Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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The sweater and other things

It appears that the last time I posted, I was about to knit this sweater:IMG_3343 (800x468)IMG_3335 (800x533)

And as you can see, it is done!  Quite a while ago in fact… I am aware that I have posted about it on Instagram and Facebook, but it seems wrong to have talked about it here, and then not show you the result.  The Wolf River sweater is now a new favourite, and I am extremely happy with the yarn I used, Maniototo Wool. It is light, warm, and delightfully cosy. It’s different to the superwash yarns – which are normally a lot denser. This is an extremely light sweater – I used only 470gms to make it.

I keep looking at the other amounts of Maniototo Wool in my stash, and thinking I must make another thing! Many more things!

Life this year has been extremely busy, stressful, sad, mad, happy, the full spectrum. Lately, there has been more joy than sadness, and that has been good. Some day I will tell you more, but I have been feeling very drained this year, and the words have not come. Hence my silence. I apologise I have been so quiet, and I do thank those of you who have stayed with me, and for your very caring and welcome messages that I have received. The next step, of course, is for me to reply!!

In three weeks, I will not be working for a while, and while that brings a certain level of stress in terms of finding a new source of employment, I have had to bring an end to my current job in order to find balance in my life again. I have come out of my shell a little over the last few weeks and having engaged with knitting friends, found that quite a few of my friends are undergoing the same experience. This year has been tough. For many!  I am looking forward to having ‘me’ time again, and to being able to spend more of it in the world of knitting and with my wonderful knitting friends on both this blog and in person. And to finding a job that I like a bit better.

You ask what I’ve been up to since I’ve posted here last? I have finished quite a few pairs of socks, but the only photos I have are on Instagram – the link in my side bar will give you a peek at what I have been up to if you would like to see!

I did manage to get around to taking some photos of my current main activity. This is the Assana wrap. I’m knitting it in Whimzy Sokkusu (variegated stripe), Tanis Fibre Arts (stone) and Dark Harbour Port yarn (dark blue lace). The colours are very complementary, and I am very excited about adding it to my winter wardrobe!

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My current obsession is this:IMG_3359

I am still playing around with possible colour combinations, but I do so love the muted effect of the speckle yarns in this pattern, and I am determined to try to replicate the general effect in my eventual yarn choices.

There has been a lot of “wishful knitting” happening. By “wishful knitting” I mean the getting out of pretty yarn from the stash, playing around with colour combinations and matching yarn to patterns.  Even if not much actual knitting happens… My living room looks like a yarn explosion has happened…

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I can’t believe it is nearly Christmas. It’s quite exciting in a way. A new year around the corner, new beginnings and new plans… I think it is going to be an eventful year, to say the least!

See you again, soon!

 

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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:

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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:
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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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The cardigan

In a world of knitter’s worst nightmares, the following scenario has to come close to top of the list:  spending hours knitting a garment, laboriously stitching it all together, and then trying it on only to find that it doesn’t fit like you wanted it to.

I was very conscious of this possibility when I set out to knit myself a lightweight cardigan to carry me through Spring and into the early summer months. When I selected the original pattern I didn’t quite notice it had an odd garter stitch panel in the front. Nor did I realise that the shaping wasn’t right for my own body proportions, especially the armhole depth.

The garter stitch panel was easy to adapt – I simply left it off, as the garment was wide enough not to need it. The armholes needed a bit of adaptation. I worked more decreases to make a narrower shoulder, and I increased the length. This was a bit tricky – I think I cast off and then added in more length a couple of times before I decided it was right! The next thing was to sew the shoulders together so I could try it on and make sure that the fit was correct.

Because I had adapted the arm holes, I also needed to work the sleeves a little differently to make sure that they were as deep as the armhole. I also didn’t want three quarter length sleeves, nor did I want lace on the sleeves. The solution was to keep working decreases all the way to the end of the sleeve cap – this seems to have worked.

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Fitting the first sleeve into the cardigan was a good way to work out if I had the proportions right.

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I am checking the length of the sleeve here – it sits just above my wrist, which is a better length for warmer weather.

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The length works well too. I’d like to be able to wear this cardigan with a dress, and I find that dresses need shorter cardigans to look good.

I am also conscious this is a superwash yarn (Madelinetosh Pashmina) and I know it will grow once blocked. It is slightly shorter to accommodate that eventuality as well.

Once the second sleeve is finished, the next step will be to work a neat finish to the neckline, and to add in loops for the buttonholes.  And once blocked, I will finally have a summer cardigan after a couple of years of talking about it!

I am concerned about the large amount of dye that is coming off on my fingers as I knit this garment. Has anyone knitted with this colourway before (Tart) and have you experienced a large amount of colour fade?  Should I be looking at fixing the colour in the first block?  I’d appreciate your advice!

My garden continues to delight in a riot of super strong colours. Whoever planted this garden was a person after my own heart! It is soul restoring to spend a couple of hours pulling weeds and admiring all the new beauties to see in the weekend.

I have no idea what the second plant is called, but the top image is the Aquilegia. I’m so happy to have this flower in my garden again!

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This little flower captured my attention with the leaves echoing the shade of the flower.img_2927-800x449

We also have a regular visitor at the moment – how cute is this kereru, warily watching me from the safety of the pine tree!?img_2934-800x533

I am itching to get back into shawl knitting for some reason. They have been a very useful addition to my wardrobe this winter – they looked nice under a coat and kept me extra warm on the way to the office, but could easily be removed (or put back on) once at work. I continue to ponder yarn and pattern options, although it amuses me to see that I have the exact colours of my garden in my stash…

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I hope you are enjoying your weekend, and finding plenty of time for soul-restoring and relaxing activities.

Happy Knitting!

 

 


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Swan River

Swan River

It appears that I am completely incapable of monogamous knitting at the moment. I “had” to start Swan River this week. It is a pattern from Issue 72 of The Knitter. Time I got some value out of all those magazines that I buy!

It is knitted in Maniototo Wool’s Luxury Lambswool in 4 ply, which Mary very kindly did me a one-off favour by dyeing and selling it me. This weight of yarn is not normally sold by her – she prefers to make it available to indie dyers only.  (She makes the 8 ply and woollen spun aran weight available on her website).

What can I say about this yarn?  Well… I hope that more indie people get their hands on it, because it is truly luxurious and wonderful. It has been spun semi-worsted and at a reasonably tight twist, and it is the slinkiest, softest, most gorgeous yarn I have laid my hands on for some time. Mary really spied a good thing when she found the merino cross fleece that her yarn comes from. And to think that the rest of this wool goes overseas to garment producers!  Lucky us that Mary has been able to obtain some of it for use in New Zealand and by knitters.

I’m hoping there will be enough left over of this yarn to turn into a shawl, because it is perfect for that purpose. In the meantime, I have a great requirement for a lightweight cardigan for use in the office (mostly), and this is what Swan River is going to be.

If you are wondering where you can get your hands on some of the Luxury Lambswool 4 ply, I understand that both Happy-go-knitty and Ruataniwha Dye Studio have got some, and are busy cooking up pretty colours for it as I write. You’ll have to watch their sites for news of when it is available, and when I find out, I will let you know.

I will probably have at least one FO to show you next week because I am making good progress on both Waiting for Rain and Light Gale, which I showed you last week. I won’t bore you with more photos of the same looking WIP!

Autumn came late this year. I leave you with a view of the riot of colour in my backyard at the moment. I’m enjoying the show!

Autumn


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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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Single breed wool in New Zealand

An interesting comment was made yesterday in response to the Wovember post that it was hard to know where to buy single breed wool yarn in New Zealand. This is quite true.  If you are interested in knitting single breed wool in New Zealand, it is often difficult to know where to find it.  As was observed, there are a lot of natural, 100% wool yarns available, but they are often blended yarns, and not of a single breed of sheep.

However, not all is lost!  I have put together a list for you below, detailing what I know about where to find undyed, single breed, pure wool in New Zealand that is also not superwash treated.  Given our relatively recent place in history as an agricultural nation, we do not have the variety of heritage sheep breeds that you can find in the UK. Many of the single breed wools available here are only sold as fleece due to the very small flock sizes.  What I have noted below is a general representation of commercially available single breed yarns in New Zealand:

Maniototo Wool – 100% pure merino crossbred

Skeinz – 100% cheviot (I have blogged about swatching this yarn here)

Skeinz – 100% Polwarth

Skeinz – 100% organic merino 

Skeinz – 100% rare breed merino

Anna Gratton – 100% New Zealand Corriedale.  Available in several shades of natural, undyed yarn, and in several weights (fingering – chunky), as below.  Contact Anna through her Facebook page to obtain.  I have written numerous posts about her gorgeous wool.  My Bedford sweater is made in this yarn, blogged about here. I have now worn it constantly for three years!  And it just gets better and better and better.  It is the classic wool story of wool that continues to develop and age like a great wine, into something utterly amazing as time goes on.

Image courtesy of Anna Gratton

Image courtesy of Anna Gratton

Stansborough – Mithril – 100% Stansborough Grey (Kokako Grey is undyed). This is also available from Holland Road Yarn Company (drop them a note – I have seen it in store this week) and Mynx

Treliske – 100% organic merino

BlackHills – 100% undyed wool yarn, except they don’t say what breed.  I am guessing it is Romney or Romney crossbred.  Very different to anything I have ever tried knitting before.  I’ve mentioned it in the post about swatching Cheviot above.

Briarpatch – 100% organic merino

The Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders’ Association of New Zealand also contains links to other rare breeds in New Zealand, but most of this is fleece.

Hallblacks often has a 100% Romney lambswool (which I am knitting for the Wovember WAL) but they are currently on hiatus.

If you know of any others, I’m all ears!  There is also a very interesting website on rare breeds of sheep (and other animals) that is worth a read if you are keen to know more about this area.