Zealana in Italia!

The tiny hilltop town of Montisi, Italy welcomes groups of knitters every Fall.  Susan Wolcott, founder of Trips for Knitters www.tripsforknitters.com has been organizing these retreats for the past decade, and Zealana has been a happy sponsor for the past two years.  Most of the knitters go to Montisi to soak up some of the famous Tuscan sun while improving their knitting skills, but they leave feeling a connection to the people in the town as well.  It’s not usually a tourist destination, so the local merchants gear up for the extra business and welcome the knitters back for another year.  The local gift shop stocks up on olive oil shampoo (it always sells out!), and the tiny grocery store even had special bags printed that could be used for knitting.

Photo source: montisifilmfestival.org
Photo source: montisifilmfestival.org

Kennita Tully has been the teacher and designer for these retreats for several years now, and has made many friends in Montisi.  She wanted to do something special for the locals they work with for the retreat, so in 2015 she started work on the “Montisi Collection”, designing garments for specific individuals around their lifestyle.  She chose five people, interviewed them about their preferences in color and style, looked at other sweaters in their wardrobes and took measurements. Last month at the retreat, she presented the sweaters to their new owners.

Four of the garments were made with Zealana yarns:

Liz Cochran is a British expat who moved to Cortona to paint and is now a successful artist living in Montisi.  She teaches water colour to the knitters on retreat and hosts a historic walking tour of the town on Sunday mornings.  Liz is also an accomplished Blues singer with her own album.  Her elegant vest is knit in Zealana Air Lace in Burgundy.

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Massimo is Liz’ partner and the property manager for the villa where we stay Villa Maddalena. He also plays guitar in a rock band on Friday nights.  His pullover is made with Kauri Fingering, in Blue Awa, Red Tuhi, Ashen and Dark Napo.  Zampa is Liz and Massimo’s very talented dog.  Since he goes everywhere with Massimo, he needed a matching sweater!

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Roberto is the owner of a very unique restaurant in Montisi, called “Roberto’s”. He is a master sommelier and a follower of the slow food movement. The food he serves is all about where it comes from and how it affects us, preserving tradition and socialization during meals.  Roberto sources everything he serves from local farms and orchards, teaching the guests about the slow food movement as he serves his delicious meals. Kennita designed his cardigan using Kauri Worsted in Natural, for those cool days when he’s out looking for fresh buffalo mozzarella.

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Kennita’s patterns will be available in December or early January – check www.wildflowerknits.com or Kennita’s store on Ravelry for updates and her other designs.  She has already chosen five more Montisi residents for next year’s designs, when the Montisi Collection will become a book!

 

Photography of the garments by Steve Tully.

Runway Knits: Chanel FW16 RTW

The FW 2016 Chanel ready-to-wear collection reaffirmed that knits are an indispensable part of every cool-weather wardrobe, offering luxe texture to stalwart, utilitarian layers in an au courant palette of strong pinks alongside timeless neutrals.

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Tubular scarves with tipped, ribbed edges and gleaming metallic grommets recalled pullover sleeves, while abbreviated ponchos skimmed over shoulders  in a modern poncho silhouette (get the look with our Air Chunky Eyelet Ponchette designed by Vanessa Putt). Crochet defined the edges of marled cardigans, knitted incarnations of the classic Chanel jacket cut from richly woven tweed.

Turtlenecks remain a practical shortcut to face-framing drama and warmth, while bold jewelry elevates elbow-length fingerless gloves, layered for a bit of sparkle at the wrist.

Which Chanel trend is your favorite?

CR

Unraveled Rodarte

As knitters and fashion fans, it is always a thrill to see knitwear on the runway, and few have engaged the craft the way the Rodarte sisters have. This season marked Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s 10th year and they sent their trademark deconstructed knits out once more, thrilling and perhaps terrifying home-knitters everywhere.

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Dropped stitches usually strike dread in the heart of most knitters, but they can also be used intentionally for ultracool dramatic effect. The unraveled look broadcasts a post-apocalyptic cool that is an idée fixe for the sisters, a means of finding and celebrating beauty in decay. The sisters have long dabbled in tattered, amorphous knits, sending sheer, mixed-gauge pieces down the runway as far back as 2008.

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It’s a punk counterpart to the usual Fair Isle and cabled references we’re all used to seeing trotted out for the fall and winter collections. DIY tutorials share the intricacies of the technique, which requires a willingness to let go of neatly defined patterns and rules.

If you’d like to experiment with a dropped stitch look but aren’t quite ready to rock the disheveled glamour of a Rodarte girl, check out our Teela Stole and Teela Top, both knit in Zealana Heron and available FREE in our Passport magazine. Both use a simple and deliciously fun dropped stitch technique that adds an instantly airy feel to your garment (and bonus, instant extra width).

Zealana Lookbook 2015

Whatever you knit, have fun!

XO CR

Hoodie Love

We couldn’t be more hyped on the spring hoodie trend. This laid-back piece can bridge the transition to lighter layers without the prim-and-proper feel of a cardigan. A zip-up hoodie gives you the  versatility to weather fluctuating temps while a pullover version instantly lends a streetwise vibe to whatever you throw it over.

Reach back into our Adventurous Zealana archives to find Claudia Findlay’s Cable Hooded Jacket made in our warm and fuzzy merino wool and brushtail possum blend Heron.

If you want to get a jump on the trend, check out our Air Chunky Hooded Pocket scarf, a unique hybrid of accessory and garment made from our most luxurious cashmere, silk and brushtail possum down blend. Find kits online at String Yarns NYC.

Happy (hoodie) knitting!

XO Zealana

Welcome fall with a cocoknits KAL

Do you feel it? Not the coolness in the air or craving for pumpkin spiced everything but that symptom of impending fall that only knitters know. That ITCH, to cast on and create a fabulous wardrobe of lush turtlenecks, sweeping cardigans, accessories to go with everything you own. You name it, you’ve already mentally cast-on.

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The problem of course is that by the time this urge hits, it’s a bit too late to tackle the torrent of ideas and actually materialize a closetful of fresh FOs. Enter the Everyday Wrap by Julie Weisenberger of cocoknits. We’re happy to say that for the next few weeks, we’ll be running a KAL for this adorable free pattern. Follow our Facebook page for updates.

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This little piece is slightly bigger than a cowl, but smaller than a poncho. The pattern calls for working a double knitting, sport or lace weight yarn on a slightly larger needle than usual, meaning you have a lightweight, perhaps lacy fabric without the fuss of following charts row by row directions. There are two options, one ruffled and one plain, and finishing is minimal and manageable even for beginners.

There are a number of our yarns that will work for this pattern, but we’ve shown two here. The striped version uses COZI, our new sock yarn. To make a similar version, you’ll need 2 balls each of 2 different colors (you will have leftovers). We paired natural C01 Sugar with juicy C02 Currant.

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We’ve gone the hyperluxe route for our ruffled version, using marled, multistrand sport weight Air Marle, a true indulgence.  You’ll need 4 balls in A899 Grotto to replicate the Wrap shown here.

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There are of course many other options in the Zealana range. We’ve done the math for you and figured out how many balls you’ll need to knit the wrap either with or without the optional ruffle. If you have any questions, just comment below.

YARN NO RUFFLE (400 YDS) W/ RUFFLE (500 YDS)
Air Lace 3 balls 3 balls
Air Marle 4 4
Rimu Fingering 3 3
Kiwi Lace 2 3
Kiwi Fingering 3 4
Kauri Fingering 3 3
​Cozi ​2 ​3

Watch this space for more posts as the KAL progresses, and remember, you’ll always find the most up the minute information from us on Facebook.  Let’s make those fall knitting daydreams a reality and kick-off a long knitting season.

Ria

NZ Inspired: Piupiu Fringe

One of the things I love most about textiles is that every culture on the planet has something to contribute to the conversation. When I visit a new place I make it a point to seek out examples of indigenous textiles, and I especially love finding commonalities across cultures, and ideas that I can incorporate into my own design vocabulary, after a bit of research of course.

piupiu skirts

When I visited Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, I was drawn to the simple black, white and red palette. While New Zealand  doesn’t have a particularly long history with hand knitting, I was really inspired by the fringe found on Māori piupiu skirts. They’re made with harakeke, or common flax, and they’re dyed with an incredible mix of manuka bark and mangrove mud (is there nothing manuka can’t do?!!). Watch this video to see how the real deal is made:

I’m working on the next issue of Passport and have been thinking about a yarn homage to this distinctly NZ art form. I’ve swatched some Air Marle and have tried a few things. My first thought was i-cord (right). I knew I wanted to incorporate black, but this meant weaving in a lot of ends (in i-cord–not easy). It looked far too bulky, and too labor intensive to be reasonable. Next, I tried a crochet chain (left), which I liked, but again, hiding all those ends was going to get really old, really fast:

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Flipping the swatch over, I tried two rows of traditional fringe, staggered for a full, slightly randomized effect. It was lovely!

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Light, fluffy and best of all, easy to execute. Still, I missed the contrast of the black ends, but then I thought–beads! Beads would add weight, both real and visual, and it would hopefully evoke the piupiu.

I headed over to my local bead shop and admired all the gorgeous gemstones that I passed on my way to what I actually needed–plain glass beads in matte black, size E/6.0  (and a few metallic variations).

labradorite

I also picked up some collapsible eye wire needles and an empty glass jar from the health food store around the corner.

jar

I added 3 beads to the bottom of each piece of untrimmed fringe and knotted it securely. I think I’ve found my winning fringe, no mud required!

winningfringe

Have you ever fringed?

CR

Time to get COZI

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We’d like to think that there is a Zealana yarn for every project. Whether you’re hoping to make an ethereal heirloom piece with Air Lace or a rugged bit of outerwear with super bulky Tui,  we have most bases covered. And while you can use any of our yarns to knit a pair of socks, we hadn’t yet developed a yarn specifically intended for this high-use item.

Well, no more! For the past year we’ve been working on a high twist, multi-ply blend of 58% merino, 15% possum down, 5% baby alpaca, 20% nylon and 2% elasticated nylon. COZI joins Tui and Heron in the Artisan range, promising high performance luxury without the high price. Thoughtfully engineered to withstand wear, the possum down and baby alpaca keep softness and warmth at the forefront. A small bit of elastic nylon makes all the difference in the fit department, rendering ribbing crisp and resilient. A high twist increases durability and stitch definition, making all your knits heirloom worthy.

cozi3
While this yarn is perfect for sock knitting, it will be delightful in other projects as well. Any garment that requires a crisp, resilient ribbing will benefit from the structure and memory this fiber blend provides. Think of this as a yarn version of your most flattering pair of stretchy skinny jeans!

The palette of 6 solids is inspired by vintage maps. They’ll be joined by 4 variegated color ways.  Look forward to seeing COZI in the next issue of Zealana Passport, and at your local Zealana stockist.

Antique Maps of the World Double Hemisphere Map Henricus Hondius c 1630
Antique Maps of the World
Double Hemisphere Map
Henricus Hondius
c 1630

Have a lovely weekend,

CR

 

 

 

Welcome to Wool School

Have you ever wondered why Zealana yarns contain brushtail possum fiber? It’s a complicated and compelling story, and we share it with you in Zealana Wool School. Let’s start with a history lesson in Part 1…

Learn more about the unique qualities of brushtail possum fiber and what makes it so wonderful for hand knitting in Zealana Wool School Part 2:

For extra credit, visit our website, and if you have any questions, leave them below and we’ll do our best to share what we know.

CR

Fringe Association L’Arbre KAL

Greetings! If you are a fan of Karen Templer’s wonderful Fringe Association blog you may have seen today’s Hat KAL announcement. I’m pleased to say that Karen has chosen the L’Arbre Hat which first appeared in my debut book Magpies, Homebodies and Nomads: A Modern Knitter’s Guide to Discovering and Exploring Style [STC Craft | Melanie Falick Books]. 

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The good news is, my publishers have graciously provided the hat pattern as a PDF download. The bad news is, the original yarn used is being discontinued! No matter, I always welcome the chance to do a little stash diving…

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Karen asked what I thought might be a good alternative and my first instinct was Zealana Artisan Heron, a wooly single-ply with a rustic charm. I think I might have been thinking of the Heron Hats blog post when I said that because I completely forgot about Zealana Performa Kauri! It has a touch of silk, which the original yarn had as well, and that lends a jewel-like glow to the finished fabric. The round plied yarn works up very quickly and is adaptable to many gauges. I worked it quite tightly to make a firm, felt-like fabric for another hat in the book, the Karin Fascinator.

Karin Fascinator
© Jared Flood from Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads by Cirilia Rose (STC Craft, 2014)

I love the Kauri color selections, too. They’re bright but still grounded in nature, which fits right in with the scheme I came up with for the Magpies chapter that contains both of these hats.

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I remember being worried about selecting trendy colors that may be out of fashion by the time the book was printed, but I ended up just following my gut, choosing shades that would work in the rainforest setting I selected for the shoot (Discovery Park in Seattle, WA). Deep watery blues and teals, chartreuse leaf greens and vibrant magentas looked right at home among all that greenery.

Discovery Park

One note before casting on–I’m not sure why I didn’t go down a needle size or two before I knit the brim. Why, Past Me, why?! Good thing I can fix that now as I cast on a second L’Arbre. Oh, and if my needles look a bit long, well, well spotted! I can never find my 16″ circulars, so I’ll make do with Magic Loop.

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Knitting, always a process, eh? Will you be joining the KAL?

CR