Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pill Prevention and Cure.

Pilling on a fine Merino Baby Cardy
One of the questions I often see asked in the shop or in online forums is "Can you recommend a yarn that doesn't pill", pilling is the effect that happens when the fibres in a yarn are met with friction and small unsightly balls of fuzz start propagating your once smooth pristine fabric.
We all hate it.  It seems so unfair that after hours of labour and toil that these little gate-crashers can spoil your yarn party.  So, can I recommend a yarn that doesn't pill?

Firstly - pilling isn't the end of the world.  It can be remedied, easily.  In fact I enjoy de-pilling, but more about that later.  This is a question about expectations and planning.  The expectation is that you can never expect a hand knitted garment to wear like a mass produced, fine count one.  It just isn't going to happen - as soon as you cast that expectation away, you are half way there.

This vest is knitted in Southlander - I did this in early 2010.  He gives it a gentle pluck when he hand washes it and that's all the care it needs.
The next is the planning.  "Who, Where & Wear" being the main factors to consider here.  Who is going to own the garment, where is it to be worn & how is it to be worn.  Then making your yarn selection suited to purpose.  So if the garment is going to be a vest for your father to wear to work (see above) which involves activity outside, it needs to be a yarn rugged enough to cope with his activities, any friction from increased arm movements and being worn inside or out of a jacket.  So in this case I would chose a yarn like Southlander (see recent posts) which is warm, strong and can stand the punishment.
This sample is knitted in Vintage and is about 6 years only - it is touched, fondled and generally abused and still looks brilliant!
Likewise you maybe wanting to knit for a busy pre-schooler, so you need a yarn that will be soft and comfortable for them to wear, can cope with the tumbles and spills and be easy to clean - Then Vintage DK, Urban or Orb are the yarns for the job.

 A bolero in my collection knitted 10 years ago - was depilled for the first time this year, you can see where I started on the right.
The conundrum is when you have a request for the softest yarn, but without pilling.
Simply - pick one
A very fine yarn (ie Fine Merino) with friction and wear will start to pill.  This is because what makes those yarns so fine and soft are the very thin fibres that make them up.  What can help reduce the pilling is trapping those fibres into a firmer  or finer twist (but not too tight or you loose that lovely squish factor) and making sure that yarns such as this are knitted into a denser fabric or are locked up in tight defined stitch patterns so they don't escape.

I love this yarn and this pattern - but I need to give the finished garment a wee "buzz" each time before I wear it.
I knitted a cardigan this year from a fine merino cashmere blend and it my absolute favorite right now.  After each wear it starts having a wee 'pill party' under the arms, at the cuffs and around the breasts.  No matter, I spend no more than a few minutes before I wear it giving it a quick once over with trusty depiller and I am good to go.  I think the garment warrants a few moments of TLC after all those hours you have spent knitting it.  Likewise I have other hand knits which need a spruce up once a season or two.

It took me less than 30 seconds to depill this (see first image in post), it's not hard.
So what's the yarn to recommend that doesn't pill I hear you ask again...  For me the best work horse yarn we have in our range for wear has to be Vintage DK - if pilling is something you just cant abide, then Vintage is the yarn for you - failing that invest in a good depiller - mine is from Briscoes & is just $20 (often as low as $13 when on promotion & let's face it they are always in sale!), its battery operated and is designed for hand knits as it has the larger opening for hand knitted garments.  If you want any help selecting the best yarn for your next project, don't hesitate to contact us at skeinz.com or on our Facebook & Ravelry groups - we are here to help.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Social Outing

The one constant - the Mill, it's machines all working to make magical yarn.
In the eight or so years I have been lurking around corners at The Yarn Kitchen much has changed.  When I started Skeinz didn't exist.  It was 'The Knitters Factory Shop', my favorite store, with scary 80's wallpaper (and not the cool retro variety), cardboard boxes with all sorts of weird and wonderful yarns and just four 'permanent' ranges - that if you didn't get in quick, once sold didn't come back into stock until the next season.
Brendan Jackson our GM in the old shop (see the wallpaper!)
Then came Ravelry.  Ravelry changed everything.  Ravelry meant that yarn lovers could keep track of their projects and their stash.  They could join groups and communicate with each other, not just in their home country, but all around the world.  Ravelry was the first cohesive site of it's type for lovers of yarn and yarn craft.  With over five and a half million users, it is still growing and has become a panacea of all things yarn, project and design.

Excitement when Skeinz Orb made the Ravely Yarn Top 10

I first learnt of Ravelry about a year after it founded in May 2007.  I was not an early adopter of social media.  I blogged, but the thought of spending  hours online checking on status updates didn't exactly set my world alight.  Not so the case anymore.  Ravelry was my first real 'toe-dipping' into social media, and I loved it.  It was invaluable in the early days of Skeinz.  Ravelry was the springboard from which skeinz.com lept.   Helping communicate with like minded people and actually being able to get opinion from our customer base, as a marketer, is golden.  So when a good friend and successful craft pod caster poked me about my aversion to other forms of social media, I capitulated and dived in.
My first project completed after I signed up to Ravelry, my son was just a few days old.
Four short years later I am just starting to get the hang of status updates, hashtags, tagging (the good kind) and social media etiquette.  I now use Instagram (my personal favourite), Twitter (cross posted from Instagram), Facebook (I manage three business pages as well as my own!) and of course Ravelry.  Without all these communication tools I would not have been able to help skeinz.com grow, Knit August Nights would not be thriving and I wouldn't be able to indulge myself in my love of lovely yarn, food and bulldog related images.

The Skeinz Shop as it is today - this used to be the staff change room!
All this social gathering has meant that Skeinz has grown & this month we added a new Skeinz team member, Claire.  The wallpaper has gone and I get great satisfaction in browsing hashtags to see what people have been up to with Skeinz yarns (View the Instagram hashtag here).  Those couple of original ranges are still there (Perendale, Merino Soft, Southlander & Whisper) but they now have eighteen friends with more in the pipeline.
New Terabyte colours that were featured on Facebook and Ravelry this week.
So, if you haven't done so already, join the Skeinz 'Social Gathering'.  We have a Group on Ravelry, the Facebook page and if you are on Instagram or twitter use the #skeinz so we can see what you are up to.  If all else fails, we'd always love to see you in the flesh, we still have that little shop, tucked in Napier's industrial area at 5 Husheer Place, Onekawa.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Primary Pleasures

The magic that is... Rainbow.
Often the phenomenon of hearing a song or smelling a scent that evokes strong memories, but also seeing vibrant colours or an unusual shade can take you back to time, place or person.  One combination of colours that we see that does this again and again are the primary colours that make up the Rainbow.

Spinning he new Terabyte iRainbow
Who doesn't like a Rainbow, they make us smile, they promise gold or unicorns or journeys to other dimensions.  They symbolize equality and inclusion, the sunshine bursting through on a dull day, stripping back what you think is white light to actually find this miracle of colour.
 As a parent, rainbow shades are your child's' introduction to the wonderful world of colour.  The richness of the primary shades and their blended siblings are our first unconscious teaching into nature, science and mysticism.  That is what when we make yarns inspired by the rainbow shades or in the rainbow shades, they just make you happy and smile.
The limited edition  sliver called Chasing Rainbows
New to Skeinz this month are an extension to our rainbow coloured Urban DK range.  We have added a 4ply/sport yarn & a bulky/12ply yarn to give you a rainbow selection in every weight, for every occasion.  Urban Sport is a Merino/Nylon blend, the same as our Naked Sock blend.  This gives you a multi functional yarn soft enough to knit for the wee ones in your life, but durable enough to make a rainbow range of socks for everyday of the week.

New Urban Express in  Rainbow shades

Take this same philosophy and super size it and you have Urban Express.  This 12ply (Bulky) weight yarn is what you go to when you need to get a project worked up - FAST.  It is such a brilliant yarn for children as it is soft enough for them to wear happily, yet the nylon makes it durable to cope with what the playground will throw at it.
Terabyte iRainbow Merino DK
Then there is the new long print yarn called Terabyte - this has taken 5 of the Rainbow shades and printed them onto the sliver before it is spun.  The yarn then has very subtle graduations of colour, sometimes soothing, often vibrant and never in the same place at the same time - just like a real rainbow.  So if you feel the feed to evoke a happy memory or just work with yarn guaranteed to make you smile - knit yourself a Rainbow.

You'll never know what you'll find at the end of the iRainbow

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rustic Road

I feel like I've come full circle knitting a vest for my father in the very yarn I knitted my first adult garment in 30 years ago.
The very first adult garment I ever made was a basic drop shouldered jumper for myself in Southlander Bark.  I'm sure you'll remember the style, basically two rectangles, with minimal shoulder and neck shaping and truncated trapezoid sleeves and single ribbing.

Little has changed with the range in over 30 years - over dyed colours were introduced in 2007
 Pretty much every shepherd I every knew growing up in the back blocks had one of these, often homespun, that their mothers had lovingly crafted for them for their first shepherding gig.  It was warm, indestructible and gets softer over time and with wear.  Worn about 2 to 3 sizes too big over baggy jeans which almost fell off the hips with their first cheque book poking out of one back pocket and their loose tobacco in the other.  These jumpers survived cold sleety days on the farm, muddy weekends at the dog trials & then the rambling at the pub afterwards.

A stunning Southlander blanket knitted as a birthday gift for a very lucky husband.
When I was 13 this was the logical garment to make as my first graduation from a scarf.  Fashions have certainly changed, Aran and cabled jumpers are now more likely seen on the high street not the high country, but what hasn't changed is Southlander - the wonderful rustic New Zealand yarn staple which is just as fabulous today as it was all those years ago.

The modern take on the classic style - Southlander Bracken
Which is where I found myself today, knitting a vest for my father to wear under his overalls as he works in the chilly woolstore or out on his small block at home.  I knitted one for him 6 years ago, which he loves and he's requested another.  Now, like all those years ago, I just love knitting with this yarn.  It's not the super soft, super smooth yarns that we have become spoiled with in recent years.  It's honest, rustic, knits with that slight grippiness that means that those stitches will meld together and staying looking good decades after they come off the needles.
A modern twist on the drop shouldered style I first knitted all those years ago
Southlander is just as relevant today as it was all those years ago, helped in no small part by all the wonderful awareness around wool yarns done by The Campaign for Wool.  This style of yarn is the one that is most prevalent in northern Great Britain, Iceland and parts of Scandinavia & classic designs heralding from these regions are experiencing a renaissance in fashion today.
Southlander Bark - 200gm hank 400m NZ Wool Aran/DK
So if you find a hankering to pick up the needles and cast on a class 'Kiwi Jumper' or a more detailed Aran sweater, don't forget Southlander - Keeping kiwi's warm for over 30 years!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thou, Nature, art my goddess...

The Zesty Lime slub created at home with food colouring.
As promised from last week I did indeed take home some yarn and armed with the two tutorials that I posted I thought it was prudent to test the hypothesis of "dying yarn at home is a doddle".  I took home a 200gm skein of a new wool slub (coming to Naked Skeinz very, very soon), 2 balls of Heritage Polwarth Ecru and a ball of Silver Lining Clifton Stone.

This is what I started with - a mixture of smaller balls and a skein of  Naked slub.
I chose 50gm balls, as I thought this was a great way for me to test the principles without committing to a larger skein.  I also wanted to see the difference the outcome was on a natural cream colour versus a natural oatmeal shade.  The first step was to skein off the balls.  I have a niddy noddy at home, but this can be easily done with wrapping the ball between your hand and elbow.

A collage of the process from soaking, colouring and the finished product
I chose Turmeric for the small skeins and food colouring for the slub (the slub was made with machine washable fibre, so best suited to the food colouring).  Following the processes in the tutorials I was totally amazed at how simple and straight forward it was.  I preferred using the food colouring, I used just green and yellow colouring.  It produced more intense colours and less mess.  It was also a shorter process, just soak, dip/soak in colour and vinegar solution and zap in the microwave few a few minutes to set the colour.

The turmeric took a little more washing & rinsing, but still great results.
The turmeric took more dedicated washing because it I needed to remove the powder from the yarn, however if you used natural colours in liquid form, like beetroot juice, you wouldn't have that hassle.
I was so encouraged with the success of the experiment I then dug out a part come of natural ayrn I had in the back of the stash cupboard and skeined it off to have another go.

Not bad for ninety minutes work.
This time I limited myself to black & yellow food colouring playing around with differing dilutions of the black and then pouring over a mixture of yellow just before microwaving.  The effect was unexpected and pleasing, and I guess that is the entire key to doing it yourself at home.  Having fun, playing about and being happy with the results, regardless of how unexpected!

My second attempt using food colouring - using just black & yellow.
To win a Mystery Pack of Naked Skeins yarns - make sure you post your attempts of home dying.  You can do this on the thread at our Facebook page or Ravelry Thread.  The prize will be drawn in the first week of August.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Wool of Bat and Tongue of Dog....

Lichen dyed Skeinz Organic Merino by Amy Van der Laar
 I have been so inspired by some of the entries we have received in this months draw for the Mystery Naked Skeinz parcel.  What has delighted me so much is the level of experimentation and fearlessness that is going on in your yarn kitchens at home.  So I thought I would share some of these great entries here and hopefully encourage you to give it a go at home.
Examples of natural plant dyes from South America
Hand dying yarn need not be a highly industrial process like we do here, the Romans and South Americans have been doing it for thousands of years & many dye stuffs can be readily found in the Kiwi kitchen.  Without going into the full process here, you can have a tremendous amount of fun dying your own yarns at home with a few simple ingredients.

Amy aka Phancee on Ravelry is a knitter & blogger achieved this with pantry cupboard food colouring
Food colouring is the obvious starting point for many.  They are easy to obtain and you have the full basic colour spectrum to be able to mix your own special colours.  You also don't require too much equipment and I have seen tutorials that enable you to dye with food colouring using your microwave!  This would be a really fun school holiday activity if you had crafty children at home.

Fleur aka craftygirl34 on Ravelry is achieving some stunning colours using Food Colouring
Also in the pantry is Turmeric, onions, Paprika, coffee, tea, even red cabbage, all can create wonderful colours.  This tutorial is one of the better ones that explains the differences in natural dyes, whether you need to add a mordant or not.  They use fabric in this video, but the principles are the same for wool.
Doe Arnott from Oamaru has perfected the natural dye process to a commercial scale
I know from social media postings I have seen within the groups I frequent that some incredible dying is going on.  If you find purchasing a pack of Naked Skeinz yarns too daunting for your experimentation, you can actually purchase some other Skeinz yarns in balls or hanks to play around with.  I suggest the Heritage Polwarth Ecru, Perendale Cream, Southlander Cream as small amounts of yarn to fiddle around with.  The balled yarns will have to be made into a hank, but that can be done my winding the yarn around your forearm and securing it with waste yarn to make a small hank.

Southlander Cream is a perfect yarn to tinker around with for dyeing beginners.
I am going to experiment at home using some Polwarth Ecru and Silver Lining Clifton Stone & dye using food colouring and then Turmeric to see how easy the process is and what results I achieve.  I'll report back next week and I hope I can inspire you to give it a go at home and share your exploits on the Facebook Thread or on our Ravely Forum. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble.....

The Yarn Kitchen dye house conducting colour labs
I have blogged previously about where inspirations for colours come from.  Colour is all around us.  It envelopes us, bombards us, caresses us, teases us - you just need to know where to look.
A trend report for the 2015 season
We often turn to colour trends in fashion and pay attention to what the pundits say and release in their colour predictions a couple of times each year.  This is important, as these guru's can make or break a colour trend, not just for a season, but for years to come.  Just think of the transition between the popularity of black, to gray and now to indigo.

When you see where the inspiration comes from it all make so much sense.
Nature is also the other obviously place to look.  The colour combinations in plants and flowers, shore and sand, sky to sea. As colours appear in nature, that look comfortable and pleasing to our eyes, that comfort often translates when you replicate these colours in yarn or fabric - especially when it doesn't necessarily appear obvious. 

Glass Mountain - inspired by a Napier Winter Sunset
Last year we released a limited edition colour collection - one of those colours was called Glass Mountain.  It was a combination of two blues, a taupe and mustard yellow.  Not traditional bedfellows you might say, but that is where nature, colour and instinct can surprise you.  These colours directly reflected what you see during a cloudless Winter Sunset here in Napier.  As the sun dips down below the surrounding ranges filtering it last few rays across Hawkes Bay.

The finished garment in time for the Napier Winter to which inspired the yarn.
When you see all the elements together it makes sense, but to me that is the magic of what we do, hunting out those elements to give you that eureka colour moment which is the essence of 'The Yarn Kitchen'.