Sunspun Fine Yarns


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Knitting in Scotland

Hello there! It’s Jules here, all the way from bonny Scotland! When Amy asked me if I’d been keen to write a guest post on the Scottish knitting scene, I jumped at the chance- there’s so much to share and much of it different from at home in Melbourne and I wanted to share a little of it with you all.

We arrived in Glasgow in mid-winter and were immediately very glad of the winter woollies that I’d packed… It is always hard to anticipate and prepare for winter in the middle of an Australian summer but it was cold– often below freezing overnight and well into the day and scarves, hats and gloves quickly became part of our kit for leaving our flat. Everywhere we went I saw beautiful knits (albeit covered by jackets most of the time) and I quickly realised that what I love to knit, mostly for the joy of it, are essential garments here.

Stirling in late winter

Stirling, late winter

We soon settled into a flat and set about finding ourselves work… I was very lucky, in that I’d been contacted late last year by Clare Devine, a South African living in Edinburgh but on the cusp of moving to Melbourne. Clare is a knit designer, tech editor and teacher and, having heard that I was moving to Scotland, very generously offered me her teaching contacts. So, despite thinking that I’d never find work here as a knitting teacher- surely all Scots are born with needles and yarn?!- I stepped right into regular teaching at lovely independent yarn shops: Queen of Purls in Glasgow, Ginger Twist Studio of Edinburgh and Fluph in Dundee. Interestingly, all three are, like Sunspun, run by young, dynamic women who are very engaged in the local knitting community and carry local, independent yarn, as well as lines from larger, well-known yarn companies. They and their customers are thoroughly Ravelry-centric but are also very supportive of local designers and producers and I was surprised but thrilled to see how much these three young women work together to build their own and each other’s businesses- so refreshing in the competitive retail scene! There is real interest in more unusual classes, such as colourwork crochet, steeking, drop spindling and darning, and it’s been a joy to teach in these very lovely shops.

I was also lucky to have a small stall at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in mid-March, the second of it’s kind and an event that looks set to grow enormously. It was a wonderful opportunity to have a view into, and a meeting point with, the Scottish knitting community and I couldn’t have been more reassured that this is a good place to be as a knitter! Meeting a few of the knitting world’s rockstars, like Clara Parkes, Susan Crawford, Ysolda and Stephen West, was a big thrill, as was talking with yarn producers, dyers and designers from all over the UK. Although a small community compared to the US, it is a vibrant and thriving one and there is a lot happening here! There were classes in all manner of things, from Fair Isle with Hazel Tindall (one of the most accomplished and fastest knitters in Shetland and the world) and darning with Tom of Holland to stripes and colour with Veera Valimaki and adapting stitch patterns with Ysolda. I was too busy on the stall to take any classes but I did manage to pick up a few treasures over the course of the weekend… would you like to see?! Of course you would.

Some very beautiful oatmeal 4ply from the legendary seaweed-fed North Ronaldsay sheep, Orkney (thinking a very simple shawl that highlights the beautiful yarn?)…

North Ronaldsay 4ply

North Ronaldsay 4ply

As well as four shades of hand-dyed Shetland/ Hebridean from Highland dyer Helen of Ripples Craft (possibly a colourwork cushion?) and an interesting blend of alpaca, Polwarth (the very first Australian sheep breed developed in Colac, Victoria!) and Zwartbles (from Holland) from John Arbon in Devon (a drapey cardigan).

Ripples Craft and John Arbon

Ripples Craft and John Arbon

There are so many woolly opportunities here and I feel very privileged to have met some incredible knitters, like Brenda and her divine colourwork gloves…

Brenda's colourwork

Brenda’s colourwork

… visited Flamborough in Yorkshire to see the region’s traditional fisherman’s ganseys as part of some research on British fisherman’s knits…

Flamborough gansey

Flamborough gansey

… and been swept along in the Indieburgh Yarn Crawl, a weekend-long event organised by three independent yarn shops in Edinburgh, including many classes and events and a whole lot of knitting!

And, in case you’re heading over to the UK,  you may want to time your visit with one of the many British/ Scottish woolly and knitting festivals and events over the year, such as Woolfest, Wonderwool, Yarndale and Unravel, as well as lots of smaller ones! I’ll miss quite a few of them this year but one that I most definitely am attending is Shetland Wool Week in late September! Amy and I visited Shetland when we came to Scotland for the UK Knitcamp in 2010 and I vowed that I would return to that beautiful place sometime- I can’t wait to learn from the best teachers, walk the sea cliffs and share a little of my own knowledge of natural dyeing too. I promise to do another guest post on that with lots of photos of wonderful knits if you’re all interested!

Jamiesons Shetland Heather

Jamiesons Shetland Heather

In anticipation of that, I’ll leave you with a few knitterly details from the Great Tapestry of Scotland, a breathtakingly marvellous tapestry outlining the origins, development and past and present history of Scotland that is currently touring the country…

Detail from the Great Tapestry of Scotland

Crofters working Shetland lace as they walk

Detail from the Great Tapestry of Scotland

Girl knitting Fair Isle

Cotton milling in Scotland

Cotton milling in Scotland

Many thanks for having me, Amy! xx


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Christmas gift guide 3

Our final list of best yarn-related gifts ever is for all of you last-minute gift buyers… We hope it helps- just so you know, we’ll be here until 5pm on Christmas Eve!

 

Stocking fillers for $15 and under:

  •  A Lilly Brush for removing pills and hair from your hand knits- and other things! $13.95
Lilly Brush

Lilly Brush

 

  • For the plumpest and most beautiful pompoms, you need Clover pompom makers, which come in a variety of sizes (even a heart-shaped one!) and make the process of making pompoms super easy; sets of 2, $9.50-$18.95
Clover pompom makers

Clover pompom makers

 

For $30 and under:

  • A large bottle of Soak, our favourite for washing all your woollies- this stuff is so gentle that you don’t even need to rinse it out. 4 options for scents, including one scentless: 375ml, $22
Soak Wash

Soak Wash

 

  • For the newbie knitter, a Clover accessories set with everything you need to move on from  basic knits, including double-ended stitch holders, a tape measure, stitch markers, needles for seaming, a needle gauge and a pouch to keep them all safe: $29

 

  •  A skein of gorgeous hand-dyed Skein Top Draw Sock yarn, enough for a pair of socks for you or a loved one: super wash merino/ nylon, 400m/ 100gm, $28
Skein Top Draw Sock

Skein Top Draw Sock

 

For $50 and over:

  • Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle knittingthe bible for this style of colourwork knitting with sections covering history, colour, motifs, materials and techniques, as well as some classic 1980’s designs! $46 (you even get some change back on this one!)
Alice Statmore's Book of Fair Isle knitting

Alice Statmore’s Book of Fair Isle knitting

 

  • Everything you need to make Shibui’s No.6 Hat– for you and a friend! Simple and super-wearable, this slouchy beanie is knitted with a strand each of Silk Cloud and Baby Alpaca DK held together, making a super luxurious and soft fabric: $55 for the pattern and yarn (since Baby Alpaca comes in 100gm skeins, you get enough yarn to make two hats).
No. 6 Hat

No. 6 Hat

 

  • And, finally, the old favourite, a Sunspun gift certificate. We know a voucher can seem a bit of an easy way out but most knitters would rather use a voucher on something they’ve been coveting for ages than try to find a use for the yarn you thought they’d like!


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Christmas gift guide 2

Christmas is getting closer (how is your gift crafting coming along?!) so here is this weeks list of our best gift ideas for you or the knitters and crocheters around you…   Stocking fillers for $15 and under:

  • A set of Clover Chibi needles, the best ever wool needles with curved tips for seaming your projects! 3 small needles or 2 large in a cute little tube case, $8-10.
  • Every knitter needs a wee sheep on their desk or coffee table! This little cardboard sweetie holds cards, pens, paperclips and other bits and bobs: Karton sheep $14
Karton sheep

Karton sheep

  • A set of 3 multipurpose tools for picking up dropped stitches, working cables and lots more: set of 3 ebony or bone, $13.
Ebony and bone tools

Ebony and bone tools

For $30 and under:

  • The Harmony Crochet Stitch Motifs stitch dictionary with a whopping 250 different designs: $30.
  • The wonderful Yarn Pyramid print from the Fringe Supply Co: $27 (unframed)
Fringe Supply Co's Yarn Pyramid print

Fringe Supply Co’s Yarn Pyramid print

  • A lovely knit-print knitting project pouch from Canadian outfit, Danica Entwine: $27
Entwine zip pouch

Entwine zip pouch

For $50 and over:

  • Yokes, the new book from Kate Davies! This is sure to become the definitive resource for yoked jumpers and cardigans from all traditions around the world, with essays on each and 11 accompanying designs: $50.
Yokes by Kate Davies

Yokes by Kate Davies

  • A beautiful set of interchangeable needles to cover every needle size and length you could ever need! We have sets KnitPro Nova Deluxe (nickel, $117), Symphonie Deluxe and Fine (laminated birch, $122 and $130) and Bamboo Deluxe (bamboo, $146).
  • For all your winding pleasure, a combo set of skein holder and umbrella swift- you’ll be winding everything you can find with these at your disposal! $110/ set

 


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Christmas gift guide 1

Each week until Christmas, we’ll be putting together a list of our most favourite things in the shop as a guide for you and those hunting for presents for you. We like to make it easy for you! So here is our first group…

 

Stocking fillers for $10 and under:

  • 20 coil-less stitch markers in a handy tin that is small enough to fit in your notions pouch but big enough to hold all your other little knitting bits and pieces: $8
Coil-less safety pins

Coil-less stitch markers

 

  • A sweet greeting card and envelope featuring a watercolour of Brooklyn Tweed’s designs: 5 designs, $5.
Brooklyn Tweed greeting cards

Brooklyn Tweed greeting cards

 

  • A ball of Waikiwi Sock, a lovely blend of New Zealand merino, alpaca, possum and nylon (ok, so you’ll need two balls to knit a pair of socks but 1 ball will get you a knitted toy, small accessory and the like!): $10/ 50gm

 

For $30 and under:

  • From the super-cool American label, Fringe Association, this canvas tote bag is plenty big and sturdy enough to carry a large garment project or two or three smaller WIP’s: 2 designs, $25
Fringe Association Tote

Fringe Association Tote

 

  • A shawl pin from Days of August (Adelaide) or Hornvarefabrikken (Denmark) to keep your hand knits snuggly around you: Days of August reclaimed US army pins in 16 colours, $25, Hornvarefabrikken horn pins in various sizes and designs, $24-$42.
Giant safety pin from Days of August

Giant safety pin from Days of August

 

 

  • A 150gm skein of Colinette Jitterbug, a hand-dyed 4ply merino yarn from rural Wales that knits into the most gorgeous, plump socks and garments: many colourways, $30/ 150gm.

 

For $50 and over:

  • The pattern and yarn to knit Onward, this large and very beautiful shawl from Journey by Shannon Cook and Jane Richmond. Knit in 10ply with just knit and purl stitches, Onward is a joy to knit and to wear. Book $36, price of yarn dependent on selection.
Onward

Onward Shawl

 

  • A deluxe set of Clover Amour crochet hooks, which contains 10 hooks with smooth, rounded rubber handles with a flattened section where the thumb can rest, allowing you to crochet for a longer period of time! Set of 10 hooks, $75.

 

  • And, for the extremely generous giver, an Addi Express knitting machine that will enable you to crank out last minute knitted gifts like scarves, blankets, cushions and more! Lightweight, portable and easy to use, the Addi Express knits in the round and flat and comes in two sizes: $190 for standard, $248 for kingsize.
Addi Express

Addi Express

 

See you next week with our next groups of faves!


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WIPs and FOs

A couple of weeks ago, we recapped our spring samples for you. This time, we thought we’d show you our personal FOs and WIPs! We’re always knitting here at Sunspun. Well, not actually in the shop- although that’s what everyone always thinks when you tell them you work in a yarn shop!- but in all those spare moments in the day… during lunch, on the train to and from work, at the traffic lights- you know how it is. For us, it goes on year-round, despite the heat, and that’s the sure sign of a die-hard knitter!

So here’s a taster of a few things we’ve finished recently or are currently working on…

Amy just finished Paige from Rowan 52, a big fuzzy jumper for next winter. Designed to be knitted holding 3 strands of Rowan Kidsilk Haze together, it makes for a super quick and easy knit, with some nice details, such as the lower back and those beautiful colours… This will be perfect for cold winter days and nights.

 

Paige

Paige

Paige

Paige

 

Jackie, our style girl, is always on the hunt for interesting twists and details and her current project certainly reflects that; she used the Camomille Shawl from our Amimono Collection 2010 as a springboard for her first shawl, omitting the stripes and holding a strand of Alpaca 1 and Spinni together throughout. She’s planning to knit until it is large enough (or her yarn runs out!) and then those little balls of Spinni colour will be used for a very sweet twist at the end. You’ll have to wait to see what she’s planning!

 

Jackie's first shawl

Jackie’s first shawl

 

Having recently felted one of her most favourite cardigans in Rowan Felted Tweed, Kylie is putting all her love for this gorgeous yarn into another version of the same design, Peasy, but with a touch of stranded colourwork. She’s modified a chart from one of the independent designers that we carry, Tin Can Knits, (but this time a free pattern, the  Clayoquot Beanie from their latest collection, Road Trip) and is knitting it with Carbon, Clay and Mineral. We hope this will make you as happy as the last one, Kylie!

 

Jumper

Kylie’s colourwork jumper

 

And Jules is currently knitting Docklight from Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2104. In order to make a 10ply, she’s holding together 2 strands of our lovely naturally-dyed Shilasdair Luxury 4ply and is loving the squishy, warm fabric that it is making- hooray for fisherman’s rib! Like all of Julie Hoover’s designs, Docklight has some beautiful details, such as the neat tubular cast on, delicate lace motif and decreases that merge beautifully into the rib.

 

Docklight

Docklight

 

So that’s what is on our needles! How about you?!


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Spring samples

We installed a new spring window recently! The theme for the window was spring and all the loveliness that it entails- greens of every shade, blossoms, buds and bark, freshness and joy… We chose garments that could be worn in this transitional season of warm days and cool nights, as well as projects that are more enjoyable to knit in warm weather.

The Robin Pullover from Isager was a favourite of ours long before the pattern was available in English, so it was an easy pick for this round of samples. Knitted in Isager Spinni, a 3ply pure Danish wool yarn on 3mm needles, this piece has a beautiful light feel and wonderful drape (perfect for those three-quarter, dolman sleeves) and is a simple knit with just enough neat details to keep you interested!

 

Robin Pullover

Robin Pullover

Robin Pullover

Robin Pullover

 

Madeline Cardigan from Kim Hargreaves’ Honey Collection is another simple knit with beautiful details. We chose to knit it in Australia’s very own Skein Yarn Silk Merino Sport, a hand-dyed 6ply with incredible softness and drape. It can be hard to know how to make use of hand-dyed yarns- too much patterning and you can lose the beauty of both dye and design- but this highlights Kristen’s wonderful dyeing while still being immensely wearable.

 

Madeline Cardigan

Madeline Cardigan in Skein Merino Silk Sport in Bark

Madeline detail

Madeline detail

 

Next up, we have Summer Carnival from Victorian handknit designer Georgie Hallam; this sweet little cropped cardigan is also perfect for summer and is worked in Ella Rae Lace Solids, a 4ply superfine merino with a beautiful twist and rich colours. With a little lace detail and top-down, seamless construction, this offers some interesting techniques to knitters but is quickly knitted and very easily worn!

 

Summer Carnival

Summer Carnival

Summer Carnival

Summer Carnival

 

And then there is Carpino by Carol Feller. This one is close to all our hearts; we love the modern twist on a classic lace jumper with seamless construction and neat details but, for us, it’s all about the colour! It really shows how a colour really sets the tone for a garment and, if you have a look through the Ravelry projects page for this design, you’ll see how different they all look. (We especially love Lauren’s in Victorian yarn Ton of Wool Cormo!). Ours was knitted in naturally-dyed Shilasdair Luxury 4ply from western Scotland and the merino/ camel/ angora/ cashmere blend adds a wonderful softness and halo to this, without in any way taking away from the lace. Beautiful!

 

Carpino

Carpino

Carpino detail

Carpino detail

 

Granny’s Favourite is another design from Georgie Hallam but this time for toddlers and kids; with a lovely lace yoke and seamless contstruction, it’s a super-cute, quick knit with all the detail we’ve come to expect from Georgie’s patterns. It also gives you different options for sleeve and body length, in case you’re not sure how far your yarn is going to go. For this one, we chose one of Rowan’s recycled yarns, Revive, a blend of cotton, silk and viscose that has a lovely tweedy texture.

 

Granny's Favourite

Granny’s Favourite

 

Berenice from Julie Hoover is another lovely design for girls and comes in a wide range of sizes (from 2-10 years). As well as being super-pretty with those cable and lace panels, Berenice is a practical layering piece that works equally well paired with long sleeves and jeans or a dress. Designed for Brooklyn Tweed Loft, a 4ply wool yarn, we knitted it holding together one strand each of Isager Alpaca 1 and 2, which makes for a beautifully drapey, soft fabric.

 

Berenice

Berenice

 

Rock Island Shawl by Jared Flood was a design we’d been dyeing to knit for ages; it’s such a wonderful, delicate lace that is impressive but still wearable. We found a knitter with the skills and time to make it for us and it has certainly paid off with all the interest it’s attracted in the shop! This beauty was knitted in Skein Merino Silk Lace in Gingko and only took 3/4 of one skein…

 

Rock Island Shawl

Rock Island Shawl

 

And lastly, our lovely Camomille! This pretty shawl comes from the Amimono Knit Collection 2010 by Helga Isager (daughter of Marianne, who runs Isager) and was knit using one strand of Isager Alpaca 1 (in a soft chartreuse) throughout and joining a strand of Isager Tvinni to create subtle stripes. Camomille is that kind of shawl that is lightweight and drapey but still large and woolly enough to actually do the job of a shawl- no mini shawlette, this one!

 

Camomille Shawl

Camomille Shawl

 

So there you have it- a complete tour of our spring samples. We hope they’ve inspired you!

 

 

 

 


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New classes

We’re very excited to announce two new classes, the last ones for the year! These are “extra” classes, in that they are not based on specific techniques but instead are designed to help both beginner and experienced knitters and crocheters get the most out of their craft…

Ravelry Tips & Tricks 

This 3-hour intensive class aims to not only get you up and running on Ravelry but also to show you loads of nifty tips and tricks to help you maximise this extraordinary website and all it offers.

We’ll start with the basics, including creating your profile, adding projects and photos, finding friends, using your queue and favourites, adding your existing pattern books to your Ravelry library, finding special interest groups and getting the most out of the forums. Then we’ll look into some more advanced handy applications, including using filters when for searching for patterns, yarn databases and so on, effective “tags”, matching specific yarns to patterns, searching other users stashes for extra yarn, using the database to choose substitute yarns, buying patterns online and searching through other people’s projects for notes, modifications and errata.

Participants are required to bring their own laptop or tablet- unfortunately, smartphones are not sufficient for this class. Free Wifi access will be available on the night

Fibre and Yarn 101

These days, we have access to so many different types of yarns that choosing the right one for a knitting or crochet project can be overwhelming… and yet yarn choice can be the difference between a garment you love and wear forever and a frustrating mess. This class is designed to teach you how to work out the type of yarn best suited to your project and how to find it.

We’ll look at the various types of natural fibres and the processes involved in turning them into yarn including scouring, spinning and dyeing and you will learn how these processes influence how a yarn looks, feels and behaves during and after knitting. We’ll also swatch with a series of yarns and discuss possible uses for them, as well as how to recognise the yarns that will work for you before you even get them out of the shop!

Please see our full class descriptions and requirements on our classes page at http://www.sunspun.wordpress.com. To book your place, please email or call us.