Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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Smaug and the chevron poncho

I suddenly realised this weekend that we’d past the middle of January, and my Smaug socks were languishing on the WIP pile and only a quarter done!

Some concentrated knitting time later… nearly there!

Smaug socks

After I finished the first sock yesterday, I tried it on, and I have to say I am extremely excited about finishing them!  They are very, very cool socks!

I don’t know what it is about this project.  I think it’s a combination of shiny tip needles and the colour red, but I cannot spend too long knitting them without my eyes going funny. To break things up, I’m also alternately knitting this:

Chevron poncho

It’s the Amalfi Poncho, an unashamed nod to my ’70s childhood. Covered in cat hair already, as one small animal insists on sitting on my lap when I’m knitting.  I’m knitting the large size as I want it to cover me properly.  The yarn is Corriedale from The Wool Company, and it’s in a colourway called Autumn.  I got this colour a while ago and it doesn’t appear to currently be in stock.  I suspect any of the multi-dyes will come out similarly sequenced though.

I am doing it all in one variegated colour, as opposed to alternately striping it with another colour.  I’m looking forward to snuggling under this come winter.

More sock pattern drooling on Ravelry has been happening at this end… there are so many pretty sock patterns out there, it’s hard to know which one to knit next!!  I also discovered an extremely cool feature of the Ravelry queue system, which I thought I’d share with you.  Many of you will probably already know this… but here goes.

If you tag your queued pattern (eg “socks”), and then create a new set in your queue (click “organise” to do this – I’ve called my new set “socks”), then type in the tab that you’d like to appear in that set, all the queued patterns that you have tagged with the specified tag (eg. “socks”) will magically appear there!  (I have always wondered what the purpose of a tag was…)  Ravelry does have a Wiki topic on this feature here, which I have of course, never read… but looking at it now I see it explains it all nicely.  Have a look at the link in case you’re not sure what I’m going on about.

As a result of my latest discovery, I now have a yummy “sock” set in my Ravelry queue that allows me to keep tabs on all the socks I would like to knit, and I don’t have to scroll through my entire queue to find a pattern I want to select!  Hoorah!

This is a most useful concept which I might have to start applying to my projects as well…

Hope you are having a lovely weekend.


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Because there is only so much time

It struck me this morning as I sat and played with a colourwork design that there is only so much time to knit.

I’ve commonly read that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master craftsperson.  That’s the equivalent of three hours’ practice a day for 10 years.  According to that theory, I’m still a few years away from become a master!

Knitting has so many dimensions.  Lace. Cables. “Gansey”.  Fair isle.  Then there are all the many stitches in ‘ordinary’ knitting that need understanding (all a combination of knit and purl).  Not to mention mastering the intricacies of tension, garment design and general theory relating to knitting, yarn and fibre characteristics.  To become a knitting master – to have mastery over all these facets is going to take me a lifetime.  I know it.

I decided at the beginning of the year that to advance my goal of becoming a master knitter, every project I do must teach me something new.  If I didn’t learn something new, it would be hours wasted.  Knitting for me is as much about intellectual stimulation as it is relaxation.  The learning part is just as thrilling to me as that of finishing a new project and wearing it or seeing it being appreciated by its recipient.

So what does this mean for the fair isle piece I was playing with?  It means that I realised pretty quickly that I still need to learn a lot about designing colourwork.  I need more practice in colour theory before I go there.

It also means that although I want “to knit all the things” I will have to choose my projects carefully if I want to maximise my learning opportunities.

The past few days have seen me agonising over what to knit next.  It feels like I haven’t been knitting at all.  Although I must have been, because I have sore, plastered fingers to show for it…

The reason for the agonising is because I know that next winter, we’re going to freeze if I don’t get more knits done for the kids and I.  So the planning has to start now because I only have two hands and only so much time, and there are so many considerations to take into account.  Learning.  Function.  Beauty.  Design.  Taste (some people in this household are fussy.)  What I have in my ‘stash’ that matches with what I want to knit…

On a related note, did you know about the Ravelry queue feature that allows you to print out your queue so that you can match a pattern to yarn?  (I’ve only just discovered its useful potential).  Now I have a list that I can use to browse my wool collection to see what I have that matches with what I want to knit.  It would be easier if I had all my ‘stash’ on Ravelry of course… Still, the feature is very handy!

I’m off to do some ‘stash diving’ now.

I’ll leave you with some photos that I took on a recent beach walk which have me thinking:


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You’d be a fool not to…

The assumption of this post is that some readers may not have heard of Ravelry, or joined Ravelry yet.  So today, I’d like to talk about Ravelry, why it’s so great and why you’d be a “fool” not to join. 

Ravelry is a free online resource of information for knitting and crochet.  Founded by husband and wife team, Jessica and Casey, Ravelry came into existence in May 2007.  Since then, it’s grown to more than 600,000 members (I last saw the stats a few months ago, so it’s probably more like 700,000 now).  For knitters especially, it’s bigger than Facebook.  Every time I go on to Ravelry, I think that Jessica and Casey should win an award or something, for creating such a genius site.

Why Ravelry?  It is best explained in terms of its usefulness.  I’ve listed below some of the many features of Ravelry that I find particularly useful.  But there are many more – you’ll just have to join to find out!

1.  It saves a lot of angst.  I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have looked at a pattern, thought “that looks nice” or “I shall knit that”, and then look up the completed projects for that pattern on Ravelry and found that:

a) it looks hideous on real people (saving me the trouble of knitting the ill-fated project myself and then feeling discouraged when the project didn’t turn out as anticipated);

b) it looks fabulous on real people (giving me confidence that my chosen project is knit-worthy);

c)  the pictures show up areas in the pattern that I will need to be aware of when I’m knitting to make sure that it’s adjusted to suit me (if necessary);

d) there’s errata noted that helps to overcome pattern errors as I go along;

e) a knitter’s notes on her process while knitting this project will be useful when I’m knitting mine so that I can customise it to better suit my body shape, or navigate tricky bits of the pattern with confidence; or

f) I’ve been able to get a good idea as to whether the substitute yarn I’m considering will work with the pattern.

2.  It’s a very good source of moral support from the universe of knitters.  For example:

a)  you ‘meet’ people with even bigger collections of yarn than yours. This is a marvellously soothing experience for one’s unnecessary level of guilt over the size of one’s yarn hoard;

b) you get to ask questions about a technique you are stuck with, and receive help for it;

c) you actually do get to meet real people through knitting meet-ups organised on Ravelry for the real world.  And you can make friends all over the world through Ravelry groups, forums and chat-rooms (not all topics covered are about yarn or knitting!); and

d) you can join knit-a-longs (KALs) for a chosen pattern, or groups which concentrate on certain themes or initiatives (such as, “10 in 2010”, cables, fairisle, hats, kids knits, guernsey jumpers, Harry Potter, blogging… the list is endless).  This has the effect of giving focus to your knitting.  It allows you to proudly show off your finished masterpiece and receive praise for it (particularly talented individuals are known to have hundreds of “love” votes against their projects); get help when you are stuck; feel good about helping another knitter with a question about the pattern or technique; or simply gain inspiration from seeing all those amazing projects knitted or crocheted by others.

3.  It’s a great source of information.  In addition to above:

a) you learn a lot about yarn – there is so much information that knitters have contributed – what a yarn is like/how it knits up/how it does/doesn’t perform;

b) you can get a sense of how popular a yarn is by how many times it has been stashed and its star rating;

c) you can find patterns to suit your budget, whether free or paid for and at the same time also gauge how popular that pattern is and how easy/difficult people found it; and

d) through membership of Ravelry groups that are geographically focused (eg. Wellington Fibre Artists), you can find out the local goings-on and news related to knitting for your area.

4.  It’s an opportunity to contribute.  As well as loading the notes and photographs of your own projects, you can also:

a)  share details of a pattern (if it’s not a free download, you can still list details of where to find the pattern/what yarn it uses/who designed it, etc.);

b) share details of a yarn brand you are using – particularly if it isn’t already on Ravelry’s database;

c) share information about where you shop.  This helps knitters who are new or visiting your area to find out where they can buy yarn in your locale (because after all, when in a new place, one has to sample the yarnie delights!);

d) host a group that brings together knitters or crocheters with the same interests; and

e) become a volunteer editor.

For Ravelry’s official tour, click here

So what are you waiting for?  Join the fun today!


10 in 2010 revisited

At the beginning of this year, I decided to sign up to the “10 in 2010” group on Ravelry (to knit 10 projects in 2010).  Time has ticked on, and I’ve sort of been following the list of projects I put together to knit, but sort of not.  Someone on Ravelry summed it up very well when she said that choosing which 10 in 2010 projects you’d knit at the beginning of the year was like fixing your lunch the night before. You don’t fancy it by the time lunch time rolls around.  I quite agree.  A lot of other projects have ended up being knitted too, in addition to this list!

Given it’s now the end of June, I think it’s time to do a little review of the list I put together at the beginning of the year, to see where I’ve got up to, and what I ought to tweak.  I have already knitted more than 10 projects this year, but as I recall, the 10 in 2010 group was put together to help ‘bust the stash’ (or enhance the stash!) and get us to use different yarns and knit different things and in so doing learn new techniques as well.  No two projects were allowed to be the same.

My list at the time was:

1.  Rosemary’s Middle-Sized Jumper.  In llama/merino.  Intention here was to knit a jumper in-the-round (up to that point I’d only knitted one project in-the-round), and use llama yarn, which I hadn’t used before.  Status:  Done.  Result:  Yum!

2.  3/4 length sleeve pullover in Cleckheaton’s natural cotton, from the winter 2008/09 issue of knitsimple.  In cotton.  Also in-the-round… difference for me was to knit a project in cotton.  Status:  Done.  Result:  Still don’t like knitting cotton that much.

3.  Hat, for me.  Done.  I’ve ended up doing two, actually.  One in alpaca, one in merino.  Using different fibres and different techniques (one is English rib knitted flat, the other stocking stitch and in-the-round), Result:  It’s funny how they’ve both ended up looking fairly similar in style…

4.  Dress for my niece.  In 100% wool.  This is the top-down pattern I talked about in my last post.  I have only knitted one other top-down project, so this will be another learning curve.  Status:  next project off the blocks.

5.  Hat and gloves for my cousin.  Done.  Although the gloves went to my sister… In angora merino (hat) and Stansborough Grey (gloves).  Usage of different fibres. 

6.  Intarsia diamond pattern tee by Pat Menchini from the June 2009 issue of Simply Knitting.  In Stansborough Grey.  Three-quarters done.  It was meant to be so that I could experiment with intarsia, but I’ve got horribly frustrated with the stitch orders refusing to cooperate.  I think it’s the extra colour running through the diamond that my brain isn’t coping with.  Very strange.  Also, I’ve chosen to use very subtle colours that do not stand out when you are knitting – so the two greys look very similar, and the green just disappears into the grey when you knit at night (which is when I do most of my knitting).   Very frustrating!

This is the same wool used to make those magic elvish cloaks in the Lord of the Rings… so I’m almost wondering if there isn’t just a bit of magic in the wool and it does make you blend into the background, the way the colours are behaving with my eyes!! 

Anyway, I’ve copped out and decided to re-knit the entire thing in plain grey and be done with it as a plain grey vest.  It will still be lovely, and I’ll tackle intarsia another day. 

7.  Balaclava for Eric.  In merino.  Challenge here to design a balaclava to exact specifications (instructions were for an exact copy as the one in the movie E.T.).  Status:  Done. Result:  One happy boy.

8.   A black mohair tunic for me.   This has fallen off the radar.  Instead I’m going to use the mohair for a coat for my step-mother.  Which will be another challenge as I’ll have to design a pattern for it… and in mohair.  Groan.  Status:  I guess I’d better start it soon…

9.  Cyril Squirrel-Fox soft toys.  Christmas presents.  Just something different to do from a garment.  Status:  Will do them later in the year.  (Probably the week before Christmas!)

10.  Jumper for my other niece.  Unfortunately, my sister just loves the dress I knitted for my niece when she was little, and wants me to knit another as the original is now the size of a tunic top (and my niece still wears it!)  So when I suggested a jumper, my sister requested another dress instead.  I think I’ve pretty much settled on the girl’s dress in the Spring/Summer 2010  issue of knitsimple.  It’s quite similar to the dress I’m going to knit for her sister (see point 4 above), only this one has a delightful cabled panel for the waist, and you knit the dress by first knitting the waist panel sideways, then picking up from the waist and knitting upwards for the bodice, and then picking up from the waist and knitting down for the skirt.  So this will be a new thing I haven’t done before either.  Status:  Start soon.  Probably as soon as I complete the first dress.

And, I also added two other projects for the possibility I might be feeling energetic:

11.  Top-down cross-over top by Cathy Carron from the Holiday 2009 issue of Designer Knits.  Still want to do this.  I was thinking merino mohair, which I haven’t used before.  And it’s also knitted in a way which is less than traditional (from memory, you knit two long panels and then cross them over and join them at the back to make the bodice front).

12.  Heritage Cardi from the Winter 2009 issue of Interweave Knits.  In pure wool.  Fair isle pattern.  Another colourwork “first”.  (When I was a teenager, I fearlessly knitted quite a number of colourwork jumpers, but of course, that was many moons ago now… and I’ve had a long break not knitting between then and now and it seems I’ve lost a bit of confidence somewhere along the way).  Status:  Done.  Result:  A bit of confidence restored.

To summarise, six out of 12 done, two projects swapped out, and one slightly altered.  That’s not too bad – about on target given we’re halfway through the year.  However, I need to add some more to this list as there isn’t a possum project in the list yet, so I shall add:

13.  My Clasica Coat (and no, it’s not cheating!).

It’s quite interesting.  At the beginning of the year, 10 in 2010 seemed a reasonable amount of knitting.  But now, it feels a bit pointless in a way to even count this list.  Because by the time the end of this year rolls around, I’ll have knitted a lot more than 10 projects.  Probably more like 30 projects. Because I’ve also signed up to IntSweMoDo (12 sweaters in 2010), there are a few others to knit too!  Plus family and friend knitting… plus fanciful ‘me’ knitting…

So was there any point in signing up to 10 in 2010?  On the other hand, would I have been as focused on my projects had I not committed to this group?  And would I have forced myself to learn different things and use different techniques to knit projects?  Most likely not. 

Not for the first time, I thank the fantastic founders Ravelry, and all the wonderful knitters who populate it with such fun and inspiring things to do.  Without Ravelry, or its creative members, I doubt that knitting would have been as fun as it is now, and certainly, it has motivated me to push the boundaries of my knitting experience further and further with every project I do.

So keep up the excellent work, good people of Ravelry!  The universe of knitting is definitely a better place for you.


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A knitting explosion

The problem with knitting a chunky coat is that your wrists get tired.  Here’s where I’ve got up to with my Clasica Coat:

That’s the back and left front, in the luscious cuddly softness of Zealana’s Tui.  I’m working my way up the right front now.

To prevent RSI, I have had to split this project between other less strenuous-on-the-wrists knitting.  All those K2 and K3 togs and M6 in one stitches in a chunky yarn are making this project a more kinetic-than-usual knit.  After a couple of hours’ knitting this, my wrists really ache.

The act of finding ‘relief’ projects has created a bit of a knitting fever.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had so many projects on the go at once!  And I keep finding more I want to do…

So I’ve also started a vest for Eric:

This is Bing, from the Spring 2010 issue of Verena Knitting.  I’ve modified it because having cables that go all the way across the vest was making it feel too heavy feeling.  I’ve left the four middle cables and kept the rest in stocking stitch.  This is a lovely little knit, and I finished the back yesterday.  But even then, it wasn’t quite doing it. 

My current obsession with tweed and texture continues to haunt me.  Yesterday, I spent much of the day’s free time playing around with this:

It’s a swatch for a pullover I’m planning.  This is Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight.  It’s soooo nice.  Purrr….  it’s got such a lively, interesting handle, I just love knitting it.  Even though it’s fingering weight, and I’m using tiny needles.  Not my normal gig! 

I’m just not quite sure if the style I originally had in mind will suit the yarn though.  I was going to copy a pullover I bought a few years back, but have since found annoyingly too short even though I like the general style.  I was going to knit myself another in a longer length.    

J&S yarn is something special.  Shetland wool, traditionally woollen spun.  This heritage wool has a wonderful bounce and stretch.  There is less drape to it than some of the ‘modern’ spun yarns floating around.  I think I shall have to do a bit  more research on Ravelry, and have a look at what others have knitted in this yarn to figure out the project that will show this unique yarn off in the best light. 

As you can see, I’m thinking cables… the question is, how many?  And should it be a vest or a pullover?  I think the green might be a bit too much for an entire  pullover.  It’s a gorgeous green though.  It reminds me of the sea.

Then, from the back of my yarn cupboard, I heard a wee tweedy voice calling me… it was the Naturally Aran Tweed I acquired at the beginning of Autumn.  It told me sternly to make it into a hat.  Today, if you please! 

It’s not true tweed.  It’s 95% merino, two singles of heathered colours plied together and spun into an entrancing forest of green.  But it looks like tweed, so I guess that’s why they called it that.  The photo does not do it justice.  This green is very hard to photograph.  Even the eye can’t get a fix on it.  Up close, the light catches all the green sparkles in it, but from a distance, it looks dark, olive green.

The hat is nearly done.  It’s a very quick knit in worsted (aran) weight yarn.  It’s Felicity, a free pattern from Wanett Clyde, who has kindly loaded it on to Ravelry.  Do look up the other completed projects in this pattern before you try it yourself – I found it very helpful as the original pattern is probably on the small side for most.  I’m using my Addi Turbo needles on this project, and it is really helping to make the knitting go faster.  I love my Addis.  I think I should make plottings to find more in different sizes…

I’m also currently researching for a pattern I want to knit from the Sandra knitting magazine.  It’s a European magazine, and I guess the English translation isn’t as good as it could be.  It’s a little top-down dress that’s knitted in the round.  For my niece.  Very cute:

The raglan instructions are unclear though.  I’m not familiar enough with top-down yet to know how to do this without instructions.  But I found Hetty, a free pattern from Found in the Sea designs, the creation of fellow NZ’er Sarah Wright, also on Ravelry.  Hetty is a very pretty little top-down dress in a reasonably similar style.  So I shall have a look at this and work out my plan of action for starting this dress in the next couple of days.

And lastly, Eric looked at me knitting my hat this morning and asked “Who is that hat for?”  To which I sheepishly replied “Me…”.  And in the silence that followed, I guiltily pulled out from under the pile of yarn beside me the green possum which he’s earmarked for a hat for himself, and said “But this is what I’m doing for you next!”  Poor sausage.

So my sofa looks like a yarn bomb has gone off on it, and at the same time I feel like I wish I could finish something.  I will, but you know what it’s like when you’re on the last home stretch?  It seems to take forever… 

Just to prove to you that I do finish what I start, here’s the finished Garden Jumper:

It’s a little on the short side, even though the garment is the exact size as the schematic in the pattern, and I’ve knitted it in my usual size (well, the choice was 36 or 38, and I thought 36 might be better).  I had a pouty evening when I put the sweater on for the first time and realised that for my sweater to fit like the model in the magazine, I’d have had to knit this project two sizes larger than normal!  :-\   But alpaca grows after knitting, and once it has finished its growing, I’m fairly sure I shall be happy with it.   She says hopefully.

Hope you’re having a good week. 🙂


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Pretty kids knits

My knitting takes on a different purpose each season.  Spring and summer are playtime – when I get to do selfish knits, and experiment with new techniques that I have been thinking about learning but haven’t had the luxury of time for.  Autumn and Winter are ‘down to business’ time – knitting up needed projects for family and friends. 

It’s come as a bit of a shock that playtime has so rudely ended, before I was ready for it.  Suddenly, I have quite a few projects to do that are necessities.  Ah well.  If I knit very hard, I should still be able to squeeze in that lovely Garden Jumper I highlighted in my last post.   As well as a few other projects that fulfil my Ravelry IntSweMoDo and 10 in 2010 ‘obligations’ to self.  Hopefully!

I’ve been quite pleased with the projects I’ve started recently, so I thought I’d talk about them:

I’ve just finished this.  It’s the ‘practical project’ I have previously referred to:

The pattern is Naturally’s N993, Sweater with Textured Panel pattern leaflet.  It’s available in childrens’, womens’ and mens’ sizes.

It’s a knit for a little boy, kindly modelled by Eric, with the help of a bit of chocolate bribery.  It’s the first time I’ve used Naturally’s Tussock, but I have to say I adore it!  It’s pure New Zealand wool, with a polyester effect thread plyed into it (making up 15% of the yarn content).  It’s classic looking and makes Eric look so handsome.  This sweater is for a slightly younger child, hence it’s of the ‘fitting’ description on Eric.  I might just have to make one for him too!

When I first saw this yarn, I thought it felt a bit scratchy.  But knitting with it, I’m finding that the yarn is actually very soft.  It’s the polyester effect thread that’s making it slightly coarse.  But as long as you wear something under the garment, I think you’ll find you love it.   

Tussock comes in three weights – 8 ply (DK), 10 ply (worsted)and 14 ply (chunky), so the things you can do with this yarn are very varied!  I’m having covetous visions of a chunky polo-neck sweater in the charcoal colour.  If I use the 14 ply in this range, I’ll be able to knit it up in no time!  I wonder if I’ll be able to squeeze it in…???

I’m also knitting this:

It’s a thank you, for a friend who was a total life saver and looked after Eric for a day, giving me time to clean up the vacated house during my recent move.  So this little pullover is for her baby daughter. 

I wasn’t quite sure how the actual pattern would look as the picture shown in the magazine (above) doesn’t clearly show the stitches, but it’s really sweet!  I love seeing the little love hearts appear in each row:

I found a typo in Row 2 of the main pattern which had one too many K1 noted in the magazine.  I’ve noted the correct order of stitches below.  The whole main pattern should read:

Row 1:  (RS) K1, *K2, P1, K1, P1, K3; rep from * to end.

Row 2:  P1, *P1, K1, P3, K1, P2; rep from * to end

Row 3: K1, *P1, K1;  rep from * to end

Row 4: as 2nd row

Row 5: as 1st row

Row 6: P all stitches

The original pattern is from the magazine Australian Knitting, Winter issue Vol. 1 No. 2.  Page 51.

I’m using Ihakara Wools‘ 4 ply in pink, and am having a very positive experience.  It’s beautiful wool.  Ihakara is slightly thicker than the 4 ply specified in the pattern (Naturally’s Magic Garden).  But I’ve found that my tension will work for width if I use the instructions in the pattern for the smaller size down (keeping to length specs for the larger size).  Once washed, this wool softens up a lot.  The baby is going to be very cosy in it.

Then there’s also this:

This is also Tussock, in 8 ply (DK) this time.  It’s going to be a jacket, Naturally leaflet pattern N1087.

This 8 ply is quite a chunky 8 ply.  My tension has worked out at 20 sts to 28 rows over 3.75mm needles.  It’s meant to be 22 sts and 30 rows.  Quite how I’d get that tension, I’m not sure – I’d have to go down to size 3.25 needles!  And the resulting knit would be as stiff as cardboard!  So I’m using the instructions for the 10 ply version on 4mm needles, which matches my tension and will create the fabric feel that I want for this project. 

This project is going to be interesting because I’m going to try out the zipper instructions I’ve talked about here. Can’t wait!

Now, if I get through these little projects this week, perhaps I can reward myself by starting a selfish knit next?  So much to do… so little time!