Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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Snuggly

You know how I mentioned in my last post that I was finding the drape-front sweater very boring to knit?  Well, it turns out that all you need is a cold snap in the weather to get it done in record time!

While temperatures are heating up in the Northern Hemisphere, New Zealand had its first polar blast of the season this week, bringing snow storms to the South Island and central plateau of the North (but sadly, not Wellington).  It was bitterly cold.

Yours truly suddenly found that her by-now 30+ inches long sweater-in-progress was an extremely snuggly and very toasty warm possum blanket to hide under while happily knitting away…  it became my favourite project to knit – the perfect insulating layer of warmth between me and the frigid temperatures!

Truly, I did not want it to finish, but here it is, all done:

Click here for my Ravelry notes if you’re interested in the technical bits – I’ve put in some hints about sewing up and the structure of the back which might be of interest.

This has turned out exactly as I thought it would.  It is beautifully silky soft, very warm without being the unpleasant kind of overheated warm and has just the right amount of drape.   It’s one of those sweaters that you want to stroke and cuddle as if it were a furry kitty.

Talking of warm, I was very fortunate to be wearing another pullover knitted with possum yarn at a training course I attended this week.  While everyone else in the room turned blue due to the faulty heating system, I was quietly very snug, and toasty warm, and very thankful for my worsted-weight possum pullover!  I tried not to look too smug.  I wore a chunky weight, colourwork vest in 100% wool (think double-layer chunky yarn) the next day, and even then it was nowhere near as warm as the cosy possum pullover I wore the day before.

I’m very pleased to have another possum addition to my wardrobe.  It’s going to come in handy!

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The wardrobe question

I’m roaring down the track to a finish to my nine week project, and am working simultaneously on several projects at once:

They’re all small, so I figure they’ll be finished quickly.

Which brings me to, when they’re done… what do knit next?

There are a few projects that I have planned, but I’m looking forward to some self-indulgent knitting for a change.  In the background to this photo, you can see Benbecula.  I’ve half-finished it, and now that I have some time for “me” knitting, this will get picked up again.

However, two little questions accompany “what to knit next”.  They are:

1.  Which shawl?

I’ll show you the yarn:

Yes, it’s more of that scrumptious Naturally Aspire, a wool/alpaca mix single spun yarn that has been discontinued this season, but there is still plenty of it to be found in the yarn stores.  I’m combining it with some Araucania Aysen (the yellow/green/brown mix you see) as I think the colours go well together.  It’s going to be a substantial wrap, and I think I’m slowly edging towards doing something like this.

I’m not sure how I will combine the colours yet.  My original intention was striping, but now I’m wondering about intarsia (although this is not my favourite technique).

2.   What garment?

Now that I’m back working in an office, my clothing style has to adjust to suit a corporate environment.  Which means… black…grey…navy…oyster…muted tones…hmm.  Sometimes I wonder if I ever moved out of the school uniform.  More significantly, it means that my wardrobe needs to be once again fairly tailored.

I’ve been looking at patterns to figure out a nice piece that I can knit and wear to the office without it screaming ‘hand knitted’.  I’m not ashamed of my hand-knitted garments, but I do want to wear items that look reasonably professional, and let’s face it, a lot of knitting isn’t designed to look ‘professional’ as in, boring office professional.  Knitting is a fun, relaxing activity, and the patterns designed for knitting reflect this.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at patterns from a new angle.  Flaming June (from the most recent Knitty) looks like a good candidate.  It can be dressed up and dressed down, and it won’t be too warm to wear in a heated office.  If I knit it with something like Zealana Kiwi, it will have a lovely drape and softness, and the colours are very office-friendly.  I feel a trip to the yarn store coming on…

I’ve also been increasingly drawn to Connie Chang Chincho’s new book Textured Stitches.  The Anna Maria cardigan and the Professoressa are both very office-friendly looking.  They’re simple designs but with a nice details that will make them interesting to knit and good to wear.

Looks like I’m not too stumped about what to knit to wear to the office after all!


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Guest slippers

A couple of years ago, my mother was given this pair of slippers as a gift:

This is an amazing way to use up leftover yarn, but unfortunately they weren’t quite to my mother’s taste.  Not only are they of an “interesting” colour choice, but they are also of a version of acrylic that one normally wouldn’t choose to knit with (or wear).  One gets the gist of how she feels about them as they’ve lain around the house unworn, looking forlorn and strange.  Every so often, a visiting family member would come across them and say “What’s that!?”

Anyway, my mother recently asked me if I’d knit another pair just like them, but in a less… colourful yarn combination.  I looked at them, and thought they looked pretty similar to the All-Time Favourite Slippers by Marjorie Moureau that I recently knitted for my son and nieces, so I understood the basic construction. 

Now, the thing about saying ‘yes’ and then going about completing a project is that the two are entirely separate notions.  The first is a “I’m happy to do that for you!” (in a feeling gratified that someone appreciates your knitting skills kind of way), and the second is having to select a yarn

Selecting a yarn is one of the hardest things for me. Usually, I fall in love with a yarn, and then find a project for it.  Which is a much happier set of circumstances for me than being given a project and then having to find the yarn for it. 

This particular project nearly had me all unravelled.  I sat and stared at my yarn collection.  The original pair was in a DK weight.  But DK yarn isn’t really that suitable for slippers.  You need something a little heavier to cushion the feet and insulate them.  But I don’t actually have a lot of chunky weight yarn to choose from.  Which yarn?  Which yarn??? 

The colour was another thing.  It had to be reasonably dark, given it was an article that went on the feet and came in contact with the floor.  But it also had to suit my mother’s colouring (she’s of the blond variety).  And I didn’t want to do them in a natural brown for some reason.  Which would have been the obvious choice…

Also, the yarn had to be reasonably hard-wearing, to withstand the friction of feet on carpet.

So, criteria was: chunky-ish yarn, hard-wearing, something colourful but not garish.  I couldn’t use a normal merino or possum.  It’s too soft, and would develop holes quite quickly.  I couldn’t use a single-spun for the same reason.  And the yarn had to be soft, but not too slippery too.  Gosh.  Was I going to have to purchase yarn for this?  Surely not! 

After staring at, and fondling various possibilities from my yarn collection, I hit upon the idea of using a pure NZ Perendale wool from The Wool Company, and combining it with a sock yarn.   The combination would get me a worsted weight, the sock yarn would give the combination extra strength, and I could inject colour without it being too bright.

Here is my first attempt:

I tried them on.  Gah!!!  I made them too big.  How did that happen?  I thought I measured it all very carefully!

I sat and glared at them for a bit.  My mother’s feet are bigger than mine, but if they were too big for her, I’d never live down her current impression of my knitting, which is that I make everything too large.  Nothing for it but to grit my teeth and make another pair.

Take two:

Much better.  They are, in fact, now a centimetre shorter than the original acrylic version, but as this wool is stretchier, they actually fit just the same.

I hope she likes one of them.  (Crossing fingers madly).  The other pair can be slippers for guests I suppose.  Or maybe my stepfather, if he liked them…

Anyway, I thought that they were actually quite nice, and given that they are sufficiently different to Marjorie Moureau’s pattern, I’ve set out the pattern I worked out below.  I quite like the twisted stitches that give definition to the sole without any fuss.

Yarn:  One DK weight (approx 60g) and one sock (4 ply) weight (approx 40g).  For each DK weight yarn, I chose The Wool Company’s Perendale.  The sock yarn for the first pair (denim DK yarn) is an Italian self-striping sock yarn I got a while ago.  I didn’t keep the label for some reason.  It might have been Filatura di Crosa, but I can’t remember.  The second sock yarn (red DK yarn) is some of Fibre Alive’s gorgeous Merino Mania in the Carnival colourway. 

Needles:  4mm straight needles, and 3.5mm crochet hook

Notions:  2 stitch markers, sewing up needle.

For the bigger size (would fit a women’s UK size 6 – 8 foot (or European size 39 – 43)):

Work with one DK and one sock yarn held together throughout.  Cast on 38 stitches.

WS:  *K 12, P1, (pm) K12, P1, (pm) K12

RS:  K12, (sm) K1 tbl, K12, (sm) K1 tbl, K12*

These two rows make the pattern for the heel section, with twisted stitches marking the sole.  Repeat from * to * until the knitting measures 13 cm ending on a RS.  Now start the front half:

N/R (WS) change to K1, P1 rib across the row.  Knit until ribbing section measures 11cm.

N/R (RS) Start decrease for toe.  K1, K2tog across all remaining stitches, ending with K1.

*N/R K2tog across all stitches.

N/R K one row even.

Make up:  Break yarn, leaving a long length (approx 30cm), then thread through remaining stitches, pull tight, and mattress stitch the ribbing edges together, wrong side facing (this is because you want the seam to show on the outside for the comfort of the foot).  Stop the seam when you reach the garter stitching and fasten the yarn well.  Now fold the cast-on edge of the slippers in half to make the heel and sew edges together.  I again put the seam on the outside, but you can do what suits you.

Now single crochet along the top of the foot with the DK yarn.  Done!

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Variation:  if you don’t fancy single crochet, I recently learned a technique that I thought was rather useful, but I haven’t yet tried out.  These slippers would have been the perfect opportunity, if slow-brains here had thought of it earlier! 

What you do is make a yarn-over after the first knit stitch and before the last knit stitch on each row on the heel section (garter stitching).  On the return row, you knit the first two stitches of the row together and then the last two stitches of the row together.  This effectively creates a double-thickness edging that is very neat and stronger than a single edge.  Instructions for the set-up rows would look like this (bearing in mind I haven’t personally tested this yet):

K1, yo, K11, P1, (sm), K12, P1, (sm), K11, yo, K1

K2tog, K11, (sm) K1 tbl, K12, (sm), K1 tbl, K11, K2tog

_____________

For the smaller pair (suitable for UK size 4 – 6 feet, or a European 37 – 39):

Using 4mm needles and DK and sock yarn held together throughout:

Cast on 35 stitches.

(WS) *K11, P1, (pm) K11, P1, (pm) K11

(RS) K11, (sm) K1tbl, K11, (sm) K1tbl, K11*

Continue pattern set by * to * until garter stitching is 12 cm long.

Change to K1, P1 rib.  Knit until ribbing is 10cm long.

On next RS row, K1, K2tog for all remaining stitches.

N/R: K2tog all stitches,

N/R: K one row even.

Make up as per larger version.

Hope you enjoy them.