Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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3 Different Ways to Shape the Neckline of a Sweater

January 29th, 2015

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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.

shapenecklineWhen making a pullover sweater in either knitting or crochet, there are many different ways to construct a sweater. In some cases, you will be working from the top-down in one piece (working from the neckline downwards, adding stitches for your raglan sleeves, and then coming back in for the body); you might also work in the round from the bottom edge, splitting the stitches at the arm holes and then working on the front and back separately.

Often you’ll see instructions like this:

Shape Neck

    K14 (15, 16, 16) sts, join a 2nd ball of yarn and bind off next 6 (8, 8, 10) sts, k to end. Working both sides at once with separate balls of yarn, dec 1 st at each neck edge every other row 3 times – 11 (12, 13, 13) sts. Work until same length as Back to shoulders.

When you shape the neck of the front of a pullover, in particular a crew neck or a v-neck, you are ensuring that the neck opening will be large enough so that it fits over the head. There are two components: the width and the depth.

The depth is generally several inches. This is why the neckline shaping begins before the front armhole reaches the depth of the back armhole (where usually only width is of consequence to the total neck opening).

To begin, stitches are eliminated in the center and then decreasing takes place on each side of these center stitches to further widen and shape the neck opening. When the depth is completed, the shoulder stitches are usually bound off.

We’ll be discussing how to shape a neckline when you work the sweater in pieces, starting from the bottom edge and working up towards the neckline.


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.


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.

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.


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.