Author Archive

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.

Summer Storage Tips for Handknit Woolens

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
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Our store associate, Suzette, has some great tips for washing and storing your knitwear.

When warm weather hits in late May or early June, it is time to put hand-knit woolens away for the summer. It is an active time of year for the small gray wool moths, and I have way too many sweaters! Here are a few tips I have come up with to make the process a little easier and more pleasant.

First, I sort through the pile, setting aside all the ones I know I have worn a fair amount. Moths love to munch where any food has splattered, so being a cook, I always include the sweater I was wearing to cook Thanksgiving Dinner. I hold each one up to the light to make sure there are not any holes already. If I find one, I carefully stitch it up using a matching cotton thread and a sewing needle. I find it easier to use thread because it is thinner, and I have made many invisible mends right in the fronts of cherished old sweaters. It is important to do this mending before you wash them so the holes don’t get larger. With any luck, you won’t find any holes.

I always end up with about 12 sweaters to wash, so I start early in the morning on a dry sunny day. I have a top loading washing machine, so I fill it with cold water and pour in about 3-4 tablespoons of Eucalan wool wash. This product is fabulous because it restores some of the natural lanolin to the fibers and it doesn’t have to be rinsed out. I turn the machine off and put in about 6 sweaters, pushing them down with my hands until they stay well under the water. After letting them soak for 30 minutes, I push them down a few more times, and turn the machine to the final spin cycle (no agitation!) The sweaters emerge clean and ready to be put outside in the sun. Then I put in the second load of 6 sweaters. If I am hand washing just a few sweaters in the sink, I soak them for the same 30 minutes and then carry them in a dishpan to the washing machine to spin them out. The final spin gets a lot of the water out and the sweaters dry much more quickly. Of course there is the roll it up in a towel and jump on it method too!

To save having sweaters drying flat on towels on every floor of my house, I spread a canvas drop cloth or tarp in a sunny spot outside and lay the sweaters out, patting them into shape. I usually turn them over once, and they dry in around 4 hours. I have never had any trouble with fading, but of course, something very delicate might be better off inside. So at the end of the afternoon all the sweaters are clean and dry

and ready for storage.
Any tight storage container will do. I use plastic storage bins and plastic bags that I close tightly with twist ties. Moth-balls are very effective, but I really can’t stand the smell, so at the top of each bin or bag I place two or three pieces of cedar wood. I bought a package of thin cedar boards (which are designed for lining a cedar closet) at Lowes*. I sawed them into 8 inch lengths – they would probably cut them for you for a small fee. I did use a little 150 grit sand paper to smooth off the corners so they wouldn’t poke through the bags. I have reused these same pieces of cedar for many years. If the smell fades, I just rub them with a little sand paper to reactivate the oils in the wood. When I open the bags in the fall, the sweaters smell fresh, and the cedar aroma fades quickly.

* Ever True 4 foot Aromatic Red Cedar Wall Panel Molding – $29.78- plenty of wood!
Amazon also sells cedar products, including drawer liners for around $11.00 but there is much less wood.

Reading Knitting Charts

Thursday, June 20th, 2013
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Many new knitters find reading charts to be intimidating, but it’s actually quite easy once you break it down. It’s just like reading written directions.

Stitch Legend

What about all of the symbols? Do they all mean a different stitch?

Just like familiarizing yourself with the stitch abbreviations in the written portion of the pattern you’ll want to get to know your stitch symbols. Take a moment to look at the stitch Legend. Every symbol you see in the chart is there and the Legend explains what each symbol means.

Working in the right Direction

In most cases, you read your chart from right to left on the first row. You’ll notice that when you’re working a pattern in rows that the Row numbers appear staggered on each side of the chart.

If the Row number is on the right hand side of the pattern then this row is worked right-to-left. If the number appears on the left hand side of the chart then this row is worked from left-to-right.

 

Color Your Chart

When I’m working from charts, I find it really helpful to color the different stitches.  It’s easier for me to glance for a color than the symbol. Plus, it’s just fun to color!

(A sticky note or highlighter tape is a great way to keep track of and easily follow which row you’re working on too.)

Use Your Stitch Markers

Often, a chart won’t have the entire piece charted out, just the stitches on either edge and the small section of stitches you repeat across the row. Adding markers at the beginning/end of every repeat makes it easy to keep track of where you are and makes it obvious when to stop the repeat.

Do you have any tips for reading knitting charts?

New Valley Yarns Catalog Now Online

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
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I think out of all of the catalogs we do every year, our Valley Yarns catalog is my favorite. It gives us a chance to really showcase our own yarn line. Kirsten and Sara always do an amazing job with the designs, and this time they do not disappoint!

The photoshoot was held at the Wisteriahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA. Wisteriahurst is the former home of two generations of the William Skinner family, manufacturers of silks and satins. The museum is gorgeous and open for guided tours of the 26-room estate. Visit www.wisteriahurst.org for more.

The inside and outside of the museum were just stunning. There was also an interesting art installation while we were there! The gardens are beautiful and seeing the wisteria covering the building was just lovely.

It’s always fun to see how the photoshoot and catalog come together, but you won’t just find pretty projects. Kirsten and Sara both have interesting articles, and our WEBS <3s feature showcases Kristin Nicholas. You don’t want to miss that!

If you’re on our mailing list, your copy of the catalog should be hitting your mailbox soon. In the meantime, you can check the catalog out online here.

What’s your favorite new project?

Pattern Reading Basics

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
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Customers often ask us what they need to know when looking at a pattern for the first time. If you keep in mind a few key things, you should be able to tell if the pattern is something you want to make, or if it is something that will work for you.

Notes/description
Many patterns have an introduction that tells you about the pattern. They can be short and sweet, or they can tell you about the construction, inspiration, and more. You’ll want to check this out to see if you can pick up any hints about the pattern.

Sizing
Patterns will list the finished sizes, and sometimes the “to fit” size. You can also find the finished measurements in the schematic (which we will get to later). Often, patterns list the first size followed by the rest in parenthesis like this: 36 (40, 44, 48, 52).”

How much yarn
You need to know how much yarn you will need to complete the project and you can find this in the information section of the pattern. It is generally set up the same way as the sizing, so you can match your size with the corresponding location. For example, if your pattern calls for 6 (7, 8, 9, 10) skeins and you’re working on the 48” size, you’ll need 9 skeins. Sometimes the pattern also includes the information on the required yarn, like yardage amounts, so if you want to substitute, you can just do a little math and figure out how much you would need of a yarn.
So, if the yarn called for has 109 yards per skein, you’ll need 981 yards. If the yarn you want to use has 247 yards per skein, you divide 981 by 247 and discover you’ll need 4 skeins (you want to round up when you get a decimal answer so that you’re sure to have enough).

Needles
Patterns list out the needle size and type of needle you’ll use to complete the pattern. Sometimes you need a combination of single point and circular, or double point needles. It will recommend the length of circular needle you need. You probably don’t want to go longer on the circular needle if you’re knitting in the round because all of your stitches may not fit.

Notions
Will you need stitch markers? A cable needle? You’ll also be able to find this in the information section of the pattern. If it’s not obvious by looking at the pattern image, this will also give you an idea of how the pattern is constructed.

Key
Not sure what one of the abbreviations in the pattern mean? Check out the key and it will give you an explanation. Can’t quite remember what ssk means? You should be able to find this in your pattern. If it’s not listed there, a quick search on the internet should also be able to help you out.

Schematic
The schematic can often be overlooked, but it’s a very important part of the pattern. It gives you not only information on the finished measurements of the pieces of your pattern, but also information on the construction and how many pieces your project is created in.

Read through of the entire pattern – is there something you don’t understand?
It seems simple enough, but you want to read through your whole pattern and make sure that you understand everything it is asking you. If you don’t, there are lots of resources – the store you purchased the pattern from, the designer, or you could check Ravelry to see if someone else had a similar question. Reading through the pattern before you being means that you won’t have any surprises halfway through your project.

Do you have any pattern reading tips to share?