Wherever I go, when I mention I work for Lion Brand Yarn Company, people tell me they would love to learn to knit or crochet. It’s not surprising that so many more people want to learn these crafts. Not only do you see a lot of younger people and celebrities knitting in the last couple of years, but the stress busting and health benefits of doing these crafts are beginning to be recognized by more and more people.
For people who want to learn, I suggest first finding your ideal learning method. In many cases that will be sitting side by side with a good teacher, but when that’s not possible, there are many other ways. Here are my top four ways to learn–with and without a person by your side.
One of the most important things we do at Lion Brand is offer education through tips, techniques and step-by-step how-tos. That’s because we know that learning will enhance your ability to enjoy working with yarn.
This year, we asked ourselves how we can get more deeply involved in teaching knitters and crocheters all over the world to grow their skills in a way that can mimic the classroom setting. That’s where Craftsy came in. Craftsy is the premiere online education platform for crafters. We are combining Lion Brand’s beautifully designed patterns and quality yarns with Craftsy’s know-how in online education and their sophisticated, interactive technology.
Have you noticed that we’ve changed our label? Over the past year, we’ve updated the Lion Brand yarn labels to be more helpful for you and your crafting needs. New additions such as a ruler grid, project icons, and care icons have been added to help you select the perfect yarn for your project. You can find the following label icons under the project image on various Lion Brand yarns.
Project Icons indicate what kind of project a particular yarn is ideal for:
|From left to right: scarf, hat, garments, and baby items.|
|From left to right: afghans, amigurumi/toys, accessories/purses, and socks.|
Darrin, our needle felting teacher at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City, shares some insights into this fun and sculptural craft technique. Shop felting tools on LionBrand.com by clicking here.
If you knit or crochet, then you know how important it is to follow the pattern. Obtaining the correct gauge, and counting stitches and rows are all required to be certain that your project will turn out like the pattern describes. With needle felting you can forget about all of that!
I hope you will find needle felting liberating as I do, it is refreshing to be free from all of that regulated structure. Take back control of your yarn crafting, and make choices as you go. Often, if I don’t like something, I just take my scissors and cut it off of my work. It is very liberating to work in a creative free-form way, where you can decide as you go if you like how your work is turning out.
Needle felting is a popular fiber arts craft that creates felt without the use of water. Fiber artist Eleanor Stanwood first used special needles that were originally used in industrial felting machines in the 1980s to sculpt wool by hand. Now this art form is gaining in popularity.
Frequently, the needles are described as having barbs, spurs, or notches, along the shaft of the needle that grab the layers of fibers and tangle them together as the needle passes through the wool fiber. These notches face toward the tip of the needle and do not pull the fibers out as the needle exits the wool. Once tangled and matted, the felt can be very strong and used for creating fabric, jewelry, 3D sculptures, and just about any thing that you can imagine. This is a very versatile art form, and you can really achieve very fine detailed work.
Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiter, author 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.
Technical editor and yarncrafting expert Kj Hay joins us for several articles on starting your project right. Join us this week for a 3-part series on crochet, and join us next week for a 2-part series on knitting.
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato
When you crochet you begin with a foundation. The foundation may be a chain, a foundation stitch, a ring, or a separate object (e.g. a curtain ring, another piece of fabric).
Videos, illustrations and written instructions for some foundation methods are available in the Lion Brand Learning Center.
Working a number of chain stitches and then working stitches of the first row or round into the chains is the most common foundation method. It can be used for beginning flat, circular or tubular pieces. So, why are there so many alternatives to foundation chains?
Author, knitting teacher, and erstwhile crochet-along/knit-along host Heather Lodinsky joins us for an article on cables.
This season, style sections of newspapers and magazines are once again telling us that cables are a hot trend in fashion, showing up in all sorts of knitwear for women, men and children. In knitting, there are those trends that appear again and again, such as lace, fair-isle knitting and cables. It is safe to say that if you have never tried to knit a cable before…now is a great time to learn!
Cables in knitting look much more difficult than they really are. I remember as a girl, looking at a cardigan my mother had knit with cables. I was positive that she must have cut her knitting, and then twisted it to form the “ropes” in her knitting. Well, I had half of the technique right, as cables are made by twisting or moving your stitches as you knit, but no cutting of those stitches is necessary.
In addition to the knitting needles you need to knit your project, you will also want to find the right cable needle for your project. Cable needles come in various shapes and sizes, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they have two points like a double-pointed needle. Some knitters do use a double-point needles as a cable needle, but there is a very good reason why cable needles are shaped the way they are. Some cable needles are shaped as hooks, or simply have a bend in the middle of the needle. But both work the same with the stitches being “moved” held on the bent part of the needle.
Frequently cable needles come in a package with 2 or 3 sizes. It is best to use a cable needle close to the size of the needle you are using to knit your project. If a needle is too thin, the stitches may slide off as you are working your cable. Alternately, if the cable needle is too thick, then your stitches will be stretched as you try to slip them on. Choosing the right size cable needle will make your cable knitting a fun and rewarding experience.
When you’re making a sweater for yourself or someone else, it’s important to take a few things into consideration. You’ll want to make sure to select a shape that suits you (or the recipient), the right size, and you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got gauge. Here are a couple of articles from LionBrand.com and the Lion Brand Notebook that will help you on your way:
Pattern pictured: Fisherman Sweater & Hat
Alpaca yarns have been gaining in popularity quite quickly over the past few years, and it’s no wonder: alpaca yarn is strong, soft, and warm. But how is it different from other fibers? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked alpaca questions.
How are alpaca yarns so soft?
Every piece of hair is made up of a series of scales. Animal fiber yarns that are soft tend to have very small, short scales. On average, alpaca fibers have shorter scales than sheep.
I can’t wear wool. Can I still use alpaca?
Give it a try! Alpaca yarns do not contain lanolin, an oil that sheep produce to protect their fleece. That means that people with wool or lanolin sensitivities can still wear alpaca. Baby alpaca is especially great for people with sensitive skin.
Does alpaca yarn felt?
Unless the yarn is superwash, alpaca will felt. Because the scales are small, alpaca yarns will take a little bit longer to felt than traditional wool. However, the results are just as beautiful.
How do alpaca yarns drape?
100% alpaca has a beautiful drape, so it creates gorgeous shawls and accessories.
How stretchy is alpaca?
A yarn’s bounce or stretch is determined by its scales. Since the scales are so short and smooth, they don’t lock together. That means 100% alpaca yarns will have a tendency to stretch, and they won’t shrink back into place like some wools will. This is a fantastic advantage when knitting or crocheting lace, as the stitches will really open up.
How are there so many undyed shades of alpaca?
Believe it or not, there are actually 22 natural colors of alpaca, ranging from neutrals like white and brown to rich golden oranges and silvery blues.
How warm is alpaca?
Super warm! Although it’s very light, alpaca is incredibly warm, even when wet. In fact, it’s my go-to yarn for winter knits because I know that it’ll keep me cozy. It also has great moisture wicking properties.
So now that you know a little more about alpaca, why not give it a try? Our LB Collection Baby Alpaca comes in beautiful undyed shades, and our Martha Stewart Crafts Alpaca Blend combines alpaca with wool and acrylic for an easy care yarn.
Have more alpaca questions? Be sure to ask in the comments!
As the cooler temperatures begin to set in, many of you are probably starting to knit or crochet with fibers that have insulating properties for warmth; a common fiber to knit with during this time of year is wool. Sheep’s fleece is the most popular type of wool fiber because it’s pretty widely available and versatile. Below, I’ve rounded up a few different wool selections with explanations about their unique qualities, so you can determine which wool might be suitable for your upcoming winter projects.
(image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil)
|Fishermen’s Wool is 100% undyed, virgin wool with natural lanolin oil. Lanolin oil is a waxy natural substance found in sheep fleece that acts as a water repellent, which makes Fishermen’s Wool ideal for accessories or garments for skiiers and fishermen. Wool can absorb up to about 30% of its weight in moisture, while still allowing you to feel warm and dry. Since wool takes dye easily, a skein in Natural or Oatmeal would be nice for experimenting with creating your own hand dyed yarns. If you’re more interested in learning about dyeing, and appropriate dyes for your yarn, take a look at this previous blog post by Jess, Choose the Right Dye for Your Fiber.
We also love Fishermen’s Wool in it’s natural state to knit up beautiful cables and traditional Aran sweaters, which were worn by Fishermen working off the cost of Ireland in the Aran Islands. Click here for a few Aran sweater patterns.