Sunspun Fine Yarns


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Meet the Maker: Kylie Robson from Whisky Bay Woollens

We are thrilled, proud and everything in-between to have the Sunspun family’s Kylie Robson for the first of our new occasional series, Meet the Maker, which celebrates the wisdom of the creative makers in our midst.

Kylie’s new adventure is Whisky Bay Woollens, a tightly curated series of seasonal knitting patterns, and are they a beauty – evocative, very wearable and uses lovely yarns that render the experience of making them a true pleasure. We thank Kylie for giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how Whisky Bay Woollens started, from a germ of an idea to this first collection.

ocean path

Come away with me …

What a beautifully evocative name Whisky Bay Woollens is. Where does it come from?

Thank you so much! When I was searching for a name to publish under, I knew I wanted to evoke a moody, coastal vibe, so I started playing with different concepts. Whisky Bay is part of Wilson’s Prom, which has been a special place for me all my life, and whisky and wool – well, they just go together, don’t they? As soon as I put them all together, I knew I had my name.

ptleo_rockpools

Point Leo.

What is your background?

I have a long history relating to knitting, being taught by my paternal grandmother when I was just five years old. Both grandmothers knit prolifically (and beautifully!) and one also spun her own wool and did a lot of natural dyeing.

My mum would also knit wonderful Fair Isle jumpers in Icelandic Lopi and one of my dearest auntie is an artist. Surrounded by these gorgeous, creative women, it was probably no surprise that I was obsessed with woolcraft.

I also went to uni and completed a Fine Arts degree in painting. Unlike the great art vs craft debate, I found both creative fields complemented each other well, with mutual influences.

We love your story about coming back from the Craft Sessions and deciding to take the plunge to back yourself, and commiting to creating your own designs. So many of us dream, but do not follow through. How did you feel when you realised you had a first collection and when the website went up?

Completely overwhelmed! I was so excited to see the dream come alive, and I was extremely fortunate to be working with a web designer who really got where I was coming from with my vision for the site. Claire, from engelDesigns, was a godsend.

I think I held my breath for the first hour when we went live! The initial response has been so positive and amazing; I have truly been blown away by the support and I’m so happy to see it all come together.

How long did each piece in the collection take to come to you? Do they come to you resolved or are they all in the knitting and re-knitting, in the un-venting, as Elizabeth Zimmerman may put it?

Definitely not resolved. There are many, MANY hours of knitting and re-knitting and changes and tears! The Squeaky Beach mitts were a great example – that lace panel had four incarnations before I finally settled on the final version.

squeakybeach_main

During the evolution of the collection, there were some lovely inter-relations too. The texture in Balnarring was initially slated for the mitts, but it really seemed to work better on a larger scale, so I swapped it. I was very lucky to have some good friends put their hands up for test knitting too, and their input and advice was invaluable.
Balnarring_mainWhat have the challenges been? And what have you loved about this grand adventure?

I think the biggest challenge was having the confidence to back myself. For a long time I questioned if I had the competence to write original patterns, and would people like them or want to knit them.

Finally I decided that I needed to trust my instincts and my skills and just start. From that point on, it has really been such a wonderful experience and I was excited daily about getting to work on the development of the designs and the website.

How did you choose the yarn for the projects?

I wanted to showcase texture for this collection and that was a big factor of the yarn selections. Isager Tvinni was chosen for its loft and beautiful heathered texture. I just love its woolly nature and knitting it doubled produces a beautiful warm fabric with a very tactile surface.

Cascade 220 worsted is one of my favourite workhorse yarns and it shows off texture in such a fantastic way. Plus their colour palette is so comprehensive, you can’t beat it.

The inclusion of the Shibui Pebble and Cima in Woolamai was deliberate, to use a laceweight and a light fingering weight to create a lightweight, soft fabric with interesting texture. There are a few different luxury fibres within the combination of these two yarns, including alpaca, silk, cashmere and wool, which adds to the tactile pleasure of the knitting process.

Woolamai_main

The trans-seasonal focus of your pieces is genius. Plus, layering is so much more fun! Can we expect more from you in this space? Because, apart from the occasional few days in the southern states, aran or bulky garments and accessories can be too much for most of Australia’s winter, can’t they?

I think finer knits are more wearable, and I’m all about the layering! I am committed to the trans-seasonal concept and it will definitely be an ongoing part of my design process. Even living in Melbourne, which is always reported as cold, I know I only get about a fortnight each winter to wear all my heavier knits.

What and who inspires you?

Oh my goodness, so many things. I think my years at art school definitely trained me well as far as how to see inspiration every day. I keep a visual journal on me at all times, and it’s full of notes and imagery and other random things.

The natural environment is a constant source of ideas for me. I just love being out in the elements and taking it all in. Leaves and seedpods are a current favourite. I see them everywhere and can’t resist picking them up.

I also have huge admiration for my creative circle of friends, who exist both in real life and online. I think it’s just a marvel of the internet that so many beautiful creatives can now be connected, and I’m often in awe at the calibre of what people are making everyday. So many talented people are out there, it really does blow your mind and I love how supportive this community is of each other.

What can we expect from Whisky Bay Woollens in the future?

The intention is for new collections to be released quarterly, in line with the seasons (but not wholly dictated by them). The next collection should be landing around November 2015, and is already well into production.

I’m excited about these new designs. My focus remains on accessories, with a couple of new categories that will be added to the mix.

old_pier

Well … doesn’t that make you want to run away and follow your heart’s desire? Thank you, Kylie, for your insight. We look forward to November!


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One Plus One

Here’s a story of yarns that are each wonderful in their own way, but teamed together, become more than the sum of their parts, producing quite different and satisfying fabrics. This is where Shibui yarns really come into their own: the company produces suites of yarns with colourways that cross over. Let’s start with three, from top left below, the Cima, Staccato and Silk Cloud, in the colour Jumpsuit. Shibui_trio Cima is a tightly plied fine baby alpaca and merino lace-weight yarn that knits up to a crisp but soft fabric with excellent stitch definition. Staccato is a merino and silk blend, and accordingly has drape, sheen and a touch of luxe that will make any knit that little bit special. Silk Cloud is a dreamy mohair and silk yarn that marries mohair’s gorgeous halo and with a silky sheen. On their own, the three yarns produce beautiful fabrics. But blend them together, and something quite stunning happens. Shibui_swatchThe pic above shows a swatch of Cima (top left), Silk Cloud (top right) and the largest swatch is of both yarns combined. The Silk Cloud adds warp and weft to the Cima: those silky flecks catch the light and give the fabric dimension, and the mohair lends a halo to the finish. The overall fabric is softer than a solo Cima, and has more structure than a Silk Cloud used by itself, plus the most beautiful drape.

Lori Versaci’s Veer combines the Cima and Silk Cloud to great effect for a long-line, body-skimming sweater. Shibui-Form-Veer-4_medium Shibui-Geometry-Parabola-8_medium2This racerback tank top has two separate layers connected along the neckline: the smooth underlayer is in Staccato and the top layer is in Silk Cloud for a floaty contrast. Some knitters have chosen to not join the layers, and use the Silk Cloud layer as a separate cowl. Shibui_stripedThe Staccato and Silk Cloud can also be knit into a simple scarf of solid and airy stripes.

Add another yarn in the form of Pebble, and the options expand yet again. Pebble is a sumptuous blend of cashmere, merino and silk which comes together in a tweedy finish. The yarn knits up as deliciously well you’d expect those three fibres to; some of the complementary colours are shown off to full effect in this parallelogram scarf by Stephen West. parallelogram Shibui-Monochrome-Blur-1_small2This Blur jumper by Kirsten Johnstone uses contrasting offset blocks of Pebble and Silk Cloud to give the finished garment interest and a sophisticated polish. Shibui-Mix-Multigrain-2Multigrain is a simple seed (moss) stitch scarf that lets two alternating strands of Pebble, Silk Cloud and Cima do the talking. Strata (below) is a variation on the theme, knit in twisted stockinette stitch. Both are studies in texture. Shibui-Mix-Strata-3_small2In store news, we’ve just received a favourite of Kylie‘s: the super-hardwearing Jawoll sock yarn, in 22 solid and marle colours. Hmmmm, toasty feet … The superwash wool is reinforced with a touch of acrylic and comes with a spool of nylon for reinforcing the heels and toes. Love it when manufacturers think of extending the durability of hand knits.

10986218_335524909990310_1631279518_nSo, what will you make today? Let us know in the comments below or post your WiP or finished item on Instagram and tag us @sunspunyarns.


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5 things we love…

The knits, patterns, people and movements that are currently inspiring us…

 

1.  The month-long Craft Cubed, Craft Victoria’s annual festival of experimental, skilled and ideas-based craft and design, with exhibitions, installations, open studios, workshops and events going on Victoria-wide program throughout August. Our picks are Ilka White’s workshops on weaving and braided rugs, textile artist and photographer Siri Hayes’ open studio and Handmakers Factory’s shibori cushion workshop.

 

2.  The new collection of patterns from Shibui (now in-store), including beautiful designs from Lori Versace and Kirsten Johnstone:

Mix No. 31 by Lori Versace

Mix No. 31 by Lori Versace

Mix No. 31 by Lori Versace

Mix No. 31 by Lori Versace

Monochrome Blur by Kirsten Johnstone

Monochrome Blur by Kirsten Johnstone

 

3.  The Tweedback Thursday competition going on at Brooklyn Tweed at the moment- a great excuse to drag out your childhood photo album and hunt out some shots of you or your loved ones in favourite childhood hand knits! At the very least, you’ll have a giggle and you may even win some Brooklyn Tweed yarn. (Speaking of BT, we just received a big pile of their fabulous patterns- more on those next week but we’re pretty sure you’re going to love them.)

 

4.  The fact that it’s only 4 weeks today until the Craft Sessions! Today is the very last day to register so be quick if you’re still thinking of coming.

 

5.  Going with the theme of craft camps, the stories and images from the Fancy Tiger adventure to an incredible Estonian craft camp, complete with traditional colourwork mittens, bone needle carving, Estonian lace, ribbon weaving and so much incredible craft. Definitely food for thought when it comes to craft-focused travel!

Estonian gloves (image from http://fancytiger.blogspot.com.au

Estonian gloves (image from http://fancytiger.blogspot.com.au)


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Shibui FOs

We’ve been busy getting to know our new Shibui yarns- and, as everyone know, the only way to do that is to knit with them! So here are the first of our finished objects from Shibui yarns…

First up is Kylie’s hat, her own design no less and one of a series that she’ll be releasing over the next few months:

Kylie's hat

Kylie’s hat

For this design, she used two Shibui yarns, Cima and Pebble, and knitted them held double on 3.5mm needles, ending up with a 6ply tension; for the cast-on and chevron highlights (and that gorgeous pompom!), she held together two strands of Cima in Jumpsuit and, for the body, a strand of Cima in Fjord and one of Pebble in Ivory.

One of the beautiful things about using more than two or more strands of Shibui (and other fine yarns) together is that you never know how the two yarns will work together- the combination is often quite different to both individual yarns! In the case of Kylie’s hat, the two strands of Cima, a smooth alpaca/ merino blend that feels quite light and drapey, resulted a surprisingly plump and bouncy fabric with lovely stitch clarity, whereas the combination of Cima and Pebble resulted in a super-comfy, lightweight hat with a subtle fuzzy halo.

 

Amy knitted up a Shibui design, the Cliff Hat from Shellie Anderson, in Pebble:

Amy's Cliff Hat

Amy’s Cliff Hat

This design uses 5 different shades of Pebble and Amy took inspiration from another knitter for her colours- we love Ravelry for so many reasons but especially for sharing all the awesome talent of others! The yarn is held double (two strands of the same colour) and knitted on a 2.75mm needle for the main colourwork body of the hat. Amy found the Pebble really lovely to work with and that the lightness and softness of the merino and cashmere content combined well with the strength of recycled silk to create a soft, lightweight hat with a nice little bloom after blocking.

 

Jules made the Georgia Vest from Cecily Glownik McDonald:

Georgia Vest

Jules’ Georgia Vest

This lovely design really needs a soft, supple fabric to allow the vest and its cowl neckline to drape properly and holding together one strand of Silk Cloud and one of Pebble (both in Ash) has definitely achieved that. The Pebble creates the structure for the garment, while the super-soft kid mohair and silk combo of Silk Cloud makes this lightweight (the garment only weighs 170gm) but incredibly warm and very snuggly!

 

And here is a sneak peak of Jackie’s beautifully neat little mitred squares that she is working using two strands of Pebble; they’ll be sewn together to make a beautiful, warm winter scarf/ wrap. Hurry up, Jackie- we can’t wait to see it finished!

Jackie's Squares Scarf

Jackie’s Squares Scarf

 

We’d love to see and hear what you’re planning with Shibui!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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In focus: Shibui Yarns

We recently received the first of a series of new yarn lines for the shop- Baby Alpaca DK, Cima, Pebble, Silk Cloud and Staccato from Shibui Knits! This lovely little yarn producer is based in Portland, Oregon, a city renowned for creativity and the arts, and this is definitely reflected in the beautiful combinations of fibre, texture and colour in their yarn. They source the finest quality fibres, including recycled silk, superfine kid mohair, baby alpaca and merino, which are then spun (in often unusual combinations and weights) and dyed in Japan.

The resulting yarn is beautiful to the eye and the hands and is perfect for all kinds of projects. The yarn bases are almost all available in the same colourways, which means that they work beautifully held together, two or even three strands. The knitwear designers that create handknitting patterns for Shibui often combine multiple strands of the same or different yarns to create all kinds of different fabrics and textures. Shibui provides great pattern support for their yarns, inviting independent knitwear designers to create designs that focus on elegant silhouettes, clean lines and interesting  shaping and offer something to knitters of every age, shape and skill level.

NO.21 by Lidia Tsymbal

NO.21 by Lidia Tsymbal

Francis by Olga Buraya-Kefalian

Francis by Olga Buraya-Kefalian

Cliff Hat by Shellie Anderson

Cliff Hat by Shellie Anderson

Kinetic Cowl by Antonia Shankland

We chose five of the lovely Shibui yarns to start with:

Baby Alpaca DK is gently spun from the finest baby alpaca fiber, creating a yarn that is beautifully soft and lofty. Its versatile weight and luxurious drape makes it ideal for a variety of elegant accessories and garments. 

100% baby alpaca

8ply-weight in 15 colours

233 m/ 100 g skein

$23/ skein

Shibui Baby Alpaca DK

Shibui Baby Alpaca DK

 

Cima is a lace-weight yarn made from the finest baby alpaca and merino fibres and combines sharp stitch definition with buttery softness. Held single, double, or triple, it creates smooth fabrics with clean lines and beautiful drape. The colour palette ranges from vivid brights to calm neutrals.

70% superbaby alpaca, 30% fine merino 

Heavy laceweight in 15 colours

299m/ 50 g skein

$18/ skein

Shibui Cima

Shibui Cima

 

Pebble combines cashmere, fine merino, and recycled silk to form a tweedy 3-ply lace-weight yarn. Separate plies of each fiber retain their distinctive characteristics, but blend into a beautifully cohesive yarn flecked with complex tonal colors. Perfect for colorwork, lace, and an innumerable variety of garments, Pebble is light, airy, and irresistibly soft.

48% recycled silk/ 36% fine merino/ 16% cashmere,

3ply-weight in 15 colours

205 m/ 25 g skein 

$20/ skein

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Shibui Pebble

 

Silk Cloud is a combination of glossy silk and wispy kid mohair, making a super-soft, luminous laceweight yarn. It can be knit alone for gossamer-light lace projects, or held alongside any Shibui yarn to add a soft halo and subtle glow. 

60% kid mohair, 40% silk

Lace weight in 15 colours

300 m/ 25 g skeins

$23/ skein

Shibui Silks Cloud and Cima

Shibui Silks Cloud and Cima

 

Staccato is a luscious blend of merino and silk, resulting in a 4ply yarn with beautiful drape and a subtle sheen. A range of bright and neutral colours makes Staccato a great choice for fine garments and lace, eye-catching colorwork, and luxurious socks. 

70% superwash merino/ 30% silk

175 m/ 50 g skein

4ply-weight in 15 colours

$17/ skein

We are super-excited to be carrying this very beautiful line of yarns and are plotting and planning our projects around it… Amy is waiting for the day she will have some knitting time to start the Cliff Hat, Jackie is planning her own design using Pebble and Jules is currently knitting the Georgia Vest with one strand of Silk Cloud and one of Pebble held together. What about you, Kylie?!

Georgia Vest

Georgia Vest

Fun! What would you like to make with it?!