knitting

New Pattern! Aoraki Hat

IMG_9325

ADD TO BASKET

I've told you many times about my love of Outlaw Yarn and especially Vanitas, their delicious DK weight blend of alpaca and merino. It's a stunning yarn, baby soft and dyed in rich, solid colour ways. When I had two balls left after knitting my Epistrophy cardigan early this year, I knew I had to design something special for it.

IMG_9424

And, after wearing my cardigan all winter, I decided I wanted to knit up my Vanitas into a cosy hat. Vanitas is silky soft to wear, super warm and it has great drape - perfect for a slouchy beanie-style hat.

I just love how the yarn looks knitted in garter so I decided to make that the focus of my design. The garter brim is nice and snug so it won't slip but without being too tight.

The garter then flows into the texture of the hat and I've mixed it with a neat wee two stitch cable that you can knit without a cable needle (I've made a tutorial showing you how and I've linked to it in the pattern).

IMG_9650

Finally, I've popped a pom pom on top. Mine is pretty huge! Go big or go home I say ;)

I make my pom pom's the old fashioned way - with two pieces of cardboard cut like a couple of donuts. I wind and wind and wind ... until it's stuffed full. Then I snip it and wrap a piece of yarn around the centre, pulling it nice and tight.

IMG_9714

My hat is named after New Zealand's highest mountain Aoraki. It's a snowy, beautiful place and I decided it was the perfect name for a snuggly, fun hat.

You could substitute another soft DK yarn to make Aoraki - but if you want one the same as mine - you'll need two balls of Vanitas from Outlaw Yarn; one ball of "Bone" for the body and one ball of Ebony for the pom pom.

New Pattern Release - Big Dotty

IMG_0104


ADD TO BASKET


I'm so pleased with Big Dotty. She's BIG! and cosy and I just love her.

It took all winter to get our fire installed so I've been a bit chilly and for months I've been hankering after a larger shawl as warm as a sweater. I was dreaming of something to wrap around my shoulders for an extra layer of warmth but stylish enough to wear while I'm out and about too. 

Anyhow, somewhere along the line I had a brainwave - I wanted texture and I already had a pattern I loved (Darling Dotty) - how about I knit it up with a heavier yarn for a super wintery wrap?

IMG_0209

I sat on the idea for a while, wondering which yarn I'd use. The image in my head was a natural stone colour, a rustic woolly layer. And of course, I wanted something that would work well with the texture. Not too slinky but not too furry either.

IMG_0146

Then, during my recent trip to the KAN knitting retreat in Napier, I found the perfect yarn. The mill I visited has a shop at the door and in there was a glorious, stone coloured, unprocessed, merino yarn. It was perfect! and a great price - so, I quickly grabbed eight balls and away I went.

It wasn't until afterwards that I realised how truly perfect my choice was. The yarn is from a range called Silver Lining - it's a beautiful muted range of colours created from the fibre of heritage merino sheep around New Zealand. 

Skeinz say it perfectly themselves:

"All around NZ are isolated small flocks of Merino sheep who have been cut off from the larger Merino populations due to geography. These flocks over the last 150 years have started developing their own unique characteristics & have become sub breeds in their own right. Hokonui, Arapawa, Stewart Island & Chatham Island Merino's are some of these Rare Breed Merino's.  Here at Skeinz we have been able to secure these very special fleeces from the fate of just vanishing among the greater Merino clip. They are all very fine micron of varying shades. We have lovingly blended these together to produce 4 natural shades & 5 heathered shades. We thought it was time that these Rare Breeds got out from under the general Merino cloud & got a chance to see their own Silver Lining."

IMG_0243

The colour chose is called "Clifton Stone" - it's a soft grey/beige from the fibre of Stewart Island Merino. Stewart Island is at the very bottom of New Zealand although the particular sheep for this yarn are a small flock of Stewart Island sheep that are being looked after in the South Island of New Zealand. 

Apparently many rare merino breeds around New Zealand have been feral for many decades. These sheep are descendants of merino sheep placed to provide meat for shipwrecked sailors or originally farmed in remote areas. Some sheep were simply left behind when people moved on and others missed being rounded up by the farmers that cared for them.

Stewart Island Merino - photo by Ron & Kath Gallagher

Sheep farming in Stewart Island was never a hugely successful venture. They were first  farmed in a large numbers in 1874 and apparently a number escaped, forming a feral population that developed into the current Stewart Island Merino breed.

Stewart Island sheep are relatively small, mostly black and often have a patch of white on the nose and between the eyes, with a white tip on their tails. The Rams have particularly fine horns. It's said that they're alert and aware of what's going on around them. The ewes are very good mothers, protective of their lambs and often act as a "look out" for strangers. Don't they sound pretty neat? I think so.

IMG_0078

So, my yarn is special and I'm really thrilled. 

Big Dotty is super warm, deliciously rustic, full of texture and made from the wool of heritage sheep. You'll need about 400g of DK yarn to make one too.


Happy knitting!!




All The "Alongs" - What I'm Making

IMG_9182

There are quite a few "make alongs" happening at the moment and I'm planning a bit of double (and even triple) dipping so I can take part in a few.

I'm hosting the Spoil Yourself "stitch along" this month on Ravelry (you're welcome to join in if you're not already!), Helen is hosting a three month long Handmade Wardrobe Challenge in the Curious Handmade Ravelry group and I'm also taking part in the 1 Year 1 Outift challenge to make an outfit with local materials run by Nicki from This Is Moonlight.

IMG_9195

Are you joining in any of these challenges?

My big contribution to the "alongs" is my Gingerbread Sweater. I've been beavering away on it for a while now and look! I'm almost done! Everything has been knitted and blocked - I'm just waiting for those sleeves to dry so I can seam them in! I can't quite believe I've made it this far. The pattern is getting done too - the bones of it are written. It just needs tidying up and grading.

Gingerbread will be my first published sweater. It's been quite a nervous adventure. Despite having designed and knitted a number of garments before, I have been feeling quite wobbly about doing it for real and releasing it to the public.

It's a medium length, boxy sweater with a casual, comfy fullness to the body and slim arms. I went for set in sleeves in the end because I wanted structure at the shoulders to help it fit and fall well. It's knitted bottom up starting with the lace ribbing and the both the body and the sleeves are knitted in the round to the armholes. The sleeve caps and top of the body are knitted flat and then the shoulders are joined with a three needle bind off so the only seaming is the sleeves right at the end. I'm really pleased with the neckband, it's a lovely curve, finished with a narrow band of twisted rib with a rolled top - it's not tricky and ever so effective. 

The various "alongs" have motivated me to swallow my nerves and get it finished! I've loved knitting with the local Romney yarn from Rosewood Wool. It's a coarser yarn than a slinky merino but I love that it feels so rustic. It blooms and softens nicely with blocking and I can see that it's going to just get better and better - both softer and more relaxed without pilling. I think it's a great combination with the style and idea of my Gingerbread sweater - a casual, comfy sweater that you'll reach for day after day after day.

IMG_9191

But an outfit isn't just one sweater is it? I've decided to team my Gingerbread sweater with some new jeans. I rather fancy some dark denim jeans and thought I'd have a bash at sewing some. Oh my - I've just noticed the name of the pattern I've chosen - the Ginger jeans ... haha! Obviously it was meant to be!

I haven't tried sewing jeans before but I've heard great reports about this pattern and I'm ready to have a go. I'm not sure which style to try - I'm thinking I'll probably do the medium rise style on the right. I haven't worn high-waisted jeans for many decades - I'm not sure I'm ready to get back into them just yet!

I'll also need a top to wear under my sweater - I might wear one I've just finished or perhaps take the opportunity to make another so I'm prepared for next winter ... we'll see. 

And Jewellery - I think I'll need a necklace or bangle or something to finish it all off ... 

It goes on and on doesn't it?!

Are you joining in any of the challenges and "alongs" I've mentioned? What are you making? Do tell me!


New Pattern Release - Koru Hat

IMG_8463

ADD TO BASKET

I am very fond of hats. It might be because as a child I was always wearing a hat. My mum kept our little heads well covered and warm. It's something I did for my own babies and I still breathe easier sending my small people out into the cold with a hat on their noggin. Whatever, I definitely enjoy a hat. 

I also like that I can change my look with different hats; I've got my "casually cosy" hats, my "feeling a little zingy" hats and my "this is finishing off my outfit very nicely" hats. This winter, as I run out the door to deliver kids to school I've often been wearing hats to hide my scruffy bed hair. A hat hides a multitude of sins :)

IMG_8577

My new Koru hat is a great messy hair coverer but it's also super lovely and even when I wear it with my jeans and jumper I feel a little bit more special with it on my head.

The lace panel is a delight. I love knitting it and the end result is very pleasing. It's feminine without being too fussy and the gentle curving "ferns" in the pattern add to the overall soft feel of the hat.

You won't need a cable needle to knit the lace panel - all the stitches can be performed with your regular knitting needles. I've made some tutorials (linked in the pattern) to help you out with some stitches that you might not have come across before.

IMG_8472

I also love the subtle detail that the twisted stitch "stripes" add. They elegantly and gently turn Koru into something a little special.

I have been on a roll with twisted stitches lately. I do love the definition they give to stocking stitch and I've made good use of them in this hat - the rib is twisted, the stripes twisted and the lines in the lace twisted. They're easily managed by even the most novice of knitters and they're super effective.

IMG_8460

Koru hat uses DK weight yarn - I've used a delicious merino/possum blend from Naturally Yarns called Amuri - but you can easily substitute another soft DK yarn. I like the "fuzz" that the 25% possum adds to my hat and if you're after a halo, look for a yarn that includes a little something woolly - like alpaca, possum or angora.

You can buy the pattern for Koru hat from Ravelry and if you're quick you can grab yourself a 15% discount off the price with the code KORU15 - be quick! it ends at Midnight, Sunday 6 September 2015 (NZ time - and we're ahead of everyone down here!

Happy knitting!



Pilling

IMG_7736

I'm excited to be bringing you a collaboration today! Tash from Holland Road Yarn shop and I have joined forces to tackle the bobbly subject of pilled knitwear!

Like most of you, I'm not a fan of pills but it seems they're an unescapable problem with knitting. Or are they? I've done some investigating to find out if you can avoid pills and how to deal with them when they happen. You might be pleased to hear that there are some tips and tricks to get the best result from you yarn and reduce the amount of pills you have to endure.

CHOOSE YOUR YARN WISELY

I've been known to choose wholly inappropriate yarn for projects. Take my red sweater in the pictures for example. I used very beautiful Malabrigo Merino Worsted for my Flowing Lines. The colours are glorious and the yarn is super crazy soft and yummy. But, look at those pills?! Almost as soon as I put it on the yarn started to rub into pills. It's pilled over the whole of the body but especially under my arms it rubs most.

The little Kelpie vest I made for my daughter last year has also pilled terribly. I used Louisa Harding's Grace silk & wool blend and again, it's soft and warm and totally unsuitable for a garment that gets worn, bashed, rubbed and beaten up!

Both of these knits were made with luxury fibres that had been loosely spun. It turns out that those two factors create the ideal enviroment for producing pills.

Softness vs Durability

  • All wool is prone to some degree of pilling but if you're after a garment that's not going to pill too much, it pays to avoid luxury fibres. Both of my yarns contained merino which, although deliciously soft, is not a durable fibre. It's slippery and silky and doesn't have the "stickiness" of a courser fibre such as Romney which will wear better over time.
  • My red sweater yarn was a "single". That means it was one single piece of wool lightly spun into a yarn. Single spun fibres are delicate. They don't have the structure of a tight spin to hold the fibres in place so they work their way out easily and cause pills. A loosely spun fibre like the pink yarn I used will do the same. A smooth, tightly spun yarn will hold together better over time.
  • Generally speaking, a cellulose fibre (e.g. cotton & linen) will pill less than a protein fibre (e.g. wool, silk & alpaca) but even those will pill too depending on the quality of the yarn and how it's spun. If you're set on finding the least pilly yarn possible, it might pay to experiment by knitting up swatches of similar fibres and seeing how they compare.
  • I am an unashamed lover of natural fibres so choose those every time but even so, don't be fooled into thinking that man-made fibres won't pill. Acrylic is terrible at pilling and because the fibres are so strong, those pills are fixed like concrete to your garment.

    IMG_7721

    KNITTING TO REDUCE PILLING

    • Knitted fabric pills much more than woven fabric because the overall construction is looser. Knitting with a smaller gauge will tighten your knitting and help reduce pilling by holding the yarn more firmly in place. Of course, some of our favourite garments are loose and flowing so this won't be possible all the time. But, if you're desperate to use a soft, loosely spun yarn, knitting at a tighter gauge may help balance things out.
    • An alternating knit/purl stitch such as ribbing or seed stitch will pill less than stocking stitch or garter. You'll see that both my garments in the photos are mostly stocking stitch! (Reverse stocking stitch in the case of the red sweater).
    • Wash your knits carefully! Machine washing causes rubbing which in turn causes pilling. It really is worth hand washing your knits! (Plus, it really is a very lovely thing to do).

    piling photo

    GETTING RID OF PILLS!

    Once you've got those ghastly pills, how do you get rid of them? I must confess, I've still been wearing my red sweater, despite the pills. They're pretty yucky but I still love the pattern, the fit of this sweater and it's so lovely and warm. So, I've tried to ignore them, look straight ahead and pretend they're not there. It wasn't until I came to write this post that I thought I'd try depilling them!

    Many people shave their knitwear with very sorry results. One accidental bump of the razor and you've cut straight through it! I've tried using a razor in the past but haven't been happy with  how precarious and unsatisfactory shaving is.

    IMG_7768

    This time I tried a special machine - an electric depiller! After hearing Georgie Hallam rave about her depiller I knew I had to try one too. So I held my breath and bought a rather expensive Electric Shaver. I was not disappointed. This machine is magic. I absolutely cannot get over how well it removed the pills and how fabulous my sweaters looked after I'd used it! They are as good as new.

    If you can't stretch to an electric depiller I do recommend trying a manual depiller (not a razor!). You can get combs and brushes fairly inexpensively that apparently do a pretty good job. The trick is to tackle those pills as soon as they start to appear and to de-pill regularly.

    Unlike man-made fibres, wool pills less and less as time goes on. Dealing with those short fibres that work their way out quickly leaves the more secure fibres in place so eventually your sweater is supposed to stop shedding altogether. I was told recently that even the super soft red malabrigo in my sweater will stop pilling quite so badly once it's shed the first lot of short, loose fibres. I'll have to let you know if that's true!


    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Good luck with your pills! If you want to catch up with more tips and tricks for dealing with pills check out Tash's post on the Holland Road blog!