful.

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All photos in this post (except the photo of the KA Yarn Leader) are by Rob Frost Photography and are used with permission.

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