Archive for the ‘Valley Yarns’ Category

Doris Chan – a Designer in Residence in her own words

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
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Our 2015 Crochet Designer in Residence, Doris Chan, took some time to write about the program, her history with WEBS, and how you can help her decide what Valley Yarns to use next and what to design, over on her website.

The Shawl Collar Stole from Doris Chan, one of six new designs available at yarn.com

About her first design, the Shawl Collar Stole, she says, “Anyone who has wrapped this baby around the shoulders does not want to take it off. Truth be told, I enjoyed the lush softness of the piece while I was creating the sample; this from a crocheter who has allergies, among them wool. Thick yarn, big hook, zero finishing, quick work, nearly instant gratification.”

Have you tried our Valley Superwash Bulky yet?

Just in time for Valentine’s Day

Monday, February 9th, 2015
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Our new Heart Pops Hat pattern is not only adorable but FREE!

The Heart Pops Hat pattern - FREE at yarn.com

Just two skeins of Valley Yarns Berkshire is actually enough to make two hats (in opposite colors). And try the Clover Heart-Shaped Pom-pom maker for the perfect topper to this little hat. What colors would you use?

Will you join the KAL or the CAL?

Friday, February 6th, 2015
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Are you joining us in making a WEBS Mystery Blanket? There’s a Knit-A-Long and a Crochet-A-Long, something for everyone!

Our first square will be revealed, FREE!, on February 26th right here on the WEBS Blog. So get your yarn ordered and get swatching!

You can find all the information about yarn, needles, hooks and gauge here. We can’t wait to share this project with you!

Pattern Dictionaries – Springboard to Creativity

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room!

As the daughter of a reference librarian, I grew up loving books and using them to learn about the world. It was only natural, then, when I moved into the fiber world to continue to rely on books for knowledge and inspiration. One of my favorite things to do is sit down with a pile of pattern dictionaries and page through them looking for ideas, leaving a path of colorful page markers in my wake.

Weaving pattern directories - available at yarn.com

Weaving pattern dictionaries are books that present a plethora of pattern ideas that you can then use to create a project. They will show the threading, tie up and treadling for one repeat of the pattern and usually include photos of the resulting cloth. Oftentimes you will see multiple variations in treadling or tie up to produce different patterns from the same threading. My favorite books for weaving include the vintage and ever-popular A Handweaver’s Pattern Book  by Marguerite Davison and The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon which are both for 4-shaft looms. A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patternsedited by Carol Strickler is great for the 8-shaft looms and for rigid heddle weavers there is Jane Patrick’s wonderful Weaver’s Idea Book.

Four Shaft Twill Towels, Valley Yarns Draft #33 - available at yarn.com

One of the things I love about these books is seeing the variety of patterns that can be achieved with one threading, just by changing the tie up or treadling. I feel like I’m getting more bang for my warp, so to speak, and can put on a long warp and weave lots of things without getting bored with the pattern. When I designed the Four Shaft Twill Towels (Draft #33), I put on a long warp in natural and then varied things by changing the weft colors and also by changing the tie up. It felt like each towel was new, which kept it fun, and it allowed me to make sets of towels (and you know how much I love sets that are matchy but still uniquely individual!)

Exploring huck patterns with Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo - available at yarn.com

Learning this process of translating a weaving pattern into a project draft has been very liberating for me. I often fall in love with the feel of a specific yarn and then get stuck trying to find a draft that fits. Last summer as we prepared for Convergence, I knew I needed to dress a 4-shaft loom for the floor model. I wanted to use our Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo which is soft and drapey and perfect for scarves and shawls. I looked through my pattern dictionaries, fell in love with a huck pattern and the result is the Lemongrass Scarf (draft will be available for sale in April).

So cozy up with a good book and start translating inspiration into handwovens! I’d love to see what you create.

Designer in Residence – Doris Chan

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
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Our new Designer in Residence program is off to an amazing start! This month we reveal the first design from our Crochet Designer in Residence Doris Chan, The Shawl Collar Stole.

Doris Chan WEBS 2015 Crochet Designer in Residence, her first design the Shawl Collar Stole in Valley Yarns Superwash Bulky - learn more at blog.yarn.com

With a bit of clever shaping, The Shawl Collar Stole is a meltingly soft stole that drapes beautifully and securely around the shoulders. The wide top band in gentle ribbing turns over to form a snuggly collar. The back is curved to create some roominess through the arms and allow the fronts to sit properly. The stole is just wide enough for comfortable coverage, but not so wide that you’re constantly sitting on the back, and the fronts have enough wrap-around length without getting in your way. Valley Superwash Bulky makes the crocheting quick and smooth, while the relaxed gauge and open lacy stitch pattern keep this stole surprisingly lightweight yet cozy without being stuffy.

Doris Chan WEBS 2015 Crochet Designer in Residence - learn more at blog.yarn.com

We asked Doris to tell us about about how she designs, what she finds inspiring, and to give us a hint about what we can expect to see throughout the year.

Tell us a bit 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?

Unless an editor requests a specific silhouette or style, I will always begin with yarn. Yarn in the hands speaks to me in ways I don’t completely understand and begins a process not easily explained. I have referred to this process as organic designing rather than technical designing. A technical designer may create a completed project in the mind, perhaps to the point of being able to write a pattern, before ever picking up a hook. That designer has only to plug in an appropriate yarn and crochet according to the plan, or have a contract crocheter make the sample. An organic designer grows things from yarn. Sounds idiotic and overly simplistic when put that way, but it does describe how it feels to me. It’s not that technical designers don’t care about yarn or that organic designers are space cadets. Designers aren’t totally one or the other, just as no person is totally right brained or left brained. Good design is a cocktail of the two in different proportions, plus a dash of individual skill and aesthetics.

On my technical side, I possess a personal bag of crochet tricks or techniques on which I often fall back; years of experience (trial and error) have granted me a feel for seamless construction, working lace stitch patterns in relaxed gauge, shaping and manipulating fabric. But for me there can’t be design until I grok the yarn in a fairly intense, hands-on way. I sometimes take the yarn for a series of test drives(some call it swatching) before I arrive at the place I need to be. Once there is good fabric, then the project can grow from there.

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? 

Surely you jest. I am a serious slug and hardly leave my home. As an admitted sci-fi fan geek I immerse myself not in colors and fashion or artistic images, but in works of fantasy. Not that I design sci-fi fangeek crochet (not much anyway!), but I do tap into the sense of wonder, the outside-the-box possibilities that are at the core of my favorite guilty pleasures. My friends and readers inspire me. I may ask what sort of crochet they’d like to see, and then make it so. I also look backwards quite often, seeking out images and descriptions of vintage or retro pieces that can be translated into crochet-speak and given contemporary appeal. But what inspires me most is meeting a yarn that doesn’t want to live in my usual comfort zone. This pushes me to work even farther outside the box and leads me to different techniques, fresh approaches and new solutions in order to make that yarn happy in crochet.

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

My aesthetic is governed by what I believe looks and feels right on the body. Wearable, doable garments and accessories in flexible, forgiving fabrics that are shaped to fit and flatter are what I love to design. I prefer working in one single solid color, the better to showcase the crochet stitchwork. BUT…occasionally I wander over to the dark side and design afghans. That’s where I play with color. Nothing is as satisfying as making something amazing for your home to look at and enjoy every day

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

My favorite Valley Yarn to date, mainly for the reason that I am allergic to and cannot wear wool, is Goshen. I have designed extensively in this lovely cotton blend, and it is my go-to medium worsted yarn for my own personal crocheted garments. I eagerly anticipate working again with fine gauge Charlemont and the growing family of Valley Superwash, now in DK, worsted and bulky weights.

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

Majorly unfair question. Honestly I’d rather NOT know what everyone else is doing, so as not to be unduly influenced by anyone. If you want to accuse me of being a lazy slug, that’s another way to say it. I do follow with understandable interest the work of my boss at DesigningVashti.com, Vashti Braha. She often takes her crochet in directions I fear to tread and with enviable passion.

And don’t forget, we’ll have a new design from Fiona Ellis next month and each odd numbered month of the year. Check out her designs here. And we’ll reveal the next crochet design from Doris Chan in April, and in each even numbered month this year! You can see all her designs here.

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.

Gifts to Make – When there’s just days to go!

Monday, December 8th, 2014
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When your remaining days of gift knitting can be counted on your fingers you know it’s crunch time. Our Essential Accessories eBook has five quick and simple wardrobe staples that everyone needs and loves!

Valley Yarns Essential Accessories eBook - available exclusively at yarn.comThe Knit and Purl Cowl, knit in Amherst, offers four different stitch patterns to choose from, stick with one for the whole projects or change it up with textured stripes. The Simple Shawl is just that! An easy triangle shawl knit from the top down in Valley Yarns Huntington. The Essential Fingerless Gloves, knit in Stockbridge are just the thing to stave off the chills at the office, in the car or shopping around town. The Basic Hat from measurements, shown in Northampton, is THE hat pattern to have in your stash. Knit whatever hat size you need in whatever yarn you have on hand with this handy pattern! And the Basic Heel-Flap Sock may be the perfect basic sock pattern, and it shows of the colors in Franklin so beautifully.

Valley Yarns Essential Accessories eBook - available exclusively at yarn.com

Which will you knit first?

The Tirrick Shawl by Gudrun Johnston

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
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The Tirrick Shawl, designed by Gudrun Johnston in our 40th Anniversary Charlemont hand dyed by Dream in Color, is a lacy semi-circular shawl knit from the widest edge in five wedge sections, with each section decreasing until you end up with just a few stitches. Based off of a simple Shetland lace pattern with a background of stockinette, not garter as is most common in Shetland lace patterns, this shawl is sure to fly off your needles as each row goes faster than the last!

Tirrick Promo

Gudrun was born in Shetland in the 70’s while her mother was running the successful knitwear design company, The Shetland Trader. Gudrun has revived the use of The Shetland Trader name and often includes aspects of her Shetland heritage in her designs, mostly utilizing traditional lace patterns in a contemporary context. Gudrun is local to WEBS, is one of our favorite customers,and has even taken classes with us!

Tirrick Promo FB

Gifts to Make – Perfect Crochet

Monday, December 1st, 2014
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Whether you’re in need of a few last minute gifts for friends and family, or searching for the perfect gift for yourself, we have what you’re looking for. Cowls and shawlshave been very popular this year and there are so many patterns to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down to three of our favorites.

crochet post_edited-1

The Vanda Stole from Valley Yarns features a center out construction and an open lacey design that’s sure to work up quickly and would be a perfect project to pick up a few skeins of our 40th Anniversary Northfield hand dyed by Malabrigo.

The Valley Cowl designed by Doris Chan is a luscious, lacy  infinity style cowl, worked from the center out in a figure 8 with no seams! . Worn as a shoulder wrap or double-twisted around the head as a hood, it makes a lovely, practical and quick-to-crochet gift.

Linda Permann’s Zigzag Cowl not only takes advantage of the long color repeats of Cascade Yarns Tangier but it’s all worked with a single skein!

Valley Yarns Pattern Feature – The Welcome Home Blanket

Friday, November 28th, 2014
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A fresh and modern interpretation, the Welcome Home Blanket knits up quick with Valley Superwash Bulky to make a soft and machine washable heirloom in your favorite colors.

The Welcome Home Blanket pattern knit in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash Bulky - PDF download available at yarn.com

Perfect for a warming up a new house, welcoming family back, or bringing new family members home, the Welcome Home Blanket can be knit in different sizes for any occasion. Cheery, unisex colors and the classic feather and fan stitch pattern just feel like home. (HINT: Newborns, graduations, consolations or house warmings)