Archive for the ‘Authors & Designers’ Category

Fiona Ellis – a Designer in Residence in her own words

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
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Artist or designer in residence programs are set up to foster close ties between an artist, their work and a particular establishment or organization. They are devised to allow time & space for the artist to explore their work, maybe even from a new perspective. It helps builds a closer relationship between the artist and the establishment and also allows everyone to see the behind the scenes workings and progress that ultimately leads to the end product. So I was absolutely thrilled when the wonderful people at WEBS invited me to be one of their Designers in Residence. The team at WEBS and I are hoping that our collaboration will foster not only wonderful patterns to showcase their gorgeous yarns, but also give knitters some context to those patterns along with some fun peaks behind the scenes. The pattern that I came up with for the January launch includes three ideas that are part of my designer philosophy or involve an aspect of my work that I have been recently developing.

Shapes & Motifs

Way back in school I hated mathematics. So it amuses to see how much, and with what relative ease, I now use those principles that I struggled so hard to learn. Somehow the fog surrounding them just lifted once I applied them to knitting. Case in point; when I’m designing a shape or motif I lean on simple geometry to figure out the angle of the line. Even a curved line, when you break it down, is in fact made up of the hypotenuse of series of triangles. And you have no idea how smart it makes me feel to be able to say that!

A sample graph for charting stitch increases from Fiona Ellis, 2015 WEBS Designer in Residence - read more at blog.yarn.com

Let me explain a little further. If you need a steep angle for your line you move (add or subtract) by just one stitch at a time each row. If you need a shallower angle (closer to horizontal) then you move by two or maybe three stitches at a time. The real fun begins when you use these angles in combination with each other to create different shapes. I have been using this rule (see how bossy I’m getting about this now) for quite some time to design non-symmetrical, organic looking shapes such as Paisleys. These kinds of shapes, rather than even geometric shapes like triangles, diamonds etc., require the incorporation of several different angles to create the curved line that defines the overall shape. The leaves I have incorporated into the I Feel Vine cardigan are an extension of this experimentation.

A sample chart, with knit swatch, for charting curved lines from Fiona Ellis, 2015 WEBS Designer in Residence - read more at blog.yarn.com

Using needles to changes gauge

I know that you all do gauge swatches. And also follow the instruction that tells you to change your needle size so that you obtain the same gauge that my test knitter used when making the sample. But have you thought about how needle size, along with stitch structure, changes the fabric that you are creating? I know many of you have, and understand the effect, but for those of you who might be new to the concept here is how I used this principle for this cardigan. Apart from allowing for achieving correct gauge, the other cool thing about changing needle sizes is that you can use the changes to create different fabric properties within the same garment. I did this for the ribbed section of the I Feel Vine cardigan. Ribbed fabric is very elastic and causes the fabric to compress widthwise. This is why it’s often used for cuffs when we need a snug fit at the lower edge of a piece. Combining this type of structure with a smaller needle for that section produces a lovely snug, but comfortable, waist shaping without having to change the stitch count at all.

A collage of inspiring floral imagess from Fiona Ellis, 2015 WEBS Designer in Residence - read more at blog.yarn.com

Finishing

For me a project isn’t over until all the little details have been dealt with; the seaming, closures, and finishing details. In some cases I need to take a less is more approach. There is quite a bit of patterning within each garment piece of the I Feel Vine cardigan so to add bulky or attention-grabbing bands I felt would have taken away from the design. I wanted the focus to be on the mid-section & the leaf patterning above. The closure for this cardigan therefore had to be minimal but elegant, so I used a “pick-up & then bind off immediately” trim with button loops that are created during the bind-off.

I do so hope that you like the design and enjoy making (and wearing it).

– Fiona

Designer in Residence – Fiona Ellis

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
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We’re so excited about our new Designer in Residence program for 2015! We’ve teamed up with two truly talented designers to bring you gorgeous knit and crochet designs that showcase some of our favorite Valley Yarns. This month we’re debuting the I Feel Vine Cardigan from knitwear designer Fiona Ellis and we’ll have a new design from her each odd numbered month of the year. And we’ll reveal the first crochet design from Doris Chan in February to be followed by a new design from her each even numbered month this year!

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence, her first design the I Feel Vine Cardigan in Valley Yarns Amherst - learn more at blog.yarn.com

This long-line cardigan worked in Valley Yarns Amherst is perfect for all seasons; cozy for the chilly months but also great to slip on over a sleeveless top in warmer months to fend off the chill of air conditioning. It’s clever use of stitch patterning utilizes the elasticity of rib patterning at the waist and cuff to give gentle shaping. The rib then morphs into a unique leaf pattern & finally into eyelet lace stitch work which adds to the overall femininity of this garment.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence - learn more at blog.yarn.com

We asked Fiona to tell us about about her process and inspiration, and to give us a bit of a sneak peek into what we can expect to see throughout the year.

Tell us about your design process. Do you have design ideas in your head that inspire you to search out the right yarn or do you find a yarn and let the design grow from there?

I keep an on-going archive, of sorts, for design ideas and projects that I want to work on. So mostly it’s the idea that comes first and then I search out the perfect yarn for the project/design rather than the other way around.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you hike? jog in the city? take your camera everywhere you go? have a studio full of inspiring color and images?

I find inspiration everywhere so I always carry a camera (or my phone) and try to bring a small notebook with me wherever I go. I find inspiration can strike at very strange times – sometimes it’s at 3am! And I find it’s a process that you can’t really command. The ideas just seem to appear of their own accord and can sometimes be fleeting or hard to pin down. So I end up with pockets full of ideas scribbled on coffee shop napkins because I forgot to bring my notebook with me that day. On the other hand I also have this mindfulness practice of taking a photo every day even if nothing seemingly exciting is happening. I’ve been doing this since Sept 2007 and have found some great ideas have emerged from this habit of encouraging myself to closely observe the world. I believe that somehow the two elements work off of each other.

Tell us about your design aesthetic. What can our customers expect to see from you this year?

I studied fashion knitwear design at University so my aesthetic has a lot to do with current (wearable) fashion trends in terms of garment silhouette. I have been a knitter practically my whole life so I like pattern-work that challenges me, though I do try to include sections in each project where there is less challenge, that way some parts of the project can be carried around or worked on in front of the TV (or even in a bar maybe).

Tell us about your favorite Valley Yarn, is there a Valley Yarn you are excited to work with?

It’s so hard to choose because they are all great and each one perfect for specific projects. So I’m going to choose Amherst for entirely personal reasons- see my answer to the next question.

How did you discover Valley Yarns, what is your history with WEBS?

I used to live in Massachusetts very near to WEBS, but this was in the days when I designed for ready to wear fashion houses, before I designed for the independent home knitter. I used to shop at WEBS for my personal projects but I had moved away from the area before I became intimately acquainted with the Valley Yarns.  Since then I have used them when they have been selected for magazine editorials such as the designs I have done for Twist  Collective, Knitters Magazine and others: Sugarbeach in Longmeadow,  Blue Helix in Colrain, Athabasca in Northampton,  and Paula in Stockbridge.

What designers do you like/follow? Are there designs you wish you had time to knit/crochet/sew?

I tend to look at couture designers and my most favorite is the late Alexander McQueen. In terms of knitwear designers that I admire, boy this is actually a long list. I admire so many of the designers working today, but if I had to pick just one I would chose Norah Gaughan. She always comes up with such eye-catching and wonderful designs, ones that I’m almost jealous that I didn’t come up with the idea myself. If I had time to knit for myself from somebody else pattern it would definitely be one of Norah’s…or maybe an Alice Starmore pattern.

Color Me Amazed

Friday, May 23rd, 2014
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A lot of knitters like to use hand-dyed yarns like Madelinetosh, Lorna’s Laces, or Prism. A fair number of those knitters are disappointed when they experience color pooling, or when they don’t like the way one color in the skein works with another one. artful color, mindful knitsMaybe they’ve done a broken rib stitch and noticed that what they had hoped would be specks of dark blue against a rose background turned into big blotches of purple. There are lots of ways to learn how to work with hand-dyed yarns and I’ve found the absolute best resource of all to not only learn to work with those variegated yarns but to actually plan for how those colors show up in your garment. Laura Militzer Bryant, the founder of Prism Yarns, has written a new book entitled Artful Color, Mindful Knits: A Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-Dyed Yarns, and it goes beyond any other book I know to show fiber artists how to craft with color.

As an art-school graduate, Laura became fascinated with hand-dyed yarns when she first saw them at a trade show in the early 1980’s, and learned how to dye yarns as a result. She founded her own hand-dyed yarn company, photo by Amy StephensPrism, and out of the necessity of having to showcase those yarns, she became a knitwear designer. Both of those talents are shown to amazing advantage in Artful Color, Mindful Knits. She can show you how to stack your colors, how to splash your colors, even how to create an argyle pattern with your skein, all by using her Magic Number system that uses the length of a color repeat, the amount of yarn used for a single stitch, and the total number of stitches. Period. When I learned how to anticipate and even plan when a color shows up in your knitting to form a pattern, I wanted to award Laura a Nobel Prize. The designs that accompany the various color schemes are gorgeous. Jackets, hats, scarves, vests, and sweaters, all in vivid colors and patterns that show a master’s touch are readily accessible to any knitter or crocheter.

Artful Color, Mindful Knits includes a thorough color tutorial in the front of the book, which is eye-opening. Laura shows readers in simple language how colors interact with each other and how we perceive them. This helps us plan how to use color and what colors work best in hundreds of different patterns and yarns.  The book also has a wonderful technique section in the back of the book, showing how to do various cast-ons, increases and decreases, and bind-offs, as well as crochet techniques. It’s really a treasure trove of information, one that will be used again and again.ArtfulColor-7

Hey, local blog-readers: Laura will be coming to WEBS on June 7 to sign copies of her new book from 3:30–4:30pm. Come by to see the Prism Yarns trunk show or sign up for her Introduction to Color class. You will be amazed at what you can do!

Valley Yarns Southwick featured in Knitscene Summer 2014

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
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The newest design from Julia Farwell-Clay, in the Summer 2014 issue of Knitscene magazine, is knit with our Valley Yarns Southwick. I-cord ties worked into the sleeves of this wide-necked raglan pullover allow you to choose how much shoulder peeks through. This fantastic cover-up is worked from the bottom up in the round to the underarms.

Available in 20 rich colors, the 52% Pima Cotton/48% Bamboo fiber content of Valley Yarns Southwick makes for summer garments that feel cool on the skin but the worsted weight gauge means your projects will work up quickly. What color will you choose?

Valley Yarns featured in Knit Simple

Monday, March 31st, 2014
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The Spring/ Summer 2014 issue of Knit Simple is out and features 2 great designs with Valley Yarns Amherst and Longmeadow.

The feather-and-fan lace gently scallops the bottom edge of this charming capelet, while dotted ribbing adds flattering vertical lines. Knit with just 4 balls of Amherst this is a quick and inexpensive project to brighten your spring wardrobe. Which color will you choose?

To work this charming striped blanket, start at the center and knit your way out. Increases form symmetrical diagonal lines, while punchy colors and super-soft yarn make it a perfect companion for your favorite tot.  With almost 20 colors of Longmeadow to choose from you can pick 6 of your favorites for endless color combinations.

Valley Yarns featured in Knitter’s Magazine!

Friday, March 7th, 2014
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In the Spring 2014 issue of Knitter’s Magazine you’ll find the Blue Helix pullover knit in our very own Colrain in the Blue Lapis colorway. Designed by the lovely Fiona Ellis, this sweater features asymmetrically placed cables on the body and sleeves that make this fitted pullover a must-knit.

knitters

Which color of Valley Yarns Colrain would you choose?

Boston Strong Hat

Thursday, February 20th, 2014
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Boston Strong Hat designed by Lisa McFetridgeWe were recently contacted by Lisa McFetridge, who designed the Boston Strong Hat. She asked if we would be interested in offering the pattern for sale on our website and donating the proceeds to OneFundBoston (which continues to offer support to the families effected). We didn’t have to consider our answer for very long.

Many of us on the WEBS staff are runners, and even more of us grew up in Massachusetts. Having grown up in Massachusetts myself, my family and I spent a lot of time visiting Boston while growing up and loved it (so much that I considered going to school there and moving to that side of the state). Many of us recall last April 15th and watching the frightening events. Several of us even knew people who were running or in Boston to support their runner. Even more, we recall the victims and the incredible strength that the survivors and first responders showed, and continue to show.

The hat includes instruction on making a close fitting skull cap or a taller ski cap style. It features the Boston skyline, the phrase “Boston Strong,” and four stars to commemorate the victims of that day. The suggested yarn is Cascade 220 in Blue Velvet and Goldenrod.

With this year’s Boston Marathon approaching in a couple months, we hope you’ll consider purchasing the pattern and supporting OneFundBoston.

On the bookshelf this week: Cozy Knits

Friday, December 27th, 2013
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Cozy Knits from Tanis Grey has 50 projects to keep you knitting all winter long. Whether you need a quick birthday gift, a new hat to match the coat you got over the holidays or you are determined to get a head start on your gift knitting for NEXT year, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for here.

With projects that range from hats and mittens to simple sweaters and adorable pieces for baby, you’ll find yourself knitting up colorful and interesting projects in no time.

Leave a comment below and tell us about your favorite quick and cozy knit project and you could win a copy! All comments must be posted by 11:59pm EST on Tuesday, Dec. 31. Please make sure to leave us a way to contact you if you win! The winner will be drawn randomly and posted here.

Edited, Monday January 6, 2014:

And our Winner is –  Debra who said, “Of the four projects on the cover, I can see making all four (and there’s 46 more to explore!). Hats and mitts are always needed and fun to work up quickly.”

Congratulations Debra! Keep an eye on your inbox, we’ll be contacting you soon.

Valley Yarns featured in Interweave Knits

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
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The new Winter 2014 issue of Interweave Knits features a gorgeous sweater designed by our friend Amy Herzog.

telluride sweater

The Telluride Aran sweater features a central cable panel with deeply ribbed cuffs and hem and is knit with Valley Yarns Northampton in the Pacific Teal colorway.

Which color of Northampton would you choose?

On the bookshelf this week: Knits of Tomorrow

Friday, December 13th, 2013
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Sue Culligan has put together a delightful collection of retro inspired, futuristic designs in Knits of Tomorrow.

From home decor to wearable accessories you’ll find great last minute gifts for early NASA fans, that robot-obsessed little boy in your life and the canine companion of your favorite Time Lord.

Leave a comment below and tell us which retro themed knit is your favorite and you could win a copy! All comments must be posted by 11:59pm EST on Tuesday, Dec. 17. Please make sure to leave us a way to contact you if you win! The winner will be drawn randomly and posted here the following day.

Edited, Wednesday December 18, 2013:

And our Winner is –  Rachel who said, “That K-9 dog sweater is awesome.

Congratulations Rachel! Keep an eye on your inbox, we’ll be contacting you soon.