Author Archive

Linen Gets a New Look

Friday, June 6th, 2014
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…and by a “new look,” I don’t mean that it looks different. It means that I am looking at linen in a new light. I usually don’t like knitting with plant-fiber yarns; they seem too slippery, too inflexible, and in the case of linen, too hard and crunchy-feeling to make pleasing garments. However, recently I saw a sweater one of our WEBS Expert Knitter Certification Capstone candidates knit in Classic Elite’s Soft Linen (35% wool, 35% linen, 30% baby alpaca), and it really changed my mind. Rather than being a wrinkled, stiff armor-like Bright summery soft linen and wool create perfect lightweight garments.tunic, this sweater was soft and drapey, but with enough body to show off the shaping and stitch definition. The lace pattern around the sleeves and body was open and light, with enough personality to show the eyelets to great advantage.

Doodlebug, a light and practical summer sweater.
Classic Elite’s pattern support
for their yarns is legendary, and I found the perfect sweater to show off this lightweight yarn: Doodlebug, a sleeveless shell with a delicate chevron/eyelet pattern and a wide ribbed hem to put on top of skirts or summery capris.

 

What yarn changed your mind this year?

Color Me Amazed

Friday, May 23rd, 2014
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A lot of knitters like to use hand-dyed yarns like Madelinetosh, Lorna’s Laces, or Prism. A fair number of those knitters are disappointed when they experience color pooling, or when they don’t like the way one color in the skein works with another one. artful color, mindful knitsMaybe they’ve done a broken rib stitch and noticed that what they had hoped would be specks of dark blue against a rose background turned into big blotches of purple. There are lots of ways to learn how to work with hand-dyed yarns and I’ve found the absolute best resource of all to not only learn to work with those variegated yarns but to actually plan for how those colors show up in your garment. Laura Militzer Bryant, the founder of Prism Yarns, has written a new book entitled Artful Color, Mindful Knits: A Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-Dyed Yarns, and it goes beyond any other book I know to show fiber artists how to craft with color.

As an art-school graduate, Laura became fascinated with hand-dyed yarns when she first saw them at a trade show in the early 1980’s, and learned how to dye yarns as a result. She founded her own hand-dyed yarn company, photo by Amy StephensPrism, and out of the necessity of having to showcase those yarns, she became a knitwear designer. Both of those talents are shown to amazing advantage in Artful Color, Mindful Knits. She can show you how to stack your colors, how to splash your colors, even how to create an argyle pattern with your skein, all by using her Magic Number system that uses the length of a color repeat, the amount of yarn used for a single stitch, and the total number of stitches. Period. When I learned how to anticipate and even plan when a color shows up in your knitting to form a pattern, I wanted to award Laura a Nobel Prize. The designs that accompany the various color schemes are gorgeous. Jackets, hats, scarves, vests, and sweaters, all in vivid colors and patterns that show a master’s touch are readily accessible to any knitter or crocheter.

Artful Color, Mindful Knits includes a thorough color tutorial in the front of the book, which is eye-opening. Laura shows readers in simple language how colors interact with each other and how we perceive them. This helps us plan how to use color and what colors work best in hundreds of different patterns and yarns.  The book also has a wonderful technique section in the back of the book, showing how to do various cast-ons, increases and decreases, and bind-offs, as well as crochet techniques. It’s really a treasure trove of information, one that will be used again and again.ArtfulColor-7

Hey, local blog-readers: Laura will be coming to WEBS on June 7 to sign copies of her new book from 3:30–4:30pm. Come by to see the Prism Yarns trunk show or sign up for her Introduction to Color class. You will be amazed at what you can do!

A Second Look at A First-Rate Bargain

Friday, May 9th, 2014
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I have often gassed on about my love for sport- and dk-weight yarns in this forum–I just love how they look and feel, and I like the kinds of patterns that work best in those weights–small things like cowls, mitts, and baby sweaters and hats. As I was walking through the warehouse this morning, Rowan Colourspun caught my eye, and I had an instant affinity for it. It’s a yarn I’ve looked without a second thought for the last year or so, but for some reason (maybe because it’s part of the May sale and at a very enticing price?) today it said to me, “Sister, you’re about to get lucky.”Photo by Lindsey Topham

The colors are beautiful — that goes without saying. Rowan gets color (colour?) right. And the fiber blend is just right, too. Normally, mohair feels a little scratchy to me, but the wool tempers it a bit, and the polyamide makes it behave, not flop all over the place.

ROWANFREEPMEADOW.zoom.1 I could see making Rowan’s Meadow pattern with the Semer Water colorway, which is a charcoal gray and mauve variegate, bound with a thin ecru strand to make the other colors pop. Any of the Rowan patterns made with Colourspun would be a dream to make and to wear, soft and welcoming.

 

Would you take a chance on a yarn you’d never think of using?

Let the Yarn Be the Star

Friday, April 25th, 2014
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I like to check the “Top 20″ pattern line-up in Ravelry each day. I get ideas for techniques or garments that can be used for some of our classes here at WEBS, and I also like to get inspiration for my own knitting. Recently, I saw a few sweaters that incorporated shawl-like elements into their construction and became momentarily fascinated, but then I remembered that I absolutely hate two things: extraneous fabric, and garments that flap around. That’s why I knit cowls and mittens. No shawls, no scarves (unless they are for someone else) and I favor the pullover sweater. I’d rather let the yarn be the star. I have some favorite yarns that I keep in the back of my mind for garments or accessories, yarns that belie the name “workhorse” because that makes me think of something drab or common, and these are nothing of the sort.

Louet Gems SportLouet Gems Sport is a fantastically elastic and forgiving yarn that I’ve used for baby sweaters for years. I can’t believe it’s a washable wool because it feels way more luxurious than you’d think.

Classic Elite Yarns Color by Kristin There is nothing that Classic Elite Yarns Color by Kristin can’t do. Obviously with Kristin Nicholas’ color sense you’d expect the warm, vibrant palette but what you get in the bargain is softness, loft, and incredible versatility. Cables, colorwork, and felting would be phenomenal.

Valley Yarns Colrain My favorite Valley Yarn is Colrain, hands down. It’s got a beautiful luster, and it sets off my obsessive cabling perfectly. Plus, it’s a worsted-weight yarn, so I can get lots of bang for my knitting buck–it works up really quickly.

What are your go-to yarns?

 

The Future of Design Featured at WEBS

Friday, April 11th, 2014
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I love fashion and anything to do with fashion. I love reading wrap-ups of Fashion Week in New York City, I love “Project Runway” and “The Face,” and I especially love that the Rhode Island School of Design is so close to us (less than 2 hours-ish) that students come here for inspiration and supplies for their projects in Apparel and Hand Knitting Design classes. Now we are able to showcase the work these talented soon-to-be-grads are doing in what we’re calling “A Day of Creativity with RISD” on Sunday, April 27. It’s like our own “Project Runway!” While I know that only those local to WEBS will be able to take the classes, we are making the patterns for these fun garments available once the classes have run, so everyone will have a chance to make them! And who wouldn’t? This baby sweater is the cutest thing ever, knit in Valley Yarns Longmeadow for a special infant. Fiona baby sweater

If you’re thinking that a cowl can’t be worn once the temperature climbs into the 60’s, you’re so wrong. Linen stitch cowlThis linen-stitch cowl in light, silky Valley Yarns Goshen will protect you from aggressive air-conditioning in a restaurant or movie theater in style. And the Commelina Shawl, knit in featherweight Charlemont Hand-Dyed Yarn, is a lovely light layer for a summer wedding. commelina shawl

WEBS is making the Day of Creativity a fund-raiser for our local animal shelter, Dakin Animal Shelter. They do wonderful work to make sure all animals in their care are well taken-care-of and you all can do your part by clicking on their wish list to see what they can use as we head into the summer.I hope I’ll see you all at one or more of the classes. There are still openings, and we’ve set the fee at an all-time low of $10 each plus a donation to Dakin Animal Shelter so that everyone can join in the fun.

Is Summer Knitting An Oxymoron?

Friday, March 28th, 2014
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While our store may be a little less crowded in the summertime, it’s not because our customers aren’t knitting. Conventional wisdom dictates that nobody wants to be working with wool in the summertime, and hauling a sweater’s worth off to the beach is an invitation for a bottle of sunscreen to spontaneously open up onto your cabled cowl. But I personally knit all year ’round, and with the plethora of lightweight cotton and natural blend yarns there are to choose from, summer knitting doesn’t have to mean wool sweaters. As I looked through the Sale Flyer for the WEBS Anniversary Sale, I found a lot of options for summer shawls (when there’s too much air-conditioning) or light, airy sweaters to throw around your shoulders as you head off for ice cream with the family.

DELICATOPR.PEONY.zoom.1Prism Delicato Layers, made from Tencel, is a lovely, silky smooth yarn that I would use for any lacy pattern. The stitches would stand out clearly and any lace pattern would be beautifully showcased. Regularly this yarn sells for $30 per 630 yard skein, but for the month of April, (while we have it in stock!) it’ll be available for $20.99.

Sport and DK weight yarns lend themselves to lighter garments in openwork patterns, and I couldn’tMAGNOLIACL.5449.zoom.1 find anything nicer than Classic Elite Magnolia. Classic Elite regularly does staff meetings to showcase their new season’s garments and yarns, and when I saw the variety of knitwear one could make with Magnolia, I was sold. The blend of merino and silk has a sheen that makes anything you knit or crochet look like it was crafted by a master knitter. The store price is $10.95, but sale price is just $7.69 for a 120 yard ball. Incredible!

And finally, a truly luxurious yarn that has a really interesting nubby texture with flecks of colorful bits of fuzz, Rowan Summer Tweed (even the name is summery!) would be summer tweedperfect for a short-sleeved sweater or vest to throw over a tee. The worsted weight would make a quick knit that you could finish in a week, and throw in a suitcase for a weekend at the beach. Normally we sell this silk/cotton blend for $10.95 per 131 skein, but the sale price of $7.69 means you should grab it now before it’s gone.

What will you be knitting or crocheting (or weaving) this summer?

Weaving A New Skill

Friday, March 14th, 2014
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About five years ago I took a Rigid Heddle Loom class with Leslie Ann Bestor here at WEBS. I was in a bit of a knitting slump, had a very stressful full-time job very far from my house, and I wanted to latch onto a new craft to help me handle all the plates spinning in the air around me. I loved that class, but frankly, I didn’t love the weaving all that much. I really adored my finished scarf, which took all of 2 hours to make from warping to tying off the ends. But something about the action of the shuttle going back and forth was jarring, not as hypnotic as I wanted it to be.

However — although I didn’t like doing it all that much, I’m fascinated by woven cloth and all that goes into making it. Since WEBS started as a weaver’s shop, and we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary, it’s only right to pay homage to the weavers and their tools. Have you seen Barbara Elkins’ draft for The Escher Shawl?escher shawl

This gorgeous shadow-patterned wrap looks exactly like an Escher print, made with our Valley Yarns 8/2 Tencel, which reflects light beautifully and drapes just right. This project is most easily woven using a computer assisted loom and weaving software, such as Weavepoint, neither of which may not have even existed 40 years ago.

table loomsOur “Loom Room” is right off our cash register counter, and it’s a treasure trove of looms and accessories. From the mighty Toika Eeva loom for a cool $9,000, to the cute Zoom Loom that can be held with one hand, a loom might be all you need to try a new skill, open up a new pathway in your brain, or craft a garment or accessory in a totally new and unfamiliar way. Take this, our 40th anniversary year, to challenge yourself. What new skill would you like to try?

 

In Which I Finally Find a Sweater to Knit

Friday, February 28th, 2014
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My personal knitting lately has been cowls, mittens, fingerless gloves, and hats. Occasionally, for a good cause, I’ll work my way into a scarf. I just keep making excuses for not knitting a sweater, and I tell myself (and everyone else) that I just don’t have the time. That’s what knitters say when they are unmotivated, I think…”Oh…(sigh)…I wish I had the time to knit that sweater with the shawl collar, the mirrored cables and the steeked cardigan front. But…sigh…I’ve just been so BUSY.”

Well, forget it. When wandering in the store a few days ago, the most gorgeous sweater caught my eye, and once I turned it inside-out to check the construction, I realized that there was nary a seam to be found. And, it was completely flattering on anyone who put it on, no matter their shape or size.  Here you see it modeled by Andrea, our Website Coordinator.Andrea in Caramel    The pattern is called “Caramel” by Isabell Kraemer, and it’s available as a free download on Ravelry. If you click on the project gallery for the sweater, you’ll see it in the most adorable striped in a wide variety of fibers. Our test knitter, Susan Drew (hanoverknitter on Ravelry) used Shalimar Homage DK in Byzantium (the purple stripes) and Black Truffle (the gray background color). I wish you could feel how soft and delicious this sweater is, and see how beautiful the combination of superwash merino, cashmere, and silk can be. HOMAGEDKSH.BYZANTIUM.zoom.1

I hope that you local folks will check this garment out if you are in the store; and if you’re more than a car-ride away from us, take a peek at who on Ravelry is working on this superstar sweater. It’s going in my queue! What’s your next project? Sweater, socks, or more winter woolies? Let us know in the comments below!

Adult Snow Day

Friday, February 14th, 2014
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This snow sculpture entitled "Knitting Family Poems" was created for the 2007 Ottawa Winterlude National Snow Sculpture Competition by the Alberta team of Brian McArthur, Dawn Detarando and Will Truchon (it received the People’s Choice Award).

This snow sculpture entitled “Knitting Family Poems” was created for the 2007 Ottawa Winterlude National Snow Sculpture Competition by the Alberta team of Brian McArthur, Dawn Detarando and Will Truchon (it received the People’s Choice Award).

We had a Snow Day last week, when WEBS closed for the biggest snowstorm we’ve had since last year’s blizzard. It felt like an unexpected school vacation day, and since I’d gotten all my work obligations taken care of the day before, I gave myself permission to enjoy the day like a teenager. One of my most hedonistic pleasures is reading knitting reference books, so I had a wonderful few hours spent thumbing through my old classics as well as some recent contenders for BKF (Best Knitting Friend). I thought I’d share a few and see what some of your go-to answer books are.

A book that has saved my life again and again is the timeless The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt. June came here about a year ago on a very snowy day, and the delight on the faces of those who were here and happened to meet her was infectious. She has a trick for every knitting conundrum you might find yourself in and her information is delivered with a dry wit that makes her sound like your favorite fifth-grade teacher.

A volume small enough to keep in my knitting bag is Margaret Radcliffe’s The Knitting Answer Book, which I turn to again and again. Even though the answers are short, they give you the most information in the fewest words, and the clever illustrations speak volumes. It’s a small book that is completely portable.

No collection should be complete without Barbara Walker and Elizabeth Zimmermann. Barbara Walker’s 4-book series of knitting pattern and charted stitch designs is used by literally every knitwear designer at some point in their career, and they are priceless for brevity and a sense of history. Elizabeth Zimmermann’s The Knitter’s Almanac and The Opinionated Knitter are the cornerstone of any knitter’s bookshelf.

Some recent favorites worth a look are Clara Parkes’ books The Knitter’s Book of Yarn and The Knitter’s Book of Wool, for the care and beautiful language she uses to describe fiber. Stitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller, the founder of Bust Magazine, almost single-handedly brought knitting to a new high over 10 years ago. And no knitter can really call themselves a knitter unless they have some Harlot on their nightstand.

What are your favorite fiber reads? Let us know in the comments what you like to page through on a snow day.

PS. This snow sculpture entitled “Knitting Family Poems” was created for the 2007 Ottawa Winterlude National Snow Sculpture Competition by the Alberta team of Brian McArthur, Dawn Detarando and Will Truchon (it received the People’s Choice Award).

Let the Games Begin!

Friday, January 31st, 2014
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I’m almost finished with the sweater I’m knitting, and not a moment too soon: I’ve entered into the madness that is the Ravellenic Games. Ravelry, the social-media site for all things fiber, holds it’s own version of the Olympics, complete with teams, medals, training, reportage, and a ceremony for awards. It’s the Ravellenic Games, and I’m a proud member of Team Knitting Dead — we who are devoted to the television show “The Walking Dead.” The idea is that you cast on your project at the exact beginning of the Opening Ceremony, and you have until the last minute of the Closing Ceremony to complete your work.

STEPPINPDFHUDSON.zoom.1 Because I’m a big bet-hedger, I’m making a cowl. The Hudson Cowl by Steppingstone Fiber Creations really appeals to me. It’s simple but not boring, and I think I’ll be able to make at least one before the torch is extinguished in Sochi and makes it’s way to wherever the heck the next Winter Games are being held.

What to make it in, you ask? Why, some absolutely jewel-like 40th Anniversary MadelineTosh, our own Valley Superwash DK hand dyed by the geniuses at MadelineTosh. I think Baltic will make the texture of this 40THSUPERD.BALTIC.zoom.1neckwarmer stand out and coincidentally matches a lot of my winter sweaters. I think I’ll bring home the gold before the zombie apocalypse strikes!