This Moment

This has been inspired by Soulemama.

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

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Interview Series: Hartlam

All photographs in this post are copyrighted and belong to Hartlam. They have been used with permission.

Copyright: Hartlam

Copyright: Hartlam

This week I have an interview with the brilliant South African indie dyer Michelle, from Hartlam. Hartlam is almost a year old and her yarns are truly gorgeous. She has some beautiful bases, which you don’t see very often in South Africa and her colourways are awe inspiring.

Naturally I love the stunning grey yarns she produces and have a couple stashed away. I have been fortunate enough to knit with the Franschhoek, I knitted a Rondelay for my mother-in-law, and currently have some Sutherland DK on the needles for the Rikke Hat. I also have a skein of Sutherland Lace which I hope to turn into another Featherweight (one day).

With so many gorgeous colourways I often find myself drooling over the regular shop updates. If you want to get your hands on some of this gorgeous yarn pop over to Michelle’s shop. She updates every Wednesday and posts both locally and internationally.

I recently chatted to Michelle and found out more about her, her knitting journey and her business. The interview is fairly long, but totally worth the read, so grab a cuppa and enjoy!

When did you first start knitting? What drew you to the craft?

My grandmother was a skilled knitter and crocheter, and I remember watching her work as a small child, but it was only in my late teens that I rediscovered knitting. I love the tactility of knitting, but honestly I think what I enjoy most about it is that it gives me an excuse to hoard yarn!

How would you describe your knitting style? What attracts to you a new project?

I am not the quickest of knitters, and find that I get distracted by new yarns or patterns quite easily, so I generally prefer smaller projects, and especially love gloves and mittens! That said, I tend to pick yarn first, and then look for a pattern to match the yarn.

Who do you knit for? Do you prefer to knit for yourself or for others?

I generally prefer to knit for myself but would have to say I end up knitting about 50/50 for myself and for others. While I do not really like “knitting on demand”, I often give FO’s intended for myself away if someone really loves it, and usually have a long list of projects that I would love to make for this or that family member/friend.

What is your dream fibre?

It would have to be Alpaca! I love the super softness, the drape and the warmth of Alpaca. Other fibres that I would like to get my hands on are Angora (rabbit, not goat) and Possum! Also, living in an area where summer temperatures are often in the high 30’s, I really enjoy the cool feeling of working with silk in the hotter months.

If you could pick one project to be your dream project what would you choose?

The project I have been dreaming about lately is a large stripey chevron blanket, made with chunky Alpaca in fresh, bright colours. If I could go to a parallel universe where I could just sit and knit, with no other commitments, this is what I would be working on!

What is your favourite knitting tool?

My KnitPro Nova needles – I love working with smooth and sharp needles! I have also recently started using the County phone app, which is great for keeping track of your rows and pattern repeats.

Do you have knitting goals for 2013 and beyond, would you like to share them with us?

Hmm, I’m not sure if it can be called goals, but I do have a few things in my queue that I would love to get round to knitting this year! One of them is an Adrift cardigan that I’m planning to knit in in Sutherland Lace. Perhaps I will get to start on my dream blanket too…

What are you knitting at the moment?

I have 3 projects on the go at the moment – a pair of Paraphernalia socks in Tulbagh Sock, a ruched scarf in Greyton Lace, and a crochet pillow in (shock and horror!) acrylic yarn.

Next we moved on to talking about her yarn dyeing business. This is a selection of some of the gorgeous yarns Michelle has dyed. 

When and why did you start dyeing?

I started dyeing yarn for myself about three or four years ago because I was frustrated with the selection (or more often, lack thereof) of luxury yarn in local yarn shops. Allthough I was living in Johannesburg at the time, and had access to some great yarn shops, the imported commercial yarns didn’t tickle my fancy the way the international indie-dyed yarns did. Once I started, I was completely hooked and it was just a matter of time before I started hunting down some delicious yarn bases…

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from many sources! One of the big ones would have to be the landscapes around me. The colours of the agricultural fields, fynbos, mountains and sky are what I often aspire to capture in my dyeing. Other than that I take a lot of inspiration from everyday objects as well as nature in general – the colours on a cake tin, flowers, birds, a period costume in a movie, artwork and photographs, anything really that catches my eye gets saved for future dyeing possibilities.

Tell me a little more about the development process for your hand dyed yarns?

As I mostly do unique, one-off colourways, my yarns do not go through much of a development process. I usually start off with a base/overall colour in mind, and whether the colourway will be a semi-solid, tonally variegated, or multi-colour variegated. From there on it’s very much like cooking – add a touch of this here and a splash of that there. Some of my variegated colourways go through up to 5 steps during the dyeing process, so I often keep track of the ‘recipe’ while I dye because results can be very surprising, and there’s nothing worse than having a gorgeous colourway, with no idea how you got there!

You have some very exciting bases, could you tell me more about them?

Each base has its own special quality that I love.

The high twist yarns like Calvinia and Ladismith are great for strength and stitch definition, while still being soft and bouncy – great for socks and gloves. Victoria West is a 100% single spun Merino that it very soft and cuddly for next-to-the-skin wear, and Tulbagh with its Merino/Nylon/Cashmere blend is my personal go-to yarn. It has a lovely warm and dense feeling, great next to the skin, good stitch definition and blocks beautifully!

The Sutherland yarns have a hint of subtle silver sparkle (which is non-scratchy, btw) and a touch of silk for that extra lustre, smoothness and a bit of drape. This yarn is particularly lovely in lace-weight.

The 50/50 Merino/Silk blend of the Franschhoek base has been very popular for its great sheen, and is heaven to knit with. This is a yarn which feels both heavy and light, warm and cool at the same time, while it drapes beautifully – perfect for spring/autumn projects. Franschhoek will also be available in double knit very soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Hartlam’s softest yarn base would have to be Darling. This Alpaca/Cashmere/Silk blend is just the ultimate in luxury, and great for anyone who can’t have sheep’s wool next to their skin. The first time I felt this yarn, marshmallow clouds were the thing that came to mind! Besides its incredible softness, it also has a lovely drape, a slight bloom, and blocks well.

Recently two Bluefaced Leicester yarns have also been added to the range of bases – Alldays, which is a 100% superwash BFL sock weight that comes in a bigger 150g skein, and Greyton, which is a lace weight yarn with 20% silk added. The Alldays has a “stronger” feel than the other Merino wool yarns, and will be great for more hardwearing items, the extra 200m of yarn coming in particularly handy when making man-size socks. Greyton has incredible crimp and bounce, with a subtle sheen and drape from the silk, which give this yarn a “fun” feeling that puts it at the top of my to-knit-with list for anyone who (like me) has been intimidated by the thought of knitting with lace-weight yarn!

You currently sell your yarns online through your store Hartlam. Do you have any plans to sell the yarns anywhere else?

There are a few things in the pipe-line for Hartlam yarns to possibly become available in other local yarn and online shops, but for the foreseeable future they are still exclusively available from the Hartlam shop.

What plans to do you have for Hartlam over the next year?

I would love to add more bases (yes, I said more!), and in particular some heavier weights, and I am working on a pattern or two, but the rest of the developments are still a bit under wraps, so you’ll have to wait and see!

What is your favourite part of being an indie dyer?

Having the freedom to express myself in colour, and the privilege to share that with other knitter and yarn-lovers. Oh, and of course the days when the huge boxes of new yarns arrive!

What do you find most challenging about being an indie dyer?

I would have to say having discipline to do all the non-yarn things, like admin!

What advice could you offer to someone who wants to start dyeing yarn?

Just have fun! There is so much information out there on the many different methods, tools and processes you can use that it can sometimes be a bit intimidating to start, but there are no wrong answers. Well, there are one or two, but for the most part if you’re having fun you’re doing it right!

Anything else you would like to add?

It seems very fitting that this interview comes out almost exactly on the Hartlam shop’s first birthday, and I would just like to thank all the wonderful Hartlammetjies who have given me so much support and feedback in the last year. I could not have done it without you, and I hope to be sharing my love for you delicious yarns with you for many more years to come.

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I hope you have enjoyed this interview. Would you like to see what Hartlam has to offer? 

Hartlam SA shop 

Facebook page 

Ravelry group

In the knitting basket …

I used to be a monogamous knitter. Not totally monogamous but almost, one shawl, one pair of socks, one larger project and maybe something urgent or some gift knitting.

Recently I have gone on a cast on spree, starting new projects with wild abandon, leaving a slew of WIPs and UFOs in my wake. All at a time when my ability to get any knitting done is at an all time low.

This weekend has been no exception. Even though I have countless projects on the go I simply had to cast two more on. The reason (it’s my story and I’m sticking to it) is that I needed some calm knitting to soothe my soul, no charts and complicated increases and decreases, no fine lace … just calming wholesome garter and genius simple design.

On Friday night I cast on the Rikke Hat, using Hartlam Sutherland DK. I cropped my hair very short on Friday afternoon and think I may need a hat for my upcoming “summer” holiday in the UK.

rikke

Simple garter really allows this yarn to shine! More on Hartlam tomorrow, I have another interview for you.

Last night, to celebrate my friend Pink Hair Girl’s birthday I cast on her latest shawl My Son’s Hero. I was planning on using two semi solid lace weight yarns but I had a change of heart and settled on some gorgeous Shilasdair DK in Autumn Moor. A stunning heathered purple. It seemed more fitting for my upcoming trip to my sister who lives on the moors.

sons hero

I have also packed a large array of WIPs for my trip to the UK, hopefully while Grandma and Aunty get lots of baby snuggles, I get lots of knitting time….

Are you a monogamous knitter? What’s on your needles?

Pinky’s Birthday

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography / Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography / Foter.com / CC BY

I recently interviewed Sally from Pink Hair Girl Designs, you can read the interview here. 

This weekend it is Sally’s Birthday and to celebrate she is offering 50% off all her patterns for 36 hours. The offer starts at 7pm CAT, 6pm GMT+1 and 1pm EST.  

You can see all of Sally’s gorgeous designs here on Ravelry. 

What will you knit?

On Tour

This week has been rather slow on the knitting front, thanks to this….

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The dreaded wrist brace. Who knew babies could be so dangerous? Baby carrying induced tendonitis (sigh).

Anyway, not wanting to moan – I have done enough of that to DH this week I thought I would update you on upcoming knitting related plans.

In less than two weeks this knitter will be landing in the land of green hills and grey skies. Yes indeed I am heading back to the UK to visit family and attend a wedding, and visit lots of yarnie things. YarnandPointysticks goes on tour!

Hopefully I will be blogging about the wonderful yarnie goodness I discover along the way. I have already planned a trip to see the Woollen Woodswhich I have on good advice is awesome. I am not sure if I will have time to knit something for the woods, given the current knitting ban. Watch this space. 

Another exciting trip will be to New Lanark Mill. I have some of their aran yarn which I am planning to turn into a cardigan once knitting resumes.

I am also planning LYS “research missions” in the Lake District, Sheffield, Edinburgh and London. If you have any suggestions for awesome LYS that need visiting let me know.

Hedera

This is my first post in the Cookie A KAL series. The plan is to write a post for each sock I knit, looking at both my sock and, more importantly, looking at the amazing creations by other knitters on Ravelry.

The KAL plan is to knit a pair every month, as you probably know, I am woefully behind but I am slogging along. If you want to join in more details can be found in the Ravelry group. Its a great group, pop over and say hi – maybe even cast on a sock?

The first sock in the KAL was Hedera. This pattern was first released back in 2006 for the Knitty Spring issue and then later released in the famous Cookie A book – Knit.Sock.Love published in November 2010.

The pattern has 3,906 projects on Ravelry and I am not surprised, it is a gorgeous knit. Fairly simple but interesting and, most importantly, it results in a gorgeous sock. Hedera is from the columns section of Cookie A’s book and is named after a plant.

This was my first top down sock, and although I was skeptical (not sure why) about a top down construction I enjoyed it immensely and the fit is great. I chose to knit my socks from Nurturing Fibres Supertwist Sock in the colourway Lettuce. This is a stunngly vivid green from the “2013 colours” – it is not a colour I would normally wear but this is what I love about socks, the choices I make about colours can be a little more daring.

I rattled these socks off in two weeks, these were knitted in the pre-baby days, I actually finished them a few days before the little one made her appearance.

Some photos of my finished socks… now I just need to wear them. They seem far too pretty to wear with scruffy Converse, although it seems silly to keep them in a box.

I am always fascinated to see what other knitters do with a pattern, and this design has been no exception.

I love these black Hedera knitted by Charisse (reecie) paired with those cute red shoes … just brilliant. I think I need some cute shoes to show off my socks…

Copyright: Reecie

Copyright: Reecie

Karla (Kazen) and Karen (no2108) have both created gorgeous adaptations of the original Hedera. These Hedera’s caught my eye because of the simple but striking adaptation of the lace panel, by including only one repeat the socks are transformed and I love theresult. I might have to embark on Hedera V2 using this idea.

Copyright: Kazen

Copyright: Kazen                                               

Copyright: no2108

Copyright: no2108

This version of Hedera by Helena (IgnorantBliss) is pure genius. I love the way she has continued the lace pattern onto the heel flap.

To finish off this round up of great Hedera projects we have a long and short version.

Sometimes you just can’t get enough of a good thing. These knee length socks by Fabienne (fbz) are very striking. She knit them toe-up too – love it!

Copyright: fbz

Copyright: fbz

And last, but certainly not least are the cutest pair of anklets by Maria (MariaOlssonKnits). Perfect for summer, and super quick to knit up too.

Copyright: MariaOlssonKnits

Copyright: MariaOlssonKnits

Finally, to welcome my little girl into the world I made her her very own Hedera socks, using a basic toe-up recipe and the lace panel from the original sock. They don’t really fit because I was not very good at estimating what a newborn’s feet might look like, but at least she has her very own Cookie A inspired socks.

hedera_baby_3_medium

With all these options, how will you knit yours?

Interview Series: Pink Hair Girl Designs

I am very excited to introduce the first of my interview series featuring talented members of the South African knitting community.

Pink Hair Girl is a fabulous up and coming designer based in Cape Town, she also happens to be a very good friend of mine. She is a very talented knitwear designer and key member of the South African knitting community. I am honoured to feature her on my blog.

I recently chatted to Sally about her knitting life to date and found out more about her journey as a designer. Sally burst onto the scene with her utterly gorgeous design “Winter is Coming” inspired by the popular series Game of Thrones in 2012. This year she has collaborated with Nurturing Fibres to release “Dragon’s Hope” a striking combination of stitch patterns and expertly dyed yarn. Her latest design “My Son’s Hero” is simple and understated but utterly stunning and very wearable. In between these wonderful shawls there are delightful children’s hats that just melt your heart.

Winter is Coming

Winter is Coming
Copyright: Sally Cameron

I chatted to Sally about her personal knitting journey and her design work. As with many of us Sally was introduced to the wonderful world of yarn by her mom and gran, she recalled a wonderful story about learning to knit.

“When I was about 11 or 12 I think, I got my mom’s stitch dictionary down, I remember it being a soft cover long, skinny book. I should ask her if she still has it. I started knitting squares in all the stitch patterns, this way I taught myself most things like cables, lace, colourwork etc. When I was asked what I was going to do with all the squares I would answer that they were going to be my husband’s jersey. I think my mom donated them to charity for blankets when I went to university. Otherwise The Geek (her husband) needs to be afraid.”

Sally might have moved on from knitted squares for a jersey but she still often finds herself knitting for others, even though she would rather be knitting for herself. I am sure she is not the only one of us that finds herself in this situation. She has a random approach to choosing her next project and always makes sure she has plenty of WIPs to stave off the risk of project boredom.

If Sally could pick a dream project it would have to be a shawl, a woman after my own heart she says, “contrary to some people’s belief you can not have too many shawls”. We had an interesting chat about fibres and Sally said she struggled to pick a favourite, but would fall back on a good high micron merino – an amazingly flexible base that you can use for almost anything. I was intrigued to hear she once knitted with sea-weed and has her heart set on some unicorn fluff!

I asked Sally about her favourite knitting tool and absolutely love her answer. In a world where we can often get caught up with the latest and greatest in fancy yarn or equipment this really resonated with me.

“Am I allowed to say my brain? I can knit with and on anything. Sure great equipment helps, but I have a need to knit. I can’t sit still and do nothing so it helps get rid of nervous energy. If I had to choose being a snob about yarn and tools over just being able to knit, I would choose my skill and ability to knit above all else. I can even knit on straight plastic needles with acrylic and it would not freak me out. Not knitting would make me a sad person.”

What is Sally’s personal knitting goal for 2013, to “invent a time machine that turns one hour of knitting into three? But seriously I want to knit a cardigan. I have the pattern and the yarn and I just keep making excuses about time”.

I am sure you want to know more about Pink Hair Girl, the designer … this is my interview with her. Enjoy!

Why did you decide to start designing? Tell me a little but about your journey.

We had a design swap on our South African swap group. I had no idea what I would make and was very nervous. I had no idea how you come up with an idea that is original (that is a debate all on its own, if there is anything truly original) I was quite taken with the Game of Thrones series and as I lay in bed one night I pictured a shawl with sections to represent various things from the series. And that is where it started.

What inspires you to design? You always have such wonderful inspiration stories behind your designs, how do you link your experiences with the design process?

Sometimes they start as a story I want to tell and the way to tell it with yarn takes a while to develop. Other times I have a sudden flash of inspiration as to how things should look and the story develops as I go. With the My Son’s Hero the story was inspired by the yarn.

What is the best part of being a knitwear designer?

I will get back to you when I feel like a knitwear designer, at the moment I feel like a girl with pink hair that plays with yarn and has ideas. I’m amazed when other people actually like them. There are so many great and experienced designers that I feel like a very small fish in a big pond. The best best part is when someone knits my designs and puts their projects up and I get to see their inspiration and interpretation. I like to see the stories people tell using my designs. Seeing one of my items on another person is an amazing feeling.

What is the most challenging part of being a knitwear designer?

Self doubt.

Who and what is catching your eye in the knitting world at the moment?

I am part of the budding designers group and I love watch the designs that people come up with. My photography friend described thinking “I wish I took that” when he saw a great photo, when I see a good design I often think, gosh I wish designed something like that. I don’t follow one person or the trend I just follow what catches my eye.

You recently collaborated with Nurturing Fibres to produce a gorgeous shawl, tell me a little more about this process.

I love the dragon scale stitch in my design Winter is Coming, so much and many other knitters commented on it too, so I wanted to make a dragon inspired shawl. I also had a friend who was diagnosed with cancer and she loves dragons, so it seemed like the perfect project to do for her. It is called Dragon’s Hope. Dragons in fantasy are such powerful creatures and I knew she would need to find this strength and power in her as she started on her cancer journey.

Carle and I often bounce ideas around and she helped a lot as we figured the edge of the shawl out. Her great self stripe yarn really made the project come to life.

Tell me a little more about your design plans for 2013 and beyond?

I have some stories to tell. There are at least five or more designs on paper and some even cast on. I want to finish these and I have a dream of a series of designs that tells a story about our country.

At the moment you are running a very exciting competition in your group, tell us more about the inspiration for this wonderful idea and how the competition works.

I love stories as we have mentioned. I think there is a power in telling stories that we don’t even realise. It heals us to tell hard stories and it joins us with others who might feel alone in their story. We never know how we can impact someone’s life by telling and sharing with them. This is not only true for sad stories but sometime we just want to share, remember or honour something special and joyous in our lives.

I try to do this with some of my designs. My hardest story is yet to come, but it will. I wanted to give others a chance to feel like they could lead and influence a design process even if they were not a designer. Maybe they had an idea that they were not sure how to make a reality. Or just wanted something fun and happy to represent a joy in their life.

I wanted to give people a chance to have something designed personally for them, the story they share does not need to be deep or too personal, it can just be telling me what designs they like, colour and a bit about themselves or a message ‘story ‘ they would like to see in the pattern.

The birth of a child, a loss, a love of a colour or pattern, it can be anything that we use to make the design together and tell a story especially for that person.

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Have you enjoyed this interview? Want to see more of Pink Hair Girl Designs? Pop over to the Pink Hair Girl group. 

You can enter the competition by knitting one of PHG’s designs and posting your finished object by the 31st July 2013 in this thread. 

Sally is currently running a special offer on Winter is Coming, until the end of May you can get a 30% discount with the code WINTERGoT3. This is to celebrate the launch of the latest series of Game of Thrones.

All of Pink Hair Girl’s Design are available for download on Ravelry or from her online yarn shop

Sally also runs a fabulous yarn shop selling Nurturing Fibres yarn. She ships locally and internationally. Pop over and have a look www.betwixt.co.za, it will be well worth your while.

Sons hero

My Son’s Hero
Copyright: Sally Cameron

In the knitting basket ….

Okay, so it is not really all in my knitting basket, some of it is in plactic boxes, but the knitting basket sounded far better for the title of this post. Somehow “In the plastic box” does not have the same ring to it…

Life is pretty busy at the moment so unfortunately there is not a great deal of knitting going on. Of course this doesn’t mean there are not a fair few WIPs lying about and plenty of time spent dreaming about knitting.

Surprisingly enough I have an awful lot of grey knitting in my WIPs basket, but there is a splash of colour here and there too.

My main project is the never ending sock for the Cookie A KAL. This should have been finished at the end of April, so it is just a tad late. I am determined to finish them though. The sock I am working on is the Thelonious, using Nurturing Fibres Supertwist Sock yarn in Silver. I have turned both heels and just need to complete the feet.

Thelonious

Lined up and ready to go are May’s socks, Mona. These are in a gorgeous purple yarn. It is also Nurturing Fibres Supertwist Sock in Amethyst. I have worked the cuff of one sock and am currently debating whether I should prioritse these and get them done or focus on the Thelonious. Decisions decisions.

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Another splash of colour is the Rondelay scarf. This is my second whirl with this pattern, the first was in Hartlam sock yarn and was gifted to my mother-in-law. This one is in Manos Maxima, a worsted weight yarn in the colourway Wildflower. It is really colourful, not usually my style of yarn but the short rows break up the colour and I need something bright and squishy for the coming winter months.

Rondelay

Lastly I have two winter cardigans. The first is Common Ground a simple but practical knit that should have been finished by now. I am knitting it out of grey Cascade Eco yarn and it is going to be lovely and warm when it is finally done. The weather is turning here so I better get a move on.

Common Ground

Then last night because I was tired and did not want to knit, and inevitably tink back on my Cookie A socks I swatched for another cardigan. This is in Lanark Mill Aran in the colourway Pebble, a beautiful grey. My swatch is currently drying and I am hoping to knit the Lady Marple cardigan featured in my colour post a few weeks ago. The yarn is very sheepy but I think it will make a good sturdy cardigan. Hopefully I will be able to visit the Lanark Mill when I am in the UK at the end of May, hence my decision to swatch and cast on yet another WIP.

photo-24

There are some other projects which are not lost or forgotten, they are just hunkering down for the winter at the bottom of the knitting basket (aka plastic box) and will hopefully re-surface soon.

What are you working on at the moment? Are some of your WIPs also safely tucked away in the knitting basket, or are they all equally loved and worked on?