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Archive for December, 2011


Scarves and Cowls: Hand-Made Holiday Gifts That Are Fun and Easy to Make

December 13th, 2011

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This is a guest post from Patrice of Yarn Over, Pull Through: The Heart and Soul of Crochet

My daughter Adrienne Neale models the One-Ball Scarf I made in Vanna's GlamourIt’s time to start getting serious about crocheting and knitting hand-made gifts for friends, family, and loved ones. If you’re ready to begin but are stumped about what to make, consider crocheting and knitting scarves and cowls. Even if you live in a warm climate like I do, more likely than not, you have loved ones in chilly locales who would love to receive a beautiful, hand-knit or crocheted scarf or cowl. Scarves and cowls can also be used to accessorize outfits, providing the perfect complement for day and evening wear. (In the picture, my daughter Adrienne Neale models the One-Ball Scarf I made in Vanna’s Glamour.)

Not only are they fairly simple to make, these versatile gifts are often easy on your budget because they don’t require a lot of yarn. You can even splurge on a luxury yarn for that special someone to create a beautiful scarf or cowl that only requires a skein or two to make. Best of all, Lion Brand has a wide array of patterns and yarns to choose from. Beginning your holiday gift-making becomes a simple matter of deciding which ones to select.

The following 12 scarf and cowl patterns use a number of different yarns and stitch patterns. Many do not require an exact gauge since they are designed to loosely drape around the neck. Some can be made in one sitting, while others require a few days to complete. I’ve included designs for the beginner to intermediate knitter and crocheter, so you should be able to find patterns to suit your mood and skill level.

Knit Projects

Scarves
Cowls
Knit Glimmer Scarf Knit Chevron Scarf Knit Felted Neck Muff Knit Simple Cowl Knit Cabled Cowl Knit Cabled Cowl
Glimmer Scarf Chevron Scarf Felted Neck Muff Simple Cowl Knit Ridge Cowl Cabled Cowl
Beginner Intermediate Intermediate Easy Easy Intermediate

 

Crochet Projects

Scarves
Cowls
Crochet One-Ball Scarf Crochet Lacy Wonder Speed Hook Scarf Crochet Modern Lace Scarf Crochet Fast and Easy Cowl Crochet Scalloped Cowl Crocheted Wavy Cowl
One-Ball Scarf Lacy Wonder
Speed Hook
Scarf
Modern Lace
Scarf
Fast and Easy
Cowl
Scalloped Cowl Crocheted
Wavy Cowl
Beginner Beginner Intermediate Beginner Easy+ Intermediate

 

In addition to following the pattern instructions to create these hand-made gifts, try a little experimentation.  Substitute different yarns to create unique fabrics and effects. If you’re not sure how much of the substitute yarn you’ll need, this article will help you figure out yarn amounts. Let the yarn speak for you by combining simple stitches with novelty and variegated yarns. Or try knitting and crocheting the scarves in the round to create cowls and the cowls in straight rows to create scarves.

I whipped up the One-Ball Scarf in two evenings, my favorite time to crochet. The pattern is so easy, consisting of “double crochet, ch-1” repeats, that you can practically crochet it with your eyes closed. Vanna’s Glamour, “the yarn for special occasions,” created a delicate scarf that serves well as the perfect accent to evening wear. But I can also imagine it complimenting a funky, daytime outfit. This sport-weight yarn is shot through with jewel-like sparkles, and while it doesn’t stretch, the tight ply creates a fabric that is quite “stretchy.” I found this yarn easy to work with and love the fact that I can use it, along with the One-Ball Scarf pattern, to create designer scarves in 16 bold jewel tones.

As you can see, selecting scarves and cowls to launch your 2011 holiday gift-making season offers many options that will make creating these hand-made treasures an absolute joy. Happy knitting and crocheting!


8 Fast-Finish Handmade Holiday Ornaments

December 9th, 2011

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Take a break from your regular holiday routine and make some fast-finish knit or crocheted ornaments. Ornaments are small, adorable and quick-to-make projects that can help get you into the holiday spirit and relieve the stress that sometimes comes during this time of year. Try these patterns for crafted, knit and crocheted ornaments for beautiful, handmade alternatives to store-bought decorations for the holidays this year.

Crochet Christmas Mouse Knit Mitten & Stocking
Knit Fair Isle Snowflake Ornament Crafted Temari Ball Ornaments
Crochet Fancy Ornament Crochet Felted Holiday Snowflakes
Knit Holiday Ball Crochet Puffy Snowflake

Even the smallest project made in a small amount of time can make a big impact during the holiday season. Taking a break from larger projects to make one of these quick ornaments can be the perfect way to rejuvenate your crafting hands and creative mind, not to mention the way they inspire holiday cheer when hung on garlands, mantlepieces, wreaths or Christmas trees!
Do you like to make small projects to break up your crafting routine? Have you made any ornaments this year? Leave a comment to tell us.


Watch Our Mini-Fashion Show on the Martha Stewart Show

December 8th, 2011

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Last week, David asked me what I was doing on Monday. I was sort of puzzled at the question, since as usual, I would be here in the office, working on things like the YarnCraft podcast, the Weekly Stitch newsletter, and other projects. It turns out that he wanted to know if I would be interested in being on the Martha Stewart Show with Martha herself.

Well, being the daughter of a crafter who calls Martha her guru, I knew that I could not turn down the opportunity! It would be so much fun to follow in the footsteps of my YarnCraft co-host Liz, who was a guest on Martha two years ago, and I could not wait.

When I got to the set, I was whisked away to my own dressing room, which made me feel pretty cool. (I even got a little goodie bag!) I got hair and make-up, rehearsed with the crew, and then it was showtime! It was a really exciting experience to be on live television (thank goodness I didn’t flub anything!), and Martha even admired my necklace! (Click here for the necklace pattern.)

Click here to watch the fashion show (and find links to the other show segments at the end of the video).

It was a fun experience, and let’s just say, Martha, all you have to do is call me, and I’d be happy to be on the show again!


How to Make Easy Finger-Knit Holiday Garlands

December 7th, 2011

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This year spread holiday cheer by making quick and easy finger-knit garlands with friends, family and kids. A finger-knit garland is a wonderful reusable decoration, and an easy way to get kids and family members involved in holiday crafting. Finger-knitting is a simple, quiet project kids can work on with family or on their own while you prepare for the holidays, and the finished garlands can adorn almost any part of the home, instantly adding handmade charm and warmth to your decor.

With so many colors available, I picked just a few of my favorites to make these samples. Holding two yarns together as I did in two of these samples gives your garland a rich, blended look.
Sample GarlandsI made these garland swatches with samples of (from left to right): Martha Stewart Crafts Glitter Eyelash [Yellow Gold and Blue Topaz held together], Amazing [Roses], Martha Stewart Crafts Glitter Eyelash [Garnet], Holiday Homespun [Wreath], and Holiday Homespun [Berry and Starlight held together]

Ready to get started? Follow these 5 steps and you’ll be making and hanging your own garlands in no time.

Step 1: Pick a yarn you are comfortable with and cast on (I picked Vanna’s Choice for these pictures because it’s a clean straight yarn and is perfect for practicing new skills). Just like in needle knitting, there are many ways to cast on. The best way I have found is to hold the tail of your yarn between the thumb and palm of your non-dominant hand (not the hand you write with). In a simple over-under pattern, weave yarn between your fingers: under your index finger, over your middle finger, under your ring finger, over your pinky. Then wrap around the back of your hand under your pinky, and over your ring finger, under your middle finger and over your index finger. Refer to the pictures below for guidance.
Step 2: Wrap each finger once more with yarn, following the same over-under pattern from the first step. You will have 2 loops of yarn on each finger once you’ve completed step 2.
Step 3 (the actual knit stitch): Pull the bottom loop on each finger up over your fingertip and release. I like to start from my pinky and work across toward my index finger. Once you’ve done this 4 times, you’ll have completed your first row of knits and will have one loop remaining on each finger.
Step 4: Repeat! Keep repeating these steps and watch as your project grows into a long, loosely knit rope. Don’t worry if your first few rows seem a little uneven. As you work and your garland gets longer, you’ll see that your project will even out.
Step 5: Decorate your home. For a festive twist, use a yarn garland to decorate a holiday wreath or Christmas tree, or drape it from bannisters, railings, doorways, chandeliers and mantlepieces. You can even hang small ornaments from them, like tiny glass balls or handmade snowflakes.

Have you ever finger-knitted, or made holiday garlands from yarn? Tell us in a comment on this post.


Fast Holiday Crafts in 15 Minutes or Less

December 6th, 2011

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Quick crafts can help eliminate stress this holiday season. Not only is crafting fun, but it’s productive! The great textures of our Martha Stewart Crafts Glitter Eyelash and Mambo yarns help make these projects fast and impressive. So if you’ve got 5, 10, or 15 minutes free, whip up some of these fabulous crafts — no knitting or crocheting required!

5 Minutes or Less
Gift wrap with Mambo
Skip the ribbon and bow! You can wrap 2 regular shirt boxes with a single skein of Mambo.

Gift tag with Glitter Eyelash
Use Glitter Eyelash to add a little bit of sparkle to your gift tags. Just punch a hole in a piece of cardstock and thread your yarn through the hole. For even more sparkle, punch holes in a pattern and weave your yarn through.

Wine glass charms with Glitter Eyelash
Keep your wine glasses straight at your holiday or New Year’s party! Simply braid together 3 strands of Glitter Eyelash. There are 14 shades of Glitter Eyelash to choose from, so you’ll have enough wine glass charms for all of your guests! You can even braid together multiple colors for larger gatherings.

Hearth decoration with Mambo
Add some whimsy to your hearth or mantle by pinning up your favorite shade of Mambo. Just one skein is large enough for most hearths.

10 Minutes or Less
Holiday bulbs in Glitter Eyelash
Sparkling holiday bulbs are perfect for any Christmas tree or mantle decoration! To make them, take your favorite shade of Glitter Eyelash and wrap it around a styrofoam ball (Tip: A styrofoam ball with a 2-3″ diameter is perfect for this project! Check the floral section of your craft store). Here’s what the process looks like:
Wrapping bulbs
When the ball is completely covered, cut your yarn and use a blunt needle to hide the tail. Next, cut a small piece of yarn (about 3-4″ in length) and thread it through your needle. Use the needle to bring the yarn through a section of the wrapped yarn. Tie a knot in the yarn so that your ornament can hang.

Sparkling trees in Glitter Eyelash
Sparkling trees are beautiful decorations for winter. To make this project, you’ll need a styrofoam cone (located in the floral section of your craft store), craft glue, and Glitter Eyelash. At the top of the cone, apply a small amount of glue. Begin wrapping the cone with yarn until you reach the base. Cut your yarn and apply glue to secure the end. Use a single color for a classic look, or get creative — make a star, tinsel, bulbs, and more!

Garland with Mambo or Glitter Eyelash
Use Mambo or Glitter Eyelash in the place of garland! Mambo is thick enough to use as garland without any finishing. To use Glitter Eyelash, consider braiding 3 or more strands (I used Aquamarine Crystal, Yellow Gold, and Florentine Gold). For an even thicker garland, make a long chain with 2 strands of Glitter Eyelash and a large crochet hook. I used a K-10.5 hook with a single strand each of Tourmaline and Garnet with great results. (Need help with the chain stitch? Click here for our tutorial!)

15 Minutes or Less
Holiday Wreaths in Glitter Eyelash
Make your décor shine with a sparkling wreath! Use a single color, or for a more modern take, stripe two colors together. For this project, you’ll need a foam wreath (located in the floral section of craft stores), craft glue, and 2 skeins of Glitter Eyelash. (Tip: Wrap your Glitter Eyelash yarn into a tight ball to make it easier to work with.) Wrap your yarn around the wreath form until it’s completely covered. Use glue to secure your yarn end. Finish the wreath off with a festive bow (mine’s in Mambo), bulbs, or whatever you desire!

Card Display in Glitter Eyelash
Display your holiday cards in style! All you need is a piece of foamcore, some Glitter Eyelash, scissors, and some tape. Begin at the upper left corner of the foamcore and tape your yarn on the back (white) to secure. Next, wrap around the front (red) in a diagonal fashion. Pull the yarn taut. Wrap the yarn to the back and secure with tape. Continue in this manner until you’ve reached the lower right corner. Cut your yarn and tape to secure.
Card Display in Glitter Eyelash How-To
Repeat this process, starting in the upper right corner and working to the lower left corner. You will have created a diamond pattern on the front. If you find that your display isn’t taunt enough, try craft gluing your yarn for more security.

And now your home (and gifts) will be looking fabulous with just a few minutes of work!

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This Season, Give the Gift of Knitting & Crocheting (5 Tips for Teaching Beginners)

December 5th, 2011

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In our NJ office, we have a big mural that says, “You never forget the person who taught you to knit.” It’s really true. I know that personally I am so grateful to my mom for teaching me to crochet and my friend Essy for teaching me to knit, because each of them gave me a gift that’s allowed me to express my creativity, give to others, relax and unwind, and have lots of fun. Teaching someone to knit or crochet is a gift that keeps on giving, so this holiday season, why not pay it forward?

Create a little gift bag or basket of supplies and make a date to teach someone in your life to knit or crochet!

A few tips for teaching yarncrafting:

  • Provide the supplies! Give them yarn; straight, smooth, light-color yarns are easiest for beginners to work with, since it’s easier to see the stitches. We like category 4 (medium) to category 6 (super bulky) yarns to teach on, depending on the person. For instance, a friend with delicate hands might find super bulky yarn to be a little unwieldy, but thick yarn is great for guys who like big stitches and quick results. Yarns with a little give (acrylics and wools) are also easier on beginners’ hands. Vanna’s Choice, Wool-Ease, and Wool-Ease Thick & Quick are all good options.
  • Compensate for tension. Pair your yarn with needles or a hook that’s a size or two larger than the size recommended on the label, since beginners tend to work tightly. Remind your student not to pull too tightly on the working yarn–tight stitches are only harder to work into later!
  • Sit shoulder-to-shoulder. We find that it’s easiest to see how each step works when you’re sitting right next to each other instead of across from each other. It allows them to see your work from your point of view.
  • Break down the moves. While skills like casting-on or chaining might come naturally to you, they will feel awkward to a beginner. Go slowly, explaining each individual hand motion and why you’re doing them. It’s also important to remind your student that it’s okay for her/him to hold the yarn differently than you do. As long as the yarn is wrapped and/or pulled in the same direction and into the right place, the way she/he tensions the yarn or moves the yarn is okay! It’s even okay for your student to use her/his fingers to move the loops of yarn around–I know I needed to when I first started crocheting!
  • Share resources for when you leave, so your student has ongoing support. If you’re giving the gift of yarn and a hook/needles, be sure to also include a beginner direction book (for instance, our Crochet Essentials book), a gift certificate to a local knitting/crochet class, and/or a print-out of  the Learn to Knit or Learn to Crochet directions [PDFs] from LionBrand.com–that way she/he can continue to figure things out, long after you leave!

Here are just a few affordable kits from LionBrand.com that include yarn, matching needles/hooks, and illustrated, beginner how-to instructions:

Finally, remember that a first project doesn’t have to be just a scarf. Since you’re just making a knit or crochet rectangle, keep in mind that a rectangle can be so many different things! Sewn up on one edge and gathered at the top, it’s a simple hat (just make sure the width is the circumference of your head). Make two and sew them up, leaving a hole for your thumb, and you’ve got wrist warmers. Sew up the long edge and one side of a small rectangle, and you’ve got a glasses case–even your student’s first project can be useful in so many ways! Get more ideas by typing “beginner” into the search box at LionBrand.com.


How Will You Decorate Your Home for the Holidays?

December 2nd, 2011

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Now that the Thanksgiving and Autumn decor has been taken down and placed in storage, it’s time to gear up for more holiday celebrating and decorating, and we’ve got some great ideas to help get you started! Take a look at the patterns below to see how you can incorporate yarn crafting into your home decor this winter.

Holiday Tree Decoration
Holiday Tree Decoration
Holiday Welcome Wreath
Holiday Welcome Wreath
These D.I.Y crafting projects are so fun and festive, and there’s no knitting or crocheting! A styrofoam cone wrapped in Holiday Homespun makes for a cute decorative tree; buy them in different sizes and mix and match yarns.  Holiday Homespun works up for a nice wreath as well, and for other holiday (or winter) color options, check out Homespun.  Look at these beautiful wreaths crafted in  Martha Stewart CraftsTM/MC Glitter Eyelash!
Holiday Stocking
Holiday Stocking
Holiday Ball Ornament
Holiday Ball Ornament
Will you be adding stockings to your mantle this year? Crocheted in Fun Fur and Homespun, this all white stocking is a classic you’ll want to bring out year after year; click here for more stocking options.  Knit ornaments make for great decor beyond the tree; hang them from your windows, mantle and more!  Click here for more ornament options.
Holiday Place Setting
Holiday Place Setting

Holiday Box Ornaments
A touch of glimmer can help decor look more festive, and Vanna’s Glamour is sure to get the job done.  Mix and Match traditional colors such as those chosen for a Chanukah celebration place setting, or chose earthy tones for a sophisticated Christmas look.  Either way, you’re sure to make projects stand out with this yarn.
Poinsetta
Poinsettia
Festive Tree Skirt
Festive Tree Skirt
When the poinssettia’s are out, you know the holidays are near! Crochet these little poinsettias and chain them together for a garland, place them on your holiday table setting and mantles- the possibilities are endless.  Awe your guests with a one of a kind homemade tree skirt, sure to make your presents and tree look a little brighter.
Happy Reindeer
Happy Reindeer
Amigurumi Snowman
Amigurumi Snowman
Amigurumis can be excellent toys, and they’re also a cute way to add a touch of whimsy to your home decor.  Make a bunch, throw in some fake snow, and create a little winter wonderland set up!

What are your favorite ways to decorate for the holidays? Personally, I love getting styrofoam wreaths and decorating them with yarn, twigs and pinecones.  Share your decor project ideas with us!


Half Medallion Bag Crochet-Along: Adding Handles, Seaming, and Finishing the Bag

December 1st, 2011

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How exciting to be nearing the finish on this project! I’m thrilled with the finished bags I’ve seen so far, and very happy people are succeeding with this project.

Today I’d like to discuss making the flap for the handle, attaching the handle to the bag, and then joining the front and back with a slip stitch seam. The flap is simply a piece of fabric we make along the top edge of both the front and back of the bag. It will fold over the handle and then be attached to the inside of the bag near the top edge. For the bag to hang correctly from the handle, the flap must start out the same width as the top edge of the bag. It needs to be long enough to fold over the handle and reconnect with the top of the bag again.

[Editor's note: click here to see two wooden purse handle options--perfect for this bag--that are available on LionBrand.com.]

First, join yarn to the right top edge of either the front or back piece, not at the very outside edge, but one row in, before the all-bobble row (row 17), in other words, at the beginning of row 16. Work evenly spaced single crochet stitches along the top of the bag (32 stitches in all), ending at the end of row 16 on the left side. In my original, the handle is very close to the same size as the top edge of the bag, so I decreased only once, on row 3, to make it a bit smaller. Rows 4 – 6 are the part of the flap that will fold over the handle and are worked even. In the pattern, the decreased stitches are added back again on row 7. Here’s a look at my finished flap:

Flap

Several people in the CAL group on Ravelry have used handles that are not as wide as mine. If you want to go that route, you can still work the flap as in the original. When you fold the flap over the handle, the fabric will gather a little, which is perfectly OK. Or, you can make the flap a bit smaller by decreasing at each edge of the handle on rows 2 and 4, working two stitches together at the beginning and end of each row, just as is done on row 3. Work row 5 even, then make sure you add on the stitches again by making an increase on each end on rows 6, 7 and 8, ending with 32 sc on row 8.

Once you’ve completed the flap, fold it around the bottom of the handle, then pin it on the insider to the bottom of the first row of the flap. With a tapestry needle and yarn, sew the flap down to the inside of the bag. Then do the same exact procedure for the second handle on the bag’s second side. It’s a lot easier to do this before connecting the two sides of the bag–trust me!

Seaming the bag

Our last step is joining the front and back. It’s done with a simple slip stitch seam, worked from the Right Side of the bag. I generally prefer to seam with the Right Side of the work facing, so I can tell exactly how my finished seam will look.

What’s important in making a nice-looking slip stitch seam is 1) matching stitches on the two pieces to be joined 2) controlling tension on the slip stitches. Hold the Front and Back together with their Right Sides facing out. Using safety pins, pin them together at a few points – each end, the center, and a couple more. To begin your slip stitch seam, leaving a tail of about 6″ (which will be used to secure the seam), draw the yarn through the first stitch on the front AND back pieces.

Slip stitch

Now insert the hook into the 2nd stitch on both pieces, yarn over, and draw a loop through. Depending on how tightly you pull the tension of the yarn as you draw it through, the slip stitch will be larger or smaller. You want it to be just slightly tighter than the tops of the stitches you are working into, but just a bit. If you make the slip stitches too tight, it will distort the edges of the bag. Use your eye as a guide. Work your way all around the bag in this manner, and after the final stitch, end off leaving another 6″ tail. You’ll see that the seam is visible and rather attractive, in my opinion.

Finished seam

The beginning and end of this seam will get a certain amount of wear and tear, every time you open and close the bag. For this reason, it’s wise to make the ends very secure and tight. Place one tail on a tapestry needle, and work a short little seam along the top edge connecting the bobble on the front to the bobble on the back. You can make the stitches here tight and close together, as they should disappear into the fabric. Reinforce the last stitch by working into the same place 3 or 4 times, then weave in the end securely. Repeat on the opposite tail and voila! You’re done!!

I hope you enjoyed making this bag, and that you’ll get even more pleasure from using it!

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