Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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The sock escapades – count down!

It may look like I am doing an enormous amount of sock knitting in this post, but I think the reverse is truer.

Some of these projects have been on the needles for a very long time.  I am determined to get as many of them off the needles before the year ends so that I can a) add them to my year’s tally to see how well I did against my original expectations, and b) get on with newer and more exciting projects!  In terms of my original expectations, it seems that I have well and truly surpassed my original ambitions, and that pleases me a lot.  However, no harm in trying to surpass them to the fullest extent possible!

Now that I am officially on holiday for the next couple of weeks, let us see how we go!  (Seems that I am a deadline junkie – having no work deadlines to meet, it seems I must create one of my own.)

The Prancing Pony socks

These were a WIP until today, so I thought I may as well begin with a freshly finished pair. I love how the horseshoe detail goes all the way down into the heel.

Prancing Pony socks

These were the October sock for the Claire Ellen sock club. They have been on my needles about four times longer than most socks I knit!

Prancing Pony socks

The Prancing Pony socks have taken a while to complete for a couple of reasons.  The first is that this colour (Marmageddon – Knitsch 100% merino sock) eats light.  Unless I knit in full daylight, I could not see what I was doing!  The second is that they are quite tight.  The highly twisted yarn is also a bit of a challenge to knit in this pattern. It draws in on itself quite a bit – it’s a good quality in a sock yarn as I can be confident that they will stay well fitting.

Detail

The Swimming Pool Socks

Swimming pool socks

Normally I would have finished these during the minutes I waited for the young man to come out of school and during his swimming lessons.  For the last few months, there have been no minutes because I have been working full-time (and what time I have had I have used to knit the Pracing Ponies).  They are in a colourway called Sunday Picnic, by Soft Like Kittens, who no longer dyes (very sadly).

The possum socks

Possum socks

These are the eldest boy’s annual pair of socks.  Being plain vanilla, they are my least interesting to knit, but I know they will be appreciated and worn a lot once I finish them.  I know so because these are the replacements to a pair he has worn out.  They are in John Q Designer Earthware in a previous year’s colourway (Denim, I think).  This is a lovely 85% post-manufacturing recycled possum merino blends with 15% nylon, and very, very, hardwearing and also very warm.

The Halloween socks (or were)

All Hallow's Eve

The young boy loved this seasonal colourway (All Hallows’ Eve) from Stray Cat Socks.  So we got some.  It’s not Halloween any more, but I don’t think it really matters to him, as he’ll wear them regardless.

That’s three pairs of socks, all of which are varying stages of completion.  I should be able to do it.  I think… she says, as the siren song of another pair of cabled socks begins to form in her brain….


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Weekend pottering

The year is drawing rapidly to a close, and I for one, am not sad to see it go.  It has been a very long year. It has been very busy.  The tree isn’t even up yet!  That will hopefully be remedied today, along with the long grass in the back garden and Christmas presents that still need to be sorted.

We did make time to see “The Battle of the Five Armies” yesterday. We decided to see it at the Roxy.  I like the cinema, with its art deco theme and very comfortable chairs.  It seemed fitting to see the last Hobbit movie there.

Gandalf

The cinema has been refitted by Weta Workshop with cool Lord of the Rings features, including a life-size sculpture of Gandalf outside.

The boy with Gandalf

We were delighted to find some Hobbit-movie features inside as well.

At the Roxy

This is one of the dwarves’ costumes.  If I remember right, it was Ori’s.  As you can imagine, I spent quite a bit of time examining the knitted scarf and gloves…

The movie was great.  I decided to forgive Peter Jackson and team for including the orc sub-story that had not been in the original book.

Now then, to knitting!

Knitting

There has not been a whole lot of knitting.  Usually at this time of year things are getting a bit quieter at work, and there is more time for knitting, but this year will be frantic right up to the bitter end.   My place of work breaks for the summer on 19 December (in New Zealand the vast majority of employers enforce a two – three week annual holiday at this time of year).  At least I will have a few days after that to focus on Christmas preparations, and do enjoyable things like knitting.

However, I am making reasonable progress on two sweaters (I’m preparing for next winter – no point in knitting when it’s cold and you need to be wearing it, not knitting it!) The first is the Mattingley Jumper.  If you haven’t already noticed the book it’s in, go and have a look.  I found several patterns in there that I should like to knit, and as I have a somewhat generous alpaca stash, this is a good opportunity to use it up!  I am knitting the Mattingley in a naturally coloured charcoal alpaca in 80% alpaca, 20% polwarth wool (no brand – it came from a small alpaca producer who does not make yarn any more).

The second sweater is the Leighlinbridge Aran, which you’ll remember from my last post.  I am very much enjoying knitting it in soft, snuggly possum yarn.  The only thing I need to remember to do is to pause and look at the cabling every now and again.  Sometimes I make a mistake, and it’s easier to fix when it’s not so far down the fabric.

I love those cables!!!  I had forgotten how physically demanding a heavily cabled garment can be to knit – it is good exercise for the arms.

Cables

The autumnal-looking lace item in the top photograph is a scarf I’m designing and snatching a row or two on whenever I have a quiet five minutes and I don’t feel like wrestling with cables or a sweater in my lap.  It’s actually my ‘restful knitting’ project at the moment!  It will look lovely when it is done.  It’s one of those projects where blocking is definitely an essential part of the finishing process!  I’m using Anna Gratton‘s hand-dyed, 4 ply 100% wool in her Desert colourway.  It reminds me of autumn leaves.

There are also several pairs of socks lurking on the needles in various stages of completion.  I’ll save those for another post.

And finally, a bit of eye candy to finish the weekend!

Happy-go-knitty Luxury - merino cashmere nylon

I was so excited when these two beauties arrived!  This is a new MCN yarn base from Happy-go-knitty,  a high-twist, merino, cashmere and nylon mix!  Love!!  The colourways above are fuschia blossom and mango calla.  Helene doesn’t seem to have made any listings for them yet, but I am sure if you pop her a line she will tell you what she has in stock behind the scenes.

Wishing you all a good week and a restful weekend!

 

 


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One thing led to another

Reading the latest issue of Interweave Knits is a sure way to develop a major case of startitis.

Over in New Zealand, we get our issue quite a bit later than the US, so mine has only just recently arrived.  Winter and Fall issues usually make me feel like immediately abandoning whatever I already have on the needles, finding fresh ones and diving into my stash to see what sweater-weight quantities of yarn are hiding in there!

I’ve been thinking about doing some cabling lately, and all the cabled patterns in the magazine definitely added fuel to the mood!

I was very taken with the Quivira Coat… all those cables!  Ah, very nice!  Not so complex that I couldn’t knit it and not chat or watch TV as well… hmm, very tempting.  I loved the look the yarn gave the coat as well.  Off I went to my stash to see if I had any kilo lots of 100% wool yarn that I could use.  The pattern said I needed 11 x 100 g balls (2,475m) of worsted weight yarn for my size.  That’s a lot of yarn.

Many New Zealand DK weight wool yarns fit easily into the US worsted weight range (the pattern recommendation).  I estimate that Ashford’s 8 ply Tekapo would be a very good match.  I’m also thinking The Wool Co. 100% Corriedale. Or Skeinz’s Southlander.  Anna Gratton‘s 8 ply 100% wool will also do well of course.  But then, do I really need another knitted coat??  And do I have enough of any yarn without going out and buying more!?  Most of the sweater lots in my stash are 800gms or 1kg.  My guess is that 1kg will be fine, but the thought that ran through my head said I probably only had about 2,200m of any one yarn at most…oh gosh!!  What to do!?  I’d hate to run out of yarn, as I wouldn’t be able to find more of the same lot. There is also the matter of my already owning two knitted coats…  park the idea, and turn a few more pages.

The Cocoa Cardigan looks very sweet.  It looks like it needs to be knitted in something soft.  Like Skeinz’ Heritage Silver Lining Merino.  Add tab to magazine page for later thinkings…

I got very excited when I found the Matalina Pullover.  Nice neckline!  More delicious cables!  Being a light DK yarn, it is very easy to match alternative New Zealand yarns to this.  I could use a certain unbranded angora/merino mix that I have sitting in my stash.  Maybe The Yarnsister’s Willow, a beautiful merino/cashmere blend.  Or something possum (Zealana Rimu would be perfect for this one.  Or Mohair Craft’s Merino Possum Cashmere).  Did I really like that big panel of cables in the middle of the back though?

Having done its usual trick of whetting my appetite to knit cables and sweaters and all the things, I decided that I needed to feast my eyes on yet more cables on Ravelry. Did I not already have other cabled patterns queued and favourited?  I called up a search for cabled sweaters in DK or worsted weight.  Several clicks later, I found… this.

Leighlinbridge

This is the pattern picture, courtesy of Potter Craft.

One would think with a shiny new magazine sitting in my hot little paws that I would be content. But no. I think the Leighlinbridge Aran (a design by Melissa Leapman) is simply beautiful.  It has all the cables I like in one design.  It is shaped, and flows.  I do love that neckline and the way the cable flows around it.  I can see myself wearing this one.  Plus I do need another winter sweater.

This is going to be good.

Leighlinbridge AranIn case you are wondering, I’ve decided to use the The Wool Company‘s merino possum in a colour I have had stashed for a while (Jewel).  It’s a heavy DK weight (definitely the same as an US worsted weight), and the same gauge as the original Berocco Ultra Alpaca, if not actually slightly heavier.

Merino possum haze

I love the soft halo of this yarn.

So out of practice with knitting sweaters am I that I kept looking at it and wondering if it was not too big for me?  In the end, I put an end to all the wonderings by measuring it against a current sweater:

Measuring

It will be exactly the size I want, so I am obviously a little larger than I imagine.  :-)

It’s rather funny that the arrival of a fresh batch of patterns to knit resulted in me buying yet another (ahem), but I’m sort of pleased.  After all, how else would I have found a lovely sweater that is perfect for me to knit!?

Leighlinbridge Aran

 


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Meeting Mary and Strand

I had a few minutes up my sleeve between finishing work and collecting the young man from school, so I called in to Nancy’s Embroidery.  I was after a pair of circular bamboo needles.  I was almost in luck – a pair of 4.5mm bamboo circular tips from Knit Pro’s newest needle range was sitting on the shelf, but I was after 4mm.  Oh bother.

I was just about to walk out the door, admiring the nice Stansborough display on my way out, when I was stopped by a lady who asked “Excuse me, are you Wei S?  Do you write the Kiwiyarns blog?”  I said ‘yes’ (rather cautiously). I gathered she was Mary Self, the owner of Nancy’s Embroidery!  She wanted to introduce me to her bespoke yarn, Strand.  Had I seen it before?  Did I have time to have a look?

I figured a few minutes wouldn’t hurt, and I am always keen to find out more about New Zealand yarns!  So I followed her back down the aisle, where she showed me some cute balls of yarn that I had previously picked up and squished, but hadn’t really paid a huge amount of attention to.

Mary explained that this yarn was especially spun for her by a commercial mill, from 50% New Zealand Corriedale and 50% New Zealand kid mohair.  It is a fully worsted spun, 2 ply yarn, (ie the fibres combed smooth, not referring to the weight of the yarn), and has come out at about a 3 ply weight (thicker than lace, but slightly finer than fingering).

Strand was originally created for use in embroidery.  You’ll know that embroidery yarns are designed to withstand the rigours of being continuously pulled through the canvas, and are therefore very strong.  Anyone who has sewn up a project with wool yarn and found the yarn snapping mid-draw will understand how strong it must be.  My interest was piqued.

Mary worked out that this yarn also knits and crochets beautifully, and has begun marketing it for this purpose as well.  She took me out back to see the bedazzling range of commercially  and semi-solid hand-dyed colourways in this yarn. Oooooooh….. 177 gorgeous colours!! It was the equivalent of a knitter’s candy store in there!

I found out that all 177 colours are available in economical 100gm (3.5oz) balls and embroidery-portion 10gm skeins.  The 25gm (.8oz) balls are only available in a limited range of 25 colours for the time being.

She showed me a cardigan knit from the yarn that was very lovely indeed.  It only needed 275 grams for a small size (11 x 25gm balls, or three 100gm balls), which represents a reasonable cost for a good quality article of clothing.  There were blankets and scarves and baby jackets and hats – all knit in Strand, and all looking very beautiful.  You can see them all here.  The knitted articles felt very soft. There was plenty of drape, and the garments had all retained good structure and did not look pilled or worn. It is interesting that although I had been into Nancy’s quite a few times before this, I hadn’t quite noticed all the detail.  I appreciated the personalised tour!

I decided that it was absolutely necessary to sample some of this yarn.  There was a kit pack of 10gm skeins with a range of colours in it, along with a design for some stripey fingerless gloves displayed on the shelf.  That would be a good starting point and a good excuse to play with colour!

Fingerless glove kit

Mary very generously gave me a pack for my research purposes, but I decided to get another one as well so I could have a good range of colour to play with.

On reflection, I probably could just as easily have picked a number of 10gm skeins off the display unit on the wall, but I liked the idea of having some pre-coordinated colours to play with.  I get all anxious and bothered when I have to match colours under pressure, and I was acutely conscious that there was a child who was going to need picking up from school soon.

So, these beautiful colours came home to play with me:

Strand super fine yarn

Srand super fine yarn

Now, if your mind is ticking like mine, you’ve probably already tagged Strand for colourwork. Maybe you are also wondering about lace? And you’re probably thinking about now… if it’s so strong, is this yarn suitable for socks!??

I set to work to find out.

Colourwork in Strand

This is the motif for Kate Davies’ gorgeous Bluebells sweater, which I am quite tempted to knit.  I used colours 123, 373, 315 and 445.  I think the yarn makes very lovely colourwork, although it is different to the woollen spun yarns that are often used in fair isle style knitting.  The worsted spun yarn keeps the colours clean and with crisp stitch definition, whereas woollen spun yarns (like the J&S 2 ply jumper weight used in the original Bluebells) will give a soft, blended look with a stickiness that is good for activities like steeking, where you want the stitches to hold together.  I don’t know how this yarn would perform in that particular situation, although I still love the look of the swatch that I hold in my hands.

I like that there are small 10m (11yd) skeins that one can play with first before buying a larger quantity as well.  I find that I often have to play around with colours before I find the right combination for colourwork – this will save wasting yarn and money!

The thing that has completely captured me though is how it knits in lace.  I threw a couple of motifs together here just to see how the yarn behaved in lace.

Lace in Strand

This is colour 392.

I am quite besotted.  I must knit a lace shawl in this yarn and shall run down to Nancy’s Embroidery at the soonest available opportunity and get myself a nice 100gm ball of this yarn!

What do I think of the yarn?  I really like it!

The worsted process has created a very lustrous and smooth strand.  Two singles has firstly been highly twisted before being tightly plied together to create a very defined, strong and elastic yarn.

Knitting it, I find that the yarn’s elasticity makes it very pleasing to knit with, and easy on the wrists.  It is, as expected, very strong.  Similar in strength to a tightly twisted sock yarn.  The yarn knitted smoothly, with no snagging or splitting on the needles.

The kid mohair has contributed drape, lustre and strength, while the wool contributes elasticity and body.   It is very different to other mohair/merino blends I have come across.

As I noticed in the knitted samples in the shop, the yarn creates a fabric with beautiful drape.  This is one of the reasons why I think it will make nice lace, in addition to the beautiful stitch definition that was achieved with very little blocking.

The yarn is soft, with a smoothness that is almost silky.  It is definitely a yarn you can wear next to the skin, and in fact, Mary does sell a lot of it for baby garment knitting. People with very sensitive skin will probably still find it a little bit scratchy though, due to the fine mohair fibres that create a very gentle haze.

Needless to say, I find the colours simply gorgeous and will have a very hard time choosing only one to knit a shawl when the time comes.  (One could of course give in to temptation and knit stripes in any variation if one chose…!)

I did ask Mary if she had knitted socks with it.  Her answer is that she found it very nice for socks, but because the wool did felt a little on the soles, it pushed the mohair out, creating a slightly fluffy sole. This may not appeal to some, although I am still quite tempted to knit a pair to see what it’s like!

If you’re wanting to get your hands on some of this lovely stuff and don’t live in Wellington, it is available online and from the following retail outlets in New Zealand:

Broomfields in Christchurch and Nelson
The Embroiderer in Auckland
Bernina Sewing Centre – Tauranga
Ashfords Craft Shop – Ahburton
Seriously Twisted – Dunedin
Needle and Thread – Dunedin

Thank you Mary, for making me notice your beautiful yarn.  It has definitely been added to my list of good New Zealand yarns!

 

 

Pure Wool for Socks (no nylon here folks)

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kiwiyarns:

I thought the Wovember post about socks very interesting. Reblogged here in case you mised it!

Originally posted on Wovember:

During WOVEMBER we have already had a little look at which wool yarns are best suited to certain projects. Interested in finding out if there are pure wools which are best suited to socks Louise tasked designer, and author of Sock Anatomy, Clare Devine in finding out. Happily, Clare jumped at the chance to investigate…

Tasked with writing an article on sock yarn I wanted to question all the things I had come to believe about choosing the best sock yarn. I needed to ask a burning question: Do we really need nylon? I also wanted to think “outside the box” when it came to selecting yarn for socks. The market is full of high twist Bluefaced Leicester and Merino/nylon blends. Don’t get me wrong, I love these sock yarns and the amazing work hand dyers are doing with each skein, however I was convinced there must be…

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A simple hat

Thanks to the Yarnsisters, I was recently the very lucky recipient of a couple of gorgeous balls of Zealana’s AIR MARLE.

Zealana Marle

I felt extremely happy to receive the MARLE because I haven’t seen anyone retailing it in New Zealand and so hadn’t been able to get my eager paws on any of this amazing stuff!

For the many who have not seen this yarn yet:  it is almost too sumptuous to be believed.  It is made from three twisted strands of AIR laceweight – outrageous luxury!  (The Zealana AIR range is all comprised of a heavenly 40% cashmere, 40% brushtail possum down and 20% mulberry silk blend).  AIR MARLE represents ultimate softness in the extreme, yet there is great strength in the yarn due to the three tightly plied AIR laceweight strands.

I’ve put in a picture so you can see what I mean:

Zealana Air laceweight and marle

The blue yarn is some Zealana AIR laceweight that I have.  You can see how the strand weight and composition is exactly the same as the individual strands within the MARLE.

Because the particular colourway I got is a black/natural marl, it is difficult to do much with it beside something quite simple, as stitch patterns tend to get lost in it.  I suspect the softer coloured shades of this yarn are much easier to knit in a stitch pattern though.  I’m particularly in love with these three shades (images courtesy of the Zealana website):

A357

 

A357

A448

 

A448A455

 

A455

Someone needs to stock AIR MARLE!

Anyway, back to the hat:  I played around with a couple of swatches, but in the end I decided it wanted to be a simple hat that let the qualities of the yarn be the highlight. The hat got put on the boy to model…

Zealana AIR MARLE

This proved to be a dangerous thing to do because the boy decided he didn’t want to take it off. He came up with other cool ways to wear it…

Simple hat

Simple hat again

He is much too engrossed in his game to pay attention to my photographic needs, but you get the idea…

And now it is his.  Hmm.  Oh well, at least I have enough of the second ball to make into something for me!  I decided to knit one more of the same style for me:

The Simple Hat

I thought I’d demonstrate how a bit more length in the body can create a different look:

The Simple Hat

It is not in AIR MARLE for obvious reasons.  I used a possum/cashmere/merino blend from Mohair Craft.

I did think I would like a shorter hat at first, but when it is winter, and there is a fierce, cold wind blowing, there is nothing more that I like than extra protection for the ears and neck!  A longer hat it became!

I have constructed the band/brim of the hat in a tighter tension than the body as I feel this is the best way for hats to be in the windy Wellington climate. This way there is less risk of the hat blowing off in the wind, but you also get a nice slouch happening in the body of the hat with the use of larger needles.  The tighter band has also given this hat the added benefit of the ability to shape it as you will without it being overly tight (I was quite surprised he got it to peak like that).

It’s a very simple hat to make, suitable for all levels of knitter, and very quick to knit.  The shorter hat was made over a day.  The pattern is based on a design I have used a lot over the years.  I decided it needed to become a pattern so I don’t have to sit down and think through the math every time I want to knit it!

This pattern  will suit any weight of DK yarn you choose to use (another great Zealana yarn that would be perfect for this pattern is RIMU), although you’ll need to bear in mind that the resulting hat’s look will reflect the properties of your chosen yarn (see the two different looks above as an example – that AIR MARLE has certainly given a simple design quite a bit of style!)

I thought this pattern would be a versatile one for Christmas gifts – especially for that fussy male who doesn’t like anything ‘too stylish’, for those days when you just want to wear a simple hat. :-)

When Audry came over on the day I finished it, the first thing she saw was the hat on the table, and she wanted to wear it too!

Simple Hat

Doesn’t she look great! (Thanks Audry for letting me take photos!)

Audry in hat

This is my pre-Christmas gift to you, download here for the free pattern:  A Simple Hat.  It is one size, suitable to be worn by most heads aged 10 – 100, but is easily adapted to make it smaller or larger by subtracting or adding stitches in multiples of four.  To make the sizes as shown, you need:

  • about 140m/153yd of DK yarn (for the shorter version)
  • about 180m/196yd of DK yarn (for the longer version)
  • 3.75mm circular needles (60cm/24″ circular)
  • 5mm circular needles (80cm/32″ circular for magic loop)
  • one stitch marker

I have used the magic loop method to knit the hat, but you can also use DPNs in the same sizes as noted if you prefer this method of knitting hats in the round.

Enjoy!