Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


8 Comments

Wool musings

As I work my way through the Christmas gifts and other projects, the subject of wool and the different characteristics of wool is very much in my mind.  All the projects I am currently knitting are pure wool (with the exception of the socks with nylon added).  I wondered why that was.  I think there are two reasons:

  1. The yarns I have selected have the characteristics I want to produce the desired fabric of the finished garment; and
  2. A lot of the projects I’m knitting (in particular, the hats) will see vigorous use, and must be able to stand up to abuse and wear and tear, and particularly the unique conditions of hat wearing – being stretched across a very warm (and often moist) head, and still retain its shape and elasticity.  Wool is absolutely the best material for this purpose because it is durable, elastic, breathable and warm, and can handle a bit of water if rained on.

The inadvertent consequence of choosing different wool yarns to knit is that knitting each of the projects has also highlighted to me just how different wool yarns can be, depending on sheep breed, processing method and spin.

Take the hat that I have just completed:

Hat for Q

This is a commercial New Zealand wool yarn that has since been discontinued.  Judging from the way this yarn feels and behaves, the wool used in this yarn would come from composite sheep – multipurpose types that are raised for both meat and wool in New Zealand. They are not a particular ‘breed’ as such, but a mix of breeds that are combined to create sheep suited to the climate and conditions where they are farmed.  Different breeds of sheep perform better in different environments, be it hill country, on the flat, in wet conditions or dry, etc., and farmers here often specifically combine breeds of sheep so that their progeny are able to thrive in the conditions they are farmed in.  It is the same concept that has brought about the different breeds in history – each sheep breed was developed in its time to be the ideal animal to raise in the conditions it lived in.  Unfortunately, (in the view of this knitter), a changed world means that the majority focus now is more on the animal’s ability to produce meat rather than quality of wool for hand knitting purposes.

Back to the yarn – it is a natural colour, spun semi-worsted to an aran/worsted/10 ply weight.  It is a perfectly acceptable workhorse yarn, which will wear very well.  It has that ‘standardised’ feel,  nothing special to write home about, but it is still wool, with all the properties that make wool amazing nonetheless.

The 3-ply has given the yarn a roundness and a smoother quality to the fabric than the next yarn that I used…

IMG_1549 (1024x768)

This yarn is very different to the first!  I could tell from its handle the minute I started knitting with it!  It is from a blend of the fleece of Corriedale and Perendale sheep, carefully selected for suitability for hand knitting.  It is Ashford Tekapo, a lofty semi-worsted spun yarn.   Two singles that are plied together in a lively twist to form a DK weight yarn (personally, I use this yarn like an US worsted weight).  When examined more closely, I found that the singles are minimally twisted before plying.  Yet the yarn is extremely elastic and feels lively in hand, with a wonderful squish and comfortable handle that makes it a delight to knit with.  I suspect that has to do with the quality of the original fleece in addition to the twist put into the plying process.  It is not a superwash yarn either, which has preserved the characteristics of the fleece.  It is not super soft, but it is not scratchy or coarse.  It is ideal for outerwear.

The resulting fabric is lofty (not dense) and has a rustic look that I particularly enjoy.  That energetic 2-ply creates a fabric with more texture than a 3-ply.  If you compare the photos of the hat below with the hat above, I think the difference in the fabrics due to the differing spin methods is quite noticeable. I would add that the characteristics and quality of the original fleece selected also plays a large part in the end result.

Hat

It will wear very well.  I think the thing that I love about this particular yarn is that it feels like fleece/unprocessed wool. If you have ever had the privilege to bury your hands into freshly shorn fleece (or even while it is on the sheep’s back), the feel that you get is much like knitting with this yarn and the fabric that forms in your hands.  Minus the greasy lanolin and vegetable matter of course!  I shouldn’t be surprised.  Ashford is a company that is primarily known for its amazing spinning wheels.  It does go to say they should know a fair bit about spinning a good yarn! Mental note to knit more with this yarn!

What interests me a lot about the wool yarns I have been knitting with is that I am particularly enjoying the yarns where the character of the fleece of origin is preserved in the yarn.  Perhaps it is because it makes me feel more connected to its origins, the sheep itself?

Incidentally, the subject of different wools and their characteristics was one of the fascinating topics of the Wovember campaign this year.  If you’d like to read more about wool and its yarn, visit Wovember and have a browse!  Just start at the top and scroll down… 🙂


20 Comments

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!


26 Comments

Red fish, blue fish

Here I was, pottering along in a semi-controlled fashion, just managing to keep my Startitis under control, when something terrible happened.  In a single 24 hour period, I received not one, but TWO amazing knitting collections in my inbox.  Dear knitting god, why do you do this to me!!!?

Normally, I can look and resist, but in this particular case, the Twist Collective Spring/Summer 2015 and BT Men Vol 2 both contained designs that were absolutely and utterly irresistible.

I absolutely love Wenceslas.  I have not bought the pattern, because I must motivate myself to finish the things I already have and I have a lot of ‘me’ patterns already.  But get this:  I did not buy the pattern, but oh yes, I had to run off and buy the yarn for it!! What the…!?

Skeinz Vintage

Sigh.  Skeinz Vintage DK in Tapestry.  Fabulous service as always.  The yarn got here the next day!

Then I spied the most adorable baby pattern in.the.universe.

Fish Isle, Twist Collective

Fish Isle, Twist Collective

It’s called Fish Isle. Oh my, oh squee, soooo cute!!!!!  I could just see my nephews (and even nieces) wearing this… out came the credit card…

Fish Isle Swatch

Yeah.  I couldn’t resist doing a swatch today.  Too cute.  It’s a rough sketch but at least I now have an idea about what size needle to knit with the yarn I have chosen.  If all goes well, I will knit a red one for nephew no. 2, and maybe a pink one for Niece who Likes to Fish.

I consider myself to have got off lightly from that issue.

Having done that, the very next day, Brooklyn Tweed very unkindly released the most amazingly gorgeous selection of men’s sweaters that I want for meeee!!  At that, any last vestiges of control of Startitis evaporated.

I think the BT team have outdone themselves with the BT Men Vol. 2 collection.  As the young boy was not to be left out,  I got him to choose a sweater he’d like to wear this winter.  He chose well.  I consider it a justified purchase. After all, he needs a sweater for the winter (evil snigger).

Rift, BT Men Vol. 2

Rift, BT Men Vol. 2

This is Rift. I figure I’ll knit it with DK yarn to make it just a bit smaller than the smallest size, and it will fit him perfectly.

Just so that you don’t think I’m being completely pious about the whole thing, I have had this pattern sitting waiting patiently to be knitted for a while…

Hawser, Brooklyn Tweed, BT Fall 14

Hawser, Brooklyn Tweed, BT Fall 14

I think I might be busy for a while.

By the way, the vest front is now a quarter knitted.  I’ll get there soon!  And I may have a cowl thing to show you in the next day or two.  It’s done, but I want to tinker with it just a bit more.


24 Comments

What now, 2015?

I realised as I looked at the socks I have knitted this year, that I have a very definite preference for sock colours.  Mostly blue, green and purply tones.  Nothing too bright or shouty, nothing too unusual.

Is that me being very, very boring?  Most likely.

Maybe I just wanted the socks to tone with my grey and blue shoes (but then how do you explain the berry shades…?)

Perhaps it’s because they tone with my clothes (but then, how many colours don’t go with my usual uniform of blue jeans?)

That made me think that perhaps I could do something different with my sock goals for 2015.  Maybe I could do something about expanding my colour choices…

I had a shuffle in the stash, and brought out a few possible candidates.  How about this nice selection of New Zealand and overseas yarns for starters?

2015 socks?

This lot looks nice and pretty and varied!  Not too much green and blue, with a few more oranges and yellows thrown in there?

Let’s do a reality check.

Reality check

Aw man!  This is weird.  Have I just gone and done a ‘same old’?

“Mum, you are boring” said the youngest, so very candidly, over my shoulder.  “But then, you have knitted so many colours – maybe it’s hard to find anything different?” he continued, rapidly saving himself.

This is a concern!  I chose those colours because I knew I would knit them.  I do have other colours in the stash, but I know I would have an issue knitting some of them.  You know the colours that you look at and say “oh, that’s different!  Maybe I should break out of my usual colour preferences and be adventurous for a change?” The one that you then invariably end up frogging, because the more you look at it as you knit it, the more offensive it proves to the eye?  I’m going to have to be strategic with how I use them up.

I think the answer lies in knitting for others.  For in choosing a yarn and style for someone else, one does not reflect one’s own preferences, but that of the recipient (or, one hopes!) That will also be one way to keep knitting socks but not have an exploding sock drawer, or feel too greedy about one’s sock collection…

So, let’s try this one again, and start with…

Socks for others

Ah!  Better!  Each of these colours have been picked out with a person in mind.  Except perhaps for the one on the far right… that happens to be for me (see what I mean about blue, green and purply tones!?)

Therefore the goals:

  • Knit for others in 2015.
  • I will not be limiting myself to which patterns I knit because I know that the moment I say I will knit a or b, along comes c, d and e, all of which look so much prettier or more tempting!
  • Most of all, knitting must be enjoyable, because it’s what we do to feel good and to show our love for others.

How many socks to do I intend to knit?  I liked having a goal last year.  It made me focus on what I was knitting, so I think I will do the same for this year.

  • If I can knit 36 pairs socks of in 2015 as well, I should be very happy.  It’s not more than 2014 because I want to knit other things as well.  If I end up knitting more, then that will be a bonus!

I do have a very long list of sock patterns that I would like to design.  It could be a book.  The list sits in my notebook, with sketches and swatches.  The issue will be to find the time to finish the designs and knit the socks.   This requires more than just sitting in front of the TV and knitting, or snatching a moment here and there, which is what my current knitting time is composed of.  I hope I will be able to make some of them a reality, especially during winter, when work is slow and my hours are more regular.

Future sock designs

Here are a couple of the yarns, all ready and waiting.  Oh so much pretty in my head – oh to make it a reality!

So much for the socks.  As for other things to knit, I do want to knit more shawls.  Here is one I picked out this week:

Future shawl

This is a skein of Wollmeise that a dear friend gifted to me a while ago.  I have been hoarding it, waiting for the right project. At 150g, it seemed a waste to turn it into socks when so much would be left over.  The pattern is Imagine When by Joji Locatelli.  I saw a few beautiful Wollmeise masterpieces in this design when I was researching what to do with the skein, so I have decided to make a start!  I imagine it would also be beautiful in silk/merino or an alpaca yarn.  Maybe I’ll make more than one!

There are a few other shawls I think I’d like to tackle this year, now that I am confident with lace.  (It feels good to be  able to say that.)  Here’s a beginning list (which may change, knowing the vagaries of my mind):

  • Rosebud was a generous pattern gift from another lovely friend.  I will use more Anna Gratton 4 ply pure wool to make this.  Most likely, a beautiful Saffron yellow.

Anna Gratton 4 ply pure wool

  • I think Sail to Treasure Island would be fascinating in a fingering weight.  I’m envisaging more Anna Gratton, this time her merino/mohair in a gorgeous ocean tone. I just hope I will have enough yarn.  In bulky weight (the original yarn), you need 1990m.  I only have one skein of this (approx 800m), which I am fairly sure will not be enough. Perhaps I will find another similar skein at this year’s Wonders of Wool market?

Mohair merino by Anna Gratton

  • Dew Drops or similar has been long admired.  I will take a leaf out of another good friend’s book and knit this one in Zealana. Maybe something truly luxurious like Zealana Air laceweight?  Or some yak/silk from Happy-go-knitty?

Zealana Air

  • Cameo looks like a lovely little palate cleanser, and will be lovely in a soft drapey yarn.  I can just see it in some Zealana Kiwi laceweight.

Zealana Kiwi laceweight

  • Puck, a DK weight shawl is crying out to be knitted in Zealana Rimu – I can imagine it will be sooo lovely to wear in warm and snuggly possum! I even seem to have the exact colours! Plus I have always wanted to knit something by Boo Knits.

Zealana Rimu

  • Spellbound is another stunningly beautiful design by Boo Knits.  Her shawls are so pretty they bring tears of appreciation to my eyes.  This one would be so pretty as a summer shawl, I think in a silk/merino from Spinning a Yarn. I have two of these skeins, that should be enough.

Silk merino by Spinning a Yarn

So many shawls, so little time.  Can I tear myself away from all the socks to find the time to knit some of these pretties?

 


11 Comments

Just in time

It has taken me two weeks to finish these pretty babies.

Hiya Hiya Arrow Lace SocksIn the land of ferocious knitting, that’s a very long time.  Especially as this is pretty much the only project I’ve worked on since I cast them on.  Work is a full-on at the moment, and is annoyingly eating into my personal and family time.

Close up of socksThe pattern name is rather a mouthful: Hiya Hiya Arrow Lace Socks I (Cuff Down) 72 sts

They part of a KAL that finishes on Monday – so I have completed them just in time!

The yarn is a combination of a gorgeous Happy-go-knitty dye job using a BFL base gifted to me some time ago by my lovely knitting buddy KB.  I shall be happily topping up with more Happy-go-knitty at the Wellington Underground Market Wonders of Wool theme market next Saturday, 5 April!!!

I normally cast on 64 stitches for socks as this number works best for my sizing, so I was slightly worried they’d be a bit big on me.  You can see that the leg is looser than my usual sock fit.  The pattern did say to use 2mm needles, but I find that size painful to knit with – it takes foreeeveerrrr to finish something in that size!  So I used my thinnest yarn, and went to 2.25mm needles, and it has worked out fine.  I would have got a slimmer sock if I had used the thinner needles, but I don’t mind.  I quite like the ruched look of the leg.

I noticed that my arrow shaping started quite late on the foot, and this is because I made the heel quite deep and slightly longer than noted in the pattern. By the time I had reduced the stitches back to the cast-on number to begin the shaping, I was already quite a way down the foot.  I think if I knit this pattern again, I would keep the heel to pattern length, so that I could have the arrow a little further up the foot.  Not that it looks bad now, but I did like the look on some of the other versions of this sock that I have seen where there is more stocking stitch before the toes.  I also made the leg longer than suggested, which I like.

I’ve been eyeing all my sock patterns and knitting books longingly… hopefully I’ll get more knitting time soon!  I miss my family, my life and proper knitting time.

In the meantime, to cheer myself up, I had to indulge in some very pretty skeins I saw on this week’s Soft Like Kittens update:

Soft Like Kittens yarn

Such lovely, lovely colours.  Don’t they just make your heart sing!?

Hope you’re having a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


17 Comments

Coming to Wonders of Wool?

If you are a knitter living in Wellington, you will no doubt already know about the annual Wellington Underground Market‘s Wonders of Wool theme market.  This year, it’s on Saturday, 5 April and also again in August.  Have you marked your diary yet!??

As far as I’m concerned, the April date is the Day of Days in my knitting calendar!  It has also almost become the event that marks the beginning of the “serious knitting season” for Wellington at least, and I’m very much looking forward to popping along!!  I had been feeling a little sad and left out of all the excitement of the two main knitting retreats that happen in New Zealand (Unwind and KAN) in addition to the Creative Fibre events. Due to my personal circumstances it will be a few years before I’ll be able to get to any these events and all the delicious yarn in the attendant markets.

I was curious to know which of my favourite New Zealand indie yarnies would be taking a stall at Wonders of Wool, so to cheer myself up, I dropped some of them a line (and did a bit of online research), and can confirm that it’s going to be a goodie again this year!!  I’m so excited, I can hardly contain myself!

Want the gossip?

Tash Barneveld of Knitsch (Holland Road Yarn Company) will be launching the eagerly anticipated new-season Knitsch colours!!  Be there if you want some as I’m not sure how much will be left for her shops after this market! 😉  She’ll also have Isobar kits from the last yarn club in both the grey gradient and other colourways (in addition to many other yummy things).

Anna Gratton (Little Wool Co.) will be bringing us more of her amazing range of beautiful multi-dyed merino/mohair, boucle, 100% wool yarns, and of course, fibre in her unique colourways and blends, for spinning.  She will also have some of the new season natural yarns from her Corriedale sheep… I’m particularly keen on getting some of that gorgeous 4 ply in silver (picture below from Anna’s Facebook page – the silver is the one in the middle).

Anna Gratton Corriedale wool yarn

Helene of Happy-go-knitty is coming down from Auckland!  She’ll be bringing more of her gorgeous, bright, energetic and happy colours in self-striping and semi-solids… including rainbow self-striping yarn!  There will be a range of yarns available, including her iconic 100% BFL sock yarn, alpaca/merino sock yarn and 8 ply wool.  Maybe also the lace weight silk/merino?

I saw a colourway she was asking opinions for on her Facebook page (pink and grey self-striping) that has “I want” all over it. I’m fairly certain some of it will be there… (I hope!)

At this point, I’m seriously wondering how much cash is going to be left in my bank account at the end of my visit to this particular market!

Mary Furness Weir of Maniototo Wool has informed me she’ll present too!  I’m really looking forward to meeting her!  A big basket of 50g skeins of one-off colours, some random dyed, in addition to the ten regular Maniototo Wool colours will be on offer.  I hope Mary also brings some of that gorgeous soap she makes.  It smells divine, and is so nice to use on woollen garments!

I notice from the Yarnz website that Nanette will be there again too.  She sells a range of hard-to-find imported yarns (Noro, Ella Rae, Kauni, Sugar’n’Cream Cotton and more) and needles (Hiya Hiya, Addi, Clover and others).

The above list was enough to convince me to put this date in my calendar in INK.  There will be other stall holders too, I haven’t been able to get around everyone to be able to give you a comprehensive list.  Anyway, I should like the surprise of seeing who else has decided to come along to tempt us with their creative wondrousness.

Hope you enjoy the market as much as I do!