Friday, June 27, 2008

Beach Blanket Blogging

Well - not quite, but almost!

Before I jump into a myriad of items, I want to remind everyone that we are having a great book signing event at the store tomorrow! Starting at 3:00pm, Carol Sulcoski, co-author of Knit So Fine, will be at WEBS signing copies of the book. I am so excited we were able to find a date that worked for both our insane schedules (hers is worse than mine - she has 3 kids!). My only regret is that I'll miss the event! I hope someone remembers to get a book signed for me :) If you are planning to shop tomorrow, come in the afternoon and see Carol. Besides signing copies of her book, I am sure she'd be up for chatting about her blog and Black Bunny Fibers! Have fun Carol!

Why am I missing this event you ask? We are off on Steve and Kathy's Excellent Adventure - part 2. We've made our way to the lovely gulf shores of Florida, J1 & J2 in tow this itme around. We're here for Convergence - the bi-annual weaving tradeshow. For those of you who are knitters, Convegence is the equivalent of Stitches. The venue changes each year, as local guilds are key to hosting the show. This year, the Florida Tropical Weavers Guild stepped up to take on the challenge and Tampa Convention Center is the location. The show is open to the public through tomorrow. There are all sorts of cool weaving stuff, yarn, etc., but there are also lots of gorgeous finished goods and ancillary products. If you are in the area, stop by the show! For us, this is a nice combination of business trip and family vacation.

You may have read yesterday's post by Kirsten. I realized over the last few weeks that despite my good intentions and best efforts I could not keep up with the blog as effectively as I would like. I also think that we have so many things happening at the store and in the business, that my perspective alone can be somewhat limiting. Kirsten is an exceptional knitter. I have seen her walk around, knitting lace AND chewing gum! All joking aside, she is incredibly talented and will bring a lot to the blog. Plus, she's got a wry sense of humor that I hope you will all enjoy!

I've also enlisted our Store Manager Karen to join us here on the blog as well. With my crazy schedule, there are cool things happening and I miss them, which means you miss them too! Karen is an extraordinary knitter in her own right as well. I'm excited to be able to shae more in the way of new yarns, customer projects, etc.

No worries though - you aren't getting rid of me that easily. I love the blog.

On the trip down here, I worked on the Staghorn Cabled Tunic - a brand new design featured in our latest catalog. It has been receiving rave reviews in the store and both Pixie and Iove it. Here's where I am at so far:

I am using our Valley Yarns Northampton, which is the recommended yarn. I choose the dark grey colorway since I'm pretty much a zebra when it comes to dressing myself.
When reading patterns, I am very literal and need everything spelled out for me. I think it's partly how I learn, but I also think i stems from my crochet background, where patterns are basically spelled out row by row. Love that!

I am really enjoying the pattern and hope to make good progress over the next week or so.

On the vacation side of this trip, I have a couple of cute pictures to share. First up - the only way to fly:

J2 is cuddled in with "Barky". Barky was a prize I won for him last year at Busch Gardens. He decided since we were coming back to Barky's hometown, he should be allowed to come along on the trip. Both boys are big stuffed animal kids and we always have at least one friend along on any trip, but a 36" stuffed dog seemed a bit much. I obviously lost that battle.

Secondly, the person who is taking care of our room is obviously a Mom. Who else would be sure each of the animals had their own chocolate each night?

Lastly, here is J1 standing along side Scorpion. This is the sane reasonable child in this scenario.

Wondering where J2 is in this scenario? He's here:

He came off smiling and telling our sitter it wasn't so bad and asking if she was okay.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

From the Design Desk

Is this thing on?
Hi! My name is Kirsten, and I'm the design coordinator here at Webs. (Hi, Kirsten...)

Since I've horribly neglected my own personal blog, and since Kathy's thumbs were getting sore typing updates on her PDA while she was on the road, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and swing the spotlight over to my desk every other week or so to give a peek into the Willy Wonka-like world of pattern wrangling. It's true. I've been pressing Steve and Kathy to let me hire a staff of little orange dwarves, and they're this close to caving. I figure if I don't screw this blog thing up, I can get them and some lickable wallpaper in a two-for-one deal.

So, without further, silly ado, my first post is going to be about one of my latest designs that will be premiering in the Valley Yarns '08 catalog, the 222 Chevron Tunic knit in Springfield. Springfield was a really surprising little yarn. A cotton bouclé, you'd think it'd be hard and crunchy. But from the first time I felt it, I was very impressed with its softness, which is given body by its unusual texture. We knew that it was destined for number of very comfortable summer essentials, though it would also be perfect in all-seasons sweaters for the non-woolie crowd.

After a week or two of casting about for just the right thing, I became inspired by the image of a long, sleek, sleeveless sweater with a deep v-neck. It's a classic pullover vest, but its length makes it new and feminine. A simple lace stitch at the bottom mirrors the v-neck on top and adds just the right touch of interest. It was important to make sure that the stitch had bold, clean lines that wouldn't be obscured by the texture of the yarn, and I think this one really fit the bill.

It also serves as a good introduction to a very handy but lesser-known double decrease that has really grabbed my fascination. Unlike a k3tog, which slants to the right, and a sl1-k2tog-psso, which (sort of) slants to the left, the lace stitch here uses a sl2tog-k1-p2sso, which sticks the central stitch on top and points straight up. It's a mystery to me why it's not seen more often, since it's no more challenging than the others and it doesn't have the directionality of the other double decreases. And, if you have a series of them, they focus your eye a bit on that central stitch, making it almost look like a pole going straight up the knitting.

Since I've still got your attention (except YOU there, in the back. I see you back there, "texting" or "blue-toothing" or whatever it is you kids do these days...) I'll show you exactly how it's done.

First, slip 2 stitches as if you're going to knit them together. You go up into both of them at once and slip them both off at once.You'll see how they're kind of twisted around each other on the right hand needle. That's good.
Next, knit one. You know how to do this part.Then, take those two slipped stitches from before and pass them over the stitch you just knit. Just stick the tip of your left hand needle into both of them at once and pass them both over the knit stitch as if you were binding off.Et voilĂ ! A neat, clean little double decrease that doesn't lean one way or another.In addition to lace, this would be great for waist shaping or a raglan seam worked in the round from the bottom-up, anywhere where you want a double decrease, really. It's certainly not the last time you'll see it in one of my designs. But if you have any problems with it, don't despair, you can work a sl1-k2tog-psso if that's more comfortable for you. Better to have a slightly different decrease than to give up on the whole project. And, as always, my email inbox (khipsky(at) is always open if you have questions or comments. I promise I won't yell at you for getting fingerprints on the walls of the bubble chamber or stealing an everlasting gobstopper.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


1. While at TNNA, I had the distinct pleasure to completely embarrass myself upon being introduced to Franklin. I think I actually jumped up and down and there's no question my voice increased in pitch to something equivalent to pre-teen girl at the American Idols on Tour Concert. It was quite a thrill and I'm hoping to have a big party for him at WEBS when his new book debuts this fall :)

2. While in Chicago, Steve and I got to go to Wrigley Field to see a Cubs game. It was very exciting - we are both (all if you include J1 and J2) big sports fans, so any trip to one of this country's iconic sports venues is always a treat. Unfortunately, in my effort to better manage my photos, I seemed to have deleted the shots I took. Bummer.

3. Speaking of iconic sports venues, I've been asked by several folks what I did for Steve's 40th birthday besides (a) take him to a yarn show (b) dinner and (c) get him to the Hyatt for free beer and dry ice from SPM? Well, to say the least he is not an easy one to surprise, impress or buy for. I was DETERMINED to wow him. And I did :) With the help of his parents, I was able to book a trip to next year's Master's Tournament in Augusta. For any of you who golf or know a golfer, Augusta National is legendary and very difficult to access. It will be a great trip.

4. Knitting. So a funny thing happened on our Excellent Adventure, Part 1 - I did not take a single knitting or crochet project with me. The reaction to knitters at the show was pretty interesting. Most were immediately concerned "What do you mean you don't have a project with you?" "Did you forget it?" "Was it confiscated at airport security?" "Did you lose it?". Most then immediately started rummaging through their knitting bag, pulling out random projects to give to me. Everyone was HIGHLY stressed that I did not have yarn and needles in my possession. I appreciated the concern and the offers, but declined the projects politely. When asked what was wrong, I have to say, I didn't really have a good answer. It's not that I was feeling lazy or anything. I've been dragging yarn home at the normal pace as new, interesting things have been coming in, but for some reason, I guess I just haven't been very inspired. I walked around the store for a good 20 minutes before heading ot the airport, fondling yarn, looking at patterns, etc., and just couldn't make up my mind - nothing was REALLY speaking to me.

Now, I'm not exactly known to be a high-producing knitter. I start a lot of projects and finishing, well, finishing things is not my forte. Maybe that's the problem. I have so many projects in process, it's kind of ridiculous. I thought about pulling them all out and organizing them - forcing myself to finish one before starting something new or brining home more yarn, but then I decided that would just be an exercise in futility. Why create a situation in which I'm going to feel badly for all that I haven't accomplished?

So, I spent 10 days away without any knitting. I did procure some yarn at the show, which I've previously documented. I have to say, I think it was the best thing I could have done for myself. This past week, I've been feeling so much more motivated. I've got 2+ projects in the works now and I'm psyched about them!

First, our next KAL on Ready, Set, Knit will be this:

It's a new design done out of our Valley Yarns Northampton called the Staghorn Cabled Tunic. Isn't it adorable? It looks good on so many body shapes and the design itself is ingenious in it's simplicity, as well as it's style. I've already swatched and I'm ready to cast on and get going. I'm sure Pixie is already 1/2 way done with the project, but that' s okay. (Note to Pixie - I really don't want to know how far along you are, okay?).

Next up, we have a brand new yarn that is about to debut and I'm working on a shawl design for it. More about "Hadley" in a future post :)

Lastly, Gail, the Kangaroo Dyer has done it once again. There is rarely a yarn that comes into the store that doesn't some how make its way to her dye studio. The new Sterling Silk and Silver is her lastest endeavor. She showed me a hank just before I left and it took my breath away, even in the midsts of my funk. I finally broke down and emailed her that I HAD to have a skein. She brought me three and here is the one I chose:

It's unbelievalbly gorgeous. I have the one skein and will do a very simple scarf for myself and I will love it and wear it and be happy and sparkle-y. Thanks Gail!

So, have any of you run into a similar situation, where your knitting or crochet just isn't doing it for you? Have you ever taken a vacation from your projects? I'd love to hear your experiences.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kathy & Steve's Excellent Adventure Part 1

Many of you have probably read on other blogs all about TNNA - our semi-annual industry tradeshow, where shop owners can take classes and meet with all of the yarn & accessory companies under one roof. I love TNNA, in fact, I love tradeshows in general. I know, I'm weird.

Now, in true blogger fashion, I brought along my camera. But alas, I have failed you all. I really didn't take any pictures. I'm not sure why this is, although I'm sure it is related to the reason I did not bring a single project with me. I know - you are all gasping and starting to sweat. Many of my fellow shop owners did the same as they fumbled through their knitting bags, pulling out projects to give to me. I gracefully declined. More on this topic later.

Two of the most fabulous summaries of the show that was can be found on Stephanie's blog and on Franklin's blog.

We celebrated Steve's 40th birthday on Friday evening with our friends from Fiesta yarns, Jeannie and Brad, who happened to be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary! We had a grand time. Steve's special day was on Saturday and after a long day at the show, attending a reception thrown by the folks at Interweave to celebrate Knitting Daily TV and then dinner, we reconvened at the Hyatt where there were simply an amazing array of knitterati gathered. Again, cameraless, but again SPM's blog provides a much better summary than I could have written anyway.

Steve was pretty pumped that Steph bought him a birthday beer - if only we could have been in Toronto this past weekend to return the favor. For me, I got to see some old friends and make new ones. I got to meet Abby - who I knew of, but had never met. She was walking around, talking and spinning on her drop spindle all at the same time. We were talking about yarn (surprise) and somehow the conversation turned to cashmere and sparkle. Steve mentioned that this is the "perfect" Kathy yarn - as I love cashmere and nearly all things sparkly. Abby's eyes bug out of her head and she gets all excited and runs off to get something out of her bag. She explains that before coming to the show, she worked up some beautiful cashmere-blend fiber and added a bit of angelina to it. After the fact she thought she had ruined perfectly good cashmere by adding the glitz - she wondered who in the world would want cashmere batts with sparkle? She packed it and figured maybe it would find a home. And it did:

The picture doesn't do it justice. I was floored that she gave me this. I hugged it and cuddled it for the rest of the evening. I bragged about it to everyone who happened by our group. "Look, it's cashmere-y and sparkle-y and Abby made it and she gave it to me, ME!!"

On the way back to the hotel that night, I was still on cloud 9 with my little bundle of fiber, babbling to Steve about it. Then, he burst my bubble. How? He reminded me I don't know how to spin. Minor detail, my dear, minor detail.

The rest of the show was great. I scored a copy of Nancy Thomas' new book Tweed:

We have it in the store as well, it's got some great patterns and a wonderful history of of the origins of tweed.

One of our priorities at the show was catching up with Tobias and Antonio from Malabrigo. As many of you know, there was a fire at their mill at the beginning of the month, just before the show. Everyone was alright, but it looks like everything was a complete loss. They emphasized that they will be dyeing yarn again soon and the most important thing is that nobody was hurt. Tobias always comes to the show with something new to share with us and despite the fire, he was able to bring along this:

It's Malabrigo Sock Yarn. Given the circumstances, we probably won't see it in the store for quite awhile, but that's okay - we can be patient!

Instead of heading for home after TNNA, we went onto Chicago for another conference. This one was non-yarn related, but still very good in it's own right. Our timing was perfect. The conference ended and we stayed two additional days to celebrate this:

This is my nephew Daniel, my sister's only son. He graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master's Degree in Philosophy and will be entering their PhD program this fall. Way to go Daniel!

After graduation, Steve and I headed to the airport to finally come home. We had been gone for a long time and were really missing the boys. Unfortunately, United Airlines had other plans for us. Our flight was cancelled. After a small meltdown, we gathered ourselves, weighed our options and decided to try again the next morning. We headed over to Rosemont and our hotel room. Does Rosemont ring a bell to anyone? It should. How about this:

Guesses anyone?

It was a terrific trip, but it's really good to be home.


Sunday, June 15, 2008


I must make apologies for not posting Pixie's Babette photos sooner. For those of you who have emailed, left comments on the blog and on Ravelry, here, at long last is what I have of Pixie's Babette:

The squares are truly breathtaking.

A couple of points I'd like to make about this project:

1. Pixie used our Valley Yarns Northampton. At $4.99/ball for 240 yards, it's a "bahgain" as us native Bostonians would say.

2. She used a "G" hook - be sure to swatch! For worsted weight yarn such as Northampton a "G" or "H" is usually recommended, but you can't be sure without a swatch.

3. Pixie did follow the schematic exactly, which means that because she was using a heavier weight yarn than called for, her finished blanket came out to be 56" x 64", much larger than the finished measurements in the pattern state.

4. Pixie used a total of 17 colors, just like the pattern calls for. She used 2 balls of Lizard Green, Eggplant and Laguna Blue (her favorites) and one of 15 other colors. Pixie went a little crazy on this project and rather than follow a "formula" for the creation of the squares, she selected randomly. Knowing Pixie like I do, this must have been a little tough for her! Like me, Pixie likes to have a plan and stick to it!

5. The pattern is from Interweave Crochet, Spring 2006 and is now also available at

The color in this finished shot is off and appears much brighter than it actually is - the photos above are much more accurate. I think something was lost in the translation from our professional photographer's system to importing it here:

For those of you working on your Babette's, please let me know how it's coming along and email pictures to - Pixie and I would love to see them!


NOTE: Tuesday, 6/17 - the full photo of Babette on the bed has been fixed! Thanks to our most faboo photographer for fixing the CMYK conversion!

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