The shawl is now thisclose to being finished. Just a few border rows and a bit of blocking and it’ll be done, and after that a bit more pattern drafting and it’ll be ready to go up for sale over at The Sweet Sheep. I’m happy that it’s almost finished (because then I get to fully show it off, and y’all will get to knit it too, if you should desire), and I can tell that I’m almost there because I’ve started longingly browsing other shawl patterns. Yesterday it was Knitted Lace of Estonia. When I was almost finished knitting my Bridgewater Shawl, I was giving serious contemplation to casting on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Pi Shawl. (I restrained myself). It’s some strange lace-coloured-classes form of startitis, who can figure it.


On my last post many of you commented on the fact that I am using lifelines. I like lifelines. I’ve often used them while lace knitting because I like the sense of security, and in this instance they have been a great support during the design process. When I’ve gotten to a point in the project when I am happy with it and confident about moving forward from that point at the very least, I string in a lifeline. (Here: some of my Lorna’s Laces shepherd sock remnants. It’s non-grabby, thin, and colourfast, all good qualities in a lifeline). I’ve installed them at several points to support my progress, and it’s also a nice visual reminder of how far I’ve knitted. I like the advantage of knowing that if/when I have to rip something out, I’ll have a secure row of stitches to pick up. This doesn’t mean that my lace knitting is always mistake-free, mind you. I still make mistakes, I just give myself the option of a re-do if it gets to be that bad.


However, I know that there are knitters that don’t use them, and Erin reminded me that this is actually a subject of debate. (I know – a facet of knitting with multiple opinions about it. Shocking, isn’t it? (DPNs vs. Magic Loop. Aaaaand…go!)) So I’m piqued, dear knitting friends, do you use lifelines? Whether you do or don’t, know that I have 100% respect for you either way. But I am curious to know more about what goes into that decision or non-decision.

And in the mean time, I’m looking ahead to the next knitting projects and I think a return to cables, lots more teal green, and more sweaters are on the horizon. Even if fall does bring a return to “real” work for me, I’m happy about cold weather knitting also returning.

Happy knitting!


  1. I almost always use lifelines when knitting lace, because i find it to be a tremendous hassle to try to pick up yarnovers and double decreases, etc. I especially do it if I’m working on something that’s a little more difficult than what I usually do.

    I will go lifeline-less if I’m doing stockinette/garter, or if it’s a fairly basic “yo, k2tog” type lace pattern.

    If it helps you in your work, I say go for it!

  2. Yes, when working lace I typically do use lifelines. How often depends on the pattern and/or yarn. And I wish I had used them when working a wrap with double-sided cables. That wrap is currently waiting in the wings while I gather the courage to rip a few inches.

    Looking forward to seeing your completed shawl.

  3. I always see/hear/read about lifelines and say to myself, “What a great idea!” And then I merrily knit along on my lace and don’t think about inserting a life line until I make a mistake that causes me to wish I had one. I wish a pattern would encourage me to use one; then maybe I’d get into the habit.

  4. Pretty! Can’t wait to see the finished shawl. I don’t use lifelines myself, but I am also lazy and I have a fairly high tolerance for error, so I frequently leave smaller mistakes in. I also don’t knit lace that’s that complicated (or at least I haven’t yet). I can see how they would be helpful for design though and will probably use them should I feel the need to design lace.

  5. Northmoon · ·

    I usually can’t be bothered to use them myself. However, I was knitting the Juneberry shawl and I wasn’t certain that I had enough wool to finish the border. So I put a lifeline in the last row of the body with the thought that if I run out of yarn I can rip out and add a border in a different colour yarn.

  6. Elizabeth · ·

    I don’t use lifelines, and I mostly don’t swatch either. I do accept that these practices sometimes lead to heartache. I more or less deny myself permission to gripe about ripping back, because I don’t take precautions to prevent such situations.

  7. I don’t use lifelines, but mostly for the same reason that Sally doesn’t. I don’t think to until it’s too late. However, there are some projects that I’ve made that I know if I make them again, I will use lifelines because I had to tink faaaarrrrr too much lace when I realized a mistake was made. The pattern was such that the lace was worked on every row rather than every other row, so just ripping was too mind-boggling and tinking made me know the pattern better.

    come to think of it, I will be putting in a lifeline in a project I’m working on once I get through the next few rows. Just in case.

  8. I don’t use lifelines. It’s forced me to get very good at fixing lace and seeing the overall pattern to tell where I’ve messed up.

    I’ve had a few traumatic incidences that have made me think about converting, but after watching a friend who will rip back to her lifeline whenever the slightest thing goes wrong, I believe it’s better for me to avoid the temptation. Not having a lifeline makes me count three times to make sure I’ve screwed up (which has saved me a rip at least twice) and has helped me learn how to do quicker, more localized repairs.

    I do like the idea of using it while designing, though, when it might not necessarily be for a repair.

  9. When I first ventured into lace knitting I was completely on my own and wouldn’t have survived that first shawl without a lifeline. I’m very anal and have no tolerance for mistakes….so out it comes! The lifeline was a tremendous help…especially as I learned to take out yarn overs! I continue to use them and wouldn’t start a lace project without one! Another reason that explains why there’s always chocolate and vanilla! 🙂

  10. I never use lifelines. When making lace, I try to be VERY careful, going over patterns again and again as I knit and watching how the new stitches fit with those in the previous row. It is usually easy to see a mistake almost immediately. If you get ‘off’, the stitches you put on the rest of that row do not maintain the pattern. You can see right away. The next row does not fit. The pattern disappears. It looks ‘wonky’. The stitch count is not right. There are many signs right away that something is wrong. As long as I catch it right away, I undo the stitches, one by one, and place them from the left needle to the right one. I am not concerned that I lose an evening or two frogging from time to time.

    My attitude about knitting is somewhat different than others: I take my time. I make sure that I am never working under a deadline, unless it is for something really simple. I use knitting as a way to unwind, to relax. That does not happen if I put pressure on myself because I am ‘behind’. If a project takes an extra day or two, that is fine.

    I try to enjoy the process: Winding a ball of yarn by hand and really looking at the colors in it. By casting on stitches more than once to be sure that the ‘tail’ is not too long. Stopping to look at the pattern as it develops from time to time. I like to appreciate the project from start to finish. I do not want to feel that I am fulfilling a quota on a factory line. I do not enjoy knitting when it becomes pressured work. I am not trying to have more finished projects than others. Knitting is not a race.

    This requires that I start projects well in advance. I am looking for Christmas projects now, that will be simple and useful. Last year I did several pairs of the French Press knitted slippers. Quick to make, and interesting because of the felting.

    I am not concerned about how many things I knit. I am concerned about watching the pattern unfold. It is my way of taking time to ‘smell the roses’.

  11. I started my first “real” sock pattern–with a chart, and cables, and smaller yarn and needles than I’d ever used before. I had to restart after 4 and 6 inches from scratch. Then I learned about lifelines. Now I have a life line in after each chunk of chart, and I am much happier about moving forward knowing that at least I won’t have to do the 2 inch cuff again, on this sock, ever again, because I screwed something else up beyond repair on down the line.

    So for this advanced beginner, they are brilliant.

  12. Of course I do.

    I also:

    floss daily
    make my bed after getting out
    balance my chequebook
    do my dishes after every meal
    wash the floor every day
    pay bills ahead of time
    pass up yarn sales so that others can partake
    give alpaca coats to homeless people (ok so that one is actually true)

  13. Unless the lace is brain-dead easy, I use a lifeline. I like being able to easily fix a mistake. Besides, if I DO put in a lifeline, chances are I won’t have to use it. That’s the way my luck runs.

  14. It depends. I will use them if I’m intimidated by a pattern – and since I generally try to up the challenge of each lace project – I use them often.

    Bridgewater will be treated to lifelines if I ever get past the garter stitch!

  15. Val Champ · ·

    I use lifelines, but not always until after I make a mistake..LOL

    I usually end up with a piece of yarn in a darning needle and threading it through a row that I can easily identify.

    However on the last project I used a lifeline and actually marked which row it was in on the pattern. That made it easier to rip back.

    I am suffering from ” wanting to start a shawl” but am determined to finish this baby blanket first.

  16. As a new knitter, I use lifelines on everything I knit. And so far, I’ve had to use most of them. 😉

  17. Lifelines, for sure! They have saved my sanity many times.

  18. I suck at lace; after I tore out Citron a few times, some blogger friends insisted I use a lifeline. I put it in and haven’t knit much on it since; I think it must have shamed me 🙂

  19. Let’s just say that I SHOULD use a lifeline. 😉

  20. I think lifelines are a great idea and don’t know why I don’t use them more often!

  21. I use lifelines, but only in case I drop a stitch. Otherwise I carefully count and recount because I do not want to rip back. I also use them often, because should I need it, I don’t want to have to rip back too many rows.

  22. tinebeest · ·

    Not always. If I don’t have to start over more than 3 times, I probably can get used to the pattern without a lifeline and fix mistakes on the fly. Anything slightly more complicated, I will thread in the odd lifeline. I still try to fix it first, but if things have gone really awry I’ll rip back. So far not more than twice in a shawl, but wait until I get into the really complicated stuff…

  23. I usually live on the edge and go without lifelines. After your last post on the subject, I meant to go put one in my current shawl as I’ve been having a little trouble with it. Should have done, because a few nights later I found a mistake a few rows back…

  24. I use lifelines depending on the project. If it’s something complicated that has a lot riding on it (like my wedding shawl) then I definitely used lifelines. I also used them with my mom’s Print O the Wave because it was a good way to delineate the different pattern repeats and because it seemed that when I didn’t use them, I was far more likely to screw up. However, for my bridesmaids’ Citrons, I didn’t use lifelines. The shawls were stockinette and thus there was much less of a chance of me screwing things up. When I did (halfway through a work conference), it was easy to rip back and put the stitches back on the needles (to the amusement of my coworkers).

    So… in answer to your question: sometimes.

  25. Yes, I use lifelines and I often feel that I am the only one in my knitting group that uses them. I do sometimes regret using them and stitch markers because when I want to post an in-progress picture, the lifelines do stand out – I usually use a DMC Perle 8 cotton from my cross-stitch days. However, this week I started Triinu from Knitted Lace of Estonia and had a hard time with the provisional cast-on. Got the cast-on, knitted the beginning rows and before I started the center repeats, I put in a lifeline. On my second repeat, I dropped stitches off a nupp. Couldn’t fix it for the life of me. I ended up going back to the lifeline, picked up all the stitches and I am knitting again. A lifeline stops me from wasting time trying to repair a mistake sometimes inexpertly and allows me fix something with less angst and better results.

  26. I don’t use lifelines because I’m too lazy to put them in and I’d rather redo a small patch for a mistake than rip out multiple rows of lace to fix something 3 rows down. If I were designing lace (and I’m not), I might be more inclined to use lifelines since ripping out seems a necessary part of the design process.

  27. lifelines; i’ve batted for both teams, sometimes i use them, sometimes i don’t. but gotta say, i love, love, love using the little hole in my knitpicks options circs to string the lifelines as i knit!

    DPN vs. magic loop; let’s just say, after sampling magic loop just once, i’m converted and will never go back to DPNs! =]

  28. Lifelines? AB-SO-LUTE-LY. With 3 cats, 3 dogs and a phone that never stops ringing, I wouldn’t attempt lace without them. (Besides, my family says that if I were a man, I would wear suspenders AND a belt just to be on the safe side.)

  29. Yes! I use lifelines. I LOVE lifelines!! In fact, I wish I would have known about lifelines sooner. I tried a rather simple shawl out of ribbon yarn which was very slippery in my early days of knitting. Oh how a lifeline would have saved me!!!

  30. I do use lifelines in lace knitting especially if there is no rest row. I think lifelines are the best invention for lace knitting.

  31. I have been knitting for 45 years and got into lace 35 years ago. I had never heard of a life line until recently. I have just become so comfortable about slipping my knitting off of the needle and raveling (oops….frogging) back to fix any mistakes that I really don’t feel the need for it. The first time I did that at a knitting meetup more than one person actually turned pale. I didn’t mean to throw anyone into shock, but if I had a dollar for every time I have done that over the years I would have another room crammed with stash.

  32. I don’t always feel the need to use lifelines, but I certainly love them when I need them. I mostly use them when I’m afraid of running out of yarn – so if I want to work two extra repeats but don’t know if I have enough yarn – lifeline! Then, if I get almost to the end, I rip back past those extra repeats to the lifeline and reknit from there.

  33. No…but I almost always think that I should have — but not enough to actually do it on the next project. Maybe I am secretly (well, up until now secretly), thrilled by the risk of never threading a lifeline…being just one slip of the needle away from disaster…

  34. I almost always use lifelines when knitting lace for a couple reasons. First, they give me a way to see how far I’ve knit. Secondly and most importantly I have not figured out how to pick up my stitches after ripping out lace rows, so without a lifeline I always end up completely ripping out my knitting and starting from square one if I’ve made a major mistake. I recently had to do that on a shawl with 420 stitch rows. It was just heart breaking.

  35. Up until the last few years I considered lace to be a nasty 4 letter word. I was so frustrated when I ended up with too many/too few stitches. Basically I refused to even consider lace. I took a lace class from Myrna Stalmann several years ago and slowly began to venture into knitting lace.

    This past week I decided to knit a complicated lace shawl pattern that I picked up several years ago, “Love is a Wild and Crazy Thing” from Toots & LeBlanc. It’s a shawl of hearts and is in memory of the six wonderful people that have died in my life this year.

    Since its be far the most complicated lace pattern I’ve knit so far and I’ve already reknit the beginning five times, I decided to try out lifelines….I don’t know why I never tried them before. I think it will be my saving grace!

  36. Yes, I use lifelines….it helps keep me from pulling my hair out and with knit pick’s options circs, very easy to thread through. Even though I have been knitting for years, I am a new lace knitter and would rather take time to put in lifelines than come to hate my project when I can’t seem to find a missing stitch which disappeared into a yarn over somewhere on a previous row.

  37. VintageDM · ·

    I have NEVER heard of lifelines… I must learn this!!!!!!!!!

  38. margreet · ·

    There are people who do not need lifelines, they knit carefully, check the chards and their knitting thoroughly and are happier without lifelines, maybe there are people who would feel ashamed of using lifelines, like advertising they can not knit without mistakes. Then there are people who knit for the pleasure of knitting lace and feel the time lost when they have to rip all they have knit a loss of the happy feeling. I use lifelines, I heard about them after I had ripped great parts of a stole for a friend and was getting into trouble because my time to knit was fast getting to the point where I could no longer afford to rip even half a rapport of the chard. Wish I would have known about lifelines fom the start. The feeling of safety about not having to rip 4 inches of lace when one stitch trickled down and by trying to pick it up again became five stitches trickling down etc. I am the person who wore a safetyhelmet as passenger on a motorbike before our government decided I had to wear one or else pay and walk the rest of the way, I wore safetyybelts in a car before one had to and I do not think I will fall of the motorbike or crash with the car into something, but there is always a possibility circumstances will make me do so. So, I use a safetyline, because there is always a possibility of making mistakes (or someone causing me to make them), if, by some great wonder there was no mistake in the project, then it is to me a case of better safe then stupid. So, just do what makes you feel happy, thankfully, there is no knittinglaw and knittingpolice. DPN;s are my favoured needles, though I can do circleneedles, being Dutch, I wrap, though I can do picking, their is no right or wrong, just a prefered way of doing it. I have been knitting for over 55 years and have tried every new thing about knitting that came my way. I have decided what I like best and often found very strange and foreign looking new things described by relatively new to knitting knitters. After following the description to the letter I discovered them to be something I had been doing for years without thinking them a revolution in knitting like some new kids on the block would think. I have also found among those descriptions some very practical new things which I now do all the time. Maybe what I am trying to say is: be tolerant, your way is not per se the only right way. Happy knitting.

  39. Oh My. I hadn’t heard about using the holes in the options needles to thread lifelines as you go along. That’s such a brilliant idea.

  40. Rhonda from Baddeck · ·

    Lifelines – for me, it’s like hitting “save” when writing on the computer. I learned my lesson after the anguish of losing a big document. When I finally decide to tackle a lace project, you can be sure I’ll use lifelines!

  41. I use lifelines regularly. I’m a fairly new knitter, and tend to knit in the evenings to relax. That means I’m also tired and prone to errors some days. I usually can fix my errors, but the lifeline gives that sense of peace that if I can’t get a fix I like, then all is not lost. I use them in lace, and also with other new techniques. My friend is knitting her first sweater (complex cables!) and I told her about lifelines to give her confidence before starting the armhole shaping.

  42. You got some great stuff there, i really liked the yarn on the wall there. And i love the stuff you made and i love your pictures. I LOVE YOU!! erm… maybe not cuz i dont know you but i love you blog.

  43. I don’t use lifelines. I think they’re a great idea. But I just never do it. I don’t mind tinking back yo’s and decreases. And I’ve had lots of practice!

  44. PurrlGurrl · ·

    I used a lifeline for the first time on a shawl in progress.

    Not knowing how one is supposed to use a lifeline, but having heard of the concept, I winged it. I threaded an embroidery needle with some floss and ran it through a row of stitches one pattern repeat below the one I just screwed up.

    I ripped back to that lifeline with shaking hands, but the stitches held and were able to be carefully re-placed on the needle.

    I’m still not sure that’s the “proper” way to lifeline (that is, after the fact). But it worked, and now I’m thinking it’s a good idea for non-lace knitting, too.

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