Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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Pumpkin

This is Pumpkin.  The last wee knit I’m doing for the family reunion.

It isn’t much to look at the moment, but I’m hopeful I’ll make some serious progress on it this weekend.  I love the yarn I’m using.  It’s an organic New Zealand merino called Treliske Organic,  in a natural brown and cream marl.  Some merino fleece must have a very short staple when it is spun, resulting in a slightly fuzzy yarn (which then pills badly).  This merino must have long staples, because it is not at all ‘catchy’ on the hand, yet retains its beautiful softness.  From how it has performed in a vest for my son, it doesn’t pill either.  It’s not super wash.  I really like it.  Sometimes superwash yarns can be awfully splitty because the way the scales on the wool fibres have been ‘cemented’ down (to create the superwash performance) means the different plies don’t hold together well when you knit the yarn.  It can also be annoyingly too slippery.  (Sock yarn seems to escape this fate.  Perhaps it’s because it’s super twisted?)

This little hoodie is gratifyingly fast to knit.  Since I took this photo, I’ve used up that ball you see in the photo, and started another.

I have been very slothful over the finishing of the Striped Cardigan:

I’ve been afflicted with an annoying cold/cough thing this week, which hasn’t been conducive to doing fiddly things like sewing seams (excuses, excuses!)  Can you see the lovely halo of the possum yarn in this photo?  It’s going to be a very warm, cuddly and soft cardigan, and I hope my niece likes it!  It’s a nice pattern for possum yarn – it is cropped, quite roomy, and has 3/4 length sleeves, which means plenty of ventilation and comfort for an active child, while keeping her warm at the same time.

More on this cardi when I force myself to sew in the sleeves and put in the buttons!

We’re in for more wet, horrid weather this weekend.  I am hoping this translates into quality knitting time.  I am missing the knitting!

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Stripes

I’ve said before that I don’t normally like to knit children’s clothes.  However, the patterns I have found for my nieces and nephew are really quite cute.  This is the next item I’m knitting for my nine week adventure:

The Striped Cardigan is coming along nicely.  Not as fast as I’d like it to, but then I was very busy doing other things this weekend.  I’m knitting it in one piece to the armholes before separating for the fronts and backs (no point in having more seams to sew than necessary – especially when if you’re having to match stripes up!)

I thought I’d talk about the book I’m taking quite a few of these patterns from – Special Family Knits by Debbie Bliss.  I don’t think there is any other book or magazine on my bookshelf that I have knitted so much from!  I first knitted Hooded Guernsey from it.  Eric has long outgrown his jumper, but I think every now and again that I should knit him another.  It was a nice pattern.   The little fair isle cardi I’ve just finished also came from this book.  There are quite a few other patterns I think that I will eventually get around to knitting from Special Family Knits, including the Rib and Cable Cardigan (for me).   You could say it was a very good buy!

Back to the Striped Cardi, I’m knitting this in a lovely soft merino possum yarn.  I’m deliberately keeping it cropped (like in the photo) because my niece lives in a part of New Zealand where it doesn’t get very cold.  She’ll like the warmth of possum, but it will be good for her to have a bit of ‘ventilation’, as the cardigan might be a bit too warm otherwise.

Hopefully I’ll have more to show you soon.

Have a great week!


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Possum tales: A Supreme fur

This post is the fifth of my series of reviews on possum fur yarn.

Supreme Possum Merino is another of New Zealand’s major possum fur yarn brands. Founded by Laurence Gordon, this company is a heart-warming example of a possum yarn company dedicated to the preservation of New Zealand’s native flora and fauna.  Not only is Laurence personally actively involved in possum and other pest control, according to Supreme’s website, 5% of its sales also go into the preservation of the New Zealand environment.

Supreme was the first possum fur brand to put 40% fur content into its yarn.  (Zealana’s Rimu is the only other possum fur yarn that contains the same percentage, most other possum fur brands containing less fur).

The yarn contains 40% possum fur, 50% merino wool and 10% silk.  I like the addition of the silk. Combined with the already light possum fur, it adds even more loft to the yarn.

Spun by Quality Yarns (one of the three major spinning mills in New Zealand), Supreme’s yarn comes in three weights – 4 ply (fingering), 8 ply (worsted) and 12 ply (chunky).

4 ply – 210 metres per 50g ball.  Recommended tension is 28 stitches x 36 rows on 3.25mm needles per 10cm (4 in).

8 ply – 120 metres per 50g ball.  This yarn is much chunkier than the average 8 ply (DK-weight) yarn.  In knitting weight, I’d say this yarn is a worsted weight, or more like a 10 ply.  Although the ball band recommends 4mm needles, Supreme’s website states 5mm needles, which I believe is more accurate.  My stocking stitch swatch using 5mm needles produced a tension of 18 sts x 26 rows per 10cm, which I feel is just right.  This is also the tension stated in the free patterns provided on Supreme’s website.

I’m rather in love with this green.  It’s so foresty.  The colour is slightly heathered, enhancing the yarn’s richness and depth of colour.  The silk has also given this yarn more lustre than most other possum yarns.

12 ply – 100 metres per 50g ball.  This is incredible meterage for a chunky-weight yarn.  The same weight in a 100% wool is usually around 65 metres!  Although Supreme’s other yarns are priced at the higher end of the market, at NZ$12 a ball, this chunky yarn represents good value given you don’t need as much yarn for your project.  I haven’t seen this weight in the yarn stores, but Supreme sells direct to the public from their website – a very helpful way to get hold of their yarn!

Comparing this yarn’s softness and strength against other possum fur yarns, the 4 ply is quite fragile, but the 8 ply is reasonably strong (although not as strong as The Wool Company’s or Zealana’s 8 ply merino possum).  I haven’t got a sample of the 12 ply weight, but the fact that it’s a chunky yarn suggests strength.

Supreme’s website is also one of the few New Zealand yarn websites offering a number of free patterns including pullovers, hats and gloves and a cute child-size hoodie.

This yarn is definitely a quality addition to the stable of New Zealand possum fur yarns in the market.  Supreme is certainly an apt name for possum fur yarn – it is supremely soft, warm and nice to knit!

I’m pleased that this yarn is available in New Zealand in weights that suit patterns from overseas (particularly the worsted/aran and chunky weight patterns) as this weight of yarn is not commonly available here.

Currently, my budget doesn’t allow for a large purchase of this yarn, but when I find myself in happier financial circumstances, I’ll definitely be experimenting with this yarn in a worsted-weight pullover pattern – something by Norah Gaughan comes happily to mind!

In the meantime, I’ll be knitting my sample balls into a nice, warm, cuddly hat and pair of gloves for Eric for the coming winter.


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Possum tales: A beginning

The acquisition of some Zealana Tui for my Clasica Coat made me think about possum yarns.  And it occurred to me that there are actually quite a few New Zealand brands that produce possum yarns. I have had varying experiences with them.  Some of the yarn I’ve acquired is soft, cuddly and exactly like what you’d get in a possum garment that you purchase.  Other possum yarns have been a tiny bit scratchy, weak, or over-fluffy.

Possum fur is a very short, fine fibre.  You cannot spin it into a yarn on it own.  It must be blended with a fibre that acts as a binder.  This is without exception so far, merino.  Some yarn producers also add small quantities of other fibre into the mix, including nylon, silk and alpaca. 

The mill that produces a vast proportion of possum yarn in New Zealand is Woolyarns, although all three major mills have spun yarns with it for their clients.  In my opinion, Woolyarns does it best, having appeared to have perfected the technology to produce a yarn that holds the possum fibres in the yarn, produces a lovely angora-like halo and retains the strength of wool.

Some readers may need a small explanation about why I am supporting a fur yarn.  Kiwi readers will know all about it.  In short, possums (brushtail possums) are a pest import from Australia – the end-result of a foolish attempt by early European settlers to establish a fur industry in New Zealand.  Unfortunately, the responsible individuals weren’t very good at producing quality fur skins, so the operation failed.  And instead of destroying the remaining possums, they let them loose into the bush, with disastrous consequences – in the absence of natural predators, and the run of New Zealand rich in plant and bird life, these possums very quickly multiplied.  Their numbers are now estimated to be anywhere between 30 – 70 million.  They cause extensive damage to the entire cycle of the eco-system, eating birds’ eggs and nestlings, invertebrates, as well as fruit, flowers and plants.  They are also said to be responsible for the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

One way to control these pests is to use their fur, which is incredibly warm.  The thermal properties of merino and possum combined, create projects that are much more windproof and warm than wool alone.  The fur also prevents the wool from pilling, so you get a fabulous garment that stays nice looking. 

I’ve listed below the brands that I know of that carry possum blend yarns.  It’s interesting that there is a bit of variety in the composition of the yarn.  That itself lends a different character to each.       

        

The Wool Company, (Utiku) 30% possum, 70% merino, 100g ball, 8 ply, (DK or light worsted), 220 metres.

Touch Yarns, 30% possum, 60% merino, 10% nylon, 100g hank, no ply specified, but recommended needles are 3.75mm (a visual and “feel” comparison with other 4 ply makes me think this could be a 5/6 ply weight, sport or light DK), 420 metres.

Supreme Possum Merino, 40% possum, 50% merino, 10% silk, 50g ball, 4 ply and 8 ply available, 210 metres in the 4 ply ball.

Millspun, 40% possum, 60% merino, 50g ball, 8 ply, knits as DK or light worsted, 125 metres.

Zealana

  • Rimu, 40% possum, 60% merino, 50g ball, available as 4 ply (fingering) or 8 ply (DK, light worsted) weight, 128 metres in the 8 ply ball.
  • Tui, 15% possum, 70% merino, 15% cashmere, 100g ball, 12 ply, knits as chunky.  111 metres.
  • Kiwi, 30% possum, 40% merino, 30% organic cotton,  40g ball, 2 ply or 4 ply, lace or fingering weight.  198 metres in the 2 ply, 136 metres in the 4 ply.
  • Kauri, 30% possum, 60% merino, 10% silk, 40g ball, 4 ply, fingering, sport or baby weight, 153 metres.  Also available as a 10 ply, or worsted weight.
  • 2020, 20% possum, 80% merino, 50g ball, 8 ply, (DK or light worsted) and 12 ply (chunky).  130 metres in the 8 ply and 66 metres in the 12 ply. (I don’t think this yarn is available in New Zealand yet).

Naturally

  • Karamea, 10% possum, 75% merino, 15% alpaca, 50g ball, 8 ply or DK weight,  104 metres.
  • Waikiwi, 10% possum, 20% nylon, 15% alpaca, 55% merino, 50g ball, 4 ply, or sock weight, 181 metres.

Jamie Possum, 20% possum, 80% merino lambs’ wool, 50g ball, 4 ply (fingering) and 8 ply (DK), 200 metres in the 4 ply ball.

Merino Possum, 35% possum, 50% merino, 15% nylon, 50g ball, 8 ply (DK), 160 metres.   

So far, my experience is limited to Merino Possum, The Wool Company and Zealana’s Tui and Kiwi.  But over the next few weeks, I’ll be knitting with each of the above yarns and will write about my experiences with them.

Of my current experiences:

Merino Possum is a funny one.  It’s produced by WEFT Industries, and I’ve only ever found it in the Bay of Plenty area (Tauranga and Napier).  It’s not your typical fluffy possum yarn.  In fact, it’s not fluffy at all.  The finished project was positively ‘crisp’!  You need to give it a good wash to soften the fibres, and before the fluff begins to appear.  I’ve knitted two scarves with this.  The yarn was a bit weak, and broke if I pulled too hard, which happened a couple of times.  I guess the spinning process needs some improvement.  Here’s a close-up of one of the scarves:

It knits to a tension of 22 sts x 30 rows on 4mm needles.  I’m ambivalent as to whether I’d buy it again given the weakness factor, but the colours are very nice, and if you do want a possum yarn that isn’t overly fluffy, this is a good choice.  The blocking process seemed to help bind things together a bit more – the resultant project became much more agreeable, and soft.  It’s times like these that I think I’d really like to enrol in a commercial spinning course, as I’d love to know more about how yarn is produced (and no, hand-spinnng is not the same thing to me!)

I believe the The Wool Company’s merino possum is spun by Woolyarns.  It’s meant to be 8 ply, knitting up 20 sts x 30 rows on 4mm needles.  However, you could happily knit with 4.5mm needles for this yarn.  It’s quite a “chunky” DK.  I got 12 wraps per inch in it, which according to standard knitting lore means that it’s actually worsted, or a 10 ply weight.  Knitting a sample in 4.5mm needles, I got a very pleasing fabric with 18 sts x 28 rows per 10cm. 

My project in this yarn, Fleet, by Kim Hargreaves, is my standard cold day pullover. 

This pullover was my constant companion last winter, but it hasn’t pilled at all.  I love it so much that I’ve got another garment lot of yarn sitting around waiting to be made up into something… when I get around to it!  I really should knit a pullover for my little boy in it too.  It’s the yarn you expect to buy when you think of possum.  Fluffy, soft, and cuddly.  And it comes in such lovely colours! 

These are some of last year’s colours – there are more.  See this link if you’d like to view the current range.

In terms of Zealana, so far, I’ve knitted with the fingering weight of Kiwi, and as you know, I’m also knitting the Clasica Coat in Tui.  I’m loving every minute… it’s soooo yummy!  I’ll talk more about Zealana in my next post on this subject.

In the meantime, I leave you with more pretty possum:

Happy Knitting!