Author Archive

Help for the Color Challenged

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
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Color can be one of the most challenging aspects in planning a weaving project. It is often hard to predict how colors will interact in a woven pattern. This task is even more difficult for those coming from a knit/crochet background as the threads intersect in a completely different way. I know I can fall into a rut of using formulas from the traditional color wheel – complementary colors for contrast, analogous colors because they all go together. The resulting cloth usually looks okay, though not always as exciting or rich as I would like.

Liven up your color choices with the Color Grid! Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

This is why I love the Color Grid from Gail Callahan, the Kangaroo Dyer. She has taken the color wheel and transformed it into a color palette in a flat grid. It has an overlay that allows you to select color combinations that are both harmonious and interesting. Start by choosing your base color and the overlay shows the close family, those colors that are closely related and work well together. These colors are safe and what we often rely on because we know they look good together.

It’s great to add some of those to the project, but the real secret is to find the spark that will make your design pop. That’s just what the Color Grid does by highlighting an accent color through a window in the overlay. These sparks of color can be used in small proportions to liven things up, to take a piece from ‘okay’ to ‘wow!’. Working with this tool I have become more adventurous in my color choices and my weaving has become more engaging.

There are some drafts in our 2016 Weaving Sourcebook that illustrate the idea beautifully. In the Summer Garden Towel (Draft 85), blue and green predominate and the thin stripes of brick color draw the eye and make the design really pop out. The Waffle Weave Buddies (Draft 86) also have a striping pattern, this time on a background of white. The aqua and periwinkle are related and look lovely together and the rust adds a spark that keeps the colors from looking monotonous.

Give it a try and send us some pictures, I’d love to see how you work with colors.

P.S. True confession – I also use the Color Grid to help plan my flower beds and the results have been gorgeous!

“Weavers, Break Out Your Skeins!”

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
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I am often asked by weavers if they can only use coned yarns for weaving. The answer is an enthusiastic no! After all, why should crocheters and knitters get to hog all the fun colors, textures and feels of skeined yarns? Of course, there are factors that determine the suitability of yarn for warps, so be sure to evaluate your yarn first. The yarn needs to be strong enough to withstand tension as well as the abrasion of the reed moving back and forth. Hold a piece of the yarn and pull firmly. Keep in mind that the tension will be spread across the entire warp and please don’t yank, because there is no yanking in weaving. More importantly, hold the yarn taut and scrape with the side of your thumbnail. See how it behaves with abrasion – does it pull apart or fuzz out?

How to choose the right knitting yarn for your next weaving project on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Another characteristic to keep in mind is the stretch factor. Yarns spun for knitting/crocheting are often springy and stretchy, which is great for sweaters, but not always compatible with looms. Some of these yarns continue to stretch under tension and then spring back when taken off the loom, resulting in a very dense piece of cloth (i.e. scarf that drapes like a rug). Give your potential warp a strong pull and release to see just how elastic it is. It’s not that you can’t weave with stretchy yarns, just use enough tension to create a good shed while resisting the temptation to over tighten. And probably avoid the spandex.

Weft yarns, on the other hand, are a wide open garden of creativity. Yes, the weft needs to play well with the warp in terms of intended care, shrinkage and wear. But the weft is free from the constraints of tension, abrasion and size so let your imagination run free.

Our Weaving Sourcebook for 2016 features a few drafts using skeined yarns. The XOXO Shawl, draft 91, is woven with Hatfield an exceedingly soft laceweight baby alpaca that feels like a wearable hug. Lisa Hill designed a beautiful deflected double weave pattern that creates circles and dots of color. Each face of the cloth shows a different color emphasis, making it fun to wrap and change the look.

How to choose the right knitting yarn for your next weaving project on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Sunderland is one of the newer yarns in our Valley Yarns collection. Also spun in 100% baby alpaca, it is a worsted weight with a palette of rich heathered tones. Paula Veleta designed the Golden Plum Tartan Scarf, Draft 99, for the rigid heddle and the gorgeous effect comes from the carefully placed lines and blocks of stunning color.

Do you have a favorite skeined yarn you like for weaving?

Rigid Heddle Revels

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016
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Spring is here and with it is the 2016 Weaving Sourcebook. Our annual weaving catalog is not only filled with color cards of our coned yarns – oh so helpful – but features pictures and links to our new crop of weaving drafts. This year we are especially proud of the stunning array of projects for Rigid Heddle looms. These drafts run the gamut from beautiful colorwork to textured weaves and unique finishing techniques. It’s a great time to be a rigid heddle weaver!

The Textured Towel (Draft 92) uses double heddles to handle both the fine size of the 8/2 cotton as well as add great texture to make these towels really pop. Our 8/2 cotton  has such a great range of colors, you can match the décor of any kitchen. I’ve got a family wedding coming up and a set of these towels will be perfect for a gift to the young couple. As many of you know, I love to make sets by varying the weft colors and this plaid design will be great for playing with stripe placement.

The Nightscape Pillow - draft now available at yarn.com Read more about this and other new drafts and products in the 2016 Weaving Sourcebook on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Another fun textured design is the Nightscape Pillow (Draft 98) woven with Brimfield. The decorative popcorns are created by pulling up loops across a single pick in a bright color that makes it really pop. The background stripes are in plain weave with a syncopated color order that keeps things lively. Brimfield is one of our newer yarns and is soft and squishy with a color palette that continues to expand.

We round out the hand manipulated drafts with the Comfy Couch Throw (Draft 100) made with the supersoft Superwash DK in both solid and hand dyed colors. The unique construction of the throw is set up in the warp, where some slots are left empty. This creates channels of weft floats in the middle of the cloth and loops along the edges. The panel is woven in two pieces which are then joined together by pulling the edge loops through each other to form a decorative seam and finished selvedges. Surface texture is added by using the weft floats to anchor crochet chains in a color pattern of choice.

So celebrate your rigid heddle loom and add some new techniques to your weaving vocabulary!

What is your favorite thing to weave on your rigid heddle loom?

Lifelong Learning and New Opportunities

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016
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You have probably heard me proclaim the joys of learning new things in weaving, so it will not surprise to hear that I am quite excited about Convergence 2016, the conference put on by the Handweavers Guild of America. Convergence is held in alternate years and moves locations to create access for as many regions as possible. This year it will be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from July 30 – August 6 and I’m happy to report that we will have a booth (several, actually).

WEBS will be at Convergence 2016. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

I must admit, I’m kind of a conference junkie. They make me feel like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet created by master chefs – such an array of delicious choices and even if I can’t try them all, I can talk to others who taste the ones I haven’t. The scheduling is also very flexible, allowing one to dip a toe in with an afternoon workshop or go for total immersion with a multi-day class. One of the great advantages of a national conference is the chance to take a class with a teacher you might not get to experience otherwise. I have a friend who has taught weaving for several decades and she always signs up for Convergence classes because she wants to keep learning, both weaving techniques and teaching styles. I take this advice to heart and try to fit in at least one class amidst the busyness of our booth.

We’ll also have our booth loaded up with yarn, tools, books and more. Will we see you there?

Special Fiber Packs for Spring Training!

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
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We are going all in with the sports metaphors this year. We already have the Tour de Fleece in July; we needed a spring equivalent and what better event to represent skill building than Spring Training? In my last post I talked about the event we are having on March 13 – be sure to check it out and sign up if you are in the area.

Spring training is about more than the event, however. We created some great fiber pack specials to add excitement and zip to your spinning life. We started with an assortment of fibers and blends from Louet to keep things interesting and encourage spinners to try new fibers. Then we asked our friends at Frabjous Fibers to dye an exclusive colorway just for Spring Training and we added that to the pack. And because we love bonuses, we added a (not so) little bag as the icing on the cake.

Spring Training Fiber Packs at WEBS. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

The Rookie Pack features easy-to-spin fibers that are perfect for newer spinners, with enough variety to keep you from getting bored. There’s a half-pound of Blue Faced Leicester and another half-pound of Falkland, and for some fun color play there are 4 different 4-ounce bags of dyed Corriedale. The Frabjous Fiber Take Me Out to the Ballpark colorway is dyed in BFL and will amaze you with a gradient of luscious hues from the ballpark – green grass, blue skies and a touch of brown (that’s either the pitcher’s mound or the color of your uniform after sliding in to home plate).

The All Star Pack brings some different players to the field with half-pound bags of Masham, Light Grey Romney, and Medium Grey Romney. We added some color with a half-pound bag of dyed Merino/Silk and then sprinkled in a 2 ounce bag of Camel/Silk for a touch of luxury. This pack also contains 4 ounces of the exclusive Take Me Out to the Ballpark colorway, this time in a BFL/Silk base.

Remember the surprise I hinted about? As a special bonus, when you buy either of the fiber packs, you will get a free gift – a cotton tote bag for carrying your fiber and yarn. This bag is sturdy and roomy enough for some serious stash, with great shoulder straps to make it easy to carry and WEBS’ Spring Training logo on the outside pocket.

I’m pretty excited to dive into these packs (um, yeah, I may be buying both packs) and feel what it’s like to spin some fibers I haven’t tried yet. I’m not sure if I’ll start with the Romney (maybe a marled 2-ply with the two shades of grey?) or the Take Me Out to the Ballpark (maybe a Navajo ply?). Which of these would be your first choice?

Spring Training

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
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Spring Training. For baseball fans that’s when the teams begin to practice and get ready for the season. Here at WEBS, Spring Training is when spinners continue to practice and get ready for the next Spinzilla! For those not familiar with it, Spinzilla is the friendly spinning competition sponsored by The National Needlearts Association in October. And, yes, you could call it the world series of spinning.

Spring Training Event at WEBS, March 13th. Read more on the WEBS blog at blog.yarn.com

We have had enormous fun sponsoring a team (25 members, yet another baseball parallel) for the last 2 years. So much so that we want to keep the momentum going with a special event and fantastic fiber deals. The event is open to all spinners, we just want to share the fun.

Our 1st Annual Spring Training event will take place at the store on Sunday, March 13 from 12 – 5 pm. We will be offering training clinics from our spinning coaches – Pamela Darrow, WEBS’ spinning instructor and Shannon Herrick of Frabjous Fibers. Learn how to Navajo ply, use long draw to make woolen-spun yarns, fiber prep techniques for faster spinning and more. Register for the event online and take your pick that day of 2 two-hour skill-building clinics.

Of course, we will ply you with snacks, camaraderie and conversation, so bring your wheel and spin with friends, learn something new, shop some of the fiber deals. The store will be closed, but we will have registers open for shopping.

Stay tuned for the announcement of our Spring Training fiber deals coming in March.

Baby Blankies

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016
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I’ve always loved making things for babies. It’s such a joy to celebrate their arrival and a great opportunity to surround them with our love in the form of woven/knitted/crocheted snugglies. Baby things are usually quick and for weavers a baby blanket is the perfect palette to play with design and color ideas and sure to get oohs and ahhs from the new parents. We just received Tom Knisely’s lovely book Handwoven Baby Blankets. Tom has created a soft and cozy collection of beautiful, colorful designs with projects for both 4- and 8-shaft looms. He also covers what size to make, materials and finishing. The blanket drafts cover a wide variety of structures and most could easily translate to larger throws.

Valley Yarns weaving drafts available at yarn.com Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

We’ve got some great drafts designed for our Valley Yarns line as well. One of the recent baby blankets was designed by Lisa Hill using our 6/2 Unmercerized Cotton. XOXO Baby Blanket (Draft #87) is a deflected doubleweave that creates sweet circles of color and a squishy softness that is perfect for babies. Each side of the blanket features a different interplay of the colors and the yarn is machine washable, making it perfect for the on-the-go life with children.

Another favorite draft is the Bouquet of Hearts Blanket – 40th Anniversary Draft #12 woven on a rigid heddle loom. Lace heart motifs are created using a simple technique called Brook’s Bouquet and the blanket is woven in two panels that are then sewn together. We have a video tutorial for the Brook’s Bouquet to make it even easier to pick up. The blanket is woven with Valley Yarns Longmeadow, another machine washable cotton blend that is cushy soft. The blanket is soft and cuddly and the lace creates a great texture for tiny fingers.

Valley Yarns weaving drafts available at yarn.com Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Rounding out our picks of the baby blanket drafts is Barbara Elkin’s Blooming Leaf Baby Blanket – Draft #59. A 4-shaft pattern in Shadow Weave, this blanket is woven with 5/2 Cotton and creates a beautiful heirloom blanket with classic appeal. As with the other drafts, different colorways can be chosen to highlight bold, pastel or neutral tones.

It seems like babies come in waves; suddenly 3 friends, a neighbor and a nephew are all expecting a new addition to the family. Blankets are so quick and easy – add an extra yard of warp and weave a second blankie to have on hand for the next little bundle. One of my favorite things to do when giving handmade baby gifts is to tell the parent it comes with a string attached – they have to send me a picture of the baby wearing or wrapped in the present. That way I get a lovely picture of the baby, plus a picture for my weaving archives.

Reflecting and Moving Onward

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015
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Soon the holiday hubbub will be over and we can settle in to the quiet reflection of winter. It’s a great time to draw a long breath and take stock. I enjoy celebrating many ‘new’ years throughout the calendar year – January 1st, Lunar New Year, my birthday – because it’s a chance to pause and look at what has blossomed in the previous cycle and what seeds I’d like to plant in the new one.

In my weaving life, this contemplation often centers around learning; no surprise as I grew up in a family of academics and librarians. I have been inspired by the beautiful pieces woven in deflected double weave for several years and am particularly excited that we will have a class taught by Lisa Hill in March. Lisa has designed several drafts for us that showcase this weave structure and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

LA's weaving plans for the new year. What will you learn in 2016? read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

While I love the hands-on learning of classes, I am also partial to books for gleaning new techniques and deepening my understanding of weaving. One of the newly published works this year is Next Steps in Weaving by Pattie Graver. I’ve been recommending this to new weavers to develop their understanding of the craft, and I realize that I, too, want some time to immerse myself in this book just for the many tips scattered throughout. The subtitle of the book is What You Never Knew You Needed to Know and I look forward to enriching my knowledge.

The other skill I seek to develop this year is to begin sewing garments from my handwoven fabric. I am not really a scarf-wearer, but I would love to wear what I weave so it’s time to jump into sewing. Judith Shangold’s book Weave Knit Wear is a great place to start. Judith brought the garments when she spoke at our guild this fall and I am really impressed by how she used the flow and drape of the fabric to design pieces that are gorgeous, simple to weave, and easy to construct. The fabric is woven on a rigid heddle loom, but the design principles apply to any woven cloth and I am using that inspiration to plan some clothing for myself.

Those are the seeds I’m planting and the next step will be to tend them when they sprout. This means that I will take what I’ve learned and weave. It’s easy for me create many things in my mind, this year I commit to putting the knowledge into action. I’m excited to see what I create at the loom and how I channel the information I’ve studied. What do you want to learn this new year?

Growing the Loom Herd

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015
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We have some new looms in the house and I’m very excited to introduce them. Dave and Pam van Stralen of Louet North America set up a great demo of their looms and spinning wheels in the store during National Spinning and Weaving Week in October. It was great to give them a test drive and we were so impressed we decided to add two looms and a spinning wheel to our inventory.

The David loom is an 8-shaft floor loom, available in two widths – 27.5″ or 35″. This is a well-constructed loom with some really unique features. It is a sinking shed jack loom, which means that pressing a treadle causes the selected shafts to lower. The advantage of this is that the bottom threads are taut, making it less likely for the shuttle to slip underneath and cause floats on the reverse side of the cloth. The spring system that lowers the threads produces a wide shed, as with a countermarch loom, but with a tie up arrangement that is quick and easy. The David has a built in raddle and a newly designed beater that slides on side rails.

New louet looms and spinning wheels at WEBS. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Then there’s Jane, the Louet table loom that will soon be following me home to join my stable of looms. The Jane also comes with 8 shafts and in two widths – 15.75″ and 27.5″. One of the things I love about this loom is the fantastically easy way it folds down into the base to make a compact unit for transport. I have designated this to be my travel loom for workshops because the portability is amazing – the smaller model even has a built-in carrying handle. Jane also has a built-in raddle and a great hanging beater that has side supports to keep the shed at maximum depth while throwing the shuttle. There is a separate stand to go with the Jane and for those of us who have short arms and hate to weave standing up, it is the perfect height for maximum comfort.

For spinners, we brought in the Victoria, Louet’s travel wheel. This is another example of ingenuity and practical design combining to great effect. Victoria is a double-treadle wheel with scotch tension that a joy to spin with. It folds easily, weighs about as much as my Chihuahua (8 lbs) and has a handy carry strap on top, making it ideal for traveling. (My friend Victoria got this wheel and reports her namesake wheel is a worthy addition to her spinning fleet).

The new looms are set up our weaving room and ready to try, so stop by and weave a bit to see for yourself.

High Speed Projects

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
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With the holidays staring me in the face, I’m thinking about quick gifts – something small that I can weave in quantity on a single warp,  yet lovely enough to be personal and appreciated. Although I’m in the tribe of weavers that believes one can never have too many handwovens in the kitchen, towels are more than I can bite off at this point. But what about…potholders?!And mug rugs? Narrow warps (fast threading) and small pieces (fast weaving), easy to make in sets by changing weft or treadling. And if I’m really down to the wire, I can full or felt the woven fabric and cut into individual pieces without having to hem because it won’t ravel.

Alternate uses for your weaving drafts: quick holiday gifts on the WEBS Blog. Read more at blog.yarn.com

For design ideas, I looked at some scarf drafts because they, too, are woven on a narrow warp and I can change to a heavier yarn to make them a good size for potholders. The two drafts that jumped out immediately are Draft #3 Pinwheel Scarf and Draft #58 Shepherd’s Check Scarf. Both are examples of Color and Weave, a technique that involves alternating stripes of light and dark colors in the warp and weft. I love the pinwheel, which is an 8-shaft pattern, because the shapes are so much fun. You can find many other treadling and tie up variations online to play with and make non-identical sets. The Shepherd’s Check uses 4 threads per stripe and the good news is that it can be woven either on a 4-shaft loom or a rigid heddle loom! With 4 shafts, you can weave a straight draw twill by threading and treadling 1-2-3-4, which will give the weave a diagonal slant. On a rigid heddle, you weave plain weave and still get the wonderful checked houndstooth look.

Then we have the yarn choices. I would go with a wool for this project because it will make a thick potholder that will protect the cook’s hands from the heat. Jaggerspun Heathers is a wonderful (and too often overlooked) wool with 498 yds in 100 gram skeins. One skein each of 2 colors will give you enough for dozens of small gifties like these. I chose a couple of color  combinations from their beautiful range of heathery tones to show in this drawdown. ( For the Pinwheel use Teal and Midnight and for the Shepherd’s Check use Chokecherry and Walnut) Another great option would be Valley Yarns Northampton which has a huge color spectrum ( For the Pinwheel use Lake Heather and Ocean Heather; for the Shepherd’s Check use Garnet and Fawn). Sett at 8 epi, this yarn will make thicker potholders. And both of  these yarns will felt wonderfully!

Do you have any ideas for last minute gift weaving?