LifeLines and Stitch Markers

I’ve been enjoying my (almost) internet-free holiday. I now ignore the kids with knitting rather than the internet.

Lifelines are long threads which you run next to the needle along key rows. When (when, not if) you tear out a section, the lifeline nicely holds an entire row of loops, all properly twisted and ready to pick up again. (Well, sometimes yo’s need a bit of care, but it’s way better than without a lifeline.)

Usually, you knit the row, then use a tapestry needle to run the lifeline. Lately, I heard of an easier way, assuming you have needle tips with little holes in the end. Sets of cables with interchangeable tips have the hole for the locking key. Thread the lifeline through the hole, and the thread is threaded through the yarn with the needle cable.

I love it, even though my cable needles don’t have the holes. (Mom bought them in paper envelopes, Aero Twin-Pins brand, made by Abel Morral Ltd, in Redditch, England, for 89c each. They come with an instruction sheet. The envelope shows patent numbers for Britain, Finland, Norway and Switzerland, with “other foreign patents pending”. The cables are a bit firm. Soaking them in warm water as the sheet recommends helps. The transition from metal to cable is awesome — the metal is reduce, then roughened. The cable is stuck outside the rough part, and it’s slightly squished wide and flat just before. Some cables have a bit of flashing, but there’s no gap between metal and cable as there is in some of my Inox and/or modern Aero circs. (I mixed up the modern ones, and they all look the same except for the splitting, so I can’t compare against the other sizes.))

Enough reminiscing.

I tape the lifeline to the end of the metal, where it narrows before the cable starts. The first tape I tried works fine. Attach it near the cable first, and wrap away from the cable, so the raw edges aim the right way.

The problem, though, is that the lifeline runs through the stitch-markers.

I’ve thought of a few ways to deal with the stitch markers, but all are finicky.

1. Use markers with an opening. Several choices are available. On the next row, you wiggle the lifeline out of each marker.

2. Remove the markers on that row, and put them in on the next row. Difficulty varies with how easy it is to read / count the pattern. You might ask why use stitch markers if this is easy, but some patterns have rows where it’s easy, and others where it’s harder to count. I like to count / recount / confirm my markers on simple rows, so I can concentrate on numbers rather than the chart. This is also a chance to double-check the numbers. I usually “read the knitting” rather than “count the chart”, once I have the pattern memorized. “YO to the left of YO on last row” doesn’t notice if you missed a YO two rows back. Likewise, I put my lifeline in an easy section. Even with a lifeline, it’s easier to pick up a boring row.

3. Lots of cheap markers. On next row take old markers off the needles, leave them on the line and add new to the needle. The old ones will show you where they go. I like crochet cotton loops.

I also find plastic stitch markers leave a gap in the knitting. Just something about the way they pull, or the change in rhythm. It might come out in the blocking, but why risk it? For this reason, I often use yarn loops — very cheap, but repetitive to make.

(Okay, why do I object to the repetitiveness of making yarn loops for stitch markers, when I’m putting thousands of identical stitches into a blanket?)

4. Vertical threads stitch markers. I weave a vertical thread over and under the connecting stitches in a column. It doesn’t wrap around the needle at all, and just pulls out when you’re done the project. It’s a bit finicky with all the loose ends, but it works.

I also use vertical threads as row counters sometimes, especially if the beaded counters are annoying me. (One broke on a trip — embroidery floss isn’t as strong as I thought. Also, they attach with stitch markers — see above comments about gaps in the knitting.) I weave it from one side of the work to the other every x rows.

Any other ideas?


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