Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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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summer dresses, but looking at our Pattern Finder, the pattern that caught my eye was this kid’s Bebop Cardi (below), originally made in Vanna’s Choice, a worsted-weight yarn.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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Meet the LB Collection

January 29th, 2009

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The brand new LB Collection is (finally!) here! This collection is something we’ve been working on for a long time and I’m so excited that these yarns are making their way out into the world! We’ve heard lots of great comments and questions from you! The LB Collection is a range of specialty yarns produced in small batches, and is only available on our website, through our catalog, and at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in Manhattan. Made from high quality natural fibers, they are still highly affordable. Take a look at what the LB Collection has to offer.

LB Collection Cashmere is made from pure 100% Italian cashmere. It is a luxuriously soft, lightweight yarn with exceptional warmth, ideal for timeless accessories like scarves, hats, and cowls. For pure indulgence, try a pair of socks or a pair of booties for a special baby. LB Collection Cashmere is available in 6 classic colors with great choices for both men and women.

Combining the softness and drape of bamboo with the durability of cotton, our beautiful LB Collection Cotton Bamboo yarn is a wonderful choice for warmer weather projects. I know right now it seems like spring will never come again, but when it does you will love Cotton Bamboo for women’s tops, lightweight throws, and gifts for summertime babies! It’s available in 8 hues inspired by nature.

We have added to our environmentally friendly yarns with a classic worsted-weight LB Collection Organic Wool. It is perfect for sweaters, felted projects, and winter accessories. It is 100% organically produced wool and dyed with low impact dyes, certified according to Global Organic Textile Standards by the Institute of Marketecology. It is available both in an undyed cream and 5 beautiful jewel-tone colors.

Finally, a 100% wool yarn that is also machine-washable! Soft, luxurious, and warm, our LB Collection Superwash Merino wool is the perfect weight for baby items and women’s garments. This versatile yarn comes in 10 great colors. If you know someone who thinks wool is itchy and uncomfortable, you may want to introduce them to this silky and smooth merino.

This unique LB Collection Wool Stainless Steel yarn creates unique pieces that keep their shape. Strong, yet lacy, it’s great for ethereal wraps or beautiful original jewelry. Combine it with other yarns to add texture and strength to sweaters and accessories. It is also great when knit double-stranded. Available in 4 colors.

Want to see how these yarns look when knitted or crocheted? Check out our patterns for the LB Collection yarns, request a catalog, or visit the Lion Brand Yarn Studio to test knit or crochet a swatch.


Colorful, Comfortable Cotton-Ease

October 8th, 2008

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Cotton-Ease

It’s no fun when a company discontinues your favorite product (Loreál- I’m looking at you. I still want Le Grand Curl Waterproof Black Mascara back). When we discontinued Cotton-Ease a lot of people were upset. The internet/blog world was grieving the loss of this washable cotton-blend yarn. Campaigns to keep Cotton-Ease began immediately after the announcement that it was being discontinued, emphasizing the “cry of dismay from knitters of all types that this wonderful, washable, basic yarn is being pulled from the shelves.”

We consistently heard from so many people upset about the discontinuation of Cotton-Ease that after a just short period without it, we decided to re-introduce it in an updated color palette. Now, it’s more versatile than ever with the same great quality yarn and variety of colors. The internet is once again buzzing about Cotton-Ease, but this time rejoicing that it’s back. Kryssa on Ravelry summed Cotton-Ease up perfectly: “This is soft, easy to knit with, available in lovely colors and washable. It is wonderful for wearing next to the skin and knits up really well.”

And if words aren’t enough, your projects say a thousand words. You guys are making all sorts of thing—baby clothes, sweaters, bibs, blankets big and small, even washcloths, toys, and hats.

But don’t think that cotton yarn is just for summer! Cotton-Ease is great for transitional fall layering pieces, especially for kids who like to run around outside, jumping in piles of leaves and splashing in the rain. You can also knit Cotton-Ease along with another yarn for warm weather versatility, like with the Cascading Colors Baby Blankie or The Wonderful Wallaby. But don’t limit yourself to children’s garments; a Cotton-Ease cardigan is a great “back of the office-chair” sweater year round. Some office building crank the AC so high in summer, a cotton sweater is essential to keeping comfortable. And if your building is anything like ours, in an old radiator-heated NYC building, winters can be too hot for anything heavier than cotton. Any of these will warm you up without overheating, and add a jolt of color to your work wardrobe.

What do you use Cotton-Ease for? Show and tell everyone in the comments!

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