Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for September, 2010

Pearl’s Cardigan Crochet-Along, Part 2: Swatch and Gauge

September 29th, 2010

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Hopefully you have chosen your color and now we need to determine what size to make and how much yarn to order. As I mentioned last week, I chose Coffee. I ordered 10 balls to make size large. There has been some discrepancy in the pattern notes about the size worn by the model in Crochet So Fine, so I measured the original garment, and the sample sweater measures 36″ across the bust (a size medium, not large).

Over the years, I have found that many of us choose our pattern-size based on our bra-size. I believe it is because we are used to shopping for tops based on Small, Medium, Large, X-Large or with the American standard sizes of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, etc… When I see sweaters sized 32, 36, 40 I think of bra sizes.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work, unless you want your sweater to be as snug as your undergarments! I received a great piece of advise a few years ago: lay out some of your favorite clothes on a flat surface and take the measurements of these items, as they include the amount of ease (extra inches for comfort) that you are accustomed to wearing. Those are the sizes you should be making in your stitched garments. Here is an example:

Measuring Flat Sweater

OK, so now you know how many yards (or balls) to order. When it arrives, you will need to work on gauge. I made gauge swatches with 3 different sized hooks because I thought it would be helpful to not only see the right sized swatch, but to also notice how subtle the difference is with the wrong sized swatches. I also took photos before and after blocking as this makes a huge difference in the gauge measurements, too.

Why is gauge so important? Specifically, why is a precise and accurate gauge so important? It is the difference between having a sweater fit or not. You wouldn’t go into a store and buy a size 2 when you need a size 14. And, you wouldn’t buy a size 18 if you needed a size 10. It may sound hard to believe, but if your gauge swatch is off by as little as 1/2″ it can mean being off by many sizes. For example, let’s say your gauge is supposed to be 4 sts/1″ and you came up with 3.5 sts/1″. On a size 36 pattern, your finished garment would turn out to be 31″. If you came up with 5st/1″ gauge, your same size 36″ bust pattern would create a finished garment sized 45″ bust.

Below are my 3 swatches. From left to right, I used an F/5 (3.75mm), G/6 (4mm) and H/8 (5mm) crochet hook. In the first photos the swatches are not blocked. From this photo, I would guess that the swatch on the left is the closest to gauge.

Stitch Gauge BEFORE Swatching

Row Gauge BEFORE Swatching

Next are my 3 swatches after blocking. I think blocking is one of the most important things to do to your swatch because we are talking about a garment that will get wet! Whether in the rain, or when laundered. You need to know how your fabric will react in water. Sometimes, the amount of gauge released in the blocking recedes a bit when the swatch dries, so it is important to not only block but allow it to dry before measuring.

Stitch Gauge AFTER Blocking

Row Gauge AFTER Blocking

Notice how much the swatches grew? If we had chosen the swatch on the right (like I guessed from the original photo) our finished garment (following the size 36″ bust pattern) would create a finished garment with a 45″ bust! Wow. That would be quite a difference!

Now we have decided what size sweater to make, ordered the appropriate amount of yarn, and determined our gauge from the swatches. Before we begin our sweater (in next week’s blog post), I want to share with you how and why I developed this sweater structure technique. After you understand the fundamentals of this design, I hope it will encourage you to crochet this sweater regardless of what size you want to make. This is also a top-down sweater design, the stitch gauge is a lot more important than the row gauge because you can alter the length of both the body and sleeves but just stopping when you reach your desired look.

Normally a round yoke sweater is increased incrementally in the rows from the narrowest point (neck) to the widest point (bottom of the yoke). In this super simple design concept, I use a percentage system to determine the neck, bust and yoke, but work all of the increases into the first row of stitches after the neck is crocheted. As long as you are using a lacy stitch that blocks well, the yoke will be flat. If you use a tighter stitch pattern that doesn’t stretch much in blocking, there will be some puckering at the neck. In some cases, with lighter fabrics, it is still an interesting texture and design element. In Pearl’s Cardigan, there is room for stretch in blocking, so the condensed increases don’t pucker and lay flat after blocking. However, the yoke will begin extremely ruffled but relax as your length grows (as you’ll see in future weeks).

When you know the bust measurement you desire for your sweater, the other calculations are easy to figure out. The neck measurement is 50% of the bust, and the yoke is 150% of the yoke. This means that if you need 4sts/1″ for size 36, 36×4=144 sts for the bust, then you would begin with 144 x 0.50 = 72 and you would need to have increased to 144 x 1.5 = 216 at the end of the yoke. From there, you would separate for front, back and sleeves, add underarm stitches to the sleeve and add the same number of sts to the body when joining the fronts (as we will discuss in the following weeks).

Best of luck swatching everyone. If you have swatch-related questions, make sure to jump in on the comments here or on our Ravelry CAL group!

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Crochet on the Runway

September 28th, 2010

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As you may know, earlier this month, our hometown played host to New York Fashion Week, with presentations from dozens of top American designers. Last week, we featured an article from The Wall Street Journal Magazine highlighting how yarncrafts are making a return to the world of home design–and on the runways, it was great to see that the world of fashion is also following suit, with designers from established names like Vivienne Tam to the new generation of designers like Jen Kao featured crochet pieces and accents in their spring collections.

It’s so exciting to see how the yarncrafts inspire different areas of design!

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Buttons Make All the Difference

September 27th, 2010

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Like many crafters, I inherited an enormous collection of buttons from my grandmother. Whenever I work on a cardigan, I search my collection for the perfect buttons. The color, shape, size, and design of buttons can really make a cardigan go from good to great. My most recent finished cardigan is the Marigold Sweater from the Summer 2010 issue of Interweave Knits. I love the vintage-inspired lace pattern, and I used a black yarn (LB Collection Superwash Merino in Night Sky) for a versatile fall cardigan.

Marigold Sweater

When it came to find the buttons, I knew that I didn’t just want black ones, but I also didn’t want the buttons to detract from the stitch pattern. I opted for a round black button with a splash of sparkling around it. I love how the white complements the open sections of lace.

Button Close-up

To stabilize the buttons, I used a little trick that you may know about: sew the front button to another one on the back! This helps your front button lay flat on the sweater, and it keeps the button more secure. I used some extra purple buttons that I had, but plain shirt buttons are perfect for this.

Button Back

How have you used buttons to enhance your yarncrafting? Let us know in the comments!

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In the NYC Area? Join Us This Weekend at Maker Faire!

September 24th, 2010

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This weekend, the Lion Brand team will be out at the New York Hall of Science in Queens for the FIRST EVER World Maker Faire–bringing our favorite DIY festival, featuring everything from food to robots to rockets to hand-crafts to our hometown of NYC.

In the area this weekend? Come by this two-day event (Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25 and 26) and–of course–stop by our booth. We’ll be featuring knitting and crochet lessons, weaving on a backstrap loom, machine knitting, and craft projects–and of course, lots and lots of YARN!

What other amazing things are happening with yarn? We’ll also have an incredible mini-NYC skyline and Coney Island amusement park made with yarn, and our friends, artists Robyn Love and Amy Caterina Hill will also be at the event. Robyn will be decorating one of the famous rockets with blocks knit and crocheted out of Hometown USA, while Amy will be showcasing her Fun Fur-covered car.

It’s going to be an amazing time for the whole family, and we really hope that we’ll see you there!

To get more info and to purchase tickets, click here.

To see our photos from the Bay Area Maker Faire in May 2010, click here.

Are you going to Maker Faire? What are you most looking forward to? Let us know!

Pearl’s Cardigan Crochet-Along, Part 1: Choosing Yarn and Color

September 22nd, 2010

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Hi everyone!


My name is Kristin Omdahl and I am very excited to introduce the Pearl’s Cardigan Crochet Along! Pearl’s Cardigan is from my latest collection of crochet designs, published this summer in my second book, Crochet So Fine (Interweave). Over the next few weeks, together we will cover the entire process of making this sweater: from choosing colors to determining gauge with our swatches; determining the correct size sweater to make; crocheting from the line-by-line instructions and charts; making modifications; and blocking and finishing your sweater!

Please participate! Ask me questions! Let me know what YOU want to know from me! This is an interactive crochet-along and I’m so excited to hear from you. You can help me decide what else we need to discuss in further detail.

Pearl’s Cardigan is named after my great grandmother Pearl who was a beautiful Norwegian immigrant to the United States with a dream of becoming an actress in the 1920s. I imagine her wearing this cardigan with a silk scarf threaded through the belt holes and cinching her waist to fit.


So let’s get started! For the sample in “Crochet So Fine” I crocheted with Microspun‘s Blush colorway. It is a really pretty light dusty pink. Currently, I am inspired by the animal print trend on fashion runways. For the sweater I will be making in the coming weeks, I wanted to choose a color that would work with a leopard print fabric belt. I was torn between Coffee (below left) and Mocha (below right):
MicrospunCoffee MicrospunMocha

I really liked the way the leopard print would pop against Mocha, but realized I will be wearing this with sleeveless tops and wanted a better contrast against my skin. So, Coffee it is!

What color are you going to choose? Here are some of my favorites:

MicrospunFuschia Fuchsia – an intense hot pink. I think every girl can use a little hot pink in her wardrobe! A dark brown leather belt and dark denim jeans would look great with this hot color!
MicrospunBlush Blush – wear this sophisticated color over a crisp white blouse. Use your favorite floral silk scarf threaded through for a belt and wear over camel gabardine trousers at the office.
MicrospunLilac Lilac – one of my favorite colors to wear. Close this sweater with your favorite shawl pin or brooch. This would be pretty worn over a fit and flare dress (any Mad Men fans out there?)
MicrospunTurquoise Turquoise – if you have a tropical trip planned this winter, I think this color would be incredible over a pair of linen pants and matching camisole.

Think about how you will wear your Pearl Cardigan. It can be worn loose and open, cinched with a belt through the waist, or pinned with your favorite shawl pin or brooch. Will you wear it to your office, on a trip, casually or dressy — or all of the above?

Next week, I will talk about gauge and measuring, we will make our gauge swatches and get started! This pattern has an unusual structure and in the coming weeks I will explain how I came up with the design. Through the explanation, it will become clear how to customize the pattern just for you! I will explain how to change the sleeve, body length, and even how to alter the patter to fit you beyond the sizes listed in the pattern.

Leave a comment and let us know what color you’ve chosen! Have a wonderful week, everyone!

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Yarn Takes the Design World By Storm

September 20th, 2010

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Here at Lion Brand, it’s a well known fact that I read many newspapers and magazines, from business to knitting and crochet to fashion. I like to tear out articles, ads, and photos that inspire me or catch my eye, so I can share them with our associates.

Recently, I was flipping through the Wall Street Journal Magazine, when I came across an article entitled “A Gripping Yarn.” It was accompanied by a photo collage of all kinds of knitting, crochet, and yarn-inspired pieces seen at the Milan Furniture Fair, a major trade show in the interior design industry. The article described how yarn and crafting are coming into their own in the design community:

Following a resurgence among fashion designers and artists, homespun, cozy techniques such as crochet, macramé and knitting have found favor with international furnishing designers from Rotterdam to London to Toronto. “Craft is the word of the decade,” says Murray Moss, founder of the design gallery Moss in New York. “It went from having the most pejorative meaning to being embraced.”

Having grown up surrounded by yarn–our family business–and having seen the world of hand-knitting and crochet evolve over the last several decades, it is especially gratifying to me to see that designers everywhere–and even the Wall Street Journal–are taking notice of the wonderful world yarncrafts.

I hope you’ll click here to read the full article and check out the photographs of just some of the items–from chairs to lamps–inspired by yarn.


Help Us Yarnify Maker Faire!

September 16th, 2010

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squaresWe’re thrilled that the 2010 World Maker Faire is taking place in our hometown of New York City on September 25th and 26th. To celebrate, we’re collaborating with fiber artist Robyn Love to yarn bomb a rocket at the New York Hall of Science! The installation–called Send a Message to the Universe–will consistent of 12″ x 12″ knitted and/or crocheted squares (featuring messages to the universe stitched into the fabric) that will be attached to one of the rockets. After Maker Faire, the squares will be made into blankets for the Warm Up America! Foundation.

Want to participate? If you’re in the New York City area and would like to help make some squares, please join us on Monday, September 20th and Tuesday, September 21st from 6-8 pm, at 34 West 15th Street, 7th Floor, between 5th and 6th Avenues. We’ll provide the hooks, needles, and Hometown USA yarn that you’ll need to contribute to this unique collaborative work of art. We want you to personalize each square, so be as creative as you want with your color and stitch pattern! Please note that we will have to limit the amount of people due to fire capacity, so the events will be first come, first served. If we do reach capacity, we’ll make sure to give you yarn and tools so that you can still work on squares. If you can’t make it to our knitting/crocheting nights, you can still participate. Download this PDF for more information on how you can help.

Maker Faire New York Want to attend World Maker Faire for yourself? Click here to buy tickets to join us for two days of craft, technology, science, food, and fun! Stop by our booth for knitting and crocheting lessons, make and take crafts, beautiful yarncrafted art, knitting machine demonstrations, samples of our latest yarns for you to see and touch, and more. Don’t forget to show us your fantastic yarn creations made with Lion Brand–and also help yarn bomb the rest of the fair grounds too!

Maker Faire is also looking for volunteers to assist with the event. If you would like help out and attend the show for free, go here to find out more about volunteer opportunities. We hope to see you there!

Join Us for Our Special Guest Crochet-Along!

September 15th, 2010

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Several times a year, here on the Lion Brand Notebook, we like to host a knit- or crochet-along. The idea is that it’s a virtual event that brings yarncrafters together here online to work on one pattern together, share their experiences, and to learn together.

There’s no need to sign up: simply follow along with the blog posts, work on your projects at your own pace, and comment when you feel like it!

A special fall project from Crochet So Fine

For our fall crochet-along (CAL for short), we’ll be making the stunning Pearl’s Cardigan, a pattern from the book Crochet So Fine by Kristin Omdahl…and as a special bonus, Kristin herself will be hosting the CAL! We are thrilled to have her helping us through this pattern — Kristin will be blogging every Wednesday starting next week for the CAL, answering your question and sharing insights into this beautiful crochet cardigan.

Connect with us! Not only are we working on the CAL here, but you can also find us on Ravelry in our CAL group and on Flickr. Share your pictures, ask questions, and comment on those websites, in addition to here at

Ready to get started? Click here to download the pattern at!

Pick out your yarn! For this CAL, Kristin will be making her cardigan in the recommended Microspun, a silky-soft micro-fiber that comes in a ton of bright and muted colors, but for those of you who are looking for other DK-weight options, you may want to consider options from our LB Collection of luxury fibers at affordable priced including: Baby Alpaca, Cotton Bamboo, Superwash Merino, and our brand new Angora Merino.

Have a blog or website? Add this badge to show that you’re participating! Right click or Ctrl+click on Macs to save the image to your computer; then upload it to your blog.

Finally, we want YOU to leave a comment and introduce yourself! Tell us who you are, where you’re from, and who you’re making this sweater for! Welcome and thanks for joining us!

UPDATE: In response to your comments, Kristin says that she will talk about modifying the pattern (including larger sizes, sleeve length, body length, etc.) in week 4 of her blog posts, so please hang in there and your questions will be addressed at that time.

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Discover Embroidery: A Great Complement to Your Knitting & Crochet

September 14th, 2010

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This is a guest post from Andrea, a sales associate and teacher at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, our retail store in New York City.

I learned to crochet when I was four years old, and learned how to knit the following year, taught by my great-aunt. What came from her besides knowledge was an invaluable passion for crafting. Throughout middle school and high school, I had explored other areas of fiber-crafting, ultimately resulting in a minor obsession with embroidery. However, that skill was put aside to purse other things once I left home, and I let it slip from my memory. Working at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio has re-ignited that passion in me once again that has always been there lying dormant; not just for knitting and crochet, but for all things involving fiber and my hands.

At the Studio, we are always working on something for our elaborate and diverse window displays. When I was handed an inner tube for our recent Coney Island window that needed some lettering on it, I was amazed at how my hands were once again threading a darning needle and making a chain stitch! I had thought my embroidery skills were long forgotten, but what I discovered was that my hands and muscles never did.

Embroidery interests me mostly because of the minimal material requirement (all you need is a needle and colored thread or yarn!), and the range of designs you can create from very simple to the elaborate. I started with simple wall hanging kits I had inherited from my great-aunt, which have the pattern already drawn out for you in different colors;this was a great way to learn how the stitches can flow together and combine. After my mother had a sufficient collection of fruit and vegetable samplers, I began making my own designs. Designing an embellishment in embroidery is much easier than trying to write out your own color-work chart, or doing a whole lot of math to write your own sweater pattern from scratch. In fact, it is the easiest way to add some color to your work without a lot of commitment. If you don’t like it, you can just take it out! (The same applies for a mistake!!)

One of my favorite stitches, the duplicate stitch, looks exactly like the knit stitch, so you can use it to replicate an intarsia or Fair Isle pattern on your finished piece if you’re interested in trying some color-work, but aren’t quite ready to take on multiple bobbins or strands of yarn.

If you want to learn more about the duplicate stitch, you can find complete instructions plus step-by-step images in the Learning Center on the Lion Brand website (click the highlighted text to view it).

Embroidery is great for putting eyes on those cute Amigurumi, too. You can use a satin stitch to really build up a larger eye, or a simple French knot which really stands out from the fabric nicely. I also use French knots for a lot of other things, like the centers of the daisy stitch which is really adorable on baby items.

If you are interested in trying out some basic embroidery stitches and are in the New York City area, I am giving a class on these stitches and more on September 17th at the Studio. If you aren’t in the New York area, check out for some videos and tutorials for hand embroidery.

And here are some great free patterns from Lion Brand, using embroidery embellishments, that you can tailor to your liking:

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Where have your projects been spotted?

September 14th, 2010

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I recently had the fun experience of seeing one of my finished objects on a clothing website.  I made a Rose Red hat in LB Collection Superwash Merino as a gift for my sister, a fashion designer.  I was thrilled that she thought it was nice enough for a model wear in a photo shoot.

It’s always exciting when other people appreciate your craftsmanship.  We love seeing your projects in our Customer Gallery and at shows.  We’ve also heard about projects winning prizes at local fairs.  Has your project ever been spotted on a blog or in a magazine?   Have you ever won a ribbon for your crafting?  Share in the comments below!

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