I generally believe that everything–whether tool, material, or method–has a purpose to which it is ideally suited. In my opinion, sewing is good for some things (dresses and bags), knitting works best for others (socks) and crochet is ideal for still others (amigurumi and afghans). And I think every yarn has unique characteristics that tell you what sort of project it should be.
Smooth, classic yarns (Vanna’s Choice, Fishermen’s Wool, Wool-Ease, and Lion Wool) are good for detailed, textural stitches, like the cables in the Tree of Life Afghan. Textured yarns like Homespun are usually soft, lightweight, and look great when knitted or crocheted at a slightly looser gauge – making them perfect for quick afghans, shawls, and scarves.
When we set out to design a new baby yarn, we used this line of thinking. We asked: what does a yarn need to make good baby afghans, hats, and sweaters?
We mixed all these different ingredients together and came up with: Cupcake. It’s super-soft; easy to use; looks great in simple stockinette, garter, or granny squares; is machine washable and dryable; and comes in fantastic colors. Whether you want to craft an Unsquared Afghan or a Sunny Side Up Hoodie, Cupcake is a wonderful choice.
Of course, all rules are meant to be broken, and sometimes the real fun can start when you take a material and use it for a new purpose. Imagine our delight when we experimented and found out that our ideal baby yarn also makes flattering and comfortable fashion garments. The Sophisticated Options Cardigan and Scarf and the Half Moon Shawl are just two examples. I’m tempted to make a joke about sweet surprises here–after all, Cupcake does lends itself to punning. (See the Think Pink Cupcake for a visual example.)
So next time you’re looking to experiment with a new yarn, treat yourself to Cupcake.
Vanna’s Choice Baby is our collection of newest colors in the same weight and make-up as original Vanna’s Choice. When we introduced Vanna’s Choice, we heard from so many fans–including Vanna herself–who were using it for baby and children’s projects. People loved the weight, softness, and easy-care of the yarn, but were looking for additional kid-friendly colors. Our design team got to work creating a palette of fresh colors that complements trends in contemporary children’s fashion and furnishings. Brighter shades (like Cheery Cherry, Berrylicious, and Aqua) with unexpected accents (Chocolate Cake, anyone?) are the look of the day for even the littlest kids.
The colors are great for kid projects–as the name implies–but they were developed to coordinate with the ‘regular’ Vanna’s Choice colors, too. Since Vanna’s Choice Baby is the same weight and fiber content as Vanna’s Choice, you can substitute colors from either in patterns, or even combine them into one project. The Hipster Sweater is a great example of the striking results you can get with all the colors now available. Between Vanna’s Choice Baby and all of the Vanna’s Choice solids, prints, and mists there are 63 interchangeable colors!
Keep an eye on the website for new patterns in Vanna’s Choice Baby. We know people love the yarn for quick-to-finish afghans and toys, so there are some adorable projects in the works. The fall Lion Design catalog and the upcoming Giggles & Grins book, being published by Leisure Arts, will also feature great ideas and patterns for this fun yarn.
If you’re a yarncrafter and you’re on the internet, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of people like to make socks. And if you listen to our YarnCraft podcast, you’ve heard me talk about socks an awful lot!
I mostly taught myself to knit while I was in design school. I wanted to take hand-knitting as an elective, but I was at the maximum number of allowed credits, so I grabbed a book and some needles and settled down to teach myself. For the first few months, I made a variety of scarves, but I was very eager to be a ‘real’ knitter–and to me, real knitting meant socks. All that shaping–and what was this business about turning the heel?
I made my first pair with leftover fingering-weight yarn from my mother-in-law, and I really haven’t stopped since! There are so many different ways to make socks, you can keep yourself endlessly entertained with new styles and techniques. And there are all sorts of other reasons why socks are so popular – they are fast to finish, they are portable projects, they make great gifts, and they are comfortable and cozy. But personally, I think it’s all about the sock yarn.
Sock-Ease, our newest yarn, is soft, colorful, and you only need one ball to make a pair of socks! It comes in 7 fun, multi-hue colorways. The design department has had a blast experimenting with Sock-Ease –- and not just for socks. Because of the way the random striping has been designed, you can get totally different stripe and color-block patterns by changing your gauge, stitch pattern or project. Try crocheting a granny square or floral motif, and watch how the colors rotate and swirl. Try a chevron or shell stitch to get wavy bands of color. Need a drawstring? Whip up some I-cord, or use a spool knitter, to make a cord with bold stripes. Add bright, multi-hue pompoms to embellish any project.
Sock-Ease is also great held together with another yarn. In a narrow piece like a scarf or amigurumi, it will make subtle stripes. Used in a wider piece like a sweater, you’ll get a great tweed effect. We are all loving baby and kid sweaters that mix Sock-Ease with Vanna’s Choice, Vanna’s Choice Baby, or Cotton-Ease.
Even more than the soft feel or fun colors, my favorite thing about Sock-Ease is its flexibility. It’s much more than a great sock yarn -– it’s a tool you can use to explore your own creativity in knitting and crochet.
Homespun is one of those iconic yarns Lion Brand is known for, so people might be surprised to find out that it was “born” in 1997. I know it surprised me when I started at Lion Brand – I assumed Homespun must have been around forever!
Homespun started when David saw a unique yarn woven into a throw blanket. He thought, with a few modifications, that it would be ideal for hand-knitting and crochet. Lion Brand worked with the mill for over two years to perfect the yarn and the original set of 9 colors.
When we introduced it, the yarn became a sensation. It was totally different from anything else on the market–softer, silkier, and with a wide variety of color effects. It’s also a great weight (CYCA #5 – Bulky). So many crocheters and knitters tell us that they love how quickly they finish projects when they use Homespun. Many charity groups have embraced using Homespun in Prayer or Comfort shawls, because of its soft feel, easy care, and affordability. In 2005, we released a book with Leisure Arts featuring different prayer shawls to knit and crochet. It was so well received; we’re working on a second one now, due to be released in late 2008.
Homespun got an unexpected boost in popularity when we released a pattern for a Homespun poncho designed to look like the one Martha Stewart wore when she left prison. Three years later, it is still one of the most downloaded patterns on our site (out of almost 2,000 total patterns).
About a year ago, we visited the beautiful, historic mill in New England where Homespun is made. Built in 1864, the mill has run on hydro-generated power since 1915 and has such a feeling of textile history. Around the time of this first visit, I was teaching myself how to make yarn on a home spinning wheel (a project still very much in progress)–I was amazed at the similarities between home spinning, and the way Homespun is produced.
The first step in making Homespun begins with dyeing the raw fiber into over 50 individual shades. These shades are then blended together into a sliver, ready for spinning. The colored fiber can be blended in various ways – with one dominant color and 2 or 3 coordinating accents for a Heathered Solid; with 3 or 4 contrasting colors for a Tweed; or with up to 8 colors in a shifting pattern that created the subtle, variegated stripes in our Painterly colors.
We were so inspired by our visit; Lion Brand collaborated with Leisure Arts on a book of patterns with a story on the mill and beautiful photos of the blending and spinning process. You won’t believe the bright shades of fiber that combine to make the earthy hues of Prairie!