We love Lion Brand not only because they offer so many great weights, textures, and colors of yarn, but also because all of their patterns are available as free PDF downloads! We confess that we've made more than a few pieces using both their patterns and yarn and wanted to take a minute to learn a bit more about one of the most established knitting companies in the United States.
How and when was Lion Brand founded?
Lion Brand was founded in 1878 in New York City, and is a family owned and operated company. Lion Brand had warehouses on Canal Street, then Broadway, then 23rd Street. Now, our design center and retail store are on 15th Street, with our corporate offices and warehouses in NJ. There are four members of the 4th generation of the Blumenthal family currently running the business, and a member of the fifth generation is involved in the business as well. From the beginning, it has always been Lion Brand’s goal to serve quality products, at affordable prices – a philosophy that we still adhere to today.
How has knitting evolved since your brand has been founded?
When Lion Brand was founded, knitting was more of a needed skill – as you needed to make more of your own clothes, but now – knitting has become more of a hobby, and people are getting a lot more enjoyment out of their yarncrafting. As we like to say, “knitting is the new yoga”; people like to turn to it as a way to relax and de-stress.
How has fashion and the internet affected the knitting community and your brand?
Fashion trends definitely affect the knitting community. Knitters have the ability to recreate some of the knitwear designs and trends they see on the runway, or incorporate some of the runway elements into their own projects. For instance, last winter the faux fur trend was very popular for accessories and trims – so we incorporated this trend into some of our patterns using our Luxe Fur and Fun Fur yarns. Fashion also affects the community because knitters tend to see trendy items in the store and want to make it for themselves instead of buying the finished item. It’s also helpful that making an item can be more affordable than buying a designer item in stores. Many knit and crochet projects we see on the Internet have been inspired by designers such as Prada, Missoni and Alexander Wang.
Why do you think knitting is so popular again?
I think knitting is popular again because of the increasing interest in creating handmade goods, which coincides with the current DIY revolution. People seem to be more interested in making things themselves, and there’s a great satisfaction and sense of pride that comes along with that. Thanks to the internet, there are also a lot of video and picture tutorials to help people learn new skills; there are also plenty of forum boards where people can ask others questions in regards to learning new techniques, needing help with patterns and so on. Lion Brand is actually on YouTube with plenty of tutorial videos, and videos that introduce you to our different yarns so you understand their properties and see how they look worked up.
What about your yarns make them special?
We have a very special group of popular yarns that are made in America, so that’s really important to us. One of our yarns, Homespun, is actually produced from a mill in New Hampshire that was built in 1864. We also pride ourselves on the fact that we provide great quality yarns at affordable prices. We have a great line of natural, luxurious fibers in our LB Collection, which is only available on our website – LionBrand.com, our Lion Brand Yarn Studio retail store, the catalog, and our outlet in New Jersey. Another great thing about our yarns is the connection to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that we have with our Vanna’s Choice collection. Portions of sales from this yarn are donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and we’re very close to $1million in donations – we currently have donated a little over $978,000.
Any tips for beginners? What tools should they have when getting started, do you recommend anything specific?
We always advise that beginners start off with larger size hooks and needles, and thick, straight line yarns. It’s best to stay away from yarns with a lot of texture, so stick to a traditional straight yarn. We also suggest working with a light shade, which makes it easier for the beginner to see their stitches; and medium to bulky yarns are easier to navigate. It’s also easier for beginners to work with wool & acrylic yarns, since these have more elasticity than other fibers like cotton; since many beginners tend to knit tightly, these springy fibers will be easier on your hands.
Our favorite recommendation for beginners is Vanna’s Choice because it is an acrylic worsted weight yarn that’s easy to handle, and it comes in a variety of shades. Best options would be either the Linen or Beige shades.