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  • What is Mercerized Cotton Yarn?

    You found a pattern that calls for cotton yarn and immediately start searching for the perfect match. Browsing through yarn options you might find that some use the term mercerized cotton in the fiber content. This description is unclear to many people, especially if you have never seen or felt different cottons.

    In brief, mercerization is a way of treating cotton that makes it stronger and more receptive to dye. After the process you have a smooth, luminous yarn that is easy to care for.

    Where did it Originate?

    Like many inventions, the term “mercerized” was derived from the name of the person who created it. In 1844 John Mercer (see the connection?) experimented with using sodium hydroxide to treat cotton. The chemical caused the fiber to swell and compact thus increasing its tensile strength. However, it also resulted in fibers shrinking by as much as 25% percent.

    Improving Upon a Concept

    While the idea behind mercerization was good, the shrinkage of fibers was not ideal. In the 1890s H.A. Lowe improved upon Mercer’s idea. He discovered that holding the fibers under tension during the process reduced shrinking and also created a lustrous sheen.

    What is the Mercerization Process?

    Mercerization can be done on any cellulose fiber (i.e. cotton, hemp, linen) in fabric or yarn form. To mercerize fiber it is submerged in sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as caustic soda or lye. This is done in repeated bursts of four minutes or less. While immersed in the solution the fiber is kept under tension (the improvement developed by H.A. Lowe) to prevent shrinkage. An acidic bath is used to neutralize the alkali treatments.

    Any cotton fiber can be mercerized, however, long-staple varieties respond best.

    24/7 Cotton is a 100% mercerized cotton from Lion Brand yarn

    Mercerized Cotton or Not?

    Neither type of cotton is hands down better than the other. Mercerized cotton will be shinier and stronger than non-mercerized varieties. Dye takes to mercerized cotton easier and thus produces richer tones. Somewhat contradictory to that, non-mercerized yarn will be more absorbent making it a better choice for items like washcloths.

    Part of mercerized cotton being stronger means it sacrifices softness. If you are making something where strength of the fabric or structure is important than mercerized cotton will be a better option. An item that relies on softness and drape is better suited for a non-mercerized cotton. However, mercerized cotton will soften with washing and wear and is still useable for garments.

    Try It!

    Want to try mercerized cotton for yourself? Lion Brand Yarn offers a worsted weight option, 24/7 Cotton, as well as many patterns to pair it with.

     

    Patterns Shown

    The Coffee Shop Wrap
    Coachella Boots
    Chelsea Cape
    Springtime Stroller Blanket

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  • The Pleasures of Hand-Woven Plaid

    I’ve always loved plaid fabrics, anchors of my wardrobe since childhood—kilt skirts, winter coats, nightgowns, and flannel shirts.  Plaids are multicolored roadmaps of threads that travel together, split apart, intersect, and play the angles. When I saw Lion Brand’s pattern for a Woven Plaid Clutch, loomed on the DIY Weaver, I seized the opportunity. I’m a person who learns through doing, and I really wanted to understand plaid from the inside out.

    plaid

    Plaid happens when two or more colors intersect in the weaving.  Warping the loom in two colors, as required for the Woven Plaid Clutch, is as simple as warping it in one color.  For the clutch you set up the warp in stripes, and you weave across in swaths of the same two colors.

    Because you’re using Wool-Ease® Tonal in the colors Lapis and Smoke, the woven effect is more complex than if you’d used solid color yarn.  Lapis modulates from royal to sky blue, and Smoke is a medium grey that moves to pearl.  The woven fabric you create with these dynamic colorways conveys depth in a way that isn’t possible with a monotone.  Especially in this pattern, the yarn’s coloration provides maximal interest.

    We think of machine-woven plaid as precise.  Handwoven is delightfully different.  The colors of Wool-Ease® Tonal are blurry, so that the intersections of the blue and grey yarns yield a kind of fuzzy math.  The effect is slightly impressionistic.   (This is a soft plaid that would make a beautiful baby blanket or lap rug.  You’d have to loom a few sections, then sew them together.)

    The clutch is essentially a rectangle that’s folded in thirds.  It took me a few hours to make, including one section I had to redo because of a mistake.  Fortunately, because I work with lengths of yarn that aren’t longer than 24 inches, all I had to do was remove the yarn where I had slipped a stitch, and reweave just that piece, using a darning needle.  It was super easy.

    Unlike other needlework, where you have to attend to gauge and fit, the precise measurements of the clutch aren’t important.  Whether you weave tightly or loosely (or both, as I do) doesn’t matter in the end.  When released from the loom the fabric relaxes into its destined shape. (My clutch turned out to be 9.5” x 7.5”.) You then weave in the ends, using them to fill in any edge gaps as necessary.  Next, whipstitch the clutch together, according to the pattern diagram. Finish by attaching a button and crochet a chain to hold the flap closed.

    I enjoyed surveying the contents of my button jar and selecting possible matches, based on color and size.

    Ultimately I chose this bone-colored button, incised with black.

    I think it makes a nice accent, and it reminds me of Venice, California, where it was purchased.  When I look at the completed clutch, I feel a sense of accomplishment, both because I wove this attractive purse, and because the weaving let me understand the essence of plaid.

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  • Get Festival-Ready with a Knit Flower Crown

    Now that it's officially spring, we can start thinking ahead to summer fashions -- which include festival wear. Whether you're headed to Coachella next month, trekking to Bonnaroo, or plan to rock out at something local later in the season, you'll want to have the perfect look. One of the most ubiquitous accessories you'll see at any fest is the flower crown.

    flower crown 1

    Sure, you could go out and buy one. But why do that when you can knit your own? It's easy, cheap, and fun to make! You'll also end up with a piece that travels well and is lightweight and comfortable to wear.

    All you need is some DIYarn and a little creativity!

    Make Your Own Flower Crown

    There's no single set pattern for a crown, but it's made up of several smaller components. Basically, you need a band and you need flowers. The exact types, colors, and amount are up to you.

    flower crown french 1

    I used a French Knitter (or knitting spool) to make the band. Following the instructions that came with the spool, I made three cords slightly larger than the circumference of my head.

    flower crown french 2

    I decided to do two of the cords in Grass (which is currently backordered online) and one in Green. Based on personal preference and availability, you could do all three in the same shade, or even do a completely different color. If you don't want to use the French knitter, simply make 4-stitch i-cords instead.

    flower crown flowers

    Next, you'll need the flowers. Use our Stitch Finder to choose which ones to make -- we have them in both knit and crochet -- and how many. I knit two Dahlias and three Roses.

    Since I wanted the flowers to stand up, I knit with a tight gauge. DIYarn is a category 4 weight, and the band recommends a US 8 (5 mm) needle. For these, I used a US 5 (3.75 mm) needle.

    The roses are, from left to right in that picture, Yellow, Hot Pink, and Lilac colorways.

    flower crown dahlias

    I used the same gauge for the dahlias. Since they're a bit bigger, I only made two, to place between the three roses for variety in the crown. The ones here are knit in Teal and Orange.

    flower crown leaves

    To frame the flowers, I made two leaves. Once I finished all of the components, it was time to put it together.

    Assembly

    braid 1

    I started by making the band. Holding the ends together with stitch markers (you could also use safety pins), I braided the three cords.

    This provides a nice, stable base for the flowers and helps them stand up on your head.

    Keeping the braided ends tight, I formed the piece into a circle, making sure not to twist it.

    I then lined up the ends and tied the yarn tails together to hold them in place.

     

    Using those yarn tails, I sewed the ends of the braid together to form the circle, pulling the end into the cord to finish it.

    This leaves you with a neat seam that holds firm.

    Next, I laid out the flowers to decide what order I wanted them to go in. I sewed them on working from the center flower outward, to maintain symmetry.

    I first secured the flower to the band by tying the ends in a tight knot, then using them to sew the base of the flower down. Make sure you work the entire circumference of the flower base so that it stands up evenly and doesn't tip to one side.

    Repeat this with the remaining flowers, sitting them close together, both for the appearance and to help support each piece.

    I then affixed the leaves to the outermost flowers. I sewed the stem tightly into the band, then whip stitched the leaf to the outside of the flower. Without doing this, the leaves may fall outward and lay flat instead of framing the roses. If you prefer the look of them laying down, you can skip securing them and just sew down the stem.

    Now your flower crown is done! Try it on and bask in how cute and unique you look. If you want, wrap fairy lights around the crown for an added touch of whimsy.

     

    Variations

    The whole point of making a flower crown is to have it be your own individual creation. So you don't have to follow exactly what I did!

    Try different flowers. There are several options in our Stitch Finder. You can make all different one, do all the same flower, combine knit and crochet, or whatever you want.

    Play with color. I chose green for the leaves and band, but you don't have to! A neutral color could look lovely, or you could go wild and use something loud. Change up the flowers so that they are all one color, or alternate between two. I opted for mainly brights, but DIYarn comes in several pastel shades as well.

    Make them sparkle! I added the lights after the fact for extra fun, but you could also use a glittery yarn. Vanna's Glamour®, Glitterspun®, and certain packs of Bonbons® contain metallic, so go wild. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust your needle size since those yarns are different weights than DIYarn. If you have experience knitting with beads, you may want to work them in as well. You could also add baby's breath in around flowers or tie ribbons to the band.

    Have you ever made your own festival wear? What did you make?

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