Author Archive

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!

Spinning & Weaving Week: Must-Have Weaving Book

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
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Today, Debby Cook shares with us her the must-have book for her weaving shelf.

Deb Chandler's Learning to WeaveMy “must-have” weaving item is Deborah Chandler’s Learning to Weave. Because I also knit, work full time AND part-time and have a full family life, I can sometimes have months go by between starting new projects.   Deb Chandler’s book always has the answers I need to jumpstart my memory!  It keeps me on track from winding my warp, warping back to front, right through treddling and finishing techniques.  Oh, and the reed substitution page is well worn! This is the one book I would be lost weaving without.

What’s your must-have weaving book?

Spinning & Weaving Week: Make Sleying Easier

Monday, October 7th, 2013
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Make Sleying the Reed Easier

This week, we’ll be sharing with you a few spinning and weaving products that WEBS staffers can’t live without. First up, we have Amy Stephens. Amy is an incredible crafter and you may remember seeing her in one of our staff spotlights. Check out what she has to say about the Harrisville Designs Combo Threading/Sley Hook in Brass

Soon after taking the beginning weaving class at Webs, I purchased a loom. Weaving is still a very new craft for me and dressing the loom can still be a little stressful. During the class I used the 7 ½” Schacht Heddle Hook to thread the heddles and the reed. When I moved to my bigger loom I appreciated the length of the Schacht even more for threading the heddles. I did have trouble threading the reed with it though. I mentioned my issue to a seasoned weaver at work and she suggested the Harrisville Designs Combo Threading/Sley Hook in Brass. It made sleying the reed so much easier! When I weave, I have both tools on hand and it makes dressing the loom that much easier for me.

Spinning and Weaving Week Upcoming Events

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
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Spinning and Weaving WeekOctober is filled with fiber-related activities from beginning to end, which makes us very happy at WEBS. We kick off the month with Spinning & Weaving Week October 6 – 12. This annual celebration gives us a chance to showcase the beautiful creations being made on looms, wheels and spindles. The week will feature demonstrations, mini-workshops, a day-long gathering of weavers and spinners and special discounts on weaving and spinning tools, roving, coned yarns, and more.
Each day we will have demonstrations of these time-honored arts in the store from 11 am – 1 pm. These demos are free and a great chance to see techniques close up and ask questions of the artisans. Have you wondered how yarn gets from the fleece of a sheep into the fine threads we work with? Or how someone creates a pattern that becomes a beautiful woven shawl? We will present a great variety of techniques – from drop spindle to wheel, floor loom to rigid heddle and more. Join us and be amazed at how so much beauty is created by tools so simple!
Also on the schedule this year are mini-workshops, which will offer a taste of techniques for both weavers and spinners. Try something new, or deepen your understanding of a specific area. All mini-workshops will be from 2 – 4 pm and cost $5 each. You can register online, by phone or in the store.

The scheduled line up is:
Monday: Creating Texture on the Rigid Heddle Loom
Try your hand at manipulating the weave on the rigid heddle loom to create some interesting textures. We will explore using a pick up stick to create lace weaves, Danish medallions and techniques to add beading to your work.

Monday: Plying Mini Workshop
Explore the basics of plying – joining multiple strands of yarn together – and learn how the different creative choices made in this step can yield amazing results, increasing the strength and durability of your handspun yarns, while also adding unique textural possibilities. Both wheel and spindle techniques will be discussed. Bring yours or practice with one of ours.

Tuesday: Clasped Weft
Clasped weft is a weaving technique that emphasizes the weft. Using this technique you can create unique color patterns and design as you go. It is great for creating block, stepped and zigzag patterns. Paula will teach the technique using a rigid heddle loom, but it can be woven on multi-harness looms as well.

Thursday : Fun with Zoom Loom
Weaving on the go! Have fun with this great little hand loom. Portable, easy to weave on and capable of creating all sorts of projects. Everyone will learn how to warp and weave and then get crazy making fun squares with an assortment of scraps (each square only takes 8 yards!). This workshop is suitable for kids (age 8 & up) and adults.

Friday : Fiber Preparation for Spinning Unique Yarns
Get a quick lesson in hand carding fibers for color and texture in preparation to spin. Using pre-dyed and natural roving we’ll mix up the wool and other fibers to make new blends and create some fantastic yarn.

Wednesday is our Gathering/Meet Up day and we invite weavers and spinners to join us as we celebrate our community. From 10 – 3:30 we will gather in one our classrooms to share stories and inspiration, show and share the beautiful things we have made this year and generally just have a good time with those who understand fiber obsession. We will provide refreshments and a comfy space to hang out and look forward to meeting friends old and new.

So join us for a week of festivities and fun and rejoice in the richness and diversity of weaving and spinning. From the novice to the experienced, we hope to share with you a taste of what the spinning and weaving world has to offer.

How are you celebrating Spinning and Weaving Week?

 

 

Valley Yarns 550 Road Trip Cowl

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
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Our Store Associate, Ping Wood, designed this fun cowl. She shares with us a few fun modifications and the inspiration behind the design.

road trip cowlWhy design a cowl that looks like a road?
My commute to WEBS is approximately 50 minutes. Besides singing my favorite songs at the top of my lungs, what I like about my commute are the rare moments of solitude and reflection. It was during one of these drives, when I was struck by metaphors about the road, and the journey of life, and the importance of enjoying the journey – not just the destination–that the Road Trip Cowl was conceived. I wanted a clever, wearable, gender-neutral reminder to enjoy life’s journey.

As with all journeys, each is unique. One of the beauties of this cowl is that it can be easily personalized. Have some fun and take a little creative journey.

The #550Road Trip Cowl is modeled after Interstate 91 in New England. You can change the stripes to reflect 2- lane rural or suburban roads by changing the position of the yellow and white stripes. On 2-lane roads, the solid white stripes frame the two sides of the road and yellow solid or dashed lines mark the lanes.

If you live in a region where it snows, you are familiar with potholes. Why not add a few potholes? Potholes are like little setbacks, sometimes you just can’t avoid them. Grab some black yarn and embroider some circular shapes. Just like real potholes, they don’t have to be pretty. In the adaptation below, I call this “Cross Bronx Expressway”.

Add potholes to your road

Many of our highways are adorned with fields of native flowers. Many of these fields were planted in the late 1960’s as part of the Highway Beautification Act. It was a cause championed by Ladybird Johnson. How about a little reminder to enjoy the view by adding some flowers to your cowl? You can embroider flowers on your cowl using yarn scraps. Even easier, you can add flower-shaped buttons.

Add flower buttons to your cowl

Here is a great no-sew method to add buttons to your cowl: use magnets as button fasteners. Grab a collection of flower shaped buttons and regular flat buttons. Purchase small magnets at your local craft or hardware store. (Warning: these magnets are strong and should be kept away from children less than 3 years of age). Use a strong adhesive, such as super glue, hot glue or E6000. Glue the magnet onto the flat button:

Using magnets to secure button decoration

Repeat, gluing a magnet to the back of the flower shaped button. After the glue sets, the flower-shaped button can be secured to the front of the cowl with the flat button.

With this no-sew method you can change decorative accents on your cowl based on your mood, season or message. Here are a few ways you can add clever elements:

  • Use leaf-shaped buttons to create an autumnal theme.
  • Express your love of wool and make a sheep crossing.
    roadtrip sheep
  • Glue a magnet to small Matchbox car, and you’ll have a car and track available to keep a child occupied during a doctor’s appointment or meal at restaurant.
  • Create a zombie highway. Raid your child’s toy chest or purchase small toy plastic figures (available at toy and craft stores). Use a gray and black permanent marker and some red nail polish, and voila, you have a zombie.

Whether you keep it simple or trick out your ride, the cowl design enables you to personalize the piece. Take the creative journey with the Road Trip Cowl, and most of all, enjoy the ride!

Schachenmayr My Mountain Yarns and Hats

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
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Have you heard about Schachenmayr’s My Mountain collection? It is a great collection of quick to knit and quick to crochet yarns and patterns geared toward the active lifestyle.

Schachenmayr is offering loads of free hat patterns to knit and crochet. Our own designers Kirsten Hipsky and Sara Delaney also designed a few hats that are available for free on our website. You’ll want to check them out!

In conjunction with the launch, Schachenmayr held a hat design contest. There were 215 entries and 18 semifinalist were chosen. Voting is now taking place for the top 5. You can head over to Facebook to vote. (Mobile users can vote here.)

My hat, Punctuated, was chosen as one of the semifinalists (Hi! I’m Mary, the Marketing Manager here at WEBS. We may not have met, but you may have seen me in our Show & Tell features on the blog, at a Stitches event, or read some of my past posts here on the blog.) and I couldn’t be more excited. I haven’t designed many items, so for this to be chosen was huge for me.

Here’s a little back story about my design: My favorite colors are pink and gray, so when we received Schachenmayr Boston and I saw the neon pink, I knew I had to do something with it (I’m a sucker for bright pinks and fuchsias). It may seem silly, but I have a favorite punctuation and it is the interrobang, which is this: ?! (it is also expressed as a single, combined character, but I prefer this version). My friends know that I love using it and it usually shows up at least once in an email or text conversation. The interrobang asks a question in an excited manner, expresses excitement or disbelief in the form of a question, or asks a rhetorical question.

The last two years haven’t been easy for me personally, so the interrobang and its expression of disbelief in the form of a question really resonated with me and fit in to how I was feeling. In the end, the hard stuff (and there was a lot of it) was worth it because I know how many amazing people I have in my life who truly care about me. So in a way, the interrobang will always be a reminder to me that even when stuff gets crazy and stops making sense, there are folks to ground me and let me know that it’s going to be okay.

You can vote for photo one per IP address, per day. I’d appreciate it if you would vote for my hat when you’re selecting your favorites.

Make sure you also check out all of the My Mountain yarns and patterns from Schachenmayr. It’s a great way to get a jump start on your gift-making! :)

Stitches Midwest

Sunday, August 4th, 2013
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Stitches Midwest is this coming weekend, August 8-11, 2013. We’ll be there in booths 513-519 and 612-618. We’ll be there with a fantastic selection of yarns, patterns, and more. Here’s a bit of a sneak peek of what we’ll have.

Have you heard about the wonderful Chelsea’s Shawl Kit that Dream in Color has put together to benefit Chelsea’s Light Foundation? Each kit includes 2 skeins of Smooshy in colors exclusive to this kit, and Stephen West’s Akimbo shawl pattern. Dream in Color will be donating $10 from every kit sold to Chelsea’s Light Foundation. It’s definitely worth checking out and purchasing! Shawls are fun knits and even better when you know you’re helping out.

Do you love quick projects? You’ll want to check out My Mountain from Schachenmayr. My Mountain is based on a grass-roots initiative that started in Germany and trended across Europe like wildfire. Schachenmayr has brought My Mountain to North America and it is fun! Check out the hat design contest they’re running (there’s still time to enter your design). You don’t want to miss out on the yarns either. Lumio has reflective fiber in it, so it shines when a light hits it. Boston is a great, quick to work with blend that comes in tons of colors. Bravo Big and Bravo Big Color will fly off your needles or hook at 2 stitches per inch! Add some color and fun to your winter with My Mountain.

We’ll also have amazing closeouts at great savings, plus gorgeous yarns from Madelinetosh and Malabrigo. We’re also bringing a great selection of our own Valley Yarns yarns and patterns.

If you’re coming to the show, you can print this coupon and save on admission. It cannot be used for online admission purchases.

If you’re nearby, we hope you’ll stop by and check out what we have. We can’t wait to say hi!

The Story Behind the Valley Yarns Collection

Monday, July 22nd, 2013
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This originally appeared in our Valley Yarns 2011 catalog.
Kathy and Steve Elkins, owners of WEBS – America’s Yarn Store, established the Valley Yarns brand in 2004. But the exclusive line existed prior to their taking over the company from Steve’s parents. Read Steve’s story below about the creation of the brand.

What’s in a name?
When Kathy and I took over the business from my parents in 2002, they were already sourcing yarns directly and had been doing so for many years. At that time, they were focused primarily on weaving yarns, but there were several knitting yarns in the collection. Anyone remember Peru, Quabbin, or Monterey? They were branded along with the weaving yarns as the WEBS Permanent Line. It was a functional name, but it didn’t give Kathy and me much to work with in terms of marketing. So we set out to come up with a new name and tossed around a lot of different ideas. We had a long list of possibilities, but we ultimately chose Valley Yarns.

Why where you come from matters
My parents started the tradition of naming yarns after local towns. My three favorites are Prescott, Dana, and Enfield. You won’t find these towns on any modern map as they were flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. The Pioneer Valley is where I was born and lived until I left for college, it’s where my extended family has been for a long time, it’s where Kathy and I call home, and most importantly it’s where WEBS has always been. Paying tribute to the local culture by naming our yarns after the lovely towns found in the valley and surrounding hills only seemed fit.

A yarn is born
Bringing a yarn to market is one of our favorite aspects of our job. We work with mills from all over the world. Most often the process starts out with a mill sending us or visiting us with a set of samples. When looking at samples, we can quickly eliminate any fancy or novelty yarns that don’t fit under the Valley Yarns umbrella, any yarns that duplicate what we already have, or any yarns we simply don’t like. We sometimes end up with nothing in our “like” or “need” pile. Other times, we might have two or three, or more yarns that we are interested in looking at further. At this point, we ask for full samples of the yarn. We swatch the yarn at different gauges, test the yarn for wear and durability, and wash the swatches – basically we really put the yarn through its paces. We spend time discussing how any potential new yarn will fit into the line. Naturally, pricing is always an issue, especially in challenging economic times. We may sometimes love and want a yarn desperately, but if the pricing structure doesn’t work, we sometimes have to walk away.

Color my world
Once the base yarn is selected, we then go through the color selection process, which is not as easy as it sounds. We have to consider how the yarn will be used and what we feel is an appropriate palette. It’s important to have an interesting but functional color range that works as well in depth of color as it does in coordination of color.

New kid on the block
Once the order is placed, we finalize a name. Sometimes a name is crystal clear; other times we have to try a few on for size. The label artwork then gets created, and then we wait. We wait anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks or more, depending on lead times from the mill. We usually have some advance bags flown to us so that we can start designing. The balance of the shipment usually comes by boat. When a new yarn arrives, it is everyone’s new BFF, and we all have to remind ourselves not to ignore all of the other beautiful yarns in our Valley Yarns collection.