Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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A proper winter weekend

Hello, and a Happy Weekend to you!

I am enjoying my cosy knitting room with a roaring fire AND a heater going, while the hail and rain fall outside, and snow settles on the hills that I can see from my window.  I am feeling extremely happy. It is finally Winter!

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An added happiness is the sight of my new car sitting in the driveway, bought yesterday. It feels incredibly good to finally have a pair of wheels again! I decided to upgrade, and added some extra money of my own to the insurance payout so that I could afford a good car. I am very pleased to finally have something that I really, really like – my first ‘grown up’ car – a Honda Accord. The young boy is extremely impressed. I hope nothing horrid happens to this one (or us in it, for that matter)!

Train knitting certainly had its advantages. Note I speak of it in past tense already!

I finished one pair of socks and have already gone past the heel on a second pair. I appear to have needed cheerful socks to knit on the train – the colour scheme appears very similar in these photos, but you will see they are different when I show more!  The yarn for my second pair is from Meraki Studios. All going well, the second pair will become a pattern.

The cardigan I have been talking about knitting is now only minus one sleeve. I modified the pattern from a lace sleeve to a stockinette sleeve and thought I had better sew it in and see how it looked before proceeding with the second. I think it works. The cardigan will be finished by next weekend, and hopefully blocked as well. I am very much enjoying working with this luxury 4 ply lambswool.

Audry of Bear Ears was highly entertaining in her recent post about socks and her need to get her self-striping socks exactly the same. Her post also jogged my memory into recalling that it is nearly SOCKtober! This year I have been a bit more organised and am planning to release a number of sock patterns closer to the date. I have also agreed to participate in the Carolina Fiber Girls‘ SOCKtober initiative by offering my sock patterns at a significant discount between 15 September and 31 October. Listen in during the August podcasts to hear about all about their plans. I will also keep you informed here.

I hope you have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend wherever you are, and if you are in New Zealand, hopefully staying warm!

 

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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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Wovember 2015

This year, I am joining the Wovember WAL and NaKniSweMo, and thought that this would be a good time to finish my 100% wool sweater which has been on hold for no good reason (Two Hearts, a pattern by Lisa Lloyd).

WovemberWAL projects need to be 100% wool.  I have chosen to knit Two Hearts in 100% NZ Romney lambswool.  This felt to me to be probably similar in structure to the original handspun used by Lisa Lloyd, a handspun Bluefaced Leicester blended with Mohair (I bought it from Hallblacks, who appear to be on hiatus at the moment.)

Two hearts

Pure wool that is not Merino and that is not superwash treated can tend to initially feel ‘scratchy’ and a little bit stiff. This can be off-putting for the non-pure-wool initiated.   Indeed, it took me a while to get over that. I’ll tell you a little story about how that came about:

My experiences with pure (non-superwash) wool began when I took the plunge with a cardigan which I knitted out of Anna Gratton’s 100% pure Corriedale wool.  The wool was nice, but I never liked the design very much.  I was constantly tugging and yanking at it because it kept slipping off my shoulders – looking at this photo now, I can see that the shoulders as designed were far too wide for my frame.  I did not know enough at that point in my knitting life to think about measuring myself and comparing it with schematics.  Eventually, I stopped wearing it despite the fact that I did find the fabric itself very comfortable.

Gooseberry Cardigan

Then I knitted Bedford, which by now, you’ll probably be sick of hearing about because I cannot stop raving about it!

Bedford

It was also knitted in Anna Gratton’s 100% pure Corriedale wool (Oatmeal/Pumice colourway).  At first, it was a tiny bit scratchy.  It didn’t matter much because I mostly wore a merino underlayer with it.  It is now three years old, and has been washed (by hand) multiple times, and worn almost continually for the entire time.  The wonderful breathable properties of pure wool mean that I can wear it in almost all weathers, and still feel comfortable.

These days, it is soft, with a comforting ‘lived in’ feeling.  As you can see from the photo, there is no pilling at all, and it has not gone out of shape.  I may have picked off a few initial balls of fluff when it was first knitted, but the wool has now settled into a structure that will stay like this for the rest of its life.  I haven’t been kind to it – I wear it gardening, when cleaning out the animals’ enclosure, when chopping and carting wood, out walking, to the supermarket… It has suffered a lot of abuse, and I have managed to damage it, but I still have leftover yarn from this project, and have been able to repair the damage and keep wearing the sweater.  How many man-made fibres would you say continue to improve with age and just look and feel better the older they are?

I then knit another number, also in Anna Gratton 100% wool: my Shepherd’s Hoody:

The Shepherd Hoodie

It’s funny because this is one of the few garments that I wear which receives compliments from strangers.  It is extremely warm and makes a great coat!

And so, I knit my Romney lambswool sweater in the faith that it too, will turn into a well-loved favourite, still looking amazing and being worn in 10 years’ time.  I certainly need it.  Winter in the Wairarapa is quite a bit colder than in Wellington, and a few more woollen sweaters will not go amiss!


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A rural day out

Having moved to rural New Zealand, I am determined to enjoy all that being ‘in the country’ (as we say here) has to offer.  The annual Wairarapa Agricultural & Pastoral Society Show is being held this weekend, so the young man and I trotted along to see what was to be found!  For the benefit of readers who are not familiar with this kind of show, it is a local festival celebrating the best of the rural activity of the area that we live in.  There were sheep and cattle shown for judging, shearing and wool handling competitions, a wood chopping competition, baking and art competitions, agricultural vehicle and other equipment displays, many food and goods stalls and of course, a fairground for the kids.  It was a very interesting day out.

Well, the first thing that we saw were the sheep!  So many pretty sheep!!

Sheep

This particular fellow is a champion crossbred ram.  His fleece was incredibly thick – about half of that sheep is wool!  He was very friendly.  As you can see, he was loving the head scratches.  Look at that adorable face!

Friendly ram

Here was a lovely mama ewe and her twin lambs.  So cute, one black and one white.

Ewe and lambs

Champion fleece on display.

Fleece

There were also cattle being shown.

Cattle show

So clean and shiny.  It’s a pity they don’t always look like this… (the ones in the fields usually have poo all down the backs of their legs.  It looks gross.)

Cattle show

These pretty jerseys were waiting their turn to be judged.

Chickens

I’m still thinking about those chickens.  I want some so much!!

Yarn

There was yarn to be seen, but not bought.  These skeins were handspun that had been entered for the competition.

Knitting

I spied socks!

There was a hilarious sheep racing competition, complete with jockeys!

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Here they are at full gallop.

Sheep racing

There was motivation to race…

Sheep race

The first one to the end got to eat the most sheep nuts!

Equine show

There were riding events happening.  Such beautifully turned out horses and their riders!

Shearing competition

Of course, I had to watch the shearing and wool handling competition!  While these guys were being judged on their ability to shear,

Wool handling

these ladies were doing something equally fascinating, which was skirting and handling the fleece after shearing. They were being judged on their performance and speed.  It was also their job to take the fleece off the platform and keep the floor around the shearers clean of debris.  Fascinating to see the fleece able to be laid out on the table all in one piece after it came off the sheep.

Shearing

Lovely clean wool coming off the sheep.

All shorn!

And here they are, post haircut, waiting to go back to the farm.

There was a lot more to be seen of course, but I thought I’d just show you the interesting bits.  🙂

We went home and decorated the front yard for Halloween, but unfortunately, it seems that trick or treating is not a popular thing here in the Wairarapa, and we got no visitors!

Halloween

The young man was most disappointed. We thought this year that we would stay home and hand out treats instead of venturing out.  I’ll have to investigate options for next year!

Sunset

Still, it was a lovely day, and we had a beautiful ending as well.

If you celebrate Halloween, a Happy Halloween to you, and may your kids get lots of candy!


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The happiness of winter

Ah winter, the best time of the year!  We are spoilt in New Zealand.  We never get endless sub-zero temperatures and massive snow storms that last for days.  Instead, we have days like this:

Frosty morning

Gorgeous, sunny days, with white frosts in the morning.  I love, love, love mornings like this!

Last week, we were extra spoiled to wake up to this:

Snow on the hills

Snow!!!  What a wonderful surprise it was to see!!  The vista on the other side of the house was even better, the craggy mountains covered in snowy white capes, gleaming in the morning sun.  I did not get a chance to stop and take a picture in the rush to get to work.  I hope I get a chance later on during winter when hopefully we will have more snow!

It was delightful to be able to wear my knitted goodness, snug and warm in layers of possum and wool.

Our nights (especially in the Wairarapa) are cold, sometimes going below zero Celsius, but snug and warm in our houses, with fires ablaze, it is hardly a sufferance.

The brisk mornings and cool days have renewed my enthusiasm for knitting more woollen goodness.

Cabled sweater love

I wondered if this beautiful Romney lambswool that I purchased a while ago from Hallblacks would be suitable to knit Two Hearts.  I did a bit of swatching…

Swatch for Two Hearts

The yarn is quite crisp when knitted, but I figured that a bath would bring out its true nature.

Washed swatch

Yes indeed, it has become a much softer version of itself.  The woollen spun yarn has bloomed and filled out to create a lovely fabric.  It is going to have a bit of a halo, and may be a little bit itchy (I don’t mind and will wear a base layer underneath in any event).  I have a feeling it will be the kind of woollen garment that feels and looks better with every passing year.

I’m going to make this my June project.  How else to celebrate the advent of Winter and the comfort that wool brings to this time of year!

 

 

 

 


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Of fibre, balloons and birds

Hello!!  Happy Sunday!  I hope you’ve had a great week wherever you are.

Some interesting things happened to us this week.

  1. You’ll all know about the Geek socks of course.  I’m totally amazed to see a finished project out there already!
  2. The young boy said “There are balloons in the sky!” one morning.  This is what we saw, appearing out of the clouds:

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So cool!!!  They were actually very close (damn my camera!) and you could hear the burners being blasted.  The balloons were doing a mass ascension as part of the Wairarapa Balloon Festival – with balloons travelling from all over the world to participate.  It was pretty awesome seeing the early morning sky filled with balloons.  Unfortunately, for various reasons, we missed out out on participating in some of the public events, but I look forward to next year!  The young boy was very happy – they visited his school, and they got to hear all about the balloons, how they are made, what it takes to fly them, and see one up close.

3.  I was listening to some very unusual and musical bird call while cooking supper one evening.  The cat, ever attentive, suddenly looked very alert and sprang on to the windowsill.  I ventured a peek out the window, and there, on the lawn, was a little grey cockatiel, the source of all that pretty calling!!

The young boy and I sat on the deck watching him for a bit – he was happily waddling around on the grass eating all the dry grass seeds and things he found in the lawn.  It occurred to me after a while that he must have escaped from someone’s house, and perhaps the owner might like to see him again?  So the young boy tempted him with sunflower and more grass seeds…

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and we managed to get hold of him and put him into temporary lodgings.  The cat, who likes to go out in the evenings, was put outside, and we brought little birdie into the house, where we allowed him to fly free…

Grey cockatiel

Here he is, happily perched on the curtain railings.

I haven’t been able to find any trace of someone who has lost this wee cutie.  I have rung the SPCA and the local vet, looked on Facebook and petsonthenet, posted flyers and put up a notice in the local supermarket. He is absolutely adorable, and now I want one!!  However, given the fact that I don’t have the right cage for him, and that fact that my Ginger Terror loves to dine on bird, I had a very stressful two nights, worrying that “someone” may have got to him in the night.  The very lovely girl in the vet offered to look after him, as she has had birds in the past, and so I happily took her up on the offer.  If you know of someone who has lost a little grey cockatiel, do let me know!

In the course of looking for the grey cockatiel’s owner, I had the excuse to call on more neighbours and say hello. There are some sheep on my street, and I admire them immensely every time we go past.  I haven’t got a picture, but they are very similar to these:

Sheep = wool!!!

The ones in the neighbour’s paddock are pure dark chocolate and what I could call golden oatmeal.  I found out that they are Pitt Island sheep.  Their owner mentioned that she has bags of their wool in the shed, and cannot get rid of it – the wool is hard to spin, but felts beautifully.  The Pitt Island sheep, having reverted to ancient genes, has guard hair in the wool, which interferes with spinning.  Having said that, I cannot but help think of Icelandic Lopi that has both the guardhair (tog) and the undercoat (thel) spun together into yarn.  I wonder how much it differs to Icelandic wool?? I’m quite interested to know.  I also wonder if perhaps they haven’t shorn the sheep at the right time, and the natural breaks in the wool may have interfered with spinning nice yarn as well.  Just wondering.

Now I also understand more about Pilana yarn, which comes from Pitt Island sheep, and the challenges they would have faced to turn the wool into yarn!

If you are interested in obtaining some of my neighbour’s Pitt Island wool, she is very happy to give it away – she’d rather do that than burn it, which is what is currently happening.  I suspect that it would be an issue to send it overseas, as it is raw fleece, but anywhere in NZ should be fine.

Interesting what happens when you find a lost bird in your garden!  😀

4.  The last part of this week has been happily filled with knitting.

Mattingley sweater

Here is the sleeve end of the Mattingley Jumper, which will be finished in the next couple of days – I was beginning on the collar (the last part) when I took this picture.

I also took the young boy to attend a friend’s birthday party, and decided to start a plain vanilla sock so I could talk and knit at the same time.  I managed to finish the leg and most of the heel.  I got a bit more done this morning.  Just a small part of the foot and toe to do. I love how plain vanilla socks are so satisfyingly quick to knit. This one is in an Opal Smile colourway.

Opal sock

I hope you all have a brilliant week ahead of you.  My thoughts are with those who will be affected by Cyclone Pam. It does not sound like good news for parts of the country, although for the Wairarapa, it should bring much needed rain.  Stay safe everyone!