Zealana is produced by Woolyarns, one of New Zealand’s few remaining spinning mills and the largest spinning mill in the Southern Hemisphere. Operating in Wellington, this third-generation family owned company specialises in spinning innovative yarns for both the textile and home furnishing (including carpet) industries.
Woolyarns has 14 years’ experience in the use of inserting possum fibre into merino to make it useable as a yarn. Most of its yarns are produced for commercial knitters who supply the NZ possum/merino clothing market.
About four years ago, Woolyarns identified an export niche in luxury hand-knitting yarns, especially possum fur yarn. Zealana was created to fill this need. It was also a good way to help address New Zealand’s ecological disaster – possums. Part of this commitment includes being a corporate sponsor of Zealandia, a conservation attraction in Wellington, designed to provide a refuge and establishment zone for native New Zealand wildlife.
Woolyarns are woollen yarn spinners. Like the other yarns spun by Woolyarns, Zealana’s hand-knitting yarns are spun to scientific fibre counts that have been found to best suit the composition of the yarns that they are creating. The yarns are tested during several stages of spinning to ensure consistency of strength, yarn thickness, machine-washability, colourfastness and performance as a knitted fabric. After this, the yarn is also sent to test knitters for feedback and to work out any other kinks that can only be picked up by human hands.
Zealana is a wonderful quality New Zealand yarn, offering a nice range of spin types and weights. It produces its yarns in the most beautiful colours – from the softest pastels to the deepest, most gorgeous, wintry shades. It makes it pretty hard to resist the yarn when you see it!
I’m a little disappointed that Zealana is not quite getting the tension (gauge) recommendation right on the ball band of a few of its yarns. In fairness, it’s not only Zealana that does this. Quite a few other yarn brands in New Zealand don’t always get it right. An additional resource for knitters is the website of Zealana’s US distributor, The Yarn Sisters, which has very helpful notes about gauge and needle size for the yarns.
Once you are familiar with the yarns’ optimal gauge, you’ll find that they are actually reasonably standard weight, which makes it easy to use them with your favourite existing patterns.
One other general comment I’d make before delving into specifics is that for all possum yarns (this applies to all brands, and not just Zealana), it is a good idea to sew your project up using a pure wool yarn so that your seams are stronger. Possum yarns do not ‘sew’ well, and my experience has been that the yarn breaks while sewing it up, or the seams ‘pop’ after a period of wear. Hopefully this doesn’t put you off! This trait is not unique to possum yarn – I generally sew any project in a single spun yarn with a plied wool yarn as well, as I have also observed this happening here too.
Tui is a softly spun, chunky weight yarn has been spun to look and perform like a handspun. Two single-spuns plied together, with a gentle thick/thin texture, it’s a ‘faux’ single. The cashmere and possum combination is inspired – the yarn is so smooth, it slips off the needles extremely easily, making it not only a quick knit, but also a fast knit. The resulting fabric is cuddly, and soft and oh so warm!
Giving my knitted swatch a vigorous rub against my jeans, very minute pilling did occur. However, they are the little pills that sit on top of the fluff of the possum, and easily trimmed off. I’ve just knitted a coat in this yarn, and oh my gosh, how I love it! After extended wear, I can confirm that this yarn barely pills at all. There are pin prick quantities of “pill” here and there, easily trimmed, and not at all noticeable. The yarn still looks fresh and newly knitted. It wears well!
The yarn creates a thick, cuddly, silky soft fabric which has surprising drape. In addition to the coat you see below, it’s ideal for those chunky hats, scarves, cuddly pullovers and vests and if you are feeling very extravagant, a lovely, smooshy blanket.
Composition: 15% possum, 70% merino, 15% cashmere.
Weight: Chunky. (NZ equivalent, 12 – 14 ply). 9 wraps per inch.
Needle size: 5 – 6mm
Length: 111 metres per 100g ball
Heron is Zealana’s latest exciting addition to its Aspire range of soft-spun yarns.
The colour palette is suitable for both masculine and feminine knits – eight gorgeous, heathered shades of green, blue, reds, browns and charcoal. This unique blend is soft spun but strong. Very light and soft, Heron will be ideal for warm, snuggly winter hats, mittens, scarves, cardigans, sweaters and vests. After washing, the yarn blooms nicely and provides an engaging textural interest, but the halo is not as extreme as you get in Rimu or Kauri. This is good for those who want a ‘smoother’ yarn but still have the softness and warmth of possum fibre.
Composition: 20% possum, 80% merino.
Weight: 10 ply, worsted weight (approx 10 wraps per inch).
Needle size: 4 -5mm suggested, to make 18 – 20 stitches. My preference is something a little looser, on 4.5 – 5.5mm needles.
Length: 100 metres (109yds) per 50g ball.
Kauri is one of my very favourite yarns in the Zealana range. The silk content has given this yarn a shimmery lustre and gentle drape. It has a gorgeous cloud-like spin, designed to create a luxurious feel, and to be knitted into garments that are cared for and worn gently. Much like how you’d treat a cashmere jumper. I’m knitting a scarf in it, and after that, I shall be knitting a hat. Recently, I knitted a pullover in this yarn.
Kauri has been criticised by other sources as being a weak yarn and therefore not recommended. I wish to respectfully disagree. Yes, it does break. But if you hold just about any other pure natural fibre yarn in your hands and tug it hard, it will snap too (unless it’s a specifically-designed sock yarn, or something very strong like cotton or linen). That’s where the pattern phrase “break yarn” or “break wool” comes from.
If you decide to knit it into socks, and wear them often, you’re going to get holes after not very long. The same can be said for almost all the other possum yarns out there. That’s the nature of possum. It’s not a strong fibre with long staple that creates strength - the fur is short. That’s how it grows on the animal. The only possum yarn I’d personally recommend for socks is a yarn from Naturally called Waikiwi that is specifically designed for socks, and only contains 10% possum.
So go ahead, and try a little ball of pure Kauri pleasure. I think you’ll find it addictive!
Composition: 30% possum, 60% merino, 10% silk.
Weight: 4 ply, fingering, sport or baby weight (approx 14 wraps per inch). Also available as a 10 ply, or worsted weight.
Needle size: 3mm suggested, to make 27 stitches. My preference is something a little looser, on 3.25mm. The worsted weight: 4.5mm suggested, to make 20 stitches.
Length: 153 metres per 40g ball in fingering weight. 86m (94 yds) per 50g ball in worsted weight.
Kiwi is a delightful yarn. It comes in two weights – laceweight (2 ply) and fingering (4 ply).
The coolness and drape of cotton, the spring of merino, and a softness you don’t immediately associate with possum makes this yarn an intriguing knitting experience. You wouldn’t know there was possum in Kiwi save for the soft handle and the very gentle halo that develops around the yarn once blocked. But it’s so faint that you really don’t notice it. It wears extremely well, and like a cotton, it will not pill or looked ‘rubbed’ after a period of extended wear.
The yarns are at the heavier end of the laceweight/fingering spectrum. In the 4 ply, for example, I found the tension in stocking stitch was 24 stitches over 10cm on 3.25mm needles – technically a sport/baby weight instead of fingering. The ball band recommends 3mm needles (27 stitches) , but as for Kauri, you’ll get a fairly dense, firm fabric in that needle size, which I think would hide some of the lovely quality of the yarn.
Although I have previously said the yarn feels just like a cotton, further experience with pure cotton yarns makes me revise this statement to say that Kiwi has the same drape and feel as a classic wool/cotton blend. It has the cool feel and drape of cotton, but more elasticity and bounce in the knitting experience and resulting fabric than a pure cotton.
The wool and possum content also helps to bind the yarn together, ensuring that the yarn doesn’t split as easily as a pure cotton when you’re knitting with it. You could happily knit substitute Kiwi into any pattern that suggests a light weight cotton or wool/cotton yarn.
Composition: 30% possum, 40% merino, 30% organic cotton
Weight: 2 ply or 4 ply, lace or fingering weight (approx 14 wraps per inch).
Needle size: 2 ply – 2.25mm needles. 4 ply – 3mm (although I suggest 3.25mm – 3.5mm).
Length: 198 metres in the 2 ply, 124 metres in the 4 ply per 40g ball.
Rimu is as strong as a normal wool yarn. It won’t break easily, and I did tug very hard to make sure! This is amazing as it has the highest percentage of possum you can find in a yarn at present - 40% possum, 60% merino content. I’m still not convinced I could sew up a seam using Rimu, but the overall strength of the yarn is impressive.
After blocking, this yarn blooms a lot – the pictures below show first the blocked yarn, and then the unblocked. See how much the fur has bloomed in comparison to the unblocked sample!
This is a further comparison of how “fluffy” this yarn is compared to another yarn, such alpaca:
Rimu and alpaca – guess which one contains possum!
Using 4mm needles, I got 20 stitches x 28 rows over 10cm using 4mm needles. The ball band says 22 stitches over 10cm using 4mm needles. Maybe it’s just my tension, but I think the finished project would not show off the yarn’s true potential at 22 stitches x 30 rows.
The yarn feels silky soft, light and beautifully even. There isn’t a hint of scratch. It is just soooo soft! (I know I keep saying this, but if you have ever felt Rimu, you’ll know why. It is softer than other possum yarn brands.) And even better, it won’t pill! Even though the yarn is light, the high possum content ensures that this yarn is incredibly warm and insulating against winter’s biting cold.
It’s suitable for anything you’d like to knit with possum – hats, scarves, fingerless mitts or pullovers. I’m not sure that socks would knit very well though. Not that they wouldn’t feel divine, I’m just thinking that they might wear through quite quickly, given the high possum content and how hard shoes are on socks! But if absolute warmth is what you’re after… have a go.
Composition: 40% possum, 60% merino
Weight: 4 ply fingering, or sport weight (not available in NZ), or 8 ply (DK) (approx 12 wraps per inch).
Needle size: 4 ply – 3.25mm – 3.75mm. DK – 3.75mm – 4.5mm
Length: 153 metres in the 4 ply, 128 metres in the 8 ply per 50g ball.
Willow is a luxurious blend of 70% merino, 30% cashmere. It comes in two weights – DK (8 ply) and Chunky (12 ply).
So far, this is the only Zealana yarn available in New Zealand that does not contain possum fibre. It’s ideal for (but not limited to) baby garments, and for those sensitive to scratchy yarn.
This yarn appears to perform extremely well – I gave my swatch several vigorously rough rubbings against my jeans (which is a sure way to work out if your yarn will pill easily) and came up with nothing but a very faintly rubbed-looking surface. I then washed it in lukewarm water. The yarn appears to develop a very faint bloom, but nothing that detracts from the smoothness of the knitted fabric. There was no shrinkage or colour bleed.
Here it is after being subjected to the above mentioned abuse. It seems that the blocking process settled the rubbed fibres because I can’t see any evidence of wear at all in the sample:
As this yarn is relatively new to me, I can’t say whether it will still look fresh and beautiful after a year’s wear, but my guess is that it won’t develop that rubbed/pilled look that some yarns do. The high cashmere content will probably also help to keep it gorgeous.
I found the tension recommendation for this yarn to be reasonably consistent. My DK sample knitted up at 21 stitches x 30 rows on 4mm needles.
I knitted Willow into a wrap for my sister who has just had a baby;
It turned out very soft and warm, and is exactly to what she needed to keep herself warm during those cold nights when the baby wakes up.
Composition: 30% cashmere, 70% merino
Weight: DK (8 ply) (approx 12 wraps per inch), or Chunky (12 ply) weight
Needle size: DK – 4mm – 4.5mm needles. Chunky – 5.5mm (Chunky not tested by me yet)
Length: 128 metres in the DK, 66 metres in the Chunky per 50g ball.
This page contains new and other information originally set out in my blog posts on Zealana yarns. To see the original posts, click on the following links: