Archive for the ‘Tips & Techniques’ Category

Altering a Hand Knit Garment

Thursday, August 4th, 2016
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Many of you know Marthe – one of our store team members.  Last summer, she decided to knit a sweater as a gift for her daughter, Lilah.  Standing nearly 6 feet tall, Lilah can never find garments, particularly sweaters, that account for her height and long arms, so Marthe took up the challenge to knit a sweater that fit her daughter’s shape.  Marthe chose to knit a cardigan in Sweet Georgia Superwash DK in the Cranberry colorway.  After lots of knitting to accommodate the 29 year old’s frame, Lilah’s beautiful sweater was shipped off to her. She was thrilled but found the upper arms to be a bit too loose which made her feel frumpy (photo).  There was too much ease in the upper arms. She asked her mother if anything could be done without reworking the sweater altogether.

Marthe altered her daughter's Custom Fit sweater, details on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Marthe’s solution was a three-step process. She began by removing the mattress stitched seam from the forearm to the armpit,  folding over the excess fabric, and pinning it to create a new line for seaming.  She then re-seamed the sleeve to the more accurate dimension, along the folded edge, using mattress stitch.  Finally, Marthe used her serger to remove the excess fabric and secure the yarn ends. She did say, however, that a serger is not essential. The same result may be achieved by using a sewing machine to straight stitch, and then trimming the excess knitted material – just like doing a steek.

The alteration was successful!  Lilah was thrilled and immediately asked her mother for another handknit sweater. Her next request?  Could Marthe knit the sleeves a half inch shorter next time!

Fit Fiber Crafters: Good for Your Brain

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
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As the new year begins, many like to focus on shaping up and getting healthier. Each Tuesday in January, our Fit Fiber Crafters series will give you tips on getting your personal yarn world a little healthier, from the health of your stash to the health of your body while crafting, keeping your finished project looking healthy, and exercising your brain when your craft.

Good for Your Brain Learn a New Technique

We’ve all seen the news stories touting what we’ve all known for a long time – knitting (and other fiber crafts) are good for your brain. Not only does it help cognitive function, these activities can help with depression. We like to think that any learning can’t be bad, so why not take some time this year to help your brain’s health and stretch your knowledge a little.

We challenge everyone to learn one new fiber-related skill this year. If you’re not sure where to start, you can take a look at our class offerings. Another option is checking out that pattern or weaving draft you’ve been eyeing but have always thought, “Oh, that’s too hard.” It’s not. You can do it. Use 2016 as your chance to learn how to do it.

Many of us often try new things and stop immediately because it’s too hard. Stretch yourself this year. Take the time to truly learn something new. Show your friends what you did. Maybe you’ll encourage them to try it too.

What are you going to challenge yourself with this year?

Fit Fiber Crafters: Project Care

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
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As the new year begins, many like to focus on shaping up and getting healthier. Each Tuesday in January, our Fit Fiber Crafters series will give you tips on getting your personal yarn world a little healthier, from the health of your stash to the health of your body while crafting, keeping your finished project looking healthy, and exercising your brain when your craft.

Project Care Choosing the Right Technique

How do you care for your handmade finished fiber projects? This is a question that gets asked often. Many times, the items we make are outerwear, so they don’t have to be laundered as often, but it’s important to know how you’re going to clean something before you create it.

One of the benefits of swatching or sampling is that you get to practice taking care of your finished project. Launder your swatch or sample they way you plan on taking care of it once it’s done. Taking a little extra time at the beginning of your project helps go a long way towards ensuring that you won’t have a sweater that grows into a dress, or a towel that shrinks so much it becomes a washcloth.

As far as laundering goes, you’ll want to check the care instructions that came with your yarn, then consider what the purpose of the project is. You probably want to be able to machine wash, and even dry, a baby blanket, or a kitchen towel, but a shawl or even an adult sweater would be fine to live its life being hand washed. Before even starting your project, you want to make sure it’s going to last. If your swatch comes out of it’s first trip in the washing machine looking a bit worse for the wear, your entire project will probably behave the same way.

On the other hand, if you throw that swatch or sample in the washing machine and it comes out looking just beautiful, you want to keep the finished project looking that way. Sometimes, especially on wool, our usual laundry detergent can be a little too harsh. A wool wash, like Eucalan is not only great for handwashing, it’s also perfect for using in your machine like regular detergent. It’s great for woolens, but also other delicate items you may have in your life.

Before you wash your project, take a quick look at it (whether your hand or machine washing) and make sure there aren’t any stitches that need fixing or ends that need weaving. You don’t want to wash your gorgeous sweater with a small hole that later becomes a giant, tangled mess, when it could have been prevented.

A little care in the health of your finished projects will go a long way in ensuring they’re in your life for years to come.

Check out this great video about washing your projects, too.

Fit Fiber Crafters: Sitting Pretty

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
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As the new year begins, many like to focus on shaping up and getting healthier. Each Tuesday in January, our Fit Fiber Crafters series will give you tips on getting your personal yarn world a little healthier, from the health of your stash to the health of your body while crafting, keeping your finished project looking healthy, and exercising your brain when your craft.

Sitting Pretty Good Posture and Breaks Prevent Injury

We all dream about being able to sit down and knit, crochet, spin, or weave all day, but our bodies are not especially excited about that idea, especially if we’re not being careful to take care of them as we craft. It’s important to avoid injury when crafting so you don’t miss out on extended periods of time doing your favorite activity.

Some things to keep in mind when crafting:

Lighting and Seating
You want to make sure your area is well lit. Having to strain your eyes takes the fun out of your favorite activity and can lead to things like headaches. When you choose where you’re going to sit, it’s best to choose a comfortable spot that has plenty of support where you can sit up straight. I’m guilty if sitting on the couch turned sideways without much care for which way I’m sitting, and I know that leads to pain.

Take Breaks and Stretch.
As much as we love a long session of crafting, breaks are incredibly important. Every half hour or so, get up and take a walk around the house. Go get a glass of water, play with your pet, or go through a stack of mail. Do some stretches. Stretch your hands and wrists, and your shoulders and back. Do some shoulder rolls and get everything a little loosened before you sit back down to go back at it.

Be Mindful
When we’re working on something really complicated, a lot of us hunch up so our shoulders they’re touching our ears. Try to be mindful of where your body is as you craft. A simple readjustment in your body position can also give you a break from a difficult task you’re trying to get done, and it’s long enough to come back at it with new eyes. Maybe a lightbulb will go off!

Most importantly, listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re hand is going numb, or your back is starting to feel funny, it’s time for a break and reevaluation.

Fit Fiber Crafters: Stash Health

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
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As the new year begins, many like to focus on shaping up and getting healthier. Each Tuesday in January, our Fit Fiber Crafters series will give you tips on getting your personal yarn world a little healthier, from the health of your stash to the health of your body while crafting, keeping your finished project looking healthy, and exercising your brain when you craft.

Stash Health

The stash! Most of us have one, but we don’t always think of the best ways to keep it healthy. We’ve pulled together a few tips to help you maintain the health of your stash so it’s ready when you reach for it with the perfect project in mind.

Organization
The new year is the perfect time to get organized. Many of us are dealing with colder temperatures that make outdoor activities harder, and less enjoyable. Spend a little time every day to organize your stash, so you know what you have. You can check out previous blog posts we’ve done on organizing and cataloging your stash.

Check for Unfriendlies
The word many yarn-lovers live in fear of – moths! There are a few different critters that can get into and damage your yarn, so while you’re organizing, it’s a good idea to check for them. If you’re already organized, take a little time every so often to inspect your yarn and fiber well. You can store your yarn in zip-top bags, or plastic bins. Again, you’ll want to let some air in every so often to keep things healthy. Keeping a generally tidy space can also help deter critters from hanging out in your stash.

Enjoy It
One of the most fun things about having a stash, is rediscovering yarns that you loved and just needed to have. Keep your stash healthy by showing it a little love.

Handspun, now what? What to knit with your handspun yarn.

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
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I have plenty of yarn to work through in my handspun stash this year thanks to Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla but deciding what projects to make can be simultaneously tedious and overwhelming.  There is one website and one important tool that I use when deciding on a project, Ravelry and my yarn gauge.

Spinzilla wrap up, what to knit with your handspun yarn. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

First I use my yarn gauge to figure out what my yarn is. Is it worsted, DK, bulky? I wrap the yarn loosely around my gauge and count how many wraps per inch (wpi) I have. I’m using the Fractal spun yarn that I plied from a center-pull ball back in Sept. I ended up with 15 wpi, so I have a fingering weight yarn. Here’s a handy chart that will help to translate wpi into more useful information.  You’ll notice that the stitch gauge is roughly 1/2 the wpi.

Spinzilla wrap up, what to knit with your handspun yarn. Using Ravelry.com to narrow your pattern search. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Now you know your yarn gauge and you can go looking for patterns! Ravelry not only has a fantastic pattern library but they have an advanced pattern search feature that lets you narrow down your search by gauge, yardage, fiber, and more! Go to the pattern tab at the top of the page and you can choose the advanced pattern seach – right there on the left of the screen under the binoculars. Then you can scroll down the categories on the left hand side and narrow down your choices! By choosing Fingering, 300-450 yds and Merino I was still left with over 9,000 pattern choices. So I narrowed it further by choosing a cowl, shawl or scarf pattern and that knocked it down to 3,000 options, but still too many! So I chose adult only patterns and then narrowed my search one more time to Free patterns and that left me with 164, not too bad.

Spinzilla wrap up, what to knit with your handspun yarn. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

I didn’t want anything with colorwork or with too much texture since I really want the handspun to shine, I want the fractal color shifts to be the star of the show. I found the Terraform Shawl and it fits the bill! Not only is there a bit of stitch work to keep me interested (no worries about miles and miles of mind-numbing stockinette stitch), but the pattern will show off my yarn, and I can just keep going until I run out of yarn. It couldn’t be more perfect! How do you decide what projects are right for your handspun? Have you made anything with your Spinzilla yarns yet?

Check Out Northampton

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
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Our friends at Smith College created a cute video featuring Northampton. Make sure you check it out, and watch until the end for a special cameo from your favorite yarn store.

Warp Speed Ahead

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! Let’s talk warping, shall we? I’m not talking about how to get it on the loom, but figuring out how much you need. It’s one of those things that seems so basic once you know how to do it, but until you cross that threshold of ‘knowing’, it can feel as intimidating as solving algebraic equations the first time. I am here to be your empathetic life coach and gently show you that you can be the master of this, you can free yourself and weave 4 towels when the draft is written for 2, and you can use online tools to help!

Begin with what you are making. How about some towels? I want them to be 28″ long when they are finished – off the loom, hemmed and washed. Hemmed (or fringed) means that I actually weave a bit more cloth to turn under for the hems or leave out for fringe. That means I will add 2 more inches (1″ for each end) to the total length for each.

Figuring warp yardage, some simple measurements and a handy online calculator. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Now, how many towels do you want? We’ll go with a lovely set of 4 for Aunt Betsy and 2 for me, but remember the finishing I mentioned above? We have to account for that, too. When you take the cloth off the loom, the yarn relaxes and there is some take up where it goes over and under the weft threads rather than lying in a straight line. Additionally, the towels will probably shrink some in the wash. It’s important to allow for this in your planning. A general rule of thumb is to add 10 – 15% to the length of your warp.

Finally, we arrive at the all-important ‘loom waste’. This is the beginning and end part of the warp that attaches to the loom, but is never woven. It runs from the warp beam in back to the back of the heddles, and in the front it is the amount used to tie the ends to the front apron rod. Necessary, but never part of the woven project, this amount must be added to your total warp length. You may know the amount your loom uses for waste, and in cases of yarn shortages or expensive threads you may want to measure it precisely. But for most floor looms 36″ is sufficient unless your loom is very deep.

You can use this handy calculator from Weavolution to do all the math for you, but here we come to the part where I beseech you to err on the side of excess. I round up to whole numbers, partly because it’s just simpler with my warping board, but mostly because of the freedom it gives me to play with weft colors, different treadlings and sett. And – gasp – I will often add an extra yard just for such purpose.

And that’s how simple it is! And now that you get that part, you’ll see how easy it is to take a draft for 2 towels and add enough warp to make four.

Go forth and warp with confidence.

Holidays in July: Keeping Track of it All

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
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Now that you’ve created your list, and  you know what yarns and projects, you should probably decide how you want to organize all of this info. Are you a pen and paper person? Do you prefer a computer? Your smartphone? You need to pick what’s best for you. If you prefer physically crossing things off a list, you might want to use a notebook. If you, like many of us, live on your smartphone, you may want to utilize an app.

Holidays in July: Keeping Track of It All

Pen and Paper Person?
Head to your favorite office supply, or even better, paper store and peruse the notebooks. There is great joy in selecting a new notebook with fresh pages that’s just waiting to be filled up. Consider how you’ll want to keep track? Are you going to want to dedicate one page per person? (You can draw a big ‘x’ through the page when you finish the project.) Would you like to use lined paper, or maybe graph paper? Again, you need to think about how you’ll function best. I like the idea of using a page per person, especially in a smaller notebook, like a pocket Moleskin.

Computer Savvy?
Do spreadsheets make you grin from ear-to-ear? Does having information saved on a computer make you more comfortable than a notebook that can be lost? Spreadsheets may be the way to go for you. You can organize the columns however you like. Name of the recipient, project name, yarn being used, anything else you need for the project, finish date for the project. You could even include things like start date, halfway point date (where you need to be halfway done), or a column for a contingency gift just in case (which you won’t need, since we’re planning ahead). One of my favorite things is color-coding. I’d probably color code the people by priority level and then the projects by type. If there are several hats on the list, and I’m feeling particularly excited about making hats for a few weeks, I can easily spot them on the spreadsheet and knock them out. When you complete a project, you can gray out the cells, or use strikethrough to mark it finished.

Smartphone Addict?
Nearly everyone I know has some version of a smartphone, and there are tons and tons of different organizational apps. If you’re an organized person, chances are, you already have your favorite. Mine depend on what I’m doing. For example, for something like grocery shopping, I use Clear. This app is basically a list-maker. You can swipe to check the item off the list. If you want something more robust that handles more information, you may want to check out something like 2Do, or Swipes, which integrates with Evernote. Because organization is such a personal thing, you want to use the app that’s best for you.

How will you keep yourself organized?

 

Holidays in July: Which Project? What Yarn?

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
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You’ve decided who you’re going to make gifts for, but what exactly are you going to make them, and what yarn are you going to use. Usually we have at least a general idea of what we want to make someone. Using my examples from last week, I know I want to make my mom socks, my sister would love something kooky, my nephew a dinosaur, and coworker 1 a shawl. My cousin needs a pair of mittens or gloves and we’ll add a boyfriend who needs another hat in there too (since he liked the last one so much).

Holidays in July - Looking for projects on yarn.com and Ravelry

Where do you go now? I think the easiest way to proceed is to choose a specific pattern that you want to make the person. You could search through the patterns on our site, use the search feature, and search for, say dinosaur. Oh look! Danger Crafts Basil the Boogie-Woogie Brontosaurus PDF. It’s adorable and going on the list for the nephew. Something kooky for my sister may be a little bit longer of a search. I would start this search on Ravelry. The ‘advanced search’ feature is great for this. I started by clicking on ‘softies’ (all), then ‘knitting’, and ‘worsted’ (because I don’t want to spend forever knitting it). Next, I sorted by ‘most popular.’ I didn’t see anything on the first page that screamed her name, but what I did see was a fox, and my sister loves foxes. So, I added fox to the search box and found a great project for her – Backyard Bandits. Hey, I could make her all three! Well that’s settled. On to searching for the other projects.

Holidays in July - Searching yarn.com for yarns

So, now that I have that projects settled, it’s time to pick the yarn. I have all the pattern information and a general idea of what I’m looking for. Again, I take to the search section on our site. We’ll use that Boogie-Woogie Bronto for this example. I know I want something washable, since it’s a stuffed animal, and my nephew is 3. Under the yarn category, I click ‘Yarn by Fiber’ and select ‘Washable Wool.’ Scrolling through, I spot Berroco Vintage. I’ve used this yarn before with loads of success, and I know there are lots of color options, so I’ve found my yarn for the Bronto. I just need to decide on colors.

Another option, is of course, knitting from the stash. My stash happens to be a lot of sock yarn that’s perfect for socks, shawls, and mittens. So, taking a look at the requirements for those projects, and looking at the yarn I have in my stash, I’m sure to find just what I need. And if not, there’s always yarn.com.

What’s your favorite way to search for yarns and patterns?