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'.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where the Woolly Things Are

The Te Kowhai Cheviot's being bought down for shearing

When you are in your Skeinz shop fondling all the luscious yarns we have its easy to forget that it wasn't that long ago the fibre was running about a paddock on the back of a hooved animal of one kind or another.

My old Man - Ross with Tui - his 'wool truck' dog
We have relationships with some incredible wool brokers who help us source all the amazing fibre that make our yarns and one such man who helps us out is my old man, Ross.  I have mentioned in previous posts about being raised on a sheep and cattle station & my pop was a farmer from his late teens until giving up the high country for 'town' in the 90's.  But you can't pull the wool over an old farmers eyes and it wasn't long before he started working for local wool merchants in his home town of Gisborne (just 3 hours north of the Skeinz Mill in Napier).

Shearing time at Te Kowhai - the fibre from that sheep is spun into the Naked Cheviot here at Skeinz
If you have attended the Knit August Nights yarn retreat in Napier you most likely have met my dad, he loves the retreat and spends hours talking to "all those hard case girls" as he calls the KANnannites and last year he drove the Skeinz shuttle between the retreat and the shop.

It's a joy to spin - it was this Cheviot that got me back into hand spinning
What he doesn't know about wool and what farm grows what fibre and where on the East Coast is very little indeed & it was Ross who found the Cheviot flock on Te Kowhai Station where we source our Naked Cheviot from. It's wonderful for us to be able track the fibre from farm to yarn and it is just as satisfying for Ross and Art from Te Kowhai as well to know that his wool is being made into such a beautiful thing.

Skeinz Naked Cheviot - all spun and ready to go.

We have deliberately kept the spinning of the Naked Cheviot as close to 'hand spinning' as we can.  It's just a two fold twist and constructed as you would if you were spinning for the classical Aran jumper.  Cheviot is lively, strong and warm and has a beautiful pearl like lustre.  It also wears very well, so if you would like to take the yarn full circle and something that would be worn on the farm - then the Naked Cheviot is the yarn to knit it in!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Wonder of Wool

Images from today's action at The Yarn Kitchen - Design Spun

This month marks Wool Week here in NZ with the Campaign for Wool and also World Wide Knit In Public Day.
The Poplar Cowl by Julia Stanfield knitted in Silver Lining Clifton Stone
To help celebrate we want to see what you have been knitting in Skeinz wool - so join us on our Facebook Page or Ravelry Forum and post your image to go into the draw for some luscious Silver Lining Naturals yarn.

Have a look as some of the amazing entries so far...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Stash Busting or New Yarn - the Conundrum?

Two Jackets, the trims are made with a Stash Yarn and the body with new Orb

I'm not too proud to say it - I have an obscene stash.  Makes sense really.  I work for Skeinz, at a spinning mill.  I own and operate Knit August Nights, so I get hands on access to some of the countries top Indie producers, and for those who don't make KAN, I then go and stalk them at Unwind in Dunedin.  Yes, my stash is considerable.

The Random print is some Skeinz Original from 8 years ago with some Skeinz Alpaca
So like many with the passing of the new year and declarations of "Yarn Diets" and "Knit from Stash" regimes, I considered this... for a nano second.  But the reality of my stash, which has grown from a large cupboard, a two large basket overflow and now a collection of Jute shopping bags, I did concede that maybe a cull was in order.
The new Orb - I just can't get enough of this yarn
It was awful, it's like trying to decide which one of your children you liked best.  Needless to say the only yarns that made the cull pile were those who were orphans from previous projects, those unwanted who I'd already had my fun with their siblings and they no longer held my allure.  But I am a kind mistress, and they were all happily re-homed to other stashes.  Making space also meant I could start stashing some of the stunning new yarns that have now arrived at Skeinz.

The trim is a stray ball of Noro from the stash with the body in the Heritage Kid Mohair in porcelain.
That is when the light bulb appeared - I could do both.  Satisfy the urge to stash bust with the need to knit our new yarns.  The solution - knit projects that had to combine both elements.  Sounds simple enough.  Great too as I have so many single balls of quirky yarns purchased on overseas sojourns or received in international swaps.

This was a mix of Vintage Oilskin with scraps of Alpaca Boucle
I blogged previously about the baby cardigan I started after a few glasses of wine.  No, I am NOT going to write the pattern up because there are so many similar patterns on Ravelry which will do the trick.  I have now completed four of these sweet cardigans & I am now starting on a vest for my own son.  It has been a brilliant exercise to play with texture and colour & I am now looking at my stash with fresh eyes - especially those bags with not enough yarn for a project for me, but if I added some new Orb, Burlesque or Silver Lining.....

The completed Orb Cardigan - did I mention how much I loved this yarn?