Archive for the ‘Tips & Techniques’ Category

The Blog Post About Yarn Weights

Friday, March 27th, 2015
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I get so many questions about yarn weights. “What is worsted?” “Is fingering the same as sock yarn?” “What do you use super-bulky yarn for?” All great questions, and usually there is a well-defined answer to each one. Let’s explore the wonderful world of gauge together, shall we?

The Craft Yarn Council has a “Yarn Standards” chart on their website and it’s extremely helpful. They note that they’ve added a new “Jumbo” category on this chart, and while it’s interesting to note that many yarn companies are producing that kind of yarn, it’s not likely that you’ll knit all your projects in a Jumbo yarn.

Understanding yarn weights on the WEBS Blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

Going from large to small, Bulky or Super Bulky yarns get a gauge of 3.5-2.5 stitches to the inch. Our Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky is an example of a bulky yarn, and it’s also a single-ply yarn, meaning it’s not twisted or chained in its construction. This gives it loft and lightness. It’s great for bigger projects like a warm jacket, a winter throw, or felted slippers.

Worsted-weight yarn will knit at a gauge of 4-5 stitches to the inch. This, to me, is a workhorse yarn, in the best possible way. You’ll see many patterns written for a worsted gauge, because almost anything can be made in it! Valley Yarns Colrain is a beautiful example of a worsted weight yarn, getting about 4.5 stitches to the inch on a size 7 needle for most folks.

A side note here: needle size is usually listed on yarn ball bands, as in “4.5 stitches to the inch on a size 7 needle” but what should be included on EVERY ball band after that sentence is “or size to obtain gauge.” I knit very loosely (go figure, I’m the most tightly-wound person out there), so I need to go down in needle size to get the intended gauge. Some folks are tight knitters and need to go up a size or two to get fewer stitches to the inch. That’s how gauge works, my friends.

DK stands for “Double Knitting” and it’s a bit of a puzzle to some knitters. They aren’t sure whether it’s bigger or smaller than worsted weight. The “double knitting” comes from an old yarn standard of plied yarn, where most worsted weight was about 4 plies and smaller weights were 8-plied, or doubled. This is a finer gauge, of about 5.25 to 6 stitches to the inch on a size 5-6 needle. Our Valley Yarns Longmeadow is a great example of a DK yarn.

Sport weight is slightly lighter in weight than DK yarn. Typically, a sport-weight yarn will knit at a gauge of 6-6.75 stitches to the inch on a size 4-5 needle. Sometimes, sport weight will also be called “baby yarn” because it’s so often used to knit small garments for small people. Fresco, a yarn distributed by Classic Elite, is one of my favorite sport-weight yarns, because its 3-ply construction makes for soft and light garments, and the stitch definition is wonderful.

Understanding yarn weights on the WEBS Blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

Fingering weight yarn is often called “sock yarn” but not all fingering yarn is suitable for socks. Got that? For instance, Valley Yarns Huntington is great for socks because it’s washable and has some nylon in it for durability, and it knits at a gauge of 7-8 stitches to the inch on a size 2 or 3 needle. That is technically the definition of a sock yarn. However, another example of fingering weight yarn is our KangarooDyer Hand-Dyed Charlemont, which gets the same number of stitches to the inch on the same needle sizes. The difference is that Charlemont is made from merino and silk, with a little polyamide in it. Nobody wants silk socks, believe me. Silk doesn’t stretch. Your socks will fall into your shoes just like when you were in kindergarten and then you’ll be miserable. But fingering-weight yarn is delightful to knit with and the projects you can use it for are numerous!

The lightest yarn category for knitters is lace-weight. This is cobweb-like yarn, with ridiculous gauge numbers. You could get up to 40 stitches to the inch on size 0000-1 needles. However, most knitters will use larger needles with lace-weight yarn to make open, airy patterned shawls or scarves. I’m a little too impatient to knit with lace-weight yarn, and frankly, it demands a lot of attention and chart-reading (you know me and charts) that I’m not prepared to call “fun.” We sell a beautiful coned lace-weight yarn blend of alpaca and silk, Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk, and of course, our very talented Gail Callahan (Kangaroodyer) has dyed some skeins of it to make it even more gorgeous.

 

Ask WEBS – changing color in crochet

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
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Ask WEBS March 24, 2015 - Changing color in crochet. Read more at blog.yarn.com

Changing color in a crochet project can seem like a really tricky bit of maneuvering if you’ve never done it before but it truly is simple! The key is to stop using your old color before you do the LAST YARN OVER of the last stitch in your old color. The last yarn over should be completed in your new color!

Ask WEBS march 24, 2015 - Changing color in crochet. Read more at blog.yarn.com

1. You will start one stitch before your color change actually starts (here we’re demonstrating in single crochet)

2. Insert your hook into the next stitch

3. Yarn over

4. Bring up a loop

Ask WEBS March 24, 2015 - Changing color in crochet. Read more at blog.yarn.com

1. With the new color, fold the yarn over to form a loop, leaving about a 6 inch tail

2. Grab the new color loop with your hook

3. Pull that loop through the 2 loops already on your hook

4. Continue working with just the new color (you can see the new stitch in the new color)

 

And now you’re set up to work over your tails. What do I mean by that? One of the great things about solid stitch patterns in crochet is that you can crochet your stitches right over your tails and not have to worry about weaving them in!

Ask WEBS March 24, 2015 - Changing color and working over tails in crochet. Read more at blog.yarn.com

1. bring the tail of your new and old color across the top of the row of stitches that you’re working into

2. Now hold those tail in place but FORGET that they’re there! Just pretend that they are part of the tops of the stitches in the row below

3. Insert your hook into the next stitch the same way you always do – see how the hook goes under the tails as well?

4. Yarn over your hook, just as you always do. You can see, highlighted in red, that your yarn over has gone over the tails, essentially locking them down to the top of the row below

Ask WEBS March 24, 2015 - Changing color and working over tails in crochet. Read more at blog.yarn.com1. Bring up a loop

2. Yarn over one last time – here you can see that the tails are actually inside the stitch!

3. Once that stitch is finished you can’t even see those tails

4. Keep trapping those tails inside your work for a few inches and you can cut those tails and move along!

Do you change colors this way? Do you crochet over your tails?

 

Ask WEBS – small pin loom squares

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015
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Ask WEBS Feb. 24, 2015 - Using pin loom or Zoom Loom woven squares on the WEBS blog - blog.yarn.com

Pin looms, like the Zoom Loom from Schacht, are a great and portable way to satisfy your weaving itch, they’re also a terrific way to use up scraps of yarn! I hear lots of people asking, “But what can I do with a pile of little 3×3″ woven squares?” and the answer is anything!

Ask WEBS Mar 10, 2015 - Using pin loom or Zoom Loom woven squares on the WEBS blog - blog.yarn.com

From simple coasters and fingerless mitts to bags, cowls, shawls and even sweaters, the possibilities are almost endless. Check out the Looms to Go and Zoom Loom Club groups on Ravelry for great project ideas and support or pick up a copy of Pin Loom Weaving or 100 Pin Loom Squares for even more ideas.

Ask WEBS – Projects using two yarns at once

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
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Ask WEBS Feb.10, 2015  Using two strands of yarn in a non-color-work project - Read more at blog.yarn.com

When you first read through your pattern you may see a note that says to “hold the yarn doubled throughout” or “yarn is doubled throughout”, this means you’ll carry 2 strands of yarn and knit with them as if they are one strand. This allows you to knit at a bulkier gauge or to combine yarns for a completely different look and texture, like transitions of color. The Lodge Pole Cowl uses two strands of Valley Yarns Northampton Bulky for a chunkier gauge than one strand would have yielded and the Gradient Cowl from Shibui transitions colors easily by changing just one at a time.

Knitting two strands together as one - read more at blog.yarn.com

If your pattern is made up of short stripes, usually only 2 or 4 rows of each color, it may make more sense for you to “carry the yarn up the side” of your work rather that cutting and starting with new yarn for every new row – think of weaving in ALL those ends! The trick to this method is carrying the yarn up the side of the work each time you change color for the stripes. You’ll finish a row, and when you turn the piece over you’ll let the color you just finished with hang to the front of your work and bring the new color up behind to begin the new row. If you remember to change your colors this way for each color change it will be nearly invisible. The Garter Trap scarf, and the Chevron Tube Cowl are great examples of this technique!

Working with 2 colors in a project and carrying the yarn up the side - read more at blog.yarn.com

What techniques or stitches are you struggling with? Ask WEBS, we can help!

 

 

 

Ask WEBS – Hemstitching

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
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AskWEBS - January 27, 2015, Hemstitching technique, tips and tricks - more details at blog.yarn.com

One of the best ways to add a professional finishing touch to your weaving is with a hemstitched edge. Here our Weaving Manager, Leslie Ann Bestor, shows you how.

Leslie Ann even has a few quick tips to make the hemstitching even easier!

Have questions? Leave us a comment and let us know how we can help!

Ask WEBS – Grafting and the Kitchener Stitch

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
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Ask WEBS Jan. 13, 2015 - Video tutorial for grafting live stitches to a cast on edge and kitchener stitch - see more at blog.yarn.com

We get lots of questions in our drop-ins and in Customer Service from knitters like you who aren’t quite sure how to graft, or do the Kitchener stitch, or why they would even use it! We have 2 great videos to share with you today to help you learn how to graft live stitches to a cast on edge, and how to do the Kitchener stitch. Both of these techniques should be used when you’re looking to have a seamless finish.

Grafting live stitches to a cast on edge is a great way to turn a simple scarf into a seamless cowl. In the video Kirsten is working on the Lumen Cowl in Valley Yarns Southwick.

In the second video you’ll see the Kitchener Stitch. This can be especially important to use in socks if you’re knitting socks from the cuff down where having a bulky seam can be quite uncomfortable at the toe.

Have a question you need answered? Ask WEBS! Let us know what you need help with. Comment below and let us help YOU in future Ask WEBS features.

What to do with Weftovers

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
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Weftovers - projects for your leftover weaving yardage on the WEBS blog - blog.yarn.com

I don’t know about you, but I hate to waste anything. This leads to cones with less than 10 yards (could be an accent thread), chokes ties straightened and rehung on the warping board to use on the next warp and piles of cloth scraps trimmed from the ends of woven yardage. I compound the ‘problem’ of scraps by my typical sampling method – I usually add an extra yard or two to my warp so that I can test different weft colors, treadlings and even setts. It’s a great way to test out ideas and provides me with a record of what I’ve tried.

Weftovers - projects for your leftover weaving yardage on the WEBS blog - blog.yarn.comAnd it leads to these piles, just begging to become something more. Usually these pieces are on the smaller side, which means petite projects. I’ve been inspired by other weavers and have to show you some of the great things they’ve come up with. Of course, you can start with the easy-to-sew rectangular pouches – cases for eyeglasses, phones and other devices. But let’s add a little more pizzazz!

My friend Amy took the beginning weaving class a few years ago and before the 7 weeks were done she showed up with these wonderful zippered bags. She lined them with commercially made fabric, inserted the zipper and created one-of-a-kind bags that can be used to hold everything from knitting/weaving tools & projects to travel accessories. These are fun and can be made in any size, can traverse weft color changes, etc.

Another co-worker, Marthe, took it one step (several steps, actually) further and created this fancy clasp purse. She backed her handwoven cloth with fusible interfacing and a silk lining, added a metal purse frame and embellished it with beads. Another example of a creative person who just can’t stop!

Although I do have a profusion of weftovers in my weaving studio, many of them are pretty small. I just can’t toss them, so I have delved into the world of functional small objects. I started with lavender sachets, sewn from the 60/2 silk scarf I mentioned in my last post. The cloth is delicate and fine and seems perfect to nestle in a drawer of clean linens.

The next set of tiny squares I stuffed firmly with fiberfil and they became miniature pincushions, perfect for the high castle of my loom or in the drawer where I keep my hand sewing supplies. I chose cloth with a tighter weave and sturdier structure for these. The red one is an overshot done in 40/2 linen with 20/2 linen for the pattern weft, and it’s so tiny that you wouldn’t even know there’s a treadling error if I didn’t tell you (now you’re going to look, right?). The pincushion in blues was a sampler of weft colors for a huck lace scarf in tencel. Although I stuffed my pincushion with fiberfil, I have heard of folks using emery (the gritty stuff I remember that sharpened the needles in my mom’s pincushion) and ground walnut hulls (which are sold as bedding material in pet shops).

And, speaking of pets, I know how much my sister’s cats (Pip and Squeak) love to chase small things. So I hunted down a pattern for a mouse and made a catnip toy for them. The pattern is incredibly simple – cut out a heart-shaped piece, fold it in half and sew along the open edges, leaving an opening to add the catnip. After the catnip is stuffed inside, hand stitch the opening closed. I have to admit my ‘mouse’ looks a little angular, but that’s mostly due to my clumsy sewing and a too-small seam allowance. Next time I will start with a larger heart. I’m pretty sure that cats will not be picky about the odd shape and will have fun batting it around the house.

What do you do with your weftovers?

Hot Gifts -Gild your Knits!

Friday, December 12th, 2014
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Last Fall we noticed a trend on fashion runways that we thought was super exciting, gilded knitwear! Sweaters and accessories where sections had been covered in silver or gold leaf. And while we’ve seen a few pieces in some high end department stores and online shops we thought this is something we can do for ourselves and so can you!

Gild Your Knits! Learn how to add metal foil accents to your knits on the WEBS blog.

We started with some bulky yarns – there are only days left to Hanukkah and Christmas after all! We knit up the Lodge Pole Cowl in Valley Yarns Northampton Bulky, the project was blocked before we began the next step.

Then we stopped by our local craft store and picked up sizing(the glue), pouncing sponges, and gold foil all from Martha Stewart. Be sure that you are using the right glue for your project! Just any old glue won’t do the job!

Working at a nice flat and stable work surface, dab the sizing onto the areas you’d like to highlight with the foil. We used a liberal amount of the sizing since the fiber will absorb some of it and you need enough on the surface to dry and become tacky before applying the foil. Once that was done we left it to dry according to the package instructions. The time may vary depending on how humid it is where you are so check on your glue every 10 minutes or so until it is tacky without being sticky.

Once the sizing had dried enough to be tacky we started to gently apply the gold foil. It will only stick to the glue but you may find that tiny pieces will tear off and float around your work area. You may want to keep a vacuum handy! Once the foil is applied and has covered all the glue use another one of your sponges to press it firmly into the fabric removing any excess foil and fly-away bits. This not only helps to set the foil in place, but burnishes the surface giving it some extra shine and helps to break up the foil so the shapes of the individual stitches show.

Gild Your Knits! Learn how to add metal foil accents to your knits on the WEBS blog.

This technique should work on most smooth yarns so avoid mohair, alpaca, angora or anything with a halo. The sizing is also water soluble so this is not a washable surface, you’ll need to spot clean any projects made with this technique. This could easily work on crochet and woven fabrics as well. So go forth and gild your knits and crochet! Make something just to try out the technique or use it to spiff up an older, but well loved accessory, and show us what you’ve made!

Ask WEBS – We want your questions!

Thursday, December 11th, 2014
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Early in 2015 we’re going to start answering your fiber queries twice each month but first we need to know: What do you want to know?!

Ask WEBS! Tell us what you really want to know. http://blog.yarn.com

Tell us what you have trouble with. What totally stumps you? What do you wish you could understand more clearly? We have experts on hand in knitting, crochet, spinning and weaving so bring on the questions! Ask WEBS and let us offer you some expert answers.

Shuttle Shenanigans

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
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Beginning to weave is an exciting adventure that opens the door to so much – creativity, color, texture, pattern and more. It is also overwhelming at times to learn the new language (sley? heddle? tromp as writ?!) not to mention the huge variety of tools.

One of the most basic tools is the shuttle, which holds and carries the yarn to weave the cloth. Sounds simple enough, right? Then why are there so many different ones and how am I supposed to know which one to use?! It’s enough to make you cry, but that will stain the wood, so let me break it down for you. We’ll start with the major types of shuttles.

boat shuttlesBoat Shuttles

Boat shuttles are longish, narrow wooden shuttles that are open in the center with a long metal shaft that holds the bobbin of yarn. Boats can be open underneath the bobbin or closed (solid wood) underneath. The profile of a shuttle refers to its height; a slim shuttle will be shorter and fit into a narrower shed (the opening between the threads that the shuttle passes through). Double boat shuttles can hold two bobbins of yarn. The yarn in a boat shuttle feeds off the bobbin and through a slot or hole in the side of the shuttle.

Stick Shuttles

stick shuttlesStick shuttles are thin flat pieces of wood that have notches at both ends. They also come in a variety of lengths, anywhere from 6” up to 30”. It is much easier to work with a shuttle that is slightly longer than the width of your project. If it is too long, you will end up whacking the walls and doing a bit of flailing; too short and you will have to reach into the shed  to grab the shuttle. A Belt shuttle is a short stick shuttle that has one beveled edge so that it can be used to beat the yarn in. Belt shuttles are often used with inkle, card and backstrap weaving.

Rag, Rug & Ski Shuttles

rag, rug & ski shuttlesRag shuttles look like two thin tapered pieces of wood with columns in between. This is so you can wind a lot of strips of cut or torn rags, which are rather bulky, onto the shuttle.

A rug shuttle is used as its name suggests – to weave rugs. It is a solid, square-ish piece of wood with groves along the sides and notches at the end to hold the yarn (I think of it as a stick shuttle on steroids); it needs the extra heft to carry the heavier rug yarns. As with stick shuttles, choose a rug shuttle based on the width of your project.

A ski shuttle has a wooden base with upturned ends (like a ski!) and an upright center to wrap the yarn around. It can be used for yarns that are too bulky for a boat shuttle, but it slides along the warp which is an advantage over a stick shuttle.

How to Choose a Shuttle

First you have to choose the type that is suitable for your loom and project. Boat shuttles feed yarn more evenly and quickly because of the bobbin and are generally the shuttle of choice for multi-harness looms. Rigid heddle weavers will sometimes use boats, though in my  personal experience I limit them to narrower warps as they can nose dive to the floor on wider warps. Stick shuttles work well for rigid heddles and other smaller looms, as well as for some hand-manipulated weaves on larger looms. Rug and rag shuttles – self-explanatory.

Photo by Lindsey TophamBoat shuttles have a number of variables to further influence your choice. Open or closed bottom? Closed bottom will glide more smoothly, open bottom allows you to use your fingers as a brake on the bobbin and are lighter in weight. Weight is an important factor in choosing a shuttle. In general, you want to pick the lightest shuttle that serves your weaving needs, to lessen the strain on your hands, though on occasion you may need something heavier to throw across a wider warp.

If you have the chance to try shuttles in person, take advantage of it. Hold it in your hand and mimic your throwing motion. Evaluate how it fits in your hand, how easy it is to grasp. As with many fine tools, it often comes down to personal preference so listen to your body and don’t be afraid to experiment with different shuttle types. You will probably also find that different projects require different shuttles (which is how we end up with a variety on the shelf next to the loom!).

WEBS 40th Anniversary Shuttle