Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Yarn Report - Zpagetti - and New Shop!

Well, July was a complete wash-out for blogging, as that was the Month of The Move... Even with our best efforts to sell down our stock before we shifted, I still had two vanloads of wool (not to mention another seven vanloads of my personal stuff, plus a removalist's truck when I just couldn't face loading up the van any more). Blogging was not a priority!

But now we are in, and we have some new yarn to report on, a very exciting new yarn called Zpagetti. In their own words, Zpagetti is:

"a unique yarn made from the offcuts of new fashion garments. It consists of strips of high quality cotton and is ideal for easy and quick crocheting and knitting".

And what does that mean? It means that Zpagetti is a long ribbon of T-shirt-like material, which can be crocheted (or knitted) with large hooks or needles (12mm or larger).

Gwen (the owner of Zpagetti) kindly gave us a sample cone and hook so that we could test Zpagetti out before committing to stock it. I used the sample to crochet up the free Ventimiglia bag pattern from the Zpagetti web site.

At first, I wasn't convinced - the Zpagetti was crocheting up into quite a stiff fabric and I wasn't sure if the hook was too small. However, once I'd finished the base of the bag, I could see that the firm fabric that I got crocheting Zpagetti on the 12mm hook was exactly what I needed - the bag held its shape well and was tight enough that I wasn't likely to be shedding keys, pens and other stuff through the holes in the crochet!

If you're used to crocheting with wool, you'll find Zpagetti takes getting used to at first - it's not like working with a chunky yarn (which is relatively soft and drapy compared to Zpagetti). However, after a couple of rounds you get the hang of it, and you'll find it's a brilliant yarn for quick gifts and projects. I managed to finish off the bag in a bit over an hour (including two serious ripping out sessions when I realised I'd miscounted the decreases and the handles while straining to hear the announcements at Southern Cross!).

The yarn is supported with a great range of free patterns on the Zpagetti website. Most of the patterns are for accessories and homewares - Zpagetti crochets into a relatively stiff fabric, which is not really suitable for clothing.

Bonus for crocheters - all the free patterns are for crochet! (Although - hint, hint - CCCK may have some free Zpagetti knitting patterns available to give away with Zpagetti purchases in the not too distant future!).

Have a look at their Inspiration page for more details, or come to our introductory Zpagetti workshop on October 16th - the workshop is being run by Gwen, so it's a great opportunity to hear about Zpagetti from the source!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Planning your projects

Well, here we are again - winter is coming up, and suddenly our shop is full of people planning projects. So, since I haven't finished my next wool report project, I thought now would be a great time to share some tips on how to find the perfect project for winter 2011. The main questions you need to answer are:

How patient are you/how much time do you have?

I had a bad moment a couple of months ago when a lass who'd just purchased a ball of 4ply wool asked how many rows she had to knit to finish a garment. I went through the pattern with her and when she realised she'd need to knit about 100 rows, she nearly passed out in horror! Unfortunately, she'd already started to knit the yarn, or I'd have taken it back and exchanged it. The moral is, always have a good think about how much time (or patience) you have before you select your project!

  1. Unlimited (not working or knitting/crochet/tricot is your number one priority - or you are using public transport to travel!) - buy anything. Buy 2, 3 and 4ply yarns, lace patterns, complex intarsia - whatever takes your fancy!

    Designers: Try Marie Wallan or Kim Hargreaves (Rowan) - both favour very feminine designs in fine yarns. There are also some good books available from Interweave with very fine, intricate lace patterns (knitted and crocheted).

    Yarns: Misti Alpaca 2ply and 4ply have been flying out the door lately - try Rowan 4ply cottons for summer or Kidsilk Haze for a light, warm winter knit.

  2. Moderate (knitting is one of several hobbies - need time for work and family!) - stick with 8 (DK) or 10 ply (Aran) projects with the odd chunky weight hat or scarf to give yourself a quick win or for an emergency present. A reasonably fast knitter should be able to finish an 8 or 10 ply garment over winter (I'm an average knitter and crocheter, but I can usually knock over a garment every six months - three if I'm using public transport a lot or involved in a show).

    Designers: Jo Sharp has a good range of DK and Aran weight patterns. The Sirdar Eco Wool pattern books have also been popular, and the recent Cleckheaton pattern books have some really nice 8ply patterns that are also quite easy to knit.

    Yarns: the Jo Sharp Silkroad DK and Aran Tweeds are probably our most popular yarns at this point. Filatura di Crosa's Zara range makes a nice change if you want something with a smoother, less "woolly" finish, and the Sirdar Eco Wool has a lovely range of gentle, natural shades. At a lower price point, we have the Heirloom Merino Magic, which is lovely to knit and has a great colour range.

  3. None (you are flat out with other things, or you just cannot handle chipping away at a project for months and months) - chunky weight yarns are your friend. So are big needles and small projects such as hats, neckwarmers, slippers, amigurumi toys (any toys!), shrugs and so forth. Lace patterns with fine yarns can be another winner, but some knitters find these too fiddly. Hint: learn to crochet or tricot. Both these crafts are usually faster than knitting!

    Designers: try the Rowan design team again - any of the Big Wool pattern books will be perfect for you! The Garnstudio site is another good resource - look for projects in Polaris, Ice, Eskimo or Igloo (select search groups D, E or F on the search panel).

    Yarns: Big Wool, Misti Alpaca Chunky.

What is your goal?

We often get knitters and crocheters in here who want to learn a new technique. If you are learning a new technique, please let us know that you are looking for a beginner project! Generally, if someone is starting with a techique, I point them towards Cleckheatons and Patons - both brands have very clear, simple patterns aimed at the beginner. If someone is looking to move on to more challenging patterns, I would suggest that they might want to look at some of the Rowan pattern books, where you can find some very complex colourwork, beaded patterns, tricky lace patterns and cable combinations. Some of the advanced Jo Sharp projects are also good if you are wanting a challenge. Anyone who wants the knitter's equivalent of climbing Everest will find Kaffe Fassett's colourwork patterns in our shop and on the Rowan website ( Good luck! :)

Oh and by the way (shameless self promotion time!) - we offer regular classes in knitting, crochet, tricot and broomstick lace. So we can get you started on your challenge with a class, as well as with wool and patterns...

What are your likes/dislikes?

If we know what you like, we will be able to recommend other, similar yarns and designers. And we won't waste your time by waving chunky weight, undyed wool in your face if we know that you love bright cottons!

Can you help us to help others?

Another quick self promotion moment - please use the Reviews feature if you visit our website ( It is very helpful for others to be able to see comments and feedback from people who have actually worked with the yarns and patterns - whether good or bad. I'm not going to censor the site - however, I will email unfavourable feedback to our suppliers and pass it on to their sales reps!

All the best for your winter projects!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The New Yarn Report - Filatura di Crosa Tempo

I reckon the most commonly asked question for any wool shop owner is "What does this knit/crochet up like, then?". I'm a bit slow on the uptake, so it's taken me until now that one really good way to answer that question is to blog about a new yarn every couple of months. (I'm saying every couple of months, because I need to knit and/or crochet with it before I write it up!).

Our excitement for last December was the release of a new yarn by Filatura di Crosa: Tempo. Tempo is a cotton/acrylic blend that managed to intrigue me enough to get me to overcome my bias against wearing petroleum derivatives and make me pick up my needles.

My first attempt with my sample ball of Tempo was the DROPS Skirt With Lace Border from Garnstudio. The Tempo crocheted up well and smoothly, although I found it tricky to count rows when distracted by colour, weight and texture changes! Unfortunately, I hadn't done my sums correctly - when I realised that we didn't have enough yarn in stock, I had to frog the skirt and start over. (Note to self: MUST buy two packs of Tempo in Wheatfields in our next order so I can do this skirt - it was looking pretty awesome before I started unravelling).

My Plan B was to crochet something from the Amazing Crochet Lace book by Doris Chan: I could kill two birds with one stone by showcasing the yarn AND the book. The only problem with this idea is that variegated, textured yarn does NOT make good lace. Colour plus texture plus lace pattern equals massive overkill - nothing was shown to good effect. The pattern was overshadowed by the colour and the texture was lost altogether. More frogging :(

Plan C was the Jo Sharp singlet with dart shaping from 'Saturday' (now discontinued, but apparently you can email and request a PDF of the pattern). Bingo! Four balls of Tempo have knitted up into a nice, light singlet very quickly and easily. On the good side: the increases and decreases are less visible on the Tempo, because of the colour and texture variations. Jo Sharp DK tends to knit up with very clear stitch definition, which is great for lace patterns, but makes it difficult to increase/decrease invisibly. On the down side: if you lose your place knitting or crocheting with Tempo, you may find it tricky to count rows or find increases/decreases from previous rows - I found it very easy to lose my place, particularly if working in a distracting environment, e.g. on the train.

Filatura di Crosa have produced a pattern book to support the yarn - the book has a good selection of singlets, shrugs, and light cardigans and jumpers. Unfortunately, the book is quite pricey and most of the patterns require 10 or more balls of yarn. If cost is an issue, my suggestion would be to see if you can grab a back issue of Australian Knitting Magazine. Vol 2/No 4 (Summer) includes several Tempo garments, and I don't think any of the patterns use more than five balls, even for the largest sizes.

Happy knitting/crocheting!