Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Holiday Stitching

Heritage Organic 'dressed' for the festive season.
The great irony about much of the holiday imagery from this time of year is of snowy scenes, Santa wrapped up against the cold and preparations of festive fare which is rich and hearty is for us at the Skeinz mill is we are basking in Summer sunshine, heading to the beach and barbecuing at every opportunity.  That is the joy of a Southern Hemisphere lifestyle.

Jo from our FB Group is working in a Vintage blanket this season.
So you would think that not much knitting gets done down here at this time of year, and whilst stitching does drop off as Kiwi's and Aussies hit the beach, this is also our peak Summer holiday period.  So think camping, cruising, hitting the bach (small holiday cottage usually based at the beach or a lake - we have plenty of both here in NZ) or just chilling at home with the family.  Extra time for knitters is gold, knitting a vast array of projects this time of year.  Some find the relaxing vibe the perfect time for doing that lace shawl, others knit small items in the summer heat, or for me, I get all my years accumulation of scraps and crochet blankets and cushions.

My Doodler MKAL by Stephen West (two of the three yarns were spun at the Skeinz mill)
I have also recently discovered Mystery Knit-alongs (MKAL).  I have completed two very different MKAL's across the Spring and I can see the appeal.  You purchase the pattern based on a basic concept description and details of the materials required and each week you receive a clue to knit up.  Discussion is fierce among Ravelry message boards and social media lights up with progress pictures and commentary.  It's a great way to freshen up your knitting and be involved in a larger conversation at the same time.
Mel in Wellington is working on this crochet masterpiece, again in Vintage
What are you working on this holiday period?
We'd love to know - so make sure you post your WIP in either our Ravelry Board or the Facebook Thread and every post goes into the draw to win an amazing Skeinz prize pack.  You have three colour theme's to choose from: Rainbow Child, Contemporary Chic or Down to Earth.

In the meantime, regardless of where you are, sit back, relax pick up your knitting and embrace the holiday spirit - Cheers!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Just Cruisin'

Vintage Combinations - celebrating Cruising & Art deco

We are very lucky here at The Yarn Kitchen.  Our Mill is based in Napier, Hawkes Bay on New Zealand east coast.  It's sunny, coastal and historic, having the largest concentration of original Art Deco architecture in the Southern hemisphere.

Around 50 ships dock in Napier during Cruise Season
This means that from Spring through to early Autumn, Napier hosts tens of thousands of cruise ship visitors.  We see plenty of them at our Skeinz Shop and they add colour and vibrancy to our lovely city.

Art Deco Napier - Our Mill Technical Direcor Ian Kelly picture in the Red MG with his wife Maureen.
I often blog about where our inspiration comes from for colours and ranges: Nature, sunsets, places, people - in this case it is those visitors who we welcome to our shores to soak up the Art Deco splendor and sunshine of our fair city.

The Vintage Cruise Collection
The obvious yarn choice for this limited edition was Vintage, one of our first Skeinz yarn's and one that took it's inspiration directly from the Art Deco culture here.  So the next step was finding colours that reflected - what if Deco went not just seaside, but ship side?

The ultimate nautical combo: Navy with Porcelain & Carmine
Having a Navy in the range was colour choice #1.  Navy is a colour that has been out of vogue in recent years, but for our Cruise collection navy, we juice the colour up so it has an almost indigo edge to it - it's rich and saturated, without being bleak or cold.  Teamed up with Carmine and Porcelain from the Vintage range it makes the perfect nautical trio - vintage, retro, classic.

Great friends:  Grey with Coral & Aqua
Colour #2 in contrast is the palest shades of Grey.  It's that slight whisper of Spring sea fog that often greats the ships as they arrive into port.  It's a subtle colour that makes an amazing contrast, it's less blue than Pewter and goes with all the other colours in the collection.

Aqua with Porcelain & Oilskin
Aqua with Sweetcorn & Grey

From fog to foam, colour #3 is just called Aqua and it is taken from the colour that the ocean around the Napier Port takes on during a fine still morning.  It's a chameleon colour, changing it's mood depending on who it is paired with, looking chic and classical when out with Vintage Oilskin and Porcelain, slightly flirty when playing with Vintage Grey and Sweetcorn and looking dangerous when out on the town with Vintage Navy & Nasturtium.

Coral is the ultimate party girl - here with Sweetcorn & Pistachio
Lastly, by no means least, is Coral, our 4th and last colour in the collection.  This is the party girl who makes sure everyone is having fun whilst on board and on shore. Playful when with Pistachio & Sweetcorn, sophisticated when she is with her cabin mates:  Grey, Navy & Aqua.  Coral is that colour which will liven up your wardrobe & wants to have fun.
So if you are cruising this season & are visiting Napier - we'd love to see you.  Check out our website for opening hours & Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Getting Scrappy

The' Scraps Bag Blanket' get started last night
When you are a prolific knitter, as I am, the inevitable happens... Leftovers and scraps.
Anything from two or three balls from a garment project or half a ball or a wee butterfly of colour surviving after a nail biting round of yardage chicken. It's rare that you don't end up with some scraps after your yarn meal.

I recycle the wool scouring bags that arrive at the mill for project and scrap bags.
Mine end up in a cotton wool scouring bag, and if I'm honest, there's more than one rolling around my stash cupboard. I give a massive amount away, especially the smaller amounts, to my aunt who loves knitting these incredible baby and children's beanies for families of the East Coast, north of my home town of Gisborne. She's knitted hundreds of them and they are so well received. Others knit charity blankets or the classic fish and chip jumpers.

Just a small sample of the incredible beanies knitted by my aunt.
For me, I decided several years ago to use all those scraps to knit or crochet projects to make our own home comfortable. There is something very homely and special about items made for comfort, made by you, in your home for the pleasure of your family and friends. They grace the backs of our couch, on the couch, on the beds and loved by myself, the boys' and the animals of our home in equal measure.

Just a couple of the 'Scrappy' projects from last summer.
The thought of knitting in a NZ Summer isn't for all, for me the ritual of doing some yarn craft at night is very much part of my evening 'sleep hygiene' routine and during the school holidays, having a project in my bag to whip out at the beach, pool or over the festive break is welcome. Much talk has been around 'mindfullness' like it is something very new or trendy, but as crafters we all know, and have known for generations, that this is so much more than a 'quaint pastime', I am just so pleased that the mainstream have now caught up. Whatever brings you to hte yarn craft door, we will always welcome you with open arms, needles, hooks and yarn!

This is the blanket from a couple of years ago - it is my son's favourite.
So as the sunshine days become longer and brighter, a cotton bag had been retrieved, a hook dusted off and the beginnings of an organic square design started.

One of my first 'scrappy' projects - a log cabin cushion.

What are you doing this summer?

Over out our Skeinz Facebook page and Ravelry group we are holding a post and win competition.

Summer Post & Win Competition.

So what is your Summer project - what have you done in the past or what do you have planned?
Post completed or planning and WiP progress images into the Facebook or Ravelry thread - every post gives you an entry into the draw.
We will draw this at the end of January - so you have plenty of time and the prize will be an amazing DK colour collection made up of over 20 balls of Skeinz yarn. You can choose from one of three themes: Rainbow Child, Contemporary Chic or Down to Earth...
Post away - spot prizes will be drawn across the Summer - so good luck!

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!