Author Archive

Holiday Weaving

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
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Holiday WeavingCelebration Runner weaving draft available at yarn.comI am a great lover of family traditions and one year I decided to start a new one for our family and wove each of my sisters a holiday dish towel/bread cloth. I wanted them to be related, but not identical, so I chose a twill pattern that I could use different treadlings with. I also mixed it up a little by using two different weft colors and varying the proportions, so one had stripes, one a broad band of contrast, etc. The result was a gift that wove us together as a family and yet was unique and special to each person. Sets maximize your warping time by allowing you to make many pieces from one warp. Each piece becomes different through the use of different weft colors, treadlings or tie ups. This strategy works for everything from dish towels and bread cloths, to scarves, table runners and more.

I categorize my holiday weaving in two groups – gifts and decorating my home. My categories overlap sometimes, because I often weave festive pieces for other people’s homes. For the gifting I tend to keep it simple and go with the Set Theory, which can play out in numerable ways. Your handwoven can be the crown jewel in a basket of goodies – a bread cloth with a loaf of home-baked or artisan bread, spa cloths with bath salts, a sewn bag filled with game pieces (chess, anyone?) or a bottle of wine. A set of coasters (aka mug rugs) is a quick gift as well as a great way to sample new techniques.

Color options for weaving drafts on the WEBS blog

And then there’s home dec. I love linens (a term I use generically that does not necessarily involve the use of the linen fiber) that can be special accents for holidays. Table runners, place mats and coasters are great for this. These are pieces where I rely on color to carry the theme, choosing those that are associated with the family/faith traditions of the recipient. The examples below are based on one of our most popular drafts – #64 Modified Star Work Dish Towel.  For a table runner – make it narrower and longer and add some lovely twisted fringes. Place mats – hemmed rectangles, maybe with some stripes along the edges to frame the pattern.

What weaving projects are you planning for the holidays?

Shuttle Shenanigans

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
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Beginning to weave is an exciting adventure that opens the door to so much – creativity, color, texture, pattern and more. It is also overwhelming at times to learn the new language (sley? heddle? tromp as writ?!) not to mention the huge variety of tools.

One of the most basic tools is the shuttle, which holds and carries the yarn to weave the cloth. Sounds simple enough, right? Then why are there so many different ones and how am I supposed to know which one to use?! It’s enough to make you cry, but that will stain the wood, so let me break it down for you. We’ll start with the major types of shuttles.

boat shuttlesBoat Shuttles

Boat shuttles are longish, narrow wooden shuttles that are open in the center with a long metal shaft that holds the bobbin of yarn. Boats can be open underneath the bobbin or closed (solid wood) underneath. The profile of a shuttle refers to its height; a slim shuttle will be shorter and fit into a narrower shed (the opening between the threads that the shuttle passes through). Double boat shuttles can hold two bobbins of yarn. The yarn in a boat shuttle feeds off the bobbin and through a slot or hole in the side of the shuttle.

Stick Shuttles

stick shuttlesStick shuttles are thin flat pieces of wood that have notches at both ends. They also come in a variety of lengths, anywhere from 6” up to 30”. It is much easier to work with a shuttle that is slightly longer than the width of your project. If it is too long, you will end up whacking the walls and doing a bit of flailing; too short and you will have to reach into the shed  to grab the shuttle. A Belt shuttle is a short stick shuttle that has one beveled edge so that it can be used to beat the yarn in. Belt shuttles are often used with inkle, card and backstrap weaving.

Rag, Rug & Ski Shuttles

rag, rug & ski shuttlesRag shuttles look like two thin tapered pieces of wood with columns in between. This is so you can wind a lot of strips of cut or torn rags, which are rather bulky, onto the shuttle.

A rug shuttle is used as its name suggests – to weave rugs. It is a solid, square-ish piece of wood with groves along the sides and notches at the end to hold the yarn (I think of it as a stick shuttle on steroids); it needs the extra heft to carry the heavier rug yarns. As with stick shuttles, choose a rug shuttle based on the width of your project.

A ski shuttle has a wooden base with upturned ends (like a ski!) and an upright center to wrap the yarn around. It can be used for yarns that are too bulky for a boat shuttle, but it slides along the warp which is an advantage over a stick shuttle.

How to Choose a Shuttle

First you have to choose the type that is suitable for your loom and project. Boat shuttles feed yarn more evenly and quickly because of the bobbin and are generally the shuttle of choice for multi-harness looms. Rigid heddle weavers will sometimes use boats, though in my  personal experience I limit them to narrower warps as they can nose dive to the floor on wider warps. Stick shuttles work well for rigid heddles and other smaller looms, as well as for some hand-manipulated weaves on larger looms. Rug and rag shuttles – self-explanatory.

Photo by Lindsey TophamBoat shuttles have a number of variables to further influence your choice. Open or closed bottom? Closed bottom will glide more smoothly, open bottom allows you to use your fingers as a brake on the bobbin and are lighter in weight. Weight is an important factor in choosing a shuttle. In general, you want to pick the lightest shuttle that serves your weaving needs, to lessen the strain on your hands, though on occasion you may need something heavier to throw across a wider warp.

If you have the chance to try shuttles in person, take advantage of it. Hold it in your hand and mimic your throwing motion. Evaluate how it fits in your hand, how easy it is to grasp. As with many fine tools, it often comes down to personal preference so listen to your body and don’t be afraid to experiment with different shuttle types. You will probably also find that different projects require different shuttles (which is how we end up with a variety on the shelf next to the loom!).

WEBS 40th Anniversary Shuttle

 

 

Weaving Contest Gallery Show

Sunday, October 12th, 2014
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Our yearlong celebration of WEBS 40th Anniversary has included a wide variety of fiber-related events, special yarns, drafts and patterns. One of my favorite parts has been the 40th Anniversary Weaving Contest, which focused on WEBS’ beginnings as a weaving store.

cones tencelThe concept of a contest sounded great to us – show us the beauty you can create with our yarn. However, we had no idea what kind of a response we’d get and as the months passed by with only a few responses, we felt like the kid wondering where the party guests were and had everyone forgotten? And then the floodgates opened and we were overwhelmed with the huge outpouring of ideas that had been developing on the looms of our weaving friends. We ended up with more than 140 entries from 30 different states across the country!

Aside from the sheer volume of entries, we were amazed and impressed by the skill of the weavers and beauty and workmanship of their pieces. Although we specified four categories for entries, the works spanned everything from scarves, shawls and clothing, to towels, table linens and curtains, to decorative and artistic wall hangings, rugs and bowls.

 

 

beautiful woven jacketWhat I found equally fascinating were the stories that came with the pieces. I grew up surrounded by classical music so I was delighted when I read that Deborah Lewis-Idema designed the cloth she wove for her beautiful jacket using the first four measures of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata. Another design, from Cindie Kitchin, came out of a weaving guild challenge. They each pulled the name of a country out of a hat and designed something inspired by that. The result is her lovely Iranian Tiles Scarf.

 

beautiful woven tencel scarf

 

 

The 40th Anniversary Weaving Gallery Show will present all of the weavings that were selected as finalists in the contest. Free and open to the public, the show will take place at WEBS retail store at 75 Service Center Rd, Northampton, MA. The show will kick off with an opening reception from 6 – 7:30 pm on October 16th and then be open from 10 am – 5 pm on October 17 & 18. Please join us to see the exquisite beauty and to celebrate 40 years of WEBS and weaving.

 

woven runner

 

Spinning and Weaving Week

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
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We have transitioned from the warmth and busyness of summer to the fall routines of school and harvest. I am enjoying the crisp mornings and the orange and red palette spreading through the trees. And, of course, I am looking forward to October, the month of fiber revelry! So many events and opportunities to connect with fiber and fiber fanatics!

HGA WS wk imageAt WEBS, we kick off the month with a weeklong celebration. International Spinning and Weaving Week is October 6 – 12 and in our little corner of the world that means an abundance of ways to experience fiber and textiles from fleece to finished handwovens.

Central to the week are daily demonstrations and workshops covering a wide range of techniques. Demonstrations are free and open to all who come in to the store. They take place from 11 am – 1 pm and will feature spinners using wheels and spindles to create yarn from fleece and roving. Weavers will also be showcasing their skills on a wide variety of looms. It’s a great opportunity to watch the process up close and talk with the artisans about how they create. It’s not just children who are fascinated by the rhythm (although they are welcome to check it out as well)!weaving demo1

 

Mini-workshops will also be offered daily from 2 – 4 pm. These workshops offer a taste of a new technique, a chance to learn a different way to do things or maybe expose yourself to something new. The mini workshops cost $5 each and you can register online, over the phone or in the store.

temple

 

 

Mini Workshop Schedule:

Monday, October 6

Plying Workshop with Ashley Flagg

 Using a Warping Mill to Wind Warps with Scott Norris

Tuesday, October 7:

Temple Temptations – Create Beautiful Selvages with Chris Hammel

Wednesday, October 8

Creating Texture on the Rigid Heddle Loom with Marthe Young

Fiber Blending for Spinning Unique Yarns with Pamela Darrow

Thursday, October 9

Log Cabin Weaving with Paula Veleta

Friday, October 10

Variable Dent Reed with Paula Veleta

Two special demonstrations during the week will highlight the huge range of possible styles of weaving. On Tuesday from 12 – 1 pm, Weaving Manager Leslie Ann Bestor will demonstrate weaving on a computer-assisted loom. And on Friday we will showcase Saori weaving with Mihoko Wakabayashi from 11 am – 1 pm.

And a WEBS celebration would not be complete without some great deals and discounts! Weavers can look forward to 15% off reeds, warping mills, and Schacht Flip rigid heddle looms; 20% off all weaving DVDs and new additions to the Great Cone Sale. spinningFor spinners we will have 20% off all fiber, Howard hand cards, and spinning DVDs; 15% off spinning wheels and 30% off 8 ounce bags of Louet Dyed Corriedale Top.

Join us to celebrate, learn and be inspired!

Hidden Treasures for Weavers

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
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You know how you can walk by the same thing time after time without really noticing it? Or you get so focused on looking for the new that the regular scenery just fades? I love those moments when I rediscover something wonderful that’s been there all along. Here are some of the hidden treasures I fell in love with again as a weaver:

great weaving drafts and technical informationWeaver’s Craft magazines are a gold mine of information and drafts. Jean Scorgie, a former editor of Handwoven magazine, publishes these little gems and we carry nearly 20 different issues. Each issue features a topic (laces, overshoot, baby blankets, etc.) with information, illustrations, ideas and projects. I recommend these all the time to newer weavers because she really explains the concepts and then provides easy drafts to put the techniques into practice. I am steadily building my collection of these as part of my weaving reference library.

Two of my favorite issues illustrate just how much is packed into a small space. April/May 2000 focuses on twills and includes a discussion of twills, plus sections on floating selvedges, smiling selvedges and how to fix them, gamps, and threading heddles. And it has drafts for 5 different dish towels! The Spring 2001 edition is all about weaving overshot and has articles about drawdowns, tromp as writ, designing name drafts and more, plus drafts for placemats, table runners and a drawstring bag. And all of these can be woven on a 4-shaft loom!

gorgeous weaving projectsAnother overlooked booklet on the magazine rack is Kismet, published by Hill Country Weavers. This is gorgeous, glossy eye candy for weavers loaded with inspiration for thinking (and weaving) outside the box. The projects are woven on rigid heddle looms with knitting yarns and incorporate knit and crochet details. I find the designs to be refreshing and creative and more about new ways of envisioning woven wearables than the specific type of loom used to weave the cloth. Fifteen designs are presented in full detail, ranging from scarves and shawls to blankets, skirts, and fingerless mitts. There is also a wealth of technical information including hemstitching, fringes, seaming, picking up for knit or crochet, reading a draft and a step by step pictorial guide to direct warping a rigid heddle loom.

And, speaking of hidden treasures, did you know we have our own series of weaving drafts designed specifically for the Valley Yarns line of yarns? This year we are showcasing designs created especially for our 40th anniversary in addition to dozens more that have been drafted by WEBS founder Barbara Elkins and other talented weavers over the years. Visitors to the store have the good fortune of not only being able to see them, but also to touch and investigate the drape and details of the pattern Online shoppers can find drafts on our website in a few ways. If you are looking for something to weave with a specific yarn, you will find a tab on that yarn page called “Related Patterns”. Click on it and you will be shown all the drafts/patterns we have created for that yarn. You can also find drafts on the drop down menu for Weaving and Spinning on the home page. You can narrow your search by number of shafts or just ogle the many possibilities while suffering from loom envy.

beautiful colorful woven twill towelsAvailable drafts span the full spectrum of projects, from wearables, like scarves and shawls, to blankets, bags, table runners, placemats and the ever-popular dishtowels. And, yes, dish towels are the number one drafts we sell, with the hands down favorite being Carol Birtwistle’s 40th Anniversary Ribbon Towels. There’s something for everyone from rigid heddle weavers – Draft #55 Charlemont Lace Scarf – to 4-, 8- and 16-shaft designs.

Have you discovered any hidden treasures in your wanderings? Let us know!

 

Weaving with knitting yarn?!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014
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Surely you jest!

As a weaver I sometimes get stuck walking the same path through the store and web pages, looking at the coned yarns because that’s what weavers use, right? But wait, there’s a lot of fun textures and colors over in the knitting yarns that would be great for weaving! And there’s even some yarns I’m used to seeing on cones that are packaged in skeins (knitter’s camouflage?). Here are a few of my  favorite crossover yarns:

luscious heathery colors and softnessJaggerspun Heathers is a wonderful 2/8 wool that arrived recently and I am delighted to see it in 100g skeins. The great benefit of this is that you can buy an array of colors and not be limited by having to commit to one pound or half pound cones and end up with leftovers (not that I object to building stash, mind you). I love to weave blankets and the 2/8 weight is perfect for something warm and cozy. The range of colors includes both natural and richly heathered shades. This is truly a weaver’s staple.

Woven scarves are great as gifts and a perfect canvas  for playing with new textures and fibers. Some basics in my scarf stash are Valley Yarns Leyden, a variegated fingering weight and Valley Yarns Charlemont, a lusciously soft merino-silk blend in solids, kettle dyed and hand dyed colors. Both these yarns have beautiful drape and sheen. And with a sett of 12 -16 epi, these are quick to weave!

Sweet Georgia CashSilkLaceI have a soft spot  for hand-dyed yarns and often take a circuitous route through the lace section of the store, drawn by the luminous colors and luxurious fibers. The lace weight yarns generally have great yardage in each skein, and a single skein can be used as weft to create a special, one-of-a-kind piece. Sweet Georgia makes some stunning yarns, including both CashSilk Lace (pictured here) and Merino Silk Lace. I’d like to take a nap in a cozy nest of these yarns, but will have to settle for a handwoven scarf draped around my neck.

Prism Delicato Layers woven scarfAnother hidden gem is Prism Yarns Delicato Layers. This is a tonally dyed tencel, equivalent to a 6/2 weight, and the colors are spectacular. I wove this scarf using Delicato in Deep Sea for my warp and Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo in Hummingbird for my weft. The Delicato adds such depth and movement to the scarf and it has the drape and softness of silk.

I would be remiss if I let myself (and you) get totally distracted by the siren song of luxury yarns. There are many yarns with fun textures and color patterns that are great to weave with. One afternoon this summer we had a scavenger hunt, looking for unusual and offbeat yarns in the store and then wove them into the sampler below. We used Juniper Moon Farm Zooey as the warp, sett at 10 epi (you could also use Valley Yarns 3/2 Cotton) and then wove sections of (from left to right)  Tahki Tandem, Trendsetter Cin Cin, and Lang Ella. These would make lively and unique placemats and table runners. One thing to keep in mind is that if the yarn is self-striping, with long sections of each color, it may pool or look blocky as weft and work better as warp where the color runs stretch out.

rigid heddle weaving knitting yarns

 

So play around with knitting yarns and have fun weaving!

Just don’t call me Shirley.

Spinzilla 2014

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
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Spinzilla 2014 is here! Spinzilla is a global event in which teams and individuals compete in a friendly challenge to see who can spin the most yarn during Spinning and Weaving Week, October 6-12 2014. It is organized by TNNA (The National NeedleArts Association) for the dual purpose of raising money for their Needle Arts Mentoring Program, and to promote handspinning.

Spinzilla spinning wheelWEBS is hosting a team this year and we’re looking forward to seeing what our spinners create. It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to not only create connections in our local spinning community, but to encourage our team members to build their skills and enjoy the camaraderie and creativity of spinning together. Spinning expertise is not required, just the desire to spin yarn, have fun and enjoy the team spirit of the event.

The focus for Team WEBS is to motivate and inspire each other to become better spinners–and who says that won’t be fun? Do you need a nudge to push through your fear of spinning fine yarns? Want to try your hand at a new fiber? We are planning some meet-ups and a free workshop before the event, and some spin-ins during the week. Of course we will have goodies and team prizes! We’d love to have you join our team. It’s even possible to be a ‘virtual’ team member if you don’t live nearby.

Sign-ups for the team are open until September 22, or until our team is filled (max of 25 spinners). Go to spinzilla.org to sign up, and look for Team WEBS.Spinzilla drop spindle

We will keep in touch with our team through email and through our thread on the Spinzilla Ravelry group. Watch for information about scheduled meet ups and more. And please, introduce yourself to the team. Team Captain Leslie Ann Bestor, Weaving Manager at WEBS, can be reached at labestor@yarn.com.

 

Behind the Skeins

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
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The fantasy of working at a yarn store conjures up images of frolicking through bins of beautiful yarn, caressing skeins of luxurious cashmere, hobnobbing with the knitterati and knitting behind the counter while chatting with customers.  The reality includes all that (except for the knitting at work, alas, and without the symphonic soundtrack and dream sequences) plus the mundane and pedestrian tasks of running a retail business. We thought you’d like to see a Day in the Life at the store, so join us “Behind the Skeins” for a look at what goes on behind the scenes.

vacuuming WEBS

 

 

 

 

  We start the day wearing our housekeeping hats – vacuuming, putting things back in their places, wiping counters, getting things ready so we can open the doors.

 

 

 

 

 

Garment on WEBS blog

J tries on garment on WEBS blog

Often we have early morning meetings with reps from the yarn companies to learn about the new yarns and patterns for the season.  We get to try on sample garments – a great way to see how they actually look on real people.

 

 

 

Every day Bill brings us boxes loaded with new products and restocks.

Bill delivers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, it’s fun to see and touch the New.

3/7/14 A new shipment of Madelinetosh has arrived in the store!

3/7/14 A new shipment of Madelinetosh has arrived in the store!

 

 

 

 

And then we have to put it all away!

 

 

 

 

And, of course,  we have to find it again! We put a lot of time into staying organized, a big challenge considering how often we move the yarn. We map the store and update our lists and just when we think we know where everything is, we get a shipment of the next season’s yarns and we start moving and updating again. Ever wonder what happens when we disappear to find more yarn for you?

stockroom

We are practicing our orienteering skills in the stockroom!

We all learn pretty quickly that the one constant in our jobs at WEBS is constant change. Interruptions are part of the job as we move back and forth between helping customers and stocking shelves. Customer service is our priority and the other tasks take a back seat to that, so never hesitate to ask us for help!

It all makes for a lively day. It’s great to be surrounded by all the colors and textures and we are continually inspired by the creativity of our customers and colleagues. And, thus it is nice to turn off the lights at the end of the day and head home, because we can hardly wait to work on our latest project while relaxing in a comfy chair!

Turning out the lights

Meet the Store Crew

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
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Feb. 11, 2014- Store staff photo. Photo by Mary Kubasek

Walk in the door of WEBS’ retail store in Northampton and you will be greeted by one of the folks pictured above. This is our crew and they represent countless years of experience in the fiber arts. On any given day we have 6 – 9 staff on hand to keep things running smoothly and the cast of characters varies from day to day, as this is no ordinary 9-5 job.

I am Leslie Ann and I co-manage the store with Stephanie, helped by our Assistant Manager Bonnie. We work as a team, balancing our strengths to keep the skeins spinning and things on course. Stephanie is the Master Yarn Mover, Bonnie is known for her customer service and I am fluent in the language of weaving, with special emphasis on translating for beginners.

We are lucky to have a crew with great expertise. In addition to being skilled knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners and felters, our staff possess hidden talents and super powers that they use to help our customers.  Marion is our Button Maven and can help you find the perfect match among our vast collection, while Maryanne excels at helping people pick patterns and yarn colors that will flatter.  Can’t remember the name of that pattern you saw 3 months ago? J will come to the rescue! Likewise, Ashley can identify random yarn faster than a spinning spindle.

We also have Mary the Gauge Whisperer and Gail, who dyes every day.  Katie claims to have laser vision and Marthe tames the unruly shelves in the warehouse, while many others possess the strength of great and friendly customer service. Nancy keeps us laughing with her sense of humor, we have an in-house animal rescue league and an expert yarn untangler often found at the winding station.

Our diverse interests, both fiber-related and outside of work keep things lively in the store. We share our projects – WIPs, FOs, and pipe dreams.  We laugh about crazy patterns we’ve seen and ooh and ahh over the new yarns.  One and all, we are super yarn enablers and egg each other on when we see someone petting a skein or making piles of colors.

It’s a people-loving bunch and we enjoy getting to know our customers, so introduce yourself when you’re in the store and let us help you with your fibery needs.