Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for August, 2011

4 Back to School Teacher Gifts to Craft, Knit and Crochet

August 17th, 2011

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Back to school season is the perfect time to thank the teachers in your life with notes or tokens of appreciation. My mom, a teacher herself, taught me just how much small gifts and thank-you notes mean to teachers everywhere. Yarncrafting for teachers is a wonderful way to make your gifts all the more personal, useful and long-lasting. Unlike regular apples, for example, a crocheted Amigurumi Apple for the teacher like the one to the right can be enjoyed for years to come! 

These four projects make excellent gifts for teachers and are great to work on with the kids heading back to school. Young children can help by picking out colors and details to make each gift special for their teacher, while older children can help with trickier tasks like sewing, knitting or crochet.

Amigurumi Apple
Gifts for Hobbies  

Giving a gift that appeals to a teacher’s hobby is especially thoughtful, and many teachers love to read in their spare time. With this Beaded Bookmark pattern, you can enlist the help of young children in selecting beads and colors, while older kids can help with the beading and knotting of the yarn. They may even want to make a set for themselves!

Gifts to Use Every Day  

Useful gifts are treasured by teachers because they are thoughtful tokens for them to look at and use everyday. Eyeglass cases make it easy to protect reading or sunglasses, and on there are many patterns for knit, crochet and even woven eyeglass cases. Make them in beautiful colors to match each teacher’s taste.

Gifts for the Desk and Classroom  

Help the teachers in your life manage their desk space by making these Desk Organizers. They are great projects to make with kids, and require no knitting or crochet skills at all. Let kids going into each teacher’s class pick out favorite colors or specialty yarns like sparkling Vanna’s Glamour or fluffy Fun Fur for added details.

Gifts to Pamper 

Teachers have plenty to focus on, so help them relax with spa-style gifts like this Aromatherapy Eye Pillow in knit or crochet. Younger kids can help by selecting  the lavender and picking out the colors, while older kids could sew or help knit or crochet the pillow itself. Teachers often have little time to spend on themselves; the gift of a hand made spa set or washcloth with a scented soap will help them rejuvenate after long days in the classroom.

Pair your gift with a short thank-you note, and your handmade teacher gift is ready to go! If you have leftover yarn, consider donating it to a school crafting group or the art teacher. Schools are almost always in need of supplies, and when you donate your extra materials you are directly helping teachers and giving kids access to the arts.

Have you made gifts for teachers before? Are you planning to make any this year? Leave a comment to share your ideas and stories.

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Working with Grouped Stitches

August 16th, 2011

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Both knit and crochet patterns often feature groups of stitches set apart by parentheses or brackets. When you encounter these groups, there should be an instruction immediately following the parentheses or brackets that will apply to those stitches.

You might have something like:

(sc, ch 3, sc) in next ch-5 sp

All this means is that in the next ch-5 sp you are going to work a sc, then ch3, and then in the same space, make another sc.

Or, you might have instead:

(k2, p2) x5

This indicates that you are to repeat all of the stitches in the parentheses, in order, five times. Written out this would be k2, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2.

There is no difference between parentheses and brackets. Generally you will see brackets inside parentheses, which just means that you have a group within the group — so for instance you might be working the bracketed group of stitches into a single stitch as you are here, while at the same time repeating the entire sequence of stitches in parentheses:

(k2tog, [k1, yo, k1] into next stitch, k2tog, p2) x3

Again, you are to work all of the instructions in the parentheses 3 times, and in this case part of that grouped repeat will be a double increase created by working a k1, a yo, and another k1 all in the same stitch.

You can even have multiples grouped inside other multiples:

(sc, ch1, sc, [sk2, ch3, sc] x 3, ch1) x2

Here you are working everything in the parentheses twice, and that grouped repeat includes working everything in the brackets three times. I’ll write this one out for you, because it can get confusing:

sc, ch1, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, ch1, sc, ch1, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, ch1

I think you can see why we use the shorthand of grouping stitches — trying to follow along those long lines of instruction without getting lost or accidentally repeating a stitch can be very difficult! Shortening these instructions down helps to clarify them both as you read and as you interpret the structure of the pattern.

If you’re getting confused by a grouping or aren’t sure how the stitches are going to add up, go ahead and write it out! This is another one of those conventions in knit and crochet patterns that gets easier to interpret on the fly with practice, so don’t feel like you’re alone if you’re not getting it right away. And don’t forget: stitch markers are your friend. Having grouped stitches like this makes it easy to tell where a stitch marker might be handy — put one between each group, using different colors for the internal groupings if you want to mark those as well. Then if you do run into a problem you can very quickly isolate it, fix it, and get on with your project.

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School Spirit Yarn Shades

August 15th, 2011

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School’s almost back in session! That means that sports games, pep rallies, and other fun after-school activities are fast approaching. Show your spirit by knitting or crocheting accessories in your school colors! Here are just a few of the most popular school colors in three of our favorite fast-finish, easy care yarns: Vanna’s Choice, Wool-Ease, and Hometown USA.

(If you’re looking for colors not listed below, please be sure to click on the names of the yarn above. Each of these lines has 50+ colors, so you have many more options to choose from.)

Yarn Vanna’s Choice Wool-Ease Hometown USA
Blue Colonial Blue
Colonial Blue
Blue Heather
Blue Heather
Detroit Blue
Detroit Blue
Gold Mustard
Pittsburgh Yellow
Pittsburgh Yellow
White White
White Frost
White Frost
New York White
New York White
Red Scarlet
Ranch Red
Ranch Red
Cincinnati Red
Cincinnati Red
Purple Eggplant
Portland Wine
Portland Wine
Black Black
Oakland Black
Oakland Black
Brown Chocolate
Billings Chocolate
Billings Chocolate
Orange Terracotta
Syracuse Orange
Syracuse Orange
Green Kelly Green
Kelly Green
Green Bay
Green Bay

Want ideas on how to combine your school colors? Stripes are always in style for hats and scarves. You can also knit or crochet a project in a solid color, then use your contrasting shade to duplicate stitch the initials of you or your school. For a tweedy effect, hold both shades together (like in our Sumptuous Tweed Scarf).

What are your school colors? How do you show your school spirit through yarncrafting? Let us know in the comments.

How to Design Your Own Knit Sweater from a Picture: Shaping

August 14th, 2011

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In last week’s post, I told you how I chose the yarn and stitch pattern to create my own sweater design based on a picture. (To see the picture, click here.) This week, I’ll tell you how I figured out the shaping and the number of stitches to use.

As I mentioned last week, I had decided to knit the sleeves first, since their unusual shape determine the bust measurement. Not wanting to tackle the complicated part right away, I decided to begin at the cuffs.

First, I got my numbers in a row. Because I was using two different needle sizes (5 for the cuff and 10 for the main body), I made two different sample swatches, each 20 stitches by 20 rows. Then I measured them carefully. To figure out stitches per inch, I used this equation: Number of stitches ÷ swatch width = stitches per inch. I also figured out the number of rows per inch: Number of rows ÷ swatch length = rows per inch.

To figure out the number of stitches to cast on, I wrapped a measuring tape around my wrist at the desired snugness of the sleeve. Then I used this equation: Stitches per inch x cuff measurement = number of stitches. (I rounded the result up, since there’s no such thing as a fraction of a stitch!) Then, for my final number, I used this equation: Number of stitches (rounded up) + 2 stitches for seam allowance = numbercast on. Finally, I cast this number onto my size 5 needles and knit until the cuff was the length I wanted. (I chose to make it 2 1/2 inches long.)

Then, I realized that the sleeve needed to be wider at the shoulder than at the wrist. My cast-on amount of stitches wouldn’t reach around my shoulder and underarm — but how much wider should it be? When measuring my own shoulder proved to be too clumsy, I turned to my closet. There, I found a cardigan that has a similar fit to what I want my sweater to be: slight ease at the body with a bloused sleeve. I measured the shoulder seam.

Then, using the same math problem as I did for my cast-on, got a result that was 20 stitches more than the number I cast on. Therefore, I would have to make 20 increases.

Now that I knew how many increases to make, I had to figure out how to evenly distribute them. I knew the easiest method would be to use the Diophantine equation, better known by knitters as the Magic Formula. For this, I would also need to determine the length of the sleeve. I measured my arm from armpit to wrist. Then I used this equation, based on my main body swatch, to figure out the number of rows: (Arm measurement − length of cuff) x rows per inch = number of rows to knit. Finally, I searched online for a Magic Formula calculator. I chose one, entered my numbers, and voila — instant pattern!

Finally, I had to create the shaping at the shoulder and bust. This step took a little more guesswork than the previous ones. From my sketch, I knew that the sleeve would continue past the shoulder to form the neckline.

Therefore, I knew that I would have to bind off somewhere in the center of the sleeve piece to start the hole for my head. Based on this, I decided to continue with a stepped bind-off, rather than  decreases, to shape the scoopneck neckline.

To help myself figure out the shaping, I sewed the sleeve closed, up to where the bustline seam would begin. Then, trying the sleeve on, I used trial and error to figure out where my bind-offs should occur. After a couple of rounds of frogging, this was my result!

My sweater isn’t finished yet, but I’m really excited to put my design to the test. But even if it isn’t perfect, I have to admit — making the design has been half the fun!

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Mesh Raglan Pullover Crochet-Along: Finished Pullover Round-Up

August 11th, 2011

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I want to thank everyone who participated in the Mesh Raglan Pullover CAL! It’s been a great few weeks, and we hope you’ve had an excellent time crocheting with us. My favorite part of any CAL (or KAL) is seeing all of the fantastic finished objects! Here are a few sweaters from our Ravelry group and our blog.


Jody (Ravelry user moxiedox)used Vanna’s Choice in Seaspray Mist. The subtle print looks great with the mesh style.


Jean followed along with the CAL here on the blog, making her sweater in the recommended Seagrass Recycled Cotton. I love the flowy fit!

Cori (AtlantisDragonGrl on Ravelry) made her pullover super cheerful with Sunshine Recycled Cotton.
Robin (Ravelry user coolforcats) made her cool blue top in Marine Recycled Cotton.

Mburts on Ravelry used the summery Seaspray shade of Lion Cotton. She opted to use the tie around her waist for a flattering silhouette.


Janice followed the CAL on our blog. She made her looser swing-style pullover with Marine Recycled Cotton.

Thanks for letting me share your wonderful photos, ladies! If you haven’t finished your pullover yet, don’t worry! Our Ravelry group is still active, and all of the blog posts are available for you to peruse at your own pace. Happy crocheting!

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How to Wind a Ball of Yarn

August 10th, 2011

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It’s a question that has occurred to most yarn crafters at one time or another: “How do I turn this cone/skein/hank of yarn into something can work with?” Winding your yarn into a ball can be tricky at first, but with a little practice the process gets much easier.

With cones and skeins, you don’t necessarily have to make a ball before using your yarn. Cones like LB 1878 can easily unwrap along the outside, and if you prefer to pull it from the center, simply pop the cone out of the middle and pull the inside end up out of the top. Skeins like Vanna’s Choice and Homespun have one end wrapped around the outside, and the other tucked into the middle (click here to see our FAQ Article on pulling yarn from a skein). The outside end will unroll the skein as you work and the inside end will pull from the center in the process. Finding and pulling out the inside end can be tricky, and a little extra yarn tends to come out in the process. Whether you choose to pull from the outside or the center, both methods are perfectly fine and require no ball winding at all!

If you are working with yarn in a hank like LB Collection Organic Wool, winding the yarn into a ball is the best way to prevent tangling as you work. After unfolding the hank, loop it around a swift (or chair back, or the hands of a willing friend) to keep it stable as you follow the steps below to wind it into a ball.

Starting the Ball

Hold the end of your yarn around your index finger. Gently wrap the yarn around your index and middle finger. You can loop the yarn around both fingers in a tiny O shape, or wrap it in a figure eight between your fingers.

Taking the Ball Off Your Fingers

Once you’ve got several yards of yarn wrapped in a thick loop, gently wiggle it off your fingers. Hold the wrapped yarn in one hand, and wind the next few yards of yarn around the middle or ‘waist’ of the loop.

Winding the Yarn

When the center wrapping gets thick and bulky, begin rotating the ball slightly as you continue to wind yarn onto it. The fist time you do this, it should look like the yarn is forming a letter ‘X’ on top of the new ball.

Making the Ball

Now the ball will begin to get larger and more spherical. If your ball starts to make an elliptical or almond shape, don’t worry, just rotate the center a quarter of a turn and continue wrapping.

Winding a ball isn’t an exact science, and while it can be tricky at first, practice makes the process much easier.

Do you prefer to ball your yarn before working with it? Do you have any tips on winding a ball of yarn? Leave a comment to share.

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More Tips for Working with Charts

August 9th, 2011

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Now that you’ve gotten comfortable with the basics of reading charts, here are a few more tips to make it even easier:

  • If your chart is fairly simple, put each row of the chart on a separate notecard. You can then move the completed row to the back of the deck, and the next one will be right there ready for you work on. I find this the easiest way to keep track of where I am on a pattern, and it allows me to put a project down without worrying overmuch about whether I’ve tracked my rows properly.
  • For larger or more complicated charts, use pattern magnets to move up the chart as you go. Again, this is a great way to keep track of where you are and where you’ve been.
  • Combine to conquer. Sometimes you’ll have multiple charts to keep track of, with different row counts; try putting them all together in a single chart that will begin and end on the same row (for instance, if you have one pattern with a six-row repeat and another with a four-row repeat, you can combine them into a single 12-row chart). You can do this either by making multiple copies of your charts and taping them together, or just transposing them onto a separate sheet of graph paper.
  • Spell it out. Even after you’re comfortable working with charts, you may find it useful to either transpose them into written instructions or refer to existing written instructions if the pattern has them. Occasionally, there will be something in a charted instruction that just seems odd. By writing it out (or cross-checking with providing written instructions) you can usually resolve the issue and continue working from the chart.

With these tips in your bag of tricks, you should be ready to tackle even the most complicated lace and cable patterns!

4 Summer Vacation Projects to Knit or Crochet

August 8th, 2011

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August has always been one of my favorite months for one reason: summer vacations. The last month of summer vacation for many school children, August is a month to get out and enjoy free time with family and see new and exciting things together. If you’re like me, this also means planning what projects to take along, and what projects you’ll work on while you’re there. These 4 projects are great to make while you are traveling, and will be excellent items to have on hand as you pack for your next adventure.

Summer Vacation Photo Album Cover The Summer Vacation Photo Album Cover is perfect for holding all the photos from a summer of excitement, and is also a great pattern for a scrapbook or journal cover. Since the pieces are small and worked separately, the project is a great one to work on while you travel. Assemble it once you return home and fill it with all the images and momentos of your vacation.
Sweet Dreams Travel Pillow You can rest easy with the Sweet Dreams Travel Pillow to keep you comfortable napping or relaxing on a plane or long ride. Make it in Superwash Merino Cashmere or Nature’s Choice Organic Cotton or  for added luxury on your journey.
Blue Skies Accessories Bag The Blue Skies Accessories Bag is an excellent project to crochet while traveling, and a perfect accessory caddy to carry with you once you’re finished. Decorate it with the trees and bird if you like, or ou can get creative and decorate it with a scene from your favorite vacation.
Travelin' Man Shoe Covers Keeping shoes secure and scuff-free is easier with Travelin’ Man Shoe Covers. A pair of shoe covers makes an excellent travel-sized project, and the finished project is great to have on hand when you’re ready to head out on your next venture. They make a perfect gift for any friend or family member who loves to travel.

Have you been vacationing this summer? What are your favorite projects to take along? Leave us a comment to share your favorites.

How to Design Your Own Knit Sweater from a Picture

August 7th, 2011

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Often, I’ll page through magazines thinking, “I could knit that!” But it wasn’t until recently, when I was paging through a catalog of fall fashions, that I decided to say, “I will knit that!”

The sweater that caught my eye (click here to see it) is constructed in a way that I had never seen before. Rather than let myself be intimidated, though, I decided to use what I’ve learned from knitting sweaters in the past to figure out how this one was made.

My first step was to make a rough sketch of the sweater so that I could get a better idea of its design elements. I noted that the set-in sleeves continued past the armhole and met in the middle, making a saddle sleeve shape. Since the sleeves determine the measurements of the body, I decided to knit them first.

Now I needed to figure out what kind of yarn to use. In the catalog image, the stitches were easy to see, even from far away. This told me that I should use a straight, or smooth, yarn to give the stitches lots of definition. Because I didn’t want to wait until it gets cold out to wear my sweater, I decided to use Lion® Cotton.

Then I needed to figure out how much yarn to buy. Using the Pattern Finder® on, I found this Lion® Cotton sweater, which has a similar shape. Going by the measurements I would use for the Lion Brand pattern, I decided to buy 6 balls: 4 in my main color (Natural) and 2 in my stripe color (Poppy Red).

My next step was to figure out needle size. In the catalog picture, though the cuffs appeared to be tightly stitched, the fabric in the main body showed small holes among the stitches. This told me that my fabric there should be more open than usual, so I would need to use a larger-than-recommended needle. After making a few sample swatches, I chose size 10. (To make the tight-knit cuffs, I would use size 5. As an added bonus, changing the needle size midway gave me the bloused effect of the sleeves in the picture–no increasing needed!)

Finally, I needed to choose a stitch pattern. Where the fabric was stretched in the picture, I could see purls between the knits: K1, P1 rib it is! However, after knitting a few inches on size 10 needles in K1, P1 rib, I realized that the fabric was too open. I didn’t want to change the size of my needles, though, so I decided to change the stitch. I started using Mock Rib instead, and the results gave me just the right amount of sturdiness while maintaining the texture.

Next week, I’ll tell you how I constructed the sweater itself!

Have you ever designed or free-styled your own project? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Mesh Raglan Pullover Crochet-Along: Finishing Details

August 4th, 2011

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Welcome back to the Mesh Raglan Pullover CAL and the final step in our sweater crochet-along! Today I’m going to talk about putting the finishing touches on your pullover so you can wear it proudly and show off all of your hard work.

For starters, the pattern indicates to work a trim on the bottom of the body and the neckline using the same (sc, ch 3, dc) as used around the sleeve edges. This cluster is worked in every other ch-1 space, and although it may seem strange to stretch over the skipped space, the height of the double crochet will reach to the next space, resulting in the scalloped edging. If you like the way it looks as is feel free to leave the edging off, but just keep in mind that not only does the edging add a design element, it also gives the finished edge a little more stability, which is particularly nice at the neckline.

Once your edging is complete and your ends are woven in (everyone’s favorite part, I know), it’s time to talk about blocking! Blocking gives your sweater a polished look and gives you the opportunity to shape the sweater into a finished shape. There are many methods for blocking, but for this sweater in particular I chose to pin it in place first and then wet block it with a spray bottle.


Although I generally prefer a soaking method for wet blocking, it’s very hot and humid in New York City right now and I was afraid it would never dry! Using a spray bottle to wet the sweater still results in a good blocking, but can dry faster because it has less water saturation. I pinned my sweater in place to the measurements I wanted it to be, stretching it just slightly to open up the mesh pattern, then dampened it with a spray bottle and left it alone to dry.

The final finishing touch is to make the ties! I know I mentioned in an earlier post that I made my neck tie ahead of time for a more accurate idea of how the finished sweater would fit, but now that I’m finishing this garment I’ve decided to re-do my neck tie. While the long chain is perfectly useful, I felt that a slightly more substantial tie would be a nice addition.

To create my ties, I made a chain as long as I wanted for the neck tie, but instead of leaving it as a chain I worked back into it with single crochets (you could also use slip stitches), resulting in a thicker tie. I repeated this for my second tie as well. Some of you have also mentioned using ribbon or a contrasting color of yarn, both of which are great ideas!

Tie placement is another area where you can customize your pullover. The pattern indicates to place a tie at the neckline as well as at the bottom of the body, but you can also take into consideration where you want to shape the body of the sweater. I am placing the first tie at the neckline as instructed because I love the look of the slight gather at the top and how it adds structure to the top of the garment. For my personal style, however, I’m going to use the second tie to create more of an empire waist by weaving it through the stitches of the body below the bust line.

Finished Sweater

The beauty of this sweater is that the body section does not have shaping built in, so you can use the tie to create it wherever you find it works for you. Maybe you’ll want it closer to your natural waist or at the bottom as indicated in the pattern. Better yet, you can change the placement of the tie each time you wear it depending on the look you want. The beauty of a tie creating the shaping is that it can be modified again and again! As you can see, I’m wearing my sweater over a tank top, as many of you have discussed doing as well, but keep in mind that by changing what you use under it you can also change the look each time you wear it. Such a versatile pullover!

Now put on your pullover and admire all of your hard work! Thanks for working through this pullover with me, sharing your experiences, posting your photos, and helping each other along the way. Please continue to share photos of your finished sweaters so we can all share in your pride!

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