Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Archive for the 'Wellness' Category

Knitting Attachments: The Neutral Cabled Afghan

February 4th, 2016

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When my friend Ana (pictured at right) recently had to undergo a worrisome medical procedure, my automatic impulse kicked in.  “I’m going to knit you something,” I announced.  That’s what I do when people I love enter crisis mode.  Knitting is a way of coping, I suppose; it lets me feel helpful in situations I can’t control.  It’s also how I turn nervousness into productivity, and creative energy into caring.

Ana’s situation deserved a big expression of my caring, I decided.  She was going to get a blanket.  Lion Brand’s pattern for the Neutral Cabled Afghan, done in three shades of Hometown USA® yarn, immediately caught my eye.  Its soothing colors complemented the décor of the small apartment that Ana, a single mom, shares with her three-year-old son, and I knew the cabled designs would give the blanket pleasant weight and warmth.  That the afghan is knitted on size 15 needles suggested I’d finish the project within a reasonable time, too—no point in starting something like this in winter if she wouldn’t get it until summer!

My hunch was correct.  The project moved quickly, and in a week I’d knitted more than half.  This is one of the most interesting patterns I’ve ever followed, and it’s definitely a skill builder.  Knitters, listen up:  if you want to become a cable maven without tears, here’s your education!

Viewed from above, the Neutral Cabled Afghan is a large log-cabin rectangle.  If you’ve knitted a log-cabin pattern, you know it’s a modular construction that grows by attachment.  You start by knitting a central piece, and enlarge it, not by sewing it to other pieces, but by picking up stitches along an edge and working another rectangle outward.  The advantages of this type of modular construction are strength, potential variety of color, and potential variety of texture.

With the Neutral Cabled Afghan, another factor comes into play.  Textural variety develops, of course, from the qualities of the yarn, but most strongly, from the texture the cables give each section.  Since the design is worked on large needles, the cables assume mega prominence.  This blanket is all about them, and in the center section, it’s all about cables and bobbles.  If you’ve never worked cables or bobbles, or if you want to improve your skills in the cables and bobbles department, here’s your lifetime chance!

Cables aren’t difficult, but like any process with multiple steps, they can be complex.  Rule number one:  Read the Pattern Carefully.  Rule number two:  Go Slowly.  As you move through the pattern, say the stitches aloud as you knit.  That will keep you on track.   And whether you follow the charted patterns or those written in words—Lion Brand provides both—please do this:  enlarge the pattern on your computer printer or with a copy machine, and use highlighter tape to mark where you are in the pattern.  Register your progress, too, by ticking off the lines as you finish them.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the process of knitting each section, and share some results, both knitted and medical.

More Than Cold Hands: How To Stay Warm When You Have Raynaud’s

January 29th, 2016

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When the temperatures drop do your hands get cold? It’s probably safe to say that most people have cold hands once in a while during cold weather. But if you just can’t seem to warm them up it might be something else: Raynaud’s Syndrome.

What is Raynaud’s?

Raynaud’s affects the small blood vessels in your hands, and sometimes your feet and the end of your nose. You might hear someone mention “poor circulation” or being “cold sensitive.”

Color changes in your skin are a key feature of Reynaud’s. If you see your hands turn white or bluish when they’re cold and then turn red when they warm up, it might be Raynaud’s.

What causes Raynaud’s is a mystery but women between the ages of 15-40 are more likely than men to develop the condition.

If you suspect your cold hands might be more than a reaction to chilly weather, discuss it with your doctor.

Keep Warm! Here’s How:

How can you warm up your hands? Don’t go outside unprotected from the wind and cold. Always wear mittens or gloves when you’re outside in cold weather or when you’re choosing from the cold/frozen cases at the grocery store.

nordic fliptop mountai
Knit Nordic Mittens Knit Flip-Top Mittens Knit Mountain Mittens

Want to help restore good circulation? Wiggle your fingers and toes, windmill your arms or gently massage your hands and fingers.

Fingerless mitts don’t offer enough protection when the thermometer dips below freezing and the wind blows. If you love to knit or crochet, it’s a great time to try your hand at mittens and gloves.

Stave Off the Cold Indoors Too!

Doing repetitive tasks like typing, knitting or crocheting? Thin wrist warmers or fingerless mitts will fill the bill by keeping your hands warm and your fingers free.

Another tip: running your hands under warm water helps, so does putting some distance between your hands and cold surfaces. How about making a cozy for your cold drinks?

wharton fingerless driving
Crochet Wharton Wristers Knit Fingerless Gloves Crochet Driving Gloves

One crafter told me she has Raynaud’s and when the wind blows she bundles and buttons up before she goes outside. She even bought a furry steering wheel cover and warms her car up before she heads out. Inside, she always wears socks and never takes anything out of the refrigerator or freezer without using a pair of gloves or mittens to create a barrier. She also recommends using insulated drinking cups and glasses both winter and summer.

Sometimes cold hands are just a seasonal hazard but if you think you might have Raynaud’s, visit your doctor and check out the Raynaud’s Association for more information.

New Pattern Journal: Why I Knit by Rebecca Houser

December 27th, 2015

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For the last few months, we’ve been sharing personal stories of healing from those involved with Project Knitwell, an organization dedicated to bringing comfort and therapy to people facing stressful situations through the joy of knitting. We asked you to share your stories and this month we’re featuring one submitted by Rebecca Houser.

I’ve been a knitter for about 40 years now, and have always enjoyed it, but I never needed it more than in the summer of 2010.

My dad called to ask me to come take care of him for a week – my dad, the guy who never asks me for anything. He had taken a bad fall, and at 84, was not able to care for himself. Although the call came while I was working in the garden and totally grimy, I was on a plane within two hours, flying from my home near Tulsa to Las Vegas, where he lived.

I expected to be gone just a week, so I only took a few small, partially completed projects. What a blessing my WIP pile was at that moment, when I couldn’t think about much of anything except getting to my dad.

When I got to his house, I loaded him and my knitting into the car and took him to the ER. He was dehydrated, recovering from a kidney infection, and had broken his tailbone in the fall.

I expected to be able to take him home the next morning, but overnight, his aortic valve collapsed, and he died 3 1/2 weeks later. I was devastated. My husband was stationed in Iraq at the time, so he was not able to be the help and support that I so desperately needed, and I would end up being stuck in my dad’s house for another 2 1/2 months as I settled his estate and packed up the contents of his house. I had never been more distressed.


How “Craft As Therapy” Grew Into a Thriving Community

November 19th, 2015

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Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. In this post she introduces us to the Craft As Therapy community on Instagram, which is a daily visual celebration of the healing capacities of crafting. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.

When Mandy of the RedAgape Style & Design blog started using the hashtag #craftastherapy on her own Instagram account, it was just a personal thing. She had always loved crafting but after her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and the diagnosis worsened Mandy’s own illness, she realized just how important crafting was for her health. She began to intentionally turn to crafting as a way to distract herself from the anxiety of this period, and she began to tag her photos accordingly.


yarnsPeople immediately took notice. Others started using the hashtag widely. Mandy says, “It became apparent to me how important craft is as a form of therapy, not just for me, but for many other crafters. Many have shared their stories about why they craft for therapy. Some are suffering with mental illness, infertility issues, chronic illness, physical illness … and some craft simply because it is cheaper than (traditional) therapy and keeps them smiling!”

Mandy was surprised by how much people loved this hashtag, although looking back she says she’s surprised that she was so surprised. She says, “I’m not sure why I thought I was the only one. I mean; there is a reason that coloring books for adults are so popular right now. Everyone is looking for some time out for their minds and crafting is perfect.”


Crafting, Color Blindness, and Changes in Color Perception

October 21st, 2015

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Crafting, Color Blindness, and Changes in Color Perception
In this guest post by Phyllis Alberici, she explores crafting with color blindness, and how to choose a color palette with color perception in mind.

You’re out shopping for yarn and having a difficult time choosing colors, so you decide to ask another shopper or the sales person for an opinion on a color you chose. You thought you were holding a pretty blue-green but you’re told it’s just green or just blue or maybe even turquoise.

Have you had this experience?

We each “see” color and hue a little differently but color blindness, medications and certain illnesses can also change how we perceive color.

There’s a long list of medical conditions that can affect our color perception: diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and liver disease are just a few. Some medications, including antibiotics and medicines used to treat psychological illnesses and high blood pressure can also affect our eyes.

True color blindness doesn’t mean you can’t see color but it creates difficulty seeing the differences between certain colors. It can also make it difficult to distinguish between certain shades, or hues, of some colors.

How does a color blind crafter, or crafter with medical issues that affect color, work with color? Here are a few simple ideas to make your knitting and crocheting easier:

  1. Use contrast in choosing colors but try to avoid either very dark colors together or very bright colors together. In general, dark shades of red will look like dark brown for those who are red/green color blind and dark greens will look more grey or taupe.
  1. Before you head out to choose yarn, the Colblindor Color Blindness Simulator might help you make the right color choices. Just upload a photo and then click through the different types of color blindness to see what the yarn will look like.
  1. If you’re making a gift for someone who has difficulty with color perception, take a look at the colors they wear most often or just ask what they prefer. Choose something with enough contrast so that colors don’t look muddy.
  1. In general, the more pure the hue the better. That orangey red or blue grey might not work but a true red or blue might.
  1. Take a photo with your phone or a camera set on the black and white setting when you choose yarn for a color blind friend. This helps to “see” the contrasts as the color blind person does.


If you’ve knitted or crocheted for someone who is color blind, or has difficulty with color perception, how do you choose color combinations?