Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for September, 2008

Crocheting Their Way to a Better World

September 9th, 2008

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A little over a year ago, we were contacted by the guys of Krochet Kids International, a group of friends (mostly men!) who have taken their love of crochet and used it to help fight poverty in Uganda.

Women with yarn

They teach women in Uganda how to crochet beanies. They then sell the beanies in stores around the U.S. The women make higher wages than they normally can make locally, and are able to support their families. In addition, Stewart Ramsey, executive director of KKI, said:

KKI has recently instituted a micro-finance program for all the ladies that crochet. So while they make money for the hats they produce, they are also learning how to save, invest, and loan the money they are earning. Through this program our ladies have elected to form their own community-based organization and take loans out form one another and other village members. KKI only provides training or the initiative through a micro-finance organization for THEIR ideas. They are learning how to develop themselves and become self-sufficient, rather than KKI handing out money and creating more dependency. This is something we are very excited about.

Woman crocheting

The guys met in college and were able to combine their crochet hobby with their social conscience, creating an organization that truly touches the lives of people in Uganda. To learn more about KKI, visit their MySpace page or listen to the YarnCraft (our knitting & crochet audio-podcast) episode in which Travis and Ryan of KKI talk more about the organization.

Woman with beanies

Related links:

An Amigurumi Girl That’s Totally Original

September 5th, 2008

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One of the most fun parts of working here at Lion Brand is the opportunity to learn new knitting and crochet skills. Shira, who interned here in the marketing department this summer, had knit and crocheted scarves before, but wanted to expand her skills. For her first summer project, she knit her first baby blanket using the Glamour Baby’s First Blanket pattern. Next, she wanted to work on her crochet skills. I recommended the Pirate Pal pattern (a favorite of mine, as podcast listeners know) as a basis for her first amigurumi project, but with a little bit of creativity, Shira really made it all her own.

Meet Gloria the Goddess!

Gloria is a a great example of how you can take really basic shapes (such as rectangles and circles) and make incredible things. Her body and bikini are made of Wool-Ease and her hair is made of two colors of Vanna’s Choice. Before starting her amigurumi person, Shira had asked me to teach her to crochet circles. She took her practice crochet circles and turned them into a bikini, sewing them to Gloria’s body and adding “straps” using strands of yarn. She made rectangles for the front and back of Gloria’s string bikini and attached them in the same way. Shira then attached yarn to Gloria’s head for hair, much like you would add fringe, and unraveled each strand so that Gloria would have kinked hair. We embroidered on the eyes and mouth with a little bit of leftover yarn, and Shira found the little sunglasses that finish off Gloria’s look sometime later. With just these few basic skills, Shira created an amigurumi that’s totally original!

Shira’s heading back to college, but we want to thank her for sharing this AMAZING project with us.

Crochet-Along: Gauge, Sizing, and Hooks!

September 4th, 2008

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The response to this crochet-along has knocked me over…. I’m thrilled by all the enthusiasm! And thank you so much for helping each other out too.

First things first, time to address the subject of a lot of questions: the gauge, sizing, and hook suggested in the pattern. It does seem that there has been a typo regarding the gauge and what hook to use.

In order to make this entry as useful as possible I’ve decided to simplify the issue and not talk too much about all the different measurements from my many gauge experiments. (You can view some of my swatches and notes in the Flickr group.) Because this is a blanket and not a fitted sweater, we have room to navigate around this typo and take advantage of the situation even. It’s true, gauge is usually very important because it gives you the information you need to get the same sizing and drape as the finished product you see in the pattern.

The best thing I’ve seen come out of the confusion over the gauge is how many of you decided to follow your gut and choose the hook and gauge that best suits you. I think this is fantastic! You see, I need a lightweight blanket because I live in a warm climate and someone in a colder climate needs something thicker. So I’ll use a larger hook and she’ll use a smaller one and we’ll each crochet the fabric that fits our own needs. I think that is the best thing any of our blankets can have in common, that each individual blanket is “just right” for the person it will keep cozy.

Yes, folks, I’m all moved and excited about this potential army of blankets that each fills just the right needs for the right recipient. But we might like to take care of a few details so each of us can best plan out these “just right” blankets. See, going off-road with a pattern is far easier if you have a plan.

Follow this breakdown to plan out your blanket:

1. Find what makes the crocheted fabric you like best: Starting with Block 1, the single crochet block, swatch some rows with different hooks until you get the result that feels best for you.

My notes:
Yarn: Vanna’s Choice
Hook: P (that’s right! I’m actually getting a nice puffy and airy fabric with mine)

2. Work up one of each block pattern. This gives you a chance to get to know each pattern and see how well they match up to each other. You’ll likely make some decisions at this point as to any changes you want to make. It is important that Blocks 1, 2, and 3 each come out to the same width and height. You can make alterations to the number of stitches in a row to increase or decrease width or change the number of rows to fix any problems with height.

Take notes, here are mine:

Honestly my attention span for a specific block wanes at a point, so I’ve decided to cut my row count short and I have square blocks as a result. I am sticking with the number of stitches in a given row (Block 1 has 26 and 2 &3 have 25). You may have noticed Block 1 has an extra stitch. I’ve noticed that this extra stitch helps make the denser single crochet block a better fit when matching it up to the other two, they have a bit more stretch in them.

My notes:
Block 1 : 25 rows compared to 33 in the pattern
Block 2 : 17 rows compared to 19 in the pattern
Block 3 : 17 rows compared to 19 in the pattern

3. Take some notes on sizing and gauge:

My notes:
Block 1 : 2 single crochet = 1”, 8 single crochet = 4”
8 rows = 4”
Block 2 : 2 double crochet = 1”, 8 double crochet = 4”
6 rows = 4”
Block 3 : 1 cluster = 1”, 4 clusters = 4”
8 rows = 6”

Each of my Blocks is a stretchy, airy 12” x 12″. That’s right, they are huge! (One of my cats thinks I’ve made her a bunch of little cushy square beds.) Finding the sweet spot for my attention span as well as the size and shape I want has made working up the blocks much more satisfying. You also might wish to take the finished size of your blanket into consideration when deciding on the number of stitches and rows to use in your blocks.

4. How big is my blanket going to be?

Given that I have such big blocks, I may reduce the number of blocks I’ll use. If I don’t my blanket will be 5 feet by 6 feet! Now that I think about it, that does sound mighty cozy…

So take a look at the blanket diagram in the pattern. The blanket is 5 blocks wide and 6 blocks tall.

Estimating the size of your blanket:
Width of a block ____ inches x 6 blocks wide = ____ inches wide (this is excluding any borders you might choose to add).

Height of a block ____ inches x 5 blocks tall = ____ inches tall.

If you want your blanket to be a different size, you can choose to add to the height or the width of the blanket with some more blocks.

5. How much yarn will I need?

My lazy method: I’ve assigned a skein of yarn to each block. I marked the label with “Block 1”, “Block 2”, “Block 3”. When I’ve used up a skein I’ll have an approximate idea as to how many of each type of block I’ll get out of a skein. I can then estimate how many more skeins to get.

The smarter method (I haven’t done this myself for this project yet, but here’s what you can do): Unravel a row or two of yarn and measure how much yarn was used. Then multiply by number of rows in your block and you’ve got a total for a block:

Estimating Yarn Needed:
Block 1: 1 row = _____ inches/ feet of yarn
Block 2 : 2 rows (1 row of dc and 1of sc) = _____ inches/ feet of yarn
Block 3: 2 rows (1 row of cluster and 1 of sc) = _____ inches/ feet of yarn

There’s still more to talk about, I know! I hope concentrating on this gauge issue has helped sort out any concerns, but most importantly I hope you all feel inspired to crochet the blanket that is “just right” for you!

Get Your Crochet-Along Badge!

September 3rd, 2008

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Hey CALers! Do you have a blog, website, or Ravelry account? Add the Crochet Sampler Afghan CAL badge to your site and let others know that you’re particpating!

Simply right-click the picture at the left (Ctrl+click on Macs) and select the “Save as” option to save the image to your computer.

If you’re on Ravelry, don’t forget to join Cecily’s Crochet Sampler Afghan CAL group for even more support as you make this afghan!

Tips for Creating a Crafting Space from YarnCraft Episode #22

September 2nd, 2008

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Yarn ballsHaving a great workspace can make knitting, crocheting, and crafting more enjoyable. In episode 22 of the YarnCraft audio-podcast, we asked listeners to tell us about their crafting spaces and their ideal yarncrafting sanctuary. What is your ideal workspace like?

Here are some tips from the episode, that will help you whip your space into shape:

1. What’s good for your body is good for your creativity. A good workspace has seating that allows you to put your feet flat on the ground and provides good support for your back and arms. Having a table to lean against if you need it, or just to keep your tools on, keeps everything within reach and keeps you from straining your arms.

2. Lighting makes a difference. Finding a sunny perch can brighten your mood. Good lighting can even make it easier to match your yarn colors. If you do a lot of crafting, it’s worthwhile to invest in good lighting that will not strain your eyes — many companies now produce lamps and light-bulbs that produce light more similar to the spectrum of sunlight.

3. When everything’s easy to find, you get more done. Plastic bins or rolling drawers can help you stay organized. Creating a system, even one as simple as putting yarn into zipper bags and labeling them, can make you feel less stressed when you’re working on a project. Don’t forget to keep your hooks, needles, stitch markers, and other tools organized — office organizers or jewelry trays often do the trick nicely.

4. Keep on-the-go projects by the door. Are you one of the hundreds of thousands of yarncrafters who likes to knit or crochet on the go? Keep your travel projects (along with an extra copy of the pattern, as well as any extra tools you might need) in dedicated tote bags that are right near your door, so you can just grab it and go. When you get home, put it back in its place, ready to be taken with you the next time.

5. Treat your space like a sanctuary. In this episode, we talk about how to make your crafting space an creative sanctuary, whether that’s by using inspiration boards or if it’s overlooking a lake. Add a little beauty to your space by creating yarn vignettes — I have vases of various shapes and sizes, some filled with balls of leftover yarn, others with hooks and needles.

To hear more tips, ideas, and stories, listen to this episode by clicking here [MP3].