Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for October, 2009

Afghans for Afghans: Race to the Finish

October 21st, 2009

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Afghans for Afghans needs help filling 30-40 cartons with wool blankets, sweaters, vests, mittens, socks, and hats.  There is just over a week left until the October 29 deadline for their campaign to warm the youth of Afghanistan!  A week is just enough time to whip up a hat, scarf, or mittens (for ages 7-14) and send them to the afghans for Afghans’ San Francisco collection center.  The packages must arrive at the collection center no later than October 29 so that the donated items get to Afghanistan in time for winter.  Challenge yourself to finish a garment for Afghan youth!

Click here for more information about the afghans for Afghans Youth Campaign.  For general guidelines and the mailing address please click here.

DIY Needle Threader

October 20th, 2009

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Needle Threader for Yarn

The wonderful thing about Facebook is that it allows us to share ideas in a great way where both Lion Brand staff and other Lion Brand fans can benefit.  Our fan Kathi posted this unique tip for making your own heavy duty needle threader.

After breaking a couple of the standard wire threaders with yarn, which is too thick, Kathi decided to make her own.  She took a plastic lid and cut it into strips narrow enough to fit through a large-eyed blunt needle.  Then she used a hole-puncher to punch the hole for the yarn.  You could easily do this project with cardstock!

Share your ideas and projects with us on Facebook!

Christmas Crafting with Spirit

October 19th, 2009

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My mother is the type of person who wants to have all of her Christmas presents purchased before October. She has recently gotten back into crocheting after a 20+ year break from it, so she’s excited to learn everything I can tell her about stitches, fibers, and all things yarn-related. While talking to her on the phone, I mentioned our newest yarn, Hometown USA. Her thoughts immediately went to her almost finished Christmas list.

“Do you have Pittsburgh Steelers colors? I want to make my sister a striped scarf.” I recommended that she try Pittsburgh Yellow with Oakland Black. “How about Cleveland Browns colors? You could make your cousin Bryan a hat.” I quickly suggested Cleveland Brown and Syracuse Orange. Now I have to send her the yarn so that she can finish all of her Christmas crafting.

Motif Afghan Crochet-Along: The Finish Line

October 15th, 2009

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We’re almost there!

I’ve finished making all my motifs and, since I was joining them as I did the last round of each, I don’t have any additional joining to do. However, many of you chose to wait until now to join your motifs, a method I often choose. Since I know at least ten ways to do so, I have a choice of options at this point. Sewing motifs together with a tapestry needle and whip stitch is a non-starter for me. Meaning: I never do it. Waaaaaaay too slow and finicky.

Single crochet seam

This seam can be done either on the wrong side or the right side of the piece. It is a sturdy yet flexible join. It makes a nice ridge, which can be used as a design element to frame the motifs. Some people think the ridge looks “wrong”; I think it’s a lovely three-dimensional element that adds interest, and I often choose to put it on the right side. I’ve used a contrasting color yarn so that the seam shows up.

To work a single crochet seam on the right side, hold the motifs with wrong sides together and sc through the adjacent stitches and chain-spaces on both motifs.

In this design, I would probably work a bunch of short seams to create long strips of hexagons, then join those long strips with long zigzag-shaped seams lengthwise down the afghan. You’ll have to figure out the best way to handle the corners when 3 motifs meet.

On my sample, I joined the 3rd motif to the 2nd one from chain-spaces to chain-spaces, then chain 1, and joined the same chain-space of the 3rd motif to the next chain-space of the 1st motif, continuing along that edge to the next corner. (This will make more sense when you have a lot of pieces in your hand and you try it yourself!)

Here’s what the sc seam on the right side looks like:

Here’s what it looks like on the wrong side:

Note that this last photo shows more or less what the seam would look like if you worked it on the wrong side. To work a single crochet seam on the wrong side, hold motifs with right sides together and sc through the adjacent stitches on both motifs.

Single-crochet/chain seam
This join is a bit looser and more flexible than the single crochet seam. Again, it can be done either on the right side or the wrong side of the work. Instead of working into every stitch and chain-space as shown above, join with a sc at the corners, *ch 1, skip 1 pair of stitches, sc through next pair of adjacent stitches; repeat from * across the edge to the corner. As for the single crochet seam, you’ll have to experiment a bit to figure out how best to handle the corners where 3 motifs join. It may require a chain 1, 2 or 3 at the corner to lie flat.

Single Crochet Join on Final Round
My final suggestion is a hybrid of the join-as-you-go method that I showed you before. In this method, add an additional round of single crochet around each motif, joining as you go.

On the first motif, work a complete round of single crochet, placing 1 sc in each dc and (sc, ch 1, sc) in each corner space. Fasten off.

On the second motif, work a round of sc to the next-to-last corner. Sc in corner, ch 1, join that chain in the adjacent chain from the first motif (as described here), sc in same chain-space of current motif, join that sc to the adjacent sc from the first motif, and so on.

As you work, you may find that you need to put 2 or 3 chains in the corner to make the corners tidy—don’t be afraid to play around with it to get the perfect technique for your situation.

Which of these (or any other methods) is best? By now (hopefully), you’ll know what my answer is: only you can decide what’s best in your situation. Play with variations on these joins and decide which one you think is just right for your needs. For example, you may find that the join-only-in-the corner method that I showed you in a previous post is quick, but not sturdy enough for hard use, or you may think it gives the perfect lacy look you prefer.

Weaving in ends

Everyone has just been itchin’ for me to talk about weaving in ends. Your time has finally come. In an earlier post, I wrote about working over yarn ends as I create new stitches. I will do often do this, but I find that in an item that gets handled a lot, like an afghan, the worked-over ends are not secure enough. I prefer to weave in all my ends with a tapestry needle for the final finish.

Yes, this is tedious. It’s not nearly as much fun as stitching cute little hexagons. However, it IS a critical part of the afghan-making process. A couple of nights in front of the TV should do it.

I use a blunt-tip tapestry needle with a big enough eye so that I can easily thread it, yet not so big that it has trouble fitting through the stitches. You do know this trick for threading a tapestry needle, don’t you?

Weave the yarn tail in a couple of different directions through the back of the same-color stitches. The more different directions you go in, the more secure your tail will be.

Some people choose to use a sharper needle and actually skim through the back of the stitches, splitting the yarn. If you have a latch hook, you might find it easier to use it to weave in your ends.

A Finishing Round
Once I had all my ends woven in, I used a steam iron to carefully block the entire afghan. You may have heard that blocking is not necessary with acrylic yarn, but I find that blocking gives a finished look to any crocheted piece. I was careful to use the lowest steam setting on my iron, and I NEVER touch the iron to the fabric, as it it is possible to “kill” acrylic yarn and thus alter its drape. I just skimmed the iron over the afghan, keeping it about 2″ above the fabric.

Then I decided that a final round of single crochet would be a nice touch and would help strengthen and secure the edges. I worked 1 sc in each dc around, putting (sc, ch 1, sc) in each “outer” chain-space corner, and 1 sc in each “inner” chain-space corner.

Final Results

Can you see where I threw in a few off-pattern motifs to keep it interesting? Adding another color would have been fun, as well.

The finished size is about 37″ x 53″. That’s reasonably close to what I predicted. It is a bit small for a traditional-sized afghan, but I could easily have added motifs to make it larger. As it is, I decided it’s a perfect lap-ghan size to throw over my legs while I’m crocheting.

Also as predicted, the weight of the finished afghan indicated I used a total of about 8 balls of yarn. The breakdown of colors was about 5 balls of Taupe, 3 balls of Linen and 2 balls of Cranberry. (Yes, these add up to more than 8 balls, because the final ball of each color was not used up.)

It’s Just the Beginning

Those of you who have stuck with me this far, congratulations! I hope I’ve been showing you things you didn’t know before, and that you have been having fun and gaining confidence while working along with me. I haven’t been able to share half of what I know and love about crocheting; if you want to learn more, read more here at the Lion Brand website, refer to The Crochet Answer Book and Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs, and take classes. All my fellow crochet teachers and I are anxious to share our love of the craft with you.

I hope you’ll keep stitching and striving to grow your knowledge while enjoying what you are doing. No stress, no “wrongs”, just opportunities to learn. I’ll be hanging out here at the Lion Brand Notebook for another week or so to answer questions and respond to comments. After that, you’ll still be able to find me on the Ravelry CAL group or on my website.

Stitch On–and HAVE FUN!

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Craft Action: Eco-Yarns and Projects

October 15th, 2009

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In honor of Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change, we want to share eco-friendly yarns and projects with you.

With the recent concern about climate change, Lion Brand has come out with several eco-friendly options, including organic and recycled yarns.  Our LB Collection Organic Wool is a worsted weight 100% organically produced wool dyed with low impact dyes.  Low impact dyes require less water to rinse and less dye bleeds into the water.  Lion Brand also has two organic cottons-Lion Organic Cotton and Nature’s Choice Organic Cotton.  Lion Organic Cotton is not dyed, but is available in naturally occurring shades, while Nature’s Choice Organic Cotton’s dyes are certified according to the Global Organic Textile Standard by the Institute of Marketecology.  Another great option for the eco-conscious crafter is Recycled Cotton, which is spun from cotton fabric clippings that would otherwise be discarded when fabric is cut to produce tee-shirts.

There are a lot of great ways that knitting and crocheting can be used to make your life more eco-friendly.  By using a market bag you can prevent plastic bags from ending up in landfills.  Even though some bags are recyclable, the recycling process still polutes the air, unlike knitting and using your own reusable bag.  Scrubbies and dish cloths are also eco-friendly projects.  Instead of throwing away sponges and paper-towels, wash and reuse your scrubbies and dish coths!