Author Archive

Shaping Your Knits with Increases and Decreases

Friday, May 22nd, 2015
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When I taught my oldest son to knit, he got the basic knit and purl stitches down and one day we sat together, knitting (believe me, this happened maybe twice) and he saw me do a series of decreases to make a raglan sleeve. Just like that, he was fascinated, and spent the next six months increasing and decreasing a ratty piece of knitting that he kept in my knitting bag.

I can understand his amazement at how simply increasing or decreasing stitches can make a round shape out of a square swatch. I can never remember, however, which increases slant right or left, which decreases should be done in the center of a row, as opposed to a few stitches from the edge, and what to do when faced with the pattern instruction, “PFB twice in one stitch, turn, k2 bobble stitches, turn, and work p2tog, p2tog tbl, pass decrease.” WHAT?

Increase Decrease - available now at yarn.com

The guidebook for the 21st-century knitter is the newest book from Storey Publishing, Increase Decrease: 99 Step-by-Step Methods by Judith Durant. Judith has edited all the “One-Skein Wonders” books made so popular by Storey, so I know she’s a fount of knitting knowledge. Increase Decrease has the best possible construction for a craft book: a spiral binding so that the book lays flat while you try out all those irresistible new ways of shaping your knits. Judith gives readers the topology of the increase or decrease, and at the same time, she lets you know what it’s best use is. Single increases and decreases work well for knit/purl stitch patterns, while Yarnover Multiple Increases tend to be best used in a lacy garment as they show up as openwork. Twist-and-Hide Decreases are great for garments with a twisted-stitch pattern where you want to hide the decrease. Some increases and decreases show up on both the knit and purl sides, some are completely hidden, and many of the double increases and decreases can be used for knitting that is shaped on two sides at once.

Increase Decrease by Judith Durant - available now at yarn.com

Increase Decrease also gives you “something special” extra-credit reading, with Increases and Decreases for Decorative Effect, such as bobbles, ruching, closed-ring cables, or lace. There are even increases and decreases for colorwork! Like all those great craft books from Storey, there is a list of common abbreviations, and symbols that you’ll see in charted knitting, as well as a very thorough index.

Much like it’s sister book, Cast On Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor, I’m pretty sure I’ll be carrying this book in my knitting bag for any project I’ll start.

Jo Sharp Is Back!

Friday, May 8th, 2015
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The first time I worked at WEBS (this is the third time I’ve worked at WEBS, just for the sake of context), I got to work with Jo Sharp to arrange a visit to the store. She did a talk about her designs and explained how those beautiful yarns got to be so beautiful.

And then, her yarns weren’t here.

Jo Sharp yarns and pattern PDFs available at yarn.com

And now, they’re back! And we’ve got them. It really was like meeting up with an old friend as I perused the neat balls in their side-by-side glass cubes in the place of honor in the store. Hello, Silkroad Aran Tweed–remember the fun we had when we made that hat and scarf for my kid? Why, howdy, DK Cotton.  Don’t take it personally, but I’m still passing you by. I love your squishy softness, but cotton is not my thing.  And…RRRROWWWRRR, Alpaca Kid Lustre. You are inspiring me in a major way. There is much I want to knit you up in.

Luckily, Jo and her team have sent tons of patterns for these classics. The Keyhole Vest in Alpaca Kid Lustre is going right onto my needles. The Tweed Cardigan is next. When I send my oldest off to the coldest college in the universe, I’d like him to have The Bistro Sweater packed into his suitcase to remind him that you can, too, knit love.

What would inspire you to revisit a much-loved yarn?

Craft and Social Media, Part II

Friday, April 24th, 2015
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Crafting and social media go hand-in-hand. In my last post, I explored the tip of the social media iceberg with Ravelry and Facebook, the two most-watched avenues. Today, let’s wander through a few others that are tailor-made for looking at yarn and it’s by-products.

Follow WEBS Yarn Store on Pinterest - read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Pinterest is my favorite thing of all time. Absolutely the best way to lose an hour or two, so I have to ration my time on it carefully. WEBS’ Pinterest page is filled to the brim with all kinds of boards…crochet, UFO’s, knitting inspiration, tips and techniques, just to name a few. And because our E-Commerce Manager, Dena, is in charge of the content, and I know that she loves movies as much as I do, I noticed a “Yarnspotting in the Movies” board, where you can find some fun shots of movie stars knitting. If you follow a board’s link, you can often go down another rabbit hole of fiber fun, like playing fiber-hopscotch.

Follow @websyarn on Twitter - read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Twitter is a little less visual, but more up-to-the-minute, and the WEBS Twitter feed is filled with quick tweets from designers, our store staff, fiber bloggers, and even some news sources that have nothing to do with yarn! We always put Steve’s Deal of the Day on Twitter and we usually announce some surprise sales and giveaways there as well. It’s worth a look every day to see if you’re missing any bargains, or just a fun shout-out from The Yarn Harlot.

Follow @websyarn on Instagram - read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Instagram is a newcomer, and a fast-growing source of luxurious fiber porn. We post lots of store pictures, so you can see the goings-on of our store staff, and our customers. Take a peek at our warehouse in real time–you’ll see yarn going in and yarn coming out! We’ll often post some “slice-of-life” photos as well, like Assistant Store Manager Bonnie’s dog Fiona, a fixture in our store for a few months while she healed from a broken leg. Check out Fiona shopping! We’ll always post some fun stuff from our store events and trunk shows so it feels like you’re a local customer, even if you live in another time zone.

Have any of you dipped a toe into these sites? What are your favorite follow-ees? Let us know!

Craft and Social Media

Friday, April 10th, 2015
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Finding WEBS on the web - social media links and online community on the WEBS Blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

I’ve realized lately that every time I check my social media sites, the first thing I do is see what WEBS is doing there. There is a rich treasure trove of websites that are devoted to putting people in touch with other people, and you can find someone, for instance, who is a left-handed crocheter who only does stuffed animals in the blink of an eye. Knitting is a pretty social craft, as is crochet; less so, unfortunately, are weaving and spinning. Weavers and spinners, I know you are lovely and sociable, but there aren’t many sightings of folks dragging an 8-harness loom to the local Starbucks for Craft Night. In that way, sometimes it’s easier for knitters and crocheters who don’t know each other to get to know each other. I thought I’d walk you through our social media sites so that you can check out what we post, and who talks to whom through our newsfeed. In this post, I’ll spotlight Ravelry and Facebook, and in some subsequent posts, I’ll walk you through some of our other social media platforms.

Finding WEBS on the web - social media links and online community on the WEBS Blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

No mention of fiber social media is complete without Ravelry. This is the first place I look each day. I check our “All Things WEBS” group to see how the knitters and crocheters doing our Mystery Knit-A-Long and Mystery Crochet-A-Long are doing, what new yarns or needles have been added to our Anniversary Sale, or any information about store events that I might have missed. You can also search for Valley Yarns patterns, or see if anyone is knitting the same design you are, and if they made any modifications to the pattern. You can see how many folks are using Valley Yarns for different projects. And, best of all (to me), you can search for a group that might be tailored to your own particular interest. Once again, left-handed crocheters, I just searched and found not one, but TWO groups devoted to left-handed crocheters, both with large memberships. It’s a wonderful time-suck, and in my position as Education Manager, I’ve tracked down guest teachers, connected with students who’ve requested interesting class ideas, found some great designs to have our instructors use as teaching ideas, and lots more.

Finding WEBS on the web - social media links and online community on the WEBS Blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

Facebook is a great place to find information but it’s also a fun place to find interesting blog posts from other designers and yarn companies, see some deals before they make it onto the website, and hear from our customers around the world. Dena, who manages our social media presence on all sites, manages to find the most beautiful images our in-house photo and video team has produced to complement each post. I love to read the comments folks post about what we share on Facebook; I’ve learned about locally-sourced, allergy-free yarn as well as some variations on Tunisian Simple Crochet stitch from various customers who chime in with their knowledge from time to time.

What groups do you like on Ravelry? Do you follow any designers or yarn companies on Facebook? Let us know!

The Blog Post About Yarn Weights

Friday, March 27th, 2015
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I get so many questions about yarn weights. “What is worsted?” “Is fingering the same as sock yarn?” “What do you use super-bulky yarn for?” All great questions, and usually there is a well-defined answer to each one. Let’s explore the wonderful world of gauge together, shall we?

The Craft Yarn Council has a “Yarn Standards” chart on their website and it’s extremely helpful. They note that they’ve added a new “Jumbo” category on this chart, and while it’s interesting to note that many yarn companies are producing that kind of yarn, it’s not likely that you’ll knit all your projects in a Jumbo yarn.

Understanding yarn weights on the WEBS Blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

Going from large to small, Bulky or Super Bulky yarns get a gauge of 3.5-2.5 stitches to the inch. Our Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky is an example of a bulky yarn, and it’s also a single-ply yarn, meaning it’s not twisted or chained in its construction. This gives it loft and lightness. It’s great for bigger projects like a warm jacket, a winter throw, or felted slippers.

Worsted-weight yarn will knit at a gauge of 4-5 stitches to the inch. This, to me, is a workhorse yarn, in the best possible way. You’ll see many patterns written for a worsted gauge, because almost anything can be made in it! Valley Yarns Colrain is a beautiful example of a worsted weight yarn, getting about 4.5 stitches to the inch on a size 7 needle for most folks.

A side note here: needle size is usually listed on yarn ball bands, as in “4.5 stitches to the inch on a size 7 needle” but what should be included on EVERY ball band after that sentence is “or size to obtain gauge.” I knit very loosely (go figure, I’m the most tightly-wound person out there), so I need to go down in needle size to get the intended gauge. Some folks are tight knitters and need to go up a size or two to get fewer stitches to the inch. That’s how gauge works, my friends.

DK stands for “Double Knitting” and it’s a bit of a puzzle to some knitters. They aren’t sure whether it’s bigger or smaller than worsted weight. The “double knitting” comes from an old yarn standard of plied yarn, where most worsted weight was about 4 plies and smaller weights were 8-plied, or doubled. This is a finer gauge, of about 5.25 to 6 stitches to the inch on a size 5-6 needle. Our Valley Yarns Longmeadow is a great example of a DK yarn.

Sport weight is slightly lighter in weight than DK yarn. Typically, a sport-weight yarn will knit at a gauge of 6-6.75 stitches to the inch on a size 4-5 needle. Sometimes, sport weight will also be called “baby yarn” because it’s so often used to knit small garments for small people. Fresco, a yarn distributed by Classic Elite, is one of my favorite sport-weight yarns, because its 3-ply construction makes for soft and light garments, and the stitch definition is wonderful.

Understanding yarn weights on the WEBS Blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

Fingering weight yarn is often called “sock yarn” but not all fingering yarn is suitable for socks. Got that? For instance, Valley Yarns Huntington is great for socks because it’s washable and has some nylon in it for durability, and it knits at a gauge of 7-8 stitches to the inch on a size 2 or 3 needle. That is technically the definition of a sock yarn. However, another example of fingering weight yarn is our KangarooDyer Hand-Dyed Charlemont, which gets the same number of stitches to the inch on the same needle sizes. The difference is that Charlemont is made from merino and silk, with a little polyamide in it. Nobody wants silk socks, believe me. Silk doesn’t stretch. Your socks will fall into your shoes just like when you were in kindergarten and then you’ll be miserable. But fingering-weight yarn is delightful to knit with and the projects you can use it for are numerous!

The lightest yarn category for knitters is lace-weight. This is cobweb-like yarn, with ridiculous gauge numbers. You could get up to 40 stitches to the inch on size 0000-1 needles. However, most knitters will use larger needles with lace-weight yarn to make open, airy patterned shawls or scarves. I’m a little too impatient to knit with lace-weight yarn, and frankly, it demands a lot of attention and chart-reading (you know me and charts) that I’m not prepared to call “fun.” We sell a beautiful coned lace-weight yarn blend of alpaca and silk, Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk, and of course, our very talented Gail Callahan (Kangaroodyer) has dyed some skeins of it to make it even more gorgeous.

 

My Favorite Child

Friday, March 13th, 2015
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I’m not one of those people who can’t choose a favorite yarn. I know that many will say that it’s like being asked to pick which of their children they like the best. But my children know who I like the best, and it’s a yarn child: Shibui. Almost any Shibui. And we just got some new children Shibui in the store that I’m already playing around with to figure out the perfect pattern pairing.

Shibui Linen available at yarn.com

Shibui Linen is an anomaly for me, because I normally don’t like plant fibers. They can be a little too unyielding for me, and a bit hard on the hands holding the needles. However, Shibui Linen is softer and silkier than most linens, with a chainette construction that gives it some…well, give. I love the Apple color and would absolutely make myself a cap-sleeve tee or loose vest for summer concerts in the park.

Shibui Twig available at yarn.com

Shibui Twig is Linen’s next-door neighbor, or cousin, or step-sister. It’s a more matte version of Linen, with a mix of linen, recycled silk, and wool in a slubby, tweedy amalgam that would stick to most wooden needles. It’s a true DK weight, getting 5.5 stitches to 1″ on a US size 4/3.5mm needle. What would I make from this yarn? It has so much personality in the skein that I’d want to let that shine. Maybe a drapy open cardi? Or a simple summer shawl for when our air-conditioning gets a little too aggressive.

Shibui has some beautiful pattern support for these two newbies. I really like the Japanese aesthetic in their design; it speaks to my love for clean, uncluttered simplicity. Take a look and see what inspires you!

We Could Use Some Color!

Friday, February 27th, 2015
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Not to belabor the point, but we’ve had more snow in the last month than we had all last winter. As much as I like winter, I’m now throwing up my hands and admitting defeat. This week, I thought I’d spotlight some fun yarns in vibrant, warm colors to get us all thinking about spring. Even though some of my picks are built for cold-weather projects, it will still lighten my thoughts to see these intense shades on the needles.

 Amy talks about yarns in vibrant, warm colors to get us all thinking about spring on the WEBS blog - read more at blog.yarn.com
Debbie Bliss Paloma is a bulky-weight yarn but the slightly tubular chainette construction makes it feel super-light. And the rich dark pink that caught my eye would make a great-looking tam to take you from freezing outdoors to cozy inside. Cascade Avalon Multi in a sweet pastel palette would be perfect for a pullover vest or shrug to layer over a long-sleeve tee. And who doesn’t love Madeline Tosh? Tosh DK in Fluoro Rose makes a bold statement, so just a little will go a long way. Maybe a loose cowl or some fingerless mitts? It’s never too early to plan your garden, and to help with that, take a peek at Schachenmayr Tahiti in a variegated green/yellow/teal color combo. It can’t help but bring lacy flowering shrubs and lilac bushes to mind.
Are you thinking of spring? What would be your dream color or project?

The Warp and Weft of Generations

Monday, February 16th, 2015
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Store Sales Associate Marthe Young’s daughter Lilah is getting married in May, and Marthe’s wedding weaving preparations are not only heroic, but poignant as well. She is weaving together three generations of handmade cloth to give her daughter a beautiful wedding gift of her talent and her love.

Marthe is know to our customers as a knowledgeable instructor for many of our rigid heddle loom classes as well as a knitter, crocheter, and expert seamstress. Her weaving education began right here at WEBS, more than 30 years ago. In 1979, the then-single Marthe took a weaving class with Barbara Elkins when WEBS was in its infancy. She loved it and bought herself a Harrisville design loom that she put together from a kit. On that loom, she wove her own wedding ensemble with yarns and fiber obtained from WEBS, using the same warp for her cocoon jacket, dress, and belt.

WEBS retail associate Marthe and her mother on their wedding days with the fabric Marthe wove for her own dress - read more at blog.yarn.com

A 25″ Schacht Rigid Heddle Flip Loom is what Marthe used to weave her daughter’s wedding shawl. You can see the photo of this airy, delicate shawl, but what you can’t see from a picture is the intricate patterning of the tone-on-tone fibers, the tiny sequins, and the gossamer weight of this heirloom. When Barbara found out about Lilah’s engagement, she gave Marthe a cone of pearls on thread (which Marthe calls “Barbara’s Pearls of Wisdom”). Marthe plied those with her own home-spun BFL — because of course, Marthe is a spinner, as well! She used a combination of rayon chenille, silk, merino, and , because the wedding will take place on an alpaca farm, some baby alpaca as well. At the edge of the shawl woven next to the pearls is the yarn used in Marthe’s own wedding dress. Once woven, it became apparent that the shawl wasn’t quite long enough — Lilah is a tall drink of water! — so Marthe knew she’d need a border, and when looking for something to use for that border, she came across some scraps from her mother’s hand-sewn wedding dress from 1948. Obviously it was perfect, and that became the end-borders of this lovely shawl.

The wedding shawl Marthe has woven for her daughter Lilah using miltiple fibers including yarn from her own wedding dress and satin from her mother's - read more at blog.yarn.com

Marthe’s current loom, a collector’s-item cherry Norwood, is what she’s using to weave shawls for each of the bridesmaids. You can see the template she’s using, with the charcoal-colored warp of Colrain Lace, Plymouth Gold Rush, Cascade 220, a mystery rayon closeout yarn, and Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo. The weft is 5/2 bamboo as well, and the deep color will set off the accents of mint green that the groomsmen will be wearing in their bow ties and sneakers (!), as well as the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Shawls woven for Marthe's daughter's wedding party - read more at blog.yarn.com

On her wedding day, Lilah will be wearing elements of both her mother’s and her grandmother’s history. Those legacies are woven together in each generation like the warp and weft on a loom. Like living history, all of these garments tell a story about their owner, and they give us a springboard to the future.

From Folly Cove

Friday, February 13th, 2015
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I’ve been paging through our latest catalog featuring some of our new Spring yarns and designs. It seems like it’s been snowing a lot lately, and as much as I like hiking and snowshoeing, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll put on the needles in the warmer months.

From Folly Cove collection by Julia Farwell Clay from Classic Elite Yarns - Available at yarn.com

I was struck by Classic Elite Yarns’ new pattern collection, “From Folly Cove.” It features designs by Julia Farwell-Clay, who has a design sense that skews right up my alley. What I love about these patterns, and the theme of the collection, is that she takes her inspiration from the works of the Folly Cove Designers, a group of women who hand-printed textiles in Gloucester, MA, from the 1930’s until the late 1960’s, when author and founder Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios (The Little House, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel) died. My husband’s family has been going to Gloucester ever since he was a pre-teen, and he and I take our kids to there every summer. We love the beautiful beaches and towns, and the history of Cape Ann. We always ride our bikes down to the harbor to see the Gloucester Fisherman Memorial and we try to time our summer visits so that we can be in town for the annual Festival of St. Peter.

The designs in “From Folly Cove” take elements from the original textile print blocks created by those innovative women of Cape Ann. The Iarrobino Vest is a vest pattern using a butterfly tesselation motif as inspiration, and the matching cowl (you know my love for cowls) focuses on a single motif turned over and upside-down. The Cape Ann Stole calls to mind the repeating patterns of the sand dunes at Good Harbor Beach, and is a perfect shoulder-warmer for the nights when the breezes over the Atlantic Ocean turn chilly.

I hope you’ll thumb through “From Folly Cove” and when you’re finished picking out the many patterns you’ll be making, take a hop over to the Cape Ann Museum‘s web site to read about the original designers and their groundbreaking work.

Road to China Lace

Friday, January 30th, 2015
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Road to China Lace from The Fibre Company available at yarn.com
I will often have a chat with Stephanie, our Store Manager, and paw through her desk to see what’s new. Sometimes I’m not bowled over, but this afternoon when I stopped by to say howdy (well, actually, I stopped by because she keeps an excellent cookie stash), she just held up a gorgeous skein in a warm topaz color of the most delicate laceweight yarn I’ve seen in a long time. This beautiful new friend is The Fibre Co’s newest, Road To China Lace, and it comes in 14 smoky jewel tones. I took at look and thought that Peridot would be my go-to, but it was a hard choice. The combo of baby alpaca, silk, camel, and cashmere wound into a drapey 2-ply laceweight version of one of my favorite yarns to paw, Road To China Light, would make delicate and warm hats, shawls, scarves, cowls, or sheer sweaters to layer over a long-sleeve tee. I might use it for this cowl I’ve been thinking about making for my yoga buddy. It would be perfect to throw on under a jacket on the way to class.
How do you treat yourself with yarn? What’s your favorite luxury fiber?