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Finding Color Inspiration in Unexpected Places

October 12th, 2015

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Knitting to Heal: Carol's Project Knitwell StoryIn this guest post by Phyllis Alberici, she finds yarn-spiration from an unlikely source.

Two weeks ago I received a text message with an unusual image: an abandoned railroad car.

I was sitting on the porch on a hot humid afternoon enjoying a vanilla ice cream cone and hoping writing inspiration would strike when a message with a photo popped up on my cell phone. It was from my son who has the kind of job that takes him to unusual places.

“Check out this picture I took.” Wait! Could that be an old freight car painted with graffiti? The colors were a palette of subtle teals, greens, rusts, pinks, silvers, reds and more. What I saw wasn’t a rusting rail car shoved aside to rot but a painting with colors that blended and swirled.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” he added. It certainly was.

My usual reaction to graffiti scrawled on railroad cars is “Look at the mess they made.” My Dad used to say, “See before you speak,” and these words came to me as I processed the image on my phone. Time and age had mellowed the graffiti to something worthy of a skein or two or more of yarn. My son had sent me an image that fascinated him and I found color in an unexpected, and unlikely, place.

As crafters, we expect to be a little overwhelmed, happily so, when we look at racks and bins of yarn. Ideas start to percolate at the potential in each skein. We cruise the internet or admire someone else’s projects looking for new ideas.

But think about this: what if we went looking for color palettes in unusual and unexpected places?

Last winter I became ill, seriously and unexpectedly sick in a way that changed my life. Color and yarn pulled me through and out of the dark place the illness had taken me. Skeins of yarn wove themselves into a lifeline. I started to look for colors where I hadn’t before.

Yesterday I decided to go on an expedition with the railroad car picture in hand. I wanted to see how any colors I could find to incorporate into a stranded sweater or scarf, a cowl or maybe some mittens for the winter ahead. Or a blanket. Winter is always a great time to make a blanket.

But before I could think about a road trip, I was side-tracked by a colander full of colorful tomatoes and peppers fresh from the garden. Unlike the colors of the railroad car, these colors weren’t mellow and soothing. These screamed at me to take a picture. Now I had two reasons to head out on a yarn expedition with two completely different palettes: one soft and mellow, the other bold and sunny.

I’m always looking for new ideas for colors to put together for my never-ending list of projects. I think I’ll start carrying a camera with me just in case. How about joining me? It would be great fun to see your photos of the unexpected colors you find out there.

Where do you find inspiration for your projects? Check out a few of our favorite color palettes, based on artwork:

yarn_colorpalette_heartland yarn_colorpalette_amazing2 yarn_colorpalette_heartlandtweed
Color palette created with Heartland® Color palette created with Amazing® Color palette created with Heartland®


Training with David Babcock, the Knitting Runner: Can He Crochet the World’s Largest Doily and Run a Marathon?

October 9th, 2015

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This week, David Babcock — aka The Knitting Runner — shares his crochet plans for the first of two marathons he’s running this fall. Read on to see what he’ll make!

David BabcockLion Brand® is sponsoring David in not one but TWO marathons this fall! David is running to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and he needs your support – last year, with your help, David raised $10k, will you help David beat that?

Please donate today:


In 2013 I broke the Guinness World Record for the “Longest Scarf Knit Whilst Running a Marathon” which was originally set by Susie Hewer to help raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s. This year I am trying to establish my own record to continue to fight Alzheimer’s and support caregivers. I wanted to do something that would be very visible and funny. When I think of crochet doilies I think of my grandmother. As out-of-place as a scarf is in a marathon I think that seeing a man running a marathon while working on his giant lacy white doily would be even more engaging – I’m calling it the Doily Dash!

Doily Dash Plan:

  • Lion Brand®‘s Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick® super-bulky yarn
  • A 9mm crochet hook
  • Carry all of the yarn with me in waist packs
  • Run at an average 10 minute-mile pace, a 4:20 finish time.
  • Create a doily, a flat decorative and lacy crochet mat radiating out from a center.
  • Follow a repeating pattern with at least 25% yarn-filled.


With that in mind my training began, first the running. I think that I am like most of you when you think about running: A) you can’t imagine deliberately engaging in the pain and discomfort and would rather stay in bed on a cold morning, and/or B) you both love and hate running for its health benefits and messing with your brain to convince you to keep doing it. I’ve worked up to running a half marathon at 8 minutes per mile (without knitting). You can see my progress on Strava as user David Donotstaple. Most record-breaking races only require that you finish in under 6 hours. The longer you take to run the race the more time that you have to work on your knitting. A student told me once that when they were talking to their friends about my record they were somewhat dismissive saying that it wasn’t a serious marathon effort (like they could do better). While I do see a marathon as a collaborative and friendly supportive event, I also like passing people obviously younger than me. So for this race I’m looking for a balance. While it will give me less time to work 4:20 is a respectable time that a lot of people aspire to and not too far from my personal record of 3:56. I’ll run with a pace group for control and the chance to make some new friends.

Yes, I do crochet training. The first problem is that I had never made a doily before. I’ve made snowflakes with some success but I’ve found that making a large flat doily is difficult. I have a strange sort of crafter’s pride where I don’t like to follow other people’s patterns (but I hope you’ll follow mine). I’m an artist, a designer, a creative professional, I thought, “I can handle this”. I love experimenting and failing and learning something new. I needed something easy enough to deal with during the stress and frustration of a marathon while still being impressively doily-like. I’m not a math genius and it took a lot of failures to find an appropriate pattern and increase per row that would lay flat. I couldn’t go too long with a chain stitch because my other hand would always be holding the work. I wanted to maximize stitches going into spaces rather than hard to target previous stitches. I needed to keep the counting simple and repetitive, easy to see where I was without memorization or referring to a pattern.

I’ve developed this pattern that seems to work and satisfy my needs. After the initial start it is always the same thing over and over again. It is a regular hexagon with spokes. The repeat is a single US double crochet into the space bellow followed by two chain stitches. The new row relates to the previous one like staggered bricks in a running bond. The increase happens at the beginning and end of each of 6 hexagon segments by adding one more double crochet and two chains into the staggered spaces of the row below. At each spoke or corner of the hexagon I replace the double crochet with a slightly taller US half treble crochet. Yes, it is not a typical stitch but it is very useful. A treble crochet is too long and a double crochet too short. I yarn over twice before diving into the back loop and pull through two loops and then three at once.

So what is it like to actually do this all while running? I’ve done some training on the treadmill and have found that I can use a whole skein of Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in 1:17, 2 1/2 hours and 17 1/2 miles later I have a nice doily 30 inches in diameter from two skeins. I should be able to use 3 skeins in under 4 hours to get to 36 inches in diameter. I’ll carry 4 skeins and try to make it over a meter. So, no, it isn’t a 15 minute scarf, but if you aren’t running you could make yourself a nice little rug in about 3 hours. While I’m running my hands get sweaty and just advancing the yarn can be a struggle requiring very aggressive and overstated crochet motions. And of course there is always the bouncing around of a moving target for my hook. Just breathe, relax the shoulders, two chains and a double, advance & repeat.

I’m hoping that the visual effect of my Doily Dash will be wonderful, funny and inspiring. I get teary every time I think of any sincere human struggle and a marathon is a great place to witness that. It’s those runners that fight for their last steps to finish that make me want to cheer, “Go humanity!” Too many people are fighting the uphill battle with Alzheimer’s and their struggles are mostly unseen until you are affected personally. I’m trying to be crazy and visible to help lift them up and finish strong. Fundraising is all about getting people to stop and remember that they want to help. I hope that you’ll follow me in my Doily Dash on the 17th of October in Kansas City and in my Flower Run in NYC on November 1st. We are all in this race together to end ALZ.

— David Babcock, the Knitting Runner (and Running Hooker?)

:: Donate and support Alzheimer’s research — make a
donation to David Babcock’s Alzheimer’s Fundraiser today!

David Babcock

David Babcock ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 3:56 (a PR) and raised just under $10k for Alzheimer’s research.

Yarncrafting Costumes: Designing a Cleopatra Headpiece

October 8th, 2015

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In this guest post by Gali Beeri, she walks us through the design process for her Cleopatra headpiece. It’s certainly fit for a queen!

With Halloween fast approaching, we would like to share our own take on costuming – which involves yarncrafting, of course!

Last time around I shared my winged superhero costume. It probably comes as no surprise that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. But why limit myself to getting in costume just once a year? Throughout college my friends would often throw “theme parties”, which provided an excellent excuse for costuming and helped shape my love of “playing dress-up” as an adult. Now well into my 30s, I’ve found more communities that love doing the same and attend costume events regularly.

To kick off the design process for my next costume party, I explored ideas that suited the ancient Egypt-influenced theme. Ultimately I decided to knit a snake headpiece.

Drawing inspiration from images of Cleopatra headdresses, I started sketching out a design I thought would translate well to knitted fabric. Searching through the yarn at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, I found that once again Vanna’s Glamour came to the rescue for my costuming needs. I’m so drawn to th
e sparkle! The Bronze colorway fit both the theme and my complexion nicely.

I cast on for a narrow tube knit in the round, and then created the cobra shape by increasing on either side to the widest point of the head. Then I decreased on either side until I reached the tip of the snake’s mouth. To create the forked tongue, I switched to red yarn (LB Collection Superwash Merino in Cherry). I embroidered eyes and nostrils using scraps of black yarn.

headpiece1Next up, I had to figure out how to place the snake on my head! That’s where my narrow tube at the base of the snake’s head came in handy – it was just big enough for a pipe cleaner to fit. This held the snake head upright, and also made it easier to secure the piece to a headband. I wrapped the headband with more bronze yarn. To add interest, I bent gold sparkly pipe cleaners into zigzag shapes and affixed them to the headband as well.

With the headpiece complete, it was time to put together the rest of my costume. I shopped around and found a gold and black sequined skirt. This shaped my color palette for the ensemble, and so I added a black top and created a necklace pile from my gold and glam sparkly necklaces. Weaving a gold ribbon through my braid and adding another to my hair, along with a sequined flower, added even more glam to the look. Gold glitter on my eyes was the final touch to bring it all together.

Here’s my finished costume!


Lola Gets Some Good Advice from David Babcock, The Knitting Runner

October 2nd, 2015

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Here is the latest installment of Lola, from its creator Todd Clark.


Please donate $10 to the Alzheimer’s Association in support of David Babcock’s upcoming New York City Marathon race. If every Notebook reader gives just $10, we’ll reach our goal of $3500 before the race!

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Yarncrafting Costumes: Designing a Coral Reef Headpiece

September 22nd, 2015

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In this guest post by Gali Beeri, she rounds out the summer with a splash of a costume! Read on to learn more on how she created a beautiful mermaid-themed costume.

With summer coming to an end, I’m looking back fondly to long sunny days, visits to the beach, and lots of mermaid themed costuming events! With the Mermaid Parade and another sea-inspired party taking place back-to-back in NYC, a coral headpiece seemed like the perfect costume project to tackle.

Coral is so gorgeous! I spent many delightful moments captivated by its beauty and variety as I searched through coral reef images online. Certain kinds of coral looked like trees to me, with their little branches reaching out like tendrils into the water… I wanted my headpiece to feature this “tree coral”.

Vanna’s Glamour continues to be my favorite yarn for sparkly costume pieces! This time around the Jewel colorway felt like the perfect fit. Pipe cleaners inserted into the coral helped the “branches” keep their shape and stick upright, adding the height I wanted for the ensemble.

For added texture, I wanted to knit pieces that look like the traditional “brain coral”. I vaguely remembered hearing about crocheted coral being used to teach some mathematic concept…hyperbolic space, that’s it! A little searching produced a recipe for knitted hyperbolic surfaces. Two large pieces knitted with Hometown USA in Neon Orange served as the base for my headpiece. A few small pieces in Vanna’s Glamour and LB Collection Superwash Merino in Peony rounded out the “brain coral” collection.

When I first envisioned this project, I had dreams of knitting tiny fish and shells as part of the ensemble. As always, the reality of time set in and I knew I wouldn’t have enough hours to knit it all. So instead I turned to a party superstore and found a collection of plastic sea creature toys. I’m fond of turtles, and decided to add one to the coral. I pierced holes through the turtle’s limbs using a safety pin heated by candle flame – you need something hot enough to melt the plastic. Then I stitched the turtle to the coral with sewing needle and thread. The rest of my sea creature toys became gifts for friends at the Mermaid Parade and subsequent costume parties!

After spending so much time assembling the headpiece, I found myself speeding through putting the rest of my costume together the night before the Mermaid Parade. I made a tutu using strips of sparkly lace knotted around a piece of elastic, and attached sparkly fish cutouts to the lace. A blue top, whale necklace, and glitter on my eyes completed the look.

Check out photos of fabulous costumes from the Mermaid Parade, and scroll down to see a photo of me and my friends on in the news! (We’re 5th from the bottom.)

What costumes are you planning to craft this season? Let us know in the comments below!