March 18th, 2015

2015: A Weaving Odyssey

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We get many visitors each day in the weaving room. Some are weavers looking for tools and help, some are future weavers beginning the exploration of what it entails, and some are looking to while away the time waiting for their relative or friend to finish the seemingly endless yarn shopping. So, we spend time answering questions, giving tours and demonstrating. This is one of the best parts of my job, because I love to talk weaving whether it is exchanging ideas with a fellow weaver or enticing someone to step down this rabbit hole and embrace weaving themselves. And I understand the curiosity, because looms can be complex machines with lots of parts, and it’s fascinating to see the transformation of a bunch of threads into a beautiful piece of woven cloth.

Toika computer assist looms are available at yarn.com

Of course, nothing is more astonishing than when they spy the Toika Eeva and I tell them it is a computer-assist loom. What?! How does that work?! Isn’t that cheating?! Even experienced weavers can have their minds boggled, so I’ll try to explain how these looms work. Let’s start by clarifying that these are computer-assist looms, not computerized looms. What that means is that the computer assists by lifting the shafts – and that’s all! The weaver still does everything else – warps the loom, throws the shuttle, beats the cloth, advances the warp.

On a manual loom the weaver steps on the treadles to raise (or lower) the shafts and open a shed. The Toika has a single pedal that is connected to a box that sits on top of the loom and is attached to all the shafts. A computer with weaving software is connected to the box and when the pedal is pushed the box lifts the appropriate shafts for the draft. Each step on the pedal advances the shafts to the next pick.

The advantages of this are many. For starters it allows weavers to be free of the physical challenges of lifting shafts with their legs. Many people have issues with hips or knees that make it difficult to treadle a manual loom and a computer-assist loom makes it possible for them to continue weaving. Plus, you don’t have to crawl under the loom to tie up the shafts!

Computer assist looms make the treading as simple as can be! Read more at blog.yarn.com

Then there is the matter of keeping track of larger numbers of shafts. For those who like to weave complex patterns that require 8+ shafts, threading the loom can be daunting as you try to keep track of which shaft is which. One of my favorite things about this loom is that you can have it treadle the threading. What that means is that it will lift the shafts one at a time in the order they are meant to be threaded, all you have to do is grab the heddle and thread it and move on to the next thread. This saves me hours of threading time, trying to make sure I’m on the correct shaft, and threading errors are nearly nonexistent.

And then there’s the other mental task that frequently trips me up – tracking my treadling. I’ve become skilled with long treadling sequences, but it’s liberating to not have to worry about it with this loom. I can shift my focus to my beat and the process and throwing the shuttle. It’s not like I weave on autopilot – I do watch the cloth to see the pattern develop – but I can relax more and enjoy the rhythm.

And we have some great news for those who may be thinking about getting a computer-assist loom – we will have one set up at the New England Weaver’s Seminar July 9 – 12, 2015 and we will be pre-selling the floor model at a 15% discount. It’s a great opportunity to save a significant amount and expand your weaving horizons.  We are offering the deal on a first come, first served basis, with a deadline of April 15. You can choose either an Eeva or a Liisa, from 40″ – 59″ and 16 – 32 shafts. The loom will come with all the usual accessories (software, bench, reed, heddles, etc) plus you can add any extras like second back beam, sectional beam, etc. for the same 15% discount. We set up the loom with a warp and display it for 4 days and then help the lucky buyer take it down and load it up at the end of the conference. For any questions or to place an order contact us at labestor@yarn.com or barbara.elkins@yarn.com. I’m excited to see who takes home this treasure.

March 17th, 2015

Fiona Ellis – In praise of the humble I-cord

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Designer in Residence Fiona Ellis joins us again this month to tell us all about her love affair with the i-cord, which just happens to be one of the stunning features in her newest pattern release, In the Loop.

In the Loop the 2nd design from Fiona Ellis in WEBS' Designer in Residence series - read more at blog.yarn.com

I have loved making the humble I-cord since I was a little girl. Like many of us, I had one of those spool knitting toys. For some reason, & I never knew why, it was called French knitting when & where I was growing up. Mine was like a doll so you needed to make a few inches of cord to be able to see the colour change. It would keep me amused for hours. Then, once I had made yards and yards of the stuff, I would sew it into mats for my grandmother. I even made ones as big as door mats. I graduated to “proper” knitting at age 5 when I was taught by my Gran…maybe she already had enough mats by then. Then in design school I learned that if you set one set of cams to slip on a knitting machine you could make cords even more quickly, and carry on a gossipy conversation at the same time (13 ladies in my studio at the time). In this environment it was called rouleau cord. Once I had made it (and found out who was dating whom) I set about finding creative ways of using it in my designs. That fascination with cords hasn’t left me. When I moved to North America I discovered they were called I-cords in hand knitting circles.

As I delved deeper and deeper into designing cables I saw that adding cords to cables was a perfect marriage. I have experimented a lot with embellishments projects by adding cords mostly to give the knitted-in cable cords the appearance of spilling out of the fabric. If you think about it an I-cord is really part of a cable that hasn’t yet been set into the pattern….or is that just me? Many designs later and too many experiments to count I continue to use I-cords as an embellishment for cable patterns. They can be used as ties, to neaten the front edge of a cardigan, to gather a cuff or lower edge [Re-gathering Intentions], as button loops instead of a button hole, or as belt loops, and in the case of “In the Loop” as a feature at the neckline. Here I imagined the cables separate from the fabric, link around each other before settling back into the neckline.

Collage of designs from Fiona Ellis featuring i-cords - read more at blog.yarn.com

The method for working this is fairly simple: when you reach the stitches that will become the cord (two in this case), you slide them onto a holder such as a safety pin and cast on the same number to the main fabric just like you do when working a thumb on a pair of mittens. Once you are ready to work the cord it is necessary to increase the stitch count from two to four so that it will look the same size as the knitted-in cord. You work the I-cord as usual until it is the desired length, then decrease the stitch count back down to two. To attach the cord you work one stitch from the cord together with one stitch from the fabric – twice. Then all you have to do is weave in the ends.

Just in case you thought I might stop at playing with simple I-cords. A few years ago I began to think; if cords are good, then adding other embellishments to them, such as whimsical leaves used here on these mittens [Woodland Leaves], must be even better!

You can see more of Fiona designs that feature i-cords here and here.

March 16th, 2015

How to Wear It – The Crossroads Pullover

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As we celebrate National Crochet Month we thought it would be a great time to look a little more closely at our Crossroads Pullover.

The Valley Yarns Crossroads Pullover is made with two squares that grow from the center-out, to create this ingenious and easy to crochet tee.  A draped V-neck on the front and back create a flattering, adjustable neckline as well as cap sleeves, all without additional shaping. Finish it off with four simple seams and you have have a new wardrobe staple that’s perfect for almost any occasion.

Valley Yarns: How to Wear It - The Crossroads Pullover

Crocheted in Valley Yarns 2/10 Merino Tencel you get the benefit of the bounce and memory of the merino paired with the shine and drape of the tencel. Fine yarn and a loose gauge create a sheer, lacy fabric that’s great for layering.

Valley Yarns: How to Wear It - The Crossroads Pullover read more at blog.yarn.com

We’d love to see your finished garments! Anytime you’ve made a Valley Yarns pattern be sure to tag it with #VYwearit We may feature you here on the blog, highlight you on Facebook, or repost you on Instagram!

March 14th, 2015

Ready, Set, Knit! Archives

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There’s no show this week as Kathy and Steve enjoy some time with family, but you can check the archives and listen to any one of our almost 400 episodes here.

Reminder:

Shop Hop Bag Day is TODAY March 14th,  present a shop hop bag from any of the past I-91 Shop Hops and receive 15% off your entire purchase! In store purchases only.

Upcoming Events:

American Red Cross Blood Drive, Tuesday March 17th at our Northampton MA retail location – Give on St. Patrick’s day with a donation of blood for those in need! Donate blood or platelets. Give blood and you could help save up to three lives.

There are still open seats in classes with Margaret Radcliffe on April 12, Slipped Stitch Patterns and the Lazy Knitter’s Guide to Pattern Stitches!

Classic Elite Yarns Trunk shows are ongoing and there’s always something new to see! Stop by the store to see what’s on display.

Be sure to check out all of our upcoming Events here.

March 13th, 2015

My Favorite Child

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I’m not one of those people who can’t choose a favorite yarn. I know that many will say that it’s like being asked to pick which of their children they like the best. But my children know who I like the best, and it’s a yarn child: Shibui. Almost any Shibui. And we just got some new children Shibui in the store that I’m already playing around with to figure out the perfect pattern pairing.

Shibui Linen available at yarn.com

Shibui Linen is an anomaly for me, because I normally don’t like plant fibers. They can be a little too unyielding for me, and a bit hard on the hands holding the needles. However, Shibui Linen is softer and silkier than most linens, with a chainette construction that gives it some…well, give. I love the Apple color and would absolutely make myself a cap-sleeve tee or loose vest for summer concerts in the park.

Shibui Twig available at yarn.com

Shibui Twig is Linen’s next-door neighbor, or cousin, or step-sister. It’s a more matte version of Linen, with a mix of linen, recycled silk, and wool in a slubby, tweedy amalgam that would stick to most wooden needles. It’s a true DK weight, getting 5.5 stitches to 1″ on a US size 4/3.5mm needle. What would I make from this yarn? It has so much personality in the skein that I’d want to let that shine. Maybe a drapy open cardi? Or a simple summer shawl for when our air-conditioning gets a little too aggressive.

Shibui has some beautiful pattern support for these two newbies. I really like the Japanese aesthetic in their design; it speaks to my love for clean, uncluttered simplicity. Take a look and see what inspires you!

March 12th, 2015

National Crochet Month – a new adventure

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I should probably start by saying that I am a life-long knitter. My passion for playing with two sticks and some string has been with me for as long as I can remember. In fact, I was crafting with yarn long before my grandmother ever taught me to knit. So it seems odd to me, in retrospect, that my deep and abiding love of all things yarn never made the jump to crochet. Perhaps it’s because there simply wasn’t a crocheter close at hand to steer me in that direction. At any rate, as time went on, I found that I was quite happy knitting away and gave very little thought to including crochet in my skill set.

Find everything you need to learn to crochet, or just to get started again, at yarn.com

Since joining the team at WEBS, however, I have found that it just might be helpful to have some understanding of the crochet questions and conundrums that arise from time to time, and in order to do that, I should probably begin to acquire some functional knowledge of the craft. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got the conceptual basics down, you know, things like: crochet projects require more yarn than knitting projects; recommending the proper hook size for a particular yarn; and making (very) basic estimates about gauge. Herein was the sum total of my understanding of crochet. Until now.

Over the past month or two, I have begun a new adventure into the world of chains and half-double crochets, and find myself chomping at the bit to unravel such mysteries as pattern reading and crocheted lace. Fortunately, I am firmly committed to the notion of swatching as a means of acquiring skill, and I have created several lovely (and with mostly straight edges, I might add) single crochet swatches. Feeling confident that it is time to expand my repertoire, I am celebrating National Crochet Month by incorporating a new stitch or two into my next few swatches and investigating our crochet class offerings here at WEBS. How lucky I am to spend my days in the company of truly accomplished crocheters who are happy to answer questions and take the time to help a newbie progress. Whenever I get stuck or make a mess (I even crocheted so tightly that I once broke my swatch – don’t ask), my co-workers patiently get me back on track and tell me how well I’m doing. Encouragement for which I am truly grateful. They point me in the direction of the instructional videos on our website, suggest wonderful tools of the trade (the Knitter’s Pride Dreamz hooks are my favorites so far), and some beautiful patterns to whet my appetite – Valley Yarns Crocus Lace Stole and Fluvial by ChickenBetty both have piqued my interest. They tell me the motion of the hook and my tension will begin to feel more comfortable soon, it just takes a bit of practice. I know they’re right, after all, I’ve said very similar words to many a burgeoning knitter. I just have to relax and and enjoy the process.

March 10th, 2015

Ask WEBS – small pin loom squares

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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.

March 9th, 2015

Start a New Crochet Project Today

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The long winter has me itching to start new things, which is terrible for my WIP list, but great for discovering new (and new to me) patterns. Since March is National Crochet Month, I decided maybe I’d flex my crochet muscles and took a peek at what we have for crochet PDF patterns. I love PDF patterns for several reasons. They don’t clutter up my house, I can store them on my phone or iPad, so I have them right there with me, and I can make notes on the patterns with several of the PDF apps that are out there (and save my notes for future projects).

Perusing our collection of PDF crochet patterns, I have encountered a small problem. I want to make every pattern I’ve looked at. I guess I haven’t been keeping up with our PDF patterns because, wow! There are some incredible patterns available.

Sweet Clementine by ChickenBetty

I’m a big fan of hats, because I’m often cold, and if you’re having a less than stellar hair day, you can always throw a hat on! Sweet Clementine by ChickenBetty (who happens to be our own Sara Delaney) is high on my to-crochet list. I have loads of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in my stash, and already have two hats made from it, so I know it’s great for just this purpose.

Fresh Stitches Crochet Patterns

I want to crochet every single one of the adorable amigurumi patterns from Fresh Stitches by Stacy Trock. Flavia the Unicorn, Forrest the Gnome, Murray the Squirrel, Jackie the Cow, the Choose Your Own Adventure Dragon – I don’t know where to start! These are a great gift for your favorite child. One of my favorites (my godson) is turning two later this month, and he may be getting at least one of these as part of his gift.

Crochet Patterns by Linda Permann

All the time I’ve been spending inside lately has made me want to make some changes around the house, and Linda Permann, in addition to having some spectacular garment and accessory patterns (we did a CAL with her Sugar Sparkles Shawlette), has a lovely pillow that I can picture on my couches. The Everyday Lace Pillow has a fabric cover underneath, and since I’ve also been dabbling in some sewing, this project will be a great way for me to combine that in.

What PDF patterns do you want to download right now and start?

March 7th, 2015

Ready, Set, Knit! 393: Kathy talks with Kennita Tully

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This week Kathy talks with first time guest, designer Kennita Tully of Wildflowerknits.

Ready, Set, Knit! ep. 393 - Kathy talks with Kennita Tully - listen now at blog.yarn.com

Kennita started as a photographer and transitioned to textile design with a focus on machine knits but turned to hand knit designs to indulge her love of short rows and intarsia, she even owned a small yarn store for over a decade.

Steve’s Yarn Picks of the week:

Reminder:

Shop Hop Bag Day is next Saturday March 14th,  present a shop hop bag from any of the past I-91 Shop Hops and receive 15% off your entire purchase! In store purchases only.

Upcoming Events:

American Red Cross Blood Drive March 17th at our Northampton MA retail location – Give on St. Patrick’s day with a donation of blood for those in need! Donate blood or platelets. Give blood and you could help save up to three lives.

There are still open seats in classes with Margaret Radcliffe on April 12, Slipped Stitch Patterns and the Lazy Knitter’s Guide to Pattern Stitches!

Classic Elite Yarns Trunk shows are ongoing and there’s always something new to see! Stop by the store to see what’s on display.

Be sure to check out all of our upcoming Events here.

Right click or CTRL+click and Save As to download the MP3 of this Podcast Subscribe to Ready, Set, Knit! in iTunes Subscribe to the Ready, Set, Knit! Podcast RSS Feed
March 6th, 2015

Designer in Residence – In the Loop from Fiona Ellis

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It’s time to reveal another wonderful design from Fiona Ellis. This time around we have a stunning transitional sweater in a vibrant color that’s perfect to help shake off those winter blues.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence, her second design the In the Loop sweater in Valley Yarns Southwick - learn more at blog.yarn.com

In The Loop is a longer-line fitted top with cap sleeves worked in Valley Yarns Southwick in the rich African Violet colorway. Both the back and front feature an intricate cable pattern that incorporates textured stitches within the loops. And the neckline has a unique I-cord feature which gives the appearance of the cable pattern spilling out of the fabric and looping around on itself, while the cap sleeves have simple rope cables.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence - learn more at blog.yarn.comWear In the Loop with a bold print skirt, pair it with a long-sleeve t-shirt and some khakis, or a flirty floral top that peeks out at the hem and a simple denim skirt. This one is a great wardrobe staple that you’re sure to keep coming back to.