Author Archive

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?

 

It’s A Mystery…

Friday, January 16th, 2015
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For our fiber friends in the Northern Hemisphere, winter often finds us burrowed into our homes, or trudging from our house to our car to our office to our car to our house. Here at WEBS, we’re hatching a mystery knit- and crochet-a-long to spice up your short days and long nights. It accomplishes a number of good things: you’ll learn some fascinating new techniques that you’ll use forever, you’ll have something fun to look forward to every month as a new square is revealed, and you’ll have a beautiful keepsake blanket that will be just the thing to use as a wedding gift, a graduation present, a baby-shower goodie, or an early holiday present.

WEBS Mystery Knit-A-Long Blanket Class - register at yarn.com

We’ve even picked out four different colorways in our Valley Yarns Northampton for you. Neutrals will go with anything, Autumns are for those (like me) who crave the heathery tones of October orange, green, and burgundy. Jewel Tones are bold splashes of clear sapphires, garnets, and emeralds, and Pastels are deliciously light and baby-friendly. Each month a new knit and crochet technique will be taught by Sara in her classes here at WEBS. Those students will get hands-on help from the fabulously talented Sara as well as the fun of learning with like-minded folks, and as my mother would say, “you might make a friend.”

WEBS Mystery Crochet-A-Long Blanket Class - register at yarn.com

A week later the square’s pattern will be released online in our blog, along with photos and a technique video so that you can go it alone, if you live too far away to travel to our Northampton store. We’ll be sharing your squares-in-progress on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and anywhere else knitters pop up to visit with us.

We have some spaces in both the Knit-A-Long class and the Crochet-A-Long class. Why not take a step out of your comfort zone and join us?

The Bleak Season

Friday, January 2nd, 2015
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Now that the holidays are in the rearview mirror, it seems like time to embark on a project to make winter pass a little more quickly. I’ll drop a hint here that we’ll be helping you find a big project to go through the bleak season in a few weeks, so stay tuned! You’re going to learn stuff that is fun, and you’ll have a big ol’ yummy blanket to give or keep by the time the lilacs start to creep out.

Flares and Graces PDF, Plymouth Cashmere Passion and Filatura Di Crosa Zara Kid - all available at yarn.com

In the meantime, I’m going to cast on for a sweater–I haven’t had a big project like that on the needles in almost a year! I thought I’d give our “Flares and Graces” pullover a try. I love the shape of this textured knit designed for us by Guest Designer Fiona Ellis. The sleeves and yoke have a really intriguing cable pattern that will stand up to some binge-watching of “Grey’s Anatomy,” my new addiction. The waist shaping makes it appear slightly fitted, but I’m going to knit it with a bit more ease, in order to put a silky tee-shirt underneath for total comfort.

I am having a tough time choosing between two yarns that seem perfect for this project, which needs a yarn that will clearly define those chevron cables. Zara Kid is a really soft, springy combination of wool and polyamide, and I like the pine-green color that caught my eye in our store. Cashmere Passion is also a contender; the blend of merino and cashmere create a fabric that would be heavenly to wear. The mauve-y pink is a go-to for me lately.

What are you knitting to help you through the holiday let-down?

I’m Looking Ahead

Monday, December 22nd, 2014
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This year, I didn’t throw myself into the knitted-gift frenzy that has made the last few years a little dicey in terms of holiday engagement. (That means I was the Grinchiest Grinch ever as I glared at every recipient of the scarves, hats, mittens, and cowls that I was knitting for them. Poor planning is my defense.) I’m taking the long view this time around. I’m looking ahead to 2015, because I’m thinking about what I might want to do differently in the coming year.

I don’t make resolutions. Too much commitment. I make vague goals and if (when) I don’t end up fulfilling them, well…lesson learned. Move on.

Most thorough technique book ever!Next year, I’m really going to concentrate on the details. I’m going to move past my go-to Long Tail Cast-On and Knitted Bind-Off. I’m going to experiment with cast-ons and bind-offs that are complementary to my project and look beautiful.

I’m going to learn how to do Kitchener Stitch. I’ve done so much to avoid this necessary fact of knitting life, and it now seems ridiculous. How hard can it be? (stop laughing). I’m also going to learn to read charts. I can protest all I want but I love stitch patterns and cables and those babies are charted. Once again, how hard can it be? (see above.)color chart

Lastly, I’m going to stop making the thought of perfection ruin a perfectly good knitted piece. Only I know that I bumbled a knit stitch into a purl. Nobody will ever see the mismatched decrease except me. I want my knitting to be fun and comforting, not a showpiece. That’s why I started knitting in the first place.

I might add, in a self-serving way, that some of these things can be learned in a class. And that leads me the now open-for-business winter/spring class registration! Check out our offerings and see what you might like to tackle in 2015.