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:

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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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All the socks

This week’s post is all about the Socks.

There have been some happy happenings in the background which I can now tell you about!

June PostStitch Box

I was delighted to be asked to contribute a pattern to PostStitch‘s June SockStitch box.

The yarn this pattern was to go with was the delectable Circus Tonic Handmade Revelry Sock base in Rose Crowned Fruit Dove.  I decided to contribute an entirely new design to this box, the Sassy Socks. These socks were originally a Christmas present for my cousin, who lives in Australia. However, the original socks were too small (I had this mistaken idea that she had tiny feet, which she doesn’t), so I reworked them in a larger size and let PostStitch have use of the pattern for the June box, matched with Circus Tonic Handmade Revelry Sock. This pattern will be available for general release in July, but I understand that sets are still available from PostStitch.

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A KAL

There is an exciting KAL happening over on Aussie Sock Knitters Forum on Ravelry for the month of July.  This KAL is genius – you pick the socks you might want to knit (up to 5) and everyone else votes for the favourite that you will actually knit.

I picked out a few patterns from my (ahem, very long) queue. Please help to decide which of the socks I should knit here. I’d really appreciate some extra votes. At the moment, the favourites are Bordurensocken and Pointelle and votes are neck-to-neck.

I’ve picked out my yarn. If it’s Bordurensocken, I shall use Tanis Fiber Arts Purple Label in Dove, as it is a gorgeous dreamy colour and soft and beautiful, and will match the pattern very well.

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If it is to be Pointelle, I am thinking I’ll use this Whimzy Sokkusu O in Peeta. I may yet change this option. I ordered some yummy looking yarn from OziFarmer’s Market and I may decide to swap it for that yarn assuming it gets here in time for the KAL start in July. I thought I should see about using Australian yarn, given it is an Australian knitters’ group after all!

Pointelle option

I’m looking forward to the start of the KAL and to finding out what the chosen sock is to be!

Yarn finds

I thought I’d finish by showing you some beauties that I have discovered lately:

Ruataniwha Dye Studio

These are gorgeous yarns from Ruataniwha Dye Studio, who is a Kiwi based in Japan.  I adore the subtle colours Steph uses. She’s also going to be stocking Maniototo Wool’s Luxury Lambswool in 4 ply very soon – an indie dyer to watch!

Also, I finally got around to ordering some of Stray Cat Socks‘ new Essential Deluxe (cashmere/merino/nylon base)…

Stray Cat Socks

This is Cinnamon. It is gorgeously soft and luxurious feeling!! I anticipate that it will find its way on to my needles sooner rather than later!

Happy Knitting!


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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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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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A knitter’s Christmas

Christmas 2015

This post is a bit late due to various distractions and interruptions!  Christmas has been lovely.  My sister and family visited, and there was a lot of eating and talking and enjoying the company of family whom I had not seen in over a year.

In the end, I knitted and gifted four hats, two pairs of fingerless mittens, four pairs of socks and a couple of soft toys.  I think they were all well received.

The soft toys are Plants vs Zombie inspired – you can see them in the collage above.  Initially, I knitted only the Pea Shooter because I wasn’t sure if he would like it.  The boy loved it so much that I promptly got an order for the rest of the set! The Frozen Pea Shooter has been finished, and a Sunflower and Repeater remain to be done.  The pattern is free on Ravelry from Ginger Grant – linked to here in case you want to knit your own.  Be aware that there is a small omission in the pattern about when to place the eyes.  I used plastic soft toy eyes and put them in before completing the stuffing on the head.  I also added drinking straws to the stems to strengthen them, and added picot ice crystals on the Frozen Pea Shooter to make it more authentic.

For knitting, I have started a sparkly shawl (Paris Toujours in Skeinz Alpaca Sterling), most likely for me, and a pair of alpaca socks for winter.

Paris Toujours

This yarn was a lovely gift from The Sweaty Knitter, received earlier in the year.  This alpaca sock blend looks like handspun, but it has been commercially spun by a small mill in the United States – it is amazing that you can trace the fleece used in each yarn cake back to an individual alpaca!  The pattern is just a basic ribbed sock that comes from my head.

Alpaca sock

Some amazing gifts were received:

Christmas gifts

I am particularly besotted by the sweater lot of Wollmeise and the lovely bag it came in… 1,500m of pure deliciousness that will be perfect for a lacy cardigan. In addition was more beautiful British wool.  Also from another lovely friend was a very thoughtful gift of some crystals, incense and chocolate. I was thoroughly spoilt!

There may have been some new for-me yarn under the tree as well…
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Hannah of Circus Tonic Handmade is a hive of inspiration.  Every time I look at her etsy site, there are yet more mouth-watering shades of pretty yarn.  Maybe fortunately for my and your pocket, she is now on holiday until 22 January…

Doespins alpaca merino

The very long-awaited Flagstaff Alpaca’s merino/alpaca/nylon sock base finally arrived, and Doe has started to dye it and list it in her etsy shop.  Of course, I had to get some.  In fact, I need to get more of this lovely yarn when I can because this is the very last alpaca yarn that Andy of Flagstaff Alpacas is going to spin, from what I understand due to the closure of the mill where the yarn is made.  I am very sad about that.  There are some very beautiful, masterfully dyed colours in the Doe’s shop.

So that was my knitty Christmas in a nutshell!

I also need to tell you about Charles Gandy‘s visit, which I referred to in my last post.  Charles is a TKGA Master Knitter and fibre artist who amongst other things, knits amazing art socks.  He is author of The Embellished Sock, a book of socks that are knitted art for the foot.  This one is my particular favourites from the book, called Tiptoe Through the Tulip socks.

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Charles told us about his upcoming exhibition “Beyond the Sock” featuring amazing art based around a sock form. None of the socks are meant to be worn, but they look absolutely amazing, and hearing about the process involved in creating the socks was very inspirational.  Those fortunate enough to see the exhibition when it opens at the Bascom later in 2016 will be amazed.  More details are in this link where you can also see a small peek of the exhibition socks and other examples of his work.

Charles showed us a couple of techniques (finger cords and the twist) that he uses one of his other books, commissioned by Regia.  We were lucky enough to be given a booklet each, personally signed by him.  I might just knit one of them for the sheer fun of it!

Charles Gandy socks

As 2016 begins, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!  2015 was a real mixed bag for many of us.  Let’s hope that 2016 perhaps provides a bit of respite.  Let us look for opportunities to nurture our friends and family, show love and find peace.

I’ll be back soon with a small review of the favourite projects of 2015!

Happy Knitting!

 


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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!
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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!