Author Archive

Embellish That Stuff!

Friday, August 5th, 2016
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I learned a new craft this weekend–well really, I learned about three crafts this weekend: making block prints, printing on fabric, and embellishing the prints with embroidery. What really stuck with me was learning to embroider, and I think that if you can knit or crochet, you can embroider. The stitches are so intriguing, and easy to do. You use yarn, or crewel wool which is basically yarn. And there are NO RULES so you don’t have to worry about breaking any.

Amy's suggestions for adding embroidery to your knits, on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

It’s intoxicating, I tell you. Kristin Nicholas, who led our weekend retreat, is a local treasure and frankly, a national fiber and color cheerleader. She challenged us to experiment with color, and highlight the prints we made by outlining, filling in blank spaces with interesting stitches, and making negative space pop by using color as an accent.

Embroidering on knitted or crocheted projects is for the color-obsessed among us who can’t leave well enough alone. It’s so fun and makes a ho-hum accessory or garment super-special. Check out these adorable mittens designed by Kristin and imagine the possibilities. Or these cuties.  How about jazzing up your phone holder?

The book that got it all started is her Colorful Stitchery. It has all kinds of ideas for using embroidery on fabric, knitted accessories and garments, and tons of how-to instruction.

Experiment with gilding the lily and make your knits colorful and exciting. Tell us in the comments below what you end up with!

Kits = Best Thing Ever

Friday, July 29th, 2016
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Kits seems to be the New Thing. I think that I’ve never seen so many kits in the store as I did on a recent meander through the yarns. I hasten to add that I think kits are a fabulous thing, because you have every single thing you need to knit or crochet (or weave!) a project with no need to make any kind of decision whatsoever, other than what color palette you most enjoy. There are so many different project kits I’m just dying to use that I thought I’d let you in on some of my favorites.

Project and specialty yarn kits available at yarn.com Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

The Fair Isle Box of Itty-Bitties captured my heart. If you’ve ever done Fair Isle knitting you know that you use about a yard of each color and it makes no financial sense to buy 10 different skeins of yarn and use a quarter of each to make a hat. This beautiful box of teensy skeins of sport weight yarn in 8 colors will turn into a beautiful Fair Isle hat in your talented hands. Three different colorways give lots of options.

More options await you in the Wonderland Yarns “Mad Hatter” kits. Included in each kit is a large skein (344 yards) and 5 smaller skeins (86 yards each) for a total of 774 yards of lovely sport weight yarn. That’s plenty to make the “Which Way” shawl that is free with the purchase of one of the 6 color options.

Artyarns has also conspired to seduce fiberlovers with Gradient Kits. These are colors in the same family that range from light to dark, perfect for shawls and scarves in ombre or gradient designs. WEBS carries several different color palettes including 3 that are exclusive to our customers. And Merino Cloud yarns are deeeee-lightful, a merino/cashmere blend that is twisted for beautiful stitch definition.

There are plenty more to drool over–Zen Yarn Gardens Cordoba Shawl kit, using Superfine Fingering yarn in their signature intense colors, Lorna’s Laces String Quintet kits in Shepherd Sock, Baah Yarns “Wings” cowl kit in Baah Yarns’ La Jolla, pattern included in the kit. I think you’ll have a hard time deciding to make just one project. Tell us what kits you love the most in the comments!

Best In Class

Friday, July 15th, 2016
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Every June, I am honored to celebrate another class of graduates from the WEBS Expert Knitter Certification Program. We just had our graduation and 9 new designers have been launched into the knitting universe! Our very swanky ceremony was held at a very nice hotel/conference center nearby for the first time ever–because we’ve outgrown our former celebration venue otherwise known as “the back classroom.” Want to see some eye candy?

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Our graduates this year are, from left to right, Lorraine McGough, Sara Gibbons, Liz Frosch-Dratfield, Andy Tarr, Alexis Price, Lindsey Lindequist, Susan Baron, Donna Smith, and missing from the photo is graduate Cindy Romaniak. Each created a masterpiece of design and construction using the skills learned in the 16 required classes that make up the WEKP, as we call it.

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

This year’s sweaters ran the gamut of texture and construction. Susan Baron made an absolutely perfect coat in Madelinetosh Chunky; the detail was incredible. From the complicated math she used to figure out how to end a cable at the shoulder seam, to the ingenious use of a sport-weight yarn as a facing for the heavier front panel of the jacket, Susan made a garment that any professional designer would be proud to call their own. And, she got the stamp of approval from the designer herself when Amy Hendrix, the co-owner of Madelinetosh, saw Susan’s Capstone at her appearance at WEBS and loved it.

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Alexis Price made a lovely cabled pullover, keeping it traditional in her yarn and color choice, but making it her own with shaping and textural details. You can see the pride she takes in her Aran sweater (as well she should!).

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Cindy Romaniak’s complex paneled design contains a number of elements completely unique to her design sensibility. Her use of several different stitch patterns, unique Empire shaping, directional knitting, and eye-catching colorwork made this garment stand out.

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Sara Gibbons created an exquisite saddle-shoulder lace-and-cable sweater with 3/4 sleeves and knit it in a heathery green that beautifully complements her coloring. Sara was the most independent of our designers, needing only to consult her mentor Kirsten Hipsky for a few final questions about her finishing. Sara’s design was inspired by a sweater of her mother’s and she really nailed the essence of that earlier sweater.

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Lindsey Lindequist achieved the impossible – she finished her Capstone sweater while caring for a 2-year-old and a newborn. My hat is off to her! Her 2-color cable and sweet “Tree of Live” design on her front pockets (pockets! yes!) add standout elements to a reverse-stockinette background. Congrats, Lindsey!

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Lorraine McGough’s “Butterfly Sweater” (as she and I both called it) reflects her sunny personality as well as her perseverance. She knit the front as one piece and then steeked it (in order to preserve the unity of her butterfly eyelet stitch pattern), and knit intarsia butterflies around the shoulders and hem. Her sunny yellow color choice and bright bursts of color were exactly what she planned.

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Donna Smith made a designer’s dream sweater: she used stitch patterning to shape the back design of her cabled rib cardigan. The placement of her buttons emphasized the vintage look of her swing design and the blue color she chose added the perfect final touch.

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Andy Tarr had a tough year but still managed to pull off one of the most beautiful sweaters we’ve seen–and the complexity involved in her yarn and design made her dedication to her project even tougher. Andy hand-dyed Valley Yarns Huntington in shades of lavender and purple to achieve a gradient pattern, and she knitted a contrasting lace overlay as the front panel of her cardigan. It can be worn either buttoned on both sides as a fitted cardi, or open, as a draped open piece. Either way she wears it, the craftsmanship is evident in every detail.

The 2016 WEBS Expert Knitters Graduates at their Capstone Ceremony. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Liz Frosch-Dratfield had a rough year as well–and almost decided to wait to finish her sweater. However, with some persuasion, she decided to forge ahead (since I knew she’d been planning her Capstone design for over a year!) and her finished design is absolutely exquisite. Knit in Valley Yarns Northfield in purple and heathery green, she used a leaf motif throughout. The ties in front, the hemline, and the sleeves showed off hand-crafted leaves, and the lace patterning echoed the leaves, climbing like vines up the front and back panels of her cardigan. The final result is a flattering and eye-catching work of art.

I’m so proud of this year’s grads. Huge thank yous go to our Capstone mentors: Stephanie Gibbs, Cyndi Shepard, Erin Holman, Ping Wood, Kirsten Hipsky, and Sara Delaney. A thank you as well to Kris Potasky of KP&Co Designs, who hand-made lovely, lovely matching bracelets as our gift to the graduates. And a final thanks to Kathy and Steve Elkins, who started the WEBS Expert Knitter Certification Program in 2008. It’s grown to almost 100 folks at present, and 34 have graduated since 2009. I hope you find inspiration in these designs.

Babies = Blankets

Friday, June 17th, 2016
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I know of two babies on the horizon, one arriving in September and one arriving in December. Both of the new mothers are good friends, good enough that a tiny baby sweater isn’t enough. I decided to go full-on baby blanket with these special wee ones. I have just enough time (I think) to make crib-sized blankets for each, and I’ve settled on two patterns that are calling to me.

Valley Yarns Haydenville and great baby projects on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Miss September Baby is a much-anticipated girl who has two older brothers. I want her to have her very own special gift so I’m making a Valley Yarns pattern, the Snowdrop Blanket. However, you know how I feel about plant fibers, so no go on the Longmeadow. Instead, I’m going to use some lovely Valley Yarns Haydenville, probably in Silver, because White, or even Natural, seems like a set-up for disaster, since you all know what babies do on blankets. It’s neutral enough to match her nursery and distinctive enough to be an eye-catcher in a Mommy and Me group.

Baby #2 is a mystery, so I’m going to go with a bold pattern I love, the Valley Yarns Pattern Grayson Set. The stitch is simple enough to be knit while watching “Game of Thrones,” and the color changes are just challenging enough so the project won’t be tedious to finish. I’m going to use Haydenville for this one, as well. I’m going to completely switch up the colors, however, and go with Slate Blue as the main color, banded with Natural and to make it pop, a stripe of Yellow. Could read as masculine or feminine, and I am so hoping it becomes the blanket that baby can’t sleep without.

What is your favorite baby pattern? Let me know in the comments, below!

Gifts, Just Because

Friday, June 3rd, 2016
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Normally, this time of year means Father’s Day, graduations, weddings, all kinds of big-ticket events which require big-ticket gifts. But as a mom, I’ve found that this time of year is also the time to think of babysitter gifts (thank goodness WEBS is located in the middle of 5 colleges. My kids had babysitters for any occasion.), teacher gifts, playdate-host-mom gifts…the list can be endless. While many of my friends/babysitters/kids’ teachers are fiber crafters, sometimes they aren’t. WEBS has lots of fun stuff that doesn’t necessarily require that you know the word “gauge” to enjoy.

Gift ideas on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Frabjous Fibers produces the cutest little notion bags I’ve seen in a long time. The bags come in varied sizes and shapes, like this itty bitty sheepy, this “Mama Sheep” scalloped-edge envelope, and this fun brightly-colored bag big enough to hold tissues, a juice box, and your phone. You can also get an adorable felt “embellishment” which I’d put on a backpack or pin to a hand-made hat for a special caregiver.

If you want to get a little fancier, what about a shawl pin? They don’t have to go on a knitted or crocheted shawl, you know. This Moving Mud Shawl Closure is so stunning that I’d wind it into a scarf or onto a bag. This is a great gift for a harried mom who has driven carpool for so long that she dreams in Cheerios.

The lovely Beckys Glass stitch marker charms look as good made into earrings as they do adorning your knitting needles. Or maybe you could string them onto an inexpensive chain to be used as a grown-up-looking birthday gift for a party princess?

I hope this gives you some ideas for fun presents that don’t have to break the bank. If you have a particularly difficult personality to buy for, throw a skein of yarn and some needles into a gift bag, and promise your skills as a teacher. The gift of your time is always appreciated!

Closeout Gold

Friday, May 20th, 2016
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Because I have been affected by our Anniversary Sale, I have been prowling around the warehouse like a thief, looking for something extraordinary to add to my ever-growing stash. (Mind you, it’s not that I need yarn. Oh no, no, no.) I found Classic Elite Fresco in some discontinued colors in our closeout row and it made me unreasonably happy. First of all, favorite gauge, hands down, is sport weight. Second of all, it’s a happy combo of 60% wool, 30% baby alpaca, and 10% angora. That means that the wool keeps the alpaca in line, not allowing it to get drapy and saggy. The alpaca keeps the angora in line, toning down what sometimes is an unruly halo to a fine shadow around each nicely-twisted strand.

My mother-in-law once made my notoriously picky youngest son a gorgeous argyle vest in Fresco, and try to remember that you like me when I tell you that I stole it right out from under him. He doesn’t even know where that vest lives, but when he sees me wearing it, he gets a resigned expression and no doubt, plots his escape to college and how he’ll hide that vest in his sheets and make a clean getaway.

Great discontinued colors at WEBS, like Classic Elite Fresco. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

I saw just the thing that will restore family harmony: this vest, designed by my knitting idol, Veronik Avery. You can find it in Classic Elite’s Saturday Afternoon pattern booklet, and it’s dreamy. A deep V-neck and soft, heathery colors make this so appealing right now, when it’s freezing cold in the morning, and warm and spring-like in the afternoon.

Fresco is a top-quality yarn and we have lots of colors on sale! Come check out Aisle 600 in our warehouse, or shop it online and stock up. You’ve got some knitting to do!

Get Schooled

Friday, May 6th, 2016
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All of the WEBS Summer Classes have opened up for registration, and I love looking to see what gets the fastest sign-ups because it’s different every semester. Last semester, folks couldn’t get enough weaving. Floor looms, table looms, rigid heddle looms, you name it. Weaving is still pretty popular, especially rigid heddle weaving, but I’m happy to see that lots of people are signing up for our beginning crochet classes. I personally don’t think crochet gets enough love, so the more hooks the better! Some advanced knitting techniques are also climbing up the charts, including colorwork and lace.

Knit top-down sweaters that fit, and learn other skills in knitting classes at WEBS this summer. read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

This inspired me to take a look at some gaps in my own knitting education. I really don’t like lace knitting so much–I get all screwed up when each row has a different stitch count, which can happen in a lace pattern. At this point, with at least one child still around to bother me  ask my advice and sage counsel, I need something that can be abandoned at a moment’s notice and picked up again without having to think deeply about where I ended. I can really get behind the idea of a top-down sweater, as taught in our Top-Down Raglan Sweater From Measurements, mainly because I am short and many conventionally knit sweaters are too big, as in too long and too droopy, in the shoulders for me. A top-down sweater can be tried on throughout the process to make it custom-fit to my shape.

What do you guys think about a top-down summer pullover? The Valley Yarns Park Pullover has my favorite elbow-length sleeves and a dependable stitch pattern for the day after the night I had to help edit a term paper. Knit in Valley Yarns Goshen, a smooth cotton/modal/silk blend on US size 7 needles, this will knit up in a flash and I’ll have the sweater you’ll all be jealous of; one that fits my shoulders AND my waist AND the sleeves aren’t hanging off my fingertips.

What will you challenge yourself to learn this summer?

Coned Yarns Love Knitters (and vice versa)

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
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I had a brief, ugly learning-to-weave moment about ten or so years ago…I had a full-time job that was a long way away, I had two young children, and I had to travel constantly. Of course that was a perfect time to learn a very complicated, time-consuming (albeit fascinating and beautiful) fiber craft…NOT.

Valley Yarns Colrain Lace on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

After that, I passed coned yarns without a second glance. However, I saw an oldie but goodie today that made me reassess the coned-yarn prejudice. Valley Yarns 2/10 Merino Tencel, aka Colrain Lace, seems to me to be an eminently sensible yarn to knit or crochet (or weave) just about anything in any season. And luckily for all of us, it’s part of the Anniversary Sale this month, priced at $17.49 a cone, reduced from $24.99.

Although technically a lace weight yarn, it has been knit reliably at about 7 stitches per inch, which to me is fingering and that makes a big difference. It’s not a fine, fine yarn that will slide off your needles and flummox you in a stitch pattern. It will hold on to those needles, and give you some feedback as you stitch, which I don’t find in a lot of lace weight yarns. The blend of merino and tencel gives it both body and a subtle sheen, making it drape beautifully.

My fascination for cowls would be satisfied with the Valley Yarns Forget-Me-Not cowl, made in Colrain Lace. It’s a quick knit and because you have so much yardage on a cone, you could make several from one purchase! I would probably choose a nice neutral such as Grey Olive, but you could really make a design pop with some of the brighter colors; there are a lot to choose from.

Have you ever knit with a coned yarn? Tell us your projects in the comments, below.

Can I Like Plant Fibers?

Friday, April 8th, 2016
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The jury is still out, but I found two yarns whispering to me from their hidey-holes in the store that might sway me to the non-protein-fiber dark side.

In what has to be the most interesting confluence of fibers that I’ve encountered, Nettle Grove, from Plymouth Yarn Company, is a mix of 45% cotton, 28% linen, 12% nettle fiber (you read that right), and 15% silk. This tonal sport-weight yarn actually feels so soft and swingy, and has a beautiful sheen. It doesn’t have any of the inelasticity that I’ve grown accustomed to feeling in fabric knit in cotton or linen. It must be the nettle. In doing some internet research, I discovered that stinging nettle has been used for centuries to make luxurious cloth, especially in the British Isles. It’s closely related to flax and hemp, and once washed and finished, results in a soft, drapey fabric. Nettle Grove comes in 8 variegated colorways, and my favorite, hands-down, is a gorgeous orange called Sunrise. It looks like a creamsicle, and I’d make this swingy tank top with it in about 2 days.

Amy learns to love plant fiber yarns! Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Stacy Charles Fine Yarns Alicia is a fingering weight 100% linen yarn. I have documented my issues with linen here (stiff, hard to knit, no memory) but this one could be a game-changer, in that Stacy Charles encourages knitters to use a worsted-weight gauge for this smaller yarn. It really looks like embroidery thread, with saturated colors and a tight twist. Using a worsted gauge for Alicia will give projects an airiness that knitting to gauge ordinarily would not. The more this yarn is soaked and blocked, but softer it will become. If you’re looking for a project, the Allium Shell, designed by Joan Forgione, would really make the yarn the star. It’s a short-sleeved pullover, with a zig-zag bobble pattern that really makes the best use of the crisp stitch definition and smoothness you’ll get from this dedicated fiber.

What’ll you put on the needles when the weather heats up? Let us know in the comments!

My New Yarn Crush

Friday, March 25th, 2016
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The newest yarns from Skacel, HiKoo Seuno and Sueno Tonals. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Although you all know that I’m not the biggest fan of plant fibers, I found a yarn that might help me over that bias: HiKoo Sueno and it’s twin sister, Sueno Tonals. It’s a mix of 80% Merino Superwash and 20% Viscose from bamboo. Bamboo is a light, silky, slippery fiber for the most part, and it tends to grow a bit when knit, but I think the merino in this combo smacks that bamboo into submission with the power of wool. Even better, it’s a yarn that spans multiple gauges, from a worsted to a sport weight, needles sizes between US 3 and US 7. What a shape-shifter! The Sueno comes in 14 spring-y colors like Dusty Lilac and Mud Puddle; the Sueno Tonals are delicate and beautifully shaded variations of the original line. I’m already thinking about what I’d make with either one. The pattern support from Skacel is superior, as usual. Since we’re on the cusp of spring, I might make this beanie, which can be worn in these last raw days of March on into the chilly nights of April.

Check out this intriguing fiber blend, and get it on your needles!