Monday, June 13, 2016

Top 5 tips to finding the perfect yarn for the job.

A baby cardigan in Silver Lining Merino - Bell Bush

I find that the compulsion to start an new project comes from one of three reasons: an occasion, a stunning pattern or luscious yarn.  New babies are the best reason to get the needles working away and is still the number reason someone will get started again after a break from the needles or hooks.  Also knit design has come ahead in leaps and bound in recent years, with patterns vastly more accessible and fashionable and that goes without saying all those beautiful yarns which you can get in every glorious colour, texture and thickness.

Silver Lining is incredibly soft and perfect for projects next to the skin.

So how do you select the right yarn for the job?

Tip One - Swap 'Like for Like'.
Look at the yarns suggested in the pattern.  If you choose, or are unable, to use the yarn suggested then look for a yarn that is similar.  Compare the fibre content, texture, construction and length to find a good alternative.  So if your pattern calls for a smooth DK wool yarn, look for other smooth DK wool yarns. 

Tip Two - Natures Best.
If you are knitting a garment for a baby  - natural fibres are always the best option, wool is perfect for babies.  Lighter weights are great for knitted layers, like singlets, and cardigans, whilst medium weights, like DK are great for jackets, longies blankets and sleeping bags.  Softer yarns are best for infant skins, so Merino, Polwarth or superwash are great.

Tip Three - Wear without Tears.
One of the most common questions we get asked is: Will this yarn pill?
All yarns will pill if enough friction and movement is applied, so if you are knitting a garment that is going to see a lot of wear and rugged treatment select a yarn with higher twist, stronger fibres and knit to a firm tension.  Examples being Skeinz Vintage and Southlander, these are my favourite all purpose wearing yarns.  If you are knitting a shawl or cowl, something that won't experience too fraught or friction, then a yarn soft to wear against the skin is perfect.  Burlesque or Terabyte are just perfect for these sorts of projects, super, super soft and won't experience too much wear and tear.

This fine twist on twist Merino give excellent definition, softness and wear.

Tip Four - Find your Flock
Natural fibres all have various qualities and some of these reflect in how they act when they are stitched into a final project.  If you are looking to knit a pattern with textured stitches, Aran cables or bobbles you need a yarn that will hold these stitches so they 'pop'.  Traditionally these patterns were made with strong wools, which were 'lively' and held their structure when knitted.  Wool is still the number one choice for these projects.  If you want softness, drape or a floaty fabric, great with lace stitches then fine wool or blends of wool, Alpaca, Silk, Kid Mohair or even plant fibres like cotton or bamboo come into their own.

Tip Five - It all comes out in the wash.
Super Wash versus Hand Wash - a raging debate for years to what is better.  For me - I hand wash all my yarn garments, regardless of yarn type.  I find it quicker, easier and it allows me to reblock/shape a garment more effectively.  Super wash  has the benefit of being more likely to survive a washing machine accident, it is often a smoother texture as it spun using shrink treated wool fibre and takes colour very well producing vibrant rich shades.  Hand wash yarns have a lusciousness that gets lost in the shrinking process of the fibre and a 'grip' in the yarn which makes it perfect for textured stitching, and essential for fair isle projects, especially if they are being steeked.  

The choice is yours.... but always remember the golden rule for absolute success...
Swatch, Swatch, Swatch!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Knitting for the Sensory Special Child

Knitting garments for my Sensory Special child was a challenge.
Have you ever been caught out knitting a garment for a child only to find that all your hard work is left wallowing in the bottom draw because the recipient just can cope wearing your lovely garment?
It’s disheartening. It’s frustrating. It’s hard to fathom why. 

As you can see from the face - we were not happy at modelling this cowl against our skin!
Working in yarn retail and manufacturing I am always hearing the comment back from knitters that they can’t knit for children because the complain that the: yarn is scratchy, it’s too thick, too tight.
So why is it then some children wear hand knitted garments with no fuss at all and others, even those in the same family, kick up enough fuss that you’d think the world was about to end.

Looking much happier sporting one of my favourite 'go to' patterns
The answer could be that these children have sensory issues or if severe enough Sensory Processing Disorder.  It is thought that as many as 1 in 20 children have SPD with a whopping 1 in 6 children experiencing sensory issues that affect their day to day life.
Milo by Tikki Knits was our breakthrough pattern moment
Sensory Processing Disorder can affect people in only one sense–for example, just touch or just sight or just movement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold.
In children where clothing is concerned, they are the ones who have to have all the tags removed, only cope with soft or well washed fabrics, and only tolerate a few layers and just hate any outerwear touching the skin.
Milo ticked all the boxes - kept Louis warm, didn't touch his skin and could be customised to how he liked.
So how do you knit for a sensory child?
I have a son who has SPD, along with Autism Spectrum disorder and a few other goodies.  He is our first born, so as a knitting mother I was so excited to be able to knit for him.  These are the tricks and tips I have learned along the way when knitting for him and his developing conditions.

Step One – Pattern Selection
Choose
Avoid
Vests or knitted T-shirt patterns
These keep the chest covered, but avoid contact with the neck or wrists that can irritate SPD kids
Collars or features with direct skin contact.
Sweaters with shawl collars look so cute but send a sensory child crazy with irritation.
Smooth stitching, swap ribbing for garter stitch.
Stocking stitch is safe, it’s smooth to wear and not to constrictive.
Textured or Aran stitches
The uneven texture of the stitching can feel like rough sandpaper for the SPD child.
Finer gauge:  Fingerling – Light Worsted
These produce a lighter fabric that is less constrictive to wear and will regulate temperature better
Thicker gauge: Worsted – Super Bulky
Feels too bulky or this to wear, especially if you have to add another layer like a jacket in cooler climates.
Patterns worked in the round.
Top down, in the round vests are great.  No seaming at all required. No sides seams to irritate.
Patterns that require a lot of seaming.
Side seams, added collars, complicated shoulder shaping all create seams that can be highly irritating – best to avoid.



Step Two – Yarn Selection
Choose
Avoid
Lighter yarns: Fingerling up to Lt Worsted (DK)
To create a lighter fabric for easier layering.
Produces a fabric that is lighter and easier to wear.
Thicker Yarns – from Worsted onwards
Make it difficult to layer, especially in cooler or wetter climates.
Smooth plied yarns or yarn with higher twist.
These yarns are less likely to pill, creating irritation
Single roving yarns.
These can pill very readily and these pills become quickly irritating and distracting for SPD kids
Finer micron fibres – like Merino or Alpaca and their blends
These yarns are soft to the touch and will breathe and regulate temperature better than synthetics
Wrap yarns with effect binders or fluffy/eyelash yarns.
Add texture to the yarn which can add irritation.  Eyelash or yarns with binders also gives sensory kids something to pick at and unravel.

Step Three – Be Brave
Don’t get put off if you get deterred first time around.  Older children often like the tactile process of selecting their own yarns and are move likely to wear them if they have input in the choice.

Also if you find a pattern and yarn that works; repeat, repeat, and repeat!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hitting the High Seas

Leaving Sydney Harbour is just such a stunning spectacle.
January has evaporated and February is in full swing.  The boys are back at school  and it seems like only a few days ago we broke for Christmas, time flew with wonderful visits from family and friends over the festive period and then family MacBuscke hit the high seas on our second family cruise.

We got dropped off at the door in Napier! Yes it can be done if your ship goes to your home port of call.
Cruising is the perfect holiday for us, the mix of great food, entertainment, and so much to do for the kids.  So instead of regaling the blow by blow accounts of what we got up to I thought I would give you the MacBuscke Top 5 tips for family cruising.

Ready, Set, GO!
#1: Drugs are good.
It's not what you are thinking, but what I hear most often when from people who haven't cruised, is the number one reason why is because they get sea sick.  This was me.  I get dreadful motion sickness, but there are some excellent preparations available for this.  I used Scopoderm patches (Must apply BEFORE you set sail) and Sea Legs, both available from your local pharmacy.  I took them religiously and also had some prescribed anti nausea in case these failed.  We experienced high seas on the Tasman crossing and was not bothered at all.

Louis & I shared this cabin - whilst the Tender was blocking a view, there was still heaps of natural light and you could open the doors to get some air.
#2:  A Room with an Obstructed View
We have had an inside cabin before with four of us and I have to say it was not pleasant. With no natural light it is very claustrophobic and even when you spend a good portion of your time elsewhere on board, you do still spend a lot on time in your cabin.  This time we opted for two 'Obstructed View cabins', essentially you pay for the inside cabin price for cabins that are outside in from of the tender boats.  These were brilliant.  Heaps of natural light, on our ship they had doors that could be opened for fresh air.

Hugo enjoying the sites on shore.
#3:  Double Up
As I mentioned we had two cabins this time: Louis and I in one and Dr Phil and Hugo in the other.  These cabins were side by side.  The cost is not double the price as cruise lines charge flat fees for the additional passengers, so all squashing into one cabin can only be marginally cheaper than splitting between two.  Make sure you get your agent to price both options out before you book.

The boys had a great time - making new friends and enjoying ship life.
#4:  Kiddie Trouble
Dr Phil and I assumed when heading off on our first cruise that we could pack the boys off to Kids Club for good swathes of the day and we would be left to mooch around with our feet up. Big, BIG mistake. Our boys hated the kids club, unless your child is a little darling who will happily partake in pre-school like activities without question, kids club isn't going to be a starter.  I also checked out the kids club on this new cruise and there is certainly a 'sameness' about them.  My busy boys would not have a bar of this!  So this time I came equipped with laptop, movies, drawing utensils and ipads. We allowed the boys to have their own key cards with money pre-loaded to purchase soft drinks if they wished and easy access to the cabins and a surprising amount of freedom.  They did us proud, it encouraged them to make new friends on board and they worked very well within the boundaries we set for them.  So make your own on board rules with your children, meeting places, cabin access, meal times etc and don't rely on cruise kids club activities.

All of this was just $40!
#5:  Don't be afraid of 'Specialty Dining'
It amazes me the number of people to get onto the cruise and rigidly stick to only eating at the venues that are included in their fare.  Even if travelling on the tightest of budgets, do set aside a little money to have at least one meal out on a specialty dining restaurant.  The meals are heavily subsidized, just a fraction of what you would pay on land.  On the last cruise we did the Steak Restaurant and had four courses for just $40 a head & the meal was to die for - even the fussiest eating partner would have found something to wow them on the menu.

Most importantly have fun & relax - you are on holiday after all!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Starting to feel a lot like Christmas...

The Pohutakawa's a in full blossom all about the neighborhood.
I love this time of year. The garden looks amazing, roses blooming, lushness wherever you look.  The days are longer and you can head to the beach for a quick dip after dinner and the table is overflowing with the fresh season food and fruit that signifies a kiwi Christmas can't be too far away.
Hugo and Renly are both quite partial to an after dinner dip.
The kids finish school this week - so for me that signifies the start to the Summer holidays.  The shopping is all sorted and I am really looking forward to kicking back with the family, catching up with good friends and extended family and even get a good amount of knitting done.
Hugo was so buzzed to be able to see the All Black in Wellington.
Spring saw us visit good friends in Wellington and it also coincided with the Anzac Exhibition at Te Papa (an absolute 'must see', especially if you have children) and the All Blacks victory parade.  It was a chance to visit the Holland Road Yarn company and indulge in all the yarn goodness that Tash has - bliss.
My Doodler, using yarns from my stash, two were spun by us at Design Spun.
I have also been mucking around with another MKAL, this tine Stephen West's 'The Doodler'.  Stephen's patterns are very contemporary, almost avant garde, and the Doodler was a most enjoyable knit.  It have excellent structure and shape, but isn't too fussy in it's design.  I wore it our for the first time this past weekend and I can see me knitting another of these in the future.  So for the first time in ages I have nothing on the needles.  I really enjoyed knitting for our friends daughter and am going to do another project for her, an Oriental Lily using some hand dyed silver toned DK with some homespun of mine for contrast.

Renly guarding one of the 'stash zones'.
But I am yet to discover my 'Summer garment project'.  I have the scraps blanket, but I haven't got anything else in the pipeline.  I am so torn, do I knit stash yarn or do I knit something from Skeinz yarn that I have been dying to try? Not earth shattering decisions I know, but a decision nonetheless.
I am a huge fan of Georgie Hallam's patterns, they fit my shape really well.

Louis Loved Holland Rd - they have a knitted Darlek - he thought that was brilliant!

I have just thrashed all the three patterns I have, the My Favourite cardigan I especially love and am very tempted to swatch a sport weight yarn and reknit in the lighter weight for evening and Autumn wearing.  Yes, I do think that is a good idea - I think I might need to get some swatching started....

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Scrap Happy.


The' Scraps Bag Blanket' get started last night
KAN is been and gone, Spring has arrived and the entire MacBuscke household is gearing up to year end. It's a planning time at work and a time I start undertaking projects that are more about 'mental holiday' than mental breakdown!
The shrug knitted for a friend toddler with the leftovers from my RWC project.
When you are a prolific knitter, as I am, the inevitable happens... Leftovers and scraps.
Anything from two or three balls from a garment project or half a ball or a wee butterfly of colour surviving after a nail biting round of yardage chicken. It's rare that you don't end up with some scraps after your yarn meal.


I recycle the wool scouring bags that arrive at the mill for project and scrap bags.
Mine end up in a cotton wool scouring bag, and if I'm honest, there's more than one rolling around my stash cupboard. I give a massive amount away, especially the smaller amounts, to my aunt who loves knitting these incredible baby and children's beanies for families of the East Coast, north of my home town of Gisborne. She's knitted hundreds of them and they are so well received. Others knit charity blankets or the classic fish and chip jumpers.


Just a small sample of the incredible beanies knitted by my aunt.
For me, I decided several years ago to use all those scraps to knit or crochet projects to make our own home comfortable. There is something very homely and special about items made for comfort, made by you, in your home for the pleasure of your family and friends. They grace the backs of our couch, on the couch, on the beds and loved by myself, the boys' and the animals of our home in equal measure.


Just a couple of the 'Scrappy' projects from last summer.
The thought of knitting in a NZ Summer isn't for all, for me the ritual of doing some yarn craft at night is very much part of my evening 'sleep hygiene' routine and during the school holidays, having a project in my bag to whip out at the beach, pool or over the festive break is welcome. Much talk has been around 'mindfullness' like it is something very new or trendy, but as crafters we all know, and have known for generations, that this is so much more than a 'quaint pastime', I am just so pleased that the mainstream have now caught up. Whatever brings you to the yarn craft door, we will always welcome you with open arms, needles, hooks and yarn!


This is the blanket from a couple of years ago - it is my son's favourite.
So as the sunshine days become longer and brighter, a cotton bag had been retrieved, a hook dusted off and the beginnings of an organic square design started. This as mindfullness and as long as a glass of chardonnay is attached - I'm happy!


One of my first 'scrappy' projects - a log cabin cushion.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

KAN Krush

Completing another Knit August Nights is a little bit like the days and weeks that follow after your wedding.  So much work and anticipation building up to the event and then 'poof' it's all over.  This years event was epic.  The expansion at the venue cope beautifully in the expansion of the event, Ahuriri put it's best foot forward with stunning weather and the KAN-nanites made the most of their time away and had a great time.  The best way to share with you what transpired is to show you a snippet of the main Instagram feed from the event #knitaugustnights2015 - also check out #kan2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Not such a bitter pill.

The brilliant Ruth Pretty wearing her new Herb Garden gloves knitted by me
It's a little over a month until Knit August Nights kicks off, and I am staggered at how it seems to roll around faster every year.  I am really excited about this years event.  More people, new traders, amazing classes all and the new upgraded venue - what's not to get excited about.
It's been nice to knit from my Unwind/KAN stash - Zauberball from Vintage Purls

I have also been getting through a tremendous amount of knitting over recent weeks.  As the temperature plummeted in Napier, but knitting output has shot up.  I have also been tinkering with some hand dying as an experiment for work, it is so much fun!  If you haven't tried your own dying at home, you must, it's brilliant.  For me it's a little like "Coals to Newcastle", but I had a whale of a time, following a simple You Tube tutorial & letting my imagination run wild.  Check out my Yarn Kitchen Blog for full details of how I got on.

One of skeins dyed during my "Home Dye" experiemnt

I also upgraded my de-piller.  I found a larger version in Briscoes ($19 when not on special & lets face it they are always in Sale) and this gadget is my new favourite knit toy.  I have given all my woolies the once over & what a brilliant way to freshen up your wardrobe.  It is like getting a new garment all over again.

My new favorite battery operated device!
Pilling is a natural side effect of knitting with natural fibres and shouldn't be feared.  This simple gadget is so easy to use and quite soothing.  It was so fun that the boys all wanted to have a play and ended up de-pilling their own vests.

Pilled on the left and depilled on the right - I love this gadget!