27 March 2015

Introducing: Helene from Happy-Go-Knitty!


Helene's hand-dyed yarn company Happy-Go-Knitty was the first hand-dyed range from New Zealand that I heard of. Her gloriously rich colourways caught my eye and I was immediately a fan. Funnily enough, Helene was also the very first dyer I met in New Zealand. The day after we arrived from the UK we visited (very jet-lagged!) a craft market where I found Helene and her beautiful stand of yarn. She was absolutely lovely, friendly and smiley and I was thrilled to find her and her yarn so quickly. Of course I had to buy a few skeins and you'll see some of her self-striping knitted up into socks in the photo below. They're all finished now and these lovely striped socks are one of my favourite pairs.

We've met a couple of times since at yarn shows but when (excitingly) Helene contacted me earlier this year wondering if I'd be interested in designing a shawl for one of her clubs I leapt for joy. Of course! I pushed my nerves to one side and jumped in. My shawl is well underway now and I can't wait to show you - but it has to stay top-secret until the shawl club packages are sent in a few months.

The Happy-Go-Knitty shawl club runs over May, June & July this year. You'll receive a beautiful skein of hand-dyed yarn, a shawl pattern and a selection of "treats" each month. I'm designing one shawl and the others two are being designed by Brenda Green from Natural Star. If you're interested in finding out more about the shawl club and want to join in the fun, keep an eye on Helene's Facebook page for details of when and how to sign up.

But first, let's hear from the talented dyer herself! I asked Helene some questions and here's what she had to say:

I first heard of Happy-Go-Knitty when I was living overseas. You’ve got a loyal following and are one of New Zealand’s most popular places to shop for hand dyed yarn. How long have you been dyeing and how did you start?

Thanks, that’s lovely to hear! I started dyeing cotton yarn 12 years ago, when my kid’s were toddlers and I still lived in Sweden. The yarn was a basic but great quality 100% cotton and I used it for beanies and jerseys. They were soft and nice for them to wear and easy to wash. When I moved to NZ in 2004 I took lots of cotton yarn with me.

One day when I was knitting I thought “maybe it’s possible to sell this cotton yarn at craft markets?” I asked my mum to bring some yarn on her next trip to visit us. She also brought the dyes with her since they are very different to the dyes I can find here. The yarn sold pretty well and next time my sister came to visit I asked her to bring a larger lot. That also sold but when my sister was here she asked me “Helene, NZ is full of sheep and wool, why don’t you dye wool instead?” The dyeing process is very different but I gave it a go and I was hooked! That was about 4 years ago and ever since then I have been experimenting with new qualities and dye ways.

My customers seem to knit a lot of shawls and socks and therefore I have specialised in 2ply and 4ply yarn. My range today consists of 2ply silk/merino and silk/yak down. In 4ply sock yarn I have got 100% BFL, MCN (merino/cashmere/nylon), alpaca/merino/nylon, sparkle wool and merino/nylon. For shawls I have also got a lovely 4ply silk/merino which has quickly become my best-selling yarn.

I dye my yarn in the following colourways – semi-solid, variegated, self-striping, painted and from time to time I have gradients.

Re-learning How To Knit Socks

When I think of Happy-go-knitty yarn I think of rainbows! You have such a beautiful palette of colourways available. Do you have favourite colours and colourways that you like to use?

When I started dyeing yarn Happy-go-knitty was all about bright colours in bold combinations. I soon started experimenting with four-colour self-striping yarn and my customers liked it, it was very successful! Eighteen months ago I tried six-colour self-striping in rainbow colours and that has since been one of my best-sellers! I now sell it in several different sock qualities including sparkle yarn.

About a year ago I decided to try some new colours and bought more muted colours – browns, greys, olive green and dusky blue. I tried them on my silk blends and the result was amazing! The colours came out beautifully and the muted colours are now a part of my range, I’m very pleased with them.

I’m quite fond of dark pink and purples myself – think black plums, blueberries, raspberries – yup, those are my favourites!

Happy-go-knitty stall_3

I love hearing about the places people create, especially yarn dyers. Where do you dye your yarn and what is your workspace like?

When we moved to a new house 18 months ago the plan was to create a dyeing studio in the basement. It still hasn’t happened so I dye all my yarn in the kitchen... Luckily I have a very patient family!

The rise in popularity for fibre craft seems to be happening around the world. Have you seeing a rise in the popularity of knitting and knitters using indie yarn in New Zealand?

Oh yes! People are definitely interested in hand dyed yarn! Knitting and crochet is very popular and many people don’t mind spending the extra money for hand dyed yarn since they put a lot of time and skill into what they are making. The end result is so different with hand dyed yarn.

I can also see a growth in the yarn events I visit as a trader – for example Knit August Night in Napier (August)* and Unwind Fibre Retreat in Dunedin (March). I have visited both of them twice and they have grown for every year. On Saturday 23 May, Woolfest* will be on here in Auckland for the second time and we expect it to be much bigger than last year! Don’t miss this event at Corban estate!

*Truly Myrtle will be at these events too! Do come!


I’ve loved playing around with yarn and dye. What tips would you give to people wanting to have a go at dyeing their own yarn?
Don’t take it too seriously and don’t be afraid of experimenting! Your first skeins might not come out the way you wanted them too but don’t give up. It takes quite some time to learn how to do it your own way, to come up with a style that you like and feel is your identity. I also recommend dyeing with proper wool dyes to make sure you get a colourfast and lasting result.

I’m super excited to be designing a shawl for your new shawl club. What clubs do you have and how do they work?
I’m super excited to have you on board for the next club and I’m very much looking forward to see what you have designed!

I have run six yarn clubs so far and they have been very successful. The clubs have been sock clubs, arm warmer club and shawl clubs. Right now I’m running a Sock Club for Beginners as I noticed that many people want to learn how to knit socks. I have already been asked to run it again so it’s likely that I will do.

My clubs run for 1–3 months and each month the members receive a package including a pattern, yarn to make the pattern, a knitting treat and a healthy, edible treat. The packages are meant to be a surprise when they arrive so only basic information is revealed when the club is announced. The patterns are a secret but they are always by talented designers and lately all the patterns have been designed specifically for my clubs! There are always several colour options to chose from but the exact colours are not given, only a name for each option. In my latest club the names were Hummingbird (bright), By the shore (muted), Rose garden (bright) and Berry smoothie (muted). People had to use their imagination and make a wild guess!

The shawl club you have designed for will be a 3-month shawl club for knitters and it will be announced soon, I just need to make a final decision on colours and some other details. I also have a 1-month shawl club for crocheters in the pipe-line and another, still very secret club up my sleeve! I highly recommend that people check out my facebook page and instagram for these exciting clubs!

* * * * * * * * * * * 

Thank you so much Helene! 

I'm really enjoying working with Happy-Go-Knitty yarn and have a few more design ideas sketched out for future patterns with this gorgeous yarn. You should try some yourself!

If you'd like to sign up for any of Helene's up-coming clubs follow her on Facebook to receive announcements. You can also find Helene on Instagram and she regularly appears at a variety of markets and festivals around New Zealand. 

24 March 2015

Spinning Inspiration

Spinning Inspiration

Sometimes I don't realise how much I love something until it's gone. Sound familiar?

I thought I was well and truly into the spinning groove after spinning 200g of fibre and mastering navajo plying but it seems not. I've hardly touched my wheel lately, even though it's sitting ready to go in my living room, right next to my corner of the sofa. I can't really explain what's happened - I guess I've been busy with other things?

The clues that I was craving spinning started appearing when I began following some fabulous spinners on Instagram and drooling over their photos. Then, I bought fibre to dye. Next I planned to knit up some of my handspun and most recently, I bought a Craftsy class on drafting. 

I guessed something was up and resolved to find some time to spin. But I haven't managed it yet. Then, today I stumbled across a podcast all about spinning. How great is that? Rachel from Welford Purls started a monthly podcast in January, all about spinning. (How did I miss this? Rachel is one of the fabulous spinners I follow on Instagram). Anyway, I've watched one a half episodes so far and I'm loving it - Rachel has definitely convinced me I NEED to spin. If you need some spinning inspiration do go check her out.

So, I've been thinking of ways to get myself behind my wheel - spin at the same time every day? Spin for just 10 minutes every day? Spin some fabulous fibre? Start a quest to spin every fibre? I'm still coming up with ideas - and I'm open to suggestions. What works for you?

In the meantime, I thought I'd leave you with few fantastic links so you too can find some spinning inspiration - enjoy!

Do you have any fantastic spinning inspiration links we should know about?

20 March 2015

Getting Knitting Done

Getting Knitting Done

This post might be more appropriately called "oh, the places you can knit" or even "oh my goodness, I've suddenly got a gazillion wips on my needles!"

Believe it or not, my huge pile of wips in January was whittled down to just one (those lacy pink socks) by the end of February. Now look! I've gone a bit bananas and have cast on All The Things.

So I've decided to chat to you about how I get knitting done. Or actually, how I'm hoping I'll get this pile finished.

Getting Knitting Done

Unsurprisingly, the big secret to getting knitting done is ... knit. Nothing happens when you leave projects in bags. You're the only one who's going to knit those stitches! But how do you fit it in? When do you find the time? I've got lots of strategies to make sure I get those stitches on and off my needles and here they are:

  • Knit every day. I don't mean all day, although that'd be lovely. But, making knitting a normal part of your day and turning it into habit is a good way to get more done. I knit virtually every day, even if it's only a few stitches. All those stitches add up,
  • Create knitting rituals. I knit when I watch tv. I've been doing it so long that it feels totally weird not to. I think that's a kind of ritual. I also like to take a little knitting break in the afternoon. It's a good excuse to stop and sit for a bit and it gets a few more rows done. If you peek your head in my window on weekend mornings, you'll invariably find me sitting in bed with a hot drink having a little knit. It's definitely a ritual!
  • Make knitting corners. I have a couple of places around the house where I like to sit comfortably and knit. Some are outside to catch a bit of sun and some are inside. The inside places have knitting near them so it's easy for me to grab my project. See my big basket? It holds heaps of bags and sits next to the sofa in the sitting room so I can quickly grab something when I sit down.

Getting Knitting Done

  • Plan, plan, plan. Make sure you've got some simple knitting on your needles so you've got something you can knit while you chat. If all your knitting is complicated you'll miss those wonderful opportunities to get a few rows in. Same goes for watching the kids, I find it's better to have something that doesn't require too much counting or watching stitches when I'm knitting and supervising kids - constant interruptions and needle grabbing is not conducive to lace or cables!
  • Take your knitting with you. Obviously this requires a bit of planning (see above) so always have something portable on the needles. Lots of people knit endless vanilla socks but I find anything with stocking stitch, a simple patten very portable too. I've been doing most of my recent swatches out and about.
  • Knit everywhere. This ties in with taking your knitting with you but it's a little different because here I am advocating that you throw caution and self-consciousness to the wind and knit anywhere and everywhere. Be fearless. You'll get so much more done and you'll never care about waiting in a queue ever again. Plus, you won't believe how many people will talk to you. You might make new friends! Usually people are very kind and tell you stories about their knitting or their mother's knitting but very occasionally they might make an odd comment about your knitting. Don't listen, it's likely they're just jealous ;)
  • Make sure your tools are organised. I made myself a needle roll which has spaces and zip pockets for tape measures, stitch markers, crochet hooks, post-it notes, safety pins and little scissors a pen. It saves fluffing around trying to find what I need which means more knitting time. I've also got a little pouch that I can chuck in a project bag which contains everything except all my needles.
  • Get yourself some super lovely project bags. Sound crazy? No it's not. A gorgeous project bag calls to you; "open me!" and so you do. And then you get more knitting done.

So, that's how I'm going to get my many projects finished. One stitch at a time, all the time.

How are you going to get yours done?

17 March 2015

Making Plans For Truly Myrtle & Me

Making plans

Last week the youngest of my four children started school. It marked almost 13 years of being at home with small children and although in one way it felt like a momentous occasion, truly the end of an era, in another it felt like a perfectly ordinary day, a very natural change. 

Kissing my little girl goodbye, I was overcome with a huge sense of accomplishment. I've loved having babies and raising kids and I've totally thrown myself into it, boots and all. Of course it hasn't all been roses but phew! we've made it this far and we're doing ok. 

I think the feeling of her starting school being a natural transition has a lot to do with the fact that I've had one eye on the future for a wee while now. Of course I knew it was coming. And, while I've not wanted to wish the last few months away, I have been quietly dreaming of how I'll spend those precious few hours each weekday while my children are at school. The last decade has taught me that for the most part those hours are unlikely to be spent cleaning the house and doing the washing. I've always had far too many other fun things to do and that's unlikely to change. So I've been making plans for Truly Myrtle.

You'll notice that since the beginning of the year I've been trying a few new things; I've been filming my podcast, launched the Truly Myrtle Handmade Newsletter and most recently started a Ravelry group. I've also been posting on my blog regularly and I've released a couple of new patterns. I've been experimenting and getting a feel for where I want to go with Truly Myrtle. And, since I'm letting myself take some time to figure things out, expect to see more new things evolve over the coming year as I try out other ideas.

One thing I am determined to be doing more of however, is designing and releasing knitting patterns. I'm so excited at having regular, quiet, designing time and I've been making piles of yarn and winding gorgeous skeins into balls and cakes as I dream about knitting beautiful new knitwear. That's my latest pile in the photo above, isn't it divine?!

A huge plus from starting my podcast, newsletter and Ravelry group is getting to know more of you. I'm really enjoying your messages and emails and I love hearing what you have to say. Do you have something in particular that you'd like to see from Truly Myrtle? Do let me know, I'm all ears!

In the meantime, issue 3 of the Truly Myrtle Handmade Newsletter is being published tomorrow - if you'd like a copy you can sign up here. I'm also hosting a giveaway in my Ravelry group and am giving away a gorgeous project bag to one lucky winner. All you have to do is join the Ravelry group to be in the draw. I'll pick a winner when I record my next podcast in a few weeks.

Happy knitting!

13 March 2015

How To Join Yarn For A Shawl

Darling Dotty Shawl by Truly Myrtle

My recently published Darling Dotty design is a larger shawl that uses two skeins of yarn. That means, somewhere into your knitting, your first ball will finish and you'll have to introduce a new skein.

There are a number of ways to join yarn and I had a play with quite a few when I was knitting my Darling Dotty. After trying them out, I decided some were better than others and some were easier than others and I thought it'd be helpful to talk about joining lightweight yarn and show you my favourite methods.

Where to join?

When you're knitting a shawl it's a good idea to join your yarn in the body of the shawl rather than the edge. It's more noticeable at the edge and as the edges get really stretched out, there's a risk everything might unravel over time.

I also try to change my yarn in an area that isn't too fussy or patterned. That way you'll avoid getting confused with double stitches or extra lengths of yarn when you're trying to negotiate your way around a fiddly stitch and your textured stitches won't look interrupted.

In my Darling Dotty Shawl I avoided changing yarn at a dot or bobble stitch. I added my new yarn in the stocking stitches in between. I also like to change yarn on a right side row to keep things simple.

Knotting yarn?

I avoid knots in shawl knitting. In fact, I don't tend to knot my yarn at all. There are some fancy knots that apparently hold well but I'm not sure how they stand up over time. Plus, a good stretched blocking for shawls puts more pressure on knots that they might get in something like a hat or sweater. There's nothing worse than a short length of yarn wriggling free and making a big hole in your precious knitting so I stick to other methods of joining.

Fusing two ends of yarn together?

Firstly, I looked at two methods of fusing my yarn together. A felted join and a Russian join. Both involve separating the strands of yarn into their individual threads and working them back together as one single piece.

The felted join involves rubbing and felting the two yarns together. While it might be a good option for a pure wool that felts easily, it doesn't work where you have a high percentage of super wash yarn or silk/cotton in your yarn because it won't felt no matter how much you rub them. It was hopeless for my merino/silk blend.

The Russian join involves looping and sewing your threads together. It's fiddly and again, when you're using a yarn that contains a high percentage of slippery fibre I found it wriggled free.

The other things that put me off these two methods was the time it took to do them. They weren't quick and simple and I couldn't gauge where the join would fall in my knitting. Overall, they made me nervous!


In the end I found two methods that I liked best and both are straightforward, secure and fairly discrete.

Knitting both yarns together for a few stitches

My go-to method of joining yarn is to grab my new yarn and, leaving a tail of a few inches for each, knit it together with my old yarn for three or so stitches. It secures the yarn in place, I can decide exactly where and when I want to join my yarn and it's simple.


I can leave my tails of yarn hanging until I'm finished or I can weave them in a couple of rows on. The back of my knitted join is the bottom example in the photo above and you can see my ends hanging waiting to be dealt with.

If you're going to try this method, avoid tugging your ends of yarn until you come back to deal with them later. The idea is that the two pieces of yarn in each of the stitches settles into place together and if you vigorously pull on one or both ends, you'll muck up the tension of each piece of yarn within the stitches. A gentle pull to settle everything down before weaving your ends away is all that's needed. 

I weave my ends away with needle. I slip them through the loops on either side of my join for about three or four stitches and then leave my ends hanging until after I've blocked my shawl. If you cut them off too early they're likely to slither back and unravel a bit.

Adding new yarn without knitting two yarns together

This method is involves simply dropping your old yarn and adding your new yarn in your next stitch. Actually, it's best not to drop your old yarn but instead old it firmly in place with your fingers while you add your new yarn. Leave yourself a long tail of both yarns and then tie them into a bow behind your work and keep knitting. You can see my bow in the top example in the photo above.

The benefit of this method is that all of your stitches stay the same size, they don't thicken as they do with the "knitting both yarns together" method.

You can leave your bow until you've finished knitting or you can choose to weave in your ends earlier. When weaving in your ends, take care to close the hole between the two stitches where you started your new yarn. For the best result, cross your yarns and work them in opposite directions, slipping them through the loops of yarn from other stitches either above or below your join. Again, leave long tails until you've blocked your shawl and then snip them off. It's especially important for this join because there's no weaving in of stitches where you've started your new yarn.

How To Join Yarn For A Shawl

In the end I used the first join - knitting both yarns together for a few stitches. But in fact, I'm keen on both joins. There's not really too much to tell between them when looking at them lying flat but I quite like the knitting both yarns together method slightly better.

How To Join Yarn For A Shawl

When you hold them up to the light they're also pretty similar. Although the top one, where I added yarn without knitting the two yarns together is probably a wee bit neater. Given they're so close, I don't think it matters which one you choose and I'd suggest picking the one that you find the easiest.

What do you use to join your yarn? Do you have a favourite method for shawls? I'd love to hear it.