Lion Brand Notebook

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Knitting Attachments: The Neutral Cabled Afghan

February 4th, 2016

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ana

When my friend Ana (pictured at right) recently had to undergo a worrisome medical procedure, my automatic impulse kicked in.  “I’m going to knit you something,” I announced.  That’s what I do when people I love enter crisis mode.  Knitting is a way of coping, I suppose; it lets me feel helpful in situations I can’t control.  It’s also how I turn nervousness into productivity, and creative energy into caring.

Ana’s situation deserved a big expression of my caring, I decided.  She was going to get a blanket.  Lion Brand’s pattern for the Neutral Cabled Afghan, done in three shades of Hometown USA® yarn, immediately caught my eye.  Its soothing colors complemented the décor of the small apartment that Ana, a single mom, shares with her three-year-old son, and I knew the cabled designs would give the blanket pleasant weight and warmth.  That the afghan is knitted on size 15 needles suggested I’d finish the project within a reasonable time, too—no point in starting something like this in winter if she wouldn’t get it until summer!

My hunch was correct.  The project moved quickly, and in a week I’d knitted more than half.  This is one of the most interesting patterns I’ve ever followed, and it’s definitely a skill builder.  Knitters, listen up:  if you want to become a cable maven without tears, here’s your education!

Viewed from above, the Neutral Cabled Afghan is a large log-cabin rectangle.  If you’ve knitted a log-cabin pattern, you know it’s a modular construction that grows by attachment.  You start by knitting a central piece, and enlarge it, not by sewing it to other pieces, but by picking up stitches along an edge and working another rectangle outward.  The advantages of this type of modular construction are strength, potential variety of color, and potential variety of texture.

With the Neutral Cabled Afghan, another factor comes into play.  Textural variety develops, of course, from the qualities of the yarn, but most strongly, from the texture the cables give each section.  Since the design is worked on large needles, the cables assume mega prominence.  This blanket is all about them, and in the center section, it’s all about cables and bobbles.  If you’ve never worked cables or bobbles, or if you want to improve your skills in the cables and bobbles department, here’s your lifetime chance!

Cables aren’t difficult, but like any process with multiple steps, they can be complex.  Rule number one:  Read the Pattern Carefully.  Rule number two:  Go Slowly.  As you move through the pattern, say the stitches aloud as you knit.  That will keep you on track.   And whether you follow the charted patterns or those written in words—Lion Brand provides both—please do this:  enlarge the pattern on your computer printer or with a copy machine, and use highlighter tape to mark where you are in the pattern.  Register your progress, too, by ticking off the lines as you finish them.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the process of knitting each section, and share some results, both knitted and medical.


I Knit It My Way …

November 28th, 2015

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Selma Moss-Ward writes and knits in Rhode Island. She is a regular contributor to the Notebook.

You’re in an airplane before takeoff; the flight attendant is saying that in the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling, and those traveling with children should don theirs before assisting others. Maybe that seems counter-intuitive, because generally we’re trained to help children before adults … but on second thought, you understand that you have to take care of yourself in order to effectively care for others.

Needlecraft, too, is often like that. Right now many of us are racing to make gifts for the holidays, and we’ve put our personal projects on hold. I’ve come to believe, though, that this operating procedure is counter-intuitive—maybe even backwards.

One recent morning the temperature fell into the twenties, and getting ready to walk my dog, I yearned for a new winter hat. I already have several hats, though they’ve seen better times, so I didn’t technically need a new one. I thought of all the gift projects lined up—a baby sweater, cowls for friends, a scarf for my sister—and I couldn’t see how to pause that procession. Feelings of mild frustration ensued. Why hadn’t I been realistic about what I could accomplish before the year’s end?

seed

Then I recalled the Parable of the Oxygen Masks. Maybe I really should take time for myself before attending to others. That seemed potentially beneficial to all, and likely I’d return to my gift projects in a great mood. A hat would work up quickly, without causing much delay. I went to Lion Brand’s Pattern Finder database and looked for inspiration.

The Seed Banded Slouch Hat offered everything — clear instructions, clever construction, a stylish yet classic look. Best, the yarn required was that Queen of Fibers, LB Collection® Cashmere. To me, cashmere equals bliss. Its texture and gentle warmth are unparalleled.  I ordered supplies and began as soon as they arrived.

Knitting this pattern was almost as wonderful as wearing the finished hat. It took only a weekend to complete.  Every time I worked a few rows, I’d eagerly check the emerging fabric.  Supremely soft, and in a twilight shade called Pewter, it would become a hat I’d love for years. When my sister saw the final result—and tried it on—she asked me to substitute a Seed Banded Slouch Hat for the earlier-promised scarf. This time, the cashmere was a rich shade of terracotta, and since I already knew the pattern, the knitting went even more smoothly.

loopA great pattern like this slouch hat is always interesting to knit, and trying a new color the second time around sustains the novelty. Similarly, the Loop Scarf, entirely in garter stitch, cleverly mixes different yarns — LB Collection® Silk Mohair and LB Collection® Superwash Merino — for a lively, graphic look. It’s a good pick-up-and-go project, with stunning textures and color changes. After finishing my sister’s hat, I started working on the Loop Scarf as a kind of side interest, but its design was so compelling I once again put aside my main projects so I could see, quickly, its finished beauty. As with the Seed Banded Slouch Hat, the Loop Scarf garnered its share of admirers among my friends.

Looks like I’ll be making two more Loop Scarves in the very near future! I’ll use different colorways for two different friends, the pattern will become even more familiar, and as each project progresses I’ll enjoy watching how the colors uniquely interact. That’s one of the best things about knitting: you never really make the same thing twice, so it’s always wonderfully compelling.

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The LB Collection® is 20% off until Monday, November 30th, 2015.



After My Hair Turned Grey, My Whole Outlook on Color Changed …

August 26th, 2015

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The Scarfie Effect! A funny thing happened when my hair began to grey.  I was thirty-five and resented a situation that seemed premature and, well, unfair.  For every grey hair I plucked, ten appeared, suggesting that resistance was futile. So I began experimenting with different DIY hair colors offered by the neighborhood drugstore.  Experimenting was fun.  I could choose shades with cool or warm highlights, go auburn in the summer, or Goth when I felt dramatic.  After a while, though, I sadly realized I wasn’t very good at covering what needed to be covered.  I sought professional help.

Between Brunette and Blonde…

My hairdresser worked for months to remedy the self-inflicted dye damage.  By now I was a decade older.  My underlying color was so grey that when brown dye was applied, my hair seemed blonde.  So, I became a dark blonde.  But it didn’t stop there—I went lighter and lighter.  My hair is now honey-colored, and I’m satisfied with the results.

My point is about personal color, but it applies equally to clothing.  No matter what, I want to look my best—don’t we all?  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that the colors most flattering to me aren’t the brights I wore when my tresses were chestnut.  With light hair, I prefer neutral and natural shades.  Fortunately, I really like neutrals and naturals.  They seem serene, and they play well with jazzy accents.  I love a camel coat with a crimson scarf, a grey tunic with a cobalt shawl, and anything black with apple green.

…And Every Shade in Between

My knitting, of course, reflects this preference.  Right now I’m in the mood to knit a beautiful sweater to wear in the cold months ahead, and I want an interesting yarn, as enjoyable to work with as to wear.  And—total wish fulfillment!—I’ve discovered Lion Brand’s Scarfie!

The Scarfie palette fits my personal color theory exactly. Scarfie is an ombré yarn that subtly moves from one shade to another.  It’s dreamily dynamic, hypnotic, and outright magical as it transitions from light to intermediate tones, then darkens. Working with it is like watching clouds at sunset or morning haze over mountains, except it’s you and your pattern, not Mother Nature, behind the changes!  The natural shades have a rustic purity, from cream to taupe in one skein, from silver to charcoal in another.  There are stunning low-key colors, too—rich cranberry to deep black, forest to deep black, denim to midnight.   All of them are in the palette most flattering to me.

It’s called Scarfie because one generous skein makes one generous scarf.  But I’m determined to do something larger—a sweater.  The gorgeous “Free Spirit Topper” in the Lion Brand Pattern Finder is exactly what I had in mind.  But there’s also a high-fashion crochet pattern, the “Duo Tone Throw” which is ultra simple to make but totally interesting at the same time, because two different shades of Scarfie, moving along their individual paths, create a rhapsodic interplay of colors.

I might have to make them both….

free_spirit one_ball_blue duotone_throw
Knit Free Spirit Topper Crochet One Ball Scarfie Crochet Duo Tone Throw
pero_poncho diagonal_shawl neutral_slant
Crochet Pero Poncho Crochet Diagonal Shaded Shawl Knit Neutral Slant Shawl


Flattering Sweater Styles For Women Of Every Age

July 28th, 2015

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sweater_07272015Selma Moss-Ward writes and knits in Rhode Island. She is a regular contributor to the Notebook.

As we get older our bodies change. The clothes I wore in my 20s and 30s wouldn’t suit me now and they wouldn’t fit. But, why should I scold myself because the clothing I wore years ago no longer flatters?

As knitters and crocheters, we’re privileged.  Rather than settling for something cloned and off the rack, we can select customizable designs, choose yarns in colors we love, and craft sweaters that are gorgeous, practical, and absolutely right for us.

That’s where Lion Brand comes in.  There’s an abundance of great designs in the huge Lion Brand pattern database, and so many are flattering to women of a certain age.  Each pattern keys to a perfect match of Lion Brand yarn, so guesswork about gauge and fit is minimal.

I’ll highlight some of the Lion Brand designs I’ve discovered.  They’re comfortable, crafted in lovely yarns, and range from easy to moderately challenging.  All are absorbing to work and beautiful to wear.  When you wear them, you’ll feel attractive and relaxed, as well as accomplished, delighted, and in control of your fashion destiny!

Let’s consider two cardigans, knitted and crocheted.  The knitted Seaside Kimono Cardi requires only 5 skeins of Fishermen’s Wool®.  Its basic shape is squared and loose, but dense cables at the wrist, collar, and lower edge create a gentle blouson that complements many different figures.  The cardigan’s natural tones and rich textures convey an elegant, slightly ethnic sensibility that’s great with jeans, a simple dress, or a skirt.

The crocheted Retro Swing Cardi, in Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick®, packs a lot of style into a quick project.  Done with a large hook, it works up swiftly into a gentle A-line jacket that floats over the torso.  This design is great for petite figures, as it doesn’t overwhelm.

There are many reasons to favor cardigans, as they’re easy to slip on and off, and useful if you like to layer.  Much as I enjoy cardis, though, the Level Two Knit Pullover really captured me.  I love the dropped shoulder of the loose, yet sculpted design.  I love the textural interest of the front and sleeves, and the adorable band collar.  For such a sophisticated pattern, it’s hard to believe the skill rating is “easy.”  I can’t wait to knit it in several different colors!

 

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Knit Seaside Kimono Cardi made with Fishermen’s Wool® Knit and Crochet Retro Swing Cardi made with Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick® Knit Level 2 Pullover made with Lion’s Pride® Woolspun®

 

 


New Pattern Journal: One Thing Leads to Another … Featuring the Tribeca Tunic and the Dotty Dots Afghan

April 26th, 2015

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This story is from our newsletter called Pattern Journal which brings a warm-hearted, wholesome story to your inbox to read every month. If you enjoy it and would like to subscribe, click here.

One Thing Leads to Another

If Kathy’s sister hadn’t been named Dorothy, and if Dorothy hadn’t been expecting a baby, and if Kathy hadn’t crocheted a blanket for Dorothy’s baby, Kathy would never have knitted herself the most sophisticated sweater ever. It was as simple as that.

Dotty Dots Afghan

She’d gone to the crafts store, where the blanket was on display. Its upbeat colors–cream and soft grey, vivid yellow and purple–immediately appealed. She also loved the whimsical layout of squares, diamonds, and circles, as rhythmic and happy as a children’s song. When Kathy saw the pattern was titled “Dotty Dots,” that clinched it! The family had called her sister Dorothy “Dottie” since forever. A Dotty Dots blanket for Dottie’s baby—the coincidence was pure serendipity!

It was crocheted from a subtly-chained, petal-soft yarn, Modern Baby®, which had a lively, bouncy quality that her fingers loved. The Modern Baby® palette was joyous, the yarn a pleasure to use. After finishing the blanket, Kathy wondered what else she could do with it. Too much fun to stop now!

Maybe, she thought, it’s time to focus on me. Making something just for her — that was when her creativity peaked. She could play with color, shape, and structure. She could express herself.


Tribeca Tunic

The Tribeca Tunic, a sophisticated look in two shades of Modern Baby® and one of sparkle-inflected Vanna’s Glamour®, was the perfect next project, Kathy discovered. Its construction appeared complicated, but was surprisingly straightforward. Yet there were enough changes in direction and color to keep things interesting. Knitting that sweater was as fascinating as crocheting the Dotty Dots afghan had been. She marveled at Modern Baby®‘s versatility—it worked equally well for adults’ and kids’ clothing.

At the baby shower, Kathy wore the chic Tribeca Tunic, worked in cream and two shades of black, over velvet leggings. She gave Dottie the Dotty Dots Afghan, and her sister was enchanted. “Thank you so much!” Dottie enthused. “I’ve never seen anything as adorable! And by the way, that’s a fabulous sweater you’re wearing. Is it new?”

Kathy smiled, and considered how lucky she was to be a sister and an almost-aunt, as well as someone who loved to crochet and knit. It had been so rewarding to follow her intuition from baby blanket to Tribeca Tunic, as one creative project led to another, in natural succession — just like life itself.

Nothing is more fashionable than a handmade accessory you’ve made yourself. Save 20% off these kits for a limited time:

1) Tribeca Tunic
2) Dotty Dots Afghan

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A story by Selma Moss-Ward.

Selma Moss-Ward writes and knits in Rhode Island. You can find her work on our blog, as well as Lion Brand’s monthly newsletter, Pattern Journal, which you can subscribe to here.

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