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Save Your Stitches! How to Add a Lifeline in Your Knitting

A lifeline will hold your stitches in place so if you need to rip back, there’s no chance of losing your work. It’s a great tool to have handy when you’re approaching a tricky section of your project or when you’re trying a technique for the first time.

Lifeline in Lace Knitting

Choosing yarn for your lifeline

The type of yarn you choose can make a big different for your lifeline:

Choosing Yarn for a Lifeline
  • First, you want the yarn to be smooth — save those specialty yarns and fuzzy mohairs for another project.
  • Second, choose a yarn that’s the same weight or thinner than your project yarn. The thinner, the better. (Even dental floss can work!)

How to insert a lifeline

Step 1:

Tapestry Needle for Lifeline

Thread a tapestry needle with a piece of waste yarn. Make sure the working yarn is longer than the tail.

Step 2: 

Threading Lifeline Through knitting


Starting at the beginning of the row or round, slide the needle through the live stitches. Work a few at a time, then pull the waste yarn around.

Note: If you have any stitch markers in your work, move the needle around them, not through them. That way, you can continue moving the stitch markers up your work.

Step 3:

Pull Tail Out Even out tails

When you get to the other side of the work or get back to the beginning of the round, pull the tail out. Then, adjust the ends to be even. You can snip them shorter if you want, or tie the ends together in a bow to keep them out of the way.

Step 4:

Continue working in your pattern, being extra careful not to knit the lifeline in the next row or round.

Marking Lifeline in Pattern

Tip! Don’t forget to mark the placement of the lifeline on your pattern. If you do need to rip back, you’ll know exactly where to pick up again.

How to use your lifeline

If you do need to rip back to the lifeline (it’s OK!), simply rip out your work until the live stitches are on the waste yarn. Then, pick up the live stitches with your needle, and starting knitting again. We’d recommend leaving the lifeline in place, just in case.

How to remove your lifeline

Pulling Out Lifeline

If you find you don’t need the lifeline (hooray!), it’s easy to remove from your work. Simply pull the waste yarn from one end, and it should smoothly slip through the work.

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Jacqueline Vanwinkelen

Very interesting
Makes knitting difficult patterns easyer.

Kathryn Beasley

Thank you for this tip! It will come in very useful! ?


If you leave the lifelines in, and you use a firm cotton or something not too stretchy, you can use the lifelines to help with blocking. Then remove them at the very end.


Great idea!

Brenda C

Great suggestion, Shari!


Thank you for this tip! I just did my first lifeline two weeks ago. I used it at the end of one section on a shawl with several lace sections. And I DID have to rip back. ? I have one additional suggestion. If using a circular needle, at step 2, when you’re threading the needle through the live stitches, first slide those stitches down onto the cord. It is MUCH easier to get the lifeline through the stitch fully and properly (in the correct orientation, without splitting , etc.) this way. Best regards.


I always use a lifeline in a complication pattern; especially shawls. I’ve used dental floss most often and it works great, especially if I’m knitting with fingering wt. yarn.


Using dental floss for a lifeline has been frowned upon for decades. Since floss is intended to scrape and clean teeth, won’t it abrade delicate yarns?

Frances Tornese

I love to knit lace, but I ALWAYS make mistakes. For me lifelines are a must!

Erica Freeman

This makes so much sense. I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’m willing to unravel a project if I make a mistake. Now, I’m going to do this.


I like to use dental floss. I tape the end of a piece of floss to the knitting needle and knit a row over the floss and the right hand needle. Then at the end of that row the floss is in place; no threading or extra work. Trim the lifeline and gently remove the tape once that row is complete. Quick & easy.

Elizabeth Murray

Thanks for this tip – will use it from now on – makes a lot of sense.

Helen McClaine

I never know when/where I’m going to need a lifeline. Is it possible to add a lifeline after the fact?


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