Elizabeth Scarf/Shawl Knit Along: Day 3

Hello Knitters! Welcome to Day 3 of the Elizabeth KAL. 

Three Knitting How-To's - Today is like having three tutorials in one! 

I'll be sharing three knitting techniques that will raise your skill level and ease of workmanship.

Here are the knitting how-to's we are covering today:

  • How-to 1: Lifelines - How to create lifelines and why knitters should use them
  • How-to 2: Charts - How to read a knitting chart and a general overview
  • How-to 3: Knitting Timesaver - Index Cards! - Some of my favorite tips to make projects even more enjoyable and turn them into a good choice for a portable/travel project

Best of all, you can actually incorporate these techniques as you continue to work on Elizabeth.

Knitting How-To 1: Lifelines

Yes, mistakes do happen! Regardless of the best preparation, years of experience, and attention to detail. They also appear when you least expect it and in the worst possible spots. It happens to everyone, even the KnittingDoc! Did I ever tell you how much I abhor ripping and frogging?

You guessed it, lots! So, how about a way to make the process less stressful and annoying? They are called lifelines. Let's discuss types of lifelines, how-to use a lifeline, and when to use a lifeline.

What is a Knitting Lifeline?

A lifeline in knitting is exactly what it say it is - it’s a way to keep your stitches safe and keep them from falling and it’s very easy technique to work. Think about a mountain climber with a lifeline. It allows the climber to progress and if they slip the life line is there to catch them!

When Do I use a Lifeline?

Use it on all sorts of projects, from stockinette and cables, to motifs and lace. Use if anytime and often in a project.

Types of Lifelines

There are 3 versions of lifelines.

  1. Standard Lifeline As You Go
  2. Afterthought Lifeline
  3. Lifelines with Interchangeable Needles

For Elizabeth, I’ll be showing you how to add As You Go Lifelines. For the Afterthought Lifeline technique, the video tutorial I like the best is Very Pink's Lifeline Tutorial.

The Afterthought Lifeline is very handy for stockinette and simple patterns, but not so much for lace. For Lifelines with interchangeable needles, try Endless Knits How-To Lifelines.

 It’s a good site for video tutorials on all 3 versions.

Lifeline Materials

The only thing you’ll need is a container of “unwaxed” dental floss. Make sure it is unwaxed as you don’t want any wax adhering to your fiber. A length of scrap yarn about the same thickness as your project fiber also works well.

Other knitters swear by a spare interchangeable needle cable. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad idea, but maybe not that practical for a project where you might want several lifelines.

To read more about the dental floss method take a look at our blog post from earlier this year: Another Way Dental Floss Can Help Your Knitting

Let's Add a Lifeline

Thread a tapestry needle and run it through the stitches on the needle (working around the stitch marker, as you don’t want to run it through them). After you’ve pulled your floss/yarn through the last stitch, cut your lifeline and leave yourself about 5" inches at the beginning and end. Use those 5" ends to lightly secure your lifeline to the row below. 

Take a look at the image below to see what this should look like. As you can see, I’ve put in two lifelines.  One uses the floss and the other uses scrap yarn.

Now I’m going to rip back to the Lifeline so you can see what it looks like.

How Often to Use a Lifeline?

There is really no set rule on how often you should put in a lifeline. It’s a matter of personal preference, how intricate your particular project, and how it is progressing. For Elizabeth, I suggest doing these after a couple of pattern repeats, running the lifeline after a purl row.

It’s usually recommended to use a right side (RS) row. However, for this pattern, I think it is best to use a wrong side (WR) row. Then, if you need to rip back, using your lifeline on a row with no yarn overs (etc.) is much easier.

You may never need those lifelines, but you are certain to be happy to have them if you do!

Knitting How-To 2: Knitting Charts

Before we go further, this chart overview is intended for those who have never used a knitting chart. It’s a good jumping off point for the technique. 

Why Use a Knitting Chart?

Once you learn how to read a knitting chart, you can knit anywhere with ease. You'll be able to print the chart, pop it into your purse and turn Elizabeth into a very portable/travel project.

Knitting Charts Fact or Fiction

I think there are several misconceptions about knitting charts. 

Fiction: Knitting charts are only for  experienced knitters.  

Fact: Beginner and Advanced Beginner knitters can enjoy knitting from charts. You just need to learn the basics.

Fiction: Charts have all that “stuff” on them, it must be complicated. 

Fact: There are lace patterns that are way more complicated period, and their charts reflect that. However, there are many patterns with very simple charts. Once you know how, these charts are very easy to read.  

Fiction: Looking at all those symbols is scary and intimidating. 

Fact: Just like learning to read a map, you need to find out what the symbols mean. The rest is easy and I'm going to walk thru all that step-by-step.

Fact: I can’t tell you the number of patterns I loved and passed up because of charts. Finally, I tried a chart and now I’m hooked. Now, it's your turn!

How to Read a Knitting Chart

Look at the chart below. Does it look familiar? It should. It’s Elizabeth! It’s got all the lace stitches and the border stitches too.

Elizabeth Knitting Chart - Scarf Version

Elizabeth Scarf Chart Overall.jpg
  1. Numbers across the bottom. They indicate number of stitches across the row
  2. Numbers running up the right side. They’re a little small but they are all odd numbers, right?  They indicate your right side (RS) rows and are odd numbers just the same as in your knitting
  3. Numbers running up the left side. The opposite applies for the numbers running up the left side. Those even number rows indicate your wrong side (WS) rows.  

Are you seeing it yet? It’s a snapshot of your pattern rows. It’s EXACTLY what you are doing following the written row.

Working the Knitting Chart

Now to work the chart you would start with Row 1 and do the stitch in each one of the boxes and work across the boxes from RIGHT TO LEFT until you get to the other side.

Now you need to return and you would do that by working the 1st box in the row marked Row 2 (look on the left side of the chart).  What that means is that wrong side (WS) rows are worked LEFT to RIGHT.   

Now, wasn’t that easy? But how do I know what stitches to use? Let's take a look at the Chart Symbols below.

Chart Symbols or Key

Just like a map, every chart you see will have a corresponding “Symbol or Key” listed on the pattern to tell you what stitch each symbol represents. You’ll see this each and every time. I listed below the symbols you see in our basic chart.  

Chart Symbols or Key - Elizabeth

  • K2tog on RS
  • K - K1, Sl1, PSSO

Why use a Knitting Chart

Now you’re probably wondering why you want to know all this. There are a couple of reasons.  One is that you can print the chart and just toss it in your purse along with your project and you are all set to go. No fumbling with a big pattern. You can also turn your chart reading skill into a way to troubleshoot a written pattern.

Knitting Doctor Tip:

Having trouble with getting your stitches to work out on a written pattern? Think there is a mistake? If you have a chart along with the written part, you can match up the written row in question with the corresponding row on the chart. Are they the same or are they different?  If they are different, I may suspect a pattern error and it’s not me! The same, oh yes, it’s probably me!

Knitting How-To 3: Knitting Timesaver - Index Cards

This is one of my favorite knitting tools! Index card a knitting tool? Oh yes, take a look at the images below. This takes just a few minutes to do and it’s also very handy with those portable projects.

What do I need?

All you need is an index card or two, a hole punch, and a book ring.

How to Use Index Cards

This is actually one of my very favorite things to do! If I have a pattern that only has a few rows, usually less than 10, I’ll grab some index cards and write my rows. Sometimes I'll write one row to a card, sometimes one row to the front, one to the back, etc. Next, I punch a hole in the top and slip in a binder ring.

Instant portable knitting pattern!

What I especially like about this, is that if the pattern is something I am going to use several times, I’ll always have it for the next time!

Here we are at the end of Day 3. I hope you’ve enjoyed the day and learned some helpful knitting techniques. Now’s the time to put up your feet, knit a bit, and finish those two panels in time for our Blocking and Finishing Tutorial on Tuesday, April 15th!

Until then, as always, Happy Knitting!


Don’t forget to post your progress and photos of all those beautiful scarves on our Ravelry group page!

Donna Pelzar

Donna (aka the Knitting Doctor) is the face behind The New Street Knitter patterns. She teaches knitting instruction for all skill levels in her studio and loves to focus on techniques and interesting stitch patterns. She recently expanded into pattern design and we are thrilled to be able to offer her patterns at NobleKnits. Donna also hosts all of our Knit Alongs.