Author Archive

Quick Knit, Yummy Yarn

Friday, November 22nd, 2013
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The small knits I’ve been obsessed with lately are a great way to “taste-test” some yarns I’ve been eyeing in the store. I knit a pair of handwarmers for a friend in Rowan Lima, which is the softest, squishiest, yummiest stuff ever. My good friend MsEllaneous had me try on a cowl she knit using it along with another yarn, and I died. So comfy. At a worsted gauge of 4.5 stitches to an inch, it’s also really versatile, and I thought nothing could match it for mittens, scarves, cowls, and headbands.

See the delicate color progression?

See the delicate color progression?

Well, 2 sets of handwarmers later, I’ve discovered the only thing better, and that’s Rowan Lima Colour, which keeps that lofty construction of alpaca and merino and adds an ombre color effect which is subtle but totally bewitching. It’s not like a self-striping sock yarn, it’s much more discreet and dare I say, fashion-forward. I chose a blue-gray which started out as a warm light gray, and wound it’s way into a rich dark blue and then back again. Just playing with it was really fun.

 

A great holiday gift!

A great holiday gift!

I’ve found a great pattern to use, too, which will show off not only the lovely color distribution but the stitch pattern in the cowl itself–and best of all, I only need one skein! It’s designer Nina Machlin Dayton’s Tuscan Leaves Cowl, which is actually quite easy and looks great.

What project do you envision for Lima Colour? Comment below!

Some Holiday Thoughts

Friday, November 8th, 2013
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Tis the season, as they say. My family celebrates Hanukkah, which comes way too early this year (November 28, to be exact). I’m postponing it until Decemberish, when I can get my wits about me. While I have time, I’m casting a curious eye through the store to store up some holiday gift ideas for some knitters or lovers of knitwear on my list. I like to make small projects like fingerless mitts, hats, or cowls, since they’re fast. I also like to use some unusual yarns that I wouldn’t ordinarily use for my personal knitting, to keep it festive.

Any gift I give this year will be accompanied by these stunningly beautiful gift cards featuring photographs by the very talented Debbie Cook, who runs the Flayvors of Cook Farms store, and works at our retail store (lucky us!). The photos are spare and charming at the same time, and perfect with some elegant silvery or dark wrapping paper.

Buffalo Wool Company has a yarn called Sexy, and how can you not give someone a lacy shawl made with Sexy yarn that’s half Bison down and half silk? Very festive.

The colors are deep and lush, and even though it’s a laceweight yarn, I could probably whip out an open-work pattern for a shoulder-covering shawl in no time, from this often-used book.

I’d also use a Blue Sky Alpacas yarn I’ve been mulling over for a long time, Metalico. It’s another 50/50 yarn, this time alpaca and silk. It’s got a sheen that is tempered by the fuzziness of the alpaca, and I think it would make a great cowl or hat to go with a Little Black Dress.

And since the holidays are glittery and fun, I’d think about using a one-off sparkler like Artyarns Silk Mohair Glitter. Lots of fun colors and a shot of silver or gold thread will give you tons of ideas for lacy scarves or ornamental cuffs to wear with a holiday dress to a caroling party.

 

Amy Herzog Can Help You Make the Perfect Sweater

Friday, October 25th, 2013
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Do you remember your first sweater? I remember mine. I actually learned how to knit by making a sweater. I got such satisfaction from showing it to people and saying airily, “yeah, I just made that.” Well, I don’t know who I was fooling. Of course you could tell I made it. The shoulders had a Michael Jackson-esque largeness from clumsy seaming, and one sleeve was a tad (noticeably) longer than the other. And I guess I didn’t notice myself that for one inexplicable row I changed from knit to purl and stopped halfway through and returned to knit. Plus, it was about five sizes too big.

There are 2 main reasons why most sweaters don’t fit:

Measurements (yours, incorrectly done)

Gauge (also yours, maybe incorrect)

Amy Herzog, designer of the best-ever sweaters and author of the groundbreaking book Knit to Flatter, has developed a software program that she just rolled out called CustomFit. By the way, this link takes you to my CustomFit home, so don’t go messing around with my measurements! She’ll be at WEBS on Saturday, November 2 from 11:00am – 2:00pm to show off the site and show customers our unique partnership with her website.

acorn-trail-2

Amy herself, in Acorn Trail

 

Here’s how it works: users establish an individual online account that contains their detailed body measurements.  Based on that information, knitters have the opportunity to design a customized sweater from a seemingly infinite number of styles and design details.  Here are a few examples to whet your appetite. I am a CustomFit account holder myself and am about to get busy on a gorgeous scoop-neck pullover with hemmed neck, bottom edge, and sleeves that will fit me like a glove because I spent quite a bit of time making sure my measurements were correctly done.

Amy’s store event will make that part of it a breeze, since WEBS is partnering with her to have our very own CustomFit account. We will record customers’ measurements and this information will be stored under the WEBS account in CustomFit. This gives WEBS the opportunity to provide personalized service in the form of sweater choices and yarn consults on your customized patterns.

If you love Amy’s iconic designs, you can use an existing pattern of hers, which now have CustomFit adaptations and instructions. She even has an FAQ section (which she’ll answer in-store on Saturday, November 2) so that you don’t get frustrated or lost.

It’s really perfect. So we’ll see you on November 2 from 11:00am – 2:00pm, tape measure in hand and ill-fitting knitwear in the trunk of your car, en route to a landfill or Goodwill.

 

In Which I Became a Weaver for 2 Hours

Friday, October 11th, 2013
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If you’ve been reading this blog you know it’s Spinning and Weaving Week. We’ve had some fantastic demos and the store has been filled with new faces. I barely have time to take classes these days, but I remembered a favorite class from a few years ago, Introduction to Rigid Heddle Weaving with Leslie Ann Bestor. I had a lot of preconceptions about weaving–the looms are gigantic!! You need a ton of fiber!! It takes months to make a napkin!

Weaving on a rigid heddle loom.

Leslie Ann proved all those things wrong. I had the most gorgeous scarf ever in less than two hours, and in Madeline Tosh Pashmina Worsted, to boot! Using it as both warp and weft resulted in a very cool plaid-like fabric, and I wear it all the time now. Weaving on a rigid heddle loom is very manageable, it sits very neatly on a tabletop and barely takes up any room at all. There’s no warping board necessary, no intricate warp-winding, no cones of yarn rolling around. The back-and-forth action of the shuttle is very satisfying, as is the way you slam the heddle down on your fabric to make it nice and firm. And did I mention a scarf in 2 hours? with lovely tasseled ends?

Check out our looms–we have some very un-intimidating rigid heddle looms and if those are too much for you, check out these cuties.  Bonus: if you buy a loom (or a spinning wheel) within a week of taking a class, you get a 10% discount.

Check out our weaving and spinning class schedules. I know we have one that will get you looking at fiber in a different way.

The Harlot is Coming!

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
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My first career was in publishing–I did publicity for authors and books, and I worked in New York City, for a fairly well-known set of publishing houses (Random House and Simon & Schuster). My strength was celebrity authors, and I got to work with lots of them. When I moved to western Massachusetts, I worked at a smaller publisher, Storey Publishing, in the Berkshires, and I got to work with another celebrity: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Believe me, I was more excited to work with the Yarn Harlot than almost any other so-called “celebrity.” She’s a beautiful writer, she’s a lovely person, and most importantly, she is totally relatable to her audience and she’s an AMAZING knitter and teacher.

The Yarn Harlot is coming!

The Yarn Harlot is coming!

I’m super-duper excited that Stephanie is coming to WEBS right before Rhinebeck to teach for us!! She will run two classes, Grok the Sock (Thursday, October 17) and Knit Smart (Friday, October 18). Grok the Sock is a 6-hour sock intensive, not difficult, and integral to understanding basic construction of the sock.  Knit Smart is a lecture-style class with Stephanie’s trademark humor and smarts, about how to figure out where you might encounter knitting pitfalls and how to make ensure they don’t derail you.

There is limited space available in these classes, so sign up now and beat the Rhinebeck rush!

EZ

Friday, September 27th, 2013
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No, not “easy.” EZ as in Elizabeth Zimmermann, knitting touchstone, uninhibited free spirit, master knitter, mother of Meg Swansen, and most importantly for this blog post, prolific author. Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote numerous magazine articles and patterns, four design books, Knitting Without Tears, Knitter’s Almanac, Knitting Workshop, Knitting Around, hosted her own PBS television series, and founded Schoolhouse Press, which purveys books, yarn, patterns, and tools.  The Opinionated Knitter, is actually a collection of her newsletters over the course of 10 years. She was also the first knitter to ever be honored with an obituary and article in the New York Times when she died in 1999 at the age of 89.

EZ is beloved by knitters and designers for her innovations which are less overthought ideas and more like common sense. Knitting back and forth on straight needles is slow and tedious; her insistence on knitting in the round on circular needles is fast, eliminates the need to purl, and makes seamless garments. While Zimmermann’s patterns have always been relevant, her garments and clear mathematical formulas that re-invent how to design based on measurements and gauge have experienced a resurgence over the last few years. If you look on Ravelry you’ll see thousands of TomTens, Pi’s, and Baby and Adult Surprises.

Beautifully, mathematically proportionate!

Beautifully, mathematically proportionate!

Here at WEBS, our classes have included EZ’s Baby Surprise Jacket and her Pi Shawl design. These classes ALWAYS sell out.  This fall’s EZ classes are almost sold out (Well, the Pi Shawl class is sold out. Run like the wind to get the last space or two in the Baby Surprise Jacket). Have you knit an EZ pattern? What did you love? What would you like to see next semester? Give me your ideas in the comment section below.

Knitting Season is Open

Friday, September 13th, 2013
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My last post, which ran a few weeks ago, had a glaring error, and it is this: I took it for granted that I am famous enough for the entire world to know who I am.  I am indeed the new Education Manager, and my name is Amy Greeman. This is what I look like:

Amy Greeman, Education Manager

Amy Greeman, Education Manager

Ok, on to my pick this week. I lovelovelove Fall and Winter, which makes me an outcast in most groups. Knitters, however also love these seasons, because crisp air and cool temperatures mean lots of knitting. As I wander around the store, a few new yarns caught my eye and I thought I’d share them with you for your Fall knitting pleasure.

Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino is the Queen of the fingering-weight set. We haven’t had this particular yarn in the store for a VERY long time and I am thrilled it’s here now. There are loads of beautiful colors and it’s just begging to be knit into socks or hats, or a gorgeous shawl.

Shibui Pebble reached it’s sporty-weight hand out and grabbed me as I walked by our showcase for it. I’m a sucker for a sport-weight, and this blend of silk/wool/cashmere is balanced just right–not too stiff and not too drapey. I would make any sweater that incorporated a lacy or knit/purl pattern stitch with this.

Clockwise: Infusion Handpaint, Koigu, Eco Highland Duo, and Pebble

Clockwise: Infusion Handpaint, Koigu, Eco Highland Duo, and Pebble

Universal Yarn Infusion Handpaint was a surprise to me. I’m not that thrilled with a lot of variegation, because I like to do very textured knitting, but this wool/acrylic blend feels beautifully soft and the colors are really blended nicely. I could see a nice, thick winter scarf or shrug to keep in a chilly office in this superwash yarn.

Finally, my new favorite yarn, I must confess, isn’t new at all. It’s a luscious Cascade standby I recently discovered, Eco Highland Duo. I’ve knit a cabled cowl in it, and am using it for a much more technical knit now, this Kira K design that will be a gift for my mom.

What is your new Fall discovery? What will you be knitting while you watch football (or the new season of Homeland) on TV?

Knitting Continuing Education

Friday, August 30th, 2013
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Once I graduated from college, I knew I’d never, ever continue my education. I was fed up with writing papers, of all things. It wasn’t the studying, or making it to classes every week, or homework. It was writing papers. Of course, I ended up in the communications field a few years after I graduated and what did I do for a living? Basically, write papers. But when I learned to knit, suddenly I was on fire to learn. I took a Beginning Knitting class at a local community school taught by the wisest and most patient teacher ever, and for the first time, I understood how knitting worked. Once I started working at Webs, a whole new world opened up for me. I took classes in stitch texture, in finishing; I took a felting class, and a weaving class. I learned to crochet and spent an entire summer one year making a garden’s worth of crocheted flowers joined by scalloped edging.

Students + yarn = sweater

The Webs Education Program is one of the most amazing resources that fiberists in our area can take advantage of. There are classes ranging from Knitting I, where you can learn to cast on, knit, and purl, to Advanced Fearless Finishing and Sweater Construction, where the intricacies of design are brought to life in fiber form. Guest teachers are regulars at Webs, and in the time I’ve worked here I’ve met some amazing celebs: Debbie BlissStephen West, Ann Budd, Kristin Nicholas, and of course, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

Webs also has a unique Expert Knitter Certification Program. It’s sort of “knitting college,” a series of classes that take the dedicated student from fiber basics to a Capstone Project, which is a sweater designed and knit by the student. The process usually takes about three years, but can take as long as one needs to bask in the fiber-y glow. It’s a serious commitment, with regular meetings with an advisor of sorts (the Education Manager) who signs off on completed classes and projects, and counsels each member on next steps or answers questions about which classes might fill a requirement. Graduates of the program might go on to teach at Webs or at other schools or community education programs, but they all emerge from the Expert Knitter program with every skill they will ever need to design a garment and knit it to perfection.

I encourage all blog readers (and all your friends) to take a look at the classes offered this Fall. You can make charming holiday gifts, design a Pi shawl in the spirit of Elizabeth Zimmerman, craft a pair of mittens, learn to spin on a wheel, weave a chenille scarf, delve into stitch textures and their derivations from various ethnic traditions, or just learn to cast on and bind off.

And starting right after Labor Day, there’ll be a change…and that’s me. I’m taking the reins of the Education Program as Tina McElmoyl, our current Education Manager, leaves to continue her education. I’m so excited to be inheriting this program, which Tina has made into a rich, expansive, well-oiled machine, and I’m eager to get to know all the students and teachers. Most of all, I’m so satisfied when I see the range of our education options at Webs; from knitting, crochet, weaving, spinning, felting, and dyeing, there’s no place that does more.

Are 4 (or 5) Needles Better Than One?

Friday, August 16th, 2013
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Although my poor grandmother tried to teach me to knit when I was nine years old, I had absolutely no patience for fine motor skills at that point, and was much happier playing with her jewelry. I didn’t learn to knit until I was an adult, and I learned very traditionally: straight needles, follow a pattern, make a bottom-up sweater with set-in sleeves and a crew neck. When I started working at Webs shortly after I had gained some mastery of the craft, I was astounded at the variety of designs, techniques, and yarns I encountered. It was overwhelming, but I wanted to try it all. The one thing I stuck to was knitting any sort of tube with double-pointed needles. I honestly tried to use Magic Loop, two circulars, anything but DPNs. However, I don’t love knitting socks ( I have made exactly three socks) and I loved the way my DPNs made hats, baby booties, and sleeves on sweaters look. I’m always on the lookout for really great needles, and I think I have found my DPN mecca: Knitters Pride Karbonz. I recently knit baby sweaters for twins to be born in September, and the pattern was a beautifully easy top-down raglan with the sleeves picked up and knit on DPNs. I did one sweater with my old faithful Dreamz needles, but picked up a set of the Karbonz to try on sweater #2.

Reader, it was heaven.

All kinds’a’Karbonz at Webs!

The Karbonz shaft gripped the yarn just right–it slid easily but didn’t slide off. The tips are sharp and glide-y but they didn’t split the yarn, and there was no discernable bump or glitch at the place where the tip met the body of the needle. Best of all, they look super-badass. Shiny silver tip attached to a matte black needle made me feel a little naughty, even though the project they were attached to was the most adorable peach and lime green baby kimono. Karbonz are available in circulars as well, and we’ve just added interchangeable sets, too. They are well worth the slightly higher price point, and will last until your granddaughters refuse to learn to knit with them.

Yarn Cake

Friday, August 2nd, 2013
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In the retail store, customers sometimes look at our ball-winder-and-swift set-up and ask us if we can wind their skeined yarn for them. “No,” we say gently. “We can show you how to do and you can get right on it.” There’s usually a look of panic, or a plea (“just for me? I can’t possibly.”) but we’re firm–because the beauty of a ball winder and a swift is that you can wind up any skein of yarn with less than three minutes of instruction, and it will usually take about 17 seconds for a long, twisty skein to turn into a firm, compact yarn cake. In my first years of knitting, I used to make my husband hold his arms out like a robot to wind a skein into a ball, and when he wasn’t around, I’d have my kids do it. However, it didn’t take long for them to become bored and annoyed at the constant demands on their time (very important things to do! Pokemon cards to look at! Legos to leave on the floor so that I step on them, barefoot, and cry!), and I’d start bribing them with candy, and then with cold, hard cash.

A tasty skein of Northampton Sport, wound into a cake!

A friend and co-worker convinced me to invest in a ball-winder and swift combo. I was really hesitant about doing this, because for some reason I thought that once I had the tools, I was expected to be a SERIOUS KNITTER. But the first time I hooked a skein onto that plastic swift and twirled the handle of the ball winder around for less than a minute, I was hooked. It was amazingly simple and the results are instantaneous. Ball winders, by the way, have a hilarious instruction manual in the packaging that is translated from Japanese and makes it all worthwhile. I have the plastic and metal swift, but we also sell a beautiful wooden swift that is much larger, and will probably be around when you teach your granddaughter or grandson how to knit. Spinners, weavers, dyers, and knitters can all benefit from a little fiber help, and these two indispensable tools will make your life a billion times easier.You can use either of these products separately–swifts can be used to wind spun fiber, and ball winders are great for coned yarns. Webs offers a fantastic deal on the two if bought together.

Now you can eat the M&Ms by yourself without having to parcel them out to the child who complains about how itchy the baby alpaca feels.