Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Author Archive


Picking Up the Right Number of Stitches: Tips & Tricks

August 11th, 2013

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Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Many projects, particularly sweaters, will ask you to pick up stitches to complete a section, such as along the neckline, armholes, or the button band of a cardigan.

Your pattern will generally indicate how many stitches you need to pick up. But that number is based on the row gauge the designer achieved; your row gauge won’t always be identical, as it is very common to achieve the stitch gauge but not the row gauge of a pattern. You may have fewer rows or more rows available along which you can pick up the needed stitches.

If too many stitches are picked up, the resulting ribbing (or whatever pattern stitch you’re working) will flare out and will not lie flat. If too few stitches are picked up, it will pucker.

You can attempt to pick up the exact number of stitches specified, but you may end up frustrated. Here’s how to pick up the correct number, regardless of how many rows there are to work along.

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Reading Charts: An Introduction

August 10th, 2013

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Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Stitch patterns and motifs are sometimes presented in charts instead of written out in words. You sometimes see this in crochet, particularly in filet crochet, but it’s more common in knitting.

Charts have several advantages. The visual depiction enables you to easily see where you are in the pattern (and how the stitches line up) and thus it’s easier to keep your place. They generally contain fewer errors than written instructions, as it’s easier to see if something doesn’t align correctly.

There really is nothing to fear when working a chart. Each square represents a type of stitch or the color of the stitch to be worked, indicated by a symbol or the color you are to use. Stitch keys, or legends, are included so you’ll know the meaning of each symbol or color. [Bonus tip: If you've ever see a grayed out box that the legend tells you is "no stitch" and wondered what that meant, it means that the stitch was used up by a decrease in a previous row and no longer exists. Simply skip that box and keep going across the chart!]

For the vast majority of charts, you’ll begin reading charts at the lower right corner. The first row and all odd rows are read from right to left. The second and all even rows are read from left to right. With crochet charts, you’ll want to look for the starting point, which is usually at the number 1, representing the first row or sometimes by a symbol as indicated in the legend. As you complete each row, you can tick it off in the margin or move a Post-It note to cover rows already worked. This also prevents you from mistakenly working the wrong row.

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Making Sizing Changes to Scarves and Throws

August 4th, 2013

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Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Leaves of Grass Swatch

You have a throw pattern with a beautiful stitch pattern, but you’d like to make it wider or narrower. Or perhaps you’d like to make it into a scarf. Maybe the converse is true…you’d like to change a scarf into a throw.

It’s not as difficult as it may seem, even if you are a beginner!

There are two vital concepts that must be understood to accomplish this.

Stitch Multiple

The first is the stitch multiple, or the number of stitches needed for one repeat of the stitch pattern. A multiple of 5 stitches means you can cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 5 such as 25, 30, etc. A multiple of 6 + 1 means you need to cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 6 plus 1 extra stitch; examples include 25, 37, etc.

Sometimes the pattern will tell you the multiple of stitches used which makes it much easier to make adjustments. If the information is not included, you will need to determine this yourself. You do this simply by adding up how many stitches are used.

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Hints & Tips on Knitting Decreases

July 30th, 2013

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Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.

When you decrease in knitting, you are not always losing stitches. Decreases are used in lace patterns, for example, and you’ll almost always have the same number of stitches after completing the row because the decreases are balanced by increases (most likely yarn overs). Lace pattern stitches will specify which decrease to use; the correct decrease is important because it impacts which way the fabric biases or slants.

Decreases are also used for shaping projects, such as sweaters and even purses, and you will be subtracting stitches. As in lace patterns, the correct decrease will help the fabric to slant in the direction it should. Patterns for garments will sometimes tell you which decrease to use when you are shaping the armholes and neck; other times the designer will assume you are already armed with this knowledge and you are left on your own. You could use the default k2tog decrease and turn out a perfectly fine sweater. But the correct decrease will give it a more professional look.

Which decrease to use is really quite logical. Although there are many more decreases available, it’s important to know that ssk slants to the left and k2tog slants to the right. These two decreases match each other in terms of appearance.

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Gauge & Why It Matters

July 14th, 2013

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Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter. 

Every knitter and crocheter has heard of it. Most ignore it. The smart ones know better. What is it? Gauge, of course.

You’ll see gauge (also sometimes referred to as tension) mentioned in your pattern and on the yarn label. Assuming you are knitting with the same yarn as the pattern used, the gauge on the label may or may not be the same.

The gauge on the label is only a suggestion…a starting point for the gauge of the yarn the manufacturer felt was best. You’ll see a needle size noted too; this is also just a suggestion. All yarn works to a variety of gauges with various needles sizes; in fact, some yarn labels will give you a range of suggested gauges and needle sizes.

If the pattern gauge is different than the label, this is gauge you need to achieve. Ignore the label. Remember, the gauge and needle size of a pattern is only the gauge that particular designer achieved with that size needle. Your mileage may vary. This is why you need to check your gauge before beginning to knit the project. If you fail to do this, you may end up very disappointed at the outcome.

Don’t believe it’s important? Let’s say you are knitting a sweater and the back should measure 20″ across. The gauge in your pattern is 16 sts = 4″, in other words 4 sts = 1″, so the number of sts you’ll work over will be 80 (20 x 4). Suppose you are getting 3.75 sts to the inch instead of 4. Your piece will measure 21.4” (80 divided by 3.75). If you were knitting at 4.25 sts to the inch instead of 4, your piece would measure 18.8″ instead of 20. So, as the math shows you that even a quarter of a stitch in your gauge indeed makes a huge difference! The more stitches you are working over, the larger this difference will be.

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Warm Weather Knitting & Crochet

June 18th, 2013

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Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting Barbara Breiter joins us for her monthly column featuring frequently asked questions. 

As warm weather approaches (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), some may find themselves tempted to put away their knitting or crochet for the summer. But this is the season for baseball games, picnics, taking the kids to the park, and flying and driving to vacation destinations. That’s a lot of down time that could be spent crafting!

I don’t care how low the air conditioner’s temperature is set; when warm weather sets in, I don’t want all the bulk of an afghan sitting on my lap as I knit.

But you can still knit/crochet an afghan in strips or blocks, so they won’t be nearly as warm to work on. Then, when falls comes again you can sew them together!

This Knit Patchwork Sampler Throw is a perfect example and has different stitch patterns so you’ll maintain interest. Another made in strips is the Crochet Cozy Checkerboard Throw; it doesn’t have complicated stitch patterns so you won’t need to refer to the pattern very often, which is great when you can’t really concentrate on your crafting.

Knit Patchwork Sampler Throw Crochet Cozy Checkerboard Throw

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Knitting with Big Needles: Tips and Tricks

April 11th, 2013

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Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting Barbara Breiter joins us for her monthly column on techniques that people frequently ask about. 

For super quick projects, nothing beats knitting (or crocheting!) with thick yarn or multiple strands and big needles. You can knit up an afghan in a fraction of the time it would take to make with worsted weight yarn and, for example, size 8 needles.

Larger needles are considered to be US sizes 15, 17, 19, 35, and 50. Particularly with the largest of needles, you may find them cumbersome at first…but remember how awkward knitting with any size needle was when you first began? With a bit of practice, you’ll be handling these jumbo size needles just like smaller ones. Because of the heft, size 35 and 50 are almost always plastic, but as with any needle size, you’ll find different options out on the market.

Image of 2 Hour Tweed Scarf
Knit 2 Hour Tweed Scarf

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Spring Cleaning: 7 Ways to Organize Your Yarn Stash

March 5th, 2013

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Knitting expert Barbara Breiter joins us for her monthly column on tips and techniques for yarncrafters. 

I don’t need an extra closet for my stash…I need a whole extra house! If you’ve been crafting for any length of time, I’m sure you know the feeling: you’ve sworn off buying anything new but still…the new skeins always call your name.

There is an infinite number of ways to store yarn and supplies. Whatever method(s) you choose depends to some extent upon your available space, your budget, and the size of your stash.

Spring Cleaning: How to Organize Your Yarn Stash

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Back to Basics: Fun with Felting

January 31st, 2013

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Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting Barbara Breiter joins us for her monthly column on techniques that people frequently ask about. 

Have you ever thrown a wool sweater into the wash by accident and ended up with a matted, miniature version? That’s called felting. Ordinarily you don’t want to shrink your handmade creations, but sometimes we do it on purpose to create a dense, strong fabric.

Unfelted Knit Branching Out Bag Felted Branching Out Bag

Why Does Wool (and Other Animal Fibers) Felt?

Animal hair fibers felt because there are microscopic scales on them. The scales open up when exposed to hot water and detergent; friction or agitation tangles up these scales, resulting in felt. The result is thick and sturdy, making it ideal for purses and other projects.

Only yarn that is spun from animals or is protein-based will felt such as wool, alpaca, and mohair. Superwash wool won’t felt because, after all, the point is that it’s treated to safely throw it in the washer; the treatment either mattes down the scales or removes them so that they cannot lock together. Man-made fibers like acrylic won’t felt and neither will yarn that is spun from plants such as cotton or hemp.

How Do You Felt?

Today, you can felt in the washer; historically people would first place it in boiling water (hence the term “boiled wool”) and then create friction with an old fashioned wash board or even rocks.

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