Wednesday, November 4, 2015


If you follow me on Ravelry  or Instagram you might know that Biophilia has been in the pipeline for a while.

 I started off wanting to work with an adapted 'pod' pattern someone in my spinning guild had found and used spectacularly in a baby blanket. Alas, the pods didn't really work in with anything else, and I had to omit them. For such a simple looking pattern, this is probably the one I have toiled on the most. But it's a sweetie - I love how the seaweed like pattern fans out at the edge, and ends with a few beads at the edge, and dripping off the picot points, as if it were recently plucked from the ocean depths.

The yarn is Vintage Purls sock - in the colour Songs of the Sea. Isn't it gorgeous!
You will need approx 495 metres of yarn and 245 size 6 seed beads.

I must backtrack a little. Biophilia is a free pattern available on Ravelry, and part of KiwiYarns Sustain the Sea collection. Biophilia is a term used to describe a hypothetically innate human tendency to feel an emotional attachment to the natural world. The idea that human wellbeing is utterly dependent upon our positive interactions with the natural world and its biological diversity makes conservation of the planet’s ecological systems imperative. This decades old theory is even more relevant today as we continue to transform the planet in our quest for perpetual economic growth. Regardless of whether the tendency for biophilia exists or not, human dependence upon the natural world and its complex ecosystems is a fundamental truth, and yet we continue to plunder the Earth’s resources, and foul the waterways and seas.

But it's a free pattern with a twist, and I have a lot more to say about it - go have a look on Ravelry!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Lace Eater Shawl

The Lace Eater Shawl KAL starts on September the 1st!
Have you got your yarn ready?

The Lace Eater came from a desire to depict the all-consuming passion that lace knitting inspires in those of us addicted to lace knitting. 
Cables twist and turn as they move across the surface of the knitted fabric - undulating - consuming the lace … like an infection.
The Lace Eater, an elongated triangular crescent shawl, will challenge lace lovers. You will be required to work from multiple charts, to work increases and decreases on RS and WS rows. Nupps and gathered stitches give texture to the fabric, while cables consume lace motifs as they advance across the fabric.
Rippling with cables and lace, wrap the The Lace Eater shawl about your shoulders and celebrate your lace addiction!
Succumb to your lace addiction - join us for the Lace Eater KAL(when the pattern becomes available for download September 1st), in my Ravelry Group: Lace Eater Designs, and knit this fascinating shawl with others celebrating their lace addiction.
The pattern will be available for purchase on September the 1st

Yarn Substitution:
Choose a solid or only slightly variegated fingering weight (NZ 4 ply) yarn for this shawl in order to highlight the textural nature of the fabric produced.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dandelion Stitch Sampler Shawl

I kinda forgot about this .... but it is so much fun to knit, that it's worth remembering!

Dandelion is a crescent shaped shawl made up of ten different stitch patterns embedded in a background of soothing stocking stitch, worked from the top down. You may not have encountered all these stitch patterns before, but they ARE fun to knit. I get bored easily, so I really enjoyed working each of the stitch patterns once only, and then moving on to the next one. Each stitch pattern is fully explained and the directions are completely written. There are some charts where they are useful, but you don't need to read a chart to complete this shawl.

I love the yarn - Madelinetosh Dandelion in Lepiodoptra and Forestry. The jewel like colours positively glow and complement each other well. Any solid, or semi-solid 4 ply / fingering weight yarn will work, and you will need about 210 and 230 metres (230 and 252 yards) of each colour.
It's available in my Ravelry store .... here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Lace Eater

I've been working on a new shawl.
I call it Frankenshawl ...

I don't really, but laying out all my little swatches helped me to figure out size, and the rate of increases I needed along the neck edge, and generally whether it was worth continuing.

I had a few mishaps....

But I'm glad I stuck with it ...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mad Blood

Mad Blood is finally available on Ravelry

I haven't blogged about it while I was working on it, because ... well, I totally forgot!

Mad Blood was inspired by the dramatic beauty of a local yarn: The Mad Blood Stirreth, dyed by Tash of Knitsch Sock fame. It's a gorgeous blue based ruby red with just a hint of pink. When I saw it I knew I had to do something dramatic with it - so I did. The shawl Mad Blood positively drips with lace, cables, beads (optional of course), and nupps. If you like your lace challenging, then this shawl will keep your attention as the lace motifs are worked on both right and wrong side rows.
If you're like me and you get bored easily, fear not - the lace and cable motifs are constantly changing - you are never asked to repeat a series of rows.

The development of this shawl took a while - I have many swatches as I worked out the pattern motifs. In a future post I will show you my rather frumpy looking knitted doodle swatches so you can see how I get from A to B.

This pink-red colour seems to be a challenging colour for digital cameras. We had an extremely difficult time trying to capture both the colour AND the pattern, and in the end the photos are a compromise between trying to achieve the illustration of both.

Ironically, my favourite photo is taken in a grubby mirror in a gloomy room with the shawl pinned to my leg. If you click on the photo you will be able to see the pin!

Friday, May 8, 2015


Poor Blog, I have forsaken you for the immediacy of Instagram.

And often I just don't have a lot to say.
I had to show you this little bit of pretty though.

A while ago my husband had to go to the Big Smoke (Wellington) for a week long conference. I begged him to go to an independent yarn shop located not far from his hotel. He declined, claiming that the air in yarn shops makes him sick/fall asleep. Bah - I gave up.
Then he came home with two skeins of this pretty, with the help from the lovely staff at Holland Road Yarn Co.,
It is Madelinetosh Dandelion (in Lepidoptra and Forestry), which I am turning into this ...

The colours are luminous, like jewels. Simply stunning. On close inspection the yarn looks like it has a halo of darker colour - I don't know if it actually does, or if it's a perceptual illusion, but it is certainly a fascinating yarn to use.
I wanted to make a special project, and thought it would be fun to try different stitch patterns I scoured from stitch dictionaries. So far so good, until something goes wrong, which it will do ... but then it will come right again.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hybrid Vigour (or Hybrid Vigor)

I have a new Knitty pattern ...

... and it's a Shonsho!

What's a Shonsho? It's a cross between a shawl and a poncho, of course. (and you have to admit, it's better than a Pawl!)
Anyhoo, I've knit a LOT of shawls, and while I do love them, it peeves me a little when the end that I have casually tossed over my shoulder continues to slither back around to the front and drapes, less than becomingly, down the front of me. I can't seem to manage shawl pins either - the pinned end stays put for a while, but eventually that too swings around to the front so that I look like I have a weird knitted tail hanging conspicuously out the front of my shoulder. Maybe I just bend forward too much!
Yes I could have designed a conventional poncho, but I like shawls -  I like their loose, draping ends, I like the asymmetrical lines formed by the edges - I just wanted a shawl that stayed put!
While fiddling around with an old triangular shawl and some safety pins, I realised that I needn't pin the two edges together, I could knit them together, just for a short distance and then disconnect the two edges so they would hang free, just as I like best. And I called it a Shonsho - not quite a poncho, and not really a shawl, but hopefully a better hybrid of both. And that is how Hybrid Vigour (or Hybrid Vigor) came about. 

I knit two of them, intending for one to be knit completely flat, like a regular shawl, but a loud and insistent voice living in my house insisted that she wanted the Shonsho version  - then there would be two, for two sisters who also didn't want to bother with slithering ends.

So the traditional triangular version never got knit, but in case there are any knitters who would prefer a traditional flat shawl, converting it is easy - the only thing you really need to know is to continue working flat until you have 229 stitches then work all the charts as you would a flat shawl. The only chart that requires a bit of extra thinking is Chart A. Currently it is written for working in the round, but to knit flat you just need to understand that the even numbered rows are knit from left to right, not right to left.
If you like the instructions written out, here they are below:

Traditional Triangular Shawl Option
To achieve a traditional triangular shawl worked flat throughout, ignore the instructions to begin working in the round after the first 76 rows. Instead, continue working flat as set for 110 total rows. 229 sts

Work Chart A
Row 1 [RS]: k2, yo, work row 1 of Chart A from right to left to first centre marker (working pattern repeat 4 times), yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, repeat row 1 once more, yo, k2.
Row 2 [WS]: k2 work row 2 of chart A from left to right to first centre marker (working pattern repeat 4 times), sm, p1, sm, repeat row 1 once more, k2.
Work as set until row 22 of chart A is complete.
Work the remaining charts B, C, D & E and bind off as outlined in the pattern.

I deliberately made the stitch motifs relatively simple. Chart C has decreases and yarn overs on both RS and WS rows, but even if you are new to lace, I urge you to give it a go, it's worth it, so you can move on to more complicated lace patterns with MORE lace stitches on WS rows.

Working lace on WS rows as well as RS rows extends the possibilities of lace, and I especially like the way the lines of the motifs are accentuated dramatically when decreases are worked on both sides. To me Chart C produces what looks very much like a fish tail, which flowed perfectly from the previous chart. The optional beads pick out the spine and further accentuate this image.

And if you wanted to know about fit. This last shot at the beach is me, and I'm five foot eight-ish (170cm). The other model is about 5,4 (163cm). Both of us skinny.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The thing about twist

I wanted to show you some things I've discovered over the last few years about spinning, and spinning merino in particular.

Quite a few years ago I spun my first merino finely for a Shetland Lace Triangle.
Knit on 5mm (US 8). I thought I had done a decent job at the time. As I recall the merino was a little difficult to spin, but I managed to spin something semi-fine, in the end. Knit the piece up, and this is what it looks like now, after years of wear.

Pretty blerk, isn't it.

It's all matted and fluffy despite using 5mm needles, and those lovely swirls so obvious in the original pattern are almost completely obliterated. See that safety pin down the bottom right - that's holding a dropped stitch that I only noticed a year after I had been using it. A whole year, and it didn't pull through, the fabric is that matted.

With more experience I now understand my mistake - I hadn't put nearly enough twist in the singles, (or drafted it finely enough, or been nearly patient enough when spinning) and the fibre in the resulting two ply yarn was allowed to puff up and bounce all over the place. That's great if you want a nice squishy hat, but I wanted stitch definition, and I wanted lace. That sorry grey thing is NOT a great example of either.

This blue below is a commercial lace-weight two ply. Being commercial it's not very fair comparing it to my first attempt at spinning merino finely, but it does illustrate a good lace shawl yarn. It's a mystery cone (I'm guessing from The Little Wool Company), but it's definitely not merino. The fabric is crisp, almost crunchy, but without being at all scratchy, and I like it for shawls because it has some substance and doesn't drape and flop all over the place when worn.
Anyhow, check the close-up to see how well the stitch definition holds up.

This purple is from my shawl Regenerate.
The drafting and spinning is better (but by no means perfect). I learned from that grey Shetland Triangle that I need to put more twist in the merino singles - a surprising amount of additional twist. Some of that twist disappears as your singles untwist around each other when plyed, and you certainly don't want to add so much twist that you're producing string.
The purple merino is from a different flock (Treetops Merino) than the grey, so the resulting fibre is likely different as well, but still the spinning makes a big difference. It would probably also benefit from being knit in a larger needle.

This next purple is a swatch I did for Regenerate. It is New Zealand Halfbred from the Little Wool Company, and the fabric it produces is crisp and crunchy, like the commercial blue above. I rejected it because at the time I thought the fabric for shawls needed to be baby soft, but I now think that shawls can benefit from being knit with a yarn that has a little substance, and it's still soft enough to wear close to the skin. The stitch definition is good - and that is in large part due to the ease with which this particular fibre can be drafted when spinning. I will definitely keep this 500gm bag in mind for future work.

This blue is also from the Treetops Merino, and my fine-wool spinning is improving. I learned to put more twist in the singles, and more twist when plying them together. As you can see, it hasn't been washed yet (indeed the thing is going to be frogged), so the wool hasn't been given the chance to bloom. So the jury is still out on it.

So, there you go.
I keep the grey Shetland Triangle by my bed and snuggle in it while reading into the night during winter. I don't hate it at all - it served a good lesson, and if it gets replaced with another winter-night-reading-shawl, I can cut it up and use it as slipper inserts - it's unlikely to fray!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Let the knitting re-commence

Number one favourite knitting location:

Second favourite knitting location.

Third favourite knitting location:

Midst the mess of the kitchen table, bathed in morning sunlight. Insects singing of summer in the trees through the open window (not to mention the workmen bashing about in the neighbour's house, finally finishing earthquake repairs).

It's been so many weeks since I last worked on this design that it took a while to figure out where I was and what I was planning on doing with it. But it's all steaming ahead now! It feels so good to get back into the swing of all things lace!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Coast to Coast

The Coast to Coast race is today. No I'm not in it (even the thought of doing it makes me perspire with fear).
Maybe one day, theoretically, I would. I love the idea of slogging my way from one side of the country to the other via my own power. I should have done it 20 years ago, when I was a machine (shakes head with disbelief), It's almost three hundred kilometres or so, between here and Kumara Beach (the runners leave from what we call Spirula beach [Spirula's being a shell we always find washed up there]). It takes over three hours in the car, and I complain about the cold somewhere around Arthurs Pass. But it's beautiful country. There are Kea's, and crags, lakes, and dry, arid desolation. And the delicious colours! - truly a yarn-dyer's inspiration. I love it!
I'm in awe of what these sports people are doing today. They left before I was even awake this morning, and sometime after lunch the first athlete will pound his or her way into New Brighton. What a fantastic feeling that must be!!

This is the athletes route from the West coast to the East coast.

Image from: (Speights Coast to Coast)

I could do the bike segment - I'd love the bike segment. And would it really be so bad to just stop somewhere around Mt White, and just take up residence with the Kea's, forever.

Like this Kea, but free ...

PS, summer holidays are over. Knitting is recommencing. More to come ...

Friday, January 23, 2015

For Eleanor

... and our other Northern Hemisphere comrades - some of our summer warmth for your soul!

Love the determination of this guy - if you've ever biked on sand you'd know it's hard work, and he did it with a fishing rod!

Unfortunately I missed a horse and sulky riding by half an hour later because I was too busy knitting to notice until it had passed. I resolved to catch it on the return journey but was over the other side of the dunes photographing the hidden destruction a recent scrub fire had wrought on the regenerating dunes.

I smelt this fire when it was burning, one hot evening in town - luckily it was only a relatively small patch. Scrub fires seem to spring up from no-where when it reaches 29 C and Nor'West. I could see bits of plastic / glass bottles amongst the scorched earth - possibly the source of the ignition.

But it has been a fantastic summer so far!