Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for October, 2011

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

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  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
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:


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:


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!

Related links:

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 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

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: