Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for October, 2011


Enter Our Halloween Caption Contest!

October 31st, 2011

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For the chance to win a special treat, we want YOU to trick us into laughing. Write a caption for the image above, and get a chance to win one of 5 $25 credits to use on LionBrand.com. Enter by November 4, 11:59:59 EDT, and we’ll pick our 5 favorite captions.

Click here to enter (captions left as comments below will not be counted).

Open to residents in countries where Lion Brand ships. Click here to view applicable countries outside of the US. Void where prohibited. Entrants must be over 18 years old. Contact information is only collected to notify winners. Your information will not be used in any other manner.

Happy Halloween from all of us here at Lion Brand!


Find Pattern Inspiration Out in the World

October 30th, 2011

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Like many people, I love my iPhone. It lets me check my email on the go, access my Lion Brand app, and take pictures and videos of things that inspire me wherever I go. Recently, I passed the Hermès store and with my iPhone, I took a picture (below left) of the amazing coat in the window–it’s made of yarn and has a wonderful loopy texture.

I really love the look of that coat, and I think the texture would be great for a hand-knitting or crochet project. I showed the picture to Zontee, and she reminded me that we have a great purse pattern that has that same great texture, but in a more accessible style (not everyone can wear a full-length loopy coat!). I hope you’ll check it out. Click here for the purse pattern.

Have you been inspired to knit or crochet a project based on something you’ve seen? Leave a comment and share your experience.


Get Going on Your Holiday Gifts with the Martha Stewart Crafts™ Knit & Weave Loom Kit

October 28th, 2011

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If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking about making some holiday gifts this season. I love to make accessories in fun colors and textures for my friends and family, since it’s a nice way to change up a winter look. They’re my go-to gift items.

A great tool for cranking out gifts is our Martha Stewart CraftsTM Knit & Weave Loom Kit, which lets you knit, weave, and double-knit (as shown above), along with making rosettes, and knit in the round. The Kit is particularly fast in weaving and double-knitting, making those crafts perfect for making multiples–especially if, like me, you find yourself perpetually biting off more than you can chew when it comes to gift recipients.

If you’ve never woven before, it’s a great way to mix and match colors to create interesting plaids or striping designs. Check out the weaving patterns on LionBrand.com or click here for my blog post about picking yarns for weaving.

Wondering why you should try double-knitting? First off, it’s extra warm, allowing you to creates a double-thick layer of fabric. But more impressively, one project you’ll want to check out is our Loom Double Knit Duo Striped Scarf (right). Unlike in regular or loom single knitting (in which you would have yarn floats on the back-side of your work), loom double-knitting allows you to make vertical stripes with ease AND it’s completely reversible! I kid you not; double-knitting on the loom is seriously fast, seriously easy, and definitely worth trying.

Finally, for the crafter in your life, you may want to consider giving the Kit itself as a gift. Find out why loom-knitting might be a good option for both younger and older crafters by reading this interview with designer, Isela Phelps.

For the patterns shown above, simply click on the photos to access them on LionBrand.com.


Announcing Our Next Crochet-Along Featuring the Half Medallion Bag, Designed by Dora Ohrenstein

October 27th, 2011

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Calling all crocheters! We know you’ve been waiting patiently all season for our next crochet-along to start, and now the wait is over! Right on the heels of our Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover Knit-Along, we’re starting our NEW crochet-along NEXT THURSDAY!

What’s a crochet-along, you ask? A crochet-along is a virtual event in which hundreds of crocheters all make the same project with the help and support of each other–and our expert crochet-along host. New blog posts go up each week, here on the Lion Brand Notebook, with hints, tips, and advice on working on the next step of your project. Follow along or work at your own pace. No need to sign up–just read the posts and let us know about your progress by leaving comments!

For this crochet-along, our host is none other than the designer herself, Dora Ohrenstein (pictured below left). She’s the author of Creating Crochet Fabrics and the upcoming Custom Crocheted Sweaters. Want to know more about her? Listen to an interview with her on our podcast, YarnCraft, by clicking here [MP3]. (Fast forward directly to the interview by going to 17:20.)

Dora has created this exclusive Half Medallion Bag pattern for us, with bobbles and front post stitches for added interest; click here for the pattern! It features our Martha Stewart CraftsTM/MC Extra Soft Wool Blend.

We’ll be talking about selecting your yarn, getting gauge, and all that good stuff next Thursday, so be sure to come back then! In the meantime, be sure to join our Ravelry group.


Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover KAL: Working the Collar

October 26th, 2011

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Welcome back to the Wisteria Pullover Knit-Along! My sweater pieces are knit and blocked, and I’m ready to get this pullover finished! In getting started to put mine together, however, I realized there are quite a few different finishing techniques involved and quite a large collar to knit, so I’m going to break the finishing work down into two posts, this week and next. Let’s get started on the shoulder seams and collar!

The first step is to seam the shoulders in order to create the back neck opening for the collar. To do so, I recommend a type of seam called the mattress stitch. There are three different types of mattress stitch: horizontal to horizontal stitches (side seams), vertical to vertical stitches (shoulder seams), and vertical to horizontal (the collar and part of the sleeve cap). As you can see, we’ll be employing all three along the way to finishing our sweater! Starting at the outside edge of your shoulder seam, pin your front and back pieces together and begin seaming, working your darning needle under both legs of the V on one piece and then under both legs of the V opposite on the other piece, as shown in the following image. I’ve used a golden yarn so that you can see the stitches, but keep in mind that these will be visible, so you should use the same yarn as for the main body. For more information on seaming click here.

Seaming

I like to keep the tension of this seam similar to my knit stitches, instead of pulling it tight so that the seam looks like another row of stitches, but it’s entirely up to you. Here’s why mine looked like after seaming:

Shoulder Seam

Repeat with the other side and voila! Starting to look a bit more like a sweater? Now you can start to picture where this collar is going to fit in. So now it’s time to pick up stitches to start knitting the shawl collar. The way the collar is constructed is this: you pick up and knit a certain number of stitches along the back of the neck and begin working in 2×2 rib; gradually more stitches are cast on at the beginning of both rows to elongate the collar but give it a nicely-shaped curve, then it is knit until it is wide enough to fill the gap we created in the front.

To plan mine, I counted how many bind-off stitches I had along the back of the neck opening and found I had 32 – 2 short of the 34 I needed to pick up. I accounted for this by picking up my first and last stitch from the shoulder join, then used the 32 stitches I bound off before ato get my 34 stitches to start the collar. Working from right to left, pick up and knit each stitch until you have the number required. By planning ahead, you can evenly space these stitches instead of getting to the end and having to stretch across or cram in a bunch of stitches. For more information about picking up stitches, click here. Here’s what the process of picking up and knitting looks like (again, I’ve used contrast yarn, but you’ll be using your main body yarn):

Picking up stitches

To add the stitches at the beginning of the row, one simple method is the backwards loop cast on. Click here for more information on how to do this cast on. Just as a word of advice: once you have your added stitches, the pattern says to work in K2, P2 rib as established – be aware that on your right side rows, you will need to start with 2 purls, or you will throw off the rib pattern.

If you made your neck opening deeper or more shallow, now is the time to adjust your collar length to fit your opening, keeping in mind the collar is sewn in with the ribbing slightly stretched. I worked the pattern as written, and my collar fit well. Although the opening looked very deep, it worked out very nicely. Keep working in 2×2 ribbing until the side edges of the collar are the same height as the bound-off opening in the neck, which for me was just over 4 inches. Remember the back section of the collar will be wider than this, which creates the shawl collar.

Now it’s time to sew it into place. We’ll be using a different version of the mattress stitch for this: the vertical-horizontal type. This method combines the technique of the other two versions: you work under the V of the vertical piece, then under the bar one stitch in from the edge of the horizontal piece, back and forth, then pull them together to make the seam disappear. Again check out the page we have about seaming by clicking here, where you can see what I mean between the different horizontal and vertical stitches (disregard the garter stitch seams since we have stockinette and ribbing.)

I chose to secure the bottom of the collar first, then attach it down each side so I could fit it in smoothly. I joined the left side of the collar (your left, the sweater’s right side) first, using a simple whip stitch between the side of the collar and the bound-off stitches of the neck opening, since this part of the seam will be covered up by the overlap. Next I attached the other side of the collar on top, carefully working my vertical-horizontal mattress stitch to make the join as invisible as possible, resulting in this:

Seam

I applied the same type of seam to the sides of the collar, pinning the collar in place first: one in the middle, then two on either side of that, to ensure that I could make the collar lay flat and even. It takes some patience to make it look right, but it’s worth it! Here’s a picture of my finished collar and I couldn’t be happier!

Collar

As I mentioned last week, once I finished knitting the sleeves it was time to get those blocked and ready for seaming. As with the front and back of the sweater, it’s very important to have your pattern schematic and a measuring tape handy when blocking so you can shape and size the sleeves to the exact measurements you want in the finished piece and it makes seaming much easier. My sleeves are all pinned out and drying, ready for next week!

So enjoy your week and completing the collar of your sweater, and next week we’ll set in the sleeves and seam up the sides, then enjoy our finished pullovers!
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How to Use a Cable Needle

October 25th, 2011

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Nothing says autumn quite like cables. This classic knitting technique utilizes a cable needle to help you knit your stitches in a different order, thereby creating a twist or cable. Here’s a quick demonstration of how to use a cable needle.

Step 1 I’m going to cross the two right stitches over the front of the two left stitches (also known as a 2/2 front cross). However, the technique is the same for every type of cable.
Step 2 Carefully slide the stitches that you want to move onto your cable needle. Make sure you do this purlwise to keep your stitches straight. Because I’m crossing two stitches in front, I’ll slide them onto the needle.
Step 3 Now that the stitches are on my cable needle, I’m going to place it the direction I want the stitches to go. Because I’m crossing my stitches in front of the others, I’m placing the cable needle in front.
Step 4 Now I briefly ignore the stitches on the cable needle and return to my left needle. I knit the next two stitches (which will make them appear in the back of my cable).
Step 5 Now I return to my cable needle. You can either return these stitches to the left needle or knit them directly from the cable needle. I’m knitting these two stitches straight from the needle.
Step 6 After you’ve knit the stitches from the cable needle, place the needle aside and continue your pattern. Congratulations, you’ve cabled!

And that’s all there is to using a cable needle! What a handy little tool. Want to practice your cabling? Try swatching the various cables available on our StitchFinder!


5 Tips on How to Design and Make a Scarf

October 24th, 2011

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Whether you’re a beginner interested in making your first project special or an experienced designer looking for a new endeavor, designing your own scarf is a wonderful project. Scarves can be as plain or complex as you like, and since you won’t have to worry about fit, scarf projects are the perfect opportunity to try out new skills or yarns. If you have made scarves before and want to try designing your own scarf from scratch, the tips below can help get you started. If you prefer working with a pattern and modifying as you go, click here to see all the scarf patterns available for free online at LionBrand.com.

Try these 5 tips to design a scarf that is perfect for your taste and style.

Metropolis Scarf Easily Customize Length & StyleMost scarves are designed to be a single, long strip of material. If you already have a favorite scarf pattern that you’d like to make in a new way, try making that strip into a new shape. You can get the look of an extra long scarf like the Metropolis Scarf to the left by adding more rows of the stitch pattern. If you feel adventurous, you can even sew the ends together to make a long infinity-style scarf.
Craft with Yarn Learn a New CraftIf you normally stick to one craft, a new scarf is a  perfect opportunity to try out knitting, loom knitting, crochet, or weaving. If you’re interested in learning a new craft or just brushing up on your skills, click these links to Learn to Crochet and Learn to Knit, and watch our videos on Loom Knitting and Weaving.
Stitch Patterns Try a New Stitch PatternBecause scarves are typically a simple rectangle, a new stitch pattern can make all the difference to the look of your project. Take a look at the Lion Brand.com  Stitch Finder for inspiration.
Yarns Choose a Yarn You LoveA new scarf is a great opportunity to work with a new yarn for the first time. Because scarves tend to be of simpler construction, so be sure to pick a yarn that you love to make a scarf you’ll love wearing. Click here to see all the colors and styles of yarn on LionBrand.com
Make Tassels Add Details and AdornmentsClever details like tassels, fringe, appliques and buttons are part of what makes designer scarves so highly coveted. They can also make your handmade scarf uniquely you. Click here to learn how to make your own tassels like the ones to the left. You can add buttons, beads, patches, trims or pockets to your scarf, the sky is the limit.

Choosing new yarns, trying out stitch patterns and adding details will truly make your scarf one of a kind and uniquely perfect for you.

Have you ever designed or modified a scarf? Share your story in the comments section below!


How to Hand Felt with a Little Help from Your Kitchen

October 23rd, 2011

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I’ve always wanted to be a certain famous pig for Halloween, so when my boyfriend expressed an interest in being a certain famous frog (news reporter fedora included), I jumped at the chance.

Naturally, I decided to knit the pig ears and nose I needed for my costume — and for some added authenticity, to felt them as well! Since the pieces were small, I hand felted them in a hot bath using just a few tools I already had in my kitchen. Here’s how I did it.

Not all yarns are created equal. In order for your project to felt properly, you must use non-superwash yarn made from animal fibers. I used Martha Stewart Crafts™ Merino in Milkglass Pink. [Note: For a pattern, I searched online for a knitted leaf pattern and modified the shaping.]
I got my felting tools in order: a large saucepan to hold the project, potato masher to agitate it, and shampoo to help speed along the process. [Note: I do not suggest using a non-stick pan for your felting project. As an alternative, try filling a sink for your project. Just be sure that you have a good-quality strainer to catch stray fibers.]
I put the pan directly into my kitchen sink in case I would splash a lot of water around. Then, I drizzled my project with shampoo and filled the pan with very hot tap water — too hot for me to touch! I grabbed my potato masher and, using a twisting motion, started agitating my project. [Note: In addition to helping with agitation, the potato masher has the added benefit of letting you use extra hot water, since you don't have to touch the project with your hands.]
After a minute or so, my project appeared to stretch out. [Note: If this happens to you, don't worry! The fibers spread and become more malleable when they are introduced to hot water. The agitation is what causes the felting.]
5 minutes later, as you can see, the stitches started to shrink together. [Note: If your water cools down or becomes too sudsy, pour it out and add new soap and water. I changed my soap every 10 minutes or so.]
After another 10 minutes, my fabric started looking more like actual felt. [Note: Some stitches, like the ones on the edges of the right ear, still hadn't felted. I made sure to focus on those areas when I returned the ears to the water.]
Another 10 minutes later, my project had felted completely. I soaked the pieces with hot water and vigorously rubbed them together to finish the process.
After rinsing the pieces and rolling them in a towel to remove excess water, I blocked them around soup spoons to give them my desired shape.
Here are the fruits of my labor. Fit for the most glamorous of pigs, if I may say so myself!

Are you incorporating yarncrafts into yours or your kids’ Halloween costumes this year? Let us know in the comments!


Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover KAL: Time for Sleeves and Blocking

October 19th, 2011

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Welcome back to the Wisteria KAL! I hope working the front of your sweater went well and working through the “at the same time” was a success. Now that the body of the sweater is done, it’s time to give it some sleeves! When working sleeves I find it helpful to work them both at the same time for two reasons: it helps ensure they turn out the same shape and length, and they are both done at the same time! Personally I’m not a big fan of knitting the same exact thing twice, so it’s really nice to get them done all in one go. After working the top of the front piece at the same time, working on both sleeves is a snap!

To set up for knitting both sleeves at once, you’ll need two separate balls of yarn and a long needle, preferably a circular needle at least 29″ long. Using one ball, cast on the instructed number of stitches for one sleeve, then drop that yarn. Now using your second ball, cast on the same number of stitches for the second sleeve. Now start knitting across both sleeves — just be sure to use the yarn attached to each sleeve and not carry the same strand all the way across both! Here’s a shot of my sleeves in progress:

Knitting the sleeves

The sleeves begin with 3 inches of ribbing, just like the body pieces, then increases begin immediately in the stockinette section and continue for most of the sleeve. The increase used for the sleeves is the knit into the front and back (kfb), and you can learn more about how to work this stitch by clicking here. There are many repeats of the increase row as you work your way up the sleeve, so it’s important to keep track of how many you have done. The nice thing about the kfb increase is that it makes what looks kind of like a purl bump (a little bar) on the right side of your work so you can count your increases if you lose track. Once the increases are completed, work even until the indicated length (or your desired length, measured from wrist to underarm). Afterward it’s on to the sleeve cap!

Sleeve caps can be a bit tricky, but we’ll make it through with the help of our row gauge. Remember back in the post about gauge when I told you to go with the needle size that gives you stitch gauge but to know what your row gauge is? This is when it comes into play: the instructions for shaping the sleeve cap are based on the row gauge of the pattern (6 rows/inch) so that the finished cap will fit into the armhole depth we already knit. If your row gauge is off, you may end up with a sleeve cap that is too tall or too short to properly fit into the armhole. But don’t despair! It takes a bit of math so bear with me, but we can figure out how to make your sleeve cap fit based on your own row gauge.

After the initial bind-offs every row, the pattern says to repeat the decrease row every other row (every right-side row), which is the same as saying every 1/3 inch (2 rows at 6 rows/inch gauge, 2 rows divided by 6 rows/inch equals 1/3 inch). To calculate when you should work your decreases, multiply your row gauge by 1/3 inch to find out how often you should increase. However, from your comments in the gauge post, it sounds like that most of you are getting a row gauge of just slightly over 6 rows/inch – somewhere in the range of 26-30 rows over 4 inches, which will give you an increase every 2.5 rows or so. In that case, I would advise that you throw in a regular knit row (with no increase) a few times along the way (and purl back) to make your cap a bit taller, then you can block it to the exact shape later. If your row gauge is looser (less than 6 rows/inch), you may need to make a few decreases on the purl rows so your cap doesn’t get too tall before you complete your decreases. My best advice is just to keep an eye on how tall the cap is getting and refer to the schematic in the pattern to make sure you are on track for the right size. Your sleeves should end up looking roughly like this:

Sleeves

As you are working on your sleeves, it’s a good time to block the front and back of your sweater so they can dry while you keep knitting. To block my pieces, I fill my bathroom sink with lukewarm water and a cap-full of wool wash (why not clean it while I’m at it, right?). I leave it for 10-15 minutes then drain the water and gently squish the pieces to remove excess water. I carefully transfer my knitting to a towel, scooping them up so they don’t stretch out of shape when wet, and then roll them in the towel to get out more of the excess water. I lay out my blocking boards (a yoga mat or layered towels work, too!) then get my blocking wires, pins, a measuring tape and the pattern schematic. Being careful to follow the schematic measurements, I pin out both pieces of the sweater to the size indicated, measuring each part as I pin and adjusting as necessary. I personally don’t block out the ribbing and instead start my pins and wires above the ribbing because I want it to retain its natural tendency to pull in. If you want to the bottom of your sweater to be less shaped, you can also pin out your ribbing, but keep in mind that it will have less elasticity. This is how it looked once I was done:

Blocking

Now let the pieces air dry. Repeat this process with your sleeves once they are knit as well, and next week we’ll be ready to seam the pullover and knit the collar! A finished sweater is soooo close! Have a great week!

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Yarncrafting International: Find Patterns en Français, en Español, and More!

October 18th, 2011

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Knitting and crochet are crafts that you find around the world, and at at our Lion Brand Yarn Studio in NYC, it’s always exciting to meet yarn-loving tourists from far-flung places like Brazil and Australia, who make a special trip to us to experience Lion Brand in person.

If you’re a LionBrand.com user who lives outside of the US, you may have noticed that we ship to dozens of countries around the world (click here for more info about international shipping). You may have also noticed that we have patterns available en français (in French) and en español (in Spanish) on LionBrand.com.

In the last few years, we have also had several bloggers reach out to us to translate some of our patterns into their native languages for their yarncrafting friends. It’s so awesome that they’re interested in making these designs accessible to more people. Here are just a few of the bloggers who have lent their talents:

Tiamat Creations (Français)
This francophone blogger shares translations of several crochet patterns from Lion Brand, along with her own crafting experiences. Click here to see her translated Lion Brand patterns.

Cose di Lia (Italiano)
This Italian blogger shares knit and crochet creations of all kinds, as well as tutorials and explanations of abbreviations. She’s translated several Lion Brand patterns. The first is our Bias Knit Tie into the Cravatta Lavorata in Sbieco; the next is our Crafted Mama Octopus and Baby into the Mamma Piovra e Bebè. She’s also translated our Cindy the Angel pattern into Cindy l’angioletta.

Fernanda em Fios (Português)
For Portuguese knitters who love the Baby Tree of Life Throw, you’re now in luck! This blogger translated it into the Manta Baby Tree of Life.

Finally, for those who want to try their hand at translating patterns for themselves, here are some links that might be helpful:

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