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!

IMG_2557 (800x565)

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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River walk

Hello!

I promised some photos of the new environs once we got out and about.  Today, the eldest boy and I went for a walk by the Hutt River.  It was lovely.

Hutt River

The sound of the water rushing over the rocks was so restful.

Autumn on the river

The leaves are finally starting to change!

River walk

It was nice to be close to nature again.

I especially enjoyed looking at all the different colours and textures in the rocks.

Rocks

Colours

We met some of the locals.

Plovers

I was pleased to be able to get reasonably close to these spur-winged plovers.  Their little masks are so cute!

Spur-winged plover

It was a lovely interlude.

Hutt River walk

 


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Social time

This weekend, the stars aligned perfectly:  the Social Wool Fair was on, the eldest son needed a lift to Wellington airport so he could get a flight back to Auckland and the youngest son had a play date with his best friend in Wellington.  This meant that a) I would be in Wellington, and b) I got a few spare hours all to myself and could go to the Fair! Hurrah!!

Bunting outside the Social Wool Fair venue

Bunting outside the Social Wool Fair venue

After dropping the boys at their respective destinations, I arrived at about lunch time.  I had a quick bite to eat in the knit cafe, and then proceeded into the hall, where I found my tribe (somehow that picture didn’t end up focused very well…!)

At the social wool fair

I was making my way slowly around the stalls and enjoying catching up with Helen, James, Susan, Nikki, Denise and others when I noticed that everyone had started packing up!  No!!  What was this!?  I thought the event didn’t finish until 4pm!? My carefully timed schedule of visiting stalls and having time to chat was ruined! Turns out the ending time had been changed to 2pm.

I finished making the rounds as quickly as possible, but didn’t manage to catch everyone.  And I didn’t get to take any more pictures of pretty yarn displays!

Outlaw yarns

I’ll just have to show you what I did manage to acquire:

Fair purchases

That’s more Anna Gratton 4 ply 100% pure wool in natural and a hand-dyed number called Mango (I woke up inspired to knit a shawl that morning), my first Zauberball, a pretty colourway called “The Blessed William” in Port sock yarn (100% superwash merino) from Dark Harbour Yarns and a nice selection of Outlaw Yarns Bohemia Sport that I hope I can turn into a colourwork number of some kind (it was a bit hard to think when everything was being packed up around me). Everything else is self-explanatory.

Sadly, the social knitting time I had carefully planned did not eventuate, so instead I visited a food court where I had some afternoon tea and knit a tiny bit of sock before it was time to collect the young boy.

Rainbows in 100% BFL by Happy-go-knitty

This is Happy-go-knitty 100% BFL sock yarn in her rainbow colourway.

It was a good afternoon.  Thank you, Nanette and Co., for donating your time and energy to making this event for a good cause happen.

We were lucky that we did not encounter any flooding on the way home.  The weather in the lower half of the North Island has caused severe flooding in some parts – I hope everyone is okay!

Thanks so much for all your comments on my last post.  I thought I had better do some research to identify the little critter I photographed last week.  Turns out, she is indeed a species of stick insect (they eat plants and not other insects and are usually flightless).  This is one of New Zealand’s eight species of Variable Stick Insect (genus Acanthoxyla), distinguished by the appearance of black spikes on their heads and bodies.

Variable stick insect


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Astonishment

To get from Wellington to the Wairarapa, you drive over a range of hills called the Rimutakas.  It is a steep and windy road carved into the side of the hills.  The road has a reputation for being scary (I rather love the twists and turns).  It is sometimes closed to snow in winter and also to strong winds at other times of the year.  Here is some of that road:

The Rimutakas

Once you are at the top, you wind down the other side to the far land that you see in the horizon:

Rimutakas

The young boy and I both breathed one word when we crested the hill and saw the land spread out beneath us:  “Home”.

The Wairarapa

It is astonishing to depart from a land of hills, shadow, wind and rain, and emerge into an environment that is possibly its exact polar opposite.

The WairarapaThe house is still completely dishevelled.  The boxes are almost all opened, but new furniture will need to be acquired to make sense of some of the jumble still on the floor.  I feel slightly overwhelmed.  This is possibly the first time in my adult life that I have a decently-sized house to live in. It is interesting to examine how that makes me feel.

We explored the garden, and to our great glee we found Features of Interest:

Eggs!!!

The young boy found the coop at the back of the vegetable patch.  The previous occupant had left the last four eggs laid!  I don’t think they are edible now, but the prospect of being able to keep chickens again is tremendously exciting!!

Some tomato plants were left.  They were very wilted and the vegetable bed very weedy.  I watered the tomatoes, and pulled out the weeds, and they are now looking slightly healthier:

Tomatoes

We found several plum trees!

Plums

To more squeaks of happiness, I discovered the raspberry canes:

Raspberries

They also show signs of damage from the dry, and I will spend some time in there trying to put things right before the winter.

There are even olive trees – the Wairarapa is famous for not only good wine, but also olives and olive oil.

DSC01961

There are feijoa bushes (a New Zealand fruit), a peach tree and a very sorry-looking rhubarb plant.  Hopefully the rhubarb will come back to life when the rains return.  To this I may add apple and avocado trees.

There is an obvious focus on outdoor living in this part of the country…

Outdoor living

There is a large wooden deck that runs along the length of the house – half of it is covered, a necessity in this heat and sun!  There is also a separate barbeque area and an afternoon deck on the other side of the house (just in case one wants to sit in the sun all day long).

My heart is very full.  This is very much the lifestyle to which I aspired when I came back to New Zealand all those years ago.  It has taken me a while to find it.

The walks are yet to happen, but I can see some very happy exploration times for the boy and me.

And what of the knitting, you are asking?

Withywindle socks

The Withywindle socks are coming along.  Very slowly.  By the time I am done with the unpacking and sorting and running around for the day, and it is cool enough to knit, I have been so tired that I have fallen straight into bed without a stitch to show for it.

One sock is complete.  The other was half-done, until I realised I knitted it all wrong and had to rip back to the cuff. When will I learn that I cannot knit when tired?

One sock done.

I am looking forward to organising my workroom/designing space properly (I can have all my yarn, books and designing activities in one place here), and then being able to sit down with a contented sigh, and pick up my needles and knit to my heart’s content.


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Meeting Mary and Strand

I had a few minutes up my sleeve between finishing work and collecting the young man from school, so I called in to Nancy’s Embroidery.  I was after a pair of circular bamboo needles.  I was almost in luck – a pair of 4.5mm bamboo circular tips from Knit Pro’s newest needle range was sitting on the shelf, but I was after 4mm.  Oh bother.

I was just about to walk out the door, admiring the nice Stansborough display on my way out, when I was stopped by a lady who asked “Excuse me, are you Wei S?  Do you write the Kiwiyarns blog?”  I said ‘yes’ (rather cautiously). I gathered she was Mary Self, the owner of Nancy’s Embroidery!  She wanted to introduce me to her bespoke yarn, Strand.  Had I seen it before?  Did I have time to have a look?

I figured a few minutes wouldn’t hurt, and I am always keen to find out more about New Zealand yarns!  So I followed her back down the aisle, where she showed me some cute balls of yarn that I had previously picked up and squished, but hadn’t really paid a huge amount of attention to.

Mary explained that this yarn was especially spun for her by a commercial mill, from 50% New Zealand Corriedale and 50% New Zealand kid mohair.  It is a fully worsted spun, 2 ply yarn, (ie the fibres combed smooth, not referring to the weight of the yarn), and has come out at about a 3 ply weight (thicker than lace, but slightly finer than fingering).

Strand was originally created for use in embroidery.  You’ll know that embroidery yarns are designed to withstand the rigours of being continuously pulled through the canvas, and are therefore very strong.  Anyone who has sewn up a project with wool yarn and found the yarn snapping mid-draw will understand how strong it must be.  My interest was piqued.

Mary worked out that this yarn also knits and crochets beautifully, and has begun marketing it for this purpose as well.  She took me out back to see the bedazzling range of commercially  and semi-solid hand-dyed colourways in this yarn. Oooooooh….. 177 gorgeous colours!! It was the equivalent of a knitter’s candy store in there!

I found out that all 177 colours are available in economical 100gm (3.5oz) balls and embroidery-portion 10gm skeins.  The 25gm (.8oz) balls are only available in a limited range of 25 colours for the time being.

She showed me a cardigan knit from the yarn that was very lovely indeed.  It only needed 275 grams for a small size (11 x 25gm balls, or three 100gm balls), which represents a reasonable cost for a good quality article of clothing.  There were blankets and scarves and baby jackets and hats – all knit in Strand, and all looking very beautiful.  You can see them all here.  The knitted articles felt very soft. There was plenty of drape, and the garments had all retained good structure and did not look pilled or worn. It is interesting that although I had been into Nancy’s quite a few times before this, I hadn’t quite noticed all the detail.  I appreciated the personalised tour!

I decided that it was absolutely necessary to sample some of this yarn.  There was a kit pack of 10gm skeins with a range of colours in it, along with a design for some stripey fingerless gloves displayed on the shelf.  That would be a good starting point and a good excuse to play with colour!

Fingerless glove kit

Mary very generously gave me a pack for my research purposes, but I decided to get another one as well so I could have a good range of colour to play with.

On reflection, I probably could just as easily have picked a number of 10gm skeins off the display unit on the wall, but I liked the idea of having some pre-coordinated colours to play with.  I get all anxious and bothered when I have to match colours under pressure, and I was acutely conscious that there was a child who was going to need picking up from school soon.

So, these beautiful colours came home to play with me:

Strand super fine yarn

Srand super fine yarn

Now, if your mind is ticking like mine, you’ve probably already tagged Strand for colourwork. Maybe you are also wondering about lace? And you’re probably thinking about now… if it’s so strong, is this yarn suitable for socks!??

I set to work to find out.

Colourwork in Strand

This is the motif for Kate Davies’ gorgeous Bluebells sweater, which I am quite tempted to knit.  I used colours 123, 373, 315 and 445.  I think the yarn makes very lovely colourwork, although it is different to the woollen spun yarns that are often used in fair isle style knitting.  The worsted spun yarn keeps the colours clean and with crisp stitch definition, whereas woollen spun yarns (like the J&S 2 ply jumper weight used in the original Bluebells) will give a soft, blended look with a stickiness that is good for activities like steeking, where you want the stitches to hold together.  I don’t know how this yarn would perform in that particular situation, although I still love the look of the swatch that I hold in my hands.

I like that there are small 10m (11yd) skeins that one can play with first before buying a larger quantity as well.  I find that I often have to play around with colours before I find the right combination for colourwork – this will save wasting yarn and money!

The thing that has completely captured me though is how it knits in lace.  I threw a couple of motifs together here just to see how the yarn behaved in lace.

Lace in Strand

This is colour 392.

I am quite besotted.  I must knit a lace shawl in this yarn and shall run down to Nancy’s Embroidery at the soonest available opportunity and get myself a nice 100gm ball of this yarn!

What do I think of the yarn?  I really like it!

The worsted process has created a very lustrous and smooth strand.  Two singles has firstly been highly twisted before being tightly plied together to create a very defined, strong and elastic yarn.

Knitting it, I find that the yarn’s elasticity makes it very pleasing to knit with, and easy on the wrists.  It is, as expected, very strong.  Similar in strength to a tightly twisted sock yarn.  The yarn knitted smoothly, with no snagging or splitting on the needles.

The kid mohair has contributed drape, lustre and strength, while the wool contributes elasticity and body.   It is very different to other mohair/merino blends I have come across.

As I noticed in the knitted samples in the shop, the yarn creates a fabric with beautiful drape.  This is one of the reasons why I think it will make nice lace, in addition to the beautiful stitch definition that was achieved with very little blocking.

The yarn is soft, with a smoothness that is almost silky.  It is definitely a yarn you can wear next to the skin, and in fact, Mary does sell a lot of it for baby garment knitting. People with very sensitive skin will probably still find it a little bit scratchy though, due to the fine mohair fibres that create a very gentle haze.

Needless to say, I find the colours simply gorgeous and will have a very hard time choosing only one to knit a shawl when the time comes.  (One could of course give in to temptation and knit stripes in any variation if one chose…!)

I did ask Mary if she had knitted socks with it.  Her answer is that she found it very nice for socks, but because the wool did felt a little on the soles, it pushed the mohair out, creating a slightly fluffy sole. This may not appeal to some, although I am still quite tempted to knit a pair to see what it’s like!

If you’re wanting to get your hands on some of this lovely stuff and don’t live in Wellington, it is available online and from the following retail outlets in New Zealand:

Broomfields in Christchurch and Nelson
The Embroiderer in Auckland
Bernina Sewing Centre – Tauranga
Ashfords Craft Shop – Ahburton
Seriously Twisted – Dunedin
Needle and Thread – Dunedin

Thank you Mary, for making me notice your beautiful yarn.  It has definitely been added to my list of good New Zealand yarns!

 

 


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Treebeard and Poppy socks and the Social Wool Fair

So overjoyed was I at being able to have a week of regular hours that I completed these socks in exactly one week.

Treebeard

Pattern:  Treebeard by Claire Ellen

Yarn:  Knitsch 100% merino sock in Emo Nemo (limited edition colourway)

The only thing I’d say about them is that I followed other knitters’ advice and used a larger sock needle than suggested.  The pattern says 2.25mm, but I used 2.5mms.  The socks fit well but I think I would have struggled if I had used the smaller needle.  However, there is the matter of the pattern not showing up very distinctly.  You can see it more clearly in the final photo (where I have pulled up the socks to show the lace separations).  I figure if you blocked the socks you might get the look in that picture.  I wonder if I blocked them out like that though, would they not be too baggy on me afterwards considering they fit perfectly as is?  Maybe I should have risked the smaller needle, and trusted that they would have stretched out over my feet after all and given the look they should have had!??

Love how cosy they feel in Knitsch merino.  I think the colour suits the ‘old forest’ theme of these socks.

Finding myself bereft of a sock project after finishing the Treebeards, I was left in a quandary.  Should I start knitting one of my current designs in progress, or should I choose from the mountain of sock patterns sitting by my knitting chair?

I do need to come to grips with toe-up socks because I’ve got a design in my head that will only work toe-up (unless I modify it).  What better way to learn that to knit a few toe-up socks?

I’ve chosen the Poppy socks to start with, using Knitsch’s Moulin Rouge colourway. I think it’s very poppy’ish don’t you?  I’m not sure if the pattern was the wisest choice though.  After I cast on, I thought I had better go and look at what other people have said about the pattern, and there were a fair few remarks (and photos) about weirdly fitting heels and no stretch.  Oh dear.  Now all my anti-toe-up bells were a-jangling!!!  I hate it when I break out in a nervous sweat about how a sock is going to go.

I looked again at the pattern instructions for the heel, and I think that by following some of the suggestions from other knitters and using my own knitting common sense and knowledge of how heels fit, I should be able to get these babies to work.  Let’s see how I get on!

Poppy

Now I shall tell you all about the Social Wool Fair that we had yesterday!  It was a very lovely day, in a spacious hall that was visited by a constant stream of eager knitters and crafters.  Again I bought more than I ought to…. (ahem).   Not pictured below is Kate Davie’s Colours of Shetland book and more wooden DPNs.

Social wool fair acquisitions

 

I especially loved catching up with people and hearing all their news.  It was also super to meet a few readers and get more of an appreciation for who reads my blog!  People, I am in awe of your knitting skills!

I think the social aspect was very well done.  The markets that I have attended in the past do not tend to facilitate being able to just stand and talk or sit and knit and natter, or have a coffee and a bite to eat, as the case may be, yet this day definitely provided that option.  Fantastic!  Well done, and many, many thanks to the organisers for bringing in so many amazing sellers, and also providing the opportunity for people to contribute for the benefit of charity.

Hope you are having a great weekend!