Author Archive

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?

Sharing Celebrations

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
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One of my early weaving goals was to clothe my house in handwovens. And just as we have fancy clothes for special occasions, I like to dress up my house for the holidays with festive and unique table runners and place settings. It’s so easy and such a great way to play with color or weave structures. Generally I go with twills in colors that match the occasion and use warp stripes to draw the eye along the length of the table. It’s fun to throw in some some sparkle to reflect candlelight; a yarn like Gold Rush looks great mixed into the lighter colored stripes and you can vary the glitz by how many ends you use.

Holiday Runners, Valley Yarns Draft #90, draft available at yarn.com. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Just in time for this holiday season, our new Holiday Runners draft presents two variations to weave beautiful table runners to decorate your home – one for Hanukkah and one for Christmas. They are both easy 4-shaft twill patterns and will add a special touch to your home. They are also quick to weave which leads right into one of my other favorite parts of holidays – sharing. I really enjoy weaving for family and friends because I feel connected as I think of them while weaving, and I know they will think of me when they use the finished piece. It’s a way to be present with each other even when we are not in the same place. With that in mind, Barbara wrote the draft with a 5-yard warp so you can make one for your home and one to gift to someone special. There’s even enough yardage to weave a special small mat. We envision it as a place to leave Santa some milk and cookies, but I’m sure you can think of other possibilities – a small gift bag or pillow, perhaps?

Changing our Stripes

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
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When looking at patterns/drafts/designs it is sometimes hard (for some of us, anyway) to imagine them in another colorway. And yet, the original colors don’t always match the scheme of the room or person we are weaving for, or that particular color is out of stock or not in our stash. And this is a case where changing our stripes can be just the ticket for creating exactly what we want.

Changing warp and weft colors in your weaving drafts and the dramatic results. read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

One of our customers brought in some gorgeous dishtowels recently and I loved her color combinations, which she said were chosen for the kitchen of the intended recipient. I asked her what draft she used and did a double take when she told me it was one of ours – the Ribbon Towels by Carol Birtwistle. The Ribbon Towels draft has been one of our most popular drafts and features stripes of bright colors against a natural background with a medley of twill patterns. What really struck me in comparing Karen’s version to the original is that she not only changed the colors, but the arrangement of the stripes, which brought a different emphasis to the twill patterning. It ended up looking like a completely different towel.

Changing warp and weft colors in your weaving drafts and the dramatic results. read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Another great example of this is Draft 07, the Dornik Throw. When Barbara designed it back in 2010, she used a rich palette with ocean blue, grape jelly and dark teal against the lighter whipple blue. We updated the pattern for the 2015 Weaving Sourcebook and the new colorway pairs navy and grey teal with steel and periwinkle for a distinctly different look and feel.

Changing up the colorway is a great way to take a draft and make it yours. One of the things I love about weaving is that I can choose my colors and create combinations that are custom fit for my project. Sometimes I design my own draft as well, but sometimes it’s a simple as changing the stripes on a draft I love. Have you changed the colorway on any of the WEBS drafts? Please share your results!

Fiber Community

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
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We just wrapped a big week of events and activities – National Spinning and Weaving Week plus Spinzilla. I watched the gatherings and demonstrations and classes and it got me thinking about community, how we come together around our fiber passions and how different it is for the various forms of fiber fun.

National Spinning and Weaving Week brought together a whole community of crafters - read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

The act of weaving is generally a solitary endeavor, mostly due to the size of the looms themselves. They are not always portable and take up a lot of space, so fitting a bunch of them into a room is a bit of a challenge and it means that the weavers themselves are spread apart from each other. And there is always the concentration factor that makes conversation easier said that done. So weavers tend to gather at guilds and conferences, sharing their finished projects, inspiration and camaraderie.

Knitters, crocheters and spinners, on the other hand, gather while working on the craft, sharing works in progress as well as finished objects. It’s a different kind of sociability and community that can sometimes (but not always) be quite loud and boisterous, as we discovered last week. The tools are smaller so it’s easier to sit closer together and, if you choose your project with forethought, it is possible to continue creating while discussing inspiration, fiber sources, daily life, raising teenagers, movies and more.

And then there’s the crafting in public side of things. We always have demos as part of Spinning and Weaving week and I love to witness the interactions and questions, especially with the weavers who are not often seen throwing shuttles in public. As above, knitters/crocheters/spinners do this on a regular basis, just because they love to work on their projects and pull them out while waiting, bus riding, etc. This public side is great because it draws in people who are curious – those who’ve never seen it or wanted to try, those who remember a relative making beautiful things. It’s wonderful to share that these crafts are alive and thriving and they, too, can join in.

And this weekend is the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, one of the bigger gatherings of fiber aficionados of all sorts. The passion for creating cannot be contained and it will spill over in vibrant colors, enthusiastic conversations and the joy of communing with others as passionate as ourselves.

Rock and Rolag!

Thursday, October 1st, 2015
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We are counting down the days to Spinzilla – the international “friendly competition” to see which team can spin the most yardage. We have a great team this year and excitement is running high. Last year I had just learned to spin so it was all new. This year I not only have some spinning experience under my belt, but I realize the importance of preparation so I can optimize my spinning time.

la spin post

For starters, I am clearing off all my bobbins so I have room for all that new yarn I will be spinning. One bobbin-full I will wind into a ball and ply from inside and out as Sara described in this post. But I learned a new trick this week – I’m going to wind off onto an inexpensive storage bobbin so I can keep it on a bobbin to ply from but have my wheel bobbins free for more spinning.

The majority of my time, however, will be spent prepping fiber. Mostly that involves pre-drafting the roving which will save much time during spinning. And then there’s the playing with cards part – making rolags to blend fibers and colors. Now I just have to decide which set of hand carders to go with, or maybe the blending board from Louet……………..

Do you have any great tips for fiber prep?

Spinning with joy

Monday, September 21st, 2015
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I know, I know, I usually talk about weaving, but today I step from behind the curtain to reveal that I have a powerful obsession with spinning right now. It started with Spinzilla last year, when I made myself learn in order to support our team. Then there was a fiber binge at Rhinebeck and another one at SPA, but mostly I’ve kept it in check. Until now. Spinzilla is approaching again and not only is fiber piling up on my desk, but I convinced Kathy and Steve to bring in special fiber deals and now I have even more to stuff into my fiber closet.

Purchase your fiber for Spinzilla now! Fiber packs and exclusive colorways available at yarn.com Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

We started by teaming up with Louet to put together 2 great fiber packs. As a newer spinner, I am still learning about different sheep breeds and their characteristics, so I love the WEBSzilla Monster Mile pack. It contains a half pound each of 4 different breeds – Falkland (white), Cheviot (white), Shetland Moorit (brown) and Coopworth (grey). I’m looking forward to seeing how these spin up as well as dreaming about plying and dyeing the handspun yarn. There is plenty of fiber in this pack to spin a monster mile and enough variety to keep the spinning fresh and interesting.

The second pack from Louet we are calling the Spinzilla Fun Pack. It tips the scales with 4 pounds of fiber-y goodness and a completely different assortment of sheep breeds plus some dyed fiber to keep it exciting. The pack contains half pound bags of dyed Merino, Masham Top, light grey Romney sliver, medium Romney sliver, dark Romney sliver, Dorset sliver, Wensleydale sliver, and dyed Karaoke (soysilk) top. Lots of possibilities for blending and plying…

And then, because some of us are completely captivated with gradient dyes these days, we asked our friends at Frabjous Fibers to create a special colorway for us. They started with a base of 70% Blue Face Leicester and 30% Silk and dyed it a beautiful tonal gradient that moves from the deep blue of our logo through lighter shades of blue into grey. It’s packaged like their new Lambs Tail with 5 one-ounce puffs of tonally colored fiber that gradually change shade. I have this piled on my desk right now and I just keep petting the soft richness and marveling at the wavy crimp. I know, I have a problem.

And what of you? What will you spin in October?

National Spinning and Weaving Week

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
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We’re rolling up to October, and around here that means just one thing – fiber frenzy! And it’s not just about the fiber itself, it’s about how we use it to create beautiful and unique things to adorn our bodies and our homes. National Spinning and Weaving Week, October 5 – 10, kicks off the month and we celebrate with a wide array of free demonstrations, mini workshops, special discounts and more.

In the spirit of sharing these time-honored arts, we will be featuring daily demonstrations of both weaving and spinning in the store from 11 am – 1 pm. These demos will be free and, we hope, will spark questions and conversation between the weavers and spinners and those watching. A great variety of techniques will be presented – both wheel and drop spindle spinning, floor looms, inkle looms, rigid heddle and more. If you’ve ever wanted to see fleece spun into yarn or watch yarn woven into cloth, come on over and check it out!

Mini Workshops to Celebrate Spinning and Weaving Week at WEBS! Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

And if you’d like to get a taste of new techniques and expand your skills, we will have mini-workshops .covering a wide range of topics. These will run from 3 – 5 pm, Monday – Friday and cost $5 each. Learn how to draft and add just the right amount of twist to the fiber you spin, or try your hand at plying from a center pull ball. And delve into weaving topics from the beginning (determining sett and sley, winding a warp) to the end (hemstitching and edge treatments) of the process. Full workshop descriptions are on our website and you can register online, in the store or by calling customer service at 1-800-367-9327.

The week wraps up with a special event with Dave and Pam van Stralen from Louet North America. On Friday and Saturday, October 9 & 10, we will have Louet looms, spinning wheels and drum carders set up for hands-on demonstrations so you can try them and see how well they work. Dave will answer questions about the products and as an added bonus, he will do free tune ups on Louet spinning wheels! And since Louet makes beautiful yarns in addition to the spinning and weaving tools, they will be bringing a trunk show of knitted and crocheted garments for customers to check out and try on. We will have an in-store special sale – buy 4 balls of Louet yarn and get one more free, a great way to run with the inspiration from the trunk show.

We hope you’ll join us for some of the fun activities during Spinning and Weaving Week.