Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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3 Questions To Ask Yourself When You’re Substituting Yarns

August 18th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You're Substituting Yarns

The time will come when you need or want to substitute a yarn in a pattern. The reasons for this are varied. Perhaps the yarn recommended is discontinued; perhaps it’s too expensive, or perhaps it’s a fiber you don’t wish to use.

1. What is the weight of the yarn?

Worsted? Bulky? You need to select a yarn in the same weight class. If you don’t, you won’t be able to obtain the correct gauge and your project will not be the correct size. You may eventually be able to obtain the gauge of the pattern but it will be as stiff as cardboard or very loose (depending on if you selected a lighter or heavier weight). For a project such as a sweater, this will have a huge impact.

For a listing of Lion Brand yarns by weight click here.

You can often combine multiple strands of a lighter weight yarn to achieve the same weight as a heavier one. Be sure to check your gauge very, very carefully when doing this. Yarns within the same weight class still work to various gauges. For example, a worsted weight yarn is usually classified as one that works between 16 and 20 sts per 4 inches.

These are approximate equivalents:

  • 2 strands fingering = one strand sport.
  • 2 strands sport = one strand worsted.
  • 2 strands worsted = one strand super bulky.

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Should You Carry the Yarn Along the Side or Cut It?

August 11th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

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When working a pattern in stripes, sometimes you’ll see an instruction “Carry the yarn not in use along the side” (as with the Knit Shell Beach Washcloth shown at right); other times you won’t see an instruction at all.

When to Carry the Yarn Along

What should you do then? “Carry the yarn along the side” means nothing more than leave the color you are currently not using at the side of your work without cutting it. You’ll pick it up again later when you are to use that color again. If you are not going to use the color for 4 more rows, the next time you are at the edge where the unused yarn is, you will need to twist it with the color you are using. This will keep a loose loop from forming (the loose loop might get snagged or look unattractive if it isn’t twisted into the other yarn).

If you’re working 2 rows of one color followed by 2 rows of a second color, carrying the unused yarn makes sense, because all the color changes are on one edge of the piece, meaning that you can simply pick up the next color at the side and proceed.

If you’re alternating three colors, working 2 rows each, you will need to twist both colors not in use. Drop the color you just finished behind the other two, twist the other two, pick up the next color you need and continue.

When to Cut the Yarn

Quintessential Country Afghan

If the pattern is anything other than 2 rows of color A followed by 2 rows of color B, even though you’ve been told to carry it, you still have a personal choice to make and should consider several factors that may lead you to cutting it every time instead. The down-side to cutting the yarn is that you will have many more ends to weave in (but if you weave in as you go, this task will not be as daunting). The upside? The row edges will be much neater. This should be especially considered when you are making a scarf or a throw where the edges will be seen (as with the Quintessential Country Afghan, shown left). In a sweater, the edges will be hidden in a seam; however, the seams will be bulkier because you’ve carried the yarn so that’s a negative factor to consider.

There is no hard and fast rule but generally if you are going to be working more than 4 rows before needing the color again, strongly consider cutting it. Some people will stretch this to 6 rows. Every time you twist the yarns, you are adding more bulk to the edge.

And you can always weave in those ends while watching TV.

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How To Do 4 Different Types of Selvages

August 4th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

seaming_selvageYou may see patterns that talk about selvage stitches (sometimes spelled “selvedge”) and wonder what they could be referring to. All fabric has selvages; they are simply the left and right edges of the piece, or the first and last stitch of each row.

Some patterns specify to work a selvage stitch; you may notice that directions tell you to always knit the first and last stitch of the row or to slip the last stitch of each row. In these cases, the designer has factored in the selvage as part of the design to make it easier for you. However, if you’re creating your own design from a stitch dictionary or just winging it, understanding how to work those selvage stitches (or identify them, if you’re modifying a pattern), will be very helpful.

1. Selvages for Seaming

When you have pieces you are going to seam together, such as the front to the back of a sweater, you will use these edge stitches for seaming. They won’t be visible after the project is seamed. This is particularly useful when you’re creating your own design for a sweater or shrug, which may otherwise end up with yarn-overs and decreases on the edges of the design. Regardless of the pattern stitch used, if you work a stockinette selvage it will make seaming much easier. To do so, simply knit the first and last stitch of every row on the right side and purl them on the wrong side. If a stitch pattern is used, you might check and be sure that the pattern has allowed two extra stitches for seaming so you have a full repeat across after seaming.

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3 Ways to Bind Off/Cast Off

July 28th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Bind Off

Ahhh, finally done with your latest knitting project. Now you can’t wait to finish so, in a final flurry, you bind off all your stitches and…oh no. The sweater won’t fit over your head or the bound off edge of the blanket is narrower than the cast on edge.

What have you done? You bound off too tightly.

I’ve done it myself. You might not notice if it’s a scarf because a scarf is narrow. The bound off edge does not have as much “give” as the rest of the knitting. That’s why it’s difficult to get the neckline of that sweater to stretch enough to fit over your head.

1. Bind Off Loosely

Always, always, always bind off loosely. This includes the stitches that you are knitting or purling during the process as well as when you pass a stitch over and off. Don’t tug, pull, or yank the yarn as you work each stitch. I know that it seems so loose that it’s tempting. But don’t. If you find you are binding off too tightly and can’t manage to do it more loosely, use needles one or two sizes larger than the size you used to knit the piece.

Binding off, sometimes called casting off, actually creates a final row of fabric, so what stitches you work as you bind off does make a difference. You can simply knit across as you bind off as many people do; but upon close inspection you’ll see the difference in the details.

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5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Trying a New Stitch

July 21st, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Simple Basketweave St. George's Variation (Crochet) Seed Stitch
Simple Basketweave Stitch (Knit) St. George’s Variation (Crochet) Seed Stitch (Knit)

There are many stitch patterns available in books, magazines, and online–and probably just as many that have not been invented yet. You will find a large selection in the StitchFinder. To use them for simple projects like scarves, dishcloths, and afghans, keep in mind that these projects can all be simple squares or rectangles. You can just cast on the appropriate number of stitches according to your gauge and desired width (stitches per inch × desired width = the number of stitches to cast on) and start knitting.

But to get the most out of these stitch patterns, you’ll want to consider a few factors before getting started.

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5 Things You Should Know About Color-Changing Yarns

July 18th, 2014

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colorchange-blog

Yarn that is dyed so it changes colors is great fun to knit or crochet. Watching the color pattern reveal itself as you work is a joy. Simply work a project in rows or in the round and what was once a plain project magically turns into something special!

When you run out of yarn and add a new skein, if you begin the second skein as you normally would it will likely not match where you left off. You will see a noticeable color change in your work that could be jarring. To avoid this, you need to unwind the new skein until you find the exact place in the color scheme where the old one ended. This does waste some yarn, but it’s the only way to get the skeins to match up.

1. Prints vs. Stripes

Yarn that is dyed with short lengths of color before it changes is often referred to as a “print” (Wool-Ease®  and Vanna’s Choice® comes in print colors). Generally the color changes every 3 to 4 stitches and combines perhaps 3 total colors. Lion Brand also offers yarns we call “stripes” (Wool Ease® Thick & Quick®, Homespun® Thick & Quick®, Jamie®, and Fun Fur® all come in stripe colorways). The color changes are longer and create distinct stripes with no work at all!

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Why Dye Lots Are Important For Crafting

July 14th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

dyelot

What is a dye lot?

Almost all yarn has a dye lot. Yarn is dyed in batches. When a batch is dyed, the dye lot number is assigned; you’ll find this number on the label. When the next batch is dyed, a new dye lot number is assigned. Even though the same dyes are used, there may be noticeable color variations.

Why it’s important for crafting

It’s important that you always purchase enough of the same dye lot in order to complete your project. Before you leave the store, check and make sure the lots are the same. Just because the yarn is on the same shelf, doesn’t mean all the skeins are from the same dye lot.

If you’re not sure you’ll have enough, buy one extra. Check the return policy of the store you’re purchasing from. Many allow returns of unused yarn within a certain time frame. If you don’t finish within that time and have one skein left over, just add it to your stash. You will find a good use for it eventually (or so they say!).

My yarn doesn’t have a dye lot

Occasionally, you’ll find a yarn that does not have a dye lot; this will be indicated on the label. A no dye lot yarn does not necessarily mean that all skeins will be exactly the same color. The yarn is dyed in much bigger batches but eventually it’s sold out and more must be produced and this will be a different dye lot. So proceed with caution.

What if I run out of yarn and can’t find the same lot number?

If you do run short, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find more of the same dye lot. The longer the amount of time that goes by, the more difficult may will be. If you need more yarn for the trim of a project, such as an edging of a throw, consider a contrasting color.

If there’s no way around it and you can find more of the same color but not the identical dye lot, take the original yarn with you (even if it’s already worked up in a project) to the store. You may be lucky enough to find several different dye lots to choose from. If so, you’ll notice that some may be closer to the original than others. Look carefully at the original and the lot you’re considering in natural light if possible (fluorescent lights can fool the eye).

Editor’s Tip: Lucky for us, the internet age has made it easier to track down yarn in specific dye lots. With a little determination and patience, you may be able to contact other knitters & crocheters on websites like Ravelry.com or Crochetville.org to see if they have the same yarn in a specific dye lot.

Ready? Set? Craft!

When you’ve made your choice and are ready to return to knitting or crocheting your project, work alternating rows with the old and new dye lot (unravel the project to retrieve some of the old yarn if necessary). This will lessen the noticeability of the contrast of the two dye lots.

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An Introduction to Intarsia

July 7th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Intarsia is a simple technique that allows you to knit with multiple colors across a row without carrying the yarn along the back of the work (as you would in stranded knitting). Instead, a separate ball of yarn—or bobbin of yarn to avoid the balls becoming all tangled—is used for each block of color. The more color blocks you are knitting, the more helpful bobbins will be.

What is Intarsia?

By changing colors at the same point in every row, you could knit vertical stripes or create blocks of color, but intarsia can be used for much more complex designs as well. There are many geometric designs that use this technique such as the following:

Blazing Blocks Afghan Animal Talk Cardigan Crochet Intarsia Brocade Poetic Color Pullover
Knit Blazing Blocks Afghan Knit Animal Talk Cardigan Crochet Intarsia Brocade Afghan Knit Poetic Colors Pullover

When to Use Intarsia

Essentially, intarsia is good for patterns where large sections of the design are various colors, as opposed to stranded knitting or tapestry crochet, which are often used for smaller, more detailed patterns.

Now that you understand the basic concept of intarsia, perhaps you want to try one of the patterns above. For this, you’ll want to purchase or make your own bobbins.

How to Use a Bobbin

  1. Bobbins can be found in any yarn store; in lieu of them, you can use a piece of cardboard with slits cut in both ends.
  2. Wind each color yarn around the bobbin, using one bobbin for each color. The bobbins hang freely from the back of your work and as you need to use a color, unwind a small amount at a time. This keeps them from getting tangled. Note: If you are knitting a section that requires only a few stitches, you can use unwound strands instead; it’s generally best to keep them shorter than about 36”.
  3. When it’s time to change colors, be sure the new color you are about to use is twisted around the old color.
  4. Pick up the new color from under the old color. Note: If you skip this step, you’ll have a hole where the colors change. It will be readily seen within two sts; rip back and try again.

For more on intarsia, please click here for our blog post. 

For patterns featuring intarsia, click here

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Add Color With Slip Stitch Patterns: An Introduction

June 30th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Slip Stitch AfghanSlip stitch patterns are an easy way to add color to your knitting; unlike Fair Isle and Intarsia, you knit with only one color per row so they are less complicated. When knitting slip stitch patterns, some stitches from a previous row are slipped and others are knit or purled with a new color.

When a row is completed, you will have stitches that are slipped which are a different color from the stitches that you just knit with the new color. The slipped stitches will be elongated; this will cause the stitch pattern to pull in, so check your gauge carefully if you substitute one in a pattern that calls for Stockinette or another less dense stitch pattern.

Tips to Know

  1. Slip stitch patterns are most often knit in Stockinette but you will find some that combine knits and purls on the same row; this results in a fabric that is both colorful and textured.
  2. Stitches can even be worked with yarn held in the front or manipulated to create “floats” (strands running across other stitches) for contrast.
  3. Slip stitch patterns can be worked in two or more colors.
  4. Generally you won’t find a stitch pattern that calls for more then 3 stitches to be slipped.
  5. Take caution to make sure the strand from the working yarn that results when slipping the stitch is kept loose (resist the urge to pull that “float” tight) or your fabric will pucker.

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10 Tips on Preventing, Catching, and Fixing Mistakes for Knitters

June 26th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

10tips-mistakes

You’re at the end of the row and worked all the stitches but there are still instructions for 3 stitches left. How did that happen?

Most commonly, an error occurred because the knitter failed to pay attention. Distractions are everywhere; family members are talking, the phone rings, the TV is blaring.  If you’re a newer knitter, it’s particularly important to find quiet time to knit so you can avoid errors. Once you become more adept, multitasking becomes easier.

  1. Try to avoid mistakes before they happen. The row may have ended correctly with no instructions or stitches left over, but things may still be askew.
  2. Learn to “read” your knitting. Recognize how a knit stitch looks different from a purl stitch. Watch the direction in which cables move. Look at your knitting frequently as the stitch pattern develops to see if everything appears as it should. It’s easy to knit instead of purl by mistake; if you see the error now instead of 10 rows later, life will be much easier.
  3. Count your stitches after completing every row, especially if you are a beginning knitter. This may seem like a tedious task but you will know immediately if you accidentally dropped a stitch or looped the yarn over the needle and made a stitch when you shouldn’t have.
  4. If the error is on the row you just completed (or even the row you are still working on), you can unravel the row stitch by stitch and correct the error. You’ll find instructions for doing this by clicking here.
  5. Using stitch markers to mark every 10 stitches or 20 stitches when you have a more complex stitch pattern to keep track of can make it easier for you to keep track of your work. You only have to count the stitches in between a given set of markers to know whether that section of your row is correct. Click here for our stitch markers.

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