Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for June, 2008

A Peek Into the Design Process

June 12th, 2008

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Swatching is an important part of the design process. Let’s say we decide to design a striped afghan knit with Vanna’s Choice. The variables are infinite! How many of the 49 colors do we want to include? How long should each stripe be? What colors should be placed next to each other?

When designing the afghan, we make all of these decisions, by experimenting with mini-versions of the ideas in the form of swatches so I can see how each possibility looks.

Color sequencing is very important and I’ll share with you the inner dialogue that I have as I knit. First I knit a few rows of one color. I started with Chocolate (bottom right of this swatch). It’s dark so I figure, “Let’s brighten it up a bit now.” So I try a stripe of Magenta. I like the way the two look together, but I think we need something at this point to give it some “pop” so I add just a little of the Pea Green color. Now I want to do something unexpected so I put in Cranberry, which doesn’t really “match” the Magenta but looks great just a little further on, in between the Mustard and the Silver Gray. Deciding when to shorten the stripe and when to lengthen it is part of the process and there is no formula. You think it through visually, execute it by trial and error, coming up with a combination that works.

We swatched up a number of other combinations that you can see below, but thought that the swatch above was the most successful one in terms of achieving the look we wanted.

It’s like making soup–start with a basic idea and start adding. “I think it would taste good with some onion. Carrots? Yes, but not too many–I don’t want carrot soup. The carrots add some color, body to the flavor of the broth, and a slight sweet undertone. Can I put in an unexpected spice like jalapeno pepper? Sure, but just a tad because, like the Pea Green color in our swatch, it’s meant to add a touch of excitement and could easily overpower the result.”

The way we do colorways is part of our mark and swatching is our form of research. When you try creating your own color combinations, you’ll discover a look that encompasses your favorite color combinations and expresses something unique to you.

Here’s why I like the swatch we went with for the afghan and the qualities that I believe make it a successful effort:

  • It’s interesting and unexpected in the ways the colors sequence
  • It has “personality.” It’s unique and interesting.
  • It looks home-made (we call this “sign of the hand”) and is not seen in mass-produced knits. “Making it human” is particularly valuable in a high-tech, mass-produced world.
  • It breaks the rules of matching by putting a red next to a yellow and then a magenta.
  • It looks random, but it’s actually carefully planned out

I hope this gives you some ideas and the confidence to do your own experimenting with color. Remember, there is no right or wrong combination. It all depends on the look you want.

This swatch includes some new colors of Vanna’s Choice, which we will be presenting in an upcoming newsletter. Visit this blog on June 20th to see the afghan we designed based on this swatch experiment.

This is the first in a series of posts about swatching. I’ll be sharing our swatch experiments with you and showing you how to work with color, stitches and pattern to enhance your creativity with yarn.

When Knitting Takes Over the Dining Table

June 12th, 2008

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Each year, Design Industries Foundation Fight AIDS (DIFFA) give select designers free reign to create lavish, amazing dining rooms for their signature “Dining by Design” fundraiser tour.

This year, the space by the Rockwell Group was a room knit from ceiling to floor. Check out these photos:

Send A Free Yarn E-Card

June 11th, 2008

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For birthdays, anniversaries, housewarmings, weddings, or just to say, “I’m thinking of you,” we have a large selection of free e-cards that you can with a personalized message.

Amigurumi Animals at Maker Faire on YarnCraft Episode #16

June 11th, 2008

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In YarnCraft episode #16, we shared interviews from the Maker Faire, an INCREDIBLE event featuring all sorts of handmade things and the amazing people behind them. It was even featured in the New York Times.

Our episode features interviews with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the popular knitter/author/blogger also known as the Yarn Harlot), Becky and Natalie of the always interesting Craft Magazine, Corey Feldman (a performance artist who knits and drums at the same time!), Kathy Murillo-the Crafty Chica, and more. It was a lot of fun being at the event, and I’m glad that my co-host Liz and I could bring the event to you.

Not only did we teach over 200 people to knit and crochet over the course of the two-day event, we also showcased a selection of our adorable amigurumi animals.

Everyone who walked by our booth stopped to see them, touch them, and pick them up. The animals were SO popular that someone actually took our poor octopus home with them! Maybe we should make a “Missing Octopus” sign to distribute among knitters and crocheters…

Amigurumi Animals at Maker Faire

You can find all of our amigurumi patterns on the Pattern Finder, but here are my top five picks (a tough feat, considering that they’re all so cute):

For this and more YarnCraft episodes, visit the YarnCraft blog. New podcasts come out every other Tuesday and you can find how to subscribe on our blog.


June 6th, 2008

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I’m Hilary the V.P. of Sales for Lion Brand. Lately I’ve realized that two of my passions—health and yarn are converging.

I’m fortunate in that my passion is my work and my work involves selling a wonderful product that encompasses fashion, color, design, and is affordable and beautiful. I take pleasure in the fact that the product I sell makes people happy and gives joy and purpose to their lives.

My other passion is to live a healthy lifestyle. I eat wisely, including dark chocolate and broccoli. I do water aerobics, yoga and lift weights. I am just starting a walking program, thanks to Ilana’s encouragement. I watch my blood work numbers and I’m committed to reducing stress, because most medical professional believe it is a major cause of illness.

So how do my two passions connect? The fact that knitting or crocheting can help reduce stress, has been noted by doctors and crafters alike. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee wrote about it too. The simple repetitive movement of yarn on needles or hook is like meditating. Whether you meditate, or knit or crochet every day, you allow that special space in your otherwise busy day to let your thoughts untangle and your mind be free of all the chatter, planning, and worrying.

I am overjoyed to see friends live better as a result of having a regular knitting “practice.” I’d love to see it become part of a healthy lifestyle routine; to take even 15 or 20 minutes a day to knit or crochet in order to create a peaceful space in which to rejuvenate.

I’d love to hear from anyone reading this about how knit or crochet works into your healthy living program.

Knitting Is the New Black

June 5th, 2008

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I love this phrase, which I’m quoting from an article in by reporter Rita Zekas referring to how knitting has become a basic part of life, especially now that Julia Roberts will be producing and starring in the movie adaptation of the best-selling Friday Night Knitting Club.

Knit Flowers Supersized

June 5th, 2008

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Sure there are a lot of knit and crochet flowers, but probably very few that are anatomically correct models like Tatyana Yanishevsky’s amazing creations. Part sculpture and part science model, her flowers have been featured at children’s museums, galleries, and more.

Tree of Life Knit-Along #3 – Dividing Rows

June 4th, 2008

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Wheh! After a few long days of chart following, and cabling for the Twin Trees pattern, the simple knit and purl rows of the Dividing Rows pattern were a welcome relief.

I like to have a few different knitting projects going at all times, of varying levels of skill, to be able to switch back and forth, and never get overwhelmed. The Dividing Rows between the more complicated pattern sections of this project provide that same break from thinking too hard.

knitting group, knitalong #3, Tree of Life I was even able to leave the house and take my project out to a weekly knitting circle that I run at a café on Sunday mornings. Spending the afternoon with friends, knitting, drinking coffee and chatting is a weekly necessity and break from my busy work week. I realized several years ago when I started the group that too many knitters felt isolated by their projects, and loved having the support of the other knitters in the group to get through those challenging patterns. The ease of the stockinette and garter rows allowed me to sip coffee and chat while flying though the section. Until that is, everyone was so amazed by the beautiful Twin Trees, that the afternoon turned into a group tutorial. What fun!

We’ve gotten almost 500 comments on the knit-along posts so far. Here are a few common questions that people have been asking:

Do I continue the knit/purl 4 between repeats throughout the pattern?
While there is a knit/purl 4 between each repeat of the Twin Trees motif as stated in the afghan pattern, the Dividing Rows and Flower Garden motif should be worked as stated. You should have 180 sts at the beginning and the end of each section.

In the Flower Garden section, what yarn do I catch to draw up in a “long, loose loop”?
You catch your working yarn and draw it through.

Do I have to sew on the Tulip-Bud Border?
Because of the way the border is made, sewing it on will make it look best. If you’re concerned about sewing the border, take a deep breath and look at your afghan! You’ve made it through the all of the tree cabling and the Flower Garden motif, so you can definitely sew on the border! Consider it an opportunity to practice seaming, which is an important skill for all kinds of projects from sweaters to bags and more. For more on sewing, visit our illustrated guide.

While you’re here, take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back for all of your progress so far! And a special congratulations to everyone who has finished their afghan already!

Good luck and happy knitting!

From Knitting to Comfort Food with Kate Jacobs

June 3rd, 2008

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Back in January, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with author and knitter, Kate Jacobs, and interview her about her New York Times bestseller, The Friday Night Knitting Club. It’s a book about the lives of a group of women, who bond at a New York yarn shop. Kate has a new book called Comfort Food that just came out and she was kind enough to do a quick interview with us between book tours.

The Friday Night Knitting ClubLion Brand: Your first novel, The Friday Night Knitting Club was a huge success and is even being made into a movie with Julia Roberts. Why do you think this story rings true with knitters and crocheters?
Kate Jacobs: I think the story appeals to women in a general way because it’s all about the importance of our female friendships. But I think the descriptions of knitting, of how it feels to numb your brain and get that kind of buzz from making stitch after stitch, hits home. And this idea of knitting being a metaphor for life –- the characters in FNKC certainly wish they could rip out some of the stitches in their life and start again, that’s for sure.

LB: What has the reaction been from the knitting and crocheting community to you and your book?
KJ: I’ve been to knitting shops all over the country and everyone has been universally warm and welcoming. Exactly as you’d imagine them to be!

LB: In an interview on our podcast, you talk about how it’s wonderful to be able to write about the knitting and crocheting community. What’s the most important lessons you’ve learned from this community?
KJ: You’ve got too much wool when your stash takes up an entire room! No, seriously, the most important take-away is that anyone can be creative, that they can take basic things and combine them to make something beautiful and satisfying. Or, in the case of cooking, make something delicious! You know, I’m just a hobby knitter, and I’m not naturally gifted with my hands in the way that my grandmother was. All I can do well is type. But that’s okay. I don’t have to be granny-good when it comes to knitting. And I don’t have to be a chef in the kitchen. That’s one of the things that the characters come to realize in my new novel, Comfort Food, and it’s something that took me awhile to figure out about my own culinary exploits. It’s about the process as much as the final product. Writing is like that in a way as well.

LB: Your new novel, Comfort Food, is about Augusta “Gus” Simpson, an on-air food personality who is hosting a new show, teaching real food made by real people. Do you think there’s a connection between the process and joy of cooking and the process of knitting and crocheting? Why do you think there is a resurgence of these past-times that are traditionally thought of as “domestic”?
KJ: What’s going on, in my opinion, is that we live in troubled times, and are looking for activities that reconnect us with an image of the good old days, that make us feel nurtured and comforted. At the same time, we’re getting close — I hope! — to moving past this either/or approach about women, this idea of having to choose between domestic arts and the so-called working world. When I was a teen I was so adamant about not learning anything my mother had to teach me about cooking, for example. I just thought that having these kinds of housewifely skills would ruin my chances for professional success. In retrospect, I can see that there are holes in that logic and what I ended up doing, for a long time, was hamper my self-sufficiency because I couldn’t even make myself a proper dinner. Thank God my husband could cook! That said, I’m not sure a person can “have it all” in the sense of being equally good at all things. But why should that be the expectation? I don’t think that’s what we should be aiming to achieve. I think it’s more about balance. And about embracing the right to define for yourself what you want your life to be. This isn’t easy. And often these things change with time and circumstances. I am very focused, and happily, on my writing and my career and I definitely enjoy creating characters whose skills are far beyond my own. And when I’m not working, I also enjoy being a little bit homey — even though I will never be a domestic goddess! And that’s fine.

LB: What are you currently working on (both in terms of writing and knitting)?
KJ: I’m at work on my third novel. But I’m always careful not to talk too much about what I’m writing early on because things change in the manuscript. Generally, though, my interest is in relationships and connections. I try to write books that are fun to read and that have characters we can relate to in one way or another. In terms of knitting, I am drowning under a mountain of yarn…and absolutely no time to knit. I had wanted to make an afghan for my bed by now and I haven’t even started! I have been so focused on promoting my novels, making myself available to telephone book clubs and join in their discussions, and working on my new book that I am busier than I’ve ever been in my life. It’s all good, of course, and I’m so grateful at how much support my novels are receiving. But it’s not leaving me much time to knit anything up!

For more with Kate Jacobs, listen to my interview with her on YarnCraft.