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News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for September, 2011

Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover Knit-Along: Gauge Swatch and Casting On!

September 28th, 2011

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Hello and welcome back to the Wisteria KAL! Hopefully you’ve had time to get your yarn and needles together because it’s time to dive into the the pattern with the all-important gauge swatch. Determining your gauge is crucial for getting on the road to a successful finished sweater. When you take to time to find the needle size that gives you the gauge of the pattern, you will be on your way to a sweater that actually turns out the size you want it to be!

The gauge of this pattern is 17 stitches over 4 inches (4.25 sts/in) and 24 rows over 4 inches (6 rows/in). To make a gauge swatch for this project, I recommend casting on at least 25 stitches and working for at least 30 rows so you have a nice large swatch to measure over. After I bind off my swatch, I measure both the stitch and row gauge by lining up a rule at the edge of one stitch and counting how many stitches fill 4 inches (see photos below). Make a note of these numbers, then wash and block your swatch. This is important as many yarns change slightly after washing, either shrinking slightly or very often “blooming” and getting a bit looser, so if you ever plan to get your finished sweater wet, wash your swatch! To do so, I soak my swatch in a sink of water for 10 minutes, gently squeeze out the excess water, then lay it out flat to dry. If you are using a cotton yarn for this pullover, you may want to spray block your swatch instead by laying it flat and wetting with a spray bottle. Once dry, re-measure your swatch as shown:
Stitch gaugeRow gauge
Before blocking, using a size 8 needle with Amazing (in Constellation) I had 18 stitches and 25 rows over 4″ x 4″, but after blocking I (magically!) had the exact pattern gauge of 17 stitches and 24 rows! It is not always possible to get both the stitch and row gauge on one needle size, so use the needle size that gives you the correct stitch gauge, but make sure to make a note of your row gauge with that needle size because that will become important when we get to the sleeves. If your first swatch does not result in the correct gauge, make another! If you have more than 17 stitches, your gauge is too tight so try a larger needle; if you have less than 17 stitches, your gauge is too loose so try a smaller needle. You can see more about gauge here.

Once you have determined the needle you need to use to get gauge, let’s talk about the pattern itself. Some of you have been posing questions about knitting in the round and the use of circular needles, so let’s start there. As far as choosing what type of needle to use, straight needles are perfectly fine for this project as all pieces are knit flat, but you also have the option of using a circular needle to better accommodate the number of stitches for each piece. Since I do a lot of my knitting on the subway in very cramped quarters, I tend to knit most things on circular needles to avoid jabbing the people next to me! My preference is for 29-32″ circulars, but for this pattern anywhere from 24″ and up will hold the number of stitches just fine. Just because you are using a circular needle does not mean you are knitting in the round. Instead, treat them just as you do your straight needles by turning your work at the end of each row and working back.

Some of you, however, have asked about converting this pattern to work it in the round, so let me talk about some pros and cons. I know many people dislike the seaming involved in making a sweater in pieces, and I understand the feeling. Often times, however, when a pattern is written in pieces instead of in the round there is a reason: seams provided structure to a sweater so it is less likely to stretch out of shape. This is great to keep in mind for any sweater but especially in this case where the pullover already has a relaxed fit. Although I love knitting in the round as well, I’ve learned from doing other sweaters that sewing seams isn’t that bad and can actually be a very rewarding finishing step. A later post will cover all of the different seaming techniques you’ll need to finish this garment beautifully.

Another important consideration if you still want to work this sweater in the round is to keep in mind what type of yarn you are using: self-striping or a solid color. When working a sweater in the round, you will eventually have to transition to working flat after dividing for the neckline and armholes. If using the recommended yarn, Amazing, the stripes will be much thinner when working the round and will then become much wider when you start working back and forth in rows, which may not be a look you want your sweater to have.

If you are using a solid yarn this is not a concern, so feel free to work as you wish keeping the stretch factor in mind. To convert to in-the-round, you generally want to take the cast on number for the back plus the cast on for the front, subtract 4 (2 stitches each side allowed for seaming) and cast on that many stitches. Adjust this number as needed to make it divisible by 4 so that the 2×2 ribbing still works out. Please keep in mind if you choose to work in the round that I will be working my sweater in pieces and the upcoming posts will focus on pieced construction.

As you start by casting on for the pullover, one final consideration to make is how long you want the body to be. As written, you work for 14 inches to the underarms, but this length is easily adjusted. The pattern does not have waist shaping, so you are free to make the body as long as you wish – this is why this is such a great unisex pattern! If you are following instructions for the similar Newcastle Pullover, the body for that version is already written as 17 inches to the armholes, 3 inches longer than the Wisteria. I suggest measuring a sweater you like the fit of, this time for length, to figure out how long you want to make the body of your sweater. Make a note of this length (I like writing all over my copy of patterns!) because if you make a change it will come into play when we work the front in a couple of weeks.

For now, figure out your gauge and then feel free to get going on the back of your sweater! It starts with three inches of a 2×2 rib (knit 2, purl 2) followed by your desired length to the armholes of stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row). Next week I’ll talk more about the back of your sweater and how to shape the armholes. Enjoy and see you next week!

Have Fun with Felting in Fall

September 27th, 2011

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Saturday is the first day of October–I can’t believe it! You know what that means: the temperatures will be dropping and we won’t be too far away from winter (quietly sobs).  With the cooler weather approaching, now is a good time to get started on some of those felted projects! For those of you who may be wondering, felting is a technique used with non-superwash wool to make the yarn fibers shrink and lock together.  To get your knit or crochet piece to felt, you need soap, hot water and a bit of yarn agitation.  Check out our Felt FAQ for more specific instructions.  I’ve created a roundup of Lion Brand yarns that oughta do the job for your felted piece.

Lion Brand Alpine Wool Alpine Wool

This soft, wool roving yarn is ideal for warm garments and accessories. Featuring an autumn/winter palette, this yarn works up so quickly, and it felts beautifully for gorgeous projects from purses to slippers.

Fishermen's Wool Fishermen’s Wool

Our classic Fishermen’s Wool is made of undyed pure virgin wool with natural lanolin oil. Soft, warm, and naturally water resistant, it’s ideal for ski-wear and fisherman sweaters, hats, scarves, and more. Fishermen’s Wool also felts beautifully for dense slippers, strong bags, and textural home decor projects. Plus its generous size and natural shades make it perfect for dyeing!

100% Organic Wool LB Collection 100% Organic Wool

Part of our line of affordable, luxury fibers, this classic worsted-weight Organic Wool is perfect for sweaters, felted projects, and winter accessories. Available in 6 classic colors. It is 100% organically produced wool and dyed with low impact dyes, certified according to Global Organic Textile Standards by the Institute of Marketecology.

*The LB Collection is exclusively available through, the Lion Design catalog, and the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City

LB Collection 100% Pure Wool LB Collection 100% Pure Wool

Part of our line of affordable, luxury fibers, this 100% undyed wool roving yarn, is spun in the USA, from fiber from American-raised sheep. This natural yarn with great texture is perfect for hand-dyeing, as well as felting. 

*The LB Collection is exclusively available through, the Lion Design catalog, and the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City

Martha Stewart Crafts Lion Brand Roving Wool

Soft, natural roving wool works up fast for warm, cozy sweaters, long scarves, and colorful hats. It’s also great for felting projects.

Martha Stewart Crafts Lion Brand Yarn Merino Martha Stewart Crafts Lion Brand Merino

Soft and luxurious, pure Merino wool is the knitter and crocheter’s choice for fine garments and accessories. Stitch patterns for sweaters, shawls, gloves, and hats work up beautifully in this worsted-weight, hand-washable yarn.  Since it isn’t a superwash, this too, works well for felting.

Have you felted before? If so, what are some of your favorite items to felt?

Where Was I Again? How to Figure Out Where You Left Off

September 26th, 2011

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Back when I first became capital-K Knitter and really started interacting with other Knitters, online and in person, I would quietly giggle behind my hand at those who bemoaned their stacks of UFOs (Unfinished Objects) and WIPs (Works In Progress). I only had one project going at a time, and I was sure I would never be one of those poor souls who just couldn’t manage to start what they finished before moving on to the next project.

Of course, it wasn’t too long before I discovered that I need lots of quiet to work on complicated lace and cables, so I decided to allow myself one simple project and one more complicated one. That’s reasonable, right? Of course, I was commuting by bus at the time and sometimes a project would just get too big to be easily transportable, so I decided I could start additional projects to commute with while finishing up the big ones at home.

Talk about your slippery slope…I now have “exceptions” to my “single project” rule for gifts, seasonal appropriateness, craft (now that I am also a capital-C Crocheter), soft yarn, pattern lust…you name it, I can make an exception for it. I currently have seven WIPs…just in the basket under my desk at work. That’s not including the two projects in my knitting bag or the socks I always carry in my purse, or the other socks I always have in my car, “just in case”. Let’s not even talk about what I’ve got stacked up at home.

The only real problem with this is that I often put down projects “just while I cast this on” or “until I get this super-quick gift made” and they end up languishing for weeks or months…and since I didn’t intend to put the thing down for more than a day or two, I haven’t marked the pattern. Or worse, I’ve misplaced the pattern…which is where I’ve marked the size I’m making.

This is exactly what happened to me with the Saturday Morning Hoodie Knit-Along (project pictured above). I cast on with the best intentions and then got distracted by who-knows-what and stopped at a point fairly far along on the back. I went to pick it up the other day because I really want to have it to wear around the office when the temperature drops, and discovered that I have both no idea what point I’m at in the pattern and no idea what size I’m making. Fortunately, I can just print out another copy of the pattern, but if it were a pre-printed pattern I’d’ve made a copy to work from originally, both in case of this very situation and also so I could write notes on it and circle sizing information without marking up my original.

What size was I making?
So now that I’ve got my new copy of the pattern, the first thing I need to figure out is what size I’m making. The easiest and most accurate way to do that is to just count your stitches. You want to count fairly close to your cast-on row, and check the pattern to see if there are any increases/decreases before where you’re counting so you can take that into account. In this case, there are no increases or decreases until after the ribbing, so I just counted right across the ribbing and came up with 54. That corresponds to the 44″ size, which does seem like the size I’d have chosen. Next step, circle all of the numbers corresponding to that size, just as I did the first time around.

Where am I in the pattern?
Now I need to figure out where I am in the pattern–what my next steps should be as I begin working on it again. According to the pattern, after the ribbing (which I can see I’m way past) I am to work in stockinette stitch until my piece is 16″ from the beginning. So I’m just going to measure and see where I am. (This process gets a little more complicated if you’re working on something with a more complicated stitch pattern, because you need to figure out not only where in the project you are, but where in the stitch pattern. I recommend tackling the two problems separately, handling the stitch pattern part first as that may well give you clues about where in the project you are).

I’m at 14″, so I have another couple of inches of straight knitting to go before I need to start my raglan shaping, so it looks like I’m in pretty good shape on this one. Yay!

What if I can’t tell where I am?
I have, on occasion, been unable to figure out where I am in either the pattern or the project…when that happens, really the only thing you can do is find a point further back that you can identify and rip back to there. And try to remember next time to mark where you are in the pattern…even if you’re only planning on setting it down for a day.

How to Choose the Perfect Hat Project

September 25th, 2011

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Heart Hat to Knit or CrochetWith all the available patterns for hats, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. Do you want a simple beanie or brimmed hat? Or would you prefer a soft tam, elegant cloche or make-a-statement beret? Use these tips and you’re sure to pick an excellent hat that’s perfect for you.

  • Hairstyles matter when it comes to picking the perfect hat. Snug fitting beanies flatter hair that lies close to the head, while berets and tams have a little more space for curly styles. Do you love to wear your hair in a particular way? Pick a hat design that compliments your style, and you’ll love wearing it all season long.
  • Use colors that compliment you. Color is a great way to experiment with hat styles. Outlandish hats can be much more wearable when coordinated in the colors of your wardrobe, and simpler patterns come to life in bright, bold hues.  Many people select a yarn color that brings out the color of their eyes or hair. You could also try matching your hat to a coat or accessory, or selecting a contrasting color for a bold look.
  • Little details make a big difference. Some hats have complex stitch patterns that create detail in the fabric, but simpler patterns don’t have to result in simple hats.  Adding buttons, pom-poms or appliques are great methods for making any hat more your own style. The Hat with Heart Earflaps (pictured above) is a great example of how an applique design turns a simple hat into a treasure.

Keep these tips in mind, and at the end of your project you’ll have created something beautiful that you’ll want to wear again and again. To see all the hat patterns available for free from, click here.

How have you chosen your favorite hat patterns in the past? Do you have a special tip or trick to share? Leave us a comment to let us know.

Announcing our Fall Knit-Along Featuring the Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover!

September 21st, 2011

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Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover KAL BadgeEach season we host a knit- or crochet-along, a virtual event in which yarncrafters come 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 at your own pace as you knit your sweater.

We asked you to vote on what knit garment you’d like to make, and you picked our Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover!

My name is Kendra and I’ll be your knit-along (KAL) host! I work at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, Lion Brand’s unique retail and education center in New York City, where I am a crochet and knitting instructor. Click here to learn more about me. Each week I’ll have a post here about my progress through the sweater full of information I’ve found helpful and hope you will as well. This is meant to be an interactive process so please ask questions here and in our Ravelry group so I – and the other knitters involved – can help! I can’t wait to work through this project with you!

To get this knit-along going, this week is about gathering your materials so that we can jump right in next week. This pullover is made in our Amazing yarn, a beautiful wool-acrylic blend that makes smooth transitions from one color to the next resulting in a beautiful finished product with minimal effort from you! The fiber blend makes for a sweater that will be really warm but still machine washable, which is great when it comes to a wardrobe staple! This version of the sweater is knit in the Wildflowers colorway, but we’ve also made similar versions in Ruby Amazing, Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend, and Wool-Ease (pictured below). These solid versions make fantastic unisex garments!

Amazing - RubyMSC Extra Soft Wool Blend - Gray PearlWool-Ease - Avocado

Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend and Wool-Ease are both great yarn substitutions for this pattern because they’re soft, easy-care wool-acrylic blends. Vanna’s Choice is also easy-care and comes in a fantastic color palette. For a warmer weather alternative, you could also use Cotton-Ease.

As with any yarn substitution, you’ll also need to figure out how many skeins of the yarn of your choice the pattern will require. Here are the number of balls for our other recommended yarns:

Size S M L 1X 2X
Amazing 8 9 10 10 11
Wool-Ease 6 7 8 8 9
Vanna’s Choice 7 8 9 9 10
MSC Extra Soft Wool Blend 7 8 9 10 11
Cotton-Ease 6 7 8 8 8
Approx. yardage 1200 1350 1450 1500 1650

As an aside, if you plan to make the pullover longer, I would recommend you purchase an extra ball or two to make sure you have enough yarn. It never hurts to have extra (think matching hat!), but it’s such a bummer to run out of yarn near the end of a project!

This unisex pullover (guys, you can pick a solid color or a more masculine color of Amazing like Cobblestone) has a slightly relaxed fit, so a little positive ease (i.e., more inches around than your bust size) is okay. I think of this sweater as fitting similarly to a comfy sweatshirt, so you may want to choose a size accordingly. When choosing a size, sometimes it helps to find a sweater (or sweatshirt) that you like the fit of and measure this garment to help you choose a size.

Starting next week I’ll be posting my progress through the pullover, starting with the all important gauge swatch! In the following weeks we’ll work through the back, then the front of the sweater, followed by the sleeves and then the collar and finishing work to give you a beautiful pullover just in time for cold weather. So pick up your yarn and needles and come back next week for information regarding gauge and getting going with this wonderful sweater!

Please introduce yourself below–let us know who you are, where you’re from, and who you’re making this sweater for!

4 Easy Hats for Kids & How to Make Them Your Own

September 20th, 2011

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Stylish hats are excellent, thoughtful gifts for kids of all ages. These 4 projects to knit and crochet are clever and fashionable hats for kids worthy of any children’s boutique; only these are easy to make yourself. Try the hints below to make each hat special for each child in your life.

The ‘Totally Tubular’ Child’s Hat is a great project for knitters who love fast finish projects and  the garter stitch. The hat is worked flat in Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, sewn into a tube and gathered at the top of the head with a bow. 

Hint to Make it Your Own:
The bow is a great project to get the child you’re knitting for involved in the design. Make the cord together as you teach them to cast on, or encourage them to make a cord with a knitting spool or crochet.

The Cool Kids Hat can be made in any super-bulky yarn, from Hometown USA to Martha Stewart Crafts Lofty Wool, and will look great in neutral, bold or pastel shades. 

Hint to Make it Your Own:
Pom-poms and tassels are excellent details, and who says you can only have one? Add a tassel or pom-pom to each point at the top of this hat, or make even more and add them in clusters.

For a hat with special attention to ears, the Mini Trick Hat is the perfect pattern. There are larger versions of this pattern made to fit older children (click here to see them all), and a wide variety of colorwork designs to suite any taste.

Hint to Make it Your Own:
This hat is a great project to experiment with color combinations. Take the child you are crafting for along with you to the yarn store or pick out colors together online. You can be sure the child will love the colors, and you’ll have introduced them to the wonderful world of yarncraft.

For crocheters who can’t get enough color and love a fast-finish project, the Speed Hook Earflap Hat is the one for you. Crocheted on a speed hook with 4 strands of yarn held together, this is one of the quickest hats to make and can be made in sizes for the whole family. 

Hint to Make it Your Own:
This speedy colorful hat and scarf set is a great opportunity to make matching gift sets. Try mixing different color combinations for each family member with one color in common, and you’ll have a matching family set that is still unique for each individual.

Have you made hats for children before? Share your favorite hat stories with us in a comment below.

Go International with Your Yarncrafting!

September 19th, 2011

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For some people, knitting or crocheting might be a hobby, while for others, it has been a cultural influence.  Like the United States, the United Kingdom has seen a large increase in knitting popularity over the years; In July, an English newspaper entitled The Guardian, mentioned in their article “Pride in the wool: the rise of knitting“, that knitting searches on Google have increased to over a million per month. Although there has been a recent increase in yarncrafting popularity, in many instances, knitting or crocheting has been passed along from generation to generation; it is common to hear, “My grandmother (mother) taught me when I was a child”. Knitting and crocheting is done all over the world, in many different styles; see the roundup below to check out some knitting styles adapted from over seas!

Fair Isle  

Fair Isle knitting is a technique that originated from Fair Isle, a small island located in the Shetland Islands of northern Scotland.  The technique is a traditional style that works in the round and uses two colors per row, usually with frequent color changes.  This style was developed in the mid 19th century and uses basic knit stitches, no purling.  Fair Isle knit patterns became very popular once they were seen on King Edward VIII, who donned the pattern during golfing in the 1920s.

Click here to see Lion Brand’s Fair Isle patterns.

Irish Lace Crochet 

Irish lace crochet is a technique that dates back to the 19th century famine years in Ireland.  During this time, charity groups taught crochet lace techniques to anyone who was willing to learn; they saw it as a way to jump start the economy.  The style is comprised of separately crocheted motifs which are then applied to a mesh background.  The tools for Irish lace crochet involve a fine steel crochet hook and thread or cotton in varying weights. A thinner thread/cotton is used for the mesh while a thicker thread/cotton is used for the motifs.

Click here to see Lion Brand’s Irish Lace Crochet pattern.

photo source:
Original Artisan

Andean Knitting 

The culture of knitting in the Andes is quite interesting because it is done primarily by the men.  The men knit caps (also known as Chullos) to keep them warm while working, and are mostly made with natural fibers, such as that from an Alpaca. The ear flaps are an important part of the cap, providing good insulation.  These hats are knit with very thin double-pointed needles and incorporate a plethora of colors. Chullos often tell a story of the man who’s wearing it, so a lot of motifs (animal and human), stripes, diagonal lines and diamond patterns can be found on them; the Andean men take a lot of pride in their knitting.

Click here for Lion Brand ear flap hat patterns.

picture source: Globe Hoppers
Estonian Lace/Haapsalu shawl 

The Estonian lace shawl is a traditional knit style originating from Haapsalu, a small town in Estonia.  Local artists sold these shawls at the seaside during the late 19th century, ranking popular amongst the Russian aristocracy for souvenirs and gifts.  A traditional shawl is knit as a rectangle, and uses very fine lamb wool yarn- mostly done in white.  The shawls are traditionally constructed using wooden needles.  The shawl’s body is composed of a center, a border and an edge- which has been knit separately and then sewn to the body.  This knitting tradition is still kept alive today through the school systems, as girls are taught this intricate pattern in grade school, and pride themselves on completion.

I’d love to hear how you learned to knit/crochet; were you taught by family, self taught or took a class? Are any of you familiar with these styles? I’d personally love to be able to Fair Isle knit one day, but since I’m still a beginner, that may take some time. Share your experiences with us!

Sources:Globe Hoppers: Haapsalu Shawl, Knitting Letters A to Z, Original Artisan

Think Pink Yarns for October

September 16th, 2011

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many crocheters and knitters show their support through crafting. From cancer awareness pins to scarves to cancer caps, there are so many projects that you can make in pink yarn to raise awareness and show support. Try using any of these pink yarns for your October projects; they’re all super soft and easy-care, so they can be shared with loved ones currently undergoing cancer treatment or donated to your favorite charity.

Baby’s First Twinkle Toes
Twinkle Toes
Heartland Denali
Vanna’s Choice Pink
Choice Organic Cotton
Fun Fur Soft Pink
Soft Pink
Hometown USA Honolulu Pink
Honolulu Pink
Homespun Parfait

For more information on how you can raise breast cancer awareness, remember to visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

A Sweater Dress for Every Body Type

September 15th, 2011

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While browsing the Pattern Finder®, I made a discovery: Lion Brand has designed a sweater dress pattern to flatter every body type (Hourglass, Pear, Apple, and Rectangle)! Check out my findings, as well as some styling tips, below.

Hourglass Knit Dress 

Show off your curves with a sheath-shaped dress that nips in at the waist. A length that hits at the knee helps to balance out your figure while showing a bit off leg. Ribbing at the yoke adds even more contouring.

For styling, add a low-slung belt and some fancy patterned tights.

[Note: The pattern shown uses Lion® Cashmere Blend, which is now discontinued. As a substitute, try using Superwash Merino Cashmere in Charcoal Heather.]

Pear Cable Luxe Maxi (shown on right) 

Your slender shoulders lend themselves well to ornate patterns at the neckline. An A-line skirt is flattering to wide hips. A length that goes past your knees will elongate and balance your figure.

For styling, this dress begs to be paired with equestrian-style boots.

Apple Speed Stix Mini Dress 

Apple types usually have long, lean legs, and this minidress helps to show them off! Empire shaping and smooth, sturdy fabric help to disguise a fuller waist. A boatneck neckline shows off your collarbone.

For styling, pair this with opaque tights or leggings and cute flats.

Rectangle Close-Fitting Dress 

Your slim, athletic figure looks best in body-hugging styles. An asymmetrical neckline adds interest and the illusion of curves. A lace insert at the skirt shows off a bit of leg.

For styling, go retro with a pair of slingback heels and a shrug.

[Note: The pattern shown uses Glitterspun®, which is now discontinued. As a substitute, try Vanna’s Choice® in Scarlet. Or, to get the sparkly flash shown here, try stranding Microspun® in Cherry Red together with Vanna’s Glamour® in Ruby Red.]

How would you style these sweater dresses? Which dress is your favorite? Comment and let us know!

Vote for the Fall 2011 Knit-Along!

September 14th, 2011

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Nothing says September quite like a new sweater, so it’s time for a new knit-along! We want YOU to help us decide on a pattern. Click on any image below to view its accompanying pattern. Submit your vote here by Tuesday, September 20th. Remember, you must submit your vote through SurveyMonkey for it to count!
Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover Raglan Sleeve Topper Textured Topper

We’ll announce the winner here on Wednesday, September 21st. We’re excited to have our friend Kendra hosting once again. We can’t wait to see what the winning garment will be!

New to knit-alongs? Check out our guide to knit/crochet-alongs for some helpful advice. Crocheters, we’ll be having another crochet-along in the coming months, so keep an eye out for an announcement.