Author Archive

Inspirational Knitting

Friday, July 17th, 2015
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I’ve loved Blue Sky Alpacas yarns since I first worked at WEBS, lo those many years ago. It’s not just the lovely yarns in soft, clear colors, or the fiber choices, either (alpaca wins my heart, always). It’s the pattern support. They support all the different lines they produce — Spud and Chloe, Royal Petites, Blue Sky…everything is beautiful to look at, functional, and best of all, really fun to knit.

Blue Sky Alpacas Truck Show on display now at WEBS Retail store. Read more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

The team at Blue Sky Alpacas just sent us a trunk show, and it’s to their credit that in 85-degree heat and 90% humidity, those wooly garments really got me thinking about what I’d like to wear this fall and winter. To help out, they also sent this video, so that knitters could see how the sweaters, wraps, and poncho work on a human being. Too often, knitted sweaters tend to be lovely to look at but a bit off-putting in the actual wearing. Too tight here, too itchy there, something hits at the wrong place on your body and you spend lots of time tugging it around. While, admittedly, the model in this video is gorgeous, and probably weighs as much as the chocolate bar I ate for breakfast, the sweaters and wraps still look like they would flatter anyone wearing them.

Blue Sky Alpacas Truck Show on display now at WEBS Retail store. Read more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

I’m dying to make the Canby Cardi. It satisfies my requirements for a sweater that closes in the front (because I hate things flapping around me) with a cunning one-button design, but it also curves in a way that immediately shapes the waist while somehow making you look polished and stylish. While I wouldn’t necessarily wear a poncho, the Bianca Wrap is comfy and not too voluminous; knit in a neutral plus cream, I would wear it over every shirt I own this fall.

Check out the trunk show if you’re local to our store, and look at our new Blue Sky Alpaca products online to bring a little bit of fall anticipation to your summer!

 

 

WEBS Expert Knitter Certification Program Capstone Graduation

Friday, July 3rd, 2015
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Last week I was honored to present our latest group of graduates of the WEBS Expert Knitter Certification Program their certificates. This is my second graduating class, and once again I was truly inspired and amazed at the creativity and imagination of our grads. This post will be heavy on pictures, since my words won’t do these beautiful Capstone sweaters justice.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

Just as an FYI, our Certification program students take sixteen required classes and three electives in everything from basic knitting to Advanced Fearless Finishing (VERY technical) and Sweater Construction (designing and knitting a sweater to fit). Their Capstone sweater should reflect elements of their classwork, be it texture, color, lace, perfect finishing, or an interesting construction. The only requirements are that it be knit in pieces and seamed, be knit to fit the maker, and have saddle or set-in sleeves.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

As an extra bonus each year the Capstone graduates receive a handmade bracelet by local jewelry artist Kris Potasky. The beads match each sweater and are totally unique.

Without further delay, this year’s lovely garments…

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

Patty Creedon (who has only been knitting for TWO YEARS!) made a deceptively simple pullover, accented with a Tunisian crochet collar and sleeve cuffs. It fits perfectly, and the finishing is exquisite.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

Susan Gruen (who is also a Master Weaver, because why not?) made a sturdy jacket with a garden motif in a contrasting color; the assymetrical colorwork really stood out but the piece de resistance was her Czech buttons bought in Prague. They were such a perfect match that it looked like the sweater had been built around them, rather than the other way around.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

Jessie Tropp’s sweater was a vintage-inspired cardigan with delicate lace panels–and peeking through those panels was a surprise! Bright pink lining on both front panels and down the back. To finish it off, subtle beading accented the lace pattern. It was breathtaking.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

Bonnie Miller did the un-doable: she spun fiber into yarn and used that yarn to knit her sweater. Really, what could go wrong? Anything and everything. But thankfully, not much went wrong, and her sweater is a real work of art, with a Japanese stitch pattern adding textural interest.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

Sandy Kistner made what I can best describe as an actual couture garment. She used a designer sweater as in inspiration and crafted a slipped-stitch pattern in three different colors that looked like it had come from a Paris showroom.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

Meri Ames did tons of research on Japanese kimono construction and use, and dyed her yarn to achieve a shibori effect. Yes, you read that correctly. She dyed the yarn she used to make her kimono. As a dramatic accent, check out the back view, where she showcased a crochet motif that was knitted into the fabric of her garment. Amazing.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

Brenda Aldrich lived in China for five years and it so influenced her that she chose to feature it in the outerwear sweater that she made. She also wanted to honor her Irish heritage, so she used a bright Kelly-green yarn to craft an arch texture in the body of her sweater. She made figure-8 cables around the hem of the jacket, a nod to the Chinese belief that 8 is a lucky number. She also crocheted matching frogs to use as closures. It’s a sweater that tells her story.

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

 

Linda Sasso’s sweater also revealed a life-story. She raised 3 daughters as a single parent, and to do that she taught Spanish for many years. Her love and respect for that culture informed her dramatic black-and-red cardigan with an I-cord closure at the neck. Look closely at the embroidery on the front panels and along the sleeves. The flowers reflect her family and the sleeve design shows a Mayan “Tree of Life.”

WEBS 2015 Expert Knitter Graduation Ceremony, more on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

And in the category of “Most-Touched Garment,” Sheri Rademacher made a pop-culture sweater that blew the room away. Her “Doctor Who” sweater was made to look like the iconic Tardis, a time machine disguised as a British police call box. The details such as thumbholes at the sleeve cuffs and colorwork that made it look like her Tardis was whirling away were nothing compared to the fact that her hood-windows LIT UP and the sweater MADE NOISE! When I turned out the lights in the room, the applause drowned out the sound of the Tardis whooshing away, and the lights winking from her hood made the evening as fun as a fireworks show.

I hope you’ll be inspired to check out our Expert Knitter program. You can make one of these amazing works of art, too!

Genius is Everywhere

Friday, June 19th, 2015
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Hey! If you stop by the store through June 29, you’ll see our resident genius designer Emma Welford’s work in a trunk show of some of her many beautiful designs. Emma has worked at WEBS for a few years, as our Purchasing Coordinator and now in the store. She may have helped you pick out yarn or you may have stopped by our Thursday evening Drop-In and had her show you how to pick up stitches or do a decrease.

The Coronation Tank and more designs by Emma Welford on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

If you check out our website, you’ll see Emma’s new ebook of patterns, “Let Them Knit Cake,” which was released in early spring. It contains what I think is the most beautiful tank ever, the Coronation Tank, knit in Malabrigo Arroyo. The combination of color and texture (the cables making a shapely trim waist and the bright color announcing “summer’s here!” are irresistable. Plus–it’s a tank! It’ll take maybe a week to knit.

Elektrocute and more designs by Emma Welford on the WEBS Blog - blog.yarn.com

All of Emma’s designs are thoughtful and make me want to abandon everything I have on the needles to start her garments. Just when I think I’ve got her figured out (she designs great textural sweaters!) she comes up with something like Elektrocute, a cowl with the most shocking colorwork that looks like it’s not only doable but imperative that it be made.

Check her out on Ravelry, on her blog, and please come to the store to see her trunk show. You’ll be inspired and awed.

What’s your mashup?

Friday, June 5th, 2015
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I’ve told you all before that my favorite thing ever is Pinterest. I can lose a good hour here and there searching for recipes, home decor ideas, and fun workouts that don’t feel like a workout. What I’ve been doing lately is a search mashup, as in, searching “whatever” + “whatever.” This morning, I searched “Yoga” and “Knitting” and I found the best stuff…mostly the comfiest-looking wraps and shrugs and throws. But then…

I also found the most ridiculous, and yet beautiful, pair of knitted yoga pants. Who would knit yoga pants? You could never actually do yoga in them because as soon as you bend your knee, or sit down, the yoga pants would retain that shape forever. But they’re gorgeous.

Would you knit yoga pants? Knitting mash-ups on the WEBS Blog -  blog.yarn.com

The most useful thing I found in my search was handknit yoga socks. Now that’s a good idea! Sometimes you feel a little chilly on the way to the studio. Sometimes you want to put something comfy on your feet while you’re in Resting Pose. Or, because you’re a knitter, sometimes you just want to knit some socks. These would look stunning in a squishy merino like Madeline Tosh, or a fun combo of fibers like HiKoo CoBaSi. Cotton, bamboo, and silk, what’s not to like?

What’s your mashup? Think of two things to search together that would yield the most interesting result. But always put “knitting” first!

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!