Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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Wait…

Oh gosh. Since when did it become December!? Christmas is just around the corner, and there is still so much to do!

Isn’t it funny how the end of a year provokes a whole range of thoughts around life, deadlines, accomplishments, wishes. In a way, it is a good thing because it gives us a sense of time. In another way, it can unintentionally create feelings of stress that shouldn’t be there. I do find it a great motivator to remember to ‘do’ something with my life.

In this post, I think it’s time I fronted up and explained a bit about my less-than-regular posts of late. Make a cup of tea and settle in… this is a bit of a wordy one!

Life has been quite distracted chez Kiwiyarns over the past couple of months. As of November, I began working in a permanent role, although I have been in a ‘caretaker’ role for that position for a few months now. It’s a senior job that is giving me a lot of satisfaction (and finally, some life certainty!) but is also draining my energy and ability to keep up the blog on a regular basis. I do apologise for this, as I value your interaction with me so much. My life over the past few years would not have been anywhere near as rich or as fulfilling had I not started this blog and pursued the path of knitting creativity. But none of that would have been nearly as good if it hadn’t been for the support and friendship I have received from you. I thank you for this from the bottom of my heart.

In my dream life, I would be a full-time knitting designer, fully immersed in the art of knitting and sharing that dream. However, from what I have seen and learned over the past few years, it takes a certain life circumstance for that to become a reality for most people.  Importantly, you need to have a financial backer (usually, one’s partner from one I can see!) to cover one’s life necessities while the business is growing into a going concern. This scenario is most likely never going to be mine, and I have to be realistic about ensuring some security around the rest of my life. Hence the pragmatic return to my former career.

This is by no means the end, and I do not regret for one moment, the risk I took to delve into knitting in a deeper way. Quite apart from the richness of human interaction (which is sadly lacking in a corporate environment), I also got to learn in an unfettered environment, I found freedom and the ability to create – independently of any rules or structure.  And I was able to live the life I wanted. It has been soul-restoring. This has been worth more to me than any money in the world. I also got to be closer to my son that I ever would have been otherwise, and that too, is worth more to me than any money in the world.

I am still knitting furiously in my free moments (another reason I am not writing as much) and would love to keep sharing bits of my life with you here. It just may not be as frequently as before. You’ll see I am reasonably good at keeping up on Instagram, mainly because it’s a very quick process to take a photo and say a few words – I would love to see you over on that forum too!

Now, what has happened with my knitting since I last wrote? There have been a few socks.

But as you can see, my usual output has been somewhat diminished.

I did make a start on the shawl I spoke about last time, but I am not in the mood for blue hands at the moment. The naturally dyed indigo based yarn I chose leaches blue on to your skin like nothing on earth, and perhaps in another head space I would be able to cope with it, but not right now. So today, I decided to frog it and use this instead:

anna-gratton-wool-silk-mohair-in-forest

It is going to be beautiful. It’s Anna Gratton Wool/Silk/Mohair blend in Forest.

I am on a bit of a shawl bender to be honest. Once I have got my Christmas sock knitting out of the way, or maybe after I finish Regenerate (using Anna Gratton’s Forest colourway above), I already have the next shawl’s yarn all ready to go:
supplejack-yarns

I am fairly sure this will be Supplejack. I’m using Tanis Fibre Arts Blue Label in Lotus, Dark Harbour Yarn Port in Limey and Ruataniwha Dye Studio 100% merino in Spruce.

And maybe the one after that…

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This one is also Mary-Anne Mace‘s fault. That woman just cannot stop producing the most breathtakingly beautiful shawl patterns… this yarn is earmarked to be Spring Creek, or maybe the newest pattern that she has designed that is still in testing. There will be time to decide. The yarn is also Dark Harbour Yarn Port in the Fairwater colourway. The light grey is also Dark Harbour Yarn Port but I have lost the label and cannot remember what the colour was called.

That’s the great thing about knitting. So much creative potential, so much to knit!  Just a pity there is so little time…

Wishing you a good run-up into the Christmas season. What are your plans? I for one, am much looking forward to my firm’s annual three week break over the Christmas and into 2017. It will be good to relax, enjoy family and friends, and knit, knit, knit!

 

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Unexpectedly

Hello!

I have been unexpectedly absent from the blog for a couple of weeks due to coming down with the flu, a family vacation and some very busy times at work. It’s good to be back chatting with you!

We had an all-siblings and family get together to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. These photos are taken at Mount Maunganui (or looking across from Tauranga to Mount Maunganui) and are my teenage stomping grounds. It was lovely to be on the beach again, feeling the sand under my toes. It was a contrast to Wellington beaches which are mostly rocky, with their own kind of wild beauty. Very different in character to the gentle, soft sand beaches I grew up on.

You can see larger images of these pictures by clicking on them.

Some knitting has been done, but not much, sadly.

I was unusually sick with the flu for several days, which even affected my ability to knit. (Fortunately, I was able to recover enough to attend my family gathering). And work has also eaten significantly into my spare time recently.

These projects cover the last two weeks – the cardigan is a Drops pattern that I am modifying as I go. I do not fancy the extended garter lapel in the front, so I will keep it straight edged. The cardigan has enough width without me needing to any extra stitches. I also plan to knit plain sleeves so that the overall effect is not too lacy. The yarn is very special Madelinetosh Pashmina in Tart. A generous gift from a very loving knitting friend.

The socks on the top are the finished  V-Junkie socks, knit in Knitsch 100% merino sock, and the bottom pair are a plain vanilla pair worked in two colours. I used a now-discontinued indie dyer’s high twist merino sock yarn. They are the first contrasting toe/heel/cuff socks I have made, and I am quite pleased with how they have turned out! They are also an effective way to use up those partial balls of sock yarn that aren’t quite enough to knit a pair of socks out of. I used approx 30gm of contrast sock colour and 60gm of the main colour.

One of the unexpected delights of the new place I am living in is the profusion of flowers that bloom in spring. I leave you with a small montage of some of the prettiness I see every day. It gladdens my heart – I hope to share a small piece of that joy with you.

My father and I were having a discussion one day about plants, and gardens, and the simple pleasures of enjoying a piece of freshly picked fruit, or delight in a gorgeous bloom. He made the observation that the tree or plant you put in the ground is a gift to future generations, and that we are but temporary custodians of their fruit and beauty. Wise words indeed. Such a simple act of planting can so powerfully contribute to someone’s future quality of life. After all, if it wasn’t for the efforts of previous people who lived in this house, I would not have all this loveliness to enjoy now. I shall look after this garden, and add to it, so that others can continue to enjoy it long after we are gone.

A happy weekend to you, and Happy Knitting!


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The small things

Hello! I hope you are enjoying a relaxing weekend.

It has been an extremely busy couple of weeks for me and the busy-ness is not likely to stop for a while.   I have taken on a new position at work with much more responsibility (it is a temporary role, which I am not ungrateful for). Not much knitting time was to be had, so I am focusing on small things at the moment. I find the ability to finish something does help with lessening stress levels and keep the happiness in knitting.

The first was the Jackyll and Hide balaclava for the young man. He is very pleased with it. The pattern is very clever how it can fold up to become an ordinary hat. This was knitted in lovely aran style Maniototo Wool in the Matai colourway. It is a beautiful, warm orange. He has been wearing it constantly since I finished it (hat-style, in case you are wondering!)

The second lot of things I finished were a couple of pairs of tiny fingerless gloves for my nieces (3 – 5 yrs).  I discovered that fingerless gloves for kids are a great way to use up sock yarn scraps! The pattern I used is my Adorable Kids Fingerless Mitts pattern. I have fiddled with the pattern some more, and have updated it – available at the link if you’d like it.

This weekend, I decided to put my head down and finish that new sock pattern I have been working on for a few weeks.

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These are the Train Knitting socks. I started them when I was having to take the train to work. I was getting bored with knitting plain vanilla socks, but needed something that I could still knit without having to refer to a pattern much. I think the little windows in the socks are much like the flashing windows of a train as it travels along the tracks.

I will launch this as a new pattern in September to kick-start my contribution to the Socktober festivities happening over on the Carolina Fiber Girls’ podcast (the short answer is that I’m going to have a 40% discount on all my sock patterns from 15 September – 31 October). The yarn is Meraki Studio‘s sock base in a very pretty colourway called Tip Toeing Fairies.

I have used deep stash for this week’s new projects.

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The grey alpaca/polwarth blend is from the South Island by a producer who no longer makes their own yarn. It is on its way to becoming a Braidsmaid.

The socks are two part-balls that I decided to combine into a sock with contrasting heels, toe and cuff. I haven’t actually knit a pair of socks like this before, but am loving how the two colourways are working together. The yarn is the work of the lovely James, who sadly no longer dyes.  I do so miss it.

Some of the prettiness that is showing up in my garden – Spring is not far away, although it feels like winter has only just started. I am looking forward to seeing the apple, plum and peach trees burst into blossom.

spring flowers.jpg

Happy Knitting!

 

 


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Why she knits

A long time ago (maybe nine years ago), a certain person fell in love with knitting.  It wasn’t that she hadn’t knit before, but this time, after many years’ break, it was different.  Knitting became her constant companion. Consequently, there has hardly been a day when she hasn’t spent some time knitting (the days that did not involve knitting were due to flu days where nothing was possible except to lie in bed and sleep).

She loved knitting and everything associated with knitting.  The yarns.  The colours.  The stitches. The techniques.  The tools.  The history.  The people she met.  The animals.  The sheep that the yarn came from.  Especially the sheep.  Everything was so exciting and new and interesting!

Coloured sheep closeup

At first, she thought that she would only ever knit scarves.  That did not last long, as she branched into knitting clothes for her children and nieces.

A cheeky monkey in fingerless gloves

Eric's slippers

 

Woody sweater

She discovered New Zealand makers of knitting yarn – whom she realised did not have a high market presence (but totally deserved better).  Having a deep interest in sustainability, she wanted to support them and especially to support the wool industry in New Zealand, which appeared to be suffering a lack of appreciation.

Awakeri Woolcraft yarns

Zealana Heron

Anna Gratton Chili Chocolate

So she began to blog, and somehow, ended up designing small accessories to support the yarns she loved, and an even deeper element to knitting opened up.

Fair isle hat

Living and breathing all the aspects of knitting – the doing, the writing, the learning, the reading, the seeing, feeling, knowing, sharing – her appreciation of knitting and levels of happiness increased ten-fold.

Leighlinbridge Aran

After declaring that she’d never have the patience to knit socks, one day she decided to try.  She discovered that her earlier decision was a mistake.  It’s a neat trick to take a small amount of stitches, design it to fit a small part of the body, and turn it into a package of cuteness. There are limitless ways this can be done, and entire universe of knitting just in this one small garment!  Much enjoyment is now being had in knitting ALL the SOCKS!

Fire Flowers socks

Twisted Flower socks

After many troubled episodes of failure, she swore that she would never be able to understand how to knit lace.  One day, she got tired of looking on in envy at the stunningly beautiful things that others were making.  So she bothered to take time to learn, and found that she could indeed knit lace. It was a great moment of triumph.

Golitha Falls Shawl 3

Nowadays, she takes great pleasure in creating the beauty of lace.

Lilli Pilli

Knitting has been long spoken of as a form of meditation.  The act of meditation quiets the brain, calms the heart, and stills the nerves.  The meditator focuses only on the act of meditation.  In the case of the knitter, this is her knitting.  It works.  It calms, soothes, relaxes (most of the time).  This is an extremely important need in our everyday busy lives and is a source of great comfort in times of stress.

The act of creating something beautiful acts as reassurance that something meaningful can come out of a life that is sometimes in disarray.  It also creates joy, and a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Knitting provides so many opportunities to learn:  about everything associated with knitting! Each area can encompass years of learning before mastership:  techniques – cables, colourwork and lace, different knitting styles and finishing techniques; yarns – how the animal or plant is farmed, how the fibre is harvested, how its made into yarn, how different spin affects garment performance,  how different fibres are suitable for different purposes, how the treatment of the fibres affects garment performance; colour – dyeing; different garment construction and design, the list is virtually endless.  It’s a universe of learning and fulfilment that could fill one’s days to the end of time.

And so it does.  She wakes up thinking of knitting, spends the day knitting as much as possible, and falls asleep at night, gazing at her beautiful collection of yarns, dreaming about what she will make from them when the time comes… to knit.

 


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The flipside

It’s used extensively in Asian cuisine, and its cultivation is a major industry in many Asian countries.  Ancient cultures all over the world made good use of it as a food source.

Nowadays, we know it as a primary ingredient in sushi, the source of agar jelly, and the ‘gum’ used as a thickening agent in a lot of foods, even in ice cream.

Perhaps a little less known is its use in cosmetics, fertilisers and medicine.

It comes in an incredible variety of shapes, colours and forms.  What am I talking about?

Bet you’ve already guessed: it’s seaweed.

Under the sea

We really should not call it a ‘weed’.  The very name connotes something not useful, a nuisance that should be eliminated.  Actually, it has a lot of uses and valuable properties, apart from being a very tasty and nutritious food.  Sea plants would probably be a better word?

Because I spent many years living in Asia, I got to appreciate how delicious seaweed can be.  Some of my favourite food is seaweed salad, seaweed soup and nori sheets. Seaweed in noodle dishes, and as an additional ingredient with mussels, cooked in a broth of butter, garlic and white wine, is truly scrumptious.  You can even bake fish in kelp pockets.  I once had a fresh seaweed salad in a Japanese restaurant, made from at least four varieties of seaweed.  Not only was it very attractive, but it tasted like nothing I had ever eaten (not at all like the often highly coloured green stuff in supermarkets labelled “seaweed salad”), with incredible textures and subtle flavours, and lovely tangy little bursts of seawater that exploded your mouth every so often when I bit into one of the tiny “floats”.  I’ve only ever found it that once, even though I excitedly pored over the menu of all Japanese and Korean restaurants I visited after that, looking for the same dish.  I think I am quite happy to eat only seaweed, and not fish!

I wonder why we treat our approach to the sea so differently to land?  On land, we have learned that it is not a good idea to upturn an entire forest, just to get at the birds and animals living in it.  We no longer wide scale hunt wild creatures for food, having learned that it is better to farm them (besides the point that there just aren’t enough wild animals left in the world to eat).  We know that it is better for our health to consume more fruit and vegetables, and limit our protein intake.

But when it comes to the sea, we continue to hunt the last vestiges of the large wild creatures of the sea, we continue to trawl the sea bottom, destroying what has taken years to grow, and all the ecosystems associated with it. And in proportion, largely ignore the plant life, its health benefits and fast growing, sustainable and portable properties, in favour of the fast-diminishing, protein-based creatures that inhabit it.

See the fish?

If I was a clever fishing company, I think that about now, I’d be thinking of what I could do to diversify, to enable my business to continue growing in the future.  You only need to visit an Asian food store or restaurant to see the potential of seaweed, and what delicious foods you can make with it…

Seaweed

In fact, from what I have read, there are moves afoot to develop the seaweed industry in New Zealand, particularly karengo, which is the New Zealand equivalent of nori.

Most New Zealand seaweed is edible, including the varieties you see pictured here.  I haven’t yet tried Neptune’s necklace (below), but the red seaweed above is absolutely delicious – it tastes like the sea vegetable version of mussels.  I rinsed it in clean water and ate it raw.  Yum!  The eldest boy told me I was a freak.  Hehe!

Neptune's necklaceA seaweed I have long been curious to try is sea lettuce.

ulva LactucaI grew up in Tauranga, where it is very abundant and becoming quite a pest.  When I was a girl, large blooms were commonly associated with sewage run-off, so I was never really tempted to eat it.  Nowadays, research indicates that the weather is blamed for its abundance, instead of pollution (although excess nutrients in the water do contribute to enhanced growth).  But imagine if instead of the bloom being seen as a nuisance, its advent was welcomed with annual excitement, and it was harvested with abandon to be made into tasty food!? Maybe even a seaweed festival coming out of it?  Instead of people groaning at the cost to ‘clean it up’, there would be people paying money to have a permit to harvest it!

Ulva lactuca

Seaweed is not only tasty, but it has excellent health benefits. In New Zealand especially, we should be eating more of it – seaweeds are rich in the minerals that are deficient in New Zealand soil.

I believe that with proper care and management of our oceans, we can continue to enjoy the bounteous wonders and flavours of the sea.  We just might have to cultivate our palates a little more, to make room for yet more delicious flavours and textures!

As you might have guessed, this post is also the introductory thought behind my latest design.  Watch out for the Ulva Lactuca shawl pattern tomorrow – my Christmas present to you. 🙂

Shawl

I came across some very interesting sites about seaweed when I was researching for this article. Have a look at some of these links to find out more fascinating facts about, and recipes for seaweed:

http://www.oceanvegetables.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/21/superfood-seaweed-health-benefits_n_3786076.html

http://www.seaweed.ie

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaweed

http://marinelife.about.com/od/marinelife101/tp/algaehumanuses.htm

http://www.itmonline.org/arts/seaweed.htm

http://www.therural.co.nz/hunting-and-fishing/coastal-survival-eating-seaweed

http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/seaweed


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Knitting a bat

While we were in the shop picking up some Halloween decorations last week, the young boy spotted a ‘make your own kit’.

The kit“Ooh, mum!, can we get this!?” he asked excitedly.

” Yes, as long as you do it yourself – it’s your kit, OK?”

“OK!”

We got home.  The kit instructions proved completely indecipherable.   Even I could not make head or tail out of them.  Undeterred, I looked up YouTube, and found a great tutorial on loom knitting.

I got him started, and he was off!

He knits!The next day, he’d finished!  Here he is, binding off…

At this point, I got a bit jealous.  Someone in the house was knitting, and it wasn’t me! 😦  There was housework to be done, and all I could do was watch from the sidelines!

Sewing upSewing up the looped rope into a coil.

StickingSticking all the bat bits on to the coil.

Et voila!Et voilà!  It is done!  He was very possessive over this and refused to let me help at all.  (I was secretly quite proud).

In fact, he was so happy with his efforts that he prompted started an orange coil to make a pumpkin.   The pumpkin is finished, and now he’s on to a multicolour coil.

It’s quite funny having a knitting companion on the house…