May 8th, 2008
Homespun is one of those iconic yarns Lion Brand is known for, so people might be surprised to find out that it was “born” in 1997. I know it surprised me when I started at Lion Brand – I assumed Homespun must have been around forever!
Homespun started when David saw a unique yarn woven into a throw blanket. He thought, with a few modifications, that it would be ideal for hand-knitting and crochet. Lion Brand worked with the mill for over two years to perfect the yarn and the original set of 9 colors.
When we introduced it, the yarn became a sensation. It was totally different from anything else on the market–softer, silkier, and with a wide variety of color effects. It’s also a great weight (CYCA #5 – Bulky). So many crocheters and knitters tell us that they love how quickly they finish projects when they use Homespun. Many charity groups have embraced using Homespun in Prayer or Comfort shawls, because of its soft feel, easy care, and affordability. In 2005, we released a book with Leisure Arts featuring different prayer shawls to knit and crochet. It was so well received; we’re working on a second one now, due to be released in late 2008.
Homespun got an unexpected boost in popularity when we released a pattern for a Homespun poncho designed to look like the one Martha Stewart wore when she left prison. Three years later, it is still one of the most downloaded patterns on our site (out of almost 2,000 total patterns).
About a year ago, we visited the beautiful, historic mill in New England where Homespun is made. Built in 1864, the mill has run on hydro-generated power since 1915 and has such a feeling of textile history. Around the time of this first visit, I was teaching myself how to make yarn on a home spinning wheel (a project still very much in progress)–I was amazed at the similarities between home spinning, and the way Homespun is produced.
The first step in making Homespun begins with dyeing the raw fiber into over 50 individual shades. These shades are then blended together into a sliver, ready for spinning. The colored fiber can be blended in various ways – with one dominant color and 2 or 3 coordinating accents for a Heathered Solid; with 3 or 4 contrasting colors for a Tweed; or with up to 8 colors in a shifting pattern that created the subtle, variegated stripes in our Painterly colors.
We were so inspired by our visit; Lion Brand collaborated with Leisure Arts on a book of patterns with a story on the mill and beautiful photos of the blending and spinning process. You won’t believe the bright shades of fiber that combine to make the earthy hues of Prairie!