Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for November, 2011

How to Get Over Your Fear of Knitting Lace

November 30th, 2011

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This is a guest post from Amy Kaspar, Chicago Knitting Examiner for

Getting over your fear of knitting lace. Are you a newer knitter, ready to break up with the standard knit-and-purl for a yarn over or two?  Do you have a lace pattern you want to try, but you are afraid to do so?  I have been there…we ALL have been there.  After all, lace knitting involves two things we were taught to NOT do as new knitters:  drop stitches, and throw the yarn over the needle to cause an extra stitch and a hole to show up.

It’s okay, though.  Lace doesn’t have to be scary, as long as you utter these three words to yourself:  PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!  Grab a ball of medium-weight, non-fuzzy yarn and a needle size one up from what you would normally use on that yarn.  When practicing, you want to be able to see what you are doing!  I used Cotton Ease Cherry and size 9 needles for the demonstration.  Also, try to steer clear of distractions, turn off the TV, and cast on in a place where you can have a high concentration level.

1. Start with something simple. Lace patterns are just a series of yarn overs and decreases, so every time you yarn over, pair it with a decrease.  The bottom row of eyelets is just K1, *(yo, k2tog) to last st, K1…similar to Row 9 of the Sweetheart Shawl pattern.  The row above it is the same thing, except instead of *(yo, k2tog), a right-leaning decrease, I did *(skp, yo), a left-leaning decrease.  I began and ended with the same 24 stitches on the needle.
2. Read your knitting. The more familiar you are with how stitches look on the needle, the easier it will be to follow if you are unsure of what you just knitted.   See the stitch to the left of the yarn over?  It looks like there is a stitch hanging from another stitch.  That’s what skp looks like.
3. Use a lifeline! Yarn overs and decreases are difficult to pick back up if you have to rip out for a mistake.  Take a tapestry needle and thread it with some crochet thread.  Run it under the stitches on your needle at a point where you know your work is correct.  If you have to rip back later, the lifeline will hold your stitches in place and tell you where to insert your needle.  Just be careful not to knit the lifeline into the next row.  I put mine into the Diagonal Eyelet Lace portion of the Lace Sampler Scarf pattern (a perfect first lace project, by the way…you see different patterns in addition to various ways of increasing and decreasing):
4. Have faith. Trust the pattern.  It may look like a jumbled mess on the needle, but a lot of lace patterns need to be stretched and blocked to reach their full beauty, and you need to knit at least two cycles of the pattern to really see how fabulous the pattern will look.  The one on the left is the lace pattern in the Gray Lace Cowl, and the one on the right is the stitch pattern in the Cloud White lace Scarf:
5. Finally, when in doubt, COUNT! It works like this – Row 1 of Diagonal Eyelet Lace (above) reads “K1, *yo, skp, k6; rep from * to end of row.”  So the repeat section (yo, skp, k6) requires 8 stitches…two for the skp, and six for the k6.  The first stitch is K1, so you need a multiple of eight stitches (repeat section), plus one (the K1 at the beginning), for the pattern.  When I did this pattern, I had to add a stitch to come up with 25 (8+8+8+1), since I started with 24 stitches.

Keep practicing on the same ball of yarn.  By the middle of the practice ball, you will feel comfortable knitting lace.  By the end of the ball, you will have a unique sampler scarf full of techniques you tried before diving into the patterns that use them!  People will compliment you on your scarf or project, and you can use the tried and true, “Oh, this old thing?” and walk away feeling like the prettiest Lace Princess in all the Land.  You CAN do it!

Our Visit with Vanna White

November 29th, 2011

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Last week I headed out to Los Angeles with Zontee, my coworker in Marketing, and Pete, a videographer we have worked with on many of our recent videos. We were going to visit Vanna White at her home and talk to her about her life, her love of crochet and the yarns that bear her name. I first met Vanna about 12 years ago when I attended the big craft trade show where Vanna emcees the Lion Brand fashion show every year. I remember being impressed with her warmth and her kindness to everyone she met. I knew it would be fun to spend time with Vanna at her home. 

Zontee, Pete and I arrived at the gate of her community in the morning. She lives in an area with Mediterranean style homes set close together on quiet tree-lined streets. Her house is lovely and spacious without being showy. Vanna greeted us at the door, hair up in a ponytail, looking delicate (she is surprisingly petite) and beautiful without a drop of make-up. She offered us coffee, Entenmann’s chocolate donuts, and raisin toast. We had just come from breakfast so we thanked her, but boy, those donuts were calling to me anyway! Then Vanna told us to make ourselves at home–to walk around anywhere in the house we wanted to scout out places to film and she went upstairs to get ready.

Vanna White and her cat, Stella

We did look around, saw a lovely outdoor deck where we would want to shoot but settled on the living room to start with. What I noticed walking around Vanna’s house was that on almost every horizontal surface were photos of her family and friends. Many of the photos were of her children, now teens, as they grew up.

Before Vanna came downstairs after getting her hair and makeup done, she invited us to come up and look in her closet for clothes we thought she should wear. Did I mention how accommodating and open she is? It’s amazing how many times she asked us what we would like. Her closet was probably the most organized closet I’ve ever seen. As we were looking for a pair of white slacks and sweater, I noticed that although there may have been more of them than we have in our closets, the brands were as down-to-earth as anything we’d wear from the local mall store. The pants we settled on were from White House | Black Market and the top from Banana Republic. Of course there is a section of the closet devoted to gowns like you might see her wearing on Wheel of Fortune, but that was the exception in a wide range of jeans and crew neck tops, which seem to be her favorites.

The interview and the filming were easy. Vanna is so comfortable and natural with people. I think you’re going to love seeing the videos we made. You’ll get to see Vanna talking about things you’ve never heard her say before, and since so many of you have asked if she really crochets, you’ll see her crocheting as well. I don’t want to give too much away but you’ll see for yourself in about 3 weeks.

Planning the camera angle A little touch-up
The outside space at Vanna’s
When we left, Vanna walked us
to the door!

We spent several hours with Vanna and got to know her–you’ll be getting to know her soon too! We look forward to sharing our visit.

Winter Trend: Modern Meets Chunky Stitches

November 28th, 2011

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This is a guest post from Jen Geigley. She’s a graphic designer, knitter, blogger, and maker. She documents her crafting and life at

chunky yarnSimple definitely doesn’t have to be boring, and there’s no need for chunky to be frumpy. Chic, modern chunky knits are everywhere this season. Bulky scarves, hats, cowls and shawls are quick to knit up and there are so many ways to wear them. Adding a chunky accessory over a sweater or dress not only keeps you cozy but adds that extra dramatic touch. Tuck a chunky cowl under your favorite peacoat or layer it over the top of a jacket for an extra pop of color. I find that keeping the stitch pattern simple only accentuates the appeal of the bulky yarn, making the stitch definition really stand out. I truly love a sea of super chunky stockinette!

Here is a roundup of my most favorite Lion Brand patterns that call for chunky or super bulky yarn. Any of these projects would be perfect for gift-giving this holiday season. Since they’re quick to make, you’ll most likely have time to make more than one! The best part? Most of these projects are ideal for beginners. Some patterns suggest a different yarn than what I’ve used, but that’s what makes bulky knitting even more fun – experiment and I’m sure you too will find yourself loving the results.

Cowls and Hat

Left to right: Basic Cowl using Martha Stewart Crafts Lofty Wool Blend in Ballpoint Blue, Time Out Cowl using Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Citron, Fireworks Hat using Wool-Ease Chunky in Deep Rose

Cowl, Scarf, and Mitts

Openwork Crocheted Cowl using Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Charcoal, Two-Hour Knit Scarf using Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Eggplant (with added fringe), Learn to Knit Cuff using Martha Stewart Crafts Lofty Wool Blend in Spring Green

Cowls and Scarf

Chili Pepper Cowl using Quick & Cozy in Paprika, GAP-tastic Cowl (designed by me) using Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Cobalt, Triangle Scarf using Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Linen (with added fringe)

What are your favorite chunky yarns? Let us know in the comments!

Make Your Own Jane Austen-Inspired Cropped Jacket from Austentatious Crochet

November 27th, 2011

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Yarncrafting inspiration can come from many places. For some, it comes from a particular silhouette or the style of a particular period. For others, it’s color or texture. Recently, we’ve been seeing all kinds of amazing designs inspired by the world of Jane Austen, and our friends at Running Press Book Publishers have shared with us one of their newest books, Austentatious Crochet, which is filled with romantic designs that any Austen-fan will love. They’ve also provided us with a FREE pattern from the book to share with you!

Click the image below to download your very own copy of the pattern for Anne’s Spencer, a cropped jacket that’s sure to become a staple in your wardrobe. (It’s definitely now on my to-crochet list!)

Pattern excerpted with permission from Austentatious Crochet © 2011 by Melissa Horozeski, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book group.  Photos © 2011 by Chris Hynes.

Looking for more period-inspired yarncrafting? Our friend Michelle Edwards designed a beautiful knit shawl inspired by the Prohibition years. Learn more and get her directions by clicking here.

Do you love the world of Jane Austen? Has it inspired you to take on any period knitting/crochet projects? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Lion Brand Celebrates Thanksgiving with a Potluck Lunch

November 23rd, 2011

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As you celebrate Thanksgiving with your families, I’d like to share with you the Thanksgiving feast we enjoyed with the Lion Brand family. This year was the most delicious food ever since we each bring a dish and try to outdo our previous years’ offering. It’s all organized by Mike, our official Director of Fun with help from others.

Some of the tables of food

There were six folding tables filled with hearty foods and an entire room dedicated to tables of desserts.  We had traditional American foods as well as Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern and even vegetarian options.  We’re a diverse group and it was fun to sample everyone’s specialty dish.

David Blumenthal, the President and CEO gave a brief talk that we’ll share with you here:

Here’s a photo of Dean Blumenthal, and his son, Evan, part of the fourth and fifth generations of the family that owns and operates the company.

Evan and his dad, Dean, at the Lion Brand feast                  Our group chows down!

In the video above, you heard David speak about being grateful for the people who protect us and for living in the greatest country in the world.  I’m grateful for many things, including having the opportunity to work at a company that is doing good for people and is a wonderful place to work.  It’s been a difficult year for many people in our country and around the world, but being able to appreciate what’s good is a life affirming practice.  What is it that you are grateful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Lion Brand!