Monday, November 26, 2012

Starstuff revisited

I finished my stranded mitts! Twinkle, twinkle, little possums...

'Starstuff' mitts in Zealana Kauri (Kea + Blue Pania)

Blocking really worked wonders for my tension - the stitches are so much more even and tidy, and the star pattern shows up clearly. My beloved possum-blend yarn 'bloomed' a little too, so they're even softer after blocking, with a lovely halo of possum fur.

The pattern, Starstuff, is now fully revised and available for download from Ravelry. While the design remains essentially the same, I edited the instructions for clarity, re-drew the charts to make them more straightforward, and made a few small design tweaks to the ribbing sections. I've learned a lot about colourwork (and knitting in general) since I first released my Starstuff pattern in 2010, so the revision was well worth doing.

I used a little more than half a ball of the blue yarn, and a little less than half of the green. I plan to make a coordinating hat, once I've made some progress on my other projects. I'm thinking stars around the brim, and a solid centre.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Possum perfection

Recently I've been knitting with some particularly scrumptious yarn: Zealana's Kauri in fingering weight (4ply). It's a blend of 60% merino, 30% possum, and 10% silk, and it's just as cosy and soft as you'd expect from that combo. Mmmmmm...

Yarn with possum-fur content is very cosy and warm, and has the added benefit of supporting the eradication of a serious environmental pest. Reducing New Zealand's possum population is good for our native wildlife, including precious endangered birds. You can read more about possum-blend yarn on the Kiwiyarns Knits blog, and about the possum problem in general on the NZ Forest and Bird website.

Zealana Kauri in 'Kea' and 'Blue Pania'. Zealana does the best colours!

The possum-fur content gives it a subtle fuzzy 'halo'

I ordered my Kauri from Great Southern Yarns, which stocks brands like Brooklyn Tweed and Malabrigo that can be hard to find in New Zealand, as well as lovely local stuff like Zealana.

Being a two-plied yarn with a bit of fuzziness to it, I thought Kauri would be ideal for stranded colourwork. Happily, I've been intending to revise one of my early patterns, for a pair of colourwork mitts.

A sneaky peek...

The colours are working well together, and my tension is looking pretty good. I've learned a lot about colourwork (and knitting in general) since I came up with my Starstuff pattern. All going well, I should have a fully-revised version done by next week, and a finished pair of mitts to show you. I'm looking forward to blocking them, so I can see the final tidied-up effect!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New pattern: Beachgrass

My new summer hat pattern Beachgrass is now available on Ravelry. Yay!

Yesterday Willie and I took the tram to St Kilda, and pottered around the beach and the shops. We stopped for tea at a neat bar called The Vineyard - hopefully next time we'll be able to get a seat outside. On a sunny Saturday afternoon the competition was fierce!

I wore my new hat, and it really did keep my head cool in the sun. Best of all, because it's a loose-fitting hat with great air-flow, I didn't end up with the dreaded hat-hair. :)

Beachgrass is simple to knit, and has a really relaxed, casual look. Most of the shaping is achieved by blocking, so you don't need to pay close attention until you reach the crown decreases.

I designed it with plant-fibre yarns in mind, but it would look stylish in wool too (for a cool-weather hat). In wool, the brim would be much more stretchy, so getting the size right would be a snap.

For my Beachgrass hat, I used Hemp for Knitting's Allhemp6 yarn, in 'Sprout'. As I mentioned in my previous post (Experimenting with Hemp), this yarn softens quite dramatically after washing. I recommend washing the skein before you start knitting, to make it less rough on your fingers. Pre-washing will also give you a more accurate swatch, because the fabric will be closer to the finished item.

Hemp yarn is very eco-friendly, hard-wearing, and versatile. Give it a try!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Experimenting with hemp

After all my plotting and planning for some suitably summery knitting, I ordered some hemp and cotton yarn from South Seas Knitting. It has now arrived in my hot little hands, mwahahahaaa...

Hemp for Knitting Allhemp3 (4ply) and Allhemp6 (8ply)

Habu Textiles Non Twist Cotton Boucle (2ply)
I have a cunning plan for the Habu cotton, but as I've used cotton yarn before on occasion, I was more excited about trying out the hemp!

I have it on good authority (thanks Mum) that hemp yarn softens up a lot after washing and wear, so I wasn't alarmed by the stiff rope-like texture of the Allhemp yarns. I gave the skeins a wash and let them dry, so that the yarn would be a bit softer and more pleasant to knit with. A word to the wise: unless you're washing a skein of yarn very gently, do tie some extra bits of scrap yarn around the skein to keep it tidy. I didn't bother, and the vigorous washing resulted in some pretty stubborn spaghetti monsters...

Now ready to get knitting, I got out my stitch dictionaries and played around with a few open, lacy stitch patterns. Two skeins of the 4ply hemp are going to become a scarf or shawl for Willie, so I tried striping some of the stitch patterns to see what happened.

The colours are 'Aubergine' and 'Chocolate' - an unlikely combo!

I like this 'knotted openwork' stitch with the two colours in play.

We'll need to do some more sketching and thinking, but narrowing down the stitch pattern choices is a good start. :)

The other 4ply skein of hemp will become a hair-tamer for me. I've been trying to come up with a stitch that looks like the black, bobbly seaweed that's common on New Zealand beaches. The colour of the yarn ('Licorice') reminded me of it, and it's a nice summery image. I'm having trouble getting the bobbly bits right, but I think I'm getting there. I still have a few permutations to work through, and I'll probably reduce the width too.

The 8ply hemp yarn, on the other hand, has already become a hat! It's nice and slouchy and airy, just what I was going for. It's also nice and simple. :)

A hat, not a mutant green jellyfish (honest)...