Author Archive

Spin Cycle

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
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We are nearly halfway through July and the Tour de Fleece. The what?! You mean you haven’t heard that spinners are spinning along with the Tour de France? We are and it’s great fun as well as a great way to get into a rhythm of spinning every day. I know it is making a big difference for me as the daily workout helps me spin more consistent yarn and improve my technique. I made some adjustments in my hand position after our workshops with Beth Smith last month and having dedicated time every day allows me to practice and become comfortable with that. On the challenge days I am working on plying, trying some new methods to spin a 3-ply. There’s still some room in our Tour de Fleece SpinShops on July 17th, so check out the event page for descriptions of the array of fantastic spinning workshops and join us for some fiber fun!

Tour de Fleece Spinshops at WEBS retail store. Details on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

I’m also looking lustfully at some of the travel wheels we have in our spinning section, thinking about upcoming summer trips. We have 2 nice options with another on the horizon. The Louet Victoria is delightfully compact and light, folds with ease and even has a built in carrying handle. The spinning is smooth and it has accessories including a jumbo flyer for plying or creating art yarns. The Sidekick by Schacht is another contender that features its own carrying strap, folds easily into a snug shape and is a dream to spin on. Later this summer we will have a new loom from Schacht – the Flatiron, which is a folding Saxony wheel with many options for set up. I plan to try it out as soon as it arrives and will let you know how it spins.

Will you be taking your spinning on the road this summer?

 

Home Schooling

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
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Many years ago, when I discovered my passion for fiber, I yearned to study it in a focused way. I found there actually are colleges with such programs, but the circumstances of my life did not allow for being a full-time student. Thankfully, my mother (a resourceful reference librarian) sent me a stack of knitting books which became my textbooks for intensive home study.

Now that my fiber focus has expanded to include weaving I look for similar books to recommend to eager weavers wanting to learn more. I am happy to say that there are more than a few and here are two of my new favorites.

Expand your weaving skills this summer with fantastic new books! Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

I love Next Steps in Weaving because it is beautifully laid out for a progressive study of weave structures. The text is clear and straight forward and easy to understand for all levels of weavers. In addition to thorough descriptions of how the threads interact, she offers basic weaving tips to build overall skills and knowledge. There are plenty of samples to weave, which is a great way to reinforce the conceptual learning, and a few projects for each section of weaves.

Just released this spring, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom offers similar learning opportunities for rigid heddle weavers. The subtitle is “For Beginners and Beyond” and it is certainly true as the book starts with the basics of warping and learning to weave, then progresses to more complex and beautiful techniques. A home study of this book would be a great way to learn how to get the most out of your rigid heddle and deepen your knowledge of both technique and design.

What books are your favorite study guides?

Tour de Fleece

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
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Most people know about the Tour de France, but – hang onto your yellow jersey – have you heard of the Tour de Fleece? Spinners have taken it upon themselves to take their wheels (and spindles) for a spin and follow the great race. Unlike what happens in France, this Tour has no rules, just guidelines: spin each day the cyclists ride and rest on their rest days; on the mountain climb days challenge yourself with a new fiber, technique or yardage. Mostly just have fun and use the race as a way to pace yourself and spin almost daily for a month.

Tour de Fleece events at WEBS. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

WEBS is hosting a team again this year, so check our thread on our Ravelry page to join and be part of the fun. We will encourage and inspire each other to spin and have fun, share pictures and chat about spinning and why we love it so much.

And because I love a party with a purpose, we’ll be hosting a day of workshops and activities on July 17th at our store in Northampton. Join us for the day and spend time learning, shopping, gathering and spinning together with the folks that understand our love of twisting fiber into yarn. The daylong event (10 am – 4 pm) will feature workshops in the morning and afternoon with a slate of 4 different classes for both time slots. Options include hand carding, Navajo plying, spinning lace yarns, long draw, fractal spinning and more. All workshops are hands on and you will be able to sign up for your choices ahead of time.

The mid-day break will provide more activities as well as a chance for lunch (bring your own and we will provide cookies and fruit). Sit and spin, relax and shop (special spinning deals for the day), chat with spinning friends old and new. And because we’re trying to pack in as much as possible (it is a challenge day for the Tour, after all), we’ve got a couple more activities. Gather ’round the wheel display to hear about why spinning wheels have different drive styles and tensioning options and learn which features work best for the types of yarns you want to spin. Or stretch out with some gentle yoga focused on the muscles we use in spinning.

We hope you can join us for our special spinning day. I know I’m looking forward to it and to spinning along with the cyclists throughout the month of July.

Project Planning – Color me Happy

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
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How do you decide what colors to use in your weaving? Sometimes I have a sense of color family – towels to match the kitchen, a throw to complement the couch, my sister’s favorite color for a shawl. But even then I have to decide which shade to use, which colors to combine in warp and/or weft. I talked in a previous post about the Color Grid, which helps me come up with a palette that is both interesting and harmonious. The next step is to look at how to place those colors to achieve the look and feel that I want.

I recently fell in love (again) with a lovely cotton/linen yarn from Juniper Moon called Zooey. One of the things that drew me to this yarn was the incredible depth and saturation of the colors. It is also soft and cool and I knew I wanted to weave fabric for a simple summer top. I started by choosing an assortment of colors and went to work on figuring out out to arrange them in a way to showcase their vibrant beauty.

Planning your next weaving project - choosing colors on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Because the colors will be the focus, I decided to weave this on my rigid heddle in plain weave. A great and inexpensive way to look at color combos is to do a wrap – take a piece of cardstock or an index card and fold it into a strip that is approximately 1-2″ tall and 5-6″ wide. Warp several strips with different color combos and compare them to see what you like. Here are the wraps that I tried. In the top one I wrapped the colors randomly in stripes of varying widths. While I didn’t like the asymmetry, it did help to see how the colors played next to each other. For the next one, I wrapped five of the colors as single stripes repeating in the same order – didn’t like that at all, it was muddy and boring. The bottom wrap shows stripes of green separated by a progression of the other colors. That was a winner for me; I liked the strong lines of green and it looked good with all of the other colors.

The next step was choosing the weft. For this step I put a 10″ wide warp on the loom. I wanted it to be big enough to really see the effect of the weft, plus I wanted to check the hand of the fabric. My test weft yarns were all lighter weight than the warp because I wanted a fabric with a light hand and good drape. I tested 3 different yarns, using a different color in each (and was absurdly proud of covering 2 facets in one warp). After weaving the samples, I serged the edges and cut them apart, then washed and dried them.

Here’s what they looked like. The top sample was woven with Brassard 8/2 Cottolin (Royal c0963), the swatch in the middle used Valley Cotton 8/2 (Algiers Blue 2194), and the bottom was with Valley Cotton 6/2 (Aubergine). The verdict? I eliminated the bottom swatch because it was too heavy and the colors looked indistinct. The other two were equally nice in terms of drape and hand, so it came down to the colors. Although I liked the light blue in the middle swatch, it felt a bit washed out and I really wanted to see the vivid colors. The result is that the top swatch came out on top because it captures both the look and feel I want for my summer top.

I know many weavers groan about the idea of sampling.  It is time-consuming, not to mention yarn-consuming, to sample. But for me it’s a good investment, because I’m not gambling with my project. I know that the cloth I take off the loom will be what I wanted to create. I’ve got the loom warped up and I’ll give you a peek when I’m done with the next step.

How do you decide on colors?

Project Planning – Ready, Set, Sett?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016
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One of the first factors that needs to be addressed in planning a weaving project is the sett of the yarn. Knitters talk about the gauge of the yarn – stitches per inch, for weavers it is sett. It tells you how dense the yarn will be in the warp (ends per inch) and the weft (picks per inch) and this information is used to determine how much yarn is needed for the project.

What makes sett feel intimidating is that it’s not a simple “if the yarn is this size, the sett is this” equation. You also have to factor in the weave structure as well as the intended use for the fabric. This is why we list a range of setts with all of our weaving yarns. If you look on the yarn page for tencel  on our website, or the shelf tag in the store, the sett is listed as 20 – 27 epi. The lower end of the scale is for plain weave and the upper end is more suitable for twills.

So where to begin if you have a mystery cone with no information? For the unknown yarns, start by using a yarn balance to determine the number of yards per pound. Knowing the fiber content is also useful as plant and animal fibers behave differently and this will affect the sett. If you can’t tell the fiber content just by look and feel, many people recommend doing a burn test. Be sure to follow safety guidelines if you try this. THere’s a fantastic chart for burn tests here, and a simple but eye opening video here.

So now you’ve got yardage and fiber information, the next step is to determine the range of setts that will work. I often use the Master Yarn Chart compiled by Handwoven magazine. It lists sett for all the yarns used in their projects since 2000 and will give you that range I was talking about above. You have to join their weaving community to see it, but it’s free and provides access to this and other great resources.

Understanding sett and using a swatch maker for your weaving, on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Another tool that just came out is the Swatch Maker 3-in-1 Loom. This little sample loom is brilliant as it allows you sample three different setts (8, 10 & 12 epi) to see which will work best with your chosen yarn. It’s a quick and easy way to test possibilities and minimizes the amount of yarn used for sampling. I’ve been using it to check my ideas for the cloth I want to weave for a summer top.

Understanding sett provides a good foundation for weaving beautiful cloth, take advantage of the available tools to explore the compatibility of yarn and sett for your next project.

Summer School for Weavers

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
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Here’s my true (and unashamed) confession – I chose to go to summer school in high school. As an overachiever with a competitive streak I certainly didn’t need it for academic success; I just found fascinating classes that weren’t taught at other times and knew I didn’t want to miss out. I feel the same when I look at our summer schedule for weaving classes here at WEBS – there’s some unique classes and teachers that are not to be missed.

Weaving classes for beginners and advanced techniques this summer. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Jason Collingwood is one of the rock stars of the weaving world, known for his masterful rug weaving and teaching skills. We are lucky to have him at WEBS for a 3-day weekend workshop which will cover 4-end blockweave for rug weaving, starting with simple two-color designs and moving on to designing within the blocks as well as the addition of a third color. He will also talk about techniques such as clasped wefts and summer and winter.

Closer to home, we have our local weaving superstars offering classes in their areas of expertise. Scott Norris is known for the beautiful linen textiles he weaves and sells throughout the Northeast. He says of his favorite fiber: “I weave with linen whenever possible, because it remains resilient and lustrous as it fades and softens over time. When treated respectfully, cloth woven from linen can last nearly forever, providing an element of permanence that I admire.” Scott designed a class that will give weavers experience in handling, weaving and caring for linen yarn using a variety of weave structures. The class meets once a month starting in August, giving participants time to weave samples between class sessions. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from a master and learn the tricks to tame and befriend linen.

For the rigid heddle weavers there is also an excellent chance to learn from an expert. Paula Veleta has been teaching RH weaving for years and has developed our curriculum for advanced beginner and intermediate weavers. In July she will teach a 2-day workshop on weaving with double heddles. This advanced-beginner class will teach students to weave using finer yarns to make more sophisticated projects. You’ll learn how to thread your loom using two rigid heddles, how to determine a proper sett, and how to created texture and pattern. Another don’t-miss event for deepening your skills.

For those looking to begin to weave, we will have our One-week Intensive for Beginning Weaving, also taught by Scott Norris. The class gets you started with all of the basics of weaving on a multi-shaft loom – warping, weaving, project planning and more. There are also a few spots left in our Introduction to Rigid Heddle Weaving 1-day class, which teaches you the basics of warping and weaving on a rigid heddle loom.

Summer is coming! School yourself in new ways to use your loom and expand your weaving horizons.

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?