Author Archive

Time to Learn

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017
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My grandmother was a weaver and though I didn’t spend much time around her, I wanted to learn to weave and carry on the family tradition from a young age. I was quite nomadic after college and my first adult forays into the fiber world were in knitting and crochet because their portable nature satisfied my need to create with yarn.  I spent years playing and learning other creative techniques (felting, beading, embroidery and more) and at some point decided that I didn’t want to be “jack of all trades, master of none” so I focused on knitting as both creative outlet and career choice.

The longing to weave persisted, but I was afraid of spreading myself too thin so I decided I would take up weaving when I had at least 3 – 4 months to immerse myself in learning. It might mean that it would be later in life, but I wanted to give myself (and the craft) a chunk of time to thoroughly work through the beginner phase. Fortunately my mother stepped in to teach me again. My mom was my first mentor and inspiration in the world of making things. She was an excellent seamstress and knitter and taught me both at a young age (the knitting didn’t stick at the time, but was still in my hands when I came back to it after college). She, too, had always wanted to weave like her mother and had put it off to retirement. The time came and she took a class (at WEBS!) and my dad bought her a loom and she was on her way. The problem was, she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and her brain couldn’t remember what she learned. She wove a few small samplers but had to give it up.

I weave on my mom’s loom now because I realized I couldn’t wait for the ‘perfect’ time to learn. I started working at WEBS a few years after my mom passed on and when the opportunity came to take a weaving class I jumped at it even though I didn’t have the luxury of making it the sole focus of my life. Sitting at the loom felt like coming home to me and I have become almost evangelical in urging people to follow their creative dreams.

LA shares her love of weaving and tells her weaving story on the WEBS Blog, blog.yarn.com

I have found many ways to continue my weaving and spinning education, starting with classes here at WEBS. We are lucky to have great teachers close by who instruct a wide range of basic and advanced classes, not to mention the many nationally-known guest teachers who present workshops in our store. Our Winter/Spring schedule is out, be sure to check out the offerings and sign up online or in the store.

Many of us also have access to local guilds that feature speakers and classes. I try to take advantage of these opportunities because they allow me to learn new techniques. Even if I decide not to pursue those ideas, I learn so much from being around other weavers, watching how they work with the tools, being inspired by what they create. Bonus for me is that I also learn more about how to teach!

Another wonderful place to expand your horizons is at a regional conference like NEWS, the New England Weavers’ Seminar which will happen July 13 – 16, 2017 in Northampton. These conferences generally have a slate of classes in addition to gallery shows and exhibits. Look for one in your area, there are dozens spread around the country and well worth attending. Besides, there is nothing so satisfying as hanging out with the folks that speak your language and understand your passion!

I see another year of learning in 2017, I have signed up for a workshop in tablet weaving and another in shadow weave. I may add a rep weave class if I’m feeling really adventurous. What will you learn in the coming year?

Begin as You Mean to Go On

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
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Many years ago, while listening to a New Year’s podcast of Cast On with Brenda Dayne, she uttered the phrase “Begin as you mean to go on” and it has stuck with me to this day. I reflect on it every year as January 1st approaches, this idea of anchoring intentions with action, solidifying new beginnings by consciously working on them. Some choose to make resolutions or set goals, but for me the simplicity of that phrase means that I begin by doing.

The first step is reflection, looking back at this year and forward to the one to come. And then I plan for a New Year’s Day that includes the things I want to nurture in my life. Weaving and spinning are both on the list, of course. It’s easy to get carried away with a 3-page list of ideas, but I’m narrowing it down so that I can enjoy some quality time with my creative side as well as my family.

Inkle loom weaving and more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

I want to make something for my sister so I dusted off my inkle loom and weaving cards and pulled out Candace Crockett’s great book , Card Weaving for inspiration. I forgot how quick and easy it is to set this up and get weaving! I’ve started a narrow band (1/4″) to use as a strap to hold her thread snips while weaving.  It will be a fun project and small enough that I’ll be able to weave serious yardage that day.

On the spinning side, I’ve just about finished spinning a bundle of Frabjous Fibers 3 Feet of Sheep and I’ve been pondering how I’m going to ply it. Lo and behold, I walk past the spinning area today and see the new issue of PLY magazine, with the theme of plying! I love this magazine for its in-depth articles and tutorials and I’m looking forward to curling up with it tonight and exploring ideas for what to do with my singles. My project for January 1st will be to ply these gorgeous colors into a stunning yarn.

So that is how I plan to begin the new year, doing the things I love and will continue to do throughout the year. What will you begin as you mean to go on?

It’s the little things

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
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I love unusual little things – handy tools that tuck into pockets or small pouches, ordinary accessories that are made with a special touch, small gifts that don’t break the bank yet bring smiles and joy. Naturally, that means I delight in the holiday season and the chance to search for little treasures to surprise my family and friends. Part of the joy for me is finding something special that the giftee can use in creating things. Don’t get me wrong, nothing beats a box of bonbons, but I am a practical person and want the gift to be useful and long lasting.

With that in mind, I cast my eye around the weaving and spinning realm to see what little delights fit the bill. First there are the unsung heroines of weaving – the Floating Sues, made by Jim Hokett. These beautiful gadgets fall into the category of “that’s so simple, I could have made it myself”, which then leads to “but why would I make them when these are so beautiful and such a great deal”. Floating Sues look like a spindle with hooks on both ends and a beautiful chunk of wood in the middle. They are made to hang on floating selvages or to weight down broken warp ends. After years of dealing with canisters of pennies and fishing weights, I love the simplicity and ease of these. They come in 2 size options and if I need more weight I can add something on the bottom hook.

Floating Sues from Hokett make a wonderful addition to any weaver's tool box. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

For spinners, we recently started carrying Snyder Spindles, wonderful little Turkish drop spindles made from beautiful woods or with colorful 3D printed arms. I wrote about them in the this post last month, so it felt like cheating to go on about them again, so I turned my gaze farther afield and spied the shimmery braids of 50/50 Merino Tencel Top from Frabjous Fibers. I know it’s a bit fluffy to stuff into a pocket, but it’s a wonderful gift, nonetheless. It’s something new and different, the colorways are dreamy and that shine! I envision spinning a lightweight 2-ply to knit into a sensuous shawl.

And for those of you in our neck of the woods, drop by the store to see the gift table up front. There are many small trinkets we brought in just for the holidays, all of them fiber-related and fun – gift tags, mugs, laser-carved wooden gauges and ornaments and more. They are here for now and in small quantities, so you will only find them in the store. Come in and take a look!

Table Dressing

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
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One of my favorite things about holidays is gathering with family and friends and sharing good food. I’ll admit I don’t get too fancy with house decorations, but since once of my weaving goals is to clothe my house in handwovens I have taken to dressing the dining table with festive runners. Over the years I have woven everything from simple to complex. There are the last minute runners woven in plain weave on my rigid heddle loom using sparkly sock yarns and some lacy ones with elaborate fringes.

Last year Barbara designed a set of runners in 4-shaft twill that are elegant and beautiful. The Holiday Runner Draft #90 is shown in both Christmas and Hanukkah colors. This year I decided to change up the colors in the draft to create a Thanksgiving runner. It was fun to play with color possibilities in an autumn palette to create the warp and then I tried out a few options for the weft. Each gives a distinct look, with textured areas where the weft and warp are the same color. I usually put on extra warp so I can experiment with weft colors and find the best look. If you try this, be sure to step away from the loom and view the weaving from a distance to see how the colors balance, this can be quite different from what you see close up.

Valley Yarns Holiday Runner Draft #90, see alternate colorways on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

I’m kind of taken with this idea and plan to weave for other seasons and occasions. Maybe one in red, white and blue for the Fourth of July family reunion? What special events will you use as inspiration for woven table dressings?

3D What??!!

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
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When I was at Convergence this summer I looked across the aisle and saw a table piled with what looked brightly colored UFOs. Imagine my surprise when I saw the person at the booth pick one up at start spinning yarn with one! My curiosity was piqued and I went over to check it out.

Snyder Spindles now available at yarn.com  Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

I met Scott Snyder, the spindlemaker, and he told me the brightly colored arms on his drop spindles are made on a 3D printer. Talk about a modern twist on an ancient craft! I wondered about the plastic he used and he said he uses Polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from renewable resources like cornstarch and tapioca roots and is biodegradable.

These spindles are like a Turkish-style drop spindle, with arms that slide out of the cop, giving you a beautiful center-pull ball of handspun yarn.The Destiny features 4 arms that interlock on the shaft and is a hybrid variable weight spindle. It’s made of 3D printed plastic arms, hand turned hardwood shafts and steel screws. The combination of materials used allows for the mass to be on the outside of the spindle, to increase duration of the spin. The screws are removable so you can fine tune the weight of the spindle. You can choose either Mini or Medium depending on your size needs.

Scott also makes a Turkish Glider, available with either 3D printed arms or finely polished wood. The Glider arms swoop outward with a slight upward tilt at the end, allowing the spinner to spin a lot of fiber in one cop.

In addition to the fun and playful colors of the 3D printed spindles, we are also carrying the beautiful wood spindles that Scott makes. These also feature a shaft that is hand-turned on a lathe and have a small final at the top to hold the half-hitch. The wooden spindles are available in turkish and glider styles and, because I love anything sheep-ish, we brought in some that have sheep cut outs on the arms.

If you like to carry your spinning with you and want a beautiful, portable tool, be sure to check out our new toys!

Spinning my Wheels

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016
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My passion for fiber and color runs deep and I love to knit, weave and crochet, but I resisted the siren song of spinning because I was afraid. And then, two years ago I accidentally volunteered to be captain of the WEBS Spinzilla team and my worst fears were realized – I loved spinning! Down the rabbit hole I went and another fiber obsession has been added to my bag of tricks. I was afraid that spinning would distract me from weaving – and it has – but it has also given me another way to create and deepened my understanding of fiber and yarn and how they work and interact – useful information for my other creative outlets.

Of course, learning to spin opened me to a whole new world of color, texture and fiber and the overwhelming desire to have it all at my fingertips! I kept finding more things I wanted WEBS to carry and started organizing spinning events to learn more about the craft. More fiber, more spinners, life is good, right? The success of Spinzilla and the feedback from spinners at our events has brought a resurgence in spinning at WEBS. Steve and Kathy want to further strengthen our spinning area and decided to create a position to oversee that. I am honored that they asked me and excited to add spinning to my role at WEBS as Weaving and Spinning Manager.

Spinning fibers from Louet, Spunky Eclectic and more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

We still have a few fiber specials from Spinzilla to take advantage of. The fiber packs we put together with Louet are a great way to learn about how to spin different breeds. Each pack has just enough of each breed  to develop your skill in spinning and enough variety to keep boredom at bay. There’s also some great colorful braids from Spunky Eclectic in the Autumn Welcome colorway she designed for us with 2 fiber options – easy to love and spin BFL or a luscious Polwarth/Mohair/Silk blend. To round out the sweet deals, we have what my friend Liz calls a box of crayons – the Lamb’s Tail Medleys from Frabjous Fibers. Also in 2 bases – superwash BFL or Merino/Bamboo/Nylon – these are a random assortment of colors with unlimited possibilities.

I am looking forward to expanding the fibers, tools and classes for spinners. Please feel free to contact me with suggestions; I want to hear what you’d like to see here!

Monster Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016
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Yes, folks, we have circled the wheel of seasons and it’s time to get geared up for Spinzilla! It is a large event (worldwide!), but I do realize that some may not have the slightest inkling of what I’m talking about, so let me explain: Spinzilla is a friendly competition sponsored by the Spinning and Weaving Group of TNNA (The National Needle Arts Association) that takes place during the first week of October. The challenge is to see who can spin the most yarn in one week, either in the team category or as an individual (“Rogue”) spinner. The underlying purpose, beyond showing the world just how amazing spinners are, is to deepen our spinning skills by pushing ourselves to spin, spin, spin – practice makes us better, right? And the fringe benefit of the event is that all the registration fees go support the NeedleArts Mentoring Program.

Find out how to join Team WEBS for the 2016 Spinzilla events. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

 

WEBS has sponsored a team for the last 2 years and we are looking forward to another week of fun and fiber-full gatherings. Our team is already full but we know there are many more who’d like to join the fun as well as those who want to play but don’t want the pressure of competition (um, yeah, it can get a little intense on the team – last year we spun 126,000 yards!). So we invite you to go Rogue! Sign up as a Rogue spinner on the Spinzilla site and join us at our spin ins at the store. It’s a great way to meet local spinners, get inspired and pick up some tips, and share the laughter and camaraderie of other fiber-loving folk.

Welcome to the Weaving Room!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016
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We recently revamped the weaving room at our store and it’s amazing how small shifts can completely open things up. If you are in the neighborhood, or just passing through, we invite you to drop in and see the changes. And if you live further afield, here’s a virtual tour of our dynamic showroom.

The new arrangement not only feels more spacious and inviting, the layout allows us to showcase the different styles of looms and weaving. All of the tapestry looms are now together, so you can compare the Schacht, Mirrix and Hokett looms and decide which fit your needs the best. You’ll find beaters, bobbins and other tapestry tools there as well.

Read all about the new weaving room on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

The small looms also have a home together on the table in the center of the room. Inkles and Inklettes are great for weaving bands that can be used for belts, straps and more. And if you are looking for a loom to start your young ones on, we have the ever-popular Potholder looms in addition to Lap Looms and School Looms.

Read all about the new weaving room on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

At the other end of the spectrum we have the Toika looms anchoring the front corner of the room. These great looms from Finland are available in both a traditional countermarch configuration or the computer-assist model with up to 32 shafts. We have drastically reduced the price on our floor model to make room for the new upgraded ES model. The floor model is a 40″ 16-shaft computer-assist Eeva and it comes with Weavepoint 7.2 software, a loom bench, 100 heddles per shaft and a cog wheel warp advance system. The discount is now 20%, which will save you over $2,000 and there’s only one, so don’t hesitate!

We hope to see you soon in our new-and-improved space.

Expanding Horizons

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016
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Like many weavers, I have my favorite structures that I love to work with. At the same time I love to explore and try new ideas. Sometimes this involves an immersion in the new technique, with lots of reading and maybe yards of gamps and design work to understand it in detail. Other times I want to glean the basics about a structure and weave some projects without having to create my own designs. It’s a great way to see if I want to go further/deeper with that technique, or put to rest a fascination that turns out to be less-than-thrilling in reality.

LA shares her love of resource materials for new techniques and new knowledge on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

My favorite resource for such explorations is the periodical Weaver’s Craft, published by Jean Scorgie, former editor of Handwoven magazine and longtime weaving teacher. Each issue features a weave structure and presents a solid explanation of the concepts and interlacement of threads as well as 3 – 4 drafts for projects to put the information into practice. The articles are clear and thorough and all the drafts are for 4-shaft looms. She also includes sidebars and articles about basic weaving topics – threading heddles, reading drafts, finishing details.

The most recent issue of Weaver’s Craft, #31, focuses on Warp Rep and contains many tips for weaving and designing with this structure. The drafts range from rug mugs and rep runners to a great tote bag with clever handles. One of my favorite issues is #21, Double Weave Pick-Up. She shows 2 different ways to work the pick up, with troubleshooting tips and great step-by-step photos. I love doing small projects to try new ideas and this issue has a series of rug mugs to weave with graphed designs to use plus info on how to graph your own designs. I’m looking forward to weaving a few sets of these.

Where do you turn when you want to learn something new?

Twist and Shout

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016
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I have a fondness for twisted fringe. It is so clean and elegant and adds a beautiful finishing touch to a handwoven piece. I took a stroll through our display racks to show you some fun variations to mix up the twisting.

Fringe options for your woven goods on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

First there is the graceful sophistication of the long lace fringe on the Champagne Celebration Shawl. It’s like a luxurious waterfall that I just want to run my fingers through.

Another exquisite touch is to add beads in the fringe. For the Zephyr Shawl the beads were added to a single end at the edge of each bundle and then that end was pulled into the adjacent bundle for twisting, resulting in a row of beads interspersed between the fringes at the end of the shawl. A different technique was used for the Plaited Twill Shawl to place the beads throughout the length of the twisted fringes. To achieve this effect, beads are strung on several ends of the bundle and held in place at intervals along the threads, the beads become locked in place as the fringe is twisted.

If you have more than one color in your warp, there are a few ways to handle it. When there are random or asymmetrical color changes across the warp you can just twist in bundles across, ending up with some solid color twists and some with a barber pole effect when two colors twist together, as in the Labyrinth Throw and the Dornik Twill Throw.

Another option that works well with a double weave or a more symmetrical color order is to twist the fringes in single color bundles. The resulting fringe allows each color to stand out on its own, looking crisp and clean. The XOXO Shawl is a deflected doubleweave shows this beautifully with all three colors represented in the fringe. And the fringe on the Turned Taquete Scarf shows both colors bold and pure, alternating across the edge.

Many people twist their fringes by hand, but I prefer to use the Leclerc Fringe Twister. This handy and very simple device makes the work go quickly and saves me from hand cramps.

Do you have any favorite fringe tips? Share your pictures, you know we love show and tell!