Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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Sock-a-palooza

Well, I started out this post about to write things like “nothing much on the radar” and “very little knitting”, and then I had a look at what I was going to show you, and I think that instead, a secret sock-a-palooza has been happening at my house.  Right under my nose! And without me noticing!

First off, I will show you the socks that were mostly knitted in one weekend.  I started them during a birthday party that my son was attending, almost finished the heel by the time it was over (stockinette stitch and talking go very well together) and then finished it off at home.  The next sock took a few more days to finish.  This is an Opal Smile colourway.

Opal Smile socks

Sometimes a plain vanilla sock is what you need.  Especially when everything else you are knitting ends up getting ripped and reknit several times over.

Now, take this inspiration:

And turn it into themed socks (the socks are called “In the Golden Hall”.  See the track above linked to by the designer, Claire Ellen.  I liked the look of the cover image and decided to use it as inspiration for the colour of my socks),

In the Golden Hallwhich I have reknit once already because I wasn’t paying attention to the chart and was doggedly trying to knit when I should have been a good girl and tucked up in bed…

And this sweater

Robin

which is now at the short row hem stage, and I have had to frog back to the hem starting point twice for the same reason as noted above.  I think I have finally managed to stop making stupid mistakes with the short rows. I can’t wait to wear this sweater!  Zealana Kiwi is one of my all-time favourite yarns.   It is comfortable to wear, durable, doesn’t pill, looks fabulous… the list goes on and on…

Then add this pretty

Habour by Doe Arnot

which I started this morning during a Skype call, and am already well on the way to the heel.  Note how it is stockinette stitch…(very little room for errors)…

And add another pretty

Cladenstine

which has become my bedtime knitting, but again, has been ripped back to the base because sleepy heads and lace knitting do not go hand in hand (although it does help with getting back to sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep).

And now I think you can see why I said nothing much has been happening, but at the same time, I find myself suddenly with a basket full of socks!

Let’s backtrack to this little number…

Doe Arnot Harbour Coluorway

This lovely self-striping yarn is the work of Doe Arnot, who has developed a colourway range inspired by a recent trip to Wellington.  This one is called “Harbour”.  I can definitely see the nautical theme!  I can’t wait to see what else she loads up on to her site!  I suspect it’s going to be first off the needles because my brain is clearly not able to focus on much else other than plain vanilla knitting at the moment.

And finally, I thought I’d share something I have been enjoying a lot lately.  The long drives to work have had a wonderful benefit – music has re-entered my life.  In particular, Maksim Mvrica.  If you have not heard this talented piano player before, you really should have a listen.  Here’s one of my favourites:

He’s wonderful to both drive and knit to (not at the same time of course).  It’s music that doesn’t let you fall asleep!

 

 


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The chocolate thieves

I opened the glass/crockery cupboard this weekend to put something away.  There was a faint ‘ting’ as I did so.  “That was odd”, I thought, “I haven’t moved a glass?”  I rearranged the glassware a bit.  The boy’s chocolate eggs, all ready for Easter, were sitting on the middle shelf.  A tiny piece of tin foil lay on the shelving.  Hmm.  Why was that?

I picked up the egg box.  Oh!  The sneaky little thief had got into the chocolate egg from the side facing away from the door.  The entire egg had been eaten without disturbing the shape of the foil wrapping!  Every single little bit of chocolate was gone, save the packet of buttons wrapped in plastic that had been in the middle!  It was pretty comical, even if ghastly to think of what was in my cupboard.  This was getting a bit too close for comfort though.  What a greedy mouse!  It must be very fat to have eaten that entire, medium-sized egg (about 4″ high and 6″ around).  No wonder the cat was interested in this cupboard as well.

The young boy was most annoyed to see his chocolate egg had been eaten.  I was most annoyed that sneaky little creatures had decided to set up home in yet another cupboard!!  I got out a mouse trap.  “So.  You like chocolate, huh?  Your greed shall be your undoing!”  I put one of the chocolate buttons on to the trap treadle, and removing all the other chocolate from the cupboard, set the trap.  A few minutes later, I opened the door for something else, and noticed that the button had gone!!

I felt like we had one of those magic Harry Potter cupboards in our house!

Alright!  So here we have some Very Bold and Sneaky Thieves!  I decided to make the chocolate harder to remove.  In my pantry, I have a delicious jar of Fix and Fogg Chocolate Peanut Butter.  Single source, dark Ghanaian chocolate, blended with Australian peanuts.  Super chunky style.  Very nice on toast.  I added a dollop of that to the treadle, and for good measure, stuck a small piece of chocolate button into the middle of the paste.

Half an hour later, “SNAP!”  We opened the cupboard to find the twitching carcass of a house mouse. YES! Human, One. Mouse, None.

The chocolate thiefHere she is, given to the cat to dispose of.  It is dead – the trap broke its neck, killing it instantly.  Notice the glossy, chocolate-fed coat.  The cat carried the mouse outside, and I hope he ate it.

I reset the trap and listened for another snap, because where there is one, there are bound to be more.  A couple of hours later, not having heard anything, I curiously opened the cupboard.  There was another mouse! Dead in the trap!  Human, TWO. Mouse, None.

The cat very much enjoyed eating the next mouse.  He tossed it around for a few minutes, and then snaffled it up right there, crunch, crunch, munch, munch, much to my horror.  Blech!! Everything got eaten – even the tail! Shudder!  At least this is giving him a taste for mouse, and adding some healthy fibre into his diet.  It must have tasted excellent, because he hungrily sniffed around for more, hoping to find any missing scraps.  Well, I hope he’ll help with the finding and catching in future!

In the meantime, the trap has been reset.  I wonder how many more I’ll get!!??


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Goodbye Summer! Don’t come back soon.

Brrrr, goodbye Summer, and welcome Winter!  It has been rather chilly around these parts for the past few days!  I had almost forgotten what it feels like to be cold.  I put on one layer, then another, and another, until feeling surprised at the amount of clothes I was wearing, remembered that this is what I normally wear in winter!  I am resisting lighting the fire (really, March is a bit too soon), although with the temperature forecast to drop to 3C /37F tonight, I’m not sure how long that resolution will last!

The drop in temperatures has brought about a fresh burst of enthusiasm for finishing things!

Mattingley Jumper

At long last, I have finished the Mattingley Jumper.  It is a very easy knit, and should have been finished ages ago.  I just got distracted by the socks…  I used a natural alpaca/merino blend (a small NZ producer that no longer makes yarn) and I really like how it turned out.  There is the natural annoyance that the sweater doesn’t make me look as svelte as the model in the pattern: a) she’s obviously quite a bit lighter than me, and b) her jumper was worn with at least a couple inches of positive ease, whereas mine has zero ease.  Never mind, I shall enjoy wearing it, and too bad I am not of modelesque proportions.

The cold weather has brought about an unwelcome event:  the rats and mice have returned.

When we moved into this house, I saw the hot water cupboard full of rat and mouse traps, and the little droppings – evidence of why the traps were in there.  I found the rat hole gnawed into the wall of the cupboard.  I noted it all, uncomfortably.  For those who don’t know, a hot water cupboard is where we put the hot water cylinder in NZ – in my case, my cylinder is very old and the pipes not well insulated, which makes it very warm and comfortable place for cold, furry, rodents.  During summer, when it was warm, the rats and mice lived outside.  The colder temperatures of the past few days have driven then back inside – obviously, to their familiar winter residence.

I have been looking for evidence of rodent life in the house and garden all summer, but found none.  I hoped that the traps in the cupboard were for a one-off incident.

Last night, dozing in my chair with the cat on my lap, he suddenly leaped off my lap and ran to the cupboard, sniffing excitedly under the door.  I put my ear to the cupboard, and sure enough, heard little scratchings and patterings inside…. Sigh.  I let the cat into the cupboard, and very gingerly shut the door.  Unfortunately, the miscreants had long since disappeared, back into the hole that I had so carefully taped shut (now gnawed open).

The worst was yet to come.  I went to bed, and had just fallen asleep, when there was the very.loud.sound of Gnawing in my ROOM!!!  Frantically, I called the cat to come, and focused the torch beam under the shelving where the sound had come from.  I found two holes in the floorboards that I hadn’t noticed when I moved in, and a panel in the skirting that had obviously been repaired.  Hmm.  This was bad.  There is obviously a rat’s nest behind the wall.

The cat belatedly arrived, and very considerately stayed in my room for the rest of the night, staring fixedly at the space under the shelf.

This evening after work, I got the rat trap out of the garage.  It is a Dept. of Conservation box model, and designed to deliver a quick and humane death to the animal who steps on the spring-loaded plate to get at the food beyond.  (It has a very small opening for the rat/mouse/stoat to creep through, and will not cause harm to other animals besides those that creep through the opening).  I used it to deal effectively to the rats who lived in my compost heap previously.  Then, I boarded over the holes in the floor of my room, and for good measure, weighted them with bricks. There will be no ratty incursions into my room, thank you very much!

Tonight, I will load up the box trap with a nice, delicious, juicy peanut butter and honey sandwich.   A tasty little oaty treat awaits the mice in the hot water cupboard.  Snap!! Snap!!  We will see how many times I have to do that before we get rid of all my unwelcome house guests!

 

 

 

 

 


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Of fibre, balloons and birds

Hello!!  Happy Sunday!  I hope you’ve had a great week wherever you are.

Some interesting things happened to us this week.

  1. You’ll all know about the Geek socks of course.  I’m totally amazed to see a finished project out there already!
  2. The young boy said “There are balloons in the sky!” one morning.  This is what we saw, appearing out of the clouds:

DSC02211 (800x565)

So cool!!!  They were actually very close (damn my camera!) and you could hear the burners being blasted.  The balloons were doing a mass ascension as part of the Wairarapa Balloon Festival – with balloons travelling from all over the world to participate.  It was pretty awesome seeing the early morning sky filled with balloons.  Unfortunately, for various reasons, we missed out out on participating in some of the public events, but I look forward to next year!  The young boy was very happy – they visited his school, and they got to hear all about the balloons, how they are made, what it takes to fly them, and see one up close.

3.  I was listening to some very unusual and musical bird call while cooking supper one evening.  The cat, ever attentive, suddenly looked very alert and sprang on to the windowsill.  I ventured a peek out the window, and there, on the lawn, was a little grey cockatiel, the source of all that pretty calling!!

The young boy and I sat on the deck watching him for a bit – he was happily waddling around on the grass eating all the dry grass seeds and things he found in the lawn.  It occurred to me after a while that he must have escaped from someone’s house, and perhaps the owner might like to see him again?  So the young boy tempted him with sunflower and more grass seeds…

2015-03-12 18.27.38

and we managed to get hold of him and put him into temporary lodgings.  The cat, who likes to go out in the evenings, was put outside, and we brought little birdie into the house, where we allowed him to fly free…

Grey cockatiel

Here he is, happily perched on the curtain railings.

I haven’t been able to find any trace of someone who has lost this wee cutie.  I have rung the SPCA and the local vet, looked on Facebook and petsonthenet, posted flyers and put up a notice in the local supermarket. He is absolutely adorable, and now I want one!!  However, given the fact that I don’t have the right cage for him, and that fact that my Ginger Terror loves to dine on bird, I had a very stressful two nights, worrying that “someone” may have got to him in the night.  The very lovely girl in the vet offered to look after him, as she has had birds in the past, and so I happily took her up on the offer.  If you know of someone who has lost a little grey cockatiel, do let me know!

In the course of looking for the grey cockatiel’s owner, I had the excuse to call on more neighbours and say hello. There are some sheep on my street, and I admire them immensely every time we go past.  I haven’t got a picture, but they are very similar to these:

Sheep = wool!!!

The ones in the neighbour’s paddock are pure dark chocolate and what I could call golden oatmeal.  I found out that they are Pitt Island sheep.  Their owner mentioned that she has bags of their wool in the shed, and cannot get rid of it – the wool is hard to spin, but felts beautifully.  The Pitt Island sheep, having reverted to ancient genes, has guard hair in the wool, which interferes with spinning.  Having said that, I cannot but help think of Icelandic Lopi that has both the guardhair (tog) and the undercoat (thel) spun together into yarn.  I wonder how much it differs to Icelandic wool?? I’m quite interested to know.  I also wonder if perhaps they haven’t shorn the sheep at the right time, and the natural breaks in the wool may have interfered with spinning nice yarn as well.  Just wondering.

Now I also understand more about Pilana yarn, which comes from Pitt Island sheep, and the challenges they would have faced to turn the wool into yarn!

If you are interested in obtaining some of my neighbour’s Pitt Island wool, she is very happy to give it away – she’d rather do that than burn it, which is what is currently happening.  I suspect that it would be an issue to send it overseas, as it is raw fleece, but anywhere in NZ should be fine.

Interesting what happens when you find a lost bird in your garden!  :D

4.  The last part of this week has been happily filled with knitting.

Mattingley sweater

Here is the sleeve end of the Mattingley Jumper, which will be finished in the next couple of days – I was beginning on the collar (the last part) when I took this picture.

I also took the young boy to attend a friend’s birthday party, and decided to start a plain vanilla sock so I could talk and knit at the same time.  I managed to finish the leg and most of the heel.  I got a bit more done this morning.  Just a small part of the foot and toe to do. I love how plain vanilla socks are so satisfyingly quick to knit. This one is in an Opal Smile colourway.

Opal sock

I hope you all have a brilliant week ahead of you.  My thoughts are with those who will be affected by Cyclone Pam. It does not sound like good news for parts of the country, although for the Wairarapa, it should bring much needed rain.  Stay safe everyone!

 

 


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Geekery

I love self-striping yarn as much as the next person, but sometimes just the joy of seeing the next colour coming through is not quite enough to get through knitting in plain stockinette.  Of course, I could always knit an allover pattern into my sock, but the idea has never appealed.  An idea came to me one day as I was browsing a stitch dictionary and came across an intriguing colourwork chart: What if I could use the stripes to work with me to create a colourwork pattern instead?

I played around with a sample, and was delighted with what I discovered.  I thought:  “This would be a really cool pattern to submit to Knitty!”  Very happily, and much to my super excitement and terror, they did choose to publish my pattern!  Thanks so much Amy and team!

This has been a long while under my hat – if you are a long time follower, you’ll notice the pics were taken around my former place of residence.

Geek socks

I am very pleased to show you the “Geek” socks that are out in Knitty today!  So named because they really “geek” me out!

I had a lot of fun playing with colours. The above socks are knitted in Happy-go-knitty 100% BFL self-striping sock yarn.  They are the original version in which I anticipated having to use only stripes with an even repetition of rows and a certain width.  However, I discovered that you do not have to have even stripes, as can be seen by the next version…

More geek socksThese ones are from Doespins, in 80% merino, 20% nylon sock yarn, and called Limestone.  The stripe is thick/thin, and it still works!  You can see the way the stripes look without the patterning in the cuff, heel and toe.

Finally, I had to try some in Stray Cat Socks.  The super zany colours from this indie dyer just cry out to be played with! Again, the width of the stripe is different, but it works just the same!

Stray Cat Socks Geeks

Now I have a hard time not knitting my self-striping socks in this style.  It just makes it so much more interesting!   It is also a very easy repeat, and the most ‘difficult’ thing about this pattern would be to be brave enough to try a new style of heel.

I used an after-thought heel because I could not think of a way in which I could still maintain the patterning when knitting a plain heel flap.  Normal heel flap gusset shaping does not allow the pattern to flow and would totally ruin the look of the sock.  It may be possible to use a short-row heel to shape the heel and not have the stripe disrupted.  I have not tried it.  Kb, who test knitted the pattern beautifully, used an alternative version of the after-thought heel that also looks good.  This is her version in rainbow self-striping yarn.  I think she’s done an amazing job!

rainbow geek socks

The socks are knit cuff down, but you could very easily reverse engineer the pattern to knit it toe up if you prefer knitting in this style.

Finally, to give you more of an idea of what the pattern does to self-striping yarn, Amy got me to send some swatch pictures, so I thought I’d share some of these with you too:

Geek swatch

 

Geek II swatch

Thanks again to the Knitty team for publishing (and editing) my pattern, my wonderful son Tim, for photography, Kb for being such a wonderful test knitter, and the interesting discussions I had with Karen Berthine about the design during the writing phase.  I have learned a lot from Kate Atherley (Knitty’s Managing Technical Editor) about writing clearer patterns too.

I do hope you enjoy knitting these socks!

 


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Rain

Rain

Thank goodness we had some rain this weekend.  It has been so, so dry, one wonders how the farmers are coping without the precious stuff, not to mention the gardens that are now brown husks and the impending water shortages for residential areas.  Hopefully there will be more to follow – we need much more to fill the rivers and reservoirs again.

Before it rained, the boy and I visited the Martinborough Fair (held every year on the first Saturday of February and March).  It’s a major fund-raising event that hosts craft stalls from all over the country.

Martinborough is the major wine-producing area for this region.  It’s a great experience to drive down the roads and see vineyards everywhere you look.  Very temptingly, most of these vineyards do have cellar doors and wine tasting. The vines were tented with nets as the grapes are nearing readiness for picking – don’t they look delicious!  I think these ones are pinot noir – it’s the popular red variety for this area.  The pinot noir wines from the Wairarapa are particularly delicious – the climate suits this grape very well.

Grapes

Of course, I had to visit Anna Gratton’s stall at the fair…

Anna Gratton merino/mohair

Such a vibrant, citrusy green had to come home with me!  This is the merino/mohair 4 ply in a garment lot (400g) in the Lime colourway.

Then there was this.

Anna Gratton 100% wool

A 200g skein of 100% wool in Chilli Chocolate.  I just cannot resist this colourway.  I now have some in both the wool and merino/mohair blend.

I think the best thing about the fair (apart from the yarn) was the artisan and local food produce – honey, handmade, freshly baked sourdough bread and Easter buns, artisan cheese, preserves and new season apples came home with us.  Simple food, but made the way it is meant to be – super delicious!  As you can see, by the time I thought about taking a photograph, there wasn’t a lot left…

Fair food

The rain was a good excuse to sit inside and do some knitting during the afternoon.  I managed to finish the Falls of Rauros! It’s socks like these that really fire up the sock knitting mojo!

Falls of Rauros

Looking at my queue to choose the next project, I want to cast on all the things!  I think in addition to casting on the March Claire Ellen sock (In the Golden Hall), I am also going to do a bit of Cookie A knitting.  I’ve had Clandestine in my queue for simply ages – and it’s time to knit it!  I also recently caved and bought knit.sock.love, so you are going to see a few more Cookie A designs coming off my needles in the next few months (it was that Twisted Flower sock that did it, but having bought the book, I can see myself knitting every single sock in it!)

I am very close to finishing the Mattingley Jumper. Just a sleeve and the neck to do, and it is finished.  I guess I should be disciplined and finish that up this week so I can tidy one more WIP off my list.

I have a feeling that this year is going to be an interesting one.  Having moved, and found to our delight that our new environs are everything we wanted them to be, I have managed to add the final piece to the puzzle, with the appointment to a new job that begins at the end of this month.  I’m hoping it won’t put too much of a crimp into the knitting as it is a full-time job, but I am really looking forward to applying my skills to this new position.  Best of all, it is based here in the Wairarapa, so I will no longer have to do the hour-long drive to work every day, and I will have the peace of mind of being closer to the young boy.  In this land of earthquakes and unpredictable weather, being so far from him was weighing on my mind.

The events of last year will go down in my memory as a definite annus horribilis.  They weren’t really things I wanted to talk about on this blog, being my place of happy knitting and the celebration of the good things about life.  It will be nice to have an annus mirabilis for a change.  Here’s hoping!