Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for December, 2009

Choosing the Right Yarn

December 14th, 2009

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It’s always frustrating to find a lovely pattern written for a yarn that has been discontinued, or one that you don’t particularly care for. One of the great things about knitting and crochet is that it’s very easy to use a yarn other than the one called for in the pattern. You can’t just swap any yarn into any pattern, though. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

Weight category: You will have much better luck substituting yarns of the same weight category. You’ll still need to make a gauge swatch (which you were going to do anyhow, right?), but you should be pretty close if you use the needle or hook size recommended by the pattern. And remember, it’s perfectly fine to adjust your needle size to get gauge. A trick for guessing at the weight category of older, discontinued yarns is to look at the needle size on the ball band – this will at least give you a place to start.

Fiber content:
Different fibers work up differently. Your best bet is to substitute similar fibers: wool for wool, cotton for cotton, etc. You can substitute (for instance) cotton for wool, but you should be aware of the properties of both yarns (wool is springy and elastic, while cotton is neither) before deciding whether to do this.

Style of yarn: If you substitute a textured yarn for a smooth yarn, your project will be very different from the original. (Think about the difference between Homespun and Wool-Ease Chunky: two yarns in the same weight category, but of completely different styles.) This is absolutely okay, but something you should be aware of.

Actual weight: This doesn’t actually matter at all (unless you are making something very large and are concerned about the weight of the final object), and will not help you determine if you are purchasing enough yarn for the project or not. Say it with me: It’s all about the yardage. The reason this is true is that different fibers weigh different amounts. Cotton and silk, for instance, are much heavier than wool, so you’ll get much less yardage per pound. Acrylic can vary tremendously depending on the yarn construction. Go by yardage, not weight, and you’ll be fine.

When substituting yarns, the absolute most important thing you can do is your swatch. You are checking for gauge, for drape…for anything that will affect the quality of your finished project. Keeping the above guidelines in mind will help make your search for the perfect substitution much faster and more successful.

Thank You For Helping 1,983 Students!

December 13th, 2009

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In the Lion Brand e-newsletter, The Weekly Stitch, of November 19th, we asked you to join together to help fund public school projects related to knitting, crochet and weaving.  We set up a giving group at Donor’s Choose, where teachers who do not have public funding for projects they would like to work on with their students, request funding from the public.  The teacher lists the project, the purpose and each one of the supplies and their costs.  People can donate $10 and up to teacher requests of as little as $120.

We started out with 12 yarn related projects and donated $120 to get the ball rolling.  All of them have been funded and we (along with all of you who contributed) received lovely thank you notes from the teachers.  As of today, 1,983 students will be able to enjoy yarn related learning experiences in their schools.  The group is still open and the newer projects added are in the general field of the arts.

If you are scratching your head for a gift for a teacher who is special to you, consider finding a project from Donor’s Choose.  The gift recipient will receive a note that you have donated on his or her behalf and another note when the project is funded.  You can choose from science, art, history, and of course, crafting. Along with a hand made gift from you, this may just be the perfect way to help and thank many people who mean a lot to you.

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Video Contest: Give the Gift of Handmade

December 10th, 2009

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Giving something handmade is special and meaningful, and this season it could even get you a chance to win $100 on!

Make a video of yourself giving a hand-knit or hand-crocheted gift and upload it to your own YouTube account, then place it on our YouTube group. To do this, simply click on “Submit a Video” and paste the URL of your video.  We want to see your recipient’s reaction to the gift. Share your experiences, whether they’re touching or funny.

The video with the most views will win the prize!

Enter from now until Jan. 10 for a chance to win.

No purchase necessary. Entrants must have reached the age of majority in their jurisdiction. Only persons living in the locations to which ships are eligible; click here to see all countries. Void where prohibited.

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170,000 yards of yarn later . . .

December 9th, 2009

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On October 1st we announced we would be knitting and crocheting in the window of the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, to make scarves for charity.  In addition, we announced we would be collecting donations of hats and scarves from our area customers to be donated to our local charity, Partnership for the Homeless.  Many New York area yarncrafters participated, in addition, the blog sparked the interest of yarncrafters around the country to reach out to their own local charities through our Charity Connection.

8 weeks and nearly 170,000 of yards later, we collected from our customers:

170 Scarves

251 Hats

Click here to read about the Lion Brand Yarn Studio staff’s contribution.

It was amazing seeing all the great hats & scarves that were created, and experiencing the kindness and generosity of so many of our customers.

When we were packing up the scarves I recognized a few of my favorite Lion Brand yarns and Lion Brand patterns.

Here’s the Thermal Scarf, done in Fisherman’s Wool.

Here’s the Meandering Rib Scarf done in Wool-Ease

Can You Crochet Away Depression?

December 3rd, 2009

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We received this inspiring and uplifting note from a customer who gave us permission to share it with you.

“I just wanted to let you know how much Lion Brand has changed my life! I have been suffering with Fibromyalgia since 2002, and some days the most I can do is sit still because the pain is so bad. The pain plus the feelings of worthlessness add up to horrific depression over what I can no longer accomplish. However, back in August a friend suggested I learn a “gentle hobby” that I could work on during my flare-ups. I thought of Crochet as a possibility, Googled the internet for the information and quickly found your website. I printed out all the “how to” instructions along with one of the free scarf patterns. It was amazing in that with your help, I was able to learn to crochet in just a few hours. Since then, I have made many scarves and throws as gifts for Christmas, while some people have already requested one of my creations! The best part is that I no longer feel depressed and worthless on my painful days. You have truly changed my life! Thank you so much, I appreciate Lion Brand Yarn more than you will ever know!”

If you would like to learn to crochet or knit or improve your skills we have tutorials on our website including videos and diagrams to help you in theprocess.  It’s all there in the Lion Brand Learning Center

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Swatch This!

December 3rd, 2009

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A Quick Lesson in How to Make a Swatch

Now that I’ve convinced you about the importance of swatching, let’s talk about how to properly make a swatch. If you want your swatch to be accurate and relevant to your project, there are two factors that must not be overlooked: stitch pattern, and size.

The project pattern should tell you what stitch pattern to work your swatch in [e.g., GAUGE: 9 sts = 4″ (10 cm) in St st]. Many times this will be stockinette stitch, but do be sure to use the stitch pattern called for if it differs. Lace and cable patterns will often have a quite different gauge than stockinette worked with the same yarn and needles. And remember, you’re not just making a swatch for gauge: you want to see if the beautiful lace pattern you’ve chosen shows up when you work it with that deep purple yarn you fell in love with. Better to find out now than after you’ve completed an entire sweater back!

The size of your swatch is also very important. The standard these days is for pattern writers to tell you how many stitches and rows should equal a 4″ (or 10 cm) square. This does not mean that you should cast on that many stitches and work that many rows and end up with a 4″ square! Edge stitches and cast on/off edges will affect the size of your swatch. You should plan for a few rows and stitches of garter stitch border –- I usually cast on an extra 3-5 stitches total (3 for a larger gauge, 5 for a finer gauge) and work 4 rows of garter stitch at the top and bottom. (You will want to do this even if your swatch is in garter stitch, to allow for the edge stitches.)

Finally, you absolutely must remove your knitting from the needles before measuring your gauge. Don’t stretch your work when measuring (even if it’s ribbing), and be sure to count fractional stitches. A quarter of a stitch doesn’t seem like much, but over several inches it’s going to add up.

Now that you’ve properly swatched, measured, and seen and felt how your finished fabric is going to look, you’re ready to cast on your project. Good luck, and enjoy knowing that you’ve taken steps to ensure that your project is going to be a success!

Related link:

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The Secret Sports Life of Yarn

December 2nd, 2009

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cross section of a baseball - Visual Dictionary Online

In doing research I came across some fascinating information that combines my two passions, baseball and yarn. Did you know that there are 369 yards of yarn inside of a pro baseball? Here are some other facts that I thought might interest you…

  • There are 108 red stitches on the outside of a baseball.
  • Each baseball is stitched with 88 inches (223.52 centimeters) of waxed red thread…which makes up the red stitches.
  • There are 369 yards of yarn wrapped inside a baseball.
  • There are several layers of fiber that make up the yarn inside a baseball . Four distinct layers of wool and polyester/cotton of varying thickness wind the cushioned cork pill in concentric circles. The layers of winding are:
  • First layer: It is the thickest layer made of four-ply gray woolen yarn.
  • Second layer: Three-ply white woolen yarn.
  • Third layer: Three-ply gray woolen yarn.
  • Fourth layer: White poly/cotton finishing yarn.
  • Wool is preferred over other yarn for the baseball’s inner windings. It is because of its natural resiliency and “memory” which allows it to be compressed when pressure is applied. Quickly it returns to its original shape. Despite being hit repeatedly during a game it retains its perfect roundness.

Related link:

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Knitted Superheroes

December 1st, 2009

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Jack passed along this link to me, and I just had to share it with you blog readers. It showcases the work of artist Mark Newport, who has knitted superhero jumpsuits, from classics (like Captain America) to his own made-up ones (like Sweaterman!). This is a really fun, cool example of the creativity that can be expressed with knitting.

See Mark in action as Sweaterman:


Related links: