Did you know that many of Lion Brand®‘s yarns are American-made? Some of them — Homespun®, Homespun® Thick and Quick®, Quickie, Country® and Spinnables — are all related because they’re all made in the same mill in New Hampshire. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these yarns being created first hand – it’s magical!
When I first walked into the mill, I could envision what it looked like 135 years ago – the same. Even though the mill is so old, it still works, making lots of yarn each day. To make it run, there are many employees from the town. That’s one of the most wonderful things about the mill — it supports hundreds of families!
I am so passionate about yarn and claim I have yarn for veins, so watching the whole process come to life was very exciting! I had the opportunity to see how the different colors come together to create a popular Homespun® color, Tudor, along with finding out how the dying process works. There were barrels of Quickie getting ready to be put into skeins. Near the Quickie were barrels of different colors of unspun yarn, used for Spinnables. It took a lot to hold myself from jumping in!
It’s official: I’m making my first sweater.
I’ve worked at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City for two years and now that I am the Brand Ambassador for the company I thought I would take on a knitting fear: making my own sweater. I’ve been a knitter for a good portion of my life and I have yet to conquer knitting a sweater. How is it that I have knitted plenty of socks and not a sweater? This makes no sense to me, so I am going to rectify the situation.
Every Wednesday night, from February 11th – March 18th, I’m taking part in a Knit-Along at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City. In an ideal situation, I’d finish my sweater by the 18th of March, but this is my first sweater so give I’ll give myself a little slack. The pattern I’m following is The Essential Fall Pullover made with Heartland®. I decided to get a little creative and instead of doing the three colors that the pattern calls for, I will be doing two. I’ll be using Black Canyon for the front and back, and for the side panels and sleeves I’m going to be using Biscayne. I chose Black Canyon as the main color for the sweater because, like many people who live in NYC, black is a prominent color in my wardrobe. On the other hand, I’m also trying to get a little more colorful, so I decided to incorporate Biscayne for the sleeves and side panels. It will give it a nice “pop” and allow me to dress it down and up!
Since I worked in the studio for two years, I had the chance to really get to know my co-workers, and I got to see how talented and creative they truly are. Ann, who is the instructor for the KAL, is a machine knitter and teaches machine knitting at the studio, but she also is so creative when it comes to knitting garments. When I found out that Ann would be the instructor for the KAL, I was sold, it would guarantee that for at least once a week for the next month, I would get to see her. Her creativity is infectious and it inspired me to take this sweater making to another level.
For the first meeting she showed up with sketches (that she had made) of what her sweater would look like with the colors she chose. She also suggested going to Pinterest for color inspiration. I thought that was a really clever idea and plan on using that for other projects as well!
As you can see I started the ribbing for the back of my sweater. But the main reason for writing this is because I need your support in completing this project. There have been so many times that I have wanted to make a sweater and I’ve second guessed myself even though I know I have the skills.
So, I Need You – You Wise Knitters And Crocheters – Give Me Your Best Sweater Advice And Support!
Before I really get into the nitty-gritty of the back portion of the sweater – do you have any good tips for me as I embark on this journey? What did your first sweater look like? Is there something you are too nervous to make because it’s just overwhelming?
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the amazing folks at the Soundview Knitting Guild in Trumbull, CT. Having seen Jack Blumenthal present to a guild the month before, I was able to see how well he connects with people when he talks about our company. So when he asked me to fill in for him in Trumbull, I was thrilled and a bit nervous. But as a communications major and drama minor in college, I really do love standing up and talking in front of people, and as a fifth generation member of the family business, I’m more than happy to talk about Lion Brand.
We regularly visit knit and crochet guilds to share what’s happening at Lion Brand face-to-face with people who use our yarns. The feedback our customers give us is so important. These presentations are also an opportunity to show samples of our latest yarns. I love getting “ooohs and ahhhhhs” when I show off our American-made yarns such as Heartland, Heartland Thick & Quick®, Hometown USA®, Country®, and Homespun Thick & Quick®.
Personally, I have a soft spot for the LB Collection®, our exclusive collection of fine fibers which includes 100% Cashmere and Baby Alpaca. I showed the Soundview Knitting Guild the newest addition to this collection, Silk Chiffon Ribbon. It’s made from recycled Indian saris, and each hank is unique and gorgeous.
I also did an arm knitting demonstration. In the past year, arm knitting has become incredibly popular. It’s perfect for people who are a bit intimidated by knitting and it’s a great introduction to knitting. You can easily finish a scarf in less than half an hour and if you keep going, you could have a blanket in less than an hour! I chose Quickie, which makes the project go even faster! At the guilds I love to demonstrate arm knitting and at Soundview, one lady was even arm knitting before my demonstration ended! She was so ready to go go go and make a scarf!
I had a great time visiting Soundview Knitting Guild in Turnbull, CT. Thank you to Guild President Nancy Boccuzzi and to everyone who made it such a memorable night. I’m looking forward to my next visit!
Tell us about your guild in the comments below. If it’s located in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT), Shira would love to visit!
Every year I participate in a handmade Secret Santa gift exchange. Working at Lion Brand has definitely inspired me to learn to knit, and as a person who usually crochets, I wanted to make something different and challenging this year.
I found the Ribbed Bolero pattern to be a good place to start. It’s a good beginner project to both improve knitting skills, and to make a great gift at the same time. It’s just like making a scarf — just much wider and folded in half. This pattern is perfect as I had also been looking for a 2-ball project that uses Homespun®.
One of the many skills I gained from this project was learning to differentiate between a stockinette (which the pattern called for) and a garter stitch (which I accidentally did). I was surprised (and relieved) that it still looked similar the picture, except with a different stitch – and it only cost $15!
Below I’ve selected several 2-ball projects that will let you practice your craft and make a great handmade gift at the same time. Let the gift knitting begin!
|Knit His or Her Hat||Crochet Simple Shrug||Knit My First #Scarfie||Knit Hat in a Flash|
Lion Brand Yarn Company is a family owned and operated business. Currently, the fourth and fifth generation of the family are working in the company. The children below are all members of the sixth generation and they’re dressed in fashions all knit and crocheted with American-made Heartland yarn. These patterns are easy to make and will delight the next generation in your family.
At this time of year, when families gather together, we wanted to share the faces that make us smile. Hoping you are fortunate enough to see the people who mean a lot to you this Thanksgiving. When you take a break from the traveling, and the cooking, and the cleaning, say hello in the comments below and tell us about your holiday meal.
|Crochet Next Generation Afghan and Hat||Knit Next Generation Crewneck Vest||Crochet Next Generation Crewneck Cardigan||Knit Next Generation V-Neck Cardigan|
|Knit Next Generation Crewneck Cardigan||Crochet Next Generation Vest||Knit Next Generation Crewneck Dress||Crochet Next Generation Vest|
Felting and acrylic aren’t usually words that go together, so when the opportunity arose to try out some of Lion Brand’s “Spinnables” 100% acrylic fiber, I was skeptical. You might recognize this fiber because it’s our Homespun® before it’s spun into yarn! (We wrote about how Homespun® is made HERE.)
|Here is a look at the fiber. It’s incredibly soft and silky. I frequently felt with superfine Merino wool, but even that does not compare to the softness of this fiber! It reminds me more of silk than of wool.|
|Next step was to try felting a simple object. I picked a cat, although I think the result looks more like a gummy bear. So let’s say it’s a gummy cat. The acrylic fiber felted surprisingly quickly and densely! The gummy cat feels very solid, although the surface texture retains some of the fiber’s silky smoothness. I started with a coarse felting needle and moved on to a finer one as the fiber began to firm up.|
|All finished! I only had one color to work with, but with multiple colors it would be possible to add details like eyes if desired (of course, a gummy cat doesn’t need them). Because of its extreme softness, this fiber is better suited to projects with simple shapes and rounded edges.|
|All-in-all, I think acrylic fiber is an excellent alternative to wool and a great way for those who forgo animal products to get into needle felting. I look forward to experimenting with it further and to seeing what others come up with.|
“Spinnables” fiber is available in 3 oz packages of assorted colors – more than enough for several small projects like this. You can find it at the Lion Brand Outlet and on our website. If you are new to needle felting, we also have everything else you need to get started. We hope you’ll give it a try!
|Dinner with friends, from left to right: Evan Blumenthal, Danielle Holke, Jack Blumenthal, Carla Horvath, Mary Colucci, Brandyce Pechillo, Tammy Hildebrand, Kimberly McAlindin.|
The fond memories of last month’s 2014 Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) conference and Knit & Crochet Show in Manchester, NH are still fresh in my mind. It was the 20th Anniversary of the CGOA and the Anniversary Celebration Committee planned a sensational event, chock-full of crochet pride.
Once I arrived at the hotel and saw the many crochet squares and yarnbombs decorating the courtyard and lobby, I knew it was going to be a great event.
As in years passed, I am always honored to be able to attend the CGOA Annual dinner and fashion show, an annual event that is always a crowd pleaser. This year it had 250 people in attendance!
I was blown away by the impressive talent of participating members; no surprise that plenty of door prizes and awards were given out.
The shopping floor was a flurry of activity, housing vendors from all over New England and beyond. It was also a great opportunity for me to catch up with all my friends in the knitting and crochet community. For instance, I was able to congratulate Gwen Blakely Kinsler in person on her induction to the CGOA Hall of Fame this year. Like a majority of crafters, she has tremendous love and passion for crocheting and the guild.
My college-aged son, who attended the conference with me for the first time, was quite impressed to see how many people I knew … and who knew me.
During the conference I attended my last in-person Board Meeting with the CGOA. It has been a great pleasure to have been a board member since 2011 and to have been able to participate in these meetings, but I know that I’m leaving the board in good hands.
To end on a brighter note: I took the opportunity to visit one of the mills that produces some of our yarn. I was able to see the process and production in which everything is made. Being able to see the very beginnings of a Lion Brand yarn and the attention to detail that is put into each skein makes me love being part of this family and company.
This month, our CEO, David Blumenthal, celebrated a big birthday. We honored the day at our annual company barbecue. As a special way of recognizing David’s birthday, an afghan was created from a patchwork of knit and crochet squares created by people who work at Lion Brand, as well as some names you may know from the world of knitting and crochet. Included among the designers and makers of squares were Nicky Epstein, author, designer and creator of one of Lion Brand’s most enduring patterns, the Tree of Life; Trisha Malcolm, the editorial director of Soho Publishing; and Nathan Vincent, the fiber artist who designed the 7 Wonders Of The Yarn World. There were also squares made by Vanna White and her daughter Gigi.
David was surprised and thrilled with his gift as you can probably tell from the smile on his face!
If you are giving a group gift to someone, why not try this idea of having a number of people contribute squares to make an afghan to commemorate the occasion? Here are a few afghan patterns to get you started:
|Knit 9 Cousins Lapghan||Crochet Baby Squares Storyteller Afghan||Knit Basketweave and Slip Stitch Afghan||Crochet Americana Afghan|
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As a fourth generation family member of Lion Brand, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet and talk with very passionate people that are prominent within the yarn industry; people like Janet Johnson Stephens, Rita Weiss, and Gwen Blakely Kinsler. I met Gwen a number of years ago when I spoke to her Guild in Rolling Meadows, Illinois and I was impressed with the many ways she has contributed to the craft industry.
Gwen was instrumental in establishing the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) organization 20 years ago and is also an author, designer, teacher and writer of everything crochet.
This year, the Crochet Guild of America chose Gwen as their 2014 recipient for the Jean Leinhauser Hall of Fame Award. Her passion and determination to host the first meeting with crochet enthusiasts in Chicago is now recognized as an incremental part of yarn history.
For everyone who is passionate about yarn and loves to crochet, Gwen Blakely Kinsler is an inspiration. I’d like to congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.
Every summer Lion Brand invites all the associates to a barbecue. There’s a lavish spread of food from barbecued steaks and other grilled favorites to a delicious array of salads and yummy desserts. We also let our competitive stripes show with sports contests (do water balloon fights count?) a scavenger hunt, and guessing games. You’ll always find plenty of people working on their knit and crochet projects as they wait for the next activity to begin, and to top it all off, we are treated to a chair massage!
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