6 March 2015

Dyeing All The Yarn

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It's not until I start dyeing yarn again that I remember how much I love it. Dyeing yarn is both thrilling and relaxing all at once. It's a wonderful feeling to be lost in time, watching magic happen right in front of your eyes.

Getting everything ready takes a while, I spend ages tying my skeins a bunch of times so they don't get tangled, soak my wool (or not, depending on what I'm doing), warm the water, plan colours and mix dye.

Finally, when you're ready, things start to happen quickly and the real fun starts as yarn is dipped in colour and the colour starts to ooze into the wool.

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I still think of myself as a novice dyer. An "experimental" dyer. I wonder if that feeling ever goes away. No matter how much I plan to make a particular colour, I'm never sure how it's going to turn out. Fortunately so far, my experiments have all had happy endings. Mind you, dyeing might be a bit like having babies - you're totally smitten with your wee bundle no matter what!

This week I've managed to dye two lots of wool for sweaters for me. They're both aran weight and there was rather a lot of wool to squeeze into my dye pot.

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I'm going to knit Alicia Plummer's In Stillness sweater with the tawny-grey colourway. It's a reasonably simple garment and I think it'll be able to tolerate a small degree of variegated yarn. I was shooting for a beige-lilac but as I started to get colour onto the yarn I decided I wanted grey undertones rather than yellow, so took a slightly different direction and added a grey wash to get an ashy, neutral look.

At first I wasn't sure it had worked. The darker grey's are quite different to the copper tones and I worried it would look odd knitted up. But, as it dried it mellowed and lightened and I started to absolutely love it. I'm still to knit it up but it's rolled into a beautiful ball, the colours seem to be fairly evenly dispersed through the yarn and I can't wait to get it on the needles ...

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The second batch I dyed had me scared silly.

The yarn is absolutely gorgeous, fresh from the sheep, Black Hills aran yarn. It's springy and rustic and I was so nervous to add colour to it. Plus, I felt a bit guilty. It was such a great cream colour. 

But, I can't wear a cream sweater with (or even without) small children around so I resolved to do my best and decided to keep it simple. Just two tones of blue - a teal and an inky blue. I'm casting on Shannon Cook's Antrorse sweater and with the textured detail down the front and around the yoke I decided I needed a gently tonal yarn. 

Won't this blue be lovely? It's rich and warm. I'm picturing it with my dark indigo jeans and my long brown boots - finished off with a beautiful shawl thrown around my neck and a cute hat pulled down over my ears. Ooh I can't wait! 

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I've got one more batch to go. I've bought some undyed Polwarth yarn for my dautghter and it is deliciously soft. She's requested "purply-pink" and chose this pinky sample for me to aim for.

Wish me luck!


3 March 2015

New Pattern Published! Darling Dotty Shawl

Darling Dotty Shawl by Truly Myrtle

I'm so excited to let you know that I released my newest shawl pattern today! 

Darling Dotty is a soft, feminine, crescent shawl featuring an all-over dotty pattern and a sweeping border of light-weight bobbles. 

I love the all-over dotty pattern on this shawl. I've been quite obsessed with this wee stitch for a long time now and it was the beginning of my idea for the Darling Dotty design. I love the way it adds subtle texture but also creates tiny gaps for the light to bounce through. The result is a fluid fabric which behaves a little like lace but is warmer over your shoulders. The scooping yarn-over breaks between sections in the body add a pretty touch.

Darling Dotty Shawl by Truly Myrtle

Aren't the bobbles so much fun? They're a nice, fresh twist on traditional lace borders and I love these bobbles because they're hollow, so they're soft and flexible and a bit more feminine.

Bobbles are simple to knit. I've given you clear instructions in the pattern which walk you through the method step by step. When you're blocking them I've suggested pushing them outwards with your finger to emphasise their rounded shape.

Darling Dotty Shawl by Truly Myrtle

The shawl starts with a tab cast-on and is knitted from the top down in sport weight yarn. I used nearly two skeins of the very delicious merino/silk sport yarn hand dyed by Australian Dyer Skein. It's light and gently tonal with a beautiful sheen. My shawl is knitted in the yummy "Buttermilk" colourway. 

(Remember my recent tab cast on tutorial? You can use that to help you out with the tab if you're unsure of how to knit it. I've linked to it in the pattern so it's easy to find.)

Darling Dotty Shawl by Truly Myrtle

Darling Dotty is a crescent shaped shawl large enough to throw over your shoulders in a poncho style, like in my photos. It's works as a nice light layer on cool evenings and while it's lovely over skirts and dresses, it's also a great accessory to soften jeans and a t shirt.

After a wet blocking and a reasonable stretch it's about 185cm/73" wide and 46cm/17" deep but you could block it longer and slimmer if you like.

Darling Dotty Shawl by Truly Myrtle

To make things as happy as possible for you, I've included written and charted directions and links to photo tutorials to help you along. 

Darling Dotty is an ideal knit for experienced knitters and adventurous beginners and it's available on Ravelry now. You can find it in my Ravelry Shop.

Happy knitting! I'm looking forward to seeing all of your beautiful Darling Dottys. X


27 February 2015

Introducing: Tash from Holland Road Yarn Company


A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on



It's that time again! Time to interview someone inspirational and fabulous!

This month I was lucky enough to interview a very inspirational New Zealand fibre enthusiast. Tash is the owner of the very beautiful and very famous (in New Zealand!) yarn shop Holland Road Yarn Company in Wellington. Holland Road feels a little like my local yarn shop even though it is a long eight hour drive away from where I live. I buy yarn and needles from Tash through her online store and chat to her like she was just down the road. Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? 
Tash opened her first branch several years ago and quickly grew, opening a second store in Wellington soon afterwards. The Holland Road Yarn shops are hugely popular amongst New Zealand knitters, stocking beautiful yarn from all over the world, lovely accessories and running a fabulous range of classes. Tash has set a very high standard for New Zealand yarn shops to follow!


A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on


Tash is also known for her beautiful dyeing. Her yarn line Knitsch Yarn is just delicious and I've stashed some away for myself after hearing that she was taking a break from dyeing for a while. Psst ... there's a wee bit left!

It can't go without saying that fibre, yarn and knitting are in Tash's blood. Many knitters know of Tash's Grandmother Margaret Stove. Margaret is a very talented lace yarn spinner and lace knitter. She has won awards and represented New Zealand with her beautiful knitting and was famously commissioned to create a shawl for Prince William in 1982. You can purchase her stunning Artisan lace yarn and her books through a number of distributors including Holland Road Yarn Company.
I am so grateful that Tash made time to answer my questions so we get to hear a little bit about life in a yarn shop .... and, without further ado - here's Tash!
You seem to be from a family of famous knitters! Were you aware of how much talent you were surrounded by growing up? When did you start knitting?
I had no idea how famous Margaret is until the age of about 12. Now it’s really wonderful to be able to keep sharing her work with the world and learn as much as I can from her. Although for both of us it’s really hard to get time to sit down and talk knitting.

I was taught to knit several times when I was younger by both my grandmothers and my mum. Despite absolutely loving the process, it never quite stuck. In 2006 I found myself working at a ski field surrounded by people teaching themselves to crochet, so in an act of rebellion went back to knitting instead. I found it hugely therapeutic and haven’t stopped since. Back then I never envisaged it becoming the centre of my life!

I wonder if every knitter dreams of owning a yarn store (I certainly do!) Did you open Holland Road with any experience of selling yarn or running brick and mortar shop or has this whole adventure been a huge learning curve?
Like many kids I worked in retail at school - I was about 16 when I started working in a fabric store and was there part-time for five years. That was the end of my retail stint until 2009, when I found myself going stir-crazy in London trying to job hunt. I emailed a bunch of yarn shops offering my services for free, and ended up at the place that inspired Knitsch Yarns and Holland Road Yarn Co: Socktopus. I came back to New Zealand determined to share the yarn inspiration i’d found in London, by hand-dyeing yarn and generating enough cash to open a store. I worked at another shop, Wanda Harland, for a year as Knitsch Yarns became established before opening the doors of Holland Road Yarn Co in 2011.  Martha, who owns Wanda Harland, was (and continues to be) a huge inspiration and gave me loads of guidance.
It’s still been a huge learning curve. Looking back to the early days, I got by on guess work and advice. These days I still learn constantly, and there is no way I could do this thing without the support and understanding of my special man friend, my mum, my staff, my friends and family.

A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on


Knitting seems to have stormed back into fashion this last decade. Have you seen a change in the popularity of knitting since opening your shop and do you have a typical customer?
Absolutely! When I got back into knitting in 2006, I could count my real-life knitting friends on one hand. Now, more and more people are picking up the needles as they see their friends knitting anywhere and everywhere and making really amazing things.
I wouldn’t say we have any ‘typical’ customers. So many interesting people walk in the doors and they are all looking for something different. So my approach is to listen to them as much as possible, while still bringing in stock that makes my heart sing and that I desperately want to knit with. There’s also a large element of pastoral care in this business - customers quickly become friends, so it’s much more than simply selling yarn.
You announced recently that you were showcasing an New Zealand indie dyer on your shelves each month. I think this is a brilliant idea! How have your customers responded? Have you seen an increase in indie dyers in New Zealand over the last couple of years?
The Indie Shelf Project has had a great response! It’s so refreshing and exciting for everyone to have something completely different turn up each month. It forces me away from my usual colour sensibilities too, which is only ever a good thing. The main reason for it is to make up for the lack of Knitsch Yarns this year. I’m taking a break from dyeing this year in order to refresh creatively, and the Indie Shelf Project seemed the perfect way to keep local hand-dyed yarns on the shelf in the meantime.
There has been a noticeable increase of people starting up business here over the last few years and it’s a tricky thing to navigate. It’s wonderful that it’s so easy to start up as an indie dyer here, but we also have a limited market in New Zealand and the yarn road isn’t paved with gold. However….there’s no such thing as too much yarn.
I recently wrote a post about substituting yarn in patterns. It's a subject that lots of knitters have questions about. Do you have a couple of tips that you could share about using yarn different from that specified in a pattern?
Substituting is something we deal with constantly! Our usual process is to look at the specified yarn on Ravelry to check out the meterage, weight and fibre content. I try to get the meterage to weight as close as possible, while still taking into account the behaviours of the fibre content. Being around yarn all the time means knowing yarn qualities really well, so my best advice is: if in doubt, ask. It’s better to ask a quick question than to be disappointed after lots of work.
I guess you have to try lots of new yarn before you order it for your shops? Is your stash enormous? And, when do you find time to knit?
Hahahaha no my stash is tiny! It takes up two shelves in a sideboard and that’s about it. Having said that, my stash is a visual bucket list of yarn I’d like to stock in the shop. We’re about to start stocking Quince & Co’s wool yarns so I’ve pulled the Chickadee out of my stash to play with while we wait for it to arrive. I don’t always knit with a yarn before we order it, particularly with the international yarns. If one of our existing suppliers brings out something new, and I get weak-kneed at the idea of it (and the budget allows), I’ll usually order it in. Weak-knees is how I make lots of the store purchasing decisions, now that I think of it.
As for knitting, it’s rare that I can knit when working in the shop. I’ll always have something on the go and snatch moments here and there, but 95% of my shop time is looking after customers and admin. Knitting is still my favourite thing in the entire world though and I go home at the end of each day and knit.


Holland Road Yarn Shop

Finally, a question for me and all the other New Zealander's living outside of Wellington; how about the rest of New Zealand? Can we hope to see a Holland Road yarn shop in our town anytime soon?
12 months ago I would have said YES ABSOLUTELY. I want to share amazing yarn as far and wide as I possibly can. However last year was personally quite difficult and it's made me step back and reassess a bit. I'm not able to spend enough time with friends and family, my partner has to put up with my stress levels and I'm not always the best person I can be because all my energy goes into running a business. I'm not ruling out more locations completely, I just want to be sure I can take care of myself and do a good job if it happens. In the meantime you can shop online! It isn't quite the same I know but at least we're based in NZ and do really love getting to know our online customers as much as the in-store ones.
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Thank you so much for such a fabulous interview Tash! 
I'm still crossing my fingers for an Auckland Holland Road Yarn store ;) In the meantime, if like me you don't live near Wellington, check out the Holland Road Yarn store online.

In other news: Did you see I (finally!) started a Ravelry group? I'm so thrilled to see so many faces over there already. The group is a friendly place on Ravelry to gather together and have a good chat. It's for new pattern announcements, questions and support for Truly Myrtle patterns, knit-along's and lots of happy chattering about what we're making.
Do feel free to pop along, join, introduce yourself and have fun! I'm really looking forward to getting to know you. X

24 February 2015

How To Knit A Stretchy Bind Off - Tutorial

How to knit a stretchy bind off

Many shawl patterns benefit from a really stretchy bind off. It allows the edge of your shawl to expand right out when it's blocking so you can show off your beautiful knitting properly.

You can use this bind off for toe up socks and neckbands for children's sweaters too.

Stretchy Bind Off Photo Tutorial - step 1
Stretchy Bind Off Photo Tutorial - step 2
Stretchy Bind Off Photo Tutorial - step 3
Stretchy Bind Off Photo Tutorial - step 4
Stretchy Bind Off Photo Tutorial - step 5
stretchy bind off tutorial step 6
Stretchy Bind Off Photo Tutorial - step 7


20 February 2015

Coping With Frogging & A Little Lesson

Coping With Frogging

I'm not fantastic at learning from my knitting mistakes. 

Well, not the mistake that goes ... "hmmm, I've got my doubts about this" ... much knitting later ... "yip, this isn't looking right" ... still more knitting (even the effort of ripping back to fix a boo boo or two) ... "I wonder if this will be ok" ... knit, knit, knit ... and so on. Knitting on with doubts in my mind until finally I get to the point where I wake up one morning, hours and hours of knitting later and declare; "That's it. This is not working. I'm frogging it".

That was me yesterday morning and I've had this muttered conversation with myself over knitting soooo many times. When will I learn to listen, stop, properly assess and get real when I first have doubts? 

I suspect never.

Because we all do it, right?! (I do hope you're nodding). 

Sometimes we all get a niggling doubt, push it down, ignore it for the longest time and then bam! It's too late. We've finished knitting what we've been worried about and it's totally wrong and we can't believe we didn't stop a long time ago. 

Thank goodness, this time I had my awakening before my cardigan was finished. Maybe it was because I've been on a cardigan marathon lately and I was feeling a bit braver about admitting this cardigan was not going to work? Maybe it was because I have a gazillion other projects that I want to get on with and I'm not feeling like wasting a single stitch? Maybe it's because I finally finished a sleeve, tried it on and, remembering how small the body seemed, the reality of how tight this cardigan was going to be hit me like a ton of bricks.

Do I really want a sausage squeezing, body hugging, textured cardy in an electric purply-pink colour? No I do not. 

Coping With Frogging

So, here it is. All ripped out. I didn't feel bad about frogging it. I was feeling more relieved than bad. I actually had a tinge of excitement that now I could start something else. I felt slightly nostalgic because I really love this pattern but was also comforted by the fact that I could get more yarn and make it again (some day). Overall, I felt positive as I pulled out all my stitches. My yarn is free for something else. My needles are free for something else. And, I'm free from that niggling feeling that my cardigan was doomed.

So what went wrong? I really should try and learn something from this journey.

Wait for it. 

I didn't swatch. 

I know. I know. Never do that! Especially not for an adult cardigan. Never. My lovely, clever and very wise friend Joanne actually had words with me about the mistake of not swatching when I sat at her kitchen table knitting on this thing right at the beginning but I didn't listen. I was stubborn, cavalier and crazy.

I was undoubtedly wrong though. If I had listened, I wouldn't be here with 12 balls of yarn and no cardigan. I'd be here with an almost finished, gorgeous White Pine cardigan, in a bigger size ... 

You'll learn from my mistake won't you? You'll make sure to swatch from now on? Go on. I'm going to try really hard to learn my lesson too.