Friday, May 26, 2017

3 Tips for New Weavers

We've enlisted blogger and new weaver Stefaniegrr of Handmade by Stefanie to work on a special project to display in our booth at the Intermountain Weavers Conference in Durango, CO this July 27-30, 2017. Today, she gives an overview on weaving for beginners and some of her tips for successfully completing this project.

Handweaving is having a moment, and it seems like many of my fellow yarn lovers are dipping their toes into this craft. Instagram is filled with beautiful handwoven projects, and there are also some great new books and magazines full of interesting projects to make, even on little looms. Weaving is fast and fun, but best of all, it eats up stash so you can make room for more yarn!

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Most of us probably think of those large, complicated-looking floor looms when the word "weaving" comes up. I admit, that's what first sprang to mind for me, too. However, there are many types of looms available for today's weaver: pin looms, rigid heddle looms, floor looms, jack looms, lap looms & tapestry looms, just to name a few. A pin loom or a rigid heddle loom are fairly affordable and easy to use, so they are great "starter" options for new weavers.

After using a pin loom here and there, I finally took the plunge and ordered a rigid heddle loom at the start of the year - learning how to weave was one of my New Year's resolutions for 2017, so I am very new to the craft. While I can't profess to be an expert just yet, I have picked up some tips worth sharing with my fellow newbie weavers.

1. Weave a sample! Similar to swatching when knitting or crocheting, this is an important step to ensure that your finished project is the correct dimensions. If you are working with a new yarn, this is a great way to get to know it in the context of a weaving project - in this case, the slippery nature of Lhasa Wilderness (a yak and bamboo blend) required a small adjustment when weaving, since it doesn't have as much "grab" as a wool yarn does.

Sample weaving also allowed me to practice making neat selvedges (edges), which can be challenging for new weavers (and even experienced ones!). When you look at my sample swatch, you can see the point where I finally got the hang of working with the Lhasa Wilderness yarn - suddenly, the selvedges look much nicer!

Eureka

2. Don't fear the math. Figuring out how much warp and weft yarn looks harder than it is, and it's easy to be intimidated by the math involved in starting a new project. Here's a quick walkthrough of how I calculated my yardage for this project:

Start by deciding what you want your finished length and width to be.

Finished Width of Project: 8 inches
Finished Project Length: 68 inches (not including fringe)

Once you set these targets, the rest is easy!

First, to determine the total width of your project on the loom - the finished piece will draw in (also known as shrinkage) once you begin weaving, so the width of your warp will be wider than your finished project width. You can either consult your swatch to figure out the percent of shrinkage, or use the standard 10% if you are ok with an element of surprise in your finished piece.

Total Width on Loom: 9 inches

Next, you'll need to account for both shrinkage and loom waste when calculating your warp length. For rigid heddle looms, it seems like adding 10% for shrinkage and 18" for loom waste is pretty standard, but this may differ depending on what type of loom you have or your own personal preference. I used these standard numbers to determine my warp length:

Warp Length: 93 inches, or 2.58 yards (click here for a free inches to yards conversion calculator)

The above number is for just one length of warp from end to end, so you'll need to do one last bit of math to figure out your total warp length. Grab a tape measure and count how many slots and holes are in 9" to determine your number of warp ends. In this case, that number was 90 (45 slots and 45 holes);.

You'll multiply the number of warp ends (90) by the length of your warp (2.58 yards) to get your total warp length.

Total Warp Length:  90 x 2.58 yards = 232 yards

Your weft will require approximately 2/3 as much as your warp, but I like to make sure I have a little extra yardage just in case. Either way, two skeins of Lhasa Wilderness yarn (shown here in Joseph) is more than enough to weave this scarf.

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3. Finishing Hacks That Save Time. I think for a lot of crafters, the finishing steps can be real bugaboos - ask any knitter and most will agree that they dislike weaving in the ends on a multicolor project! The complexity of your project will play a role in how much finishing you'll need to do, but there are a few basic steps that most weaving projects require such as securing the warp ends, weaving in weft ends and, of course, blocking!

The first step to finishing is to remove the header, which is the yarn you weave at the start and finish to separate the warp (at the start) and secure your woven fabric. Below, the dark purple yarn is the header yarn:

Removing the header is a lot of like carefully frogging a knitted or crocheted project - you just go slowly and unravel row by row to avoid unfortunate mishaps. I made sure to do this on a flat surface so I could also use gentle pressure from my left hand to secure the woven fabric while unraveling the last few rows of the header. 

Once the header is removed, it's time to tie your fringe. Here's where keeping notes comes in handy - if you know that you have 90 warp ends, you can easily determine how many ends to tie together to make equal fringe knots (in this case, you could use 5 ends per knot for a total of 18 knots). 


I recently invested in a rotary cutter for trimming my fringe, and wow - is it efficient! You'll need a metal edge to guide your rotary blade, along with a cutting mat  (in a pinch, I have used a cutting board from my kitchen and it's worked beautifully). Simply measure how long you want your fringe to be, place your metal edge parallel to the edge of your weaving, and roll your rotary cutter along to make perfect fringe! 

Finally, you can use a blunt-tip tapestry needle to weave in any ends of yarn (unless you've "hidden" them as you went along); I prefer to wash my finished piece before I trim the yarn ends down so that they can settle into the fabric and are less likely to pop back out. Hand washing in Allure Fiber Wash is a great way to care for your woven scarf, since it doesn't require rinsing, plus is smells great! 

Keep these tips handy by sharing on Pinterest - pin the graphic below!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thank Heaven It's Summer: Master Color Series 3

Sunny days and warm weather doesn't have to mean a vacation from knitting or crocheting. We've created a new palette of refreshing colors inspired by the colors of summer: think cool, fruity treats like sherbet, Italian ice, sorbet, or ice cream!

These scrumptious colors are our latest installment in the BBR Master Color Series, dyed exclusively for us by MJ Yarns. For this season's palette, we chose Lhasa Wilderness, our sport weight blend of yak and bamboo: shimmery, light, and oh-so-soft, it's the perfect choice for warm-weather projects.
The breathable bamboo fibers are also naturally anti-bacterial, and they're blended to perfection with our soft, hypo-allergenic yak fiber in this popular yarn base. With generous yardage (250 yards per skein!), you can easily make a lacy shawl or a textured stitch cowl with just 1 skein.
Beat the summer heat with our new project kit, the Chevron Tank. Shown here in Pineapple, Orange and Strawberry, this on-trend top will keep you cool while looking cool. There are so many possibilities for mixing and matching with this fun project - you could even pair our newest Master Color Series palette with some of our other hand-dyed colors if you dare.

Each kit includes a print copy of the pattern, your choice of yarn colors, a BBR project bag, samples of Allure Fiber Wash, and a custom-made stitch marker from Purrfectly Catchy Designs, and is available for a special discount.

Click here to purchase the Chevron Tank Kit.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Charted v. Uncharted Territory

I’ll admit that Glenna’s Cowl by Marly Bird looks a bit intimidating from the pattern photos. I thought it would take a long time to knit, but by the time I was halfway through the first repeat I was seriously hooked and the project was flying off my needles. Paired with the gorgeous stitch definition of Himalayan Trail, it wound up being a wonderful treat at the end of a few hectic days. I swear this yarn was made for cables! The rhythm of this pattern was just a delight and before I knew it, I was taking extra time with each row on the chart just to make the knit last a little longer.



I said the word chart, did you panic? Have no fear! Glenna’s Cowl provides both written and charted instructions. I realize there are few techniques in knitting as polarizing as charts. Knitters either love them or they can’t stand them. In fact, I’ve never met a knitter who was on the fence about charts. So what is it about charts that evoke such different reactions in knitters?
Ironically, what makes a chart useful is also what makes it challenging for some: it’s a visual tool. A chart contains the exact same instructions as a written pattern, but instead of stitch abbreviations they use symbols. If you haven’t used charts before, of course, those symbols look like hieroglyphics. They can be confusing and intimidating. Some knitters just look at a chart and say, “No way.” I’m just the opposite. I look at complex knitting patterns written out with a sea of abbreviations and commas and I’ve forgotten where I am before I’ve even started.

As I mentioned above, Glenna’s Cowl includes both written and charted instructions making it very accessible whatever your disposition regarding charts. It also makes this pattern a great opportunity to learn to read charts with a safety net. Because both sets of instructions are identical, you can use them together to check your work as you go or maybe switch back and forth if you need a break.
If you’re interested in giving charts a try, the best place to start is with the basics. The most important thing to keep in mind is because the chart is a visual representation of your knitting, the chart will always be read exactly as you knit as if you are looking at one side. Don’t overthink it! Here are a few basic rules for chart reading to give you a jump start.
  1. Start reading a knitting chart at the bottom right hand corner.
  2. Charts are read from bottom to top.
  3. When knitting flat, read right side rows from right to left & wrong side rows from left to right. When knitting in the round, you will read the chart from right to left for all rounds.
  4. The row numbers are located on the side of the chart from which you should begin the row.
  5. If you’re knitting flat, there will be RS & a WS rows of the pattern, so the symbols may represent different things depending on which side of the work you are on (i.e. a blank square may mean a K stitch on the RS, but a P stitch on the WS) – check your legend for details.



Keep in mind is charts & their symbols are just a part of the knitting language. We recognize a red octagon as a stop sign whether the word is printed on it or not. Given time, we get used to reading and using charted knitting symbols, too. Oftentimes I will focus the first 5-10 rows or rounds on familiarizing myself with the symbols. Then I’ll slowly widen my scope to see how the individual symbols work together to create the whole pattern. Before I know it, I’m referencing the legend less & less and the knitting gets easier & easier.
For some projects I’m able to memorize the symbols before long, but with others I refer to the legend throughout. Either is absolutely acceptable depending on the knitter, pattern, and circumstances. I know a lot of knitters who will go so far as to color code the cables and twists within a chart to further simplify identification. I highly recommend the use of highlighter tape to keep your place on the chart. These little extra tips can streamline the chart reading process and help demystify the charted symbols.
When it comes to charted vs uncharted instructions, we certainly are each allowed our own personal preference. Designers, Like Mary Bird, who include both I go back to again and again. Whether you only have eyes for written instructions, you’re a charted knitting fan, or maybe you’re just curious about knitting with charts, Glenna’s Cowl is an excellent opportunity for you to create a stunning cowl with one of my favorite yarns from Bijou Basin Ranch.

Sarah Chy is a Wisconsin-based knitter, spinner, writer, and small-scale family adventurer. You can keep up with her latest crafty projects and family hijinks on her blog, knittingsarah.com.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Yak Knitting Pins Are Here!

New for spring, we have some fun new pins to show your love of all things yak. The BBR Yak Knitting Pin will look great on your lapel or project bag, and it's the first in our series of custom made enamel pins available in our store.
These pins will be making their debut in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth at the DFW Fiber Fest this coming weekend, too - come say hello & check them out!
We're giving away a Yak Knitting Enamel pin to 5 lucky newsletter subscribers - click here to enter! (Hint: If you already get our emails, you are automatically entered in our drawing BUT you can enter your subscribed email to unlock bonus entries if you wish!)

We will randomly select our winners to announce in our newsletter and social media channels next Thursday, April 13. Good luck!
Click here to enter our BBR Yak Knitting Pin giveaway.
Be sure to share photos of your BBR Yak Knitting pin with us on social media using the #BijouBasinRanch hashtag in your post!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Weaving with Hand-Dyed Yarns

We've spotted some gorgeous projects woven with our yarns in recent years; one of our all-time favorites is the Outlandish Tartan Scarf in Lhasa Wilderness, which is an excellent yarn choice for weaving due to the strength of the bamboo fiber in this yak and bamboo blend.

While the Tartan scarf example linked above is stunning, newer weavers may find it a bit daunting - but don't worry! Beautiful results can be achieved with more basic techniques such as plain weave, just by varying the yarns used for the warp and weft. The warp is simply the yarns that are held under tension on your looms - think of them as the foundation upon which you'll build your project. The weft refers to the yarns you use to pass through the warp.

Weaving has special challenges that can strain a short stapled fiber such as yak, bison, cashmere or qiviut - but it doesn't mean that you can't weave with it! As warp yarn is subjected to a lot of tension, it's important to use a yarn that blends yak with a longer stapled fiber such as silk, bamboo, nylon, etc. When it comes to weft, your menu of options widens to just about anything your heart desires!

On the whole, yak is a very durable fiber that holds up well for all fiber arts; yak yarn and weaving can actually work quite well together! Shangri-La (yak/silk), Lhasa Wilderness (yak/bamboo) and Tibetan Dream (Yak, nylon) are all excellent yarn choices which have been very popular in weaving circles for quite some time.

While there are many ways you can experiment with hand-dyed colors in your weaving project, here are a few ideas to get you started!

Example #1: Semi-Solid Warp & Weft
In the sample swatch pictured at left, we've used Laoghaire for both the warp and weft.  

Example #2: Variegated Warp & Semi-Solid Weft
In the sample swatch pictured at left, we've used Coastal Breeze for the warp and a semi-solid for the weft (we recommend trying Deep Teal or Azure).

Example #3: Variegated Warp & Weft
In the sample swatch pictured at left, we've used Joseph for both the warp and weft.

Example #4: Semi-Solid Warp & Variegated Weft
In the sample swatch pictured at left, we've used Laoghaire for the warp and a variegated color way for the weft.

Bijou Basin Ranch will be attending the Intermountain Weavers Conference in Durango, CO this July 27-30, 2017, and we're excited to share more weaving inspiration & tips with you between now and then!

Friday, March 10, 2017

3 Tips for Working With Multiple Colors of Yarn

On our last blog post, Jonathan of MJ Yarns shared several ways to combine colors from our Master Color Series 2 Palette, Winter Begone! Today, we'll share some of our favorite tips for working with multiple colors of yarn within the context of any project.

1. Swatch it out.
Since you're knitting a swatch anyway, why not experiment with color placement as you knit? When determining the color order for the Sand Layers Shawl kit, our sample knitter experimented with color placement while swatching:


There's no need to make multiple swatches - unless you want to, of course!

2. Does it pass the B&W photo test? 
While we always recommend swatching before starting a project to ensure that you have the correct gauge, here is a shortcut to determining whether or not the colors you've chosen have enough contrast - without knitting a single stitch!

First, arrange your skeins in the order they will be used & snap a photo (you can also wrap strands of yarn around a knitting needle or bobbin as we've done here, if you prefer).


Next, convert it to Black & White (your phone or photo editing app may call this Grayscale).


Some color combinations have less contrast once the hue is removed, which means that as the eye views the colors in the context of a finished project, they may become muted instead of contrasting crisply. In the example above, the blue and purple color are difficult to distinguish, but the addition of the yellow-green yarn between both the blue and purple color produces a crisp contrast.

3. Manage yarn for color dominance.
Did you know that how you hold your yarns can affect how the colors appear in the finished project? Ysolda Teague shared this case study demonstrating how holding a working strand of yarn either above or below the contrasting color (or colors) or yarn affected the overall appearance of each color in a Fair Isle project.

This also holds true for stranded color work, as we saw in one of our favorite project kits, the Xanadu Snowflake Cowl by Julie Crawford. Here, the stranded snowflake motif "popped" by holding the Main Color (Mocha) over the Contrast Color (Natural White).


We hope you find these tips helpful when approaching your next color work project. Please share your projects using our Master Color Series yarns (or any other Bijou Spun yarns!) with us on Instagram using the #bijoubasinranch hashtag!

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Master Color Series 2 : How to choose colors for your next project

Jonathan from MJ Yarns dyes many gorgeous colorways for us, from our shaded solid house colors in Lhasa Wilderness and Himalayan Trail to several stash-worthy limited edition yarn colors on several of our bases. He is also our official dyer for the ongoing Master Color Series, which is dyed on our luxurious 100% Mongolian Cashmere yarn, Xanadu. We've just released Series 2 - Winter, Begone and asked Jonathan to share some of his favorite color combinations from the palette as well as tips for choosing colors for any project you'd like to make.

Color Story

The Winter, Begone! palette from Master Color Series 2 is inspired by the greatest of winter warmers - a fine cocktail, for which each color get its name. Here is a quick introduction to the palette if you missed it:

Macbeth is a much stronger green reminiscent of the evergreens that hold the promise of life in the dark winter months. Like every color in this palette, I added just a little bit of earthiness to this green as a reminder that spring isn’t here just yet.

Absinthe is a gentle sage green with just a touch of cool earthiness. It is filled with all the vivacity of new leaves poking through the hard packed snow.

Beneath Broken Earth is a solid purple and the darkest of this group. The combination of a little red and orange for heat and some cool blue and grey make this purple rich and complex. It’s the perfect anchor to this series.

Maiden's Blush is a gentle red that captures the essence of the blooming crocus. It lives solidly in the warm side of the color wheel but just a bit of grey keeps it grounded.

Cosmo achieves the near impossible- a subtle yet rich and interesting pink. Like all the colors in this season's palette, Cosmo has just a touch of grey adding a level of sophistication and cool.

Blonde Ambition is the grey that brings this whole palette together. With just a dash of cool, it captures the essence of a freshly fallen snow with enough brightness to remind me that there is hope for warm days ahead.

Each of these stunning colors will stand alone for a gorgeous garment of any type - but if you want to blend them, there is tremendous opportunity for gorgeous gradients and fabulous color work.

Let's Talk Color! 

First, let's get a better understanding of how to approach working with multiple colors. Think of this as a short lesson in basic color theory as we cover some of the vocabulary for talking about color:

Hue: Hue is what we typically think of as color, and this palette has four: purple, red, green and grey (technically a shade of white, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll call it a hue in this conversation).

Tone/Shade: Overall, this palette has been shaded down from its purest hues - all 6 colors have some grey added, which means they’ll play well together when we get to actually combining different hues.

Value: Generally, we think of value as light or dark. This palette has four different value sets:

  • High value or dark color: Beneath Broken Earth; think of high value colors as good anchors.
  • Mid-value colors: Macbeth and Maiden's Blush. 
  • Light colors: Absinthe and Cosmo. These are essentially lighter versions of the mid-value colors just mentioned. 
  • Low or no value color: Blonde Ambition. These colors can act as frames to allow other colors to pop; they can also provide a gentle field of color that can be framed with darker colors.
TIP: When approaching any color palette, you can try sorting them according to value as we did in the example above to help choose which colors to mix and match! 

Color Relationship: When we place each of these colors on the color wheel, we see that we are dealing with complements or colors directly across from each other. Essentially, this palette boils down to red versus green with some purple standing next to the red and grey holding the whole thing together.

Color Combinations

Given the six colors we have to work with, here are some easy combinations to try:
L-R: Beneath Broken Earth, Maiden's Blush,
Cosmo & Blonde Ambition

  1. Temperature
    .
    • WARM: If we take all the warmer colors (including the slightly red-purple), we end up with Beneath Broken Earth, Maiden’s Blush and Cosmo. If we add the grey Blonde Ambition to the end, this creates a gorgeous gradient or could make for some interesting striping if done with alternating values: Beneath Broken Earth (dark), Cosmo (light), Maiden’s Blush(dark), Blonde Ambition(light).
    • COOL: We can do exactly the same thing on the cool side of the color wheel, again using Beneath Broken Earth as an anchor. The gradient palette would be: Beneath Broken Earth, Macbeth, Absinthe, Blonde Ambition. If you wish to work in alternating stripes, try: Beneath Broken Earth (dark), Absinthe (light), Macbeth (dark), Blond Ambition (light).
      L-R: Beneath Broken Earth, Macbeth, Absinthe & Blonde Ambition.
  2. Contrast. There are a few ways to create interesting contrasts within this palette: 
    • Temperature, revisited: A piece using all of the warm colors listed above with little pops of the cool Absinthe or Macbeth would make for a stunning garment. The same is true in reverse - try using all of the cool colors listed above with pops of Maiden’s Blush or Cosmo. Norwegian colorwork mittens or an Icelandic sweater with these color combinations would be fantastic!
    • Value: Try combining Beneath Broken Earth (dark) and Blonde Ambition (light) as your contrast colors. Imagine a Stephen West shawl made using Beneath the Earth as a frame along with one of the middle value colors and Blonde Ambition popping out of the whole thing!
      Top: Blonde Ambition.
      Bottom, L-R: Macbeth, Maiden's Blush, Absinthe & Cosmo.
There’s any number of ways that the colors from the Master Color Series 2: Winter, Begone! can be combined. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

One last note: when combining radically different colored yarns, it’s always wise to be very careful in the washing and blocking process. At MJ Yarns, we take extensive measures to ensure that every skein is perfect, that the dye is set and any excess dye is removed but sometimes even the best efforts leave a bit of dye behind.

When you block your project, it is safest to use cold water and add a splash of fabric softener. The softener has something in it that will keep excess dye suspended in the water instead of depositing on the yarn where you don’t want it.

Jonathan Berner started MJ Yarns to live in a yarnie world of beauty, truth and honesty. As a manager for a major shipping company, he learned exactly what he didn't want from a job. Finally, Jonathan decided to turn his knitting obsession in to a career. His dedication to artistic merit and business acumen from the corporate world make for some of the most incredible yarn around.