Author Archive

Dream in Color Giveaway!

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
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Dream in Color has a certain fascination in the knitting world. The colors pop, the bases make knitters swoon. I’ve many times heard customers exclaim, “this is perfect” when they squish a skein. How do we add to that excitement?

Dream in Color has outdone themselves with their Dream Club, an exclusive fiber club available at select retail stores. What’s better? We’re giving it to you for free! We will be offering several giveaways with never before seen bases and colorways from Dream in Color.

September brings us a lovely purple mixture with pops of green and brown in a worsted weight base of 70% superwash merino, 20% cashmere and 10% nylon. Basically, a Smooshy With Cashmere worsted. How could that be wrong?

To sweeten the pot we will be giving away ten one-skein kits with a cute fingerless mitts pattern from Dream in Color. Ten! So comment below on why you love Dream in Color by Sunday, September 25th and be sure to check back next week to see if you are one of the lucky winners!

Good luck!

Cara

Classic Elite Winners!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
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Drumroll please….

Our lucky winners for the Classic Elite Mountaintop series giveaway are: Antonia D. and Rachel S.

Please contact me at csharpes@yarn.com  with your mailing addresses and I will send your pretty packages along.

Thanks to everyone for your participation and enthusiasm! We hope you’ll take the time to check out this luscious yarn yourselves.

Cara

 





Rookie Mistake: yarn substitution

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
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We’ve all been there, you see a sweater you love, but the colors aren’t right. The yarn is right but the price is wrong, or unavailable, or just not what you had in mind. We are no stranger to yarn substitutions and no stranger to mismatching yarn to patterns!

We’ve covered gauge considerations, but one largely overlooked detail is fiber content. This can dramatically affect drape and style of a garment. A garment made from crunchy wool, will look much different in 100% alpaca, or 100% cotton!

I think the yarn sub rule deserves a motto: “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. Yes, you can make that cabled sweater out of cotton, yes you can make a throw rug out of cashmere, yes you can make a bathing suit out of mohair…but should you?

Dena, our Ecommerce marketing manager, had a few things to say about the subject, “I had been knitting less than a year when I started this Vogue sweater. I knew gauge was important, but had not yet learned how to substitute yarn in a pattern. I thought if I got the right gauge with my new yarn selection, then I made a good substitute. But it turns out that subbing 1 strand of Misti Alpaca Chunky and 2 strands of Cascade Indulgence is not a good sub for 1 strand of Rowan Big Wool and 1 strand of Rowan Kidsilk Haze…unless you work in an office that is 45° F.”

To avoid this familiar pitfall I’ve gathered up some helpful hints:

First, consult a pattern’s original yarn suggestion. What is the fiber content? Does the designer note what other yarns may be a good substitution and why?

Secondly, pay attention to the style of the garment. Is it drapey, cabled, structured, loose or fitted? A structured garment will need a more structured fiber and likewise for less structured garments. A jacket is usually one for a crisper fiber as well as a good vehicle for very warm winter fibers. Whereas, summer garments are generally made with cotton or cotton blends meant for breathability.

Wool is traditionally the fiber with the most elasticity, meaning it will retain its shape, bounce back and resist stretching compared to other fibers. Bamboo, cotton and other plant based fibers have little to no elasticity, meaning once they stretch there is no coming back. Some of this can be sidestepped by choosing a blend or accommodating with a slightly tighter gauge. If the pattern is designed with less elastic fiber choices the designer has likely taken this into consideration.

The plies of a fiber refer to how many strands of yarn are twisted on itself. More plies equal more durability in most cases. Also, you will want a plied yarn for cables as it boosts stitch definition. Not to say that single plies are not useful or desirable, but it helps to know that high friction areas (such as the heel of a sock) are better behaved with multiple plies.

The recipient is another strong factor to keep in mind. A turtleneck pullover in alpaca on a warm blooded person could be a disaster, as alpaca is a very warm fiber reserved for colder weather. Likewise, a delicate fabric on a rough and tumble child would be heartache. Many knits for families and children are wisely offered superwash fibers for their durability in wash and wear. Also, if someone is fussy about scratchy fibers, this is one to wrestle with before casting on!

Clara Parkes is the undeniable master in knitting fibers (don’t hesitate to check out her website and publication Knitters Review for yarn information). She’s created a great resource in The Book of Yarn which is a handy tool for choosing and utilizing the right fibers. Her follow up book The Book of Wool is a great supplement. (Keep your eyes peeled for her new publication, The Knitters book of Socks coming out in October).

Trust us when I say we at WEBS have learned the hard way and we can only hope you learn from us. Don’t hesitate to ask us for help along the way!

Cara

Classic Elite Giveaway: Mountaintop Series

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
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Fall is a time of great anticipation for knitters. So many new yarns and booklets, so many new options! The employees at WEBS always get excited to see what Classic Elite has up their sleeve. They are so generous with our staff that they come every season to introduce us to their new yarns and designs. What fun! We couldn’t leave you out in the cold, so here’s a little something to catch you up…

Classic Elite’s new Mountaintop yarns feature natural undyed fibers in lightly varying hues. There’s something special about getting natural fibers in the store, it feels like sheep and wool festivals, crisp fall air and all the fun that comes with it.

Crestone & Vista are interchangeable worsted weight yarns at 100 yards per 50 gram hank. Both yarns knit to 4 3/4 stitches per 1” on a US 6-7. Crestone is a natural marled 100% wool and Vista is a 50/50 blend of superfine alpaca and wool with a range of solid naturals. Crestone is delightfully crisp without being too “rustic”, and Vista is very similarly constructed with a slightly silkier surface.

The Crestone and Vista booklet (#9148) features several designs we showcase in our store. The Alpine Meadow Sweater is knit in Crestone, constructed with a slight a-line style featuring a textured panel down the front.

The Highland fling shawl is knit in Vista, a small long shawl that easily doubles as a cozy scarf.

Vail is a light sport weight yarn at 6 3/4″ stitches per 1” on a US 3 , 70/30 baby alpaca and bamboo viscose, with a put up of 236 yards per 50 gram hank. Vail offers six natural colors and can be knit at various gauges. The baby alpaca and bamboo lend itself to a light sheen and a silky hand. I felt the swatch for this yarn and it has a baby soft feel…I would almost liken it to cashmere in a quick squish test.

Vail is included in the Panache booklet, a collection of accessories with various Classic Elite yarns. Flair, our store sample, is a wide lace scarf with a lovely drape. I love petting this piece, it makes me long for colder weather and time on my hands.

We hope you love these yarns as much as we do. And to help shout it from the rooftops we are doing a little giveaway! Want these spectacular natural fibers in your hot little hands? Comment below on what your favorite accessories are for the winter and which of these yarns you’d like to use for them. Make sure to post before Sunday,  September 11th to participate.

We’ll chose two lucky winners to receive a pattern booklet with enough yarn to make either the Flair scarf in Vail or the Highland Fling shawl in Vista! Winners will be announced Monday, September 12th!

Happy Knitting

Cara

Rookie Mistakes: Gauge

Monday, August 22nd, 2011
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One of the most mystifying and elusive facts of knitting is gauge, especially for newbies. Most of us start with scarves oblivious to the evils of gauge and then we launch enthusiastically into project #2 running into the brick wall of gauge. Without the tender guidance of the more experienced this is quite a blow. What happened?

Tina, our educational director, set out to make a skull cap on her second project. Right weight, presumably right gauge, right? Since this was the days before Ravelry, I searched until I stumbled upon a pattern that said “fitted winter hat” and “easy” and “knit flat” (since I hadn’t yet conquered dpns). It had no photo, but I forged ahead, trusting that all would be well.  As you can see, this did not turn out to be the fitted beanie-type hat I envisioned, and yet it is not quite a cute slouchy style hat either.  It is something…in between. We had a lot of fun trying this on in the store. All the more fun because we’ve all been there.

Mine is a little more ….grandiose.  I had attended a class for a small felted purse from light worsted weight yarn. We knit a medium sized purse that came out the size of a little girls’ purse. I thought: double the size and get a bigger bag…right? First of all, I picked Lopi, which is much bulkier. And I neglected to do a felting swatch because I figured you could always make it smaller…right? The bag is not as atrocious as the handles, which did not felt down, at all. Of course I could cut them off and salvage the project but instead it hides in the corner, and now I bring it to you as a cautionary tale!

I know we’ve all been there. And we spend the bulk of our time in the store trying to gently guide the general shopper to more attentive gauge considerations in their yarn choices. Here are couple tips we find really helpful in the store. Usually this begins with a pattern we are matching yarn to.

-First, gather all useful yarn information: general weight, yards, and stitches per inch. Generally patterns list gauge over 4 inches. We like to break this down to stitches per 1”, which is how yarns are labeled in our store.

-From here we double check to make sure the gauge is listed in stockinette stitch. If it is listed in pattern stitch we will double check the original yarn suggested and its gauge in stockinette stitch. That is the most accurate jumping off point.

-Although older patterns may list ounces we usually Google until we find the information to match yard for yard.

The intended needle size is a suggestion only and can vary wildly on the tension of the knitter (loose or tight knitters, in other words). I often pay attention to the needle the yarn suggests to match gauge. If it is a 5.5 stitches per 1” yarn and the pattern is too I’ll use the yarn’s suggested needle size to get gauge. If I know I’m a tight knitter I might go up a size. If the yarn is 5 stitches and I need 5.5 stitches per 1” I’ll go with a smaller needle.

Even once you’ve found the “perfect” yarn it still has a bit of scrutiny to face. A gauge swatch is essential! (Which is not what you want to hear, I know!) The larger a  gauge swatch is the more accurate it is. It should be at least 4X4” and often a little larger. After which I highly recommend washing as you would your garment. It is also very important to check your gauge as you knit to make sure your tension doesn’t change and make adjustments accordingly.

Mostly, despite our funny pitfalls we realize that it’s all a learning experience. As Tina says, “in the end, I still felt accomplished that I had created an item that wasn’t a scarf and wasn’t unraveling! I wore it around the house and giggled about its size. And then I tucked it away and it never left the house until I pulled it out for this photo.  Interestingly, hats are still my absolute favorite items to knit.” I similarly remain undeterred. Despite the embarrassment of my earlier projects I know it’s a testament to how far I’ve come as a knitter.

Such brave knitters are we! We can laugh at our mistakes, seek comfort in our shared experiences and learn from them. I know you have funny gauge stories too, don’t hold out on us!

Cara

In House Talent

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
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Occasionally–ok, often– a project comes along from our fellow employees that deserve a little praise. This week a couple of things have passed around the store for fondling.

Theresa in customer service has been knitting a pair of mittens that has elicited a multitude of gasps…and a mad dash to our Ravelry queues.

Fiddle Head Mittens by Adrian Bazilia (a.k.a. Hello Yarn)

Main Color: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine Color# 1207

Contrasting Color: Noro Silk Garden Sock , Miscellaneous discontinued color, although any would be lovely

Lining: Rowan Kidsilk Haze Color # 597

A few of us kept this at our desk for prolonged periods while we warmed one hand (the 2nd is yet to be knit). The lining is achingly soft and the colorwork is mesmerizing.

 

Debby, an associate in the store, has many talents under her belt: knitter, weaver and now needle felter! It may be a new hobby for her, but you’d never know it. Look at this intricate doll she just whipped up. I’m impressed! (You may not be able to tell in the photo but her hair is actually braided). This doll is made from our Harrisville Dyed Fleece and modeled after the Gnome Girl in Wool Pets by Laurie Sharp

Awesome job ladies!

Cara

Lace Boot Camp

Sunday, July 31st, 2011
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Lace is a not-so-secret obsession of mine. There’s just something about the intricate look, the deceptively easy (or difficult!) stitches, the beautifully delicate yarns. I can’t help but see lace in everything and during the sticky summer months it’s hard not to think of light airy knitting. I mean, what’s more perfect than the portable one skein projects that lace knitting provides?

This obsession within obsessions finds me with an obnoxious stash of lace yarn. I just can’t help myself. Like sock yarns it offers a one skein project buy and it comes in such wonderful hand dyed colors and textures. So it’s really time to get cracking.

While I was sifting through patterns and gift ideas I realized that a lot of customers I talk to are intimidated with the prospect of beginning their first lace project. Somewhere between the delicate hand and complicated look of lace most people pass. But if you can increase and decrease you’re mostly there! To demystify this process a bit I thought I’d pass along a couple of tips and recommendations I’ve found along the way.

Image of Bison Shawlette in 101 Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders, knit in Jade Sapphire Silk Cashmere #18.

Helpful Tips

First, familiarize yourself with following a chart, Charts Made Simple by JC Briar is a great new resource for just this, and many lace resources offer a good primer as well. I was such a neophyte on my first chart I ended up reworking a lot of sections. Why didn’t I just take the time to learn it? Perhaps I was just impatient to cast on! Learn from my mistakes, please.

Another way to simplify chart visibility is to stock up on highlighter tape. This product is priceless for following tiny charts that so often accompany lace knitting. This semi-tacky tape brightens the line you are concentrating on and easily transfers to the next row without marring your pattern. It helps to enlarge the chart as well, for easy reading. (Your local copy shop can help with this).

Next, choose an appropriate needle for your project. Nothing is more difficult than trying to pierce your stitches with a dull needle. Especially for newbies having adequate tools makes learning easier. I recommend Skacel Addi turbo Lace needles, they have a bit more grip than the standard Addi Turbos to keep from slipping stitches and a much sharper point to allow for ease of knitting. I generally work a US size 5 on lighter yarns, but everyone has a different preference.

One underestimated tool for repetitive charts is stitch markers, allowing you to mark repeats with ease. We have handy lace and sock stitch markers that are smaller in size and have a little grip. You could also try the locking stitch markers to easily move your markers when repeats change.

Finally and most importantly for beginners, the lifeline! Buy a small skein of undyed mercerized cotton yarn, such as Nazli Gelin Garden 3, to strand through your stitches after each repeat or section. A mercerized cotton will not stick to or shed on your knitting (yes, I learned the hard way).With this handy and simple step you can save hours of frustration. If you drop stitches or find yourself impossibly stuck you can rip back to your lifeline and start fresh! I usually include lifelines at the start of a new section or after a sizable section… or when I decide I’d cry if I had to rip back!

Patterns

If you are looking to start a beginning lace project find a simple repetitive lace stitch, like Valley Yarns pattern 120, Falling Leaves. It utilizes a heavier yarn and allows you to build confidence before working with finer yarns and more complex patterns. Another simple approach is Valley Yarns Basic Triangle Shawl (B6), a simple clearly written shawl with a lace border knit with Valley Yarns Semi-solid Handdyed sock yarn.

Sources

There is such a wealth of lace books it’s hard to choose, but here are some of my favorites:

Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush
The Haapsalu Shawl by Siiri Reimann and Aime Edasi
Wrapped in Lace by Margaret Stove

Check out individual patterns by Fiber Trends and Fiber Dreams for some truly inspiring lace creations. And yes, Ravelry too!

Yarns

Most lace patterns use fingering or lighter weight yarns. Generally speaking the more complicated the shawl the less nuanced the color. Let your stitches do the talking and the hand dyes take a back seat, simpler shawls can accommodate lots more color variation. As with other projects there’s a yarn for every color and fiber preference.

Don’t miss our very own Kangaroo Dyer’s 2/14 Alpaca Silk in gorgeous and hefty skeins! Or our new Valley Yarns Charlemont in solid and kettle dyed colors. I personally cannot keep my hands off of Jade Sapphire’s Cashmere Silk blend. The colorways are brilliant and the feel is unmatchable. One of my go-to lace yarns is Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace. It comes in beautiful solid and handpaint colors with a polished finish, buoyant drape, and silky hand. The new Juniper Farms Findley is an extremely comparable yarn with bright colors and a merino/silk blend. The new Rowan Fine Lace looks like a lovely alternative as well with an alpaca and merino composition. Most importantly, find one that inspires you.

Happy Knitting!

Cara

 

Yarns listed above:

Top left to right: Jade Sapphire Silk Cashmere in 140, 82 and 69

Middle left to right: Valley Yarns Charlemont in whipple blue, 2/14 Handdyed Alpaca Silk in pansies and atlantis

Bottom left to right: Rowan Fine Lace #926, Juniper Farm Findley 04 and Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace 2454

Trend Alert: Ruffle Yarns

Sunday, July 24th, 2011
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Ruffle yarns are taking WEBS by storm and customers are going wild for them. If you aren’t familiar with this newest craze, let us be the first to introduce you. Below you’ll find three YouTube video links that we’ve created to catch you up to speed.

This little video is an introduction to the basic types and suppliers of ruffle yarns.

 

At last! We’ve taken your requests to heart and created two videos that offer instruction for knitting these dramatic yarns.

 

 

No more excuses make a quick and simply wild accessory today!

Warning: Temptation Ahead!

Sunday, July 17th, 2011
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The staff and customers have been super jazzed about our brand new trunk show from KnitBot, designed by Hannah Fettig. If you are not familiar with her name correct this immediately. These need-to-have basics are versatile and flattering to a wide range of body types, and they’re just so wicked cute!

The Featherweight Cardigan is one of the most popular patterns and arguably the most basic. I would gladly pair this with every sundress known to man and then some. Knit in Fibre Co Canopy Fingering in Obsidian, modeled by Mary.

Emma looks fabulous in the Effortless Cardigan. Knit in gauzy and light Malabrigo Lace.

I fell in love with the Sunnyside Cardigan knit in Fibre co Savannah. The simple style and stitch patterning make it a go-with-anything kinda sweater.

Doesn’t Greta look like she owns this sweater already? I’ve determined it’s an absolute must-knit for her! Spring Ribbed Cardigan, shown in Fibre Co Savannah.

Gail won’t admit it, but she looks stunning in the Contented Cardi, knit in Fibre Co Worsted (color is Blue Crown). I’m tempted to knit this in secret for Gail, and finally out-give the notoriously generous Gail!

Just in case there are any shorties out there like Karen I thought I’d show Karen and Gail side-by-side. A flattering garment on all it can be shortened or lengthened and the back detail can be moved up or down! (Karen’s version is knit in Classic Elite Inca Alpaca, color 1114).

Can you tell why we are absolutely wild about this trunk show? Hey locals, come down and check it out! We will be displaying these tasty garments all through next week. Don’t miss out!

Happy Knitting

Cara

Public Service Announcement

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
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I’d like to take a moment to address a very real problem in our knitting community. One I’m pretty sure we’ve all been victim to at one time or another and as we near the holiday season we should take special care. Tell me you haven’t guessed!

Selfless Knitting Syndrome, or SKS (not to be confused with SSK). I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It is after all what defines us in so many cases. I’m not even suggesting you change your ways. Being a giver of handmade things– in moderation– is a great thing! But the cycle has to end!

I had not even realized the severity of this epidemic until I recently discovered that a coworker (and long time knitter) had never once knit a thing for herself! I was flabbergasted! I was forced in this moment to turn the mirror on myself. I know that I have difficulties making time to knit for myself. All of my so-called selfish projects are lying half done in various baskets. Because, frankly, I am the only one I’m willing to put on hold.

The question remains: Why do we do this to ourselves time and again?

Is it that it’s easier to plan gifts for others than for oneself? Is it that occasions are made more special by a handmade item, and there is no shortage of special occasions? Or, simply, that we feel that constant pang to use our gifts for the common good?

I’m often blown away by the feats of fellow knitters: like the customer working on fifty sweaters in a year to give away, those organizing baby gifts and get well gifts and yearly family blessings… I am floored by our collective generosity! But isn’t it time we knit something special for ourselves? Why do I see knitters with ratty hats, holes in their gloves, and store bought sweaters, while their loved ones are covered with hand made love?

Ladies and gentlemen, we must learn to love ourselves in a hand knit way! Just say no to the endless SKS!

I think this is an occasion to buy that special skein you’ve been eyeing. It could be a knitter’s holiday of sorts, an independence day for independent knitters everywhere. You know you’re worth it! (Pictured below is an assortment of Jade Sapphire and Artyarns cashmere yarns).

And while you’re at it take a look at 101 Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders, a classic and clever source to get the most from that one special skein indulgence!

The SKS Challenge: Liz I challenge that you are the ultimate selfless knitter. Please set down the baby sweater on your needles, (yes we know you love your niece). Add yourself to your deadlines. Knit that Lima sweater you’ve wanted to! Just do it!

Happy selfish knitting!

Cara