Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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What’s Popular at the Knit & Crochet Show

July 19th, 2010

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Earlier this month, Lion Brand Yarn sponsored the Crochet Guild of America’s Professional Development Day and exhibited at the Knit and Crochet Show in Manchester, New Hampshire. Here at Lion Brand we truly enjoy being a part of the consumer shows because it gives us a chance reach out to the public. Having our booth filled with Lion Brand fans and witnessing their creativity is always such a gratifying experience for us. (If you didn’t see Lindsey’s post last week about the projects that Lion Brand customers brought to our booth, be sure to check it out!)

Another wonderful part of the show is finding out what products our customers were really into. As usual, our LB Collection of luxury fibers at affordable prices was a big hit, especially the LB Collection Wool Stainless Steel. We brought the Lace Net Scarf as an example of how this yarn is both soft enough to wear around the neck and how the steel content actually allows it to keep its shape, staying open and lacy with just a little stretch! One of the many reasons we like to attend shows like this one is to show off our yarns in person, as many people prefer to touch yarn and see the colors in person before buying! (Tip: Another great way to see our yarns in person is to order a color card. Click here to see the LB Collection color cards.)

Our color-changing Amazing yarn was also a big hit — people love seeing the swatches and how the colors work over a long stretch of yarn. Haven’t seen how it works? Click  here to see swatches!

Finally, walking the show and seeing all of the Lion Brand tote bags being carried around always brings a smile to my face. It makes me feel as though our fans share the same sense of pride in our brand as I do.

(If you’re looking at this blog post on the website, click on the slideshow to move to the next photo. If you’re viewing this blog post in your e-mail and you’re having trouble with the photos, please click the title to see it on the website.)

We can’t wait to see what this event has in store for us next year!

Were you at the Knit & Crochet Show? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment on this blog post!

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How-To: Kool-Aid Dye with a Microwave

July 8th, 2010

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I love the new colors of Sock-Ease, but I needed a small amount of bright yellow yarn for an upcoming sock project. My solution: dye Sock-Ease with Kool-Aid! This method works great for any animal fibers, including wool, alpaca, mohair, and more. Nylon will also absorb the dye, so sock yarns are great for dyeing. Here’s the process that I used. You’ll need your yarn, some sugar-free Kool-Aid or other comparable drink mix (1 or 2 packets per ounce of yarn dyed), a microwave-safe container, plastic gloves, some scrap yarn, and food coloring (optional).
step 1
Step 1: If your yarn isn’t already in a hank, wind it into a large circle. I wound my Marshmallow Sock-Ease around a binder. Loosely tie a few pieces of scrap yarn around your yarn as shown to keep everything untangled. Note: If you tie the scrap yarn too tightly, the sections of yarn under the ties won’t get dyed!

Step 2: Soak your yarn in some lukewarm water and mild soap. If your yarn isn’t machine washable, be careful not to felt it!

step 3
Step 3: Put on your rubber gloves. Add your sugar-free Kool-Aid to water and stir until the powder is fully dissolved. I used one packet of Lemonade Kool-Aid and a few drops of yellow food dye to make my color really pop. Next, place your yarn into the dye bath and add enough water to completely cover the yarn. Don’t worry if you add a lot of water; this will not dilute the dye.

Step 4: Microwave your yarn in its bath for about two minutes. Let the yarn sit for a minute or two, and then check the color of the dye bath. Repeat the microwave/rest process until the dye bath is clear.

Step 5: After the yarn cools, remove it from the dye bath. Wash the yarn as in step 2 and hang to dry. After the yarn has dried, you can wind it into a ball.
Finish product
My finished yarn was the perfect beautiful, bold yellow, and it’s still machine-washable! I’m so happy with my results that I want to Kool-Aid dye everything.

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Want a Bigger Garment? Use a Thicker Yarn!

June 28th, 2010

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Earlier this season, we released a new yarn that’s like a chunky-weight version of our popular Cotton-Ease. Like Cotton-Ease, Baby’s First is a cotton/acrylic blend made with many fine plies, which gives it great stitch definition, loftiness, and strength. And while it’s called Baby’s First, its sherbet colors are actually great for spring and summer garments for adults too.

Wanting to make something in this yarn, I decided I’d look at quick-to-crochet cardigans that I can layer with summer dresses, but looking at our Pattern Finder, the pattern that caught my eye was this kid’s Bebop Cardi (below), originally made in Vanna’s Choice, a worsted-weight yarn. While its largest size would actually work for a women’s XS, I figured I’d need a slightly bigger size.

Luckily, one great way to resize a pattern is to follow the directions exactly as written, but use a thicker yarn and a bigger hook! Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Sure, but how do you know what size your project is going to end up?” Well, as with almost all projects, gauge is going to come into play when it comes to determining size.

First I made a gauge swatch with the recommended size hook for Baby’s First, the K-hook. The pattern tells me that I need to make the whole swatch in double-crochets, so lucky for me, it’s very quick:

Normally, you’re trying to match the gauge in the pattern (in this case 3 inches to 9 stitches across), BUT since the whole point of this new yarn and hook size is to get a bigger swatch, my next move will be to figure out just how much bigger it is compared to the original swatch. I measure my 9 stitches and I get 3.75 inches or 1.25 times bigger than the original sweater (3.75 inches divided by the original 3 inches = 1.25). To get my projected bust measurement (the best way to size a sweater), I multiply the smallest bust measurement (29 inches) by that 1.25, and I get a  bust measurement of 36.25. That’s a little bigger than I’d like it to be, as I’d like the cardigan to be more fitted, so next I tried one size smaller, using a J-hook.

This gave me 3.5 inches over 9 stitches. It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but remember, over as many stitches as you have in a sweater, it adds up fast. With this hook, my swatch is 1.167 times bigger than the original gauge. This gives me a bust measurement of 33.83 inches. This is much closer to the 34 inch bust that I’d like to achieve. [Note: If you want to make this pattern as a women’s medium or large, get 3.5 inches per 9 stitches, and then you can expect to follow the medium or large directions of the pattern for a 35.6 inch bust and 38.5 inch bust respectively. Again, to get these measurements, I just multiplied the 1.167 by the original medium and large bust measurements. For slightly larger sizes, just do the same math with the K-hook measurements!]

The cardi worked up quickly (the pattern is only 17 rows, following the smallest directions), and here’s the finished product:

As with any project, it’s always best to wash it according to its care instructions after it’s finished (to get rid of any grime from working the yarn and to fluff it up), so into the washer and dryer it went! I also measured the circumference just to double-check that the size was right, and it was just under 34 inches–right on the money.

I’m really looking forward to wearing this cardigan all summer long!

And here’s the back:

Do you have any projects that you’ve modified to suit your needs? Tell us about them by leaving a comment!


It Takes A Village – Winners of Vanna’s Choice Contest Announced!

June 18th, 2010

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The second annual Vanna’s Choice contest has ended and the winners are now posted on the contest website. The entries showed extraordinary talent, skill and creativity. They also demonstrated the amazing versatility of Vanna’s Choice–that it can be used successfully to make virtually any type of garment, afghan, toy, or in the case of the grand prize winner–an entire village. They also showed how the wide range of easy-to-match colors allowed for endless possibilities of creativity in creating beautiful color combinations.

Our judges found selecting winners from among the thousands of entries extremely challenging, but the grand prize winner was a true stand-out.

The grand prize winner, Andrea Miners of Prince George, British Columbia, Canada created a miniature world in her entry entitled Fantasy Village Playmat. Her prize is a trip for 2 to Los Angeles, where she will meet Vanna White, accommodations for 2 nights for 2 people, plus $500 spending money.

We look forward to sharing the story of Andrea’s trip to meet Vanna with you in a future blog post.  Here is an image of the entire village, as well as two close-up detail images.

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Kids’ Craft Camp: Yarn-Wrapped Projects

June 15th, 2010

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Children don’t need to knit or crochet to make amazing projects with yarn. With a little bit of creativity, you and your kids can make imaginative creations from yarn and some household objects! Colorful yarn, glue, paper or plastic cups, cardboard, buttons, safety scissors, and felt are all all of the supplies you need for an entire afternoon of fun crafting. These wrapped animals are just a few of the ideas we came up with.

Yarn wrapped animals
Clockwise from left: Owl Picture Frame, Wrapped Giraffe, and Wrapped Lion.

But you don’t have to just make animals. With just yarn wrapping, we’ve also made bracelets and decorative vases. Try combining lots of different yarn colors and textures to make a truly exciting project. What yarn wrapping project will you create?

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Kids’ Craft Camp: Craft Kits

June 7th, 2010

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Amigurumi Friend: Blossom the LambWant to keep your kids entertained and crafty this summer? Check out the children’s aisle of your local craft and hobby store. There you’ll find a wealth of kid-friendly craft kits. They usually come with everything you’ll need for the project, so you don’t have to worry about gathering supplies. Best of all, you can stock up on lots of different kits so that you’ll be ready for any rainy days, surprise visits, or anything else that comes up! Be sure to check out our Amigurumi Friends Kits for great stuffed toy, purse, and pillow craft projects — no knitting or crocheting required.

Looking for more kid-friendly craft ideas? I’ll be posting more projects in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on the blog!

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Did You Know…? Vanna’s Choice Colors Are Meant to Mix and Match

May 26th, 2010

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Vanna’s Choice yarns are great to work with and easy care, but did you know that all the colors were expertly designed to go with each other?  Jess and I decided to test the theory, and using Vanna’s Choice and Vanna’s Choice Baby we came up with over ten different color palettes!  The options are endless, but these few color combinations are a great jumping off point.  You can use them as they are, or pick as many colors as you need from each.

We started with the basics (note: captions list colors in order from left to right, top to bottom):

Then we picked palettes based off of individual colors (Greens, Neutrals, and Pinks):

Silver Blue, Silver Grey, Charcoal Grey, Dark Grey Heather, Navy,  Pearl Mist, Wheat, Oatmeal, Grey Marble, Barley, Taupe, Chocolate Cake,  Toffee, Chocolate, and Espresso

Silver Blue, Silver Grey, Charcoal Grey, Dark Grey Heather, Navy, Pearl Mist, Wheat, Oatmeal, Grey Marble, Barley, Taupe, Chocolate Cake, Toffee, Chocolate, and Espresso

Dusty Purple, Dusty Rose, Antique Rose, Pink, Rose, Lullaby Pink

Then we picked color themes (Muted, Deep, Brights):

Purple, Dusty Blue, Taupe, Rust, Mustard, Honey, Antique Rose, Dusty Rose, Dusty Purple, Dusty Green

Rust, Olive, Pea Green, Cranberry, Wildberry, Burgundy

Magenta, Sapphire, Fern, Scarlet, Mustard, and Berrylicious

We also picked seasonal colors (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn):

Charcoal Grey, Dusty Blue, Navy, Purple, Espresso, Olive, Burgundy, and Cranberry

Little Boy Blue, Lamb, Toffee, Ducky, Sweet Pea, Magenta, Dusty Rose, and Fern

Angel White, Mustard, Terracotta, Pea Green, Mint, Pink Poodle, Cheery Cherry, Eggplant, Sapphire, and Aqua

Rust, Mustard, Toffee, Cranberry, Pea Green, Brick, Terracotta

You could also make your own entirely different Vanna’s Choice combos or themes.  No matter what colors you pick from the line, they always look perfect together.  The Vanna’s Choice Fan Club on Ravelry picks color themes and does swaps, knowing that no matter what they end up with, it’ll match perfectly.  What are you favorite Vanna’s Choice color combos?


What’s Old Is New Again

May 10th, 2010

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Yesterday, I received two skeins of yarn as gifts for our Lion Brand archives. One of the skeins was Lion Brand Tweed Look, which was a four-ply knitting worsted yarn that was a Sayelle 100% Dupont Orlon. The yarn was machine washable and dryable and had a fantastic tweed look. I believe this yarn made its début in the late 1970’s and was extremely unique for its time due to the fact that most four ply yarns were considered a commodity, while this yarn had a unique tweed-like effect.

I was most excited about the second skein I received because it was one that I have never seen before. The yarn is called Glitter Knit and the put-up (the way the ball is shaped) and packing on this yarn are truly unique. Although we have had other yarns called “Glitter Knit” in our line throughout the years, this one was one I wasn’t familiar with; in addition to the put-up and interesting logo on the package, it also has an interesting fiber content. It is a 2 oz. skein that contains 87% wool and 13% tinsel. This skein is also special to me because it dates back to 1954, the year I was born.

Today, we have Vanna’s Glamour which is comparable to the vintage Glitter Knit, and over the summer, we’ll be introducing a new product that is like a modern take on Tweed Look. It’s interesting to see how everything comes full circle over the years!

Do you have photos of vintage Lion Brand yarns you want to share with us? E-mail the blog at blog@lionbrand.com and show us!

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Accessorize with Shawl Pins & Sticks

March 11th, 2010

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You loved our shawl pin in the last Lion Design catalog, so we have just added a couple more to our store!

These beautiful wood shawl pins add a touch of sophistication to your shawl, scarf, or wrap — and these fair-trade pins are made from found hardwood, meaning that no trees are chopped down to make them! Click on the photos below for more info & to order!

Shawl Stick (Light) Shawl Stick (Dark)
Shawl Pin (Dark)

I think they really make even the simplest shawl pop.

Pair your new pin with a classic project like this Crochet Afternoon Breeze Shawl for a great look this spring:


Learn to Knit by Touch

March 10th, 2010

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Today’s guest post is by Nancy, our webmaster, who has spearheaded Lion Brand’s efforts to provide access to our patterns and resources for blind and visually impaired knitters and crocheters.

I’m the webmaster at Lion Brand and I want to make sure that everyone who wants to use our website is able to do so.

If you are not blind, you may have assumed that knitting is a hobby only for the sighted.   But, what is the first thing anyone says about a nice piece of work?  They say “Oh, that is so beautiful!  Can I touch it?”

Knitting can be done by touch and is a popular hobby among those who are visually impaired. So, to make sure that our website works as well for those who are not sighted as for those who are, even though I’m a “sightling,” I participate in several Internet groups composed of visually-impaired people who knit or crochet. Many of our customers have commented on the clarity of explanation on the Lion Brand website; much of the credit goes to my Internet friends who have patiently explained to me what does and does not work on a website when the visitor cannot see.

A month or so ago, Davey Hulse, one of the members of the “BlindStitchers” Google group mentioned that he had written a book on how to knit because he’d found the beginning knitting texts so frustrating. I asked him for a review copy of The Touch of Yarn and was delighted to find that Davey is not only an unusually good knitter; he has written an unusually good book.

Lion Brand has long offered all free patterns in both large type and braille format.  It seemed a natural extension to offer a book in the same way. The Touch of Yarn is the first downloadable book that we’ve ever offered and it is available both in Braille Ready Format (.brf) and in large type format (.pdf). As far as I know, we are the only yarn company to ever have done so.

But the book is not only for those who cannot see!

The Touch of Yarn is a beginning knitting primer that offers thorough explanations of each step in knitting.  The step-by-step instructions describe every movement, hand position and what the step should look like, making it appropriate for both sighted and non-sighted knitters.  The author says:

I want your experience to be better than mine was from the first day you pick up your first set of knitting needles, those strange little pointy sticks. I don’t want you to be one of the sad and frustrated people that try with confusing or unclear instructions and wind up throwing the whole wad of needles, tangled yarn and, dare I say it — painfully awful knitting — into a bag and giving it to a thrift store, like I almost did. There is no reason for it…now!

This book is designed to be what I wish I had had when I started knitting in August 2007. I wanted a quick, practical, approach to the basic skills, something that had no jargon and something that made no assumptions. I also wanted something that didn’t rely on pictures or videos. I’m totally blind, so those pretty illustrations didn’t help a bit until I called in my sighted wife who would try to make sense of what she was seeing and then to make a valiant effort to interpret it to me. My follow up questions would usually result in the answer:  “I can’t quite tell from the picture.”

The Touch of Yarn is written in a casual tone and reads almost like the author were sitting by your side. Because the book is intended for beginners who may be working by themselves, it also covers topics that many of us take for granted: all about needles, how to select needles, yarn weights and the fiber that makes up yarn. It also has a section on helpful resources for blind and visually impaired knitters as well as some extremely practical advice on how to read instructions, how select a pattern and how to organize that yarn and needle stash that knitters of all vision and experience levels will find useful!

It is a startling fact that about 3% of the US population under the age of 65 — over 10 million people per the 2000 US census — are blind or severely visually impaired and that the level of visual impairment increases with age.   According to the American Foundation for the Blind, close to 60% of people over the age of 85 suffer severe vision loss and many lose their vision altogether.   The author notes:

It’s important to me that if you are reading this because you’re having vision problems that may  lead to blindness that you come away knowing that there’s a way to do this art form even if you are totally blind. And, the joy in the art form is just as rich even though you can’t visually see the variegations or complex color changes.

Remember this: What do people want to do when they see that scarf or shawl?

They want to touch it.

The Touch of Yarn is sold in downloadable format on LionBrand.com

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