Knit Tip: Safety Line for Lace Knitting

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how knitting and crochet are oral traditions and although nowadays there are oodles of resources out there, we still probably learn the most from each other.  Since blogs are the new fireside, I thought I’d start posting a tip every week that I’ve learned in my crafty travels–either from hosting Knitty Gritty, researching for my own books or, just talking to other stitchers.  I picked-up this first tip a few years ago from my friend Lori Steinberg.  She later used lace-weight cashmere as the gateway drug to bringing me over to the lace-knitting dark side.  
Lace Knitting:  Use a Safety Line
There’s nothing worse than working oh-so-carefully on a lovely piece of lace knitting only to discover you’ve made a mistake a few rows down.  Unlike with straight knitting, undoing lace can be the highway to the unravelling danger zone!   An easy way to prevent hitting a point of no-pattern-stitch return however, is to run a safety line.  Here’s how:

After every few pattern repeats, simply thread a piece of dental floss through a tapestry needle and then feed it through the live stitches.  Make sure to LEAVE THE STITCHES ON THE NEEDLE, though.

Snip off piece, leaving a couple of inches on either end.  Continue knitting as normal. 

Now, if you have to go backwards there’s no risk of you losing all of your hard work.  The safety line will act as a book marker of sorts, keeping the row that it’s in “live” if you should need to unravel to that point.  Once you’ve bound off your project, remove floss (by pulling gently) and discard.
Remember, safety first…even in knitting. 😉
Have any tips for lace knitters?  Post ’em here!

14 Responses to “Knit Tip: Safety Line for Lace Knitting”

  1. Nikki K.

    What a wonderful tip!

    For novice knitters (like me) this is a great tip on even begginer projects when one realizes they purled a row. Ripping is still a scary concept for me and this is much more encouraging.



  2. Siani

    Thanks for such a great tip. I’m forever abandoning lace projects because I find mistakes hard to rectify, so it’s nice to discover a way of salvaging things.

  3. Jennifer

    This tip might be a no-brainer for some, but using stitch markers between repeats has saved my sanity more than once. It’s easier to track down a missing YO in a group of twelve stitches than in 144 stitches. Ask me how I know…

    • ChatinCat

      Amen to the use of stitch markers between repeats. Also, I am new to lace knitting and I am practicing on “old cheap DK weight” yarn before beginning the “real” lace knitting of the more expensive yarn!

      • oregonknitter

        I love that tip, which I ran across AFTER I had completed a six foot wide black cashmere scarf for my first lace project (don’t ask me why!). I find that the triangular markers don’t sneak under the adjacent stitch as much. Nothing is more frustrating that to have to correct 11 – 9 spacings.

  4. Artemis Rich

    FYI: Dental floss (even the waxed stuff) can actually snag some lace-weights yarns. I prefer using button and carpet thread or even fishing line.

    Nothing worse than having your yarn shredded by the safety line!

  5. Vickie Howell

    Jennifer: No-brainer or not, that’s a great one to mention! I would loathe lace, if it weren’t for markers. 🙂

    Artemis: That’s interesting. I’ve never had that problem before, but it’s smart to mention. Thanks!

  6. Celeritas

    Cheers Vickie! So many things in knitting like make a safety line, slip a stitch etc are written in patterns but no explained.

    I bought your Knit Aid book and I found it answered many of the little odd knitting questions I had. This instruction on safety line is great advice as I am just starting my first lac sock. Even using a safety line in a normal sock would be useful when trying out a new toe or heel.

  7. Beth Jinkerson

    I’m just swatching (in pattern) for my first major lace project, and this tip gives me more confidence. The swatch has already caused me to swallow hard just imaging the agonies I’ll face if I drop a stitch on the real sweater. Thanks for giving me a tip to prevent that mess.

  8. Anonymous

    I have been ripping and ripping a lace project. Someone in the yarn store told me about the technique. How nice to see it done.