Author Archive

Are you a Standard Size?

Sunday, November 10th, 2013
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This is our last guest post by Dora Ohrenstein.

Let me start with a question: do you choose a sweater size based on your “standard size”? This is the number one reason people experience “sweater fail,” and those who have know how disappointing it is. Standard sizing is something that clothing manufacturers have developed, for obvious reasons of convenience, and that designers are required to follow when grading patterns. If your measurements are not standard — and let’s face it, whose are? — you will be so much happier with your garments if you learn to alter patterns.

Some women have a bust size that is large in relation to their overall size — they are really a small or medium according to standard sizing, but with a few extra inches in girth here or there. Others may have shoulders that are larger than standard, or a significant difference in circumference between bust and hips. Once you understand the key measurements and alteration points of a sweater, you can tweak patterns to fit you more precisely.

Schematics are included in most patterns to allow the knitter or crocheter to see what the actual finished measurements of individual pieces are, and to compare them to her own. Where there is a discrepancy of over an inch, it’s time to think about making an alteration. You’d figure out how many inches of difference at various crucial points, and how you would alter the stitch and row counts so that the sweater ends up at your measurements, not the mythical standard sized person. Alteration is just some tinkering with the numbers on your calculator, it is not rocket science, and it can be mastered if you are motivated.

Now is the time to bring up the sensitive subject of measuring one’s body. Nobody likes to do it, it’s hard to do yourself, and your husband won’t know how and all that. Nevertheless, I urge you to please find a way, because without it, it’s hard to make a sweater that fits, trust me. For very good instructions on how and where to measure, please visit: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/sizing.html

Our main areas of concern are three width measurements on the body: bust circumference, high hip circumference, and shoulder width (sometimes called cross back width), and two length measurements on the body: shoulder to high hip, and armhole depth. If you like sweaters to hang at different lengths, then take circumference and length measurements at the low hip, waist, and mid thigh as well.

We also need at least one width measurement and one length measurement on the sleeve: your upper arm circumference, at the largest point, and sleeve length from the underarm to the wrist. I suggest you make a schematic and record these width and length measurements on it, then scan and save it in your computer.

Once you’ve done this, please visit this page: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/womansize.html

to see how your measurements compare to standard sizes. You’ll see immediately which areas you will need to consider for alterations in sweaters. Keep in mind that this same alteration is likely to come up repeatedly, and that once you’ve done it on a couple of sweaters, it will be quite easy.

One more important concept to consider is the matter of ease, the bit of extra fabric we add to body measurements to make a garment more comfortable to wear. I’ve noticed a strong temptation to add generous amounts of ease, as if in terrible fear that the sweater will be too small. Please do not fall into this trap. A sweater that’s 4 – 6 inches larger than you everywhere will look like a big baggy sweater. Keep in mind that knot or crochet fabric is very stretchy, in all directions, and can be counted on to stretch more with wear. In most situations except outerwear, there’s no reason to add more than 2″ of ease over your full body circumference. In fact, bustline widths can be done with no ease, or with negative ease. No ease can be very comfortable and flattering and if you are very shapely, an inch of negative ease is not be scoffed at. It will simple make the sweater emphasize your curves. You can take a cue from your store bought sweaters by measuring them at the bust width to see how much ease they have over your actual body measurement — remember you are measuring half your circumference. You may be surprised to see the result!

Whether you’re making a sweater from the top down or bottom up, knowing your measurements ahead of time, and comparing them to the sweater pattern, will save you lots of time and energy. There is some math involved, but please don’t panic – the calculator does all the hard work!

If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, you might want to join me at VK Live, where I will be offering a class entitled: Altering Crochet Sweaters. To learn more, or register, go to http://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/66410/classes/. Or visit my website to learn more about online classes: CrochetInsider.com.

Valley Yarns 578 Hanukkah Menorah Wall Hanging

Thursday, November 7th, 2013
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FREE PATTERN Valley Yarns Hanukkah Menorah Wall Hanging

Ping Wood shares a little about her latest design for Valley Yarns, 578 Hanukkah Menorah Wall Hanging.

Throughout the globe, there are celebrations to mark the changing seasons. Interestingly, celebrations occurring during the transition to Fall and Winter often involve light, mainly in the form of lanterns and candles. These celebrations recognize the shortening hours of daylight and the symbolic and practical notion of illumination.

Some of these holidays across the world include the Lantern Moon Festival in China, and Diwali, and Indian holiday. In November of this year, Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Light is celebrated by Jews around the world. How about knitted wall hanging to help you celebrate this holiday?

This wall hanging includes removal knitted candles and a back pocket for storing your mock candles, and even hiding some yummy chocolate coins. A wall hanging allows you to share the holiday tradition with young children without having to handle a lit candle.

Check out Valley Yarns 578 Hanukkah Menorah Wall Hanging. It’s a free pattern!

Our Newest Holiday Catalog

Monday, November 4th, 2013
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WEBS 2013 Holiday CatalogIt’s happening…no matter how much denial we may be in…the holidays are coming!

Our 2013 Holiday Gift and Inspiration Guide should be hitting your mailbox any day. If you’d like to get a preview online, you can flip through the pages here. We hope that you’ll find tons of great gift ideas, both for the people on your list, and maybe a little something you can ask for for yourself.

Valley Yarns Holiday 2013 PhotoshootWe had the photoshoot for the new Valley Yarns patterns at the Wisteriahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA, and our model was our own Emma Welford. (Not only does she work at WEBS, but she’s an amazing designer, and you can check out her designs here.) If you remember, we also had the photoshoot for our Valley Yarns catalog at Wisteriahurst. If you’re ever in Holyoke, MA, it is a beautiful place to visit full of interesting history.

This year’s cover features knit and crocheted jar covers. You can use Valley Yarns 575 Crochet Jar Covers and Valley Yarns 576 Knit Jar Covers to spice up your Mason jars. And even better, the patterns are free. They’re great to use for storage of anything (crochet hooks, knitting needles, pens, etc.), as vases, or, you can use them for holiday decorating by popping a flameless LED candle into the jar. (Important: please use ONLY flameless LED candles in your jars.) I’m a big fan of the LED candles and have them all over my house. I love that many of them have a timer, so I’ll have great ambiance without having to remember to light or extinguish a candle. I’m looking forward to adding a few of these jars and jar covers to my decorating this season.

Valley Yarns 574 Safe Passage SetI must say that my favorite project from the catalog is Valley Yarns 574 Safe Passage Set. All of the proceeds of sales of this pattern will be donated to Safe Passage. Every year, WEBS participates in the Hot Chocolate Run that benefits Safe Passage, and I think I’ll be making a set for myself to wear. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this set soon, and it is our November Ravelry KAL, so join in!

We hope that you enjoy flipping through and shopping the holiday catalog as much as we enjoyed creating it.

What project from the catalog is on the top or your list to make? What are you hoping to get this holiday season?

 

Getting the Right Fabric in Crochet

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
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Today we have a guest post by Dora Ohrenstein

Floating Tee, lacy open work and cashmere yarn.

Floating Tee, lacy open work and cashmere yarn.

Consider this: when you create an item, whether knit or crochet, do you think about the fabric you’re making? Sometimes we yarn lovers get so caught up in a the look of a particular design or stitch, we forget about the tactile feel of it, the way it hangs and moves.

What are some of the characteristics of fabric? Its smoothness or texture, stiffness or fluidity, weight, solidity, warmth, elasticity, breathability on the skin, washability, durability. You probably think about such things when purchasing items for your wardrobe or home. If it’s a blanket, you want it to be warm, soft enough to feel good but hardy enough to survive washing. A jacket might also be warm, but needs to be fluid enough to allow ease of movement for the wearer. A top for wearing indoors would need other qualities: breathable fabric that is comfortable to wear and soft against the skin, and that drapes nicely around the body. At the other end of the spectrum is a bag, which works best with a more rigid, structured fabric that will hold its shape over time.

Eleganza Raglan, made with very soft Pima cotton in DK weight

Eleganza Raglan, made with very soft Pima cotton in DK weight

A variety of fabrics can be created in both knit and crochet, but how it’s done is quite different depending on the craft. Since my expertise is in crochet, and since many knitters, and even some crocheters, don’t quite understand how fluid fabric can be achieved in crochet, let me amplify!

Several factors are significant: Firstly, the size of stitches, which means the size of the hook. I tend to use a larger hook than what is called for on the ball band. Typically, for a fingering weight yarn, I use a D or E, for a DK, a G or H, and for worsted, a J or K. There are no hard and fast rules, and a lot depends on the stitches you will be using. If you habitually crochet tightly, your stitches may look very neat and tidy, but your fabric will be dense and rigid. Loosen up those stitches and you’ll be amazed at the improvement in the feel of your fabric.

Shawled Collar Tunic, made with a large hook and mohair blend yarn

Shawled Collar Tunic, made with a large hook and mohair blend yarn

Our chosen stitches make a huge impact on fabric too. In crochet, there is no default stitch like stockinette, but rather, an infinite number of stitch patterns that result in closed or open work fabrics. To make closed fabric that drapes well, avoid short dense stitches like single crochet. Instead, use taller stitches to improve drape in the fabric. Working in one loop only also increases drape. The more open and lacy the stitch pattern used, the more drape. The more dense and textured, the more rigid the fabric. So, any time you use cables, puffs, bobbles or other dimensional stitches, you are working towards structure and away from drape. That’s why these stitches are great for hats and bags.

Of course the fibers in your yarn make a difference too: alpaca, bamboo, pima cotton are examples of fibers that enhance drape. Here are some photos of sweaters from my book entitled Custom Crocheted Sweaters. In each case, the yarns and stitches were carefully chosen so that the sweaters would drape in a flattering way. I hope this shows how crochet fabric can be just as suitable for wearables as is knit. I think both are lovely and both have a place in our lovely yarn universe!

I’m happy to answer any questions you post here about crochet fabric! If you want to delve further into the topic, I invite you to my classes at Vogue Knitting Live, January 17 – 19, 2014, click here for the complete schedule.

_________________
Dora Ohrenstein is a crochet designer, author and publisher. Her books include The New Tunisian Crochet (Interweave, 2013), Custom Crocheted Sweaters (Lark, 2012), the first in-depth book on sweater construction and alteration for crocheters, Creating Crochet Fabric (Lark, 2010), and Crochet Insider’s Passion for Fashion (Leisure Arts, 2009). Dora’s chic and innovative designs appear regularly in Interweave Crochet, Crochet! and Crochet Today. She is Co-Editor of Annies.com widely read Talking Crochet column, and she writes for various other publications about crochet history, international traditions, and techniques. Dora is the founder and editor of Crochet Insider, (www.crochetinsider.com) an online magazine that has won the Flamie Award three times. She is also a professional singer and voice teacher.

October Ravelry KAL/CAL Wrap Up

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
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We’re so excited about all the participation we had for October’s KAL/CAL over in our Ravelry group.

We had a random number generator select the winner of the $50 gift card, and the winner is: ValSue

OctWinner2013

Head on over to the group to check out all of the awesome projects.

Will you be participating in our November KAL?

Gift Ideas: Blankets

Monday, October 28th, 2013
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Great Blankets to Knit and Crochet from Valley YarnsBlankets are a wonderful option for gifting. They do take a while to complete, but once they’re done and gifted, you know that the person you’ve given them to will be so thrilled to wrap up in something you created for them.

We’ve recently released several Valley Yarns blanket patterns that are perfect for gift giving, as well as many older favorites. We have options in both knit and crochet for everyone from babies to adults.

Valley Yarns 566 Mitchella Blanket is knit in Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky. It is comprised of great lace counterpane squares with a crochet border. It looks great in a bright color, like on of the ones in Berkshire Bulky, but would also look stunning in a neutral. It is written for three sizes, so you can pick the one that best suits the recipient, or your time constraints.

If you like the Mitchella Blanket, but you’re looking to knit something for a baby, check out Valley Yarns 567 Maria Baby Blanket. It is knit in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash DK. This blanket is also written for three sizes, so if you’re looking for one that would be great to keep in the car for car seat cuddles, this would be a great option.

Great Baby Blankets to Knit and Crochet from Valley Yarns

If you’re a crocheter and want to make a baby blanket, take a look at Valley Yarns 561 Varve Baby Blanket. It is worked in three colors of Valley Yarns Valley Superwash. We have two color options shown on our website, but you can use your imagination and get creative with color combinations. One of the best things about making your own projects is that you get to choose the colors.

Another great option for gifting is Valley Yarns 512 Timber Blanket. It is designed in Valley Yarns Berkshire and has a lovely minimalist design. Four large garter stitch mitered squares are surrounded by a log cabin border. This is a perfect blanket for the back of the couch. I’d love to wrap on this on a snowy day!

Want to crochet a blanket that the recipient can cozy up in on a cold day? Valley Yarns 494 Berry Bramble Blanket is a super easy to memorize two pattern row repeat. Worked in three colors of Valley Yarns Northampton Bulky, you can spice up a neutral living room, or work it in your favorite single color. What else is there to love about this blanket? The fringe means you don’t have to weave in ends!

Will you be knitting or crocheting blankets for anyone on your list? 

Tunisian Crochet – More than a Fad!

Sunday, October 27th, 2013
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Today we have a guest post by Dora Ohrenstein. She shares with us the magic of Tunisan crochet.

Lorelei Pullover, copyright Interweave

Lorelei Pullover, copyright Interweave

The excitement about Tunisian crochet and its awesome possibilities has proved enduring in the crochet community. In fact, even some knitters are getting on board. If you are among the uninitiated, it’s time to delve in and find out why crafters are so committed t this variation of traditional crochet

Most people have seen Tunisian simple stitch (Tss) and Tunisian knit stitch (Tks). The latter is popular because it really does look like knitting, although the fabric is quite different (more on that later.) But there are thirty or forty more known Tunisian stitches, and new ones being invented every day!

Calisto Vest, copyright Annies.com

Calisto Vest, copyright Annies.com

The New Tunisian Crochet (Interweave 2013) has instructions for 30 stitch patterns, including many examples of gorgeous lace, textured stitches, entrelac, cables, and intarsia. When I display my collection of swatches from the book, people say things like “I had no idea Tunisian crochet could do so much!” I thoroughly enjoyed researching all the stitches in 19th century needlework books and in a variety of foreign publications, and they’ve become a great source of design inspiration for me. On this page are some of my recently published Tunisian designs, and there will be many more to come!

What I love about designing with Tunisian is
1. The unique look of the stitches.
2. How beautifully the fabric drapes.
3. How different yarns can be featured in an entirely different way from regular crochet.

Blue Jewels Pullover, copyright Annies.com

Blue Jewels Pullover, copyright Annies.com

The resemblance to knitting is part of the appeal, but if you plan to adapt a knit pattern to Tunisian knit stitch, keep this in mind: the return row that’s necessary in Tunisian crochet adds an additional layer of fabric to the back of the work, making it quite a bit heavier and thicker than its knitted equivalent. For this reason, I recommend that you redo the gauge, using a substantially larger hook than the knitting needle used in the original. You”ll end up with larger stitches, and fabric that is far more fluid and attractive. Of course, for some items, like a snug hat or winter jacket, thicker fabric is desirable for coziness and warmth.

For most wearables, however, I get the right fabric when I use very large hooks, or open stitches. For example, the Calisto Vest, worked with Madelinetosh Merino worsted, is worked on a 6.5 hook, whereas most knitted patterns using this yarn call for 5 mm or smaller needles. For the Blue Jewels Pullover, crocheted with Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, usually worked by knitters on size 2.5 or 3 mm needles, I used the 6.5 mm hook again, and the drape is stupendous on this garment.

For the pullover published in Vogue Knitting Crochet 2013, three different stitches were used, two of them lacy. An unusual dropped stitch is shown on the cover sweater of my book, a stitch I found in the Encyclopedia of Needlework, published in 18 .

Lace Pullover, copyright Vogue Knitting

Lace Pullover, copyright Vogue Knitting

Increased interest in Tunisian has had the marvelous effect of instigating the manufacture of new and improved Tunisian tools. Once upon a time I was very attached to my hand crafted wooden Tunisian hooks, but having discovered the advantages of a cabled hook, I transferred my affections to this new tool. When making sweaters, a cabled hook makes the work much easier to handle and lighter on the hands. You can also work in the round using a cabled hook, without resorting to a double ended hook!

When teaching Tunisian crochet, I notice many people have difficulty creating larger stitches because their tension is too tight. If you struggle with this issue, you might want to check out my Interweave DVD, which explores the topic in depth (click here for a preview).

Or, come take my Tunisian classes this January at Vogue Knitting Live, January 17 – 19, 2014, click here for the complete schedule. We’ll be looking at a variety of stitches and techniques, and you’ll become part of the growing group of Tunisian crochet devotees!

_________________
Dora Ohrenstein is a crochet designer, author and publisher. Her books include The New Tunisian Crochet (Interweave, 2013), Custom Crocheted Sweaters (Lark, 2012), the first in-depth book on sweater construction and alteration for crocheters, Creating Crochet Fabric (Lark, 2010), and Crochet Insider’s Passion for Fashion (Leisure Arts, 2009). Dora’s chic and innovative designs appear regularly in Interweave Crochet, Crochet! and Crochet Today. She is Co-Editor of Annies.com widely read Talking Crochet column, and she writes for various other publications about crochet history, international traditions, and techniques. Dora is the founder and editor of Crochet Insider, (www.crochetinsider.com) an online magazine that has won the Flamie Award three times. She is also a professional singer and voice teacher.

Unselfish Selfish Knitting

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
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Greta is an experienced knitter who works in the store and on our website. She shares with us how even knitting a simple project is a great, relaxing thing for experienced knitters. Sometimes you just need a break from the complex and need to be refreshed with an easy project.

Goshen Hat knit in Berroco BrioYou may think that with me being an experienced knitter and all that I would only knit complicated, intricate things. Well, you would be wrong! While I am generally what we call a “process knitter” (someone who knits for the sake of knitting rather than being focused on the product) sometimes I find it really satisfying to pick a project that I can knit quickly and easily.

Case in point: We recently got a sample in the store of the Goshen hat, which is knit in Berroco Brio. I don’t know what it is about this hat but my coworker Katie and I simply adore it. We were all, “Oh my gosh, earflaps! Sparkles! Earflaps and sparkles!” That’s when we had an idea: instead of knitting it for ourselves, why not knit it for each other? All things told, this hat probably took me 4 hours to knit from start to finish. Plus, giving it to Katie (and her giving me mine) was so much fun! Now we are hat sisters with our wild, weird, sparkly hats! Also, with the holidays coming up, now I know where to turn if my holiday knitting comes down to the wire (which it usually does).

Getting back to basics like that was really refreshing for a knitter like me. I feel like it gave me a chance to breathe and then refocus on some of my other projects, re-motivated and restored. And that’s the way knitting should make you feel, right?

Ravelry October KAL/CAL – We’re Halfway There!

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
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WEBS October Ravelry KAL/CALHave you had a chance to decide on what project you’re working on for our KAL/CAL over on Ravelry? Have you started yours? I have managed to complete about 1/4 of one of the four projects that I wanted to finish. This does not bode well for the rest of the plan. Of course, I’m not eligible to win, so there isn’t quite as much incentive, other than the shame of not completing what I set out to do!

I’m so impressed with all of the entries so far. You all have been quite busy! Dragons, candy corn, monsters, and more have been such an inspiration.

If you haven’t entered, there’s still plenty of time to decide on a project and knit or crochet one to post to the entry thread. Check out patterns from DangerCrafts and FreshStitches if you’re not sure what you want to create.

And keep chatting in the October KAL/CAL thread. I love keeping up with all of the projects you’re making. When you’re done, be sure to post in the October KAL/CAL Entry Thread (please keep chatter to the other thread and leave this one only for entries).

How are your projects coming?

Spinning & Weaving Week: Blending Fiber for Spinning

Thursday, October 10th, 2013
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Bonnie Lemme, our Assistant Store Manager has a great recommendation for prepping small amounts of fiber.
Colonial Needle Co. Fiber BlendersThe Colonial Needle Company Fiber Blenders are used mostly for preparing fibers before you needle felt. I have used them many times in my spinning process. They are a great tool for preparing a raw fleece to comb out the locks before you spin. It will help remove some vegetable matter and align the fibers before you spin. They are like having a mini hand carder. I also recommend these Fiber Blenders for a newbie. They are an inexpensive and great for beginners who may just want to try their hand carding before purchasing an expensive pair of hand carders. Great for young children to handle too!