Sunspun Fine Yarns


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New Yarns – September

Are there nicer words than ‘new’ and ‘yarns’ side by side? We have had quite a few lovelies come in lately and thought we’d share the love.

roadtochina2You only have to look at the beautiful jewel tones of Road to China Lace to know why we’ve stocked this luxurious yarn, which captures all the qualities of its fibres: alpaca, silk, camel and cashmere. Whisper-light and warm, Road to China Lace drapes like a dream, and has the subtlest of sheens from the silk. This is one yarn that is as much a pleasure to knit with as it is to wear.

echo4_medium2Laceweight yarn so gorgeous immediately suggests lace. This Echo Flower Shawl by Jenny Johnson Johnen is inspired by Eastonian lace and has a blossom stitch body and an utterly exquisite border. (It’s also free.)

img_9496_medium2Source: Mintyfresh

Weight: Lace
Composition: 65% baby alpaca, 15% silk, 10% camel, 10% cashmere
Size: 100 g
Meterage: 600 m
Gauge: 32–40 stitches to 10cm on 2–2.75 mm needles
Care: Gentle hand wash, dry flat

Fans of Jo Sharp’s Alpaca Silk Georgette may have noticed it’s being phased out and replaced by Mulberry Silk Georgette. If you like the Alpaca Silk Georgette, this new yarn knits to a very similar tension. With wool in place of the alpaca, you will have a lighter and softer fabric.

This yarn produces the most beautiful fabric (the drape, the drape) and it’s a pleasure in the hand. As with all Jo Sharp yarns there is very good pattern support. This yarn can be used for anything your heart desires, it’s that versatile. It blocks beautifully, so if you’ve always wanted to make a cardigan like Vitamin D, here’s your chance.

5601281826_d7467c6ca6_zWeight: Sportweight/5 ply
Composition: 75% wool, 25% mulberry silk
Size: 50 g
Meterage: 165 m
Gauge: 25 stitches to 10cm on 3.25 mm needles
Care: Gentle hand wash, dry flat

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Prima Fine Kid Merino and Silk by Rosabella yarns is silk twisted with fine kid and merino. The composition yields a lofty yarn that is soft and smooth to the hand, with the most delightful halo. This yarn is not too far away from Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze, with the merino giving it just a bit more body, so it has wide application, from cardigans to hats, scarves and gloves.

Isabell Kraemer’s Jih, a raglan sweater that is worked seamlessly from the top down, will get a beautiful heathered dimension in this yarn. One of those sweaters that’s made for when you’re in the mood for miles of stocking stitch, and will get copious amounts of wear.

img_8371_medium2Weight: Sportweight/5 ply
Composition: 60% fine kid, 25% silk, 15% merino
Size: 25 g
Meterage: 72 m
Gauge: 22-24 stitches to 10cm on 3.5-3.75 mm needles
Care: Gentle hand wash, dry flat

 

 

 


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Product of the Month – September

It’s that time of the month when we roll out our Product of the Month, and September’s star is White Gum Wool (4 ply). As with all products of the month, you can buy them at 10% off (20% for Sunspun members).

White Gum Wool comes from 1600 Saxon merinos raised by the inspiring Nan Bray just south of Oatlands in Tasmania. A woman determined to do things in a different way, in a better way, Nan – a former marine physicist and an ex-city slicker to boot – combines generations-old shepherding and wool-raising skills with ground-breaking research to produce yarn that is unsurpassed in quality.

Nan keeps the sheep family groups together for their lifetimes, which means the mothers teach their babies how to graze on a wide range of native and exotic plants. Both animal and landscape are ethically cared for – that means no mules and no fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides. As a result, Nan gets more wool per animal per year, greater fleece strength and fewer interventions are needed with the sheep.

DSCN7008-e1389852362519You can catch up with Nan and stories from her farm through her blog, and do watch her story on Landline – it’s a cracker.

It would be an understatement to say knitters love and are loyal to this stunning yarn. Designers such as Tikki Knits, Sally Oakley and Evie and Essie have built patterns around White Gum yarns, and dyers such as Augustbird, Nunnaba and Gradient use White Gum as a base.

This merino is strong and really one of the softest you’ll find, which means you can wear it next to the skin. And as with all things wool, it’s comfortable in all but the most extreme of weather. Each ball of the 100 gram yarn has a generous 472 metres. And did we mention it comes in sixteen well-matched natural colours? Pictured below is the sedge colourway.

IMG_1481 (1).jpgWhite Gum 4 ply is light, oh so soft and buttery to knit with, and slips off the needles smoothly. It has the most beautiful hand – see that slight halo? Because it has lots of loft and elasticity,  you may need to block quite vigorously to open up lace projects. In stocking stitch and with smaller needles, the fabric is dense and almost velvety. (The ball band gives the tension at 28 stitches by 36 rows on 3.25 mm needles for a 10 cm square.)

This is the go-to yarn for baby wear, and luxurious shawls and shawls that drape beautifully, so use the yarn with your favourite fingering-weight patterns. Here are a few that have caught our eye.

cowl1_medium2Evie & Essie’s Sparkles Snood is a deep and light textured cowl that intersperses lace with ribbing and slipped stitches. The yarns shows off the stitch details well, making this a piece to cherish for years to come.

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Daysfull made a stunning Enkei by Kirsten Johnstone in the everlasting colourway – it’s a pop of sunny happiness. The top-down cardigan is shaped with raglan increases, then knit back and forth, finishing with that peekaboo cutout at the back. (With yarn so soft, you can expect some pilling, so get yourself a good shaver while you’re at it …)

DSC_0477_medium2Rhiannon Owens’ Gwyn Minikins is a classic cropped child’s cardigan knit seamlessly from the top down with a lace yoke and a stockinette body. It will go beautifully over a favourite dress or jeans.image-16_copy_medium2.jpg

Françoise Danoy’s Tokerau shawl marries a subtle textured stockinette body with intricate lace, and just enough complexity to hold your interest as you’re knitting. The shawl would look as stunning in a single colour as it would in two contrasting colours.

And if you’re after a challenge, there is Jared Flood’s Girasole. Originally knit in worsted-weight yarn, knitter Pam Chiang has made hers using 450 g of White Gum, adding two repeats and a wide sawtooth border for the stunner pictured below. 20151208_094240_1__medium2.jpg

Source: Pam Chiang 


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Product of the month – August 2016

 

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For August, and hot on the heels of Clare Devine’s trunk show and the special price for her patterns, comes our product of the month, Lang Jawoll sock yarn. If you’ve never come across them before, August is the time to give them a whirl, when they are 10% off (20% for Sunspun members).

Sock knitters in the know have been saying ja to Lang Jawoll for socks for ages. The Italian superwash comes in a wide range of solid, heathered and tweed colours, and they are durable, reinforced with 25% nylon. Each skein also has a matching spool of nylon to carry along when knitting sock toes and heels for further reinforcement. The 50g skeins, comprising 45g of yarn and 5g of nylon, have a total meterage of 210m.

This soft and fine four-ply yarn knits and crochets well, so use it for socks, accessories such as shawls and hats, and lightweight sweaters – choose your favourite 4 ply or sock-weight patterns.

Besides Clare’s patterns, which carry a 10% discount (20% for Sunspun members) until 5th August, here are some other ideas for you, starting – not surprisingly – with some socks.

These Broken Seed Stitch Socks are so striking, and you only need to knit with one colour per round. The pattern seems to be at its most effective when a single colour is worked back with a highly variegated or contrasting yarn.

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My Cup of Tea socks have a crocus pattern that begins with a 64-stitch cast-on, and is easily modified to suit you.

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Source: Robin Lynn

Cookie A’s Clandestine socks is a dramatic story in lace and twisted stitches. Just divine.

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Source: Laura Kicey

Sock yarn makes very good, hard-wearing shawls. Here’s Daybreak by Stephen West, one of those endlessly adaptable shawls that is striped and arched, with slipped-stitch ‘ribs’ and a generous wingspan. The pattern comes in three sizes too.

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How can you not love these Grey Eyed mittens by Rebecca Tsai with the owls and olive trees?

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Chevrons bring a smart contemporary lift to any design. The Fixation hat by Ann Weaver is also a great way to use up leftovers. The four-colour hat takes about 55 metres of each colour, and a two-colour version takes about 110 metres of each.

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Source: WeaverKnits

Come in and look up Lang Jawoll – we’re more than happy to help with advice and suggestions should you need any.


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Product of the Month – July 2016

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It feels like we’re picking all our favourites for products of the month lately, and July is no exception. Please welcome Shilasdair Luxury, which can be purchased with a 10% discount (20% for Sunspun members) all month long. We are so pleased to be the only shop in Australia to carry these exquisite beauties and treasure our ongoing association with Shilasdair.

From the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland, Shilasdair is one of those yarns that carries its provenance with every skein, with a yarn palette inspired by the colours of wild Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. Traditionally dyed by Eva Lambert from natural materials such as tansy, meadowsweet, madder and indigo, and with colours such as Wild Mushroom, Autumn Leaves, Hawthorn and Foxglove, is there a yarn with more romance?

The fingering-weight (4ply) Luxury is a blend of cashmere, baby camel, angora and lambswool. Each 50 g skein carries about 200 metres, and the fabric is at its best when knit on 3 to 3.5 mm needles. Swatch, wash and assess.

The yarn can shed a little when you knit with it, and some of the colour can rub off too. If you’re using it for colourwork, Karen, who loves Shilasdair, suggests adding a little vinegar to the blocking water to help set the colour. As with all hand-dyed yarns, buy enough for your project, because the colours are often totally different from dyelot to dyelot.

Given the cashmere and angora in the blend, you can imagine how warm the fabric is. This is a yarn that blooms and softens the more you wear it, with a slight halo, so use it for making items in timeless styles that will endure and can be passed on.

We have a much admired Carpino sample instore, a classic lace jumper in Tansy Gold.

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Karyn has also made a sweet Violet Bonnet by Melissa LaBarre in A Fleece Cloud colourway for Nicole’s baby.

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Frozen Silver Sweater by Suvi Simola is one of those timeless sweaters that you will reach for time and again, with a simple textured bodice front and back, and a choice of contrast ribbing for a bit of fun.

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The pine-cone lace in this Pomme de pin cardigan will bloom beautifully in Shilasdair, and the cardigan will be very warm too, because of the yarn blends.

IMG_8601_medium2Source: Amy Christoffers

The utterly complementary colours Shilasdair comes in make them a natural candidate for colour work, from their subtle heathers to gentle variegations. Kate Davies’ Ursula Cardigan calls for Jamieson & Smith yarns, but you can use Shilasdair in its place. This cardigan is knit in the round from the bottom up, and steeks are cut for the front and arm openings – perfect for those who are looking to extend their knitting chops.

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Source: Kate Davies Designs

Túngata Cowl by Stephen West is reversible and worked in the round using three colours. Both sides are geometric, graphic and the results can be as dramatic as you want, depending on how contrasting the colours you choose are.

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The original Soumak Scarf Wrap calls for Rowan Fine Tweed, but we can see this working with different colour stories using Shilasdair. The seamless scarf is large and versatile, and the slipped stitches and colours keep the knitting interesting. Extended, this would make a fabulous blanket too.

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Finally, we cannot let a Scottish yarn slip by without featuring a hap! Montbretia is a beauty knitted in short rows, bobbles and welts, and makes good use of dramatic colour. The pattern is from The Book of Haps, which features 13 patterns by Kate Davies, Jen Arnall-Culliford and other renowned designers, which has enough patterns in it for a few years’ worth of shawls and wraps.

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Do give Shilasdair a try in July and decide for yourself what the fuss has been about!


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Yarn in Focus: Zealana Tui

Yarn in Focus: Zealana Tui

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Vital statistics
70% merino, 15% cashmere, 15% brushtail possum
100 g/111 metres
Gauge: 16 stitches = 10 cm on 5.5 mm needles
$20

Meet Zealana Tui, one of the new yarns we took on last year, alongside Zealana Air and Heron.

Tui is June’s Product of the Month, so we’re offering a 10% discount (20% for Sunspun members) on this yarn all month.

All Zealana yarns have an interesting story. Since its introduction to New Zealand by fur traders in the late nineteenth century, the non-native brushtail possum has reached staggering proportions, with commensurate damage to NZ’s native flora and fauna. (There are 4.4 million NZ people to 70 million brushtails.) Zealana yarns use brushtail possum in their yarns, which are produced responsibly and sustainably.

Tui is a bulky yarn, and part of Zealana’s Artisan series. Soft and lofty, this merino and possum yarn with a touch of cashmere is hard-wearing, so it’s perfect for big cozy sweaters or superwarm hats, scarves and cowls. You can felt Tui too, allowing for about 10 per cent shrinkage, in 60°C water and tumble-drying. Otherwise, handwash only in cold water and dry flat.

IMG_1432The yarn is robust and individual strands feel already a little felted in the skein. It skims nicely over needles (I used wooden ones), with no catches or snags.

The fabric produced is stable: the swatch evened out ever so slightly after a wash and block, but didn’t grow at all. Oh, and there’s a delicious halo on the swatch that is so beautiful. Being a lofty yarn, you can make big garments that nevertheless do not feel bulky.

This Argo cardigan has it all: a garter yoke, half-moon pockets and is knit in one piece, so there’s minimal finishing.

argo2_034__911x1024__medium2Source: Tweedysheep

The Yarnista made a most handsome, swinging version of Michele Wang’s Cabled Swing Poncho out of Tui, which shows off the cables and ribs beautifully. If you are interested in making this, do read Yarnista’s project notes, which are full of valuable, hard-won information. Her pointers on twill tape have wide application too, and will prolong the shape and life of the garment.

IMG_2209_medium2Source: The Yarnista

For warm heads, this reversible, adaptable Man Hat by Haven Ashley is a must for any knitted hat collection. The yarn will seriously show off the stitches.

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Do drop in and have a look at Tui, and take advantage of the POM to buy some to take home.

Happy winter’s knitting to you!

 


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Meet the Maker: Georgie Nicolson of Tikki Knits

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Gidday Baby

If there is a designer whose work is a go-to for kids with knitterly parents, Georgie Nicolson’s patterns are likely to win hands down. There might have been Gidday Baby cardigans for new babies, a Rainbow Dress for a toddler, an Olearia vest for kinder, Jane for summer cardigans and a Wallaby for a quick-sticks make in time for winter.

To date on Ravelry, there are about 10,500 Milos and over 1000 Granny’s Favourites floating around. And you can see why: if you’ve ever knit from a Tikki pattern, you know they knit up quickly; the sizing options are generous, often from babies to teens; they are easily adaptable; and being top down, they are easy to customise as you go. Plus, they are well tested, so you know there will be few surprises.

So, come and meet the woman behind these creations.

From childhood patterns for Barbie to everything from kids’ clothes, hats, adult cardigans and more – it has been quite a creative ride, Georgie. Tell us how Tikki Knits began and how it has evolved.

I published my first pattern quite by accident in the January 2008. I had purchased the most stunning 200 g ball of gradient yarn and was looking for something to do with it. This was back when gradient yarn really wasn’t readily available (I hadn’t seen it before) and there were no patterns. With some encouragement from knitting friends I set about designing a pattern, which became the Rainbow Dress.

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Rainbow Dress

It took me many, many years before I could call myself a designer; even now I feel a little uncomfortable with the tag. The knitting landscape was really different then, knitters didn’t really take the leap to designing as happens today.

Since then, my business has evolved significantly. It was my testers who convinced me that I should actually charge for Milo. I didn’t feel I had the design background or the experience to do so, but I am so glad they talked me around. I would have been happy to have sold fifty copies!

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Ideally, I would love Tikki to be a self-sustaining business. In the last few years I’ve started teaching, which was a natural progression given I was a secondary teacher before having children. I love the opportunity to engage with other knitters and share my knowledge and skills. It balances very well with my husband’s teaching career, and we travelled to New Zealand for Knit August Nights last year. I’ll go back again this year too.

Your work is beautifully realised and well constructed – your techniques for button bands and sleeves are so neat that I’ve stolen them for other knits, for instance. Tell us what makes you tinker away at a sleeve or ponder how to get a band that sits flat and looks wonderful on the wrong side.

I think at heart I’m what I would call a lazy perfectionist. I like things to be as finished and perfect as possible but at the same time I’m kind of lazy and just want the process to be over. I don’t like having to darn holes under arms (which seems completely counter-intuitive to the concept of seamless knitting) or spend too long finishing things.

I like shortcuts and hate doing what I consider to be unnecessary, which is why I like to puzzle over things I consider aren’t perfect. Ironically I’ll spend a lot of time looking for a solution that will save other knitters time!

Some of my favourite finishes or techniques are really just lazy options as well. When I was designing Ziggy I wanted the jumper to have a folded and sewn hemline and cuffs, but when it came to actually seaming the fold, I decided it looked better as a rolled hem. Some knitters think the round of purl was deliberately used to stop the hem/cuff from rolling too far. It’s really a happy coincidence that it performs that function because it was meant to be the fold line!

 

From the ebook bundle Deception, where the colourwork is much simpler than you
would think. In most cases, only one colour is ever worked in a round, with much
of the colourwork created by slipped stitches. 

And how do you know when you’ve got it? Is something ever finished for you, or do you still beaver away at published patterns?

Sometimes it’s really obvious, you get that a-ha moment that creatives love to talk about; others you’re never quite so sure. With Milo I really wasn’t sure, and when I finished the sample it took me a couple of weeks until I tried it on my wiggly baby. I was that unsure until I saw it on him. That really taught me to trust my instincts more.

Other patterns, you just know it sings even before you’ve finished knitting it. Bloom was definitely one of those patterns.

I like to treat a pattern as finished once it’s published. I’ll go back and correct errors or redo the layout but I rarely tinker with the pattern itself. You’ve got to step away and move forward. Your body of work says much about your journey as a designer, it’s testament to your own growth and development.

So many of us think the life of a knitwear designer is all about the knitting and dreaming up designs, and focus on that, even though we know it’s as much about numbers and troubleshooting and grading.

I had a friend drop over one day when I was grading, bits of paper spread everywhere as I tried to nail those last few figures. She’s a knitter but still had this weird idea that I spent my days sitting around knitting! She remarked, ‘Ah, so there’s quite a bit more to it than just the knitting?’ Ah, yeah!

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My work day doesn’t begin until 11 or 12. I ride to school with my kids, then it’s my daily bike ride and the usual household drudgery. I work from then until 3:05pm when I have to collect my kids from school. In this time period, I generally deal with emails, write and grade patterns, and anything else that pops up. Sometimes I get the chance to sit and design. Usually it’s not until the evenings when I take my knitting out. Sometimes I’ll work after dinner, and there are days when I don’t knit at all.

On average, how long does a piece take from first swatch to publication/upload?

I’m not sure I have an average timeframe – I tend to get too easily distracted by new and shiny ideas! Some patterns have taken two years from first sample to publication, others have only taken a couple of months. I have a ridiculous number of sample garments where the patterns haven’t been graded or photographed or quite finished because something else seemed more urgent. But I do actually perform better and apply myself to the one task if there’s an external deadline hanging over my head.

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Wallaby

Do your patterns come to you resolved or does the success of the piece lie in the countless hours of finetuning and working with test knitters?

I spend a lot of time finetuning in the design process: knitting, ripping and re-knitting, scribbling out notes and rethinking approaches. Before I even start knitting there’s a lot of scribbling and sketching and note-taking that goes on.

I don’t consider my initial concept to be the holy grail though. When knitting the sample it’s not unusual for me to change a design element dramatically; I’m very open to change through the entire process. But by the time the pattern gets to test knitters it is pretty much done and has been edited to within an inch of its life.

Working with tech editors really finetunes your pattern; they’ll make sure it is consistent throughout, all the numbers add up, check that your charts match the instructions, and that the instructions are clear, concise and will produce the garment in your photos. Tech editors are worth their weight in gold.

Test knitters really perform the function of testing the clarity of the pattern instructions: do they make sense when you actually knit them, and they may pick up minor things that have been missed, but that doesn’t happen all that often. They’re not responsible for any major changes to the pattern but are a beta-step, that last final test or a double clarification to make sure things actually work.

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Aire River

I love reading that you knit other people’s patterns, and your posts on Lila are so insightful. Whose work do you enjoy knitting? And do you knit them to the letter or finetune as you go?

I try to mix it up. Last year I knit two Lilas, a Vitamin D, quite a few pair of socks and even managed to crochet a couple of baskets. You learn so much more by actually doing – not just new techniques and little tricks, but the experience also helps clarify or reinforce your own work. I don’t really knit more than one design from a designer though.

I try really hard to knit them to the letter, as a mediative process, to get some of the zen/yoga feel that your normal knitter experiences, but often I can’t help myself. My brain finds it hard to switch off and not deconstruct. There have been a couple of instances when I’ve convinced myself that the designer’s way must be better, only to later regret it when the garment is finished!

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My Favourite

What are the challenges to running your own business? How do you reconcile the business and the creative aspects?

Balancing time and sometimes even finding time for my business is a massive challenge. One of the issues with working in a creative field on your own is that it’s too easy to prioritise other aspects of life over your working time. The hardest challenge has been finding a working schedule that works for me AND sticking to it. I’m easily distracted and working from home doesn’t make it easier. Everyday life rears its head, and work takes a back seat. I think when you’re working from home in a creative field it is hard to convince people that you are really working.

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I like to be deliberate about separating work knitting and pleasure knitting, which is why I knit other people’s patterns. Sunday is a no work-knitting day for me – I give myself time to knit whatever I like or work on my Memory Blanket. I also like to mix it up with other crafty pursuits, sewing, stitching or crochet. Keeping it fresh and mixing it up helps me keep it all in perspective and lessens the pressure.

How do you choose the yarn for your creations?

Traditionally, it’s been selected from my stash – yarn that I’ve purchased, quite often from indie dyers. I choose what best suits the design, what colour my kids will wear or looks good on them. Sometimes the yarn comes first and I’ve designed a garment to suit the yarn and its characteristics rather than the other way around. More recently, I’m consciously trying to select yarns that are more ethically and environmentally produced.

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Summer Festival

What and who inspires you?

Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara Walker are both great inspirations. While EZ’s approaches to construction and tips on everyday knitting are pure genius, I love Barbara’s book Knitting From the Top Down very much – so many lightbulb moments while reading that! I’m also inspired by the fabulous work of some of our local wool producers who are doing amazing things in the field of ethical sheep-raising and promoting Australian wool.

Nan from White Gum Wool is an absolute treasure and her approach to farming fills me with hope for the future of the Australian merino industry. People like Nan and the Dennises from Tarndie inspire me to work with local yarns and to support our industry. Yarn with a strong backstory and history really resonates with me, as I’m sure it does for many other knitters. That’s also why I love Shilasdair, which comes from the same isle as my paternal ancestors.

What can we expect from Tikki Knits in the future?

This year, I’m going to release more patterns, teach lots of people about the joys of knitting and maybe even learn a few new techniques myself. I’m hoping to publish at least twelve patterns and transfer all the existing ones to a new layout. I’m also hoping to work on special projects that celebrate the diversity and dedication of some of our smaller Australian yarn producers – there are great stories there that I’d love to share.

I’ve also been developing a range of patterns – gum leaves, native Australian wildflowers and wind turbines – for a community art textile project called WARM, one of the most enjoyable but challenging projects I’ve worked on. The project explores why the earth is warming and what we can do to make a positive change. It launches in mid-March and will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ballarat in September. Community knitters are knitting and contributing elements that will be used to construct a giant landscape created by artist Lars Stenberg.*

* You can participate and contribute to the work; just click on the WARM link above for more information.


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Brioche-mania

 

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Source: Brioche Scarf, Purl Soho

Once in a while in the knitting world comes along a pattern or style that catches fire, when it seems everyone is making or has made one of it. I’m looking at you, Clapotis, Hitchhiker, Featherweight Cardigan, Honey Cowl, Turn a Square and so on. If social media can be considered any measure of popularity, brioche stitch still has its hold on garments this year; there are exquisite knitted items around on Ravelry and Instagram, and also in the knitwear in the shops for the southern-hemisphere winter.

To demystify this versatile stitch and to inspire, we are running a single-colour brioche class on 12 April at the store. This is one stitch that is much easier shown than learnt from from a book; there are all sorts of little tips and tricks with it that come hard won from experience – and Sue’s the one to explain them to you. Just call (03) 9830 1609 or email shop@sunspun.com.au to book your place.

Brioche actually refers to a family of ribbed patterned stitches that feature slipped stitches and yarn overs knitted or purled together. Among its many variations are waffle, honeycomb, Tunisian and Estonian stitches. (And yes, its name does hark back, according to some sources, to the famous French cake.) Some stitches are formed by knitting one, then knitting the stitch below (or purling one, then purling the one below), which produces the same result, often called Fisherman’s Rib or English Rib.

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Source: stitchpiecenpurl.com

It takes two rows to complete a single row of brioche knitting since half the stitches are slipped on one round, then knitted or purled on the next. As in regular stocking/stockinette stitch, stockinette brioche stitch works all the right-side stitches as a brk – called bark stitch, or brioche knit stitch – and the wrong side as a brp – called burp, or brioche purl stitch. You can work the stitch as you do your regular knitting, making increases and decreases into the pattern and so on.

The result is a fabric of double thickness, warmth and elasticity. It is usually reversible too.

Because of its elasticity, gauge is so important with brioche, so knit a generous-sized swatch. You need to cast on and bind off very loosely with brioche because of the stretch. You may find you need to go down a needle size or two to get a fabric you like, depending on how tightly or loosely you knit, and use your swatch to ascertain how hard you want to block the finished item. To minimize flare in items that are knitted flat, you may want to start and finish each row with two sets of K1, P1 for a sturdier edge.

Nancy Marchant, an authority on all things brioche, recommends working with non-superwash wool, and not using slippery yarns such as alpaca and silk, since brioche knitting has a tendency to grow lengthwise.

If you’ve never tried brioche before, be patient until you get the hang of it. It can take a few rows (about 5 to 6) before the pattern be easily read. The occasional lifeline when you’re working with large stitch counts may not be a bad idea. When counting, remember that yarnovers are not included in the stitch count: as Marchant says, think of the slip one, yarn-over stitch ‘as a stitch with a shawl over its shoulders’.

The thicker your yarn and the larger your needles, the lighter and fluffier your knitting will be: brioche stitches look crisp and pop so well. And once you get the hang of it, there’s a satisfying rhythm to the knitting, and heaps of fun to be had with colours.

51R9MSVX98LElizabeth Zimmerman called brioche ‘Prime Rib’ in her books, and her matchless The Opinionated Knitter gives the pattern for a sweater, and a watch cap that ‘my husband calls Tamerlane, my daughters très Dior, and which my son and I just wear for warmth’. Here’s the pattern: ‘With #11 needles work 10” in Prime Rib, then 4 rows in K1, P1 rib. Next row, sl 1, K1, psso across. P1 row, K1 row. Thread yarn through st, and draw tight. Sew up. Try on.’ How’s that for concision?

For Purl Soho’s Brioche Scarf (pictured above), pick the lushest, loftiest wool you can lay your hands on. Our Zealana Heron or Cascade yarns would make beautiful, light pieces that squish satisfyingly.

This chunky, fluffy cowl or moebius from L’Oisive Thé is an easy beginner’s piece to work up, as it is knitted flat and seamed together, ideal for that single skein of speckled or variegated yarn.

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This Colour-dipped Hat is knitted in Fisherman’s Rib (the knit-below version of brioche), and comes in sizing from baby to adult.

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Source: Purl Soho

For coziness without too much bulk, Christelle Nihoul’s Lagertha cardigan confines the brioche to the neck and button tab. You can see that brioche lends itself well to cabling. It’s knit top down, so you can try and tweak as you go.

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Source: Christal LK

I recently finished the saddle-shouldered Oshima for the shop. The pattern was such a pleasure to knit in Zealana Heron, it was worth knitting slowly just to properly experience it all. The details in the sweater make use of brioche properties: a tubular cast on and sewn cast off for maximum stretch; and sleeve, shoulder and cowl decreases and increases that dovetail into the pattern (check out the back to see what I mean). The squish in the fabric is unbelievable.

If you’re after a challenge, Nancy Marchant has created a damask fabric for this reversible cowl, which is knit in the round. As you can see, what effects you can create in stocking stitch, you can do in brioche too. Both sides will have a different dominant colour, and there are some sumptuous colour matches on Ravelry to inspire and tempt.

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It would be remiss to speak of things brioche and not mention Stephen West, whose creations are fun itself. His Bundled in Brioche collection offers eleven patterns, including the instant heirloom Briochevron Blanket, and this sumptuous cowl and scarf.

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Source: westknits

Do come and join us next week if you can, and see the wonderful world this new suite of stitches opens up.