Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life



I have been eyeing my stash with some annoyance lately.  Not because it is irritating me, but because I want to knit it, and there just never seems to be enough time!

I suppose if I put designing on the back burner that would help.  Pattern writing in itself is giving me a lot of joy and satisfaction though, so I guess I must be entering into a phase where I will have to be content splitting my time between designing and knitting.

The annoyance turned into both an educational and frustrating experience recently.

A while ago, I decided to do more “wool hunting” and acquired this:

Black Hills Wool

500g of gorgeous, 100% New Zealand wool from BlackHills.  It is naturally coloured, almost silver, and from what I can deduce of its feel, I believe it is Romney (although this is not a confirmed fact).

Then, I also acquired this:


This is 600g of Cheviot, a heritage yarn from Skeinz.

Both yarns sat in my stash, looking tempting, but without the right project to use them.

Then one day, I had a brainwave: I could combine both of these yarns into a blanket!  A lovely, Old Shale lace blanket!

100% New Zealand wool

The spin on both yarns looked similar – both two ply, with what looked like a similar amount of twist, and the weight was the same (ie both were 10 ply, or aran/worsted weight).  I could imagine a lovely striped, lacy blanket on my bed already!

I started to swatch. All went well, until I gave the swatch a bath, and the true nature of each of the yarns became apparent.

Old Shale swatch

Do you see it?  Let’s have a closer look:


The Romney-type yarn.


The Cheviot.

I plucked unhappily at the swatch. Why was each yarn so very different?  The Cheviot had bloomed from being a slightly ropey, stiff yarn in the hank into a beautiful fabric with great stitch definition.  The fabric was bouncy and airy, and quite soft!  In contrast, the Romney-type was dense, and heavy, and fluffy, and did not want to play with the Cheviot. You could almost say the difference was the same as if I had tried to marry cotton wool with wire.  Or as if the Cheviot was a dainty, prim lady, and the Romney a Wild Man of the woods!

Knitted, the Cheviot felt like a Shetland yarn in terms of its general squishiness and springy feel.  I wondered if it was the same type of wool.  I did a bit of research and discovered that Cheviot is a down-type wool (high crimp, fine wool, shortish staple of around 10cm/3 – 5 inches).  Have a look at this link for a picture of New Zealand Cheviot sheep and more about their wool.  It is also considered to be in the same category as Shetland wool, according to this website.

The New Zealand Romney, on the other hand, is a long wool, and also known as a strong wool, with an average staple length of 5 – 7 inches (12 – 18cm).  It’s the polar opposite to Cheviot.  I felt like a right fool.

The ends of the yarn give you a good idea of how each fibre looks and performs.  The Romney-type has very, very long strands that happily unravel.  The Cheviot is more demure, with fine fibres that stay together as a yarn strand.

The fibres

It had become blindingly obvious that the two yarns were not going to play well together.  I started to pull other yarns out of my stash to see if I could get a match for either of these yarns.  The living room floor became covered in balls of wool yarn…

Yarn candidates

Two hours later, no good.  None of my other natural yarns are the same weight, all either being DK or chunky.  My dreams of a lovely natural-coloured wool blanket for my bed began to fade.  😦

Although frustrating, this has been a very educational experience in the very varying qualities of what we so generously throw into the generic term “wool”.

The easy option would be to go out and buy more yarn.  I really do not want to do that.  I might have a couple of dyed yarns that would match the Cheviot, but I am being unreasonably fussy and want only natural coloured wool for my blanket.  The idea of a brightly coloured spread on my bed is not appealing!  More ponderings required, but in the meantime, the bag of yarn sits in the corner of my living room, depressing me every time I look in its direction.

Perhaps I should go back to my original idea for the Black Hills yarn, which is to knit it into a wrap.  I did initially think of doing a cabled wrap.  You can see the swatch for that in the picture below.  It does make very nice cables… I got a bit put off because the yarn is extraordinarily heavy.  And I am not sure if even 500g would be enough to make something long enough to fit around the shoulders!  It’s also the main reason I don’t want to buy more of the same yarn to knit a blanket.  I could probably manage a cowl-style wrap with the amount I have.  And the final product would be quite stunning.  The Black Hills yarn has nice lustre, and is very drapey, and will be a very hard-wearing garment.  Not to mention that it is a very nice looking yarn.  Did I mention it also looks much nicer in cables than lace!?

The Cheviot, however, will probably make the perfect anything I choose to knit. As long as it fits into 900m. And looks good in cream.







Author: kiwiyarns

Welcome to my blog where I talk about knitting in New Zealand and the beautiful yarns you can find here.

19 thoughts on “Conundrum

  1. Yet another reason to swatch that I don’t usually think about. Thanks for the reminder. Grrr…

    • LOL! I used to hate swatching, but if I am using an unfamiliar yarn, I will swatch as a matter of course, just to make sure it will play as I imagined. In this case, the swatch also made a good medium to work out the potential design for the blanket. Plus there was the unseen added side-benefit of finding out the two yarns were incompatible!

  2. I’m a fan of the “buy more yarn” to make a project you are in love with. Maybe the way to make it ok is to destash some too.

  3. Oh my, the Black Hills yarn does look lovely in that cabled swatch! I’d run with that, if I were you!

  4. Thank you for this post. It yeps us to understand our New Zealand yarns better and think before we start to knit up a garment.

  5. You’re right the Black Hills Swatch looks great in cables.

  6. I sometimes swatch, but I’ve not washed the swatch, just used it to measure guage. So that is another point to remember. Thanks for sharing your experiences. How did the cable swatch wash up?

    • I don’t always wash the swatch, but I had a feeling that this one needed it. The cable swatch that you see is the washed version. It came out very nicely!

  7. What an interesting post. I’ve certainly learned a bit about NZ yarns. I still don’t swatch though. Naughty me!

    • I don’t swatch for everything either. Socks and shawls in particular!

      • I’m the same, shawls and socks I don’t swatch, but everything else I do. Don’t always wash my swatches though, makes me think that if I am using an unfamiliar yarn I should. Thought about washing the swatch for my current project, but as it is handspun that I had already washed after spinning, I figured it shouldn’t change.

  8. I definitely see the difference in the swatch, but I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing. Perhaps if you used Old Shale for the cheviot and a different texture stitch (double moss, maybe? plain garter?) for the romney the difference between the blanket sections would seem more intentional… maybe even cabled strips, joined together? It’s worth considering as long as the swatch doesn’t feel too strange in the two types of yarn.

  9. I really enjoy posts like this ! And have to admit the photo to me helps a lot in picturing the differences between different wools – thanks !