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
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.
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.”
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!
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!