Posts Tagged ‘guest post’

Charity Knitting All-Star

Monday, January 9th, 2012
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Susan is a familiar face in our store and our weekly drop-in sessions, and she is a graduate of our Expert Knitters Program. You could say she’s an all-around WEBS girl! We have seen her progress on a long-term charity knitting project and have finally gotten some much needed details of this enormous undertaking! Be inspired!! What is your New Year’s resolution?

Here’s what she has to say….

Appalachian Sweater Project

Question: What happens when you combine a large yarn stash with a career retirement and an insightful story about Appalachian children?

Answer: A most unexpected project that took me on a two-year journey.

In 2009, Diane Sawyer of ABC News presented a special entitled A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains. I found this special to be an extraordinary story of Appalachian children and the challenges they face each day. The stories of these children lingered with me for a long time as their poverty is something I cannot imagine. I wondered what I could do to help.

Months before, I retired from a near thirty-year career with a health services organization. The retirement came earlier than planned due to long-term medical conditions and admittedly, I was a bit lost going from a ten-to-twelve hour workday to a non-structured day. My focus was to do what was needed to improve my health, but there was still something missing — I kept thinking about the children of Appalachia and what I could do to help them.

Late one Saturday night, I had an idea. What if I used the large yarn stash I had built to help those children? What if I were to knit sweaters for these children to help keep them warm? I searched the internet for an organization in Appalachia and found many. I focused on an organization that services 30,000 in Appalachia and was established since 1952. I wrote them a note on their website asking if they would accept and distribute 100 hand-knit children’s sweaters. My goal was to send the sweaters in groups of twenty-five over the course of two years. I received a response from Sister Robbie who was excited and grateful for the offer. Thus, a project was born.

I began knitting, accumulating patterns, and was excited to see my yarn stash slowly decrease. The first group of 25 sweaters were sent to Appalachia early in 2010 with another batch in late 2010. June of 2011 rolled around and group three was sent and as of December, 2011, the last group of sweaters is making its way to Kentucky.

What I Learned

This project began as something to help me to look forward to when not feeling well (most of the time) and to assist with the transition into retirement. It ended up being so much more. Here’s a bit of what I learned:

  • Children’s sweaters are a great way to learn new techniques or use new yarn you’ve been meaning to try.
  • Blocking a sweater is when the ‘magic’ begins. Each and every time I was amazed to see a heap of knitted pieces transform into a beautiful sweater.
  • The buttons are critical and make-or-break the look of the sweater. It is important to select and purchase the best possible buttons that you can to finish the garment.
  • Call me crazy if you wish, but the biggest discovery is that I LOVE FINISHING WORK! Yes, it’s one of my most favorite parts of knitting. What a surprise.
  • I began the project with gathering patterns from various sources. Somewhere around sweater #70, an interesting thing occurred. I began designing the sweaters myself! That was not the plan, but an outcome of the process itself.

Fun Facts

A Few Thanks

Thanks to all the folks who not only cheered me on to complete the project, but also those who donated their extra yarn from previous projects. Such a thoughtful gesture is much appreciated.

Some of my fellow Thursday morning drop-in friends donated knitted items for the project. Each time, I was surprised with these lovely items (sweaters, a snuggle sak, and two dolls) and more than happy to include them in the boxes being sent. Thank you.

Thanks to Webs for having an outstanding button selection, an unbeatable yarn selection, and allowing me to share my story.

Final Thought

Charity knitting has been an amazing experience for me at a challenging time in my life. If you have bits of yarn leftover from other projects, combine them to knit up a small sweater and give it to the charity of your choice. You’ll be making someone warm and in return you may have some delightful discoveries of your own.

Susan, The Sweater Lady


(1) Charcoal Grey Cable and Seed Stitch vest made with Cascade 220 Superwash

(2) Light Blue Angora Bolero from page 39 of Vintage Knits for Modern Babies using Valley

Yarns Deerfield

(3) V-Neck Cardigan using Crofter Fair Isle Baby DK and steel blue Charming Raglan Pullover from page 69 of Vintage Knits for Modern Babies made with Encore DK

3 Tips from Gale Zucker for Getting Great Photos

Thursday, July 14th, 2011
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This summer, it has been our pleasure to welcome Gale Zucker as a guest instructor!  Gale is a commercial & editorial photographer whose photos have appeared in the books Shear Spirit: Ten Farms, Twenty Projects and Miles of Yarn and Mason Dixon: Knitting Outside the Lines.  She is the co-author and photographer of the upcoming book, Craft Activism: People, Projects & Ideas from the New Community of Handmade, which will be released in September!  We asked Gale to share a few tips for making the beauty of our finished objects shine through in images we can share with the world.

Photography for Knitters: 3 Tips for Photographing Your FO’s on Real People

The GOAL –

Have one goal for your photo.

You can only have one goal for every photo.  Let’s say you knit a fabulous cashmere cowl. You’ve got your beautiful friend/daughter/neighbor posing in it. What’s your goal? To show us that cowl looking luxurious and soft. You need to concentrate on that and not get caught up in making a killer portrait of your model. Here’s the thing: either you’re making a photo of a cowl or you’re making a photo about your friend. Who happens to be wearing a cowl. It’s not the same photo most of the time. It’s almost impossible to be trying to do both at the same time. Work on making the cowl look amazing, shooting from different angles, coming in close and lopping off your friend’s head, photographing from behind, or maybe from above. When you think you’ve got some good stuff, then you can concentrate on making a nice portrait of your model, just for fun.


The light.

Turn off that flash. No excuses! Use natural light, whether you are indoors or can step outside. If you’re outdoors, try to stay in the shade, or do your photography early, or late, in the day. That’s when the light is warmer in color and coming at a lower angle.  Sidelighting really brings out the thing we love most about fiber/knits: the texture. If you need to stay indoors, try getting close to a window, or open the door, and let the light hit your FO as you stand with your back to the light source. Or try standing to the side, parallel to the light source(the window or door) and place a white foamcore board opposite it , just outside of your frame, to bounce the light back in. Instant studio!


Tell your model what to do. Think about it – someone sticks you in a sweater or mittens that you weren’t planning on wearing – and maybe are totally out of season – and then tells you to….act natural? Awkward! The more awkward your model feels in front of the camera, the more uncomfortable they will look. Keep talking to the person posing and tell them what to do — turn around, walk, sit, floof their hair, wave the knits around, jump, twirl, pick up twigs…whatever. You can even create a little scenario and have them move through it, like packing a picnic, or cutting flowers or getting on a bicycle. Being told what to do gives them something to focus on, a way to move and then you get a natural-looking model in knitwear.

And, finally, shoot A LOT. Pixels are free, so keep shooting.

For more tips, and lots of hands-on practice, join Gale Zucker next week, in her class Photographing Your Finished Objects on Real Life Models.  Our thanks to Gale for writing this guest post, and for letting us use her gorgeous images.

The Boyfriend Sweater Curse Explained

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
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Hi Everyone:

I am excited to welcome Bruce Weinstein to the WEBS Blog with a Guest Post.  Bruce is the author of the recently released Knits Men Want:  The 10 Rules Every Woman Should Know Before Knitting for a Man.  I know what you’re thinking – been there done that on the boyfriend knitting theme.  I’m telling you to just push those preconceived notions aside.  This is a lovely book with 10 faboo patterns and interesting essays.  Plus the photography was all done by Jared Flood so naturally the book is gorg-e-ous.

Given that this topic has been written about previously, I asked Bruce to give me his perspective on “The Boyfriend Sweater Curse”.  He was kind enough to oblige.


The Boyfriend Sweater Curse Explained.

It’s all about hormones and overheating. Simple science and few smart choices can keep this from happening to you.

It’s a very common complaint. You knit your guy a sweater and then the relationship is over. You never see him again, and sadly too, you never see the sweater.

So here’s the theory. Men sweat more than women do. It’s a given scientific fact. And on top of that, men have more apocrine more apocrine sweat glands which are the kind that cause us to stink, and emit pheromones. You know, those chemicals that help us attract the opposite sex (and sometimes the same sex). So it’s no wonder that most men don’t like heavy sweaters.   We sweat too much in them.

Now, along comes the first hand knitted gift of a heavy wool sweater. The boyfriend starts sweating even thinking about wearing it. Then he puts it on and basically transforms into a pheromone factory.  This causes lots of other women (and sometimes men) to pay attention to him.  It’s hard to ignore adoring looks from all sides. And sometimes, just sometimes, that might be the undoing of the relationship.


I think in 99% of the cases this scientific perspective carries a lot of merit.  Steve is the 1% exception.  The man embraces a Lopi sweater like it’s a lace-weight cashmere wrap.  He has the scratchiest of scratchy, heavy, wooly sweaters you can imagine.  They are gorgeous – him mom and grandmother(s) knit him sweaters that J1 and J2 will inherit and their children will inherit.

At the end of the day, the debate over the “Boyfriend Sweater Curse” will live on as will Bruce’s book.  Be sure to check it out next time you are at WEBS or your LYS.

Thanks you Bruce for taking the time to join us here on the WEBS Blog!


P.S.  Stewart, Tabori & Chang, publishers of Bruce’s book are running a sweepstakes over on their blog.  It’s pretty cool stuff so check it out!

Guest Blogger – Carol Sulcoski

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
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When I posted a couple of weeks back about the loss of our friend Jamie, I was touched by the outpouring of lovely comments and emails from so many of you.  Thank you for keeping us and more importantly our friends in your thoughts.  I will be forever grateful to all of you.

One person who emailed me was the lovely Carol Sulcoski – you know, faboo designer, rockstar author and creator of Black Bunny Fibers.  She asked what she could do – offered to write a blog post for me.  I readily agreed.  During our exchanges she mentioned her dad was undergoing some tests.  I wished her well, thanked her for helping me out and went about doing what I could to help Sarah, JP and Peyton.  What I didn’t know was that Carol was dealing with a crisis of her own – her father was diagnosed with end-stage pancreatic cancer and died last week.

I am so grateful for her support and so sorry for her loss.  I only hope I can find a way to help her, the way she has helped me.  Here is Carol’s post:

I’m honored to be guest-blogging for Kathy today, and I know that everyone is thinking about her and her family, and wishing them peace this holiday season.

Every December, when a new year  is right around the corner, I start to think about the year that is coming to a close.  I read all the articles with titles like “2009: A Look Back” and “The Year In Review,” and somewhere along the line it became a tradition with me to do a retrospective look at the knitting world, too.  So without further ado, I present “2009:  A Knitter’s Look Back.”

The economy.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think back over the past twelve months is the profound impact of the American and global economic recession.  The struggling economy was a topic on everyone’s mind, and it had tangible impact on  the knitting world.  It seems to me that people became much more mindful about their fiber pursuits:  purchasing less, yes, but also reshaping their attitudes.  Knitters and crocheters  went back and fell in love with their stashes.  They seemed to delay purchasing items, waiting for sales or saving up for special events and fiber festivals.

It seems to me, too, that the economy pushed a lot of folks into fiber-related commerce. Etsy and Ravelry made it easy to sell handdyed yarn or fiber, handcrafted items like stitch markers and knitting bags, and knitting patterns, and people faced with cuts in their pay or hours, or who were laid off, began trying to leverage their passion for fiber into a means of generating some income.  It seemed as though the number of vendors selling fiber-related items, whether stitch markers, handsewn project bags or yarn and wool, went through the roof.  My suspicion is that, as the economy starts to improve (we hope), the sheer number of vendors will start to decrease.

2010 will likely be a tight financial year for many of us, and we’ll no doubt see some signs of budget-tightening in the fiber world. Expect to see fewer new yarns, more discontinued colors and yarns, and a renewed focus on the workhorse yarns, staples like Cascade220 and perennial favorites like Noro and Malabrigo.  We may see more emphasis on small-gauge projects and more intricate styles of knitting, like colorwork and lace, given that these projects take longer and thus provide knitters with more hours of knitting relative to the cost.  We may also see a focus on one-skein projects, providing a relatively inexpensive way for knitters to treat themselves to a new project to try a new yarn.

The continued growth of the PDF and self-publishing.
Pattern sales became as easy as point and click once the internet facilitated the use of the PDF document.  While there is still a sizeable contingent of knitters and crocheters who want hard copies of their patterns, the growth in PDF patterns continued throughout 2009, aided by sites like Patternfish and Ravelry, as more designs, old and new, were put on the market in digital form.  Websites like Patternfish continued to add to impressive collections – including archived designs  from venerable pattern companies like Classic Elite – and major magazines  and yarn companies began offering their own PDF delivery, or expanded their existing offerings.  One interesting  sidelight of this is the effect on knitting designers.  PDF publishing rights took center stage in negotiating contracts, and many designers started insisting that they have the option of retaining future publishing rights, instead of signing away all publication rights forever.

Another interesting development that I’ve just noticed:  offering magazine subscriptions in either traditional print or digital formats.  European magazine Verena offers subscribers a choice of digital delivery or traditional print, as does Yarn Forward, a UK-based magazine.  We’ll have to see if any of the big American magazines follow suit in 2010.

Self-publishing pattern collections (as opposed to individual, single patterns) has also continued to  grow. We saw some excellent, high quality offerings from designers who decided to forgo the traditional publishing companies in order to retain more control over the end product and receive a higher rate of return for their work.  Risky, yes, because the designer has to pay for the production and printing process herself, but if the book or booklet is successful, the designer doesn’t have  to share the profits with anyone.  Top quality offerings we saw from the self-publishing world include Janel Laidman’s The Enchanted Sole; Chrissy Gardiner’s Toe-Up!; and Grace Anna Farrow’s The Fine Line.

Comings and goings
As always, during the past year we made new friends and lost some old ones.  I was particularly said to see Knotions, a great on-line knitting magazine, cease publication at the end of the year.  Knotions’ motto was “Knit smarter,” and contained lots of technical information as well as free patterns.  However, the patterns will remain archived for the foreseeable future.  Several  other of the new e-zines also discontinued publication, including Metapostmodern Knitting (on hiatus; not clear if it will be permanent or return) and Black Purl.  Is the on-line knitting magazine model is harder to sustain than we thought, is it a function of the struggling economy or some combination of both? In a slight twist (or do I mean “slightly twisted”?), parody site Regretsy burst forth in late 2009, showcasing handcrafted items of dubious distinction taken from Etsy, and combining them with trenchant captions.

When it comes to yarn companies, although Westminster Fibers apparently is folding its RYC label into Rowan,  selling under one name in the future, and while the large conglomerate Coats got rid of its Moda Dea brand,  I’m not aware of any other yarn companies or major brands going out of business.  On the other hand, an exciting addition to the field is St-Denis Yarns, a company headed by fabulous designer Véronik Avery.  Avery’s first yarn offering, released this past fall, was Nordique, a vintage-feeling wool that is categorized as a sportweight,but is versatile enough to be knit at many gauges.  Nordique’s palette begs for stranded knitting, and Avery’s first St-Denis magazine received rave reviews.  Look for a second yarn and another pattern magazine this spring.

Another brilliant 2009 debut was the Spud and Chloe line, from Blue Sky.  Spud and Chloe took an interesting approach, giving us three basic yarns: fingering-weight wool Fine, wool-cotton worsted-weight Sweater, and thick wool Outer. Pattern support is strong, and everything about the Spud and Chloe line is stylish and appealing, including the patterns’ paper envelopes reminiscent of sewing patterns.   This is another new line that I expect exciting things from.

When it comes to people, Shannon Okey left the helm of Yarn Forward, lovely Tanis Gray left Vogue/Soho Publishing; and Véronik Avery left JCA/Reynolds; Cathy Payson joined JCA/Reynolds; Michael “Tricky Tricot” DelVecchio joined Universal Yarns; WEBS’ own Cirilia Rose joined Berroco and produced a lovely collection of teen/tweener designs for girls, as well as several other designs for Berroco’s strong fall collection.  Jared “Brooklyn Tweed” Flood released  his first collection, “Made in Brooklyn,” in conjunction with Classic Elite – and a knockout collection it was.

Knitting Get-togethers
If you didn’t hear about the first Sock Summit, a gathering of sock-knitters that took place this past summer in Portland, Oregon, you must live under a rock.  The Sock Summit brought together an amazing assortment of the sock-knitterati, providing classes, networking opportunities and a large vendor’s market.

2009 also saw an expansion in the number of knitting-themed travel options, as  all sorts of workshops, cruises and retreats were planned for locations like Tuscany, southern France, Morocco, the Carribbean and many other locations in the US and elsewhere.   We’ll see if this trend continues given the current economic climate.

Last but not least, knitting publishing remained strong, producing perhaps fewer titles overall, but lots of high-quality and mouth-watering choices for the book-loving knitter.  In addition to the self-published titles mentioned earlier, sock knitters got  to enjoy Cookie A’s  Sock Innovations; blogger Wendy Johnson’s  Socks From The Toe Up;  and my own Knitting Socks in Handpainted Yarns.  Three books with eastern themes were released:  Haiku Knits, by Tanya Alpert, Japanese-Inspired Knits, by Mariane Isager, and Knitted Socks East & West, by Judy Sumner.

Some other top-notch titles released this past year:
•    Clara Parkes’ The Knitter’s  Book of Wool;

•    Color by Kristin, by Kristin Nicholas;

•    Green Mountain Spinnery’s 99 Yarns and Counting;

•    French Girl Knits, by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes;

•    Classic Knits, and Inca Knits, also by the very talented Mariane Isager (what a fabulous trifecta of titles for one designer in a single year!); and

•    Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren.

Alice Starmore fans were thrilled to see her seminal Book of Fair Isle Knitting finally republished and updated; and crochet fans rejoiced when they saw the spectacular Crochet In Color, by Kathy Merrick.  Spinners got to enjoy an updated All-New Homespun Handknit; Amy King’s Spin Control; and Respect the Spindle, by Abby Franquemont, among others.

It was an eventful year in the fiber world, and you’d best buckle your seatbelts, for who knows what a new year and a new decade will bring…

Carol Sulcoski


Thanks so much Carol!  It has been such a strange December.  So much sadness in the air.  The Yarn Harlot has something going on with her family, Annie Modesitt has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and our lovely town of Northampton has been rocked by a string of 11 fires this past Saturday night that destroyed several homes and cars and killed two people.

I normally love this time of year, but I cannot get my tree down fast enough, get the decorations packed away and move on.  That’s not to say that 2009 hasn’t been a lovely year for us overall or that the past decade hasn’t been equally wonderful.  I just hope that whatever is misaligned in the universe gets itself straightened out.

Thanks to all of you for reading my blog, listening to our podcast and for shopping with us.  I also want to say a big “thanks” to our team who have kept things moving along these past couple of weeks (and all year long for that matter) and have allowed us the time and space to be with our friends.

I hope you all have a very Happy New Year.