Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


Sustain the Sea: Ulva Lactuca shawl

Happy Holidays!

Today, I am very happy to bring you the free pattern for the Ulva Lactuca shawl.

Ulva Lactuca shawl

This gently crescent-shaped shawl is knitted sideways, from tip to tip all in one piece. It features a garter stitch body (to prevent curling), and a lace edging that is reminiscent of seaweed and waves. The width and depth of the garter stitch body can be easily modified to suit your preference.

Knit the shawl in different yarn weights to suit different purposes – DK for a heavy, winter shawl, or in lace weight for a light summer shoulder warmer. The version you see is knitted in fingering weight Zealana Kauri, an airy blend of brushtail possum, silk and New Zealand merino. This weight translates nicely as both a warm winter shawl/scarf and a lighter summer cover-up.

Ulva 2

Designed in honour of the sea, and particularly seaweed – a sustainable source of delicious nutrition, this shawl bears the scientific name for Sea Lettuce.

Ulva 4

To knit this shawl, you need:

4.5mm (US7) needles

4 x 40g balls Zealana Kauri fingering weight in K02, Kea (153m/167yd per ball)

2 stitch markers

The pattern comes written, with charts for the lace panel.

Download the free pattern here: Ulva Lactuca Shawl or from Ravelry.

A note about the pattern:  I have modified the shape slightly so that it increases and decreases more gradually from what you see in the pattern.  I decided once the shawl was done that a more gradual increase would be a better shape, so this element has been incorporated into the final pattern.  A further version of this shawl is being knitted with those increases, and you’ll see it in due course.

Many thanks to the eldest boy for his wonderful photography at Makara beach.

Makara beachHappy Knitting, and here’s to a Happy, Healthy, Productive and Sustainable 2014!



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…


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. 🙂


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:


Sustain the Sea: Tidal Hat

Today, I bring you the Tidal Hat. You’ll have seen a previous incarnation of this hat before on my blog, but I never had the motivation to write up the pattern.  It occurred to me that it would make a nice addition to Sustain the Sea, so here it is!

Tidal hat

This hat celebrates water and the sea, its ebb and flow, and the sandy beaches where rivers join the sea.  If we look after the quality of the water and air that goes into the sea, it will help the sea look after us.

The beach

This pattern depicts water as it ripples down the rivers to the sea, and the waves of sand left behind when the tide goes out.  Purl stitches reflect the grainy sand, and the reverse stocking stitch gives the hat a slight ‘slouch’.  The twisted stitches framing the ripples represent shells that are so much a part of the beach, and a visible reminder of the fragile balance of life in the sea.


The brim is knitted with a smaller needle to keep it from stretching too much over time, and allows the hat to hug the head so it is less likely to blow off in the wind!  The looser crown gauge makes a hat that is comfortable to wear and flatters the face.

Tidal hat 2

I encourage you to try the no-cable-needle method to knit the waves.  It’s very easy, and will save a lot of time and fiddling with cable needles!  Instructions on how to do this are contained in the pattern.  Magic loop with a long circular needle to knit the hat, and you’ll even be able to bind off the crown without changing to DPN needles.

I selected a beautiful, crisp New Zealand Corriedale yarn:  Anna Gratton’s Little Wool Co. pure wool naturals in Pumice, to reflect the colour of sand and shells and convey a sense of purity to the design. The structure of the spin has a liveliness that provides great stitch definition.  It’s one of my favourite New Zealand yarns – durable, comfortable, warm.

Using this wool is also a sustainable choice for me – it is a natural colour, and it has been grown, shorn, spun and now knitted all within a two hour’s drive from where I live in Wellington.  I’m very lucky to have access to such wonderful wool.

If you’d like to use the same yarn I chose, you can find it here, or email Anna Gratton direct at filaro AT

Download the free pattern here: Free pattern: Tidal Hat or on Ravelry.

You’ll need:

50g (108m/118yd) DK weight yarn (suggested yarn is Anna Gratton Little Wool Co. 8 ply pure wool naturals in Pumice)

3.75mm (US 5) and 4.5mm (US 7) circular needles (or DPNS if you prefer)

Back viewMy thanks to the oldest boy for patiently taking photos for this pattern at the mouth of the Hutt River, where the river meets the sea.

River mouth


Sustain the Sea: The Orange Roughy Mitts

Welcome to the first design from my new series collection, Sustain the Sea!!

Orange Roughy Mitts

The Orange Roughy Fingerless Gloves.

This pattern is a mid-length fingerless glove.  I have selected a ‘scale’ pattern to highlight its fishy tribute, with the seed stitch thumb further hinting at marine origins.  The stretchy bind and ribbing represents fins.  The colour is that of the orange roughy fish.

Full detail

These gloves are knitted to a tight gauge to prevent stretching during wear.  They fit the arm like a second skin, and will keep you nice and snug on those crisp autumn and winter mornings.

Sizing:  One size.  Fits the average woman.  Approx 25cm/10″ long and 18cm/7″ around before wear.  Worn with between 0 – 2″ negative ease.

You need:  70g of high twist wool sock yarn.  For this sample, I have used Fibre Alive Merino Mania in a one-off colourway, wonderfully named “Orange Roughy”. An available alternative in the exact same colour and style of yarn is Knitsch 100% New Zealand merino sock yarn in Charlemange.

Other suitable alternatives available overseas include in the US, Koigu KPPM, Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, or in the UK, high-twist BFL sock yarn or the merino/nylon/ stellina sparkle 4 ply such as the ones brought in to New Zealand by Doe Arnot). Any yarns with the same sock weight, with high wool content and in high twist spin will be suitable to get the same effect as you see above.  Wool is important for its stretch, and the high twist gives the “scales” definition.

Needles:  2.25mm (US1) DPNs

Gauge:  10 sts x 14 rows to 2.5cm / 1″ in scale stitch pattern

Skill level:  Familiarity with knitting in the round and ability to read charts would be useful.

Download here: Free pattern: Orange Roughy Fingerless Gloves or from Ravelry.  In return, I ask that you ‘pay me’ by buying “good choice” fish when you next decide to have a fish dinner. 🙂

Orange Roughy Mitts

My thanks to the oldest boy for his fantastic photography at Makara Beach.

About the orange roughy

I have chosen to tribute the orange roughy to begin this series.  This fish heads the “do not eat” and “worst choice” list on all “Best Fish Guide” lists that are currently produced by any marine conservation organisation.  In fact, it is arguable that this fish should be on the menu at all as there is no truly sustainable way of catching this fish.

The orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) is a bright red, deep sea fish.  Its colour fades to a light, pinkish orange after death.  It is part of the slimehead family, and also known in other countries as deepsea perch, sea perch, red roughy, hoplostete orange, granatbarsch, pesce arancio, beryx de nouvelle-zelande, or rosy soldierfish (Wikipedia).

New Zealand and Australian orange roughy stocks were discovered in the 1970’s.  Since then, although quotas have been reduced in recent years, and several fishery areas closed due to over-fishing, most populations of orange roughy stocks still open to fishing are now only one-fifth of their original unfished size in the 1970’s. In fact, orange roughy in Australia is listed as “Conservation Dependent” and protected under national environmental law. (Australian Marine Conservation Society)

The orange roughy is extremely long-lived – as far as we know, it can live up to 150 years.  The fish are caught around sea mounts using bottom-trawling as they congregate to spawn or feed.  Most caught fish are around 30 – 40 cm long (their size at approx. 20 – 30 years of age) although they can grow to twice this size.  Very little is known about orange roughy reproductive habits.  It is likely that individual orange roughy do not spawn every year once they reach maturity at 20+ years, and when they do, the fish release less eggs than other species.

In addition to the obvious consequences of catching a slow growing, low-fertility fish as it is in the process of reproducing, bottom trawling destroys sea floor species assemblages and fragile seamount habitats, where the fish are found.  It effectively bulldozes the sea floor demolishing black corals, lace corals, coral trees, colourful sponge fields and long-lived bryozoans, some aged at over 500 years old (Forest & Bird). Deep water sharks and other non-target fish species are also caught.  Endangered seabird and sea lion by catch has also been reported.   Little is known about deep sea environments.  What harm are we causing besides the obvious destruction?  What are we doing to the deep sea eco-system by removing this important part of the food chain?

Due to its long life, the orange roughy contains high levels of mercury in its flesh.  It is also very low in omega-3 fatty-acids, making this fish a much less nutritionally suitable fish for human consumption than other species.

Current statistic indicate that orange roughy is mostly exported to the USA (69%) and Australia (18%), with some to the UK, Europe and China. Orange roughy is also sold in New Zealand.

Although quotas exist for this fish, it is admitted that it is unknown whether the levels permitted by the quotas are sustainable.  Statistics indicate that once exploited, orange roughy populations have not recovered.

After reading the facts, I believe that fishing for orange roughy is undoubtedly not sustainable in any form.

Please do not eat orange roughy.


Forest & Bird Best fish guide

Current Fisheries information

NZ Fisheries Site – the Orange Roughy

Wikipedia – the Orange Roughy

Mar-Eco – the Orange Roughy

Greenpeace – the Orange Roughy

Australian Marine Conservation Society Sustainable Seafood Guide

Blue Ocean Institute – Species Score Card


The Droplet Socks

It’s funny what inspires us to design.

In winter, I spend a few minutes most mornings wiping away the condensation that has collected on the inside of my windows overnight.

On the outside of one of my windows, there is a small patch of beautiful, golden lichen.  It’s so pretty, I don’t want to pick it off.  I believe its name is Xanthoria parietina or Golden Shield Lichen.

Window droplets and lichenI must have spent some time absorbing the beauty of these two images in concert, because this is what popped off my needles recently:

Droplet socks

I’m so happy with this design that I thought I’d share it with you today!

The stitch pattern is a very simple lace pattern of alternating K2tog and SSK forming the droplets.  Twisted stitch ribbing creates defined “rivulets” between the droplets.  The droplets begin as small “beads” at the top of the cuff and turn into longer droplets towards the toes.

See the two images together:

Inspiration and its result

The sock is constructed top down. Customise the sock according to your preference with your favourite heel and toe construction!  The length can easily be altered by knitting more or less repeats of the pattern, and smaller than average feet should be able to achieve a good fit by using slightly smaller needles (2.25mm).

Of course, I was very lucky to find yarn in the exact colour of the lichen at Holland Road Yarn Company.

Knitsch in West Janney, image courtest of Holland Road Yarn Company

Knitsch in West Janney, image courtest of Holland Road Yarn Company

This Knitsch colourway is called West Janney.  Tash has luckily just dyed a fresh batch, so if you’d like some of this pretty colour for your own, hop on over, but be quick or I am sure it will all sell out very quickly!

I decided to do something different with this pattern.  I have included two types of instructions.  There are ‘basic’ instructions for experienced sock knitters and more detailed instructions for beginner/occasional sock knitters.

The reason I did this is because when I knit socks, I already know how to start the cuff, and form the heel and toes, and don’t really want to wade through all those instructions (which end up muddling my brain).  So I have left only the bones of the instructions in there, which is what I need to see to knit a sock.  Maybe some of you feel the same?  I know that not everyone is ready for this kind of pattern though, so for those who need to see detailed instructions, they are there too.

The free pattern is here:  Free pattern: Droplet socks.  I will also shortly load the pattern on to Ravelry, where you can also download it for free.

I hope you enjoy knitting them as much as I did!!

Droplet socks



It seems that this week is hat week!

Inspired by the gorgeous chocolate wool I used for the ribbed beanie, I decided to knit another in DK weight yarn this time.

I finished it last night.

This one is called Tidal.  The undulating twisted stitches remind me of how the exposed seabed looks at low tide.  Knitted in Anna Gratton’s Little Wool Co. DK pure wool naturals in the natural dark chocolate colour, Peat.

TidalI really like it.  It does all the right things for me – looks good on my head, covers the ears and keeps the neck warm, and it’s not too tight and not too loose.   And there is just the right amount of patterning on the hat to suit my sensibilities.

I’m hoping to have the pattern ready in time to have a hard copy at Anna Gratton’s stall at the Wonders of Wool market, but no promises.  If it is, it will be free with yarn purchase (there will be 100g skeins of natural DK yarn as well this time).

In any event, the pattern will be available for download from my blog within the week.