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Local Weavers “Help Our Kids”

Monday, April 14th, 2014
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January 30, 2014 -- Local weaver Vicki Patillo weaves the first of 5 blankets that will be donated to Help Our Kids, a local nonprofit organization for foster children. Patillo is one of several members of the Pioneer Valley Weavers Guild who are donating their time.

January 30, 2014 — Local weaver Vicki Patillo weaves the first of five blankets that will be donated to HelpOurKids, a local non-profit organization for foster children.  She is one of several guild members who donated their time.

Members of the Pioneer Valley Weavers guild recently completed a service project in which they handwove approximately 20 blankets for foster children and babies in the Western Massachusetts area.  Five of the blankets were woven right here at WEBS America’s Yarn Store and donated, along with over 15 other handwoven, knit and crocheted blankets to local non-profit organization HelpOurKids.  

WEBS founder Barbara Elkins began thinking about the project in October of last year and was pleased by the response from the guild and other customers at WEBS.  “There will be some children that will have something of their own and that’s very special.  When they are transferred to a new foster home, a (security) blanket can be very helpful,” Elkins said.

HelpOurKids director Noryn A. Resnick said that the focus of foster care is “too often limited to just being sure that they (foster children) have a place to sleep and enough food.  The part that is missing is athletic equipment to enable them to join a team, music lessons, a prom dress a backpack etc.”  Resnick decided to start HelpOurKids to help foster children fill in specific needs beyond the basics “that make every child feel like a ‘normal’ part of society.”

Guild weaver Pat Kapitzky of Florence, MA chose to participate in the project because she knows how special blankets can be for growing children.  She said, “the idea is that the foster children, when they move around, they have a pretty blanket they can take with them.  I remember my blankie and my two children’s blankies, and they were very important”.  They offered “comfort and security,” she said.


February 17, 2014 — Dorothy Schimel of Florence, Massachusetts, measures the length of a blanket to donate to foster children at local non-profit, HelpOurKids. 

Elkins volunteered use of an 8-shaft Schacht loom on display in the store and all of the necessary materials for the project.  During the months of January and February weavers came into the store during normal shopping hours to work on their blankets.  Elkins said, “I volunteered the loom and materials because it is in line with WEBS’ values of contributing where we can.  We have a history of donating yarn to causes we support.”  Guild members who could not weave on the loom at WEBS chose to weave individual blankets at home.

March 3, 2014 -- WEBS founder Barbara Elkins, left, and Pioneer Valley Weavers Guild Representative, Deb Adamczyk, right, cut hand woven blankets from the loom.

March 3, 2014 — WEBS founder Barbara Elkins, left, and Pioneer Valley Weavers Guild Representative, Deb Adamczyk, right, cut handwoven blankets from the loom.

The loom was dressed with enough warp to weave up to five blankets.  Elkins and store manager Leslie Ann Bestor set up a striped 3/2 cotton warp with accenting stripes of variegated cotton flake.  All blankets needed to be machine washable and soft and have a finished size of 30 inches wide by about 36 inches long.  Elkins kept the terms and conditions of the project pretty loose allowing weavers to showcase their creativity and skill.

News of the project spread throughout the various social groups at WEBS, inspiring knitters and crocheters who were not connected to the guild to also participate.  Local customers in the weekly drop-in groups at WEBS donated another dozen knit and crocheted blankets.

Elkins said that the blanket project is one of several socially worthwhile projects the guild takes on every year.  “I can’t say the effort was a surprise; it wasn’t.  We have a history of concern for others and an interest in spreading the word about weaving.  I was very pleased by the amount of participation.  Weavers are a generous bunch of people,” she said.

According to Elkins, over WEBS’ 40 year history they have always tried to contribute where they could.  In the years since Kathy and Steve took over those efforts have only grown exponentially.  “It is important that we give back because we have received such overwhelming support from our customers,” she said.

March 3, 2014 -- WEBS founder Barbara Elkins, surges hand woven blankets.

March 3, 2014 — WEBS founder Barbara Elkins, prepares handwoven blankets to be cut and finished by weavers at home.

Blankets were hand delivered to HelpOurKids Director Noryn A. Resnick at the once a month guild meeting held at WEBS.  When she addressed the group, she thanked them for their donated time and effort.  According to Resnick, foster children are often moved around without any belongings.  “This will stay with them when they go to their emergency foster home and then when they go into their permanent foster home.  It provides them stability and some consistency.”


March 11, 2014 — Director of local non-profit, Help Our Kids, Noryn A. Resnick, (center), received over 20 handmade blankets from weavers, knitters and crocheters at the once a month guild meeting held at WEBS America’s Yarn Store.

Acknowledging the amount of care and skill woven into these blankets, Resnick said that these pieces will likely be heirlooms for the children as they grow older.  “I said to Barbara, you’re not only warming their bodies, but you’re warming their minds because they’re afraid, they’re frightened and just to have something that’s their own and that they can depend on and cuddle, it’s just really wonderful.  Someday when they’re in a stable environment, they’ll get to keep this and know that someone really did care about them and that they were not forgotten.”

For more information about HelpOurKids or to make a donation, please visit

31 Days to Get Organized: Tips for Photographing Your Finished Objects

Thursday, January 24th, 2013
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Tips for Photographing your Finished ObjectsWe are all guilty of taking photos like this after finishing a knitting or crochet project. The bathroom mirror is often the first place we think to go when we need a photo. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst. Instead of the flattering garment you see in the mirror, the picture instead shows a blinding light in the foreground, flecks of spit and toothpaste on the mirror and a pretty underexposed portrait. In today’s 31 Days to Get Organized blog post, our Multimedia Coordinator Lindsey will share tips and tricks to spruce up photos of your work even if you are shooting with a smartphone or a point and shoot camera.

First and foremost, use natural light. Find a place either outside or in your house near a window to use as your photo space. You want to use as much natural light as possible.

If you will be taking photos of your work without a model, prepare an easily accessible surface or backdrop that you can set your work on. Having a prepared space with the right amount of light will allow you to work quickly and efficiently every time you need to take a photo. This is less work than you think – a nice wooden floor, cutting board or kitchen table work well, as do any fabrics that you may already have around the house.

Bottom left is a space I’ve set up right here at WEBS. Natural light is hard to come by in this concrete warehouse, but I’ve managed to find just the right amount for my work.  Bottom right shows a crocheted hemp bowl that was photographed in this space. I shot the project from the top down to include as much fabric in the frame as possible.

Space for Photos near Natural LightUse Fabrics to Cover Surfaces

When the weather cooperates, take your photos outside. Cloudy, slightly overcast days are my favorite days for photos, but if it happens to be a really sunny day, try to avoid harsh shadows in direct sunlight that cast blotches of darkness onto your work.

Find a dependable backdrop or setting that you can go to for a quick photo – a row of bushes in the backyard, the texture on the outer wall of a shed. Your house or a nearby building would work well in a pinch. I use the outer wall of a neighboring business as a discreet backdrop in the parking lot here at WEBS. Bottom right shows Emma Welford modeling the Valley Yarns Star Paths Cardigan here. Having this space close by is great when I have to shoot a quick, fail-safe photo.

Plain Setting for PhotosStar Paths Cardigan

Ask a friend or family member to model your work. This is a great opportunity to capture the fit and drape of your garment. If your volunteer is seeming restless in front of the camera, ask them to act out a story. This works great with accessories like hats, socks and gloves, though you could also do this with sweaters. Take photos of your model putting on a hat (see bottom left), pulling up their socks, putting their gloves on, buttoning up a cardigan or adjusting the sleeves of a sweater. If you are shooting gloves or mittens, give your model a prop to hold. Pictured below are the Valley Yarns Wavy Gravy Mittens that I photographed with designer Emma Welford holding an umbrella as a prop.

Valley Yarns Chrysanthemum HatValley Yarns Wavy Gravy Mittens

Props can add a lot of character to a garment so don’t be afraid to get creative with them. In this photoshoot for the Dreamer’s Braided Pullover (bottom left), I had designer Emma Welford act out a picnic. Katie C. modeled this Valley Yarns Braid Cardigan at the local farmers’ market. I gave her 10 dollars and a list of things to buy as I followed her around with my camera. After a while she forgot I was there.

Dreamer's Braided Pullover

If your model is really nervous, start by taking closer photos of the design elements in your garment. Maybe there is some edging you want to focus on, colorwork, or an interesting stitch pattern that could use a closer photo. You want to remember all of the hard work and special tricks that went into your garment, especially if you are giving it away. Shoot these photos first as your model gets used to you and the camera. When it’s time to include their face in the frame they will be less nervous. Be positive and keep talking to them. They need to be reminded that there is a person behind the camera. Below are photos of the Leftie Shawl knit by Sara Delaney. This garment had a lot going on so I started with closer shots and then took a step back for a straight-on photo.

Lefti Shawl Close UpsLeftie Shawl

If your model does not want their face to be in the photo you can get away with cropping their face out or posing them in a way that hides them from the camera. These photos show this technique and still showcase the drape and fit of the garment. Kirsten Hipsky models the Valley Yarns Veranda Tam (bottom left), and Greta S. models Stephen West’s Daybreak Shawl (bottom right).

Valley Yarns Veranda TamStephen West's Daybreak Shawl

Don’t forget to move around your model to see the garment from all angles. Stand up on a stool and shoot down – Greta’s Tundra Hat looks great photographed from above. Get down low to see important details from a new angle – from this angle, the lacework in this Pi Shawl really opens up. The power line in the distance adds another sense of height, calling more attention to the garment’s ropy fibers.

Pi Shawl

These are just a few ideas to get you on your way to better photos. Chances are, you’re not wasting any film so try out all of your ideas and pick the ones that work best. Don’t be afraid to take a bad picture – sometimes it’s the really bad ones that you learn the most from. Lastly, stay informed. The internet is full of inspiring work to keep your eyes fresh so if you see a photo that you really love as you’re looking for patterns on or Ravelry, spend a little extra time looking at it and figuring out what makes it great. Having a folder of inspiration will come in handy when you are stuck in a photo rut.