How To Set a Lifeline in Knitting

How to Set a Lifeline in Knitting

Lifelines are for rock climbers and for sailors and for acrobats. They are also for knitters! When you rise to the dizzying heights of Orenburg lace, and lean over the edge of French eyelet clusters, or throw yourself into the gymnastics of an Estonian nupp stitch…

Yeah okay. I’ll drop that metaphor. A lifeline in knitting isn’t quite the same as a lifeline when you are climbing up the side of a mountain. Its doesn’t actually mean the difference between life and death. But it is pretty useful. A lifeline (in knitting) may not save your actual life, but it can save you a lot of frustration.

When you set a lifeline in knitting you are usually working a lace pattern. Lifelines are there for when if you need to rip back. In knitted lace, or lace knitting (and don’t get me started on those technicalities!) you are working with bigger than normal needles. Your stitches are larger, more open. Plus… its lace ya know. There are all kinds of increases and decreases going on. So if you should, heaven forbid, have to pull out a needle and start ripping its a BFD. Picking up looses stitches in lace is no easy task. Unless you remembered to put in a lifeline and then its a no-brainer.

I personally feel very strongly about lifelines. I (strongly) feel that if you put a lifeline in knitting, you won’t make mistakes and you’ll never need that lifeline because you’ll never need to rip back. If you blow off lifelines, you are certain to screw your knitting all up and spend hours ripping, picking up stitches and re-knitting. Call me superstitious but I believe it. When I’m working on complicated knitting, lace or otherwise, I put in lots of lifelines. they are like my good luck charms!

How To Set a Lifeline in Knitting

Do it. Put in a lifeline. And if you never need to make use of it because you never made any mistakes then I say:


“See? Lifelines work every time!”


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12 Comments on "How To Set a Lifeline in Knitting"

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What a great tip! This definitely gets bookmarked. I’m letting my hooks take a breather (after 30 yrs) while I try to become a fledgling knitter and I KNOW this will come in handy. IF I ever graduate myself from doing samplers.


Lifelines are the knitting equivalent of carrying an umbrella so it will not rain. I buy a special thread that comes in a handy container with a built-in yarn cutter, all for about 2 bucks. (also useful for flossing teeth )
Most of my lace knitting is on US 0 needles for socks…after one truly awful fiasco without lifeline, I became a Believer!


I was first told about lifelines after I’d had to rip something back so many times the yarn started to fuzz. It wasn’t even lace! I don’t have that kind of courage. But I had a lot going on beyond the needles (otherwise known as life) and my brain decided it couldn’t count to 7. Since lifelines, I no longer terrify the bear that lives on the other side of the ravine with my screams.


In my days of… Trying to knit, I’ve been known to rip out a whole project because of one mistake. If you keep sharing all these great tips and techniques, I might actually become an accomplished knitter someday 🙂

Socks! Someday, there will be socks.


I’ve always just used one or two lifelines. Moving one up once I’ve completed another repeat. You have multiples. Was that for the purpose of demonstration or is it just better to insert a separate one after each section or repeat?