I had a few minutes up my sleeve between finishing work and collecting the young man from school, so I called in to Nancy’s Embroidery. I was after a pair of circular bamboo needles. I was almost in luck – a pair of 4.5mm bamboo circular tips from Knit Pro’s newest needle range was sitting on the shelf, but I was after 4mm. Oh bother.
I was just about to walk out the door, admiring the nice Stansborough display on my way out, when I was stopped by a lady who asked “Excuse me, are you Wei S? Do you write the Kiwiyarns blog?” I said ‘yes’ (rather cautiously). I gathered she was Mary Self, the owner of Nancy’s Embroidery! She wanted to introduce me to her bespoke yarn, Strand. Had I seen it before? Did I have time to have a look?
I figured a few minutes wouldn’t hurt, and I am always keen to find out more about New Zealand yarns! So I followed her back down the aisle, where she showed me some cute balls of yarn that I had previously picked up and squished, but hadn’t really paid a huge amount of attention to.
Mary explained that this yarn was especially spun for her by a commercial mill, from 50% New Zealand Corriedale and 50% New Zealand kid mohair. It is a fully worsted spun, 2 ply yarn, (ie the fibres combed smooth, not referring to the weight of the yarn), and has come out at about a 3 ply weight (thicker than lace, but slightly finer than fingering).
Strand was originally created for use in embroidery. You’ll know that embroidery yarns are designed to withstand the rigours of being continuously pulled through the canvas, and are therefore very strong. Anyone who has sewn up a project with wool yarn and found the yarn snapping mid-draw will understand how strong it must be. My interest was piqued.
Mary worked out that this yarn also knits and crochets beautifully, and has begun marketing it for this purpose as well. She took me out back to see the bedazzling range of commercially and semi-solid hand-dyed colourways in this yarn. Oooooooh….. 177 gorgeous colours!! It was the equivalent of a knitter’s candy store in there!
I found out that all 177 colours are available in economical 100gm (3.5oz) balls and embroidery-portion 10gm skeins. The 25gm (.8oz) balls are only available in a limited range of 25 colours for the time being.
She showed me a cardigan knit from the yarn that was very lovely indeed. It only needed 275 grams for a small size (11 x 25gm balls, or three 100gm balls), which represents a reasonable cost for a good quality article of clothing. There were blankets and scarves and baby jackets and hats – all knit in Strand, and all looking very beautiful. You can see them all here. The knitted articles felt very soft. There was plenty of drape, and the garments had all retained good structure and did not look pilled or worn. It is interesting that although I had been into Nancy’s quite a few times before this, I hadn’t quite noticed all the detail. I appreciated the personalised tour!
I decided that it was absolutely necessary to sample some of this yarn. There was a kit pack of 10gm skeins with a range of colours in it, along with a design for some stripey fingerless gloves displayed on the shelf. That would be a good starting point and a good excuse to play with colour!
Mary very generously gave me a pack for my research purposes, but I decided to get another one as well so I could have a good range of colour to play with.
On reflection, I probably could just as easily have picked a number of 10gm skeins off the display unit on the wall, but I liked the idea of having some pre-coordinated colours to play with. I get all anxious and bothered when I have to match colours under pressure, and I was acutely conscious that there was a child who was going to need picking up from school soon.
So, these beautiful colours came home to play with me:
Now, if your mind is ticking like mine, you’ve probably already tagged Strand for colourwork. Maybe you are also wondering about lace? And you’re probably thinking about now… if it’s so strong, is this yarn suitable for socks!??
I set to work to find out.
This is the motif for Kate Davies’ gorgeous Bluebells sweater, which I am quite tempted to knit. I used colours 123, 373, 315 and 445. I think the yarn makes very lovely colourwork, although it is different to the woollen spun yarns that are often used in fair isle style knitting. The worsted spun yarn keeps the colours clean and with crisp stitch definition, whereas woollen spun yarns (like the J&S 2 ply jumper weight used in the original Bluebells) will give a soft, blended look with a stickiness that is good for activities like steeking, where you want the stitches to hold together. I don’t know how this yarn would perform in that particular situation, although I still love the look of the swatch that I hold in my hands.
I like that there are small 10m (11yd) skeins that one can play with first before buying a larger quantity as well. I find that I often have to play around with colours before I find the right combination for colourwork – this will save wasting yarn and money!
The thing that has completely captured me though is how it knits in lace. I threw a couple of motifs together here just to see how the yarn behaved in lace.
This is colour 392.
I am quite besotted. I must knit a lace shawl in this yarn and shall run down to Nancy’s Embroidery at the soonest available opportunity and get myself a nice 100gm ball of this yarn!
What do I think of the yarn? I really like it!
The worsted process has created a very lustrous and smooth strand. Two singles has firstly been highly twisted before being tightly plied together to create a very defined, strong and elastic yarn.
Knitting it, I find that the yarn’s elasticity makes it very pleasing to knit with, and easy on the wrists. It is, as expected, very strong. Similar in strength to a tightly twisted sock yarn. The yarn knitted smoothly, with no snagging or splitting on the needles.
The kid mohair has contributed drape, lustre and strength, while the wool contributes elasticity and body. It is very different to other mohair/merino blends I have come across.
As I noticed in the knitted samples in the shop, the yarn creates a fabric with beautiful drape. This is one of the reasons why I think it will make nice lace, in addition to the beautiful stitch definition that was achieved with very little blocking.
The yarn is soft, with a smoothness that is almost silky. It is definitely a yarn you can wear next to the skin, and in fact, Mary does sell a lot of it for baby garment knitting. People with very sensitive skin will probably still find it a little bit scratchy though, due to the fine mohair fibres that create a very gentle haze.
Needless to say, I find the colours simply gorgeous and will have a very hard time choosing only one to knit a shawl when the time comes. (One could of course give in to temptation and knit stripes in any variation if one chose…!)
I did ask Mary if she had knitted socks with it. Her answer is that she found it very nice for socks, but because the wool did felt a little on the soles, it pushed the mohair out, creating a slightly fluffy sole. This may not appeal to some, although I am still quite tempted to knit a pair to see what it’s like!
If you’re wanting to get your hands on some of this lovely stuff and don’t live in Wellington, it is available online and from the following retail outlets in New Zealand:
Broomfields in Christchurch and Nelson
The Embroiderer in Auckland
Bernina Sewing Centre – Tauranga
Ashfords Craft Shop – Ahburton
Seriously Twisted – Dunedin
Needle and Thread – Dunedin
Thank you Mary, for making me notice your beautiful yarn. It has definitely been added to my list of good New Zealand yarns!