Archive for the ‘Tips & Techniques’ Category

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

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 to narrow your pattern search. Read more on the WEBS Blog at

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

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

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 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 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

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

No New Ready, Set, Knit This Week – What are you listening to?

Saturday, July 11th, 2015
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There’s no new Ready, Set, Knit this week, so check out the archives and listen to your favorite episode, or catch up on some you’ve missed. Not having a new podcast this week got me to thinking about the different things I like to do when I’m crafting. I watch TV, listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks, and sometimes I just like to enjoy the silence. I have a backlog of podcasts that I need to catch up on and a pile of audiobooks that are waiting to be listened to. I think this weekend will be a good time to slow the go-go-go that’s been happening, take a little time to craft, and catch up on listening.

What’s your favorite “noise” to listen to while knitting, crocheting, weaving, or spinning?


Holidays in July: Making a List, Checking it Twice

Monday, July 6th, 2015
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When planning your holiday projects, the first step is to decide who you want to gift with your precious handmade projects. Well, the first step is deciding if this is something you want to undertake, but even if you’re only planning one or two projects, a plan is always helpful. Anyway, because your time is important, you do not want to spend that time working on a project for someone who is just going to shove it into the bottom of a drawer, or won’t be able to properly care for it, or who could lose it.

Holidays in July - Making a List, Checking it Twice - Deciding who's on the list

For example, I love my dad. He is amazing and can fix anything. I would love to make him a hat, but I also know how many hats he goes through in a winter. It’s not because he makes a habit out of losing things, or because he’s absent-minded. He has a tough, busy job where he doesn’t stop and is responsible for things like snow removal. In the process of doing a hundred things at once, things like hats get misplaced. I know he would be afraid to accidentally misplace it, so I don’t want to make him something, that I know he’ll love, but will be afraid to use.

Another gift recipient type is the kind that won’t actually be excited about receiving something you spent your time creating. I’ve seen this happen with family members who don’t know anything about crafting, or think it happens overnight. I’ve also seen stunning handmade gifts be cast aside at baby showers because the recipient just wasn’t interested. I’ve been very lucky because nearly every single one of my projects has been excitedly received. Sometimes you don’t know if the person is going to be excited about your gift, but it’s a chance you need to decide if you want to take. Most of the time, you can tell if the person will be thrilled.

So, make a list of the people you want to craft for. Really look at that list. Then, prioritize based on who you really want to knit for. Will my mom, sister, and cousin love those things I’m planning on making? Yup! They stay on the list and move right up to the top. As I mentioned, Dad would love it, but wouldn’t use it, so he gets crossed off. Is my 3 year old nephew really going to be excited about something I make? Possibly, if it’s a dinosaur. He’ll go in the middle, because I can always pick something out equally fun from the local toy store. Coworker 1 would love a project, but since they aren’t family, they’ll also be moved to the middle of the priority list. Coworker 2 would appreciate it, but probably won’t use it, so they’ll get some other awesome trinket. Friend 3 would be just as happy with some store-bought mittens and can’t tell the difference, so I won’t be spending my time knitting for them.

How do you prioritize your gift list?

Holidays in July: Planning Ahead, So You Won’t Stress Later

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
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I know, you probably don’t want to hear it, but we’re just 5 months away from the winter holidays. This year is going to be different! I say that every year, but this year, I actually mean it. I’m going to make a plan for holiday projects and I’m going to stick to it. I really am. (Please stop laughing! :))

If you’re anything like me, organization goes a long way to making things easier, and so does checking stuff off of lists. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a to do list with everything crossed off. So, this month, we’re going to take a look at some planning tips. Every week we’ll have a different post focusing on the things you can do to make planning and completing those projects you want easier.

Holidays in July - Tips for Planning Ahead

I know this makes holiday projects sound like a big undertaking, and there are lots of you who don’t feel the need to make anything for anyone. (And there’s nothing wrong with that, the entire rest of the year, I’m happily selfish with my crafting!) I have found, there’s nothing better than watching the face of someone who truly wants a handmade gift as they open the package and are thrilled with the contents.

What are we going to cover? Well, we’ll talk about putting the right people on the list, the actual planning (for yarn and patterns), and the best ways to keep track of your progress.

What are some of your favorite tips for planning holiday projects?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?