Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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Waiting for Rain and Light Gale

As I was typing this header, it occurred to me that both my recent Finished Objects are about the weather. Isn’t that funny!

Here are Light Gale and Waiting for Rain.

A bit about both:

Light Gale

I used The Wool Company’s Utiku Merino Possum in the Mink colourway.

As noted in my last post about this pattern, I certainly did not need 1,400 yards noted in the pattern.  Knitted in the smaller size, I used 362 gm, which is the equivalent of 795 metres, or 869 yards. (That’s 3.6 balls of the merino possum yarn in case you are wondering.)

The pattern itself could have included a schematic.  I find them very useful so I can adjust sizing easily if necessary.  I also like charts, and find written instructions difficult for pattern repeats, so I charted out my own, and that made it much easier to work out the stitch pattern quickly.

I did not do a tubular cast on or cast off. Instead, I used a long tail cast on, and cast off using my own half-stretchy bind-off method.

Alicia used a stockinette style decrease, which contrasts against the purl background of the body.  I chose not to do that, and reversed the shaping instructions (P2tog and P2togtbl) so that the shaping was invisible.

I did not put on a button, but just sewed a join into the two sides.

The rest of the pattern was knit as instructed.

I love possum yarn.  See the soft, fluid drape of the fabric, and the warm, snuggly halo that develops after blocking.  Besides pure wool, it is my next favourite medium to work in. It does not pill, it is surprisingly hard wearing, and it stays looking beautiful for years and years. (Note that recycled possum yarns can be less hard-wearing.)

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Waiting for Rain

This is such a sweet pattern. I used Anna Gratton’s silk/mohair/wool mix which she has unfortunately since discontinued.  It gives a beautiful organic texture to knitting.

Anna Gratton silk/mohair/wool

I wanted my Waiting for Rain to be organic looking, and I was pleased that the yarn I chose has definitely given the desired effect.

I did not change anything about the pattern.

The only thing I would say is that I am not 100% happy with my bind off and the edging.  It is a tiny bit tight for my liking, not enough to be a real issue, but just enough to make me think “hmm.”  I did use the lace bind off recommended by Sylvia, but as I have noted before, my bind off is always very tight for some reason, so I may have to look into a further adaptation of this method to work for me.

There is a lot of knitting news to talk about this week, so I think I will break this week’s postings into two.  Watch out for another one from me tomorrow about future projects!

I’m going to be examining three swatches. And trying to decide which one to use for this.

Have a happy and great weekend!

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A yarny update

Hello!  Happy Weekend!

Well, it has been an interesting few weeks on the knitting front, and I thought it is about time we talked about happy knitting news!  In short order, the highlights have been as follows:

  • I started my contract (hooray! Not knitting, but I thought I’d mention it.  I’m really enjoying being there too).
  • I finally found a heel for Mary Mary that I like and importantly, that other knitters will like (currently feverishly knitting the 3rd sample of Mary Mary that includes the new heel).
  • Very excitingly, I received some Yarn!
  • Feedspot nominated Kiwiyarns Knits among the Top 100 Knitting Blogs for Knitters and Crocheters!  I was a bit leery when I received the news, thinking it was spam, but having checked it out, and seeing what good company I keep, I’m really happy about this nomination!  This is very much thanks to all of you who read my blog.  Thank you very much for reading!
  • Designing is finally happening again, to great happiness.

So let’s get into details.  First up, The Yarn!

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This is a glorious bundle of squish – New Zealand made yarns compliments of Naturally Yarns, sent to me for review. Lucky me!

I haven’t yet had a chance to get into them properly, but I hope to have time to do that in the next couple of weeks. Here’s a very quick look at them for the time being:

Otira (40% NZ Merino/ 35% Tencel/ 25% Possum)

This new yarn was released in February.  Having read about the unenvironmentally-friendly manufacturing methods for bamboo and rayon fibre, I was concerned about the environmental friendliness of the Tencel content. However, this article from Ecomall has assured my fears that of any manmade fibre, Tencel is probably the best choice.

Tencel is the brand name for lyocell produced by Lenzing AG.  Lyocell is a fibre made from wood.  It is important to note that it’s the brand Tencel, manufactured by Lenzing AG that has been given this approval from environmental agencies, and not all lyocell.

Lenzing AG, which owns the Tencel brand, undertakes extremely careful manufacturing methods to prevent harmful chemicals from entering the environment in the manufacture of Tencel.  In addition, the wood it sources all comes from sustainable sources. Here’s another interesting article I read from OrganicClothing.blogs.com if you would like to know more about Tencel and production processes surrounding this brand.

Amuri (75% Pure NZ Merino, 25% Possum)

I have not yet knitted with this possum blend yarn.  It is the most halo’y of all the possum blends I have come across and has an interesting single ply construction that looks like the wool was softly felted.  It will be interesting to see how it performs!

Waikiwi (55% NZ Merino, 20% Nylon, 15% Alpaca, 10% Possum)

Billed as a sock yarn, I haven’t yet knit a sock out of this yarn, so it will be interesting to do some intensive swatching!

Harmony 8 ply (100% New Zealand merino wool)

Again, a very interesting single-ply, felted construction.  This yarn is available in 8 ply and 10 ply natural shades (not completely naturally coloured, as the natural wool is colour adjusted with dye to keep it consistent from season to season), in colour, and in tweed.  It’s incredibly squishy and I have to admit, is the first of the yarns to be put on the swift to be balled ready for knitting!

Most of the colours shown above are from their range of new colours out this season.

Also, you will soon get a chance to win this beautiful skein on Circus Tonic Handmade Revelry Sock:

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Hannah and I have been talking bird colours.  I asked if she would be interested in doing an interview on Kiwiyarns Knits, and she very kindly said yes!  She is one of the most amazingly generous people I have met – she decided to also include a skein of a custom-dyed sock yarn as part of our interview.  This colourway is called Silvereye (also called White-Eye or Wax-Eye) – inspired by the adorable little bird that can be found in both Australia and New Zealand.  The image of a Silvereye below is taken from Ordinary Goodness’s delightful blog which features a lot of New Zealand birdlife.  I know the Lynley wouldn’t mind if I used her photo.  Thanks Lynley!

Watch out for our interview soon.  I’ll also be giving away a free copy of my new sock pattern, Mary Mary.

I have also been working with Mary at Maniototo Wool to design a child’s poncho.  Here’s a sneaky peek:

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I’m really glad that I got a chance to work with Mary on this design.  I’ll show it in full detail when the pattern is complete.  The DK yarn in particular is delightful to work with and I’m very excited to use more of it in future designs!

As you can see, there is quite a backlog of things to catch up on, so now that life is “somewhat” on a more even keel, there should be some interesting reads to be had in the near future!


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Hug

You may recall I was knitting a pair of socks as part of my review of Zealana’s first sock yarn, Cozi.

I knitted them using a pattern that I had in my head for a while – progress on these socks was fast, the yarn eager to become deliciously warm socks for my feet.  🙂

Illusion socks in Cozi

Did I mention that Cozi produces a sock that gently hugs the foot?  That elasticized yarn really does live up to its stretchy name!  I thought that quality would be nice as a name for these socks.

Illusion socks

I loved the cabling detail and how well the stitches showed up, despite the halo of the possum fibre – these socks were going to be an awesome pattern!
Illusion 5

This pair of socks weighed 80gm together (40g each) which is a total meterage of 272m (297y).  By way of reminder, each 50g ball of Cozi has a meterage of 170m/186yd. The meterage is interesting.  Cables usually eat yarn, and there are two panels of cabling on each sock, yet the meterage was still less than Bark which took 320m (350y) and are in a stitch pattern that is equivalent to stockinette.  The heavier strand does mean that you need less yarn to knit a pair of socks.  This should mean that even people with largish feet will get a simple pair of socks out of two balls. I used 2.5mm needles, which I mentioned previously creates a beautiful dense fabric and is a better match for this thicker sock yarn than the finer needles.

Although heavily cabled, these socks did not need more stitches to cast on than a plain vanilla sock in equivalent size.  This would mean that if you are planning to knit a plain vanilla sock, a good idea would be to cast on at least 4 to 6 stitches less than you normally would or the sock will be too big.

Coal and Hug

I was going to turn these socks into a pattern, but there is something about them that is not balanced enough.  The cable panels aren’t quite doing what I want them to do.  I think they are incredibly sweet (if I may say so myself!), but I am going to take these back to the drawing board and revise the pattern.  In the interim, I thought you might enjoy hearing a bit more about Zealana Cozi!


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COZI by name, Cosy by nature

Last week, a little package of sock yarn delight arrived in the mail courtesy of Zealana.  It made me extremely happy.

Zealana Cozi

Peppermint colourway

My fellow knitters, I am excited to introduce COZI, Zealana’s first sock yarn!

Cozi has been anxiously anticipated by me for what seems like at least a year, ever since I heard a little whisper that there was going to be a Zealana sock yarn. The wait has been torturous!!  I am not sure the yarn lasted an hour after arriving in my house before it was doing its thing on my eager needles!

Cozi is every bit as lovely as I hoped it would be.  Zealana’s aim is to make amazing yarn, and they have done it again with Cozi, producing one of the most interesting sock yarns to enter the market this year! Let’s have a closer look to see why!

Cozi is made from 58% merino, 15% New Zealand brushtail possum down, 5% baby alpaca and 22% nylon (2% of that is elastic nylon). This creates a yarn that feels luxuriously special, is very soft and yet durable.

The yarn had me smiling all over from the moment I cast on.  It is a beautifully plump, cohesive strand, with the most surprising spring and just the right amount of ‘squish’ factor.  Knitting with it, you quickly develop a smooth rhythm and even tension as the yarn slides easily over the needles and sits nicely in hand.

Construction

The tight twist and finely balanced combination of fibres has created a smooth strand that holds together very well.  I am very good at splitting yarn whilst knitting, yet I experienced only one incident of a strand not making it onto the loop with its siblings – a record for me, and a testament to the good construction of Cozi.  There is also no shedding of fibre as you knit.

Zealana Cozi sock yarn

Currant colourway

All Zealana yarns are constructed thoughtfully, and Cozi is no exception.  If  you have knitted with a possum sock yarn before, you are likely to have found it lacks much spring.  Cozi is different.  It is delightfully springy!  Jimad Khan, Marketing Manager at Zealana, tells me that using Zealana’s unique finishing technique, the 4 ply yarn was semi-felted around an ultra-fine texturised nylon filament (elastic nylon). This elastic nylon amplifies the spring from the twist by adding extra recovery to the fabric.  Add to this the qualities of possum down (softness and warmth and reduction of pilling) merino wool (body, spring and all of wool’s wonderful properties), baby alpaca (more softness and warmth) and nylon (for strength), and you get a super cushiony fabric which is soft, warm, light, comfortable to wear and adorably hugable – all trademark qualities of Zealana yarns.

High twist

Close-up of the high twist in Cozi.

I was initially concerned that the high nylon content would impact the feel of the yarn.  I’m not a fan of yarns where you can feel that nylon squeak.   My fears were at once pacified when I got hold of the yarn.  None of the beautiful feel of natural wool, alpaca and possum has been compromised at all.

I was very interested to see that the merino wool used in this yarn has not been superwash treated.  This aspect has also contributed to the spring and body in Cozi because the merino wool has lost none of its super springy characteristics.  I also like the implied environmental benefits of not using strong chemicals to treat the wool.  Jimad also told me that a higher micron merino wool was used, which should make it a more robust yarn.  The benefit gained in fabric texture and overall sock durability as a result far outweighs the traditional expectation of machine washability.  Given the nylon content, it is not likely that this yarn will shrink easily.  I am a reasonably careless washer of my hand knits and wash my possum garments (none of which are technically machine washable) on the handwash cycle using cold water. They always come out without mishap.  The same will apply to garments in this yarn.

Another side benefit of this beautifully textured yarn is that there is a bit more surface tension happening in the knitting than in most sock yarns.  If you happen to accidentally drop a stitch, you will find it sits meekly where you left it, waiting for you to pick it up, as opposed to naughtily running a couple of rows down like a few other sock yarns I know…

Gauge

Cozi has been made heavier (meaning, fatter) than most sock yarns.  At its recommended 28 sts/40 rows over 10cm/4 inches, (7 sts to 2.5cm/one inch) it sits on the outer edge of a typical sock yarn gauge.  Experienced socks knitters will recall that the standard sock gauge is usually closer to 32 sts/48 rows over 10cm/4 inches (8 sts to 2.5cm/one inch).  The heavier weight of the yarn has also influenced the meterage:  each 50g ball has only 170m (186y).  Many sock yarns are closer to 180m (200y) and above per 50g.  With 22% nylon and 15% possum down (both very light fibres) in the mix, you would expect more yardage in the ball – obviously, the extra weight has gone into a bulkier strand.

Because Cozi is a sock yarn on the heavier end of the spectrum, I strongly recommend experimenting with 2.5mm to 2.75mm needles when you first knit with this yarn to avoid extreme discomfort when knitting.  My own sock in Cozi is knitting at 32 sts over 10cm (8 sts to one inch) using 2.5mm needles, which I find is creating a very dense fabric and sits on the outer edge of my knitting comfort tolerance.  Even though the yarn itself may be comfortable to knit, if you create a fabric where the gauge is too tight, this can be very uncomfortable to knit as it becomes a struggle to manipulate the needles correctly.  I am surprised that despite using a larger needle than recommended, my gauge is still smaller than the indicated gauge, but this should mean that you will be able to get reasonably good results with most sock patterns that call for a yarn with average sock weight.  Zealana’s website recommendation for this yarn of 2.25 – 3.25mm is a good indicator of needle size range.

Bloom

The possum fibre in this yarn does not make itself fully known until after you start knitting, and creates just the gentlest haze over the fabric surface.  Zealana has cleverly used possum down in this yarn, the same possum down as used in their very coveted AIR range.  It creates a yarn with a very fine halo that is barely noticeable yet feels wonderfully soft to brush your fingers over it.

You never know how much a possum yarn will bloom until you wash it though.  Here is a comparison between a sock that has been soaked in warm water and a not-yet-washed sock.

Washed and unwashed sock

In reality, there is not much visual difference at all, apart from the washed sock (on the right) looking more ‘finished’ than the unwashed sock.  However, wet blocking (ie. washing) has brought the possum down to the surface, and the gentlest soft-focus haze covers the knitting.  My stitches have also evened out nicely.

I decided to tempt fate and used warm water to soak this sock (the ball band recommends cold washing).  It has not affected size at all.  However, if you were to put your socks in the handwash cycle of a machine, I would recommend sticking to the cold wash recommendation.

Here’s a closer look at the washed sock:

Washed sock

And the yet-to-be washed sock:

Unwashed sock

Uses

Cozi produces superb stitch definition and would suit any pattern that uses gansey-style stitch patterning, knit/purl combinations or cables.  You could get a lace pattern with reasonable amounts of stockinette to work but I’d be cautious about using it for anything too intricate.

Cozi was so compulsive to knit that I finished one sock in a weekend.  Slipping it on, I discovered another little secret to the elasticated yarn:  it creates a sock that really hugs your foot!  It felt like a warm, gentle embrace and most definitely cosy!  I did not want to take it off!

Although designed specifically for socks, the yarn’s great stretch recovery means that it would make amazingly cosy gloves and hats as well, and I can even imagine stretchy baby garments in this yarn.

Pricing

Sitting in Zealana’s cost-effective Artisan range, Cozi retails at NZ$14.50 a ball.  Given that the yarn contains 15% possum down, I’d say this is pretty good value.  It compares very favourably against other possum sock yarns in the market.

Conclusion

I think it is safe to assume that Cozi will take its place as one of the ‘must haves’ in the stash of any hard-core sock knitter.  Will I personally be knitting with this yarn again?  You bet!!  In fact, I was so anxious about using up the balls I received from Zealana, that I promptly ordered more online from Mynx!  I am yet to see this yarn listed at any of my local yarn stores, but I doubt that will be the case for much longer.

I can see much knitting of Cozi socks (and gloves, and hats) in my future!

 

 

 

 


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At last.

Before we get started with today’s post, I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has donated funds or bought patterns for donation of the proceeds to the Nepal earthquake relief efforts!  You are all amazing! 🙂

This week, I decided to ignore my compulsion to cast on all the things, and instead focused on finishing some of the things!

Robin

Pinch me!  It’s finished!  Here is Robin, all done.  One word:  Love.

I was embarrassed to note that the start date on my Ravelry project page shows it has taken me nearly a year to complete!  I blame the stocking stitch island – the project sat unloved in my basket for quite a few months.  As much as I love this sweater, and am so happy to be wearing it, I think this will be the last all-over stocking stitch garment that I consciously decide to knit.   The result is great, but the process of getting there was decidedly not.  Having said that, I suspect stocking stitch sweaters are akin to giving birth – you swear at the time that you will never do that again, only to find that the pain is quickly forgotten at the thought of another adorable baby coming into your life.  I can say that because I have given birth.  Three times.

Grumbling aside, I Love this Sweater and it is going to get a very good amount of use.  I would attribute 70% of my happiness in this sweater to the yarn:  I chose to make it in Zealana Kiwi, a beautiful blend of organic cotton/brushtail possum/NZ merino –  one of my favourite yarns of all time! The colourways are 14 Majestic (darker purple, main body) and 06 Papura (lighter, finer stripe).  The yarn feels like your favourite pair of well-loved jeans that have been worn to death and are oh-so-comfortable.  Gently heathered from the different take-up levels of dye by the three fibres in this yarn, it also gives the garment what I would call a gracefully faded look. It’s my thing!

Zealana Kiwi never pills, wears like iron and does not go out of shape.  I can wear this sweater without fear of it being overly ‘precious’ to look after.  Kiwi has the softness and comfort of cotton, which makes this yarn perfect to wear against the skin, but blended with the warmth of wool and possum fibre. It is also (as you can see) not fluffy at all, and in fact, it is impossible to see that it is contains possum. As I write, I am wearing it with a merino base layer but as you can see below, I can discard the base layer when the temperature is warm, and still feel very comfortable.  Perfect!

In terms of the pattern, there is much that I like about it:  I love the extra fabric at the back.  Very flattering, and it also addresses the terrible discomfort that occurs with shorter sweaters that don’t quite cover the small of one’s back:  cold kidneys!  I love the neckline and the slight dolman sleeves which add to the comfort levels of wearing it.

Being a top-down sweater, there was very minimal finishing involved.  Only the endless ends to weave in from all the stripe changes… 😉

Robin II

Project notes here.  Thanks to the youngest boy for the photos!

This weekend, I also finished the Vest.  I shall tell you about that soon.

 

 

 


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The art of appreciation

I want to start this post by acknowledging your very kind thoughts and wishes and support of the Fire Flowers socks.  It has been very encouraging.  Thank you very much!  It means a lot to me to know that my designs are liked.

Today, I thought I’d talk about a wee situation I have been having stern talks with myself about.

Me1:  “Being saddled to a desk has got to be one of the most effective ways to generate impulse buying.  Up pops an email from a favourite yarn retailer, you see a very pretty yarn looking at you/in a moment of needing some mental relief, one decides to visit a favourite indie dyer, and… oh look!  Such pretty colours!!….and before you know it, out comes the credit card and…”

Me2:  Stop!! Stop!!  This where one needs to look away!!  Close the browser!! Put away the credit card!

Me1:  [Sigh].  “I am feeling virtuous because I did just that, and have saved myself from buying yarn that I do not need.  I have so much yarn now that I really must knit some down before I make any more purchases!  I think it would be an insult to the yarn producer to keep buying and just not make anything from it.  Especially because I love to support independent yarn producers and New Zealand yarn manufacturers of quality yarns.  And support means using and enjoying as much as buying!  This does not stop me from dreaming about more yarn, and coveting more yarn that I see online, but no!  I must be firm, and do more knitting from the stash!”

On this vein, I have been very good and agreed with myself that rather than wanting more yarn, how about using what I already have? Yarn that has already been obtained from coveted suppliers??

Finishing some WIPs would be a good place to start.  I persevered with knitting Imagine When.  Garter stitch is not one of my favourite stitches.  But look, now I have a pretty new shawl to wear!

Imagine When shawl

Such a beautiful colourway!  It is Amazonas from Wollmeise, a beautiful gift from a good friend.

A cute boy decided to do a bit of photo bombing…

Imagine When 2

I haven’t done a great job of following the pattern exactly.  I found that my brain is definitely attuned to reading charts, and following this written pattern was supremely difficult. Too much has been going on and my concentration levels have been focused elsewhere.  Looking at where I deviated from the pattern, I see that it was at the time that I moved house.  It has turned out basically the same, and that will be fine as it is still wearable, and is still in line with the essential parts of the pattern.  No one can tell at all where it is different unless you hold up the project against the pattern picture and compare closely.  But that is not going to happen!  Hehe.  Doesn’t it feel fantastic to get a project off the needles!

Now I am free to focus on The Falls of Rauros.  This is Claire Ellen’s February sock, and it’s another one of her master pieces!  My initial reaction was to choose a blue yarn for this sock, but then I thought about the colour of a waterfall, and it is generally a silver colour.  Like this:

Waterfall

I love the Lord of the Rings references in Claire’s socks.  Living in the land of the Lord of the Rings scenery makes it so easy for me.  😀  So I chose a classic colourway from Knitsch – Silver Lining – for this sock.  Pics will come when there is something to show.

Also, I am going to make a very concerted effort to finish Robin as soon as I can.  It is rumpled from sitting in its project bag, and lacks just a small bit for the hem and sleeves.  I can feel that Autumn is just around the corner, and it would be nice to have a new piece of knitwear to wear this season, especially in Zealana Kiwi!

Robin

Next off the block, I will finish the Leighlinbridge Aran.  As you can see, it is another beautiful possum yarn from The Wool Company.  People tell me it will be cold here in winter.   I do remember seeing much colder night temperatures for the Wairarapa on my weather forecast screen when I lived in Wellington, so I will believe it, despite the fact that the concept of cold seems a distant memory at present.

Leighlinbridge Aran

Such beautiful yarns.  It’s an insult not to finish the project right?