Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for the 'Humor' Category


Rag Doll

March 13th, 2014

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Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

habit-illo-03-14-lowresWinter in Chicago takes no more notice of the first of March than a mean-eyed general takes of boundary lines. It tramples right along, both fists swinging. Winter here is a bully, unstoppable, and knows it.

As the months drag on I always find myself growing smaller and smaller, retreating under blankets and into tighter corners. The flowers in the borders–if they ever existed, I may have dreamt them–survive the cold by shrinking, and so do I.

In the stillness I turn contemplative. I’ve been thinking through my early childhood, which seemed always at my fingertips until with a snap, a few weeks ago, it withdrew to a place so remote I worried I might lose sight of it completely, forever. If you have dropped a piece of complicated knitting that has fallen off the needles, you know this feeling. One moment, there is a shawl. The next, there is a tangle.

Perhaps this is how life goes, as you grow older? I must have crossed a border without noticing, like the mean-eyed general–punching away without realizing what I left behind.

So now I sit under the blankets, eyes closed, and try to gather up the threads that slipped.

This is my first memory of needlework.

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7 Ways Knitting Keeps You Healthy and Well

February 28th, 2014

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This article originally appeared in TreeHugger and is reprinted with permission from Katherine Martinko.

knitting-keeps-healthy

Last month I wrote an article called “Why bother knitting a scarf?” Much to my surprise, I received thousands of positive reactions from readers who share my love of homemade, local, and beautiful “slow fashion” items. Clearly, knitting is being embraced by people from all walks of life who benefit from its peaceful, relaxing repetition. It got me wondering – what’s really going on when people knit? Why is it so tremendously popular?

It turns out that knitting has incredible health benefits. It makes people feel good in just about every way. A bit of research has revealed a wide range of ways in which knitting helps humans cope, physically and mentally.

1. Knitting is used for therapy. It’s a powerful distractant, helping people manage long-term physical pain. For those who are depressed, knitting can motivate them to connect with the world. It is a conversation starter, allowing people to interact politely without making eye contact. It builds confidence and self-esteem.

2. Knitting is supremely relaxing, which is extremely important for reducing stress and anxiety. Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, wrote The Relaxation Response, in which he recommends the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity to elicit “the relaxation response” – decreased heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. Knitting is likened to meditation, sometimes described by knitters as “spiritual” and “Zen-like.”

3. Knitting connects people. By joining a knitting group, a solitary activity turns into a social one. One study, called “The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood” and published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, found that “knitting in a group impacted significantly on perceived happiness, improved social contact, and communication with others.”

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So Long? Farewell.

February 12th, 2014

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When a non-knitter asks a questions about my knitting, that question is most often, “How long will it take you to finish that?” or the common variation, “How long would it take you to make me a [type of knitted thing]?”

So I explain that a hat may require several evenings, particularly if worked in a complicated technique or a fine yarn. I tell them the average number of stitches in a pair of socks (eight million) or a plain sweater (seven hundred trillion) and that completion of the latter may take months.

The gasps of astonishment are strong enough to suck the stitch markers right out of a raglan.

You will have noticed that we live in a world that idolizes instant gratification. What we want, we want now. (Did you scroll down to read the cartoon first? You did, didn’t you?) Inevitably, the sight of a person voluntarily engaged in sustained concentration draws the sort of fascinated stares formerly reserved for lake monsters.

Not that I make any claims of superiority. During one of the first knitting classes I ever took, the redoubtable Galina Khmeleva held aloft a completed Orenburg lace shawl, roughly six feet square. The yarn was finer than a typical modern lace weight–the sort you often hear called “cobweb”–and the entire thing was absolutely riddled with yarn overs.

“How long–” one of the students (okay, me) said breathlessly.

“Six months,” said Galina.

I said nothing, but my heart whispered, “Nope.”

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Yarncraft Resolutions from Lion Brand Staff

January 23rd, 2014

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We’re well into 2014 and many of you have since made (and perhaps broken) resolutions and goals for this year. You’ve shared with us some amazing goals like knitting a pair of socks a week, to learning Fair Isle knitting, to even learning how to knit your very first sweater. Besides the usual “organize my stash,” I really want to improve my knitting skills beyond the basic knit and purl and maybe try to learn how to cable. As a pretty skilled crocheter, I’d also like to try Irish lace crochet.

This topic of resolutions inspired me to asked some of the writers and staff at Lion Brand if they had any goals they’d like to accomplish for this year. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Kathryn Vercillo, who writes for our blog told us
“I want to play more with free-form crochet, try techniques I’ve never done and push my crochet writing in new ways.”
freeform-coral
Close-up of coral from
the Lion Brand Yarn Studio’s Under the Sea” window last summer.

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It’s a Purl, It’s a Chain, It’s …

January 7th, 2014

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I was sitting in an airport, waiting for the flight to a teaching engagement, winding yarn. Travel with a swift being sadly impractical, I was making do with the back of an empty chair. Without warning, a screeching ninny plunged into view and grabbed at the unwound skein.

“So cute!” she screamed, jangling a fistful of wool in one painted claw. “Are you, like, doing some crochet or something?”

“That was the plan,” I said.

But it was too late. The skein had become a tangle so dense not even light could escape from it.

Working out occasional small snarls is part of knitting. There’s no avoiding it. But really big messes like this? Forget it. I’ve always taken them as a sign that I wasn’t supposed to knit with that yarn, anyway.

When I got to the guild I mentioned what had happened and displayed the ruined skein.

“It was so pretty, too,” I said. “But now it’s dead.”

“No it’s not,” said the Chief Guild Lady. “Somebody get Eileen.”

There was a general chorus of agreement: Eileen must be got.

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Pick a Number

December 11th, 2013

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(It’s going to take a moment to get to the yarn content today. Stick with me.)

It’s football season. I need not have to tell you this if you live in the United States. It is impossible to live in the United States during football season and not know it is football season.

I don’t especially care that it is football season.

My father, a native Pennsylvanian, rooted for the Steelers in a laconic and slapdash way; but we never gathered around the television to cheer. He believed that spectator sports were a waste of a healthy body. If you could run and jump and throw, you didn’t watch other people do it, you did it yourself.

My partner Tom shares my lack of interest. It’s one thing that brought us together. Here in the Midwest it’s difficult to socialize for half the year if you don’t want to watch football. “Come on over! We’re getting together to watch the game!” the neighbors will say. If you admit you’d rather not watch the game, they thereafter regard you as a person of suspicious character, telling their children to come indoors when they see you on the sidewalk.

Tom doesn’t care about football but he does enjoy socializing.  So he often finds himself surrounded by jolly enthusiasts in colorful jerseys. Just this weekend, some of his friends, who had ties to Ohio State University, invited him to hang out at a sports bar during the game with the University of Michigan. Tom is a get-along guy, a real social chameleon.  He happily put on the bright red shirt and the necklace made of buckeyes and settled in for the duration.

The trouble was that, like me, he not only does not care about the sport–he doesn’t understand it. We both know what a “touchdown” is: when the ball has made it to one end of the field and somebody does a funky little dance, his team gets points. Beyond that, we have no idea what’s going on.

I could try to learn the rules, I suppose, but a brain has only so much capacity. I’m afraid that if I commit to memory what “first and ten” means, it will push a piece of vital knowledge out of my other ear and suddenly I’ll forget how to do a Kitchener stitch.

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Ha (3x), yo, k2tog.

November 6th, 2013

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Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

Life in a city apartment means experiencing the joys of child rearing even if you haven’t produced or acquired children of your own. The thundering grade-schoolers who used to live above my workroom have moved out and been replaced by an infant of six months. Said infant has colic. A baby with colic doesn’t make for pleasant listening, but she pales in comparison to the toddler across the courtyard–who is suffering through an extended Riddle Phase. No, suffering is not the right word. She’s having the time of her life. The rest of us are suffering.

Toddler (not her real name) has two volumes, “bellow” and “roar.” So shut your windows, you say to me. It’s autumn in Chicago. The windows are shut. Toddler has the lungs, but alas not the artistry, of a young Beverly Sills.

On any given day she can outclass my white noise machine, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, expensive sound-canceling headphones, and jet aircraft on the final approach to O’Hare.

Between bellowed demands to her nanny for snacks, toys, and trips to the bathroom, she has taken to roaring selections from an apparently inexhaustible supply of riddles and jokes. How one so young can have amassed such a wealth of material surpasses understanding. Perhaps she is Henny Youngman, reincarnated with pigtails. Stranger things have happened, especially on my block.

The nanny has to listen to the riddles and jokes, but she is being paid to listen to the riddles and jokes. I also have to listen. I am not being paid.

Prolonged exposure has caused me to begin dreaming and thinking in riddles and jokes. I mention this as alert readers may discern faint echoes in this month’s ruminations about knitting, yarn, and the creative life.

Now, as I was saying about my knitting…

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9 Easy Halloween Accessories for Adults, Children, and Pets!

October 16th, 2013

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Halloween is 2 weeks away, and there’s still plenty of time to make yourself, a pet, or someone you know, a fun item for a costume or disguise. Today’s pattern round up includes simple designs that are sure to be gratifying projects because they can be completed before it’s time to celebrate. Be sure to check out the “Related Links” at the bottom of the page for more Halloween ideas and inspiration!

Jack O Lantern Dog Sweater
Knit Jack-O-Lantern Dog Sweater in
Hometown USA
Pumpkin Hat & Booties Set
Knit Pumpkin Hat and Booties set in Vanna’s
Choice Baby
King of the Beasts (Lion) Dog Sweater
Knit King of the Beasts (Lion) Dog Sweater in Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, Moonlight Mohair, Homespun and Chenille

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Crafter Stories: Knitting & Crocheting in Transit

October 15th, 2013

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passing time
passing time by ollesvensson, on Flickr

Over the last few months, we’ve been sharing stories from you, our readers, about your experiences knitting and crocheting in public. Today, I want to share a few crafting-in-transit stories that we’ve received:

I almost always crocheted when commuting to work on the Long Island Railroad. One day, the man sitting next to me said, “Wow, I haven’t seen anyone knitting in years!”

I replied, “You still haven’t—I’m crocheting.”
– Hazel in NY

Once I was knitting on the Long Island Rail Road when the conductor took my ticket without saying much. He came back a little while later, however, during a long stretch between stations. This burly guy wanted to show me his crocheting! I kept a straight face and admired his work, which was the kind of lacy doily that used to go on furniture. He must have learned this art at his grandmother’s knee.
– Ellen

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Blue Sweater Blues

October 8th, 2013

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Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

I got a message from a reader who inquired after the health and well-being of the Man’s Roughneck Sweater I’m making from a pattern in Lion Brand’s 1916 Lion Manual of Worsted Work. It was the topic of a piece I wrote for this very space way back in January.

I appreciate her kind interest. It’s good to know that the nice lady is not only reading, she’s remembering.

But this is also a bit like having somebody ask about your husband, who has run away with the man who came to clean the swimming pool. Or having somebody ask about the starving child you sponsored, who grew up to rob banks. Or having somebody ask about your cat, who died.

From this you may gather that everything with the Man’s Roughneck Sweater is not tickety-boo.

It’s not the fault of the pattern (which has a couple of puzzling ambiguities in it, but no more so than most elderly patterns); nor of the yarn (LB Collection® Organic Wool), which is even more sweetly lofty after being knit up than it was in the ball.

It’s my fault, my fault, my very great fault.

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