Author Archive

Every Place I Look, Delights Abound

Friday, August 1st, 2014
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It seems like every time I leave my desk to walk through the store, a new,  delicious yarn announces itself to me, and because I’m an enabler with a giant stash, I want to share this love with you, dear reader. I hope that you’ll love these yarns as well, and knit the things I want to knit but never have time for. In this post, I will share not one but two new Fall yarns, designed to make your heart beat a little faster.

Swan’s Island is a real place in Maine, although Swan’s Island Yarns isn’t located there anymore. The rockbound coast of Maine...The fact that it is in Maine it integral to the spirit of these yarns, however, and that’s what counts. I’ve adored both the fingering and worsted weight Swan’s Island yarns, and now there’s a new one to love: Swan’s Island DK. The most beautiful, rich colorways, and also — SUPERWASH. How A colorful fall cornucopiagreat is that? The gauge is a very useful 5 1/4 sts to 1″ on a US size 6 needle (or size you’ll need to get that gauge–I’m a notoriously loose knitter and often have to go down a size or two). But what I like even more is the ethos of the owner’s of Swan’s Island Yarns to hand-make all their products with local and organic materials and to keep as much of their business based in the US as possible. You’ll love making a baby sweater for a cherished child or a comfy fall cardi for yourself in any of the rich hues of this yarn.

Classic Elite natural woolMy other favorite yarn (this week) is Classic Elite’s Mohawk Wool. Made in a beautifully halo’d 60% merino, 30% Romney wool, 10% nylon, this undyed natural fiber is just begging to be knit into a luxuriously cabled Aran sweater, or lovingly crafted into a throw or blanket for snuggling under when November rain turns into December snow. Classic Elite’s pattern support is legendary and you’ll find plenty to make out of this workhorse yarn, also in a DK/Sport weight. I love this textured hat, which would be a fairly quick project with a lot of bang for your knitting buck.Texture...and buttons!

Enjoy!

Camp That Doesn’t Involve Mosquitoes, Tents, or a Lake…

Friday, July 18th, 2014
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I did not go to summer camp when I was a kid. I lived on a farm and worked every summer. When I moved to New York and went to college, I was amazed at the fact that parents let their kids go away every summer to swim, kayak, make friendship bracelets, and most of all, not have to coax 100 chickens into a pen twice a day, every day.

Here at WEBS, we have summer camp, and it’s the best kind of summer camp: Fiber Camp. Run by teacher extraordinaire Lindsey Lindequist, these kiddos start every day with a knitting project, and move on to wet felting, fiber dyeing, drop spindle, and (it wouldn’t be camp without them) friendship bracelets. We had a lot of kids who signed up this summer and we’re in Week Two of Fiber Camp. Some of these ladies are very serious about their fiber love!Our first week of Fiber Camp!

You could certainly do your own fiber camp, and you don’t even have to invite anyone if you don’t want to. Try some wet felting–all you’ll need is some roving, a dish or pie plate, some dish soap, and water. Combine some colors that you find pleasing, drop them in the water in your dish, add dish soap to make the fibers adhere and mesh with each other and just mash away until you see a roving, water, and dish soap creates felt...design emerge that you like.

You could do some fabric dyeing or yarn dyeing, as well. Just use food coloring and some vinegar, soak your skein or fabric, microwave it for a few minutes, and then hang it up to dry. Instant color!Annabelle Wood creates dyed silk fabric

What camp do you think you’ll want to do this summer? Reading a good book camp? Knitting or crocheting a summer tee camp? Or maybe you could try my favorite camp, naptime camp. Enjoy!

Finally, Valley Superwash Bulky!

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
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I’d been hearing some murmurings about a new kid in town around the office, but when I saw our newest Bright and vibrant, Superwash Bulky is a superhero!Valley Superwash star, I saw the rumors were true. Valley Superwash Bulky is a delightful soft, squishy yarn at a big enough gauge that projects will knit up in record time. On US size 10 or 10.5 needles, it gets 3.5 stitches to the inch, and that means a cowl in a weekend, a sweater in a few weeks, and a soft, washable baby blanket finished by the end of your summer vacation at the beach.fast and adorable superwash bulky cremini baby sweater The springy feel of this yarn makes it eminently touchable, and the sweaters you make will be warm and light without the bulk of an alpaca or mohair fiber. Give it a try for that colorblock hat you’ve been wanting to make for your favorite sports team, or a quick sweater for your son or daughter that can be washed and worn for years. This adorable Cremini Baby Sweater is a Valley Pattern that we introduced in our latest catalog, and you can probably make it in a weekend. Happy knitting!

What’s the “Coolest” Fiber Choice?

Friday, July 4th, 2014
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Here in Massachusetts, summer has really hit us. Today is forecast to be at least 90 degrees with high humidity and that’s just the kind of weather I really hate. It’s the kind of weather that makes me not even want to knit, especially the project I have on my needles right now, which is an alpaca cardigan for my mother. God bless you, mom, but I can’t look at it.

This weather makes me wonder if weaving is the way to go. A lot of the woven fabric I like the best is in cotton or linen, which are two fibers I really don’t like to knit. However, woven, they look complex, rich, and most of all, light and cool.linen towels by Scott Norris Take for example, Scott Norris’ linen towels, which are works of art that will provide years of service in your kitchen or bathroom — if you can bear to use them for something so pedestrian as drying your hands or your dishes.

Carol Birtwistle has also done some beautiful work with cotton and cotton blends, and she is a true master of twills. These towels are perfect for summer, since they never feel heavy or sticky.cool cotton twill

In a few weeks, Convergence comes to Providence, RI. This national conference is only held every other year, and usually not as close to “home” as Rhode Island is to us. There are going to be some amazing handwovens there, and it really inspires me to finally get serious about learning to weave.

What is your hot-weather solution to the fiber doldrums? Do you like to knit with plant fibers, or do you take a break? Let’s chat in the comments!

Sweater Cum Laude

Monday, June 23rd, 2014
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On Wednesday, June 18, 7 students received their WEBS Expert Knitter Certificates, signifying that they completed not only the 18 required classes for the program, but had climbed the highest mountain of all: designing and knitting their Capstone sweater. The evening was a celebration not only of their knitting talent and perseverance, but of their creativity and passion for design and fiber. I’d like to let the pictures do the talking, because the garments are absolutely exquisite and should be seen by as many eyes as possible.

Ocean-y color and delicate laceKristie Nathanson was actually a 2013 graduate, but life got in the way, like it does, and she completed her sweater after last year’s Capstone Ceremony. We wanted to recognize her and showcase her lacy confection, knit in Valley Yarns Charlemont.Linda invented her own cable stitch for this lacy cabled sweater!

Linda Mason did an intricately textured Empire-waist cardigan, and not only had at least three different cable patterns, but invented a stitch never before seen–by putting lace INSIDE a cable. Amazing! She used Valley Yarns Northampton, in a classic Aran natural.

 

Pat's bright-blue cablesPat Wheeler did a vivid blue cabled cardigan with eye-catching silver buttons in Cascade 220. Pat had the biggest binder of swatches ever seen, and she used a technique not often employed outside of the classroom–the double-pick-up around her neckband. It creates an invisible edge and is finishing at it’s finest.

Barbara Meunier also used cables and showcased her moss-green knitted sweater in Louet Gems Sport yarn with wooden buttons to create a natural-looking garment that was both simple and intricate. Barbara was the calmest by far of all our Capstone contenders, and it shows in her knitting.Ping, Barbara's mentor, describes her design.

Laurie Scutt-Drohan started her Capstone process more than a year ahead of her actual knitting! When I first gathered the contenders in October of 2013, she already had a big binder of swatches in various yarns she was contemplating for her final project. She eventually decided to use Valley Yarns Charlemont in a deep teal, which complents her fair skin and dark hair beautifully. Laurie is the perfect example of someone knitting their stress away, as several events conspired to make her Capstone year a Laurie looks great in her teal-blue fingering weight cardi.stressful one. But I think you’ll agree that she used her gift to great advantage in this beautifully-fitting sweater.

Liz Crouch was the only other Capstone graduate to use lace. Her original idea was to make a twin set in a plant fiber, but when push came to shove, she felt a fiber blend was the right choice, and ended up using Classic Elite’s Soft Linen, a linen/wool blend, in a flattering lavander shade. It suits her, as you can see, and her lace panels are perfectly balanced and her garment fits her to a T.Lavander lace and beautiful shaping

Jeanne Crosby had a deceptively simple sweater until you saw it up close…and noticed the crocheted panel and neckpiece of skulls in deep black Valley Yarns Northfield. Northfield is soft and drapy and the combination of the smooth fabric and the bold skull pattern really made her sweater outstanding. It completely suits her personality and she loves it!Look closely for those crocheted skulls.

We had another student who was halfway through with her sweater and in the process of finishing up her final classes when another life event took her attention:  Sarah Johnston had baby Nina Belle in March, and as she told me, she couldn’t put Nina Belle down to pick up her needles once that beautiful little girl made her arrival! So I’m sure that at some point in the next year or so, Sarah will send me a mysterious package that will turn out to be her Capstone sweater and we’ll celebrate her at that time.

Sarah Johnston's personal Capstone: Baby Nina Belle!

I hope this inspires you blog-readers to create some magic of your own! All these knitters started with Knitting II; and you can see how dedicated they are to their fiber art! Maybe we’ll institute a Graduate Program here at WEBS. What would that include? Let me know your thoughts!

An Hors’ d’Ouvre Before the Main Course

Friday, June 20th, 2014
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I will be doing a ginormous, photo-filled blog post in a few days about our WEBS Expert Knitter Certification Program Capstone Ceremony (and you will be so inspired that you will sign up and start taking some classes!) but since the Ceremony isn’t happening for a few hours, I’d like to share one of our new Fall yarns with you, a little ahead of schedule.A heathery pile of softnessJaggerspun Heather is a new yarn, and a cousin to our store staple, Jaggerspun Zephyr. While Zephyr is a laceweight blend of merino and silk, Heather is a sturdier fingering weight, and is 100% wool. It’s absolutely beautiful, in lots of vibrant heathered shades and with almost 500 yards for $11.00, it practically begs you to buy it. It would make a light but warm shawl for any season , but I will also plan to use it for hats, mittens, fingerless gloves, or any weaving project. Once washed, it becomes even softer and loftier.

I would use any shade of this lovely fiber to make Knitting School Dropout’s September Circle Cowl. It’s a seamless loop scarf that combines a fingering weight yarn and larger needles for a perfect fall accessory. Wear it doubled around your neck for extra warmth. As written, this pattern uses approximately 420 yards, so one skein will do it!Imagine this in Amethyst...

What are you thinking about making this summer for Fall?

 

Linen Gets a New Look

Friday, June 6th, 2014
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…and by a “new look,” I don’t mean that it looks different. It means that I am looking at linen in a new light. I usually don’t like knitting with plant-fiber yarns; they seem too slippery, too inflexible, and in the case of linen, too hard and crunchy-feeling to make pleasing garments. However, recently I saw a sweater one of our WEBS Expert Knitter Certification Capstone candidates knit in Classic Elite’s Soft Linen (35% wool, 35% linen, 30% baby alpaca), and it really changed my mind. Rather than being a wrinkled, stiff armor-like Bright summery soft linen and wool create perfect lightweight garments.tunic, this sweater was soft and drapey, but with enough body to show off the shaping and stitch definition. The lace pattern around the sleeves and body was open and light, with enough personality to show the eyelets to great advantage.

Doodlebug, a light and practical summer sweater.
Classic Elite’s pattern support
for their yarns is legendary, and I found the perfect sweater to show off this lightweight yarn: Doodlebug, a sleeveless shell with a delicate chevron/eyelet pattern and a wide ribbed hem to put on top of skirts or summery capris.

 

What yarn changed your mind this year?

Color Me Amazed

Friday, May 23rd, 2014
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A lot of knitters like to use hand-dyed yarns like Madelinetosh, Lorna’s Laces, or Prism. A fair number of those knitters are disappointed when they experience color pooling, or when they don’t like the way one color in the skein works with another one. artful color, mindful knitsMaybe they’ve done a broken rib stitch and noticed that what they had hoped would be specks of dark blue against a rose background turned into big blotches of purple. There are lots of ways to learn how to work with hand-dyed yarns and I’ve found the absolute best resource of all to not only learn to work with those variegated yarns but to actually plan for how those colors show up in your garment. Laura Militzer Bryant, the founder of Prism Yarns, has written a new book entitled Artful Color, Mindful Knits: A Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-Dyed Yarns, and it goes beyond any other book I know to show fiber artists how to craft with color.

As an art-school graduate, Laura became fascinated with hand-dyed yarns when she first saw them at a trade show in the early 1980′s, and learned how to dye yarns as a result. She founded her own hand-dyed yarn company, photo by Amy StephensPrism, and out of the necessity of having to showcase those yarns, she became a knitwear designer. Both of those talents are shown to amazing advantage in Artful Color, Mindful Knits. She can show you how to stack your colors, how to splash your colors, even how to create an argyle pattern with your skein, all by using her Magic Number system that uses the length of a color repeat, the amount of yarn used for a single stitch, and the total number of stitches. Period. When I learned how to anticipate and even plan when a color shows up in your knitting to form a pattern, I wanted to award Laura a Nobel Prize. The designs that accompany the various color schemes are gorgeous. Jackets, hats, scarves, vests, and sweaters, all in vivid colors and patterns that show a master’s touch are readily accessible to any knitter or crocheter.

Artful Color, Mindful Knits includes a thorough color tutorial in the front of the book, which is eye-opening. Laura shows readers in simple language how colors interact with each other and how we perceive them. This helps us plan how to use color and what colors work best in hundreds of different patterns and yarns.  The book also has a wonderful technique section in the back of the book, showing how to do various cast-ons, increases and decreases, and bind-offs, as well as crochet techniques. It’s really a treasure trove of information, one that will be used again and again.ArtfulColor-7

Hey, local blog-readers: Laura will be coming to WEBS on June 7 to sign copies of her new book from 3:30–4:30pm. Come by to see the Prism Yarns trunk show or sign up for her Introduction to Color class. You will be amazed at what you can do!

A Second Look at A First-Rate Bargain

Friday, May 9th, 2014
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I have often gassed on about my love for sport- and dk-weight yarns in this forum–I just love how they look and feel, and I like the kinds of patterns that work best in those weights–small things like cowls, mitts, and baby sweaters and hats. As I was walking through the warehouse this morning, Rowan Colourspun caught my eye, and I had an instant affinity for it. It’s a yarn I’ve looked without a second thought for the last year or so, but for some reason (maybe because it’s part of the May sale and at a very enticing price?) today it said to me, “Sister, you’re about to get lucky.”Photo by Lindsey Topham

The colors are beautiful — that goes without saying. Rowan gets color (colour?) right. And the fiber blend is just right, too. Normally, mohair feels a little scratchy to me, but the wool tempers it a bit, and the polyamide makes it behave, not flop all over the place.

ROWANFREEPMEADOW.zoom.1 I could see making Rowan’s Meadow pattern with the Semer Water colorway, which is a charcoal gray and mauve variegate, bound with a thin ecru strand to make the other colors pop. Any of the Rowan patterns made with Colourspun would be a dream to make and to wear, soft and welcoming.

 

Would you take a chance on a yarn you’d never think of using?

Let the Yarn Be the Star

Friday, April 25th, 2014
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I like to check the “Top 20″ pattern line-up in Ravelry each day. I get ideas for techniques or garments that can be used for some of our classes here at WEBS, and I also like to get inspiration for my own knitting. Recently, I saw a few sweaters that incorporated shawl-like elements into their construction and became momentarily fascinated, but then I remembered that I absolutely hate two things: extraneous fabric, and garments that flap around. That’s why I knit cowls and mittens. No shawls, no scarves (unless they are for someone else) and I favor the pullover sweater. I’d rather let the yarn be the star. I have some favorite yarns that I keep in the back of my mind for garments or accessories, yarns that belie the name “workhorse” because that makes me think of something drab or common, and these are nothing of the sort.

Louet Gems SportLouet Gems Sport is a fantastically elastic and forgiving yarn that I’ve used for baby sweaters for years. I can’t believe it’s a washable wool because it feels way more luxurious than you’d think.

Classic Elite Yarns Color by Kristin There is nothing that Classic Elite Yarns Color by Kristin can’t do. Obviously with Kristin Nicholas’ color sense you’d expect the warm, vibrant palette but what you get in the bargain is softness, loft, and incredible versatility. Cables, colorwork, and felting would be phenomenal.

Valley Yarns Colrain My favorite Valley Yarn is Colrain, hands down. It’s got a beautiful luster, and it sets off my obsessive cabling perfectly. Plus, it’s a worsted-weight yarn, so I can get lots of bang for my knitting buck–it works up really quickly.

What are your go-to yarns?