Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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COZI by name, Cosy by nature

Last week, a little package of sock yarn delight arrived in the mail courtesy of Zealana.  It made me extremely happy.

Zealana Cozi

Peppermint colourway

My fellow knitters, I am excited to introduce COZI, Zealana’s first sock yarn!

Cozi has been anxiously anticipated by me for what seems like at least a year, ever since I heard a little whisper that there was going to be a Zealana sock yarn. The wait has been torturous!!  I am not sure the yarn lasted an hour after arriving in my house before it was doing its thing on my eager needles!

Cozi is every bit as lovely as I hoped it would be.  Zealana’s aim is to make amazing yarn, and they have done it again with Cozi, producing one of the most interesting sock yarns to enter the market this year! Let’s have a closer look to see why!

Cozi is made from 58% merino, 15% New Zealand brushtail possum down, 5% baby alpaca and 22% nylon (2% of that is elastic nylon). This creates a yarn that feels luxuriously special, is very soft and yet durable.

The yarn had me smiling all over from the moment I cast on.  It is a beautifully plump, cohesive strand, with the most surprising spring and just the right amount of ‘squish’ factor.  Knitting with it, you quickly develop a smooth rhythm and even tension as the yarn slides easily over the needles and sits nicely in hand.

Construction

The tight twist and finely balanced combination of fibres has created a smooth strand that holds together very well.  I am very good at splitting yarn whilst knitting, yet I experienced only one incident of a strand not making it onto the loop with its siblings – a record for me, and a testament to the good construction of Cozi.  There is also no shedding of fibre as you knit.

Zealana Cozi sock yarn

Currant colourway

All Zealana yarns are constructed thoughtfully, and Cozi is no exception.  If  you have knitted with a possum sock yarn before, you are likely to have found it lacks much spring.  Cozi is different.  It is delightfully springy!  Jimad Khan, Marketing Manager at Zealana, tells me that using Zealana’s unique finishing technique, the 4 ply yarn was semi-felted around an ultra-fine texturised nylon filament (elastic nylon). This elastic nylon amplifies the spring from the twist by adding extra recovery to the fabric.  Add to this the qualities of possum down (softness and warmth and reduction of pilling) merino wool (body, spring and all of wool’s wonderful properties), baby alpaca (more softness and warmth) and nylon (for strength), and you get a super cushiony fabric which is soft, warm, light, comfortable to wear and adorably hugable – all trademark qualities of Zealana yarns.

High twist

Close-up of the high twist in Cozi.

I was initially concerned that the high nylon content would impact the feel of the yarn.  I’m not a fan of yarns where you can feel that nylon squeak.   My fears were at once pacified when I got hold of the yarn.  None of the beautiful feel of natural wool, alpaca and possum has been compromised at all.

I was very interested to see that the merino wool used in this yarn has not been superwash treated.  This aspect has also contributed to the spring and body in Cozi because the merino wool has lost none of its super springy characteristics.  I also like the implied environmental benefits of not using strong chemicals to treat the wool.  Jimad also told me that a higher micron merino wool was used, which should make it a more robust yarn.  The benefit gained in fabric texture and overall sock durability as a result far outweighs the traditional expectation of machine washability.  Given the nylon content, it is not likely that this yarn will shrink easily.  I am a reasonably careless washer of my hand knits and wash my possum garments (none of which are technically machine washable) on the handwash cycle using cold water. They always come out without mishap.  The same will apply to garments in this yarn.

Another side benefit of this beautifully textured yarn is that there is a bit more surface tension happening in the knitting than in most sock yarns.  If you happen to accidentally drop a stitch, you will find it sits meekly where you left it, waiting for you to pick it up, as opposed to naughtily running a couple of rows down like a few other sock yarns I know…

Gauge

Cozi has been made heavier (meaning, fatter) than most sock yarns.  At its recommended 28 sts/40 rows over 10cm/4 inches, (7 sts to 2.5cm/one inch) it sits on the outer edge of a typical sock yarn gauge.  Experienced socks knitters will recall that the standard sock gauge is usually closer to 32 sts/48 rows over 10cm/4 inches (8 sts to 2.5cm/one inch).  The heavier weight of the yarn has also influenced the meterage:  each 50g ball has only 170m (186y).  Many sock yarns are closer to 180m (200y) and above per 50g.  With 22% nylon and 15% possum down (both very light fibres) in the mix, you would expect more yardage in the ball – obviously, the extra weight has gone into a bulkier strand.

Because Cozi is a sock yarn on the heavier end of the spectrum, I strongly recommend experimenting with 2.5mm to 2.75mm needles when you first knit with this yarn to avoid extreme discomfort when knitting.  My own sock in Cozi is knitting at 32 sts over 10cm (8 sts to one inch) using 2.5mm needles, which I find is creating a very dense fabric and sits on the outer edge of my knitting comfort tolerance.  Even though the yarn itself may be comfortable to knit, if you create a fabric where the gauge is too tight, this can be very uncomfortable to knit as it becomes a struggle to manipulate the needles correctly.  I am surprised that despite using a larger needle than recommended, my gauge is still smaller than the indicated gauge, but this should mean that you will be able to get reasonably good results with most sock patterns that call for a yarn with average sock weight.  Zealana’s website recommendation for this yarn of 2.25 – 3.25mm is a good indicator of needle size range.

Bloom

The possum fibre in this yarn does not make itself fully known until after you start knitting, and creates just the gentlest haze over the fabric surface.  Zealana has cleverly used possum down in this yarn, the same possum down as used in their very coveted AIR range.  It creates a yarn with a very fine halo that is barely noticeable yet feels wonderfully soft to brush your fingers over it.

You never know how much a possum yarn will bloom until you wash it though.  Here is a comparison between a sock that has been soaked in warm water and a not-yet-washed sock.

Washed and unwashed sock

In reality, there is not much visual difference at all, apart from the washed sock (on the right) looking more ‘finished’ than the unwashed sock.  However, wet blocking (ie. washing) has brought the possum down to the surface, and the gentlest soft-focus haze covers the knitting.  My stitches have also evened out nicely.

I decided to tempt fate and used warm water to soak this sock (the ball band recommends cold washing).  It has not affected size at all.  However, if you were to put your socks in the handwash cycle of a machine, I would recommend sticking to the cold wash recommendation.

Here’s a closer look at the washed sock:

Washed sock

And the yet-to-be washed sock:

Unwashed sock

Uses

Cozi produces superb stitch definition and would suit any pattern that uses gansey-style stitch patterning, knit/purl combinations or cables.  You could get a lace pattern with reasonable amounts of stockinette to work but I’d be cautious about using it for anything too intricate.

Cozi was so compulsive to knit that I finished one sock in a weekend.  Slipping it on, I discovered another little secret to the elasticated yarn:  it creates a sock that really hugs your foot!  It felt like a warm, gentle embrace and most definitely cosy!  I did not want to take it off!

Although designed specifically for socks, the yarn’s great stretch recovery means that it would make amazingly cosy gloves and hats as well, and I can even imagine stretchy baby garments in this yarn.

Pricing

Sitting in Zealana’s cost-effective Artisan range, Cozi retails at NZ$14.50 a ball.  Given that the yarn contains 15% possum down, I’d say this is pretty good value.  It compares very favourably against other possum sock yarns in the market.

Conclusion

I think it is safe to assume that Cozi will take its place as one of the ‘must haves’ in the stash of any hard-core sock knitter.  Will I personally be knitting with this yarn again?  You bet!!  In fact, I was so anxious about using up the balls I received from Zealana, that I promptly ordered more online from Mynx!  I am yet to see this yarn listed at any of my local yarn stores, but I doubt that will be the case for much longer.

I can see much knitting of Cozi socks (and gloves, and hats) in my future!

 

 

 

 


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Puck for fast knitting

In the same way as we sometimes crave fast food, this week I craved fast knitting.

PuckIt probably had something to do with the fact that all my other projects are slow knitting – fine yarn or complex stitches – that require concentration and/or time.  I could see no FO satisfaction coming my way for a couple of weeks. Nor was I always in the right state of alertness in the evenings to be able to cope with the concentration required.

The yarn for Puck has been glaring accusing at me from the knitting table for quite some time, so I dived in and started knitting.

It’s funny that I had all the recommended colours for Puck in my stash.  It was a good way to use up those odd balls of Zealana Rimu DK that I had been collecting.  I used Riverbank (just over one ball), and one ball each of Kiwicrush and Dark Napo (I think? – I have lost the ball band – it’s a navy blue).  It is such a lovely yarn.  This photo particularly captures the softness and drape of this New Zealand brushtail possum yarn.

Zealana yarn in Puck

As written, the pattern makes for a scarf-sized project.  You could add another couple of repeats to get something closer to a shawl size.  I only had enough yarn for the original size.  They are not a very good night shots, but you get the idea… (I was trying to work out how many different ways I could wear it.)

Puck

Puck

It’s a crescent-shaped scarf.  I found that my cast-on edge could have been a bit looser.  Next time, I will remember to follow the advice of other knitters who put in a YO after the second stitch (and then drop it on the return row) to add more give.  Because this pattern requires you to make a stitch after the second stitch, I’d probably put the YO in the wrong side row which would have the bonus effect of giving me more yarn room to make the stitch on the right side row.  Now that makes me want to go and knit another Puck just to prove my theory right!

It is warm and soft and a nice pop of colour for my boring black work wardrobe.  Thanks for the refreshing interlude, Puck!

Fortunately, I have now finished the lace section of Lilli Pilli and am starting the next 100 rows of garter stripes.  They’ll do for mindless knitting this week!

Lilli Pilli


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Weekend pottering

The year is drawing rapidly to a close, and I for one, am not sad to see it go.  It has been a very long year. It has been very busy.  The tree isn’t even up yet!  That will hopefully be remedied today, along with the long grass in the back garden and Christmas presents that still need to be sorted.

We did make time to see “The Battle of the Five Armies” yesterday. We decided to see it at the Roxy.  I like the cinema, with its art deco theme and very comfortable chairs.  It seemed fitting to see the last Hobbit movie there.

Gandalf

The cinema has been refitted by Weta Workshop with cool Lord of the Rings features, including a life-size sculpture of Gandalf outside.

The boy with Gandalf

We were delighted to find some Hobbit-movie features inside as well.

At the Roxy

This is one of the dwarves’ costumes.  If I remember right, it was Ori’s.  As you can imagine, I spent quite a bit of time examining the knitted scarf and gloves…

The movie was great.  I decided to forgive Peter Jackson and team for including the orc sub-story that had not been in the original book.

Now then, to knitting!

Knitting

There has not been a whole lot of knitting.  Usually at this time of year things are getting a bit quieter at work, and there is more time for knitting, but this year will be frantic right up to the bitter end.   My place of work breaks for the summer on 19 December (in New Zealand the vast majority of employers enforce a two – three week annual holiday at this time of year).  At least I will have a few days after that to focus on Christmas preparations, and do enjoyable things like knitting.

However, I am making reasonable progress on two sweaters (I’m preparing for next winter – no point in knitting when it’s cold and you need to be wearing it, not knitting it!) The first is the Mattingley Jumper.  If you haven’t already noticed the book it’s in, go and have a look.  I found several patterns in there that I should like to knit, and as I have a somewhat generous alpaca stash, this is a good opportunity to use it up!  I am knitting the Mattingley in a naturally coloured charcoal alpaca in 80% alpaca, 20% polwarth wool (no brand – it came from a small alpaca producer who does not make yarn any more).

The second sweater is the Leighlinbridge Aran, which you’ll remember from my last post.  I am very much enjoying knitting it in soft, snuggly possum yarn.  The only thing I need to remember to do is to pause and look at the cabling every now and again.  Sometimes I make a mistake, and it’s easier to fix when it’s not so far down the fabric.

I love those cables!!!  I had forgotten how physically demanding a heavily cabled garment can be to knit – it is good exercise for the arms.

Cables

The autumnal-looking lace item in the top photograph is a scarf I’m designing and snatching a row or two on whenever I have a quiet five minutes and I don’t feel like wrestling with cables or a sweater in my lap.  It’s actually my ‘restful knitting’ project at the moment!  It will look lovely when it is done.  It’s one of those projects where blocking is definitely an essential part of the finishing process!  I’m using Anna Gratton‘s hand-dyed, 4 ply 100% wool in her Desert colourway.  It reminds me of autumn leaves.

There are also several pairs of socks lurking on the needles in various stages of completion.  I’ll save those for another post.

And finally, a bit of eye candy to finish the weekend!

Happy-go-knitty Luxury - merino cashmere nylon

I was so excited when these two beauties arrived!  This is a new MCN yarn base from Happy-go-knitty,  a high-twist, merino, cashmere and nylon mix!  Love!!  The colourways above are fuschia blossom and mango calla.  Helene doesn’t seem to have made any listings for them yet, but I am sure if you pop her a line she will tell you what she has in stock behind the scenes.

Wishing you all a good week and a restful weekend!

 

 


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A simple hat

Thanks to the Yarnsisters, I was recently the very lucky recipient of a couple of gorgeous balls of Zealana’s AIR MARLE.

Zealana Marle

I felt extremely happy to receive the MARLE because I haven’t seen anyone retailing it in New Zealand and so hadn’t been able to get my eager paws on any of this amazing stuff!

For the many who have not seen this yarn yet:  it is almost too sumptuous to be believed.  It is made from three twisted strands of AIR laceweight – outrageous luxury!  (The Zealana AIR range is all comprised of a heavenly 40% cashmere, 40% brushtail possum down and 20% mulberry silk blend).  AIR MARLE represents ultimate softness in the extreme, yet there is great strength in the yarn due to the three tightly plied AIR laceweight strands.

I’ve put in a picture so you can see what I mean:

Zealana Air laceweight and marle

The blue yarn is some Zealana AIR laceweight that I have.  You can see how the strand weight and composition is exactly the same as the individual strands within the MARLE.

Because the particular colourway I got is a black/natural marl, it is difficult to do much with it beside something quite simple, as stitch patterns tend to get lost in it.  I suspect the softer coloured shades of this yarn are much easier to knit in a stitch pattern though.  I’m particularly in love with these three shades (images courtesy of the Zealana website):

A357

 

A357

A448

 

A448A455

 

A455

Someone needs to stock AIR MARLE!

Anyway, back to the hat:  I played around with a couple of swatches, but in the end I decided it wanted to be a simple hat that let the qualities of the yarn be the highlight. The hat got put on the boy to model…

Zealana AIR MARLE

This proved to be a dangerous thing to do because the boy decided he didn’t want to take it off. He came up with other cool ways to wear it…

Simple hat

Simple hat again

He is much too engrossed in his game to pay attention to my photographic needs, but you get the idea…

And now it is his.  Hmm.  Oh well, at least I have enough of the second ball to make into something for me!  I decided to knit one more of the same style for me:

The Simple Hat

I thought I’d demonstrate how a bit more length in the body can create a different look:

The Simple Hat

It is not in AIR MARLE for obvious reasons.  I used a possum/cashmere/merino blend from Mohair Craft.

I did think I would like a shorter hat at first, but when it is winter, and there is a fierce, cold wind blowing, there is nothing more that I like than extra protection for the ears and neck!  A longer hat it became!

I have constructed the band/brim of the hat in a tighter tension than the body as I feel this is the best way for hats to be in the windy Wellington climate. This way there is less risk of the hat blowing off in the wind, but you also get a nice slouch happening in the body of the hat with the use of larger needles.  The tighter band has also given this hat the added benefit of the ability to shape it as you will without it being overly tight (I was quite surprised he got it to peak like that).

It’s a very simple hat to make, suitable for all levels of knitter, and very quick to knit.  The shorter hat was made over a day.  The pattern is based on a design I have used a lot over the years.  I decided it needed to become a pattern so I don’t have to sit down and think through the math every time I want to knit it!

This pattern  will suit any weight of DK yarn you choose to use (another great Zealana yarn that would be perfect for this pattern is RIMU), although you’ll need to bear in mind that the resulting hat’s look will reflect the properties of your chosen yarn (see the two different looks above as an example – that AIR MARLE has certainly given a simple design quite a bit of style!)

I thought this pattern would be a versatile one for Christmas gifts – especially for that fussy male who doesn’t like anything ‘too stylish’, for those days when you just want to wear a simple hat. :-)

When Audry came over on the day I finished it, the first thing she saw was the hat on the table, and she wanted to wear it too!

Simple Hat

Doesn’t she look great! (Thanks Audry for letting me take photos!)

Audry in hat

This is my pre-Christmas gift to you, download here for the free pattern:  A Simple Hat.  It is one size, suitable to be worn by most heads aged 10 – 100, but is easily adapted to make it smaller or larger by subtracting or adding stitches in multiples of four.  To make the sizes as shown, you need:

  • about 140m/153yd of DK yarn (for the shorter version)
  • about 180m/196yd of DK yarn (for the longer version)
  • 3.75mm circular needles (60cm/24″ circular)
  • 5mm circular needles (80cm/32″ circular for magic loop)
  • one stitch marker

I have used the magic loop method to knit the hat, but you can also use DPNs in the same sizes as noted if you prefer this method of knitting hats in the round.

Enjoy!

 

 


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Seadragons galore and Something Lovely

In a few days I’ll be asking you to help us vote for the best interpretation of dragon socks!   We’re approaching the final days of the Seadragonus KAL and I thought I’d show you some of the very elegant dragons that are appearing.  See this link to go to the page where everyone’s dragons are being posted and where the vote will be held.

I have really enjoyed this KAL.  It brings a happy smile to my face to see the socks being knitted, and most enjoyably, to interact with those who are participating.  I look forward to more KALs in future!  Thanks again to Alice for organising it in the first place!

My own second knit had completely unforseen results:

Seadragonus socks

They became the young boy’s socks!  He loves them so much that he has now worn them for approximately 24 hours, and refuses to take them off!  Looks like I now have another hand knit sock convert in the household. :-)

The socks also fit me, but they do have more negative ease than my first socks, and I believe this is due to the yarn I used being squishier.  It’s the second time I have knitted socks in a squishy yarn that has made the sock turn out smaller than the first pair.

I also finished another design this week, and I’m very pleased to give you a preview:

Something Lovely

This is Something Lovely (unless I can think of a different name before I publish it!).   It is designed specifically with Zealana yarns in mind – AIR Chunky, KAURI Worsted or HERON Worsted.  All three yarns have the same approximate gauge, and all have the same beautiful drape, warmth and softness that is so typical of a good New Zealand possum yarn.  Each yarn has slightly different properties.  This cowl uses about 380m in all three yarns.

Something Lovely features alternating panels of lace and double moss.  I have been craving a cowl that combines both texture and prettiness in a way that can be worn both casually and to work over one’s coat.  I am not fond of all over lace in a garment, so this design is my ideal of texture and lace combined.  I have broken up the panels so that it is possible to see both stitch patterns at any point of wear.

My first iteration was in AIR Chunky in the Gold colourway (L07):

AIR Chunky cowl

It is total luxury, with its cashmere, NZ brushtail possum and silk blend, and I love this colour so much!!  It is so light that I don’t even notice it around my neck, except for the extremely warm and cuddly feeling that has been keeping me very snug this week!  See the beautifully soft haze of the downy fibres used in this yarn, and pretty shimmer!

There were a couple of things I did not like about the design once I had finished it, so I fiddled a bit to come up with the next iteration in KAURI Worsted in Red Waina (K10 colourway):

Kauri Worsted

It is essentially the same, but I shortened it from its original length so that it sat better around the neck, and also changed the lace repeat so that it finished and ended in a satisfyingly balanced way.  KAURI is a blend of merino, NZ brushtail possum and silk.  It softens incredibly once it is washed, and a beautiful bloom develops.  With its wool content, this yarn has a bit more substance than AIR, although it is still a light, warm and soft choice.  I am wearing my sweater in this yarn today as we’re having a stormy Spring day and it is rather cold!!  But the warmth and softness of the possum is keeping me toasty and comfortable.  It is so soft that I can feel the softness and cuddliness even through my merino base layer! KAURI is also a more economical choice than AIR Chunky.  I used four and a bit balls of KAURI for this cowl, which I think is quite an approachable amount for a special gift or a treat for yourself!

I haven’t knit this design in HERON, but know it well enough to know it will use the same amount of yarn and come out at the same size. HERON is a blend of merino and possum.  Again, it blooms and softens and drapes in a magically lovely way once it is washed, and it would make a very good choice for this cowl as well, using only four balls.

This is some Heron that I have in my stash.  You can see it doesn’t look terribly fluffy in the ball, but once knitted and washed, it becomes the same as the sweater I have laid the balls on – my Affection, knitted in Heron.  With just merino and possum, it is one of the more traditional possum blends, although I particularly love it because of its single-spun, slightly heathered look – so special!

Zealana Heron

Something Lovely is a quick knit – I finished the second cowl in only two days.  A good choice for Christmas gift knitting!?

The pattern will be released as soon as I can get some nice photos taken by the eldest boy, hopefully by the end of this week.


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A good kind of busy

This week has flown by in a very good busy kind of way.  There has been an enormous amount of knitting behind the scenes, plotting designs and sorting out samples.  So much fun!!

Although it’s too early to tell you about any of the new things I’m working on, I realise that I haven’t yet shown you the possum version of the Latticework Cowl:

Latticework cowl in Zealana HeronThis version is knitted in Zealana Heron in the Cloud Blue colourway.  You can see the softer look of the stitches in this version caused by the halo from the possum fibres.  Of course, it’s very snuggly and soft as well!  I love it as much as the original in Maniototo Wool.

I’m working on a third version in alpaca at the moment.  I think it will be interesting to see how the alpaca performs in a structured cable design.

I knitted a quick hat for the older boy over the weekend.  Haven’t managed to get a photo yet.  It’s a basic slouchy beanie in worsted weight (design out of my head).  I had a lone skein of Dark Charcoal Cascade 220 floating in my stash that was the perfect thing for this beanie.  He seems quite happy with it. I was so happy with it that I’m knitting another now – this time for my brother-in law.

The Crenate socks were also finished.

Crenate socks in alpaca/merino

I love the fancy detailing around the ankle and heel.  It’s interesting that the pattern for this sock instructs a much smaller level of slip stitch rib than is shown in the pattern pictures on Ravelry.  I ended up knitting quite a few more rows than suggested in the pattern as the heel was far too shallow otherwise, but I think the heel would be better knitted as shown in the pictures on Ravelry (maybe she updated the design after it was printed in The Knitter, where I got this pattern?)  I am slightly worried that the heel will wear out too fast knitted like I have knitted it. However, they do look very pretty.  I hope the recipient likes them.

The New Zealand alpaca/merino/nylon sock yarn base I used is so lovely that I’m glad I’ll be casting on using this base again soon for the older boy’s annual pair of winter socks.  This time it’s from Happy-go-knitty in a self-striping combination of soft blues that look just like striped pyjamas to me!

Self-striping alpaca merino

Finally, a Happy Mother’s Day to all mums who read this blog!  I hope you had (are having) a wonderful day and were/are being appropriately spoiled by your families.  I was very surprised to receive a beautiful bouquet from my daughter (who lives overseas).  The two boys managed to acquit themselves very well too – the younger boy surprised me by cutting up a plate of fruit and cracking a handful of walnuts for me, all presented very neatly on a plate, as a mother’s day snack, along with a pretty handmade card.  He cut out a whole heap of beautiful hearts and decorated the door frame to the living room with them as well.  Such a sweetie! And the older boy, not to be outdone, washed and dried the day’s dishes all by himself!!  No mean feat considering I decided to get energised on the baking front today and baked no less than two pumpkin pies and an apple cake, and then made a very large pot of soup for dinner.  There was quite a pile of washing-up to do…

I have been very spoiled indeed this weekend.