Possum tales: Kiwi and the trees

Kiwi, the little brown flightless bird pattered hungrily along the forest underbrush, nosing through the leaf litter in search of juicy worms and tasty insects.  Possum, Rat and their friends had already taken most of the night’s offerings, and the pickings were slim.  Rimu, tall and graceful, watched sadly, her feathery leaves flickering in the filtered moonlight, casting pretty lacy patterns on to the forest floor.  Her massive ancient companion, Kauri, stood majestic and silent.

Both of them survivors of times dangerous to trees of their beauty, they missed the night forest life of years past, when it rang with the cries of countless birds – the large flightless green parrot, Kakapo, many Kiwi, the immense Moa, the cheeky Weka.  All mostly gone now, the forest was silent, and still.  First Man, and now Possum, had taken their toll on the once lush, verdant, subtropical forests that covered most of New Zealand.

One day, a group of people came and saw the destruction caused by Possum and other pests, and decided to help.  They created a yarn company called Zealana, and spun a line of yarns containing the fur of Possum, naming them in honour of their forest friends.  Among them, Kiwi, Kauri and Rimu.

Today, knitters all over the world can enjoy the beauty of Possum’s fur, and help protect the remaining native species of New Zealand.

Thought I’d exercise some creative juice today. 😉

So let’s now have a look at Rimu, Kiwi and Kauri:


Some readers of this blog noted that they too, have had problems with possum yarn snapping when knitting with it.  It’s not very surprising given possum’s short, fine fibres.  However, like The Wool Company’s merino possum, Rimu is as strong as a normal wool yarn.  It won’t break, and I did tug very hard to make sure!

Composed of 40% possum, 60% merino content, Rimu is the Zealana yarn that is closest to a ‘standard’ possum as found in other brands.  It’s available as a 50g ball in 4 ply (fingering) or 8 ply (DK, light worsted) weight.  There are 128 metres in the 8 ply ball.

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!

I’m a bit disappointed that Zealana is not quite getting the tension (gauge) recommendation right on quite a few of its yarns.  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 that 22 stitches x 30 rows.  However, it’s not only Zealana that does this.  Quite a few other yarn brands in New Zealand don’t always get it right.   I suppose it’s subjective, but all the same, I’m finding actual tension against ball band recommendation a bit of an issue these days!  Luckily, the US distributor, The Yarn Sisters, has very helpful, and much more realistic notes about gauge and needle size for the Zealana yarns.

The yarn feels silky soft and beautifully even.  There isn’t a hint of scratch, which makes me think that the possum fur used by Zealana is of the highest grade.  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!

It’s suitable for anything you’d like to knit with possum – hats, scarves, fingerless mitts, pullovers, sweaters, whatever!  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.


Kiwi is available as a standard weight 4 ply, or fingering yarn and as a 2 ply, or lace weight yarn.  The cotton, possum and merino content makes for an interesting knitting experience.  The coolness 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 the Kiwi save for the soft handle on the cotton and the very soft halo that develops around the yarn once blocked.  But it’s so faint that you really don’t notice it.

It’s spun as two sets of four ply strands twisted into one, creating a crisp and well-defined yarn with a lovely texture.  In terms of gauge, the above sample (which was knitted as a test for my mother’s sweater) came out at 28 stitches x 40 rows over 10cm on 3.25mm needles.  In stocking stitch, this tension will no doubt be looser.

The cotton in this yarn is dominant. The thing I like about it is that the wool and possum content helps to bind the yarn together, ensuring that the yarn doesn’t split when you’re knitting with it – something that I have experienced with other cotton yarns, much to my annoyance!  You could happily knit anything that asks for cotton yarn using Kiwi.

I would definitely knit with this yarn again.

The lace weight yarn is exactly half of the Kiwi, but very different in texture – as it’s just one four ply stranded yarn, it is very smooth.  You would not know there was possum in this weight either, and it’s extremely popular with knitters for shawls and lace weight items.  I’m knitting a summer cardigan in this weight.

Kiwi: 30% possum, 40% merino, 30% organic cotton,  40g ball, 2 ply or 4 ply, lace or fingering weight.  198 metres in the 2 ply, 136 metres in the 4 ply.


Kauri is available in fingering (4 ply) and worsted (10 ply).  The worsted weight is more like Rimu in texture but has that gorgeous loft and lightness from the silk content.  Kauri is available in both weights in New Zealand from Mishi Yarns and Knit World.

Kauri has already won many fans in New Zealand.  It has a different texture to Rimu.  Still gorgeously soft, it’s less fluffy than Rimu, and the silk content gives it a beautiful twinkly lustre and a certain crispness, without detracting from the overall soft sensation.  You can see the lustre in the above photo – Kauri sparkling in the morning sunlight.

Like its sister Tui, the sensation of the yarn in the ball is deceptive.  Once you start knitting with it, the true nature of the yarn becomes apparent… and you get hooked!

It is twisted quite loosely, and spun as a two ply strand.  The ball band suggests 3mm needles, to make 27 stitches.  This tension will give you a nice, firm fabric.  My preference is something a wee bit looser, on 3.25mm.

I just love, love, love this yarn!  I think I’ve found a new favourite!  Kauri has a lightness to it that you want to show off.  Lace is nice, but I’m not a good lace knitter.  I started to knit a sample in a lace pattern, but after I buggered up the third repeat, I decided to frog it and do something less taxing on the concentration.  Instead, I experimented with a simple scarf in fisherman’s rib (of the P1, K1 below variety).  I’m rather pleased with progress so far:

I love how the stitch shows off the loftiness of this yarn, and how warm it will be too – the little possum fibres will trap more air between the stitches, enveloping one’s neck in an embrace of warmth and comforting softness.  The silk in the fibre also gives this yarn a lot more structure and drape that you’d get otherwise I think.  I was originally having selfish thoughts of a scarf for me in it, but I’ve decided that my little boy has probably more need of one than me, so it will go to him.  It’s so light and squishy that he’ll be kept warm and toasty without too much bulk around his neck.

My fingers are addicted, and keep returning to this yarn, to the detriment of my other projects that I need to finish!

If you want to replicate this look, the pattern is:

A lofty scarf

3.5mm needles (if you don’t have 3.5mm needles, use 3.75mm, or a US 5)
Approx 4 balls of Kauri, fingering weight (fisherman’s rib consumes a lot of yarn)
Tension:  23 stitches to 10cm on 3.5mm in fisherman’s rib (this is just an indication.  There is no need to follow this tension)

1.  Cast on 46 stitches to get a 20cm wide scarf (adjust number of stitches to suit your taste as to whether you want a wider or narrower scarf)  (stitches to be in multiples of 2)

2.  Garter stitch (K all rows) for 10 rows.  This creates a nice finish to the scarf, but you can leave this part out if you prefer.

3.  Purl first row (WS)

3.  P1, K1 rib the second row, finishing with P2

4.  P1, K1 into the stitch below.  Continue these two stitch repeats to end, finishing with P2.

5.  Repeat row 4 until you reach the desired length for your scarf.

6.  Garter stitch another 10 rows.  Cast off loosely.  Enjoy!

I’ve also seen this yarn knitted up into a sweater, and it looks divine.  The wearer loves it so much, she knitted herself another, and looks for every opportunity to use Kauri!

And here’s the sweater I recently knitted myself in worsted-weight Kauri:

Kauri: 30% possum, 60% merino, 10% silk, 40g ball, 4 ply, fingering, sport or baby weight, 153 metres.  Also available as a 10 ply, or worsted weight, 86 metres per 50g ball.

(Updated 2 May 2011)

2 thoughts on “Possum tales: Kiwi and the trees

  1. Wow, thank you for such a wonderful review of Zealana’s yarns and SUCH lovely photos that really show the halo in these yarns. I think it’s so important to show this aspect of the yarn because in the shop, you’d never know it.
    When I first came across a skein of Rimu, it seemed very similar to all the others— but upon knitting it up– WOW. This was such a difference. SO, to all the shoppers out there— give this yarn a chance to impress you and it surely will.

  2. What a great post! I’m the yarn rep for Zealana in New England (USA) and Would love to make a copy of your post to show to people!

    Your reviews give such a good description of what the experience of knitting with these yarns is like!

    Thank you!

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