Posts Tagged ‘knitting’

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.

To Poncho or Not To Poncho…

Friday, January 15th, 2016
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I’ve been thinking a lot about ponchos lately. I used to think ponchos were for the lazy knitter, they had no shape, they made a body look boxy and shapeless. Remember that big poncho crazy a few years ago, caused by, of all things, Martha Stewart in a poncho emerging from jail? Everyone was poncho-crazy and I thought that was awful.

Poncho patterns from Blue Sky Alpacas. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Fast-forward to now, and I am looking with a more kindly eye upon the poncho. I’ve seen more than one pattern for very cute ponchos that look like they are wearable by grownups of a certain age. These Blue Sky Alpacas garments were a huge hit when we had their trunk show in the store this fall. The Two Harbors Poncho is knit in scrumptious Extra (used by me for a very fun cowl a few months back) and the big ribbing swatches will draw the fabric in enough to give it shape and drape that are flattering. The Bianca Wrap is simplicity personified. ONE seam. Light, warm, and comfy. Blue Sky Suri Merino is feather-light with a very nice halo that makes this garment more functional than a shawl or a scarf.

My favorite aspect of ponchos is that they are like a sweater without the sleeves–they go over your head and they stay put. I don’t like open cardigans, nor do I like futzing around with shawl pins or winding scarves so they don’t flop open at the first gust of wind. As my office-mate correctly identified it, “they’re like wearing a blanket.” And who doesn’t want that, when it’s icy outside?

What do you think about this new poncho trend? Which one will you make?

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.

No Resolution

Thursday, December 31st, 2015
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I have NEVER been a resolution-setter, and I know if I did make myself a list, I’d cheat before the Ides of March. I have, however, been giving myself a stern talking-to about my lack of organization when it comes to knowing what I have in my stash. In the last month, I’ve brought home three different patterns, knowing I had yarn in my stash to make them. However, once I crawled on all fours through the closet where I keep my stash yarn (piled into plastic bins, no system whatsoever), I realized that I didn’t have enough of one yarn, didn’t have the needles I needed for another…it was anarchy.

Getting organized in 2016. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

If I was going to run down the organization rabbit-hole, I think I’d need to go through every single needle and set I have. I’d need to record it somewhere (there’s an app for that!) so I always have it with me. I’d need to really sort out the yarn I have, by weight, and if I was super-insane, by fiber. I’d need to go through every single pattern I have lying around in various formats and find a place to keep them free from coffee-spillage and my own absent-mindedness.

If I were to be an organized knitter in 2016, WEBS has a few items that I think would help. This Grellow and Gray Sirka Counter would enable me to finally get rid of about 10 different, useless, row counters and stitch markers. It keeps track of up to 3 separate counts and doesn’t move unless you advance it. GENIUS.

I could know what needles I have by knowing where they are–and this Knitter’s Pride case holds a multitude of different sizes, even crochet hooks and tools. And they’re gorgeous.

Chic.a clear zipper-front pouches are just the thing for all my tools. Cable needles, blocking pins, stitch holders, probably even my double-pointed needles. I can just peek inside and wave to all my goodies.

And time. Time is what we all need more of. In 2016, I definitely plan to take more time to do the things I love to do.

For help in getting yourself organized be sure to check out our “31 Days to Get Organized” series of blog posts!

Selfish Knitting

Friday, December 18th, 2015
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I’ve celebrated “my” holiday, and now I’m sitting back and watching other people celebrate holidays. I guess we’re all counting down days til the New Year, and I’m very sure you’re getting tired of “10 Best” lists.

Selfish Knitting on the WEBS Blog. Read more at blog.yarn.com

I’m going to buck the trend and write a shortie about a thing I’m knitting just for me. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up the needles for 1) a sweater, and 2) a sweater for me, but last week I cast on some Classic Elite Telluride in a heathery grayish-blue for the Lone Star vest. I’ve been stalking that garment for months, trying it on every once in a while and forcing other staff members to admire it on me. I finished up some gift knitting for the last of my knitting list and I decided It Was Time.

I’ve knit a few inches of the front and I was gritting my teeth a bit at the linen content in this yarn (normally I just hate plant fibers), but the alpaca/donegal mix totally makes it worth your time. The linen gives it juuuuust enough structure to counteract the drapey tendencies of the alpaca.

I want to point out to all readers that I made a gauge swatch, changed needle sizes a few times to get it exactly right, and then, my friends…I washed it and blocked it, and THEN measured my finished gauge. Just to be sure. Completely sure.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress of this sweater; maybe a resolution for all of us could be to make a “selfish” project every once in a while to keep our mojo intact. Happy holidays to everyone!

Knitting for Pleasure

Friday, December 4th, 2015
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If you read the title and think that I’m talking about knitting for the pleasure of knitting, you’re wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to knit and I do it  instead of as therapy sometimes. What I love more is knitting something FOR someone and giving it to them. Hand-knitted gifts often trump more elaborate “store-bought” gifts by virtue of the hand-knitting. You actually created something for someone.

I was reminded of this when I gave my son a simple hat and scarf I knit out of Valley Yarns Sunderland. He doesn’t care one bit about the fiber content (as long as it’s not itchy) or how luxurious or locally sourced or hand-dyed that yarn is. He needed a hat and I had enough yarn left for a scarf.

Knitting joy, gifts and more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

The pleasure for me was that as soon as he saw that hat he put it right on his head and it didn’t leave that head anytime he was outside. He even wore it inside (our house is a bit chilly). That’s why you knit gifts and give them away — because it feels good.

Valley Yarns Sunderland is my current obsession. Check out this soft, heathery ball of lovely and knit a gift for a friend. It’ll make you feel SO much better!

More Yarn Love

Friday, November 20th, 2015
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I always have a sharp out eye when the store staff is stocking new yarns and I make a point of walking right past our display cubes where the cool yarn kids hang out so I can see who my best friend of the week will be. This week I have two best friends–both in my desired sporty gauge.
Yarn and Soul Superfine 400 (in my mind I put the emphasis on “fine” so that when I say it to myself it comes out “SuperFINE!!”) comes in 25 gorgeous heather shades, and I honed right in on some dark green (called Seaweed) that would coordinate perfectly with most of my (black and white) wardrobe. 100% superfine alpaca and it has a little halo that just melts into a lovely drape. I’d make this adorable Side-Button Vest to go over a cream turtleneck for maximum contrast.

Two yarns from Spincycle Yarns now available at yarn.com, read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

My other new amour is a yarn I talked about on our “Ready, Set, Knit!” podcast a few weeks ago; Spincycle Yarns’ Dyed In The Wool. It’s a sport/heavy fingering weight yarn, and superwash to boot, so you might make some kick-butt heavy boot socks but I’d rather make something that every can see–because the hand-dyeing process takes place before the yarn is spun so it has a unique patterned effect. If you’re making a large project, you might need to compare a few unwound skeins for the closest match, but if you’re using a hand-dyed yarn like this, I think it’s best to let the yarn tell you what to do. You can’t be the boss of a hand-dyed yarn! Spincycle is owned and run by two women who produce small batches of exquisite yarn in the Pacific Northwest. 17 different colorways are at your disposal, including my favorite name, Venus In Furs (check out the Velvet Underground song for a little kick in your workday, my friends) which is a melange of pinks and purples against a background of cream, brown, and burgundy. I’d make these really cute Kira K gloves to match my (black) winter coat and really make them pop.

What patterns do you like to use hand-dyed yarn to make? And what special care do you take to match up colorways? Let us know in the comments, below!

Oh, So Fast, The Holidays Come…

Friday, November 6th, 2015
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I went downtown today to run an errand, and what did I see? Evergreen garland being put up on several storefronts and lightposts. It’s just too soon! Every year, I kick about this and nobody listens.

If we’re going to front-load the holiday season, at least let us have beautiful knits to make our holiday crafting better. I got a fun email from our friend Kristin Nicholas with the news that Yankee Magazine, the bible of New Englanders, is featuring some of her holiday patterns as well as the cutest video of her Pom Pom Garlands. This is a craft that can be done by anyone with the dexterity of a 3-year-old with the Clover Pom Pom makers sold in our store. Her Pom Poms are characteristically Kristin, made with her striking color choices.

Colorful holiday gift ideas from Kristin Nicholas on the WEBS Blog. Read more at blog.yarn.com

I always try to point folks making Christmas stockings to Kristin’s Creative Christmas Stockings pattern, available in PDF form. The colors are not what you’d call “Christmas-sy” but to me, that makes them way more appealing. The bright contrasts are as joyful as the spirit of the holidays; and aren’t you all getting a wee bit tired of red, green, blue, and white? Yankee magazine is also featuring Kristin’s Heart to Heart Mittens, which we carry in PDF as well. The word “happy” doesn’t begin to cover how these fun mittens make one feel. Not only does the pattern give you two options, one for one heart, one for many hearts, but Kristin’s clear directions even show the knitter how to embroider the accents onto the mittens before the top is closed, making them even easier to knit.

If all holiday designs could be knit in Color By Kristin yarn, I’d be much less Grinchly. What makes your holiday knitting happier?

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?

An Unexpected Treat

Friday, October 2nd, 2015
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I get the WEBS emails, just like you do. Last week, one sprang out at me, featuring a yarn I had heard about but not really seen (I work tucked away in one of the offices and am not out in the store as much as I want to be!). Amano is a lovely group of yarns in enough weights to satisfy any knitter, crocheter, or weaver, all featuring some iteration of alpaca–baby, royal, and an important-sounding alpaca designated “Imperial,” which obviously makes it the Homecoming King this year. Late-breaking news: Royal is the TOP 1% of alpaca fiber, Imperial is the next 2-10%. So, royal is the Homecoming King and imperial, obviously, is the guy who fixes the overhead projector.

Amano Ayni is my new best friend. 80% baby alpaca, 20% silk, this sport-weight dream of a skein has a hint of halo, enough to say “I’m soft, but not scratchy.” I am imagining a drapy A-line sweater, soft enough to wear next to the skin. Warmi (is that the best name for a yarn? yes.) is a worsted-weight workhorse, perfect for sweaters, shawls, hats, or scarves. It’s got a lush color palette inspired by fruits and vegetables.

The new Amano yarns now available at yarn.com. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Puna means “Andes Mountains” in the native language of the Incas, and is the essence of the Andes, made from 100% baby alpaca in a beefy 273-yard skein. It’s got a little more halo than Ayni, so I’d treat it a bit more gently, and my perfect project for this sport-weight wonder is the Delia Cowl in Amano’s pattern book for Fall/Winter. The simple openwork contrasts with the warmth of the alpaca to make a very useful garment.

The dip-dyed colorways of Mayu would be a wonderful vehicle for a body-conscious sweater– the addition of cashmere and silk to alpaca makes it almost criminally soft, and the heathery tones almost gleam, showing off the myriad shades in the skein. Puyu means “cloud” in the language of the Incas, and it does look very cloudlike. Baby alpaca is blown into a mesh tube made of silk for an almost two-tone appearance that will make luxurious accessories like hats, scarves, and even ponchos look expensive. Rounding out the Amano family is Apu (“Simpsons” fans will join me in a round of giggles), a dainty ball of imperial alpaca that I can’t stop holding. The Maria Cowl in Amano‘s pattern collection seems like the perfect project in Apu, with startling stitch definition and a drapy texture that caresses the skin.

Check out this new family online or in the store–you’ll want to make friends immediately. What project are you looking forward to knitting in an Amano yarn?