Tag Archives: yarn

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 credit: Elizabeth Cochran

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.

liz

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.

roberto

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.

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.

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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

Maree MacLean + Intarsia Tips

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Last year the very same fibers used to make Zealana Air Lace and Air Chunky made their runway debut. Footwear designer Maree MacLean debuted a collaboration with Paris-based designer Angela Gallard to create The Noble Savage. With a focus on maintaining indigenous fiber traditions, she found her way to the Perino line of apparel yarns (made by Woolyarns, the same New Zealand mill that manufactures Zealana yarns).

A standout piece from their first collection features bold Māori motifs worked in three incredible shades, also available in the Air range.  In the Lace range, look to A01 Charcoal, A04 Natural and A12 Bright Gold. For chunkier projects, choose L01 Natural, L03 Black and L07 Gold.

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If you’re feeling inspired to design your own graphic knits, remember that designing on knitter’s graph paper will yield the best results. Knitted stitches are WIDER than they are TALL, meaning they’re rectangular, not square. Apologies for the math class flashbacks! To ensure that your knit pieces looks like your sketch, print a page of knitter’s graph paper online, or spring for the Knitters Graph Paper Journal from Rowan Morrison Books.  As a bonus, the journal comes stocked with informational endpapers, full of symbols, abbreviations and terms.

Have fun designing with Air!

CR

Ria + June | Episode #4 Non-Wool Animal Fibers

Hiya! I’m diving back into my trusty copy of the Principles of Knitting to learn more about fibers. For the most part I’ll be reading this book cover to cover, but I’m skipping ahead to part 7 this week to learn about the materials that make knitting possible. Yarn obsessed? YES.

We’ve already heard what June has to say about wool, but there is much more to the fiber world than the fluffy stuff found on sheep backs. Chapter 27 has loads of facts about wool, the most commonly used fiber and specialty wools like mohair, cashmere, quivit and our favorite, possum.  A lot of these fibers fall into the luxury category for their fineness (rated by microns, with lower numbers indicating finer fibers) and for their relative scarcity. Cashmere goats, for instance, only produce a few ounces of down per year. Some animals, like  vicuña and guanaco from Peru, are only shorn every third year, making their fleeces even more precious than cashmere!

Bison fiber is on the rise and while it resembles sheep’s wool in many ways, it’s an ideal candidate for those with lanolin allergies, as it has none. The most fascinating section was the one on silk. June explains the terminology that often goes along with silk, words like ‘mulberry’, ‘tussah’ and ‘raw’; she even explains the cause of the distinctive odor of raw silk (you’ll have to read to find out).

Lastly, June covers fur fibers like Angora and possum. While the brushtail possum found in Zealana yarns do fall into this category, it’s a free-range fur, not raised for the express purpose of yarn production. Zealana yarns use brushtail possum fiber in an effort to correct an ecological imbalance. The resulting yarns are as soft as cashmere and because of the hollow core of the fiber, they’re warm and lightweight. June states that it’s usually blended with merino wool, which is absolutely true, but Zealana has expanded on that even further with unique blends like Kiwi and Kauri, which include organic cotton and silk, respectively.

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These high-performance yarns prove that blending fibers is a way to coax the best from each, and to even out the inconsistencies or flaws in every fiber. A bit like a yarn cocktail, the sum is often greater than its already great parts.

CR

Ria + June | Episode #2 Wool

Hi everyone! I’m diving into Principles of Knitting, but straying just a bit from June’s recommendation to work from cover to cover in order. I had fiber on the brain after getting back from the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, so I thought I’d skip ahead to Part 7 Materials, Chapter 27 Fibers (page 539). I quickly realized that WOOL deserved its very own posts, so I’ll be tackling non-wool fibers another day.

Knitters who knit with wool already know that wool is an amazing fiber. In just a few pages, June illuminates WHY. I’d like to stress that this project isn’t intended to replace her book–I’ll only be touching on the highlights, and facts I found especially interesting.

It’s clear that June favors natural fibers, and so do I, but she allows for synthetics when they make sense. It’s interesting to note that technology hasn’t been able to replicate what nature does so well in wool. People avoid working with wool for a lot of reasons, but June manages to counter all of them with sound logic.

Cost is an issue, but she echos Cat Bordhi is urging people to save up for the best materials they can afford–your knitting deserves this, and your purchases encourage future textile production.

Allergies are another roadblock, but June points our that animal fibers are made up of keratin, the same protein that comprises human hair and nails. Its a contentious issue to be sure, but even people suffering from wool irritation tend to fall silent in the face of soft, smooth Merino (the type of wool used in every Zealana yarn).

One of the most interesting facts I read was that Queen Elizabeth I won Merino sheep from the Spanish Armada, which in turn fueled the British wool industry and the expanding empire. That means Zealana wool may have royal lineage!

Another fun fact: fleeces are shorn in one piece and they average about 10 pounds. I was curious and did the math. That equals about 90 50 gram balls of yarn, or about 8-10 adult sweaters. It’s an inexact science of course, as some of the weight will be lost in the scouring process that removes “barnyard,” dander, grasses, seeds, lanolin and whatever else the sheep happens to be hiding in its coat.

Watch the video to learn even more about wool, and to see a bit of footage from my trip to Rhinebeck!

More soon,

CR