Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

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Going with the flow

As many of you will know, I’ve hit a few rocks in the river of life lately.  I thought it’s about time to write a little from the heart about what is going on chez Kiwiyarns, and give you a few more insights into what will be happening over the next 12 months or so.

I often think that life is like a river, and we are in a canoe going down it.  There are smooth bits and rough bits and bits where you turn the corner and go ‘whoa!!’ (in either a horrified scream or delightedly excited shout).  It helps to be observant of the landscape as you travel this river, and take clues from it about what you’re going to encounter next so you can try to paddle the right way.  It also helps to try to plan ahead to have the right gear in order to survive.

When I was made redundant late last year, I thought through all the possible scenarios that could occur down the next branch of this river, and made plans to avoid the very worst one:  ending up on state “benefits” after my small redundancy pay ran out.  This was not the place I ever wanted to be ever again after the unfortunate experiences of trying to find a job during the global financial crisis.  The prospect had me lying awake at night in terror at the thought of being in that awful situation.

To avoid this scenario and because I’ve been thinking of doing something like this for a while, I enrolled in a full-time programme through distance learning.  The idea was that if a job came along before studies commenced, I could opt to learn part-time, or even park the idea for a while.  Doing this enabled me to be mentally prepared to go with the flow, whichever way events took me (and seal off the branch to that dead end called “Solo Parent Support”.)  If I ended up a student, with the prospect of a better future after graduation, that would be a much more productive and positive place to be.  I knew that all my self-confidence, resilience, life joy and my child’s health and quality of life would be drained away through the sanctions imposed while trying to stay alive under the enforced poverty that is state assistance.  I would also have to suffer all the associated negative impressions people have of others who are on the ‘benefit’ as it is called here.

As it is, I’ve hit a few rocks that were anticipated:  a job has failed to materialise.  I don’t have public sector work experience, and about 90% of the advertised work I have seen in my field lately is in this area.  I’m also concerned about the negative connotations of redundancy.

Potential employers often suspect that a redundancy is a soft firing.  In my case it was because of the financial situation that my former employer found itself in after it was slapped with a requirement to pay back millions of dollars in over funding.  I was one of quite a few let go at the time.  I do feel quite bitter, particularly as I had only been there for just over six months.  I feel that I am being unfairly punished for the mistakes of others that had nothing at all to do with me.

Although living in a semi-rural area has helped immensely with living costs, it has possibly also negatively influenced potential employer reactions (“she’ll always be late because the train is not reliable… will she be able to stand the long commutes every day? etc.”)  There are always so many factors involved in not being selected for an interview.

This week, the river of life delivered me to education’s shores.  I am now a full-time student, undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management.  It dovetails nicely with my current qualification in business management and my career skills (marketing/communications) and that should hopefully mean that by the time I graduate in a year’s time, I will have many more job options, and a new career path.  I am looking forward to being in formal education again!

Living on a student allowance is going to extremely hard.  What I get covers rent and food.  And that’s it.  I’ll need to find a part-time job to cover all life’s other essentials. Hopefully that kind of job will be easier to find.

Another positive in all of this is that I will have time to continue to design.  Part of me is chagrined that despite cultivating a profile, designing is still very much a hobby.  In analysing it though, I am aware that I haven’t exactly had much energy to devote to it in the past few years in between working practically full-time and attending to the needs of my children.  It also hasn’t helped that I have no release from childcare responsibilities (my family all live a long way from here, and my son’s father lives in the UK) to be able to attend things like knitting events or even knit nights, where I could meet people and in doing so also raise my profile as a designer.  So there is a bit of ‘why bother, you’ll never succeed in this area until those things change’ think happening.

The thing is, I like designing.  I can’t help myself but create things that I like and want to wear.  And then I think that I should share those designs with you because others might like it too.   I have decided that I am going to keep on doing it, as designing gives me intellectual stimulation and challenge and a sense of achievement and joy to see the finished product.  Seeing my designs being enjoyed by others it a wonderful thrill.  This kind of happiness cannot be bought and is rare to find in the world of working.  It helps to keep me emotionally balanced.

My definition of success therefore needs to be seen from a different perspective.  It cannot be defined in terms of financial return.  Until I am able to travel and meet people, and until I have dedicated time to devote to designing every day, I know I will never make a living from designing.  And that is okay, because I understand the reason why, and it’s not the purpose of my work. Perhaps I don’t want it to be my job in any event.  To design properly for a living and keep a constant source of patterns coming to keep up follower interest, you cannot knit for leisure.  I am not ready to give up my fun knitting and turn it all into work just yet.  Knitting for a living also requires you to supplement your income from designing with things like teaching.  I don’t have the time for that either at the moment.

Some of you have already pointed out that I don’t charge very much for my designs and this could improve my income.  This is a point of frustration for me.  I know that my designs are worth more.  I could charge “market rate” for them, because I know that they are quality work.  I’ve always been on the side of keeping things affordable though, which is why I initially made everything free.  Not everyone can afford to pay NZ$25 – $30 for a single skein of yarn, or over $100 for the materials for a garment, or NZ$10 for a pattern (at current exchange rates, I’ve even seen some patterns well into the NZ$15 mark!)

Knitting is not an exclusive activity for the well-off. It should never be turned into that.

There is a range of prices for yarn:  you can buy very cheap and not very good yarn; you can buy good quality yarns at reasonable prices, or go all the way to paying high prices for luxury yarns. I’m not sure what is happening on the pattern front though.  It seems that patterns are universally getting more and more expensive, which is unfortunate because it does contribute a lot to the cost of knitting.  On the other hand, I am also painfully aware of how much time and energy it takes to get a pattern to release stage, and that effort does need to be compensated and recognised. As the market for patterns is heavily saturated, most designers usually only get one go at making a return from their pattern: at release.  I suspect this is one of the reasons for the higher prices.

I may end up having to raise my prices, as I notice how ridiculously under market rates I am.  That is not a good thing either:  potential purchasers can be known to think, “oh it’s too cheap, there must be something wrong with it.”  I also need to ask for more just so that I can afford to keep knitting (proceeds from designing will be the sole source of funds for yarn, tools and pattern purchases from now on until my financial situation improves and I can again make ‘capital contributions’!) From that perspective, I am glad and feel lucky that I am a recognised designer. If I didn’t have the small source of funds that I get from designing and if I didn’t have my well-cultivated stash, I would have to give up knitting.

So that’s it.  Life for the next 12 months is very likely to be study, designing and part-time/contract work (the final piece of gear I need for this particular river branch).  I’m crossing my fingers it all works out.  It’s going to be full-on!  I’m also very glad to be part of organising Yarnville – for once, I’m going to be able to attend a knitting event!  Hoorah!  And as an additional plus from my son’s perspective, he gets to come home straight after school instead of going to after school care.

I am very grateful to the very kind knitters from all over the world who took some yarn off my hands this week. It paid for the rent, and gave me the small bridge I needed between now and when my student allowance starts.  Thank you all again!  The global community of knitters is one that I am constantly thankful for in so many ways.  You are awesome.

This week brought in the Chinese New Year.  I wish you all Good Luck, Good Health and Happiness in this Year of the Monkey!  May all your endeavours and efforts be justly rewarded!

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What else can you do with sock yarn?

An interesting question that a few people asked me this week was “What can you do with sock yarn if you are not a sock knitter?”  I thought that perhaps this might be a good topic for a post.

The answer to the question my friends, is “anything”.  Sock yarn is essentially fingering weight yarn. Some of it is slightly finer, some of it is slightly heavier.  It is sold as sock yarn because it has a tighter construction that “normal” fingering, so that it is strong and durable enough to be made into socks.  It is perfectly usable to make nice hats, mitts, shawls, lightweight garments, baby blankets, blankets (see all the sock yarn blankets being made!) and whatever else you care to work it into.  At one point, I even used it to make patches for the holes in my jeans!

The thing about sock yarn is that the commercial varieties like Opal or Regia are often patterned into a pre-printed sequence designed for small rows, like in socks or fingerless gloves.  This is the sort of thing I mean:

 

Stray too far out from the number of rows that were designed for the pattern, and you will get a very different and not-so-attractive effect.

However, if you choose a yarn that doesn’t have that sequencing, this ceases to be a matter of concern, as is the case with most indie-dyed or single-colour sock yarns.

Here are some examples of projects that I made out of sock yarn that were not socks:

There is plenty of help to get you going. Many patterns on Ravelry utilise sock yarn for other things, and entire books that have been written with sock yarn in mind.  A really good place to start is Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders – 101 Patterns that go way beyond Socks! by Judith Durant.

Some of the single patterns that utilise sock yarn include the very popular free pattern Sockhead Slouch Hat, of which there are over 9,000 projects on Ravelry!  Slipped, the free hat pattern that I designed for Zealana, uses sock yarn.  My ever-popular free pattern, Adorable Kids Fingerless Mitts uses sock yarn.

Then there are shawl favourites, such as the Hitchhiker.  The very popular Stephen West uses a lot of sock yarn for his extraordinary shawl designs.

At some point, I will be knitting this gorgeous shawl from Sylvia Bo Bilvia – Waiting For Rain.  I’ll likely use Knitsch for that.  Color Affection is another runaway hit that has been made thousands of times in sock yarn. Examine the projects on Ravelry for any fingering- weight shawl pattern, and you will inevitably find that many knitters have used a sock yarn to make it.  Shawls are also a great way to quickly use up some of the many skeins of sock yarn that sock knitters find themselves collecting…

Sweater projects like this really sweet hoodie Chambourcin, and hit designs like Hitofude and Old Romance have all been knit in sock yarns.

The great thing about using sock yarn in non-sock projects is that you do not need to knit it at the tight tension required for socks.  If I am knitting a shawl in sock yarn, I’ll typically be working with 4mm needles/US6.  Fingerless gloves and hats are normally knitted with the slightly more fingering-typical gauge of 28sts x 32 rows, which would call for needles in the range of 2.75mm – 3.25mm (US2 – 3).

Have you made projects from sock yarn that are not socks?  Do share!

If you haven’t yet used a sock yarn, I encourage you to go and have a look on Ravelry, start by picking a fingering-weight pattern for an accessory of your liking, choose some beautiful sock yarn, and let the world of sock yarn joy be yours for the taking!

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From my stash to yours

 

Have you ever wondered what certain New Zealand yarns would be like to knit?

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How warm and soft is a possum yarn really?

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Compare a beautifully crafted pure New Zealand wool yarn from a boutique mill to one from a commercial mill?

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Investigate how a colourful New Zealand indie dyer’s yarn might work up into a shawl or socks?

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Now is a chance to find out!

It’s time to pay rent, and I need to make a withdrawal from my yarn bank.  This means I’m going to have to release some very treasured yarns that I have been collecting back into the market.  All my yarns are stored carefully in plastic to avoid the threat of moth attack, and out of direct sunshine. They are in mint condition, and certainly, if I wasn’t in this situation, would happily remain in my stash until I was ready to use them.

However, a girl must feed her family, and there are only so many yarns one can knit (and I do have a few). So it is time to be pragmatic and offer some to you for your enjoyment.

This is a one-time-only offer.  Once the yarn is gone, it is gone.  Have a look in on my Ravelry trade tab to see the yarns I am pulling for sale, and pm me if you are interested. I’m going to be asking for slightly under the current purchasing price plus postage.

Hopefully something interests you.  :-)


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Seriously Pretty

For a long time, I have hankered after a pretty, feminine yarn, with the barest hint of blush.  Something that reminded me of the palest cherry blossom scattered over clean white sheets.  I never was able to find that colourway, until Circus Tonic Handmade appeared on the scene.

When I saw Hannah’s Galah colourway, that beautifully muted pink and grey, I knew it had to be mine.  And then I started knitting it, and the pattern I have had in my head for a long time (but wasn’t able to find the right colour yarn for it) sprang up and shouted “Me, me, me, me!!!”

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After much swatching and ripping, I realised the pattern had to be toe-up, which threw me a bit as I dislike the backwards (to me) way of knitting heels.  Then I remembered that I could always do an afterthought heel, and all was well with the world again!

This merino/nylon blend yarn (Revelry Sock) is the softest sock yarn I have ever laid my hands on.  The merino wool used to make this yarn is of very high quality. It is so soft, I was scared that it would be weak, but it is not.  It is very well spun, with a non-splitty, springy twist that is perfect for socks or anything else you want to knit it in. I like it very much.

I think there is definitely a place in the world for pretty, feminine colours.  Ones that aren’t super saturated, but not washed out either.  It’s my new favourite style of colourway!

I bet you want to see that design I spoke of?

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This is a sneaky peek of Mary, Mary.  All going well, I’ll be releasing the pattern towards the end of next week (dependent on testing time).  Mary, Mary, was inspired by the nursery rhyme, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?  With silver bells and cockle shells, and little maids all in a row.”  It is a feminine design to match a feminine yarn, and I am very pleased with how it turned out in the end.  (The sock hasn’t been blocked yet, which is why it’s still a bit wonky looking).

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Can you see the silver bells and cockle shells?  I took the bell reference to be flowers like the Lily of the Valley which have little bells, and the cockle shells are run up the sides, like little borders on the flower beds.

The pattern is not hard to knit.  I will give you links to the Turkish cast on that I used (it is so simple, it is my favourite method for double-sided cast ons) and how to work out the length of the foot before commencing the heel.  The heel will also have a surprise.  I worked out how to knit a cushioned afterthought heel that fits well.  I am very pleased with it and for me, it will help very much with the holes that always develop first on the bottom of my heels!

On a final note, speaking of pretty, I saw some truly amazing and exciting New Zealand produced yarn this weekend.  Mary Furness-Weir of Maniototo Wool has produced a special new yarn this season – it is called Luxury Lambswool (from the wool of ram lambs). It is a worsted-spun, DK weight yarn.  I have never felt anything so beautiful.  It has drape, sheen, it is incredibly smooth (due to the worsted spin) and it is soft.  Oh so soft (22 micron).  It is quite tightly spun, which makes it even more different to the usual DK weight wool yarns.  It makes my head burst.  I want it ALL.  I don’t have photos (Mary only had two skeins for her own use on her when she showed them to me and I stupidly forgot to take a photo… I was too busy coveting).  I have regrammed one of her posts showing the yarn – have a look at the Instagram photo on my sidebar (visible if you are reading this post on a PC), and you’ll see the yarn.  Or if you follow me on Instagram (Kiwiyarns), you’ll see it in my feed.

If you hurry, you’ll find some on the indie shelf at Holland Road Yarn Company this month.  Mary will be in store at lunch time tomorrow (Monday), in case you are in Wellington and have time to meet her.

I had better get cracking and produce more patterns so I can afford to buy some before it is all gone!


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It’s too hot

Regular readers will be familiar with the well known fact that I dislike summer.  Especially late summer, when the weather matures into relentlessly hot days, and very warm nights.  It is far too hot, and I’d like Autumn to hurry along please.

What does warm weather do to a knitter?  For one thing, hot piles of wool in one’s lap, in addition to the customary cat, are a no-no.  I’ve reverted to shawls and socks.

Earlier week, I started my second attempt at Southern Skies.

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It’s going well.  I’m on to the final chart.  If I work hard at it, I’ll have something pretty to show you next weekend!  I’m much happier with how the sizing is coming out this time.  In the end, I went with 4.5mm/US 7 needles to get the right gauge.  The yarn is a very hard colour to capture on camera.  It is a lot more vibrant in real life.  The way the colours are coming together reminds me of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.  So happy with the effect!

Some socks also leapt on to my needles yesterday.  Funnily enough, also another Audry Nicklin design!

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Audry Nicklin has produced another stunner – the Whiskey and Rye socks!  I was a very lucky bunny and was gifted the exact yarn used (Miss Babs Yummy 2-ply) a while ago. When Audry also kindly gifted me the pattern, I decided that the two had to become a project together!  Audry notes in the pattern that the slipped stitches can pull in the fabric and suggested either knitting the larger size or using larger needles.  I decided that the larger size would be too big, so I opted to use needles that were a size larger than I usually knit with (2.5mm/US 1.5 instead of 2.25mm/US 1).  It was a good move to keep to the smaller size.  I’m still not sure if I needed to go up a needle size, but it is working out to be exactly the same size as the pattern notes (19cm/7.5″ circumference) so I guess it was the right call.

It is a lovely pattern, well written as usual, with the slipped stitch chevrons intuitive to knit once you’ve worked the first repeat.  Highly recommended for a fast and satisfactory knit!

It being my birthday recently, a couple of lovely friends sent me gifts that again, paired into one project.

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The Mahy Shawl was designed by Karie Westermann in memory of Margaret Mahy, a celebrated children’s and young people’s book author.  At the same time I was gifted this shawl pattern, a lovely friend living in Wales wanted to send me some local Welsh or British wool of my choice for my birthday.  When I looked at the pattern, I discovered that the yarn, Garthenor Organic, used by the designer was actually Welsh in origin!  She was very happy to send me the yarn.  It makes knitting this shawl a very special thing, to remind me of two special friends, who were so thoughtfully caring in their choice of gifts.

If you read Andi’s lovely blog, My Sister’s Knitter, you’ll note that she’s holding a Gift KAL on her Ravelry group at the moment.  I figured that as I have not one, but two gift projects on my needles at the moment, that for once I could join in one of these KALs.  I might see you there?

And now for a ta da moment!  Nikki, Caren and I got together this week, and finalised a few more plans for the yarn event I mentioned a few posts ago.  It now has a name!  Yarnville. And a date!  Saturday, 15 October 2016.  It’s so exciting!!!

I have put together the preliminary workings of a website for the event here: http://www.yarnvillenz.wordpress.com.  If you are interested in attending or trading at the event, please do sign up for notifications of information as it becomes finalised.

If you live in New Zealand, and especially the regions surrounding the Wairarapa, it would be amazing to see you there!  We have had plenty of interest from traders and even kind people willing to volunteer with helping out.  It is really awesome!  There will be some amazing yarnies and other fibre people there.  We are still to send out our official invitations to teachers and traders, but if you are in that category, and would like to express interest in participating, please do feel free to drop us a line at yarnvillenzATgmail.com.

Until next time!

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Two Hearts

My Ravelry notes for this project remind me that I started Two Hearts on 2 June 2015.  That was quite a long time ago!  After knitting half the front, I put it aside because I had no energy for concentration on complex cables at the time. However, now that I do have energy to do things that require a bit more brain power, I felt it was a good time to finish it in time for next winter!

And so here it is, all finished and ready for its bath!

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I’m quite pleased with this pic because it captures the creaminess of the Romney wool and the softness that will develop slowly but surely as I wear this sweater during winter.

There were a few things about this project that were very interesting.  The first is that I learned how to fix a mis-crossed cable many rows down without having to drop all the stitches back to the row I made the mistake on.  This was an excellent thing to learn!  It doesn’t work for all mis-crossed cables, but for this one, the fix was perfect.  You cannot see where the mistake was now, and even I cannot tell or remember.  The article explaining how to do that is here (I used Method 2).

One major mod I made was to make the back in plain stocking stitch.  The cables create a dense, heavy fabric, and I felt that if I were to knit the back in the same cable pattern, I’d feel like I was wearing armour.  I’m glad I made that call.  It took a few tries (despite calculations before hand) to get the number of stitches right as I had to decrease the amount of stitches knitted in order to match the front (cabling really pulls in fabric width and requires more stitches than stocking stitch for the same amount of width).

During the finishing process, I found that the bind off on the tops of my sleeves was way too tight – I could stretch the sleeve fabric to the length of the armhole, but not the bound off edge!  I figured this would not make for a pretty armhole/sleeve join, so I remedied that by ripping back and reknitting a stretchy bind off.  This allowed the fabric to stretch out properly and fit the armhole like it was meant to.  I hadn’t thought about using this method before but I shall definitely keep it in mind for future!

I posted a quick pic of the difference on Instagram at the time.  You can see how there is a significant difference in width from the same number of stitches obtained from using a different bind off method (the new bind off the sleeve underneath).

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The only other ‘issue’ encountered when knitting this sweater was that I initially knitted the neck roll too long (pattern said between 5 – 10cm, so I took the medium road and knitted 8cm).  I discovered that an 8cm/3.25″ neck created quite a fat roll and did not look nice at all.  A quick rip out back to a 5cm length, and it looked a lot more balanced!

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I’m still not entirely sure I am happy with the neck.  I realise that I accidentally used 4.5mm needles on the neck instead of 4mm, and it has made the roll more floppy than the sleeve and edge of the sweater.  I think I may still rip it out and do that bit again.

Finally, on the yarn I used.  This is a ‘non-commercial’ yarn, in the sense that it was spun in a boutique mill and I suspect, the wool even came from a single farm as it was labelled Romney Lambswool.  Unfortunately, the people I bought it from are not in business at the moment (Blackhalls).  The wool was only minimally processed before spinning, which meant that it was very greasy.  It took five washes, two with very warm wool wash, to get the rinse water clear… but it has turned out gorgeous!  Free of the lanolin weighing it down, the finished garment is much lighter, with a beautiful bloom and liveliness!

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I don’t think I’m going to get too many issues with pilling on this yarn.

I had major issues getting satisfactory modelled photos of the sweater today.  It is a cooler day than we have been having this week, but still far too warm to wear a woolly, cabled sweater.  I gave up!

Had to share one last pic  of my wee companion helping me with the knitting as I finished this project.  He is so adorable.  :-)With Cole