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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 Examiner.com.

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
house
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 heyjenrenee.com

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!


Half Medallion Bag Crochet-Along: Lining the Bag

November 23rd, 2011

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Like many other crocheters, items that require sewing skills with needle and thread can be daunting to me. To find a no-sew way of lining this bag, I consulted my friend Leslie who is an expert sewer and finisher. She suggested the two items that make this lining easy: felt for the actual lining, and Stitch Witchery, which is a type of fusible interfacing, or, in plain English, a super thin material that melts into glue when heat is applied. Black felt comes in 9 x 12″ sheets at many craft stores. That size should work with this project. If your half bag is larger than the specified measurements, you can buy felt by the yard in many fabric stores. Stitch Witchery is also widely available. Here’s what you should do before making the lining of the bag.

Before making the flap for the handles, steam each half bag piece into its final shape and dimensions. This kind of blocking will work on wool, and even on acrylic in many cases. Remember not to directly touch your iron to the acrylic. I recommend this technique instead of wet blocking, as the latter may alter the bobbles and posts more than is desirable in this design.

Once you have the final shape, the next step is to cut the felt and Stitch Witchery into the same shape as half the bag. There are several ways this can be done. In the accompanying photos, you can see how the bag was pinned to the interfacing, and used as a guide for cutting it, then the interfacing was used as a guide to cut the felt.


Cutting felt

If you prefer, you can use chalk to trace the outline of one side of the bag on the black felt. Or, you can cut a piece of paper to match the bag and use that as a pattern to cut the felt to size. Any of these methods is fine, so use whichever you find easiest. After cutting the felt, trim it down by about 1/2″ all around. Then cut the same shape in the Stitch Witchery. You should end up with two half medallion pieces of black felt and two pieces of Stitch Witchery, all the same size.

The next step is to get your iron ready for steaming. Carefully place the Stitch Witchery between the felt and the bag.

Lining up Stitch Witchery

Apply steam slowly and carefully, allowing the Stitch Witchery to melt and the felt and bag to fuse. Keep in mind that too much heat and pressing will cause the bobbles and post stitches to flatten, so go slowly and gently until the fusing happens.

Fusing

After you’ve done this, you can puff up the bobbles and posts by hand. Follow this procedure for both sides of the bag. Once this is done, you can make the flap at the top of each half, for attaching the handles to the bag, which we’ll discuss next week.

Editor’s note: For those who would prefer a traditional sewn lining, please follow the directions in the pattern for tracing out your fabric lining and sewing it in.

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6 Great Gifts for Knitters, Crocheters, and Crafters

November 22nd, 2011

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It’s always a challenging finding the perfect gift for the friend who has everything, but what about the perfect gift for the crafter who makes everything? Get ready to wow the knitters and crocheters in your life and show them how much you appreciate their careful, loving work with any of the gifts below. If you are a yarncrafter, share this post with your friends and family to show them what’s on your holiday wishlist this year.

Ergonomic Crochet Hook Set Ergonomically designed tools are a great for crafters who are always working. The Ergonomic Crochet Hook Set has a rounded base that makes it comfortable to hold, and a wide variety of interchangeable hooks means you can work with yarn of almost any gauge.
Stress Relief Gloves Another perfect gift for busy hands, Stress Relief Gloves help rejuvenate tired hands and, when worn while crafting, help keep wrist and finger fatigue at bay. They can also be worn during regular activities beyond crafting, helping keep those crafting hands healthy and comfortable.
Yarn Cutter Pendant With this Yarn Cutter Pendant the knitters and crocheters in your life will never have to search for their scissors again! Tiny, well-protected blades keep fingers safe and easily cut through yarn of nearly any size. The pendant itself makes a very fashionable pendant or key chain.
Lily Combo Needle Case Every knitter and crocheter loves being able to find their tools quickly and easily. A tool case like the Lily Combo Needle Case makes it easy to locate needles, hooks, stitch markers and more all at a quick glance. A gift like this will save the yarn lover in your life from the frustration of losing tools and having to replace them.
Lion Brand Gift Certificate Buying yarn for another person can be a challenge; color, quantity and fiber content are often very personal preferences. A gift certificate is the best way to help your crafty friends and family get exactly the yarn they want, in exactly the right amount.
Martha Stewart Crafts Knit & Weave Loom Kit If there’s one thing that yarn crafters love, it’s trying out new techniques and learning new skills. The Martha Stewart Crafts Knit & Weave Loom Kit is a wonderful present for those who already knit and would like to try loom knitting, or those who want to learn to knit but don’t enjoy working with needles. It’s also a very versatile weaving loom. With over 100 patterns on LionBrand.com specifically designed for the loom kit, it will be easy to find new projects to try.

Often, the best gift for busy crafters is time. Homemade coupons for babysitting and household chores never go out of style for knitters and crocheters who would love just a little extra time with their hooks and needles. A special holiday tea or coffee blend would be a relaxing gift to enjoy while crafting, and a series of books on tape would make a perfect gift for a literary knitter or crocheter whose hands are always busy.

Want even more tips on shopping for yarncrafters this holiday season? Click the link below to check out the newest episode of our podcast, YarnCraft, for more gift-giving tips whether you’re adding items to your own wishlist or shopping for yarn-loving friends:

YarnCraft Episode 105 :: 20 Gift Ideas for Yarncrafters, PLUS 5 Sock-Making Tips from Clara Parkes of Knitter’s Review

What gifts have you given or received that were prefect for crafters? Is there anything special you’re hoping for this year? Leave a comment to share your story with everyone.


Learn to Knit Colorwork: Fair Isle, Intarsia, and Duplicate Stitch

November 21st, 2011

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As the temperatures drop, stores begin selling their coziest knitwear. I’ve noticed so many hats, sweaters, scarves, and mittens featuring gorgeous colorwork. With the right skills, you can knit these colorful items at home! Here are our handy FAQs on three colorwork techniques to make your winter brighter.

Fair Isle

Fair Isle knitting, also known as stranded knitting, refers to color work that is a repeating pattern worked over a group of stitches and rows. Click here for more information. Want a few examples of this technique? Check out this blog post with pattern suggestions.

Intarsia

Intarsia is a colorwork technique that is used to create individual sections of color in one piece. Click here to find out more about intarsia.

Duplicate Stitch

If you want to add some patterning after your knitting is done, try duplicate stitch; click here for a tutorial. It’s great for adding letters (such as those in this chart). I even use it to cover up the occasional mistake!

Want to utilize your new colorwork skills? Try searching our PatternFinder for great patterns; just type Fair Isle, intarsia, or duplicate stitch into the search box.


How to Make an Easy Knit or Crochet Dog Sweater

November 18th, 2011

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Keep your pet snug and warm with these fast, easy to make pet sweaters. These 5 patterns for knit and crochet pet sweaters have been reviewed by dozens of dog lovers who make their own pet clothes. Click on an image to see the full pattern, and scroll down to read reviews and 5 essential tips on making the perfect sweater for your four-legged friend!

Need for Tweed Dog Sweater Urban Granny Dog Sweater Puppy Love Dog Sweater City Stripes Dog Sweater Striped Dog Sweater
Need for Tweed
Urban Granny
Puppy Love
City Stripes
Striped Dog Sweater
“Super cute sweater. Knitted really fast, good project for beginner.” -Marilyn D. “This pattern worked up very easily, and on the first try looks just like the example! I will definitely be making more of these.” -Amanda B. “It looks sooo cute! I’m sure my dogs will love it. They love soft, fluffy things.” -Diana V. “This is a good and quick pattern to make. I’ve made one for my 11 lb. Yorkie and I’m getting ready to make a Christmas one for him now.” -Susan M. “[It] was very easy to do, I opted to do one solid colour and finished and had it on my pretty pooch within a few hours.” -Candice

Try these 5 helpful tips for making a great dog sweater:

Pick the right yarn for the job. For dog sweaters, you’ll want washable yarn with a tighter spin so it’s less inclined to halo or pill as your dog plays in it and rolls around outside. Wool-Ease Thick & Quick is the perfect yarn for the Need For Tweed, Urban Granny, City Stripes and Striped Dog Sweater patterns and comes in a wide range of colors. Two strands of Fun Fur held together, or a single strand held with Vanna’s Choice or Wool-Ease are the perfect recipe for the fluffy Puppy Love sweater.

Measure your dog. Before starting your project, be sure to measure your dog around the body, down the length of the back, and around the neck and legs. Compare these measurements to the sizes of the pattern, and you’ll easily be able to choose with size is right for your pooch.

Is your dog still growing? If you’re making a puppy sweater, keep in mind that next year your puppy will probably have grown and the sweater might not fit anymore. Try making your sweater a little larger so your pet can grow into it, or pick a pattern you love so you’ll have a go-to dog sweater pattern to make again when your dog is full grown.

Swatch and check your gauge. Checking your gauge is very important with fitting a dog sweater, especially if you’re switching yarns or the size of your hook or needles.

Find a pattern you love and feel comfortable with. LionBrand.com has thousands of free patterns, and each are rated as to how challenging they are. Click here to see all the dog sweater patterns and pick your favorites.

Once you’ve made a sweater that you and your dog love, be ready for all the compliments and questions at the dog park about where you got it and how you made it!

Have you made a dog sweater before? Do you have a picture to share? Show and/or tell us all about your project in the comments below.


Half Medallion Bag Crochet-Along: Working the Front Post Stitches

November 17th, 2011

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CAL badgeAs most of you know, post stitches are not worked into the tops of other stitches, but rather are worked around the post of a stitch in a previous row. By being worked in this manner, they tend to be raised from the surface of the work and can therefore be used to create some very interesting textures, such as basketweave. In this bag, the treble and half treble post stitches frame the bobbles.

Remember to work these stitches fairly loosely, so that they don’t pull the work out of shape. You can experiment with your tension until they look right. Please remember, there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to tension on these stitches, just trust your eye! When they lie nicely on the surface, not pulling at the work, they’re just right.

In the first series of Front Post Stitches you encounter in this design, you have two post stitches worked into the same stitch. You mark the stitches in row 4 so you can find them when it’s time to do the post stitches in row 6. You wrap the yarn the indicated number of times — 3, since it’s a treble stitch — and insert the hook from front to back and then out the front again in the indicated stitch, then finish the stitch as usual.
Front post treble crochet
Front post treble crochet complete
Then you work the specified number of hdc before working the second FPtr, which goes into the same place as the first. Make sure you skip an hdc where instructed to do so. To place the second post stitch correctly, insert your hook BELOW the point where the earlier post stitch was made, as shown in the photo here.
Second post stitch
The next Post Stitches occur in row 8. They are worked around the posts of the earlier post stitches, which are very obvious. Note that they are half trebles, and are worked off as described in the Special Stitches instructions.
Front post half treble crochet
The third group may seem a bit tricky, because you are working two FP stitches together. Keep in mind, however, that it’s just like any other instance when you are working two stitches together: insert the hook where indicated, work off 2 loops on the first FPtr leaving the last loop on the hook, then insert the hook in the next indicated stitch, work off 2 loops, then yo and work off all the loops. Again, these should be worked quite loosely.
Crochet 2 front post treble together
Decrease complete
Some people have noted that the post stitches don’t seem to frame the bobbles on their projects. It’s possible that this is caused by miscounting of stitches on previous rows. Pay attention in particular to which stitches are skipped in the rows before, as this will also affect the alignment of post stitches. As mentioned in the last lesson, it’s important to count stitches at the end of every row, and check that each half of the row is a mirror of the other — this will insure that your bobbles and posts are in the correct place.

When I worked the project, my bobbles were nicely framed by the post stitches, and in one or two cases I moved the post stitches by hand around the bobbles. Feel free to do this if necessary (as in this example below).
Moving stitch

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