Kiwiyarns Knits


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Conundrum

I have been eyeing my stash with some annoyance lately.  Not because it is irritating me, but because I want to knit it, and there just never seems to be enough time!

I suppose if I put designing on the back burner that would help.  Pattern writing in itself is giving me a lot of joy and satisfaction though, so I guess I must be entering into a phase where I will have to be content splitting my time between designing and knitting.

The annoyance turned into both an educational and frustrating experience recently.

A while ago, I decided to do more “wool hunting” and acquired this:

Black Hills Wool

500g of gorgeous, 100% New Zealand wool from BlackHills.  It is naturally coloured, almost silver, and from what I can deduce of its feel, I believe it is Romney (although this is not a confirmed fact).

Then, I also acquired this:

Cheviot

This is 600g of Cheviot, a heritage yarn from Skeinz.

Both yarns sat in my stash, looking tempting, but without the right project to use them.

Then one day, I had a brainwave: I could combine both of these yarns into a blanket!  A lovely, Old Shale lace blanket!

100% New Zealand wool

The spin on both yarns looked similar – both two ply, with what looked like a similar amount of twist, and the weight was the same (ie both were 10 ply, or aran/worsted weight).  I could imagine a lovely striped, lacy blanket on my bed already!

I started to swatch. All went well, until I gave the swatch a bath, and the true nature of each of the yarns became apparent.

Old Shale swatch

Do you see it?  Let’s have a closer look:

Romney

The Romney-type yarn.

Cheviot

The Cheviot.

I plucked unhappily at the swatch. Why was each yarn so very different?  The Cheviot had bloomed from being a slightly ropey, stiff yarn in the hank into a beautiful fabric with great stitch definition.  The fabric was bouncy and airy, and quite soft!  In contrast, the Romney-type was dense, and heavy, and fluffy, and did not want to play with the Cheviot. You could almost say the difference was the same as if I had tried to marry cotton wool with wire.  Or as if the Cheviot was a dainty, prim lady, and the Romney a Wild Man of the woods!

Knitted, the Cheviot felt like a Shetland yarn in terms of its general squishiness and springy feel.  I wondered if it was the same type of wool.  I did a bit of research and discovered that Cheviot is a down-type wool (high crimp, fine wool, shortish staple of around 10cm/3 – 5 inches).  Have a look at this link for a picture of New Zealand Cheviot sheep and more about their wool.  It is also considered to be in the same category as Shetland wool, according to this website.

The New Zealand Romney, on the other hand, is a long wool, and also known as a strong wool, with an average staple length of 5 – 7 inches (12 – 18cm).  It’s the polar opposite to Cheviot.  I felt like a right fool.

The ends of the yarn give you a good idea of how each fibre looks and performs.  The Romney-type has very, very long strands that happily unravel.  The Cheviot is more demure, with fine fibres that stay together as a yarn strand.

The fibres

It had become blindingly obvious that the two yarns were not going to play well together.  I started to pull other yarns out of my stash to see if I could get a match for either of these yarns.  The living room floor became covered in balls of wool yarn…

Yarn candidates

Two hours later, no good.  None of my other natural yarns are the same weight, all either being DK or chunky.  My dreams of a lovely natural-coloured wool blanket for my bed began to fade.  :-(

Although frustrating, this has been a very educational experience in the very varying qualities of what we so generously throw into the generic term “wool”.

The easy option would be to go out and buy more yarn.  I really do not want to do that.  I might have a couple of dyed yarns that would match the Cheviot, but I am being unreasonably fussy and want only natural coloured wool for my blanket.  The idea of a brightly coloured spread on my bed is not appealing!  More ponderings required, but in the meantime, the bag of yarn sits in the corner of my living room, depressing me every time I look in its direction.

Perhaps I should go back to my original idea for the Black Hills yarn, which is to knit it into a wrap.  I did initially think of doing a cabled wrap.  You can see the swatch for that in the picture below.  It does make very nice cables… I got a bit put off because the yarn is extraordinarily heavy.  And I am not sure if even 500g would be enough to make something long enough to fit around the shoulders!  It’s also the main reason I don’t want to buy more of the same yarn to knit a blanket.  I could probably manage a cowl-style wrap with the amount I have.  And the final product would be quite stunning.  The Black Hills yarn has nice lustre, and is very drapey, and will be a very hard-wearing garment.  Not to mention that it is a very nice looking yarn.  Did I mention it also looks much nicer in cables than lace!?

The Cheviot, however, will probably make the perfect anything I choose to knit. As long as it fits into 900m. And looks good in cream.

DSC01237

 

 

 

 


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Seadragonus KAL and Bagshot Row

I’m really impressed about how many people have joined the Seadragonus KAL over on Ravelry.  Thank you so much for your support!

It is so inspiring to see the various Seadragonus socks taking shape!  I’m looking forward to everyone’s big reveal at the end of the month.

I was knitting the heel of my second pair of Seadragonus this weekend, and it occurred to me that if you are knitting the Seadragonus, you may appreciate some tips on the heel:

Seadragonus heel

  1. It helps to make the YO stitch as long as possible (stretch out the stitches when making the YO) so that you have plenty of “give” to pick up that stitch and pass it over the next two stitches to create the scale.
  2. The heel appears quite long when you are knitting it but the important thing are the slips on the side of the heel flap. Each slip is a stitch. So when you come to picking those stitches up to make the gusset, make sure you have the right number of stitches for the depth of heel you need.  If you have less stitches, the fabric will automatically condense down into a shorter heel to accommodate the gauge of the stitches you are using to knit the gusset.

This is one very relaxing sock knit, and it’s quite nice to just sit and knit comfortably without having to worry about instructions.  The yarn is a pretty colourway from the sadly no-longer Needlefood that has been sitting in my stash awaiting the perfect project.  I was showing it to Alice when she was down in Wellington recently, and she encouraged me to use it for Seadragonus.  I think she made a good recommendation!

I’m knitting Seadragonus alternatively with this gorgeous thing:

#3 bagshot row

This is #3 Bagshot Row, the first of the 2014/15 Claire Ellen sock club.  I seem to have a thing for Claire’s designs, and I liked the look of Bagshot Row, so I bought this year’s club.  Yay!!  A whole year of yummy Hobbit inspired socks!!  So excited!

I’m very pleased I’m knitting it with pointy tips.  This design needs them.  I’m sure that by the time I get through the second repeat of the leg, I will be able to knit this stitch in my sleep, but in the meantime, it is giving me come nice mental stretch.  :-)

The yarn is one of my most treasured skeins from Fibre Alive – it has such a beautiful, muted green/pink combination that it just eats me up!  I thought originally to turn it into a shawl, just so that I could keep the yarn perfect for a long time, but having decided to knit it into these socks, I think the combination of exquisite yarn and gorgeous pattern will be wonderful.  I might not wear them much though – maybe I’ll end up just sitting and staring at them, marvelling at how pretty they are!

 

 

 

 


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The Bleating Art sea collection

Hello, and welcome to Spring!  I’ve been having  a bit of fun this week!

Earlier this week, lovely Alice came over with a sampling of the latest batch of Bleating Art, and asked on behalf of her mum Denise, if I would name them in honour of the Sustain the Sea initiative.  Would I!?  What a privilege!  Thanks Bleating Art ladies!

Here are most of the colours all together – the Sea Collection.  Such pretty colours!  Alice has definitely got a knack for dyeing.

Bleating Art yarn

Now as you would guess, it is virtually unheard of for yarn to come into my house and actually find its way out again.  I have been extremely disciplined and not helped myself to any of these lovelies, although I am not quite sure how long the restraint is going to last… so I shall be delivering them to the Karori Flower Shop as soon as possible, before I lose all vestiges of self-control!

Let’s have a closer look shall we?  Names and inspiration are listed in order.

Pink Dolphin

Pink Dolphin.  These beautiful creatures really are pink, often with grey spots.  Here’s more information about two types of pink dolphins – Amazon River Dolphin and the Chinese White Dolphin (which is actually pearly pink – I’ve seen it with my own eyes!)

Anemone

Anemone.  No further explanation required, I think?

Nori

Cephalopod ink.  This beautiful deep grey with purply undertones reminds me of squid ink.  Did you know that squid are sometimes referred to as ink fish?

Driftwood

Driftwood.  There are some very interesting facts about driftwood on Wikipedia, including that it is a source of food and shelter for marine life while it is still at sea.

Conch

Conch shell:  It was hard to think of a colour of the sea that looked like this vibrant gold mustard.  But the conch (pronounced ‘konk’) is exactly like it!

Leafy sea dragon

Leafy sea dragon:  So cool that there was a colour for a real sea dragon in this collection!  The Leafy Sea Dragon is such a beautiful creature.  When I first saw one I didn’t think it was for real!

Ulva Lactuca

Ulva Lactuca:  Surely you didn’t think I’d pass up this chance to name a yarn after my shawl’s namesake, sea lettuce!? ;-)

Blue ParrotfishBlue Parrotfish:  When I saw this skein, it reminded me of the pretty blue parrotfish that live on coral reefs.  With their bright blue colour and cute toothy grins, they are worthy of a skein named in their honour!  I found the fact that they can change gender repeatedly throughout their lives fascinating.

Ocean on a Cloudy Day

Ocean on a Cloudy Day:  Just because this colour looks just like a slice of the sea on one of those days when you have sunshine and clouds.

Basking Shark

Basking shark:  The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is a huge filter feeding shark which grows to be up to about 33 feet (10 m) long. It is the second-largest shark (after the whale shark). The basking shark is also called the sunfish, the bone shark, the elephant shark, the sailfish shark, and the big mouth shark. Basking sharks are filter feeders that sieve small animals from the water. As the basking shark swims with its mouth open, masses of water filled with prey flow through its mouth. The prey includes plankton, baby fish, and fish eggs.  Basking sharks are not aggressive and are generally harmless to people.

So there you have it.  A preview of some of the loveliness that came out of the dye pot this time at Bleating Art.   Check out the link to the Facebook page for more views of some of the colours… so pretty!!!!


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Selachimorpha, the Shark Sock

Selachimorpha is the scientific name for the modern shark.  This sock is dedicated to the shark and has been designed to highlight another of the reasons why we need to care about how our fish is harvested from the ocean.

Selachimorpha socks

Shark fins are represented by the lace and solid triangles that swim across the surface of your sock.

An Eye of Partridge heel suggests rough shark skin.

Selachimorpha socks

Knitted top down, this pattern comes with instructions for small, medium and large size.  Both written and charted  instructions are included.  Because this is a lace pattern, strategic selection needle size and yarn weight is suggested as the most effective method for change in sizing.  I have also included instructions for heel length and where to stop for the foot length on each size.

The fitting for this sock is generous, with a 20cm/8″ circumference in the leg, unstretched, in the medium size.

Download your free pattern here!

Happy Knitting!


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Will that be fins with your tuna?

If you are one of the lovely people who have been reading my blog for over a year, you will know that I have deep concerns about the sustainability of the ocean’s health, and with it, its inhabitants.

Today I’d like to talk about sharks.

Why does does the future of sharks concern me?  My main issue is that sharks are being killed mostly as bycatch.  Their lives are being wasted, the health of the ocean compromised simply because fishing companies have not come up with a better way to catch only the fish they are targeting.  So many sharks (and rays) are being killed as bycatch that today around 25% of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.   To ban shark finning is one thing, but if sharks continue to be caught as bycatch, have we done any good?

Sharks were not on my list to talk about at the time I was researching for my next post on Sustain the Sea.  They did not hit high on my radar because I did not know about the issues surrounding them.  I was going to talk about tuna,  until I stumbled across some very revealing information during my research that indicates a strong connection between sharks and tuna.

I figure that many people do know about the concerns around sharks and why fishing companies should be acting more responsibly in the way they harvest from the ocean.  If you do want a quick update, have a look at this info sheet from the New Zealand Shark Alliance.  It addresses New Zealand concerns around sharks in particular, but these issues are not just limited to New Zealand.  Some of you may be wondering why I’m addressing this issue when it seems the party is already over – lots of countries are banning shark finning, including New Zealand right?  Well… read on and find out more.

To rewind  to the point where my interest in sharks began:  I came across this short video.  It’s a fascinating presentation from a researcher for the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, an organisation that appears to be making very genuine efforts to introduce sustainable practices into the tuna fishing industry.

What I did not know until I started this research is that certain species of fish love to aggregate under large floating objects. This includes tuna and some species of shark.  The fishing industry has capitalised on this trait and created Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs).  FADs assist in the capture of up to 40% of the world’s tuna take.  Unfortunately, not only are sharks taken by the nets that then come along to scoop up the tuna, but they are also ensnared in the netted structures that hold these FADs in place.  The conservative kill rate for accidental entanglement is estimated at between 500,000 to one million sharks in the Indian ocean alone (see link for more information).

This infographic from the ISS Foundation is a stark illustration of how many sharks are killed from tuna fishing around the world.

It’s not just FADs that catch sharks though.  The Shark Trust provides a comprehensive outline of how commercial fishing practices ensnare enormous amounts of bycatch, in which sharks are included.  It is estimated in a recent report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (a study involving the collaboration of over 300 experts from 64 nations) that over 100,000,000 sharks (that’s 100 million) are killed every year.  Because of this extensive slaughter,  25% of shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction due to overfishing.  Tuna fishing is strongly implicated as one of the main reasons why sharks are caught.

The question pounding in my head after reading the research I have linked to you was:  how do we stop the accidental capture of sharks?  Unfortunately due to the lucrative returns that can be obtained from the sale of shark fins, and from what I can see (and I hope I am wrong), no penalties exist for capturing sharks, this bycatch is not unwelcomed by fishing companies.  There is therefore not a lot of incentive not to catch sharks.   Preventing sharks from being finned alive at sea is one thing, but if we can prevent them from being captured at all, isn’t that a better solution?  It also occurs to me that banning the sale of fins is not going to prevent the sharks from being captured in the first place, and then dumped back into the ocean dead, or brought to shore as the case may be, unless more accurate methods of fishing are employed.

In addition to their fins, sharks are also used in other ways.  Have a look here and here to see how we use shark products in everyday life.

I used to think tuna with its “dolphin friendly” logo was a good thing, and it made me feel okay about buying it.  Not any more.  Perhaps we should be looking for tins of tuna with “shark friendly” on them as well?

The good news is that a lot of research is being made made to reduce bycatch.  Also have a good look at the ISS website in particular to find what resolutions have been made in relation to tuna fishing.  This link will take you to the Summary of Resolutions taken by participating companies.  Those fishing companies are to be applauded for joining the organisation and introducing these moves.  I notice only one New Zealand fishing company on that list.

Will I be eating tuna in future?  The answer is still no.  Not until I know for certain that tuna stocks are being managed sustainably, and that my serve of tuna does not come with a figurative side of shark.  And in addition to avoiding shark fin soup, I will also be looking more closely at things I buy for bywords for shark product.

In tribute to the shark, watch out for tomorrow’s free pattern release of my salute to the shark:  Selachimorpha.

Selachimorpha

Please note that the thoughts above are my personal “key” conclusions, and I have not attempted to comprehensively address the issues – it would take a much longer article than what I have written!

 


TGIF

A visit to the beach is always restful.

The beach

Pebbles crunch pleasingly under foot.  The sea sighs a gentle song, breathing slow waves of sound.

wavesSeabirds call.  The air smells pleasantly of fresh seaweed, washed up on the beach after a recent storm.

Seaweed

There are  interesting things to look at, each creature or feature a thing of wonder.

The beauty of nature.

The power of the sea and nature to slowly shape and carve.

The intricate details.

Limpet

Sea life

Driftwood

shell patterns

Rock holes

Shaped by the sea

 

Flotsam

 

I feel the week’s stress and tension washed away with the waves and the breeze.

The perfect way to start the weekend.