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Slow down Martha!

Haste. The sickness of our time. Technology has changed our lives from the simple, slow life, to a fast paced battle to survive. The more technology advances, the faster the pace becomes. We live in an instant world, where everybody wants instant gratification and instant results. It is with great sadness, that I have witnessed this mindset, creeping into the crafting world. Let me give you some examples:

The crocheter who admired the knitted shawl in the shop: “I don’t knit. It takes too long to make something.”
The knitter who admired the sock weight yarn in the shop: “I don’t knit with anything thinner than DK; it takes too long.”
The weaver who wants to start a new project: “I hate warping my loom. I wish I can just sit and weave.”
The once-upon-a-time-knitter: “I miss knitting, but I don’t have time anymore.”

I think we all need to stop and think this through.

Working with yarn is therapeutic, but if you rush through the process, only focusing on the end result, all the therapeutic qualities are lost. In fact, you will increase your stress levels with this mindset, instead of allowing your craft, to lower your stress levels.

Stop and smell the yarn. Seriously. Smell your yarn. Touch your yarn lovingly. Look at the colours as you are working. Every now and them, put it all down and admire it from a small distance. Look intently at how you form your stitches. See how the colours of the yarn play around in the project. Embrace every part of the project, as part of the therapeutic process. Don’t rush towards the finish line, instead, enjoy the journey. The entire journey. Everything that is part of it. Planning the project. Choosing the yarn. Choosing the colours. Starting the project. Working on the project. Finishing the project. Everything is part of the therapy and should be enjoyed as such.

When I launched my own spinning wheel, as part of the Ilona Wooden Range, I named it Ilona-Mary. We all need more Mary moments, in a Martha world.

Take your life back. Take your time back. Slow down and smell your yarn, Martha! I am focused now on enjoying some Mary moments every day of my life. Join me.


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Yarn and Pattern Review: EsTeresa Aura DK

I think I have a new DK favourite. No wait. I KNOW it!

The mother and daughter team at EsTeresa Yarn Creations, are doing an absolute brilliant job in the dying of their yarns. It is a pure joy to look at, and an even great joy to work with it. Aura is a stunning blend of 60% Merino, 20% Superfine Alpaca, and 20% Kid Mohair. It is luxuriously soft. You don’t feel any scratchy mohair at all. It is super-soft! The twist of the yarn is perfectly on the happy medium. The twist is high enough to yield a yarn that doesn’t split, but low enough to yield a yarn with a very soft hand. Absolutely perfect.  At 200m to 100g, this is the perfect DK yarn for your next special project. These yarns are not dyed to a fixed colour chart, which makes it even more special. And at R145 for a 100g hank, it isn’t unaffordable either. For such a special blend of natural fibres, and such special colours, it is actually cheap.

So what did I do with it?

I took the two hanks shown above, to do the Lucy Hat with. This is what the Lucy Hat looks like. The designer is Carina Spencer and you will find a lot of her stunning designs on Ravelry.

Will you believe me if I tell you, I made TWO hats and I still have yarn left over to make something else?

The grey hat is made in the large size, and the wine-red one, in the small size.

The new baby in the family will get a small jumper or something from the left over wool!

So is this pattern worth paying $5 for? Yes! Yes! Yes!

The pattern is well written and error free. It is an economical pattern too considering the yarn usage. The hat is comfortable and it displays beautifully. The pattern isn’t difficult either. This is the perfect pattern to buy, if you want to get into short row knitting. The short row section is small, but enough to get you into the hang of things.

Did I change anything on the pattern? Yes. I don’t like wrap and turn short rows, I did German short rows instead. That is ALL! It’s the only change I made and it’s just preference, nothing else.

I think this is a brilliant pattern, from a brilliant designer, and I used amazing yarn to make it with.

So go right ahead! Buy the pattern so long! The new batch of EsTeresa Aura DK will be available online, later this week. It is still in transit. The first batch sold so fast!

Pardon my selfies; I am not a good photographer of selfies, nor am I a perfect model. But hey! Who cares? It’s all about the yarn and the pattern!

I love my hat!


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Tool Talk: Knitting Pins

My mother taught me to knit and crochet, when I was only 4 years old. In 44 years of knitting, I have changed tools several times, for several reasons. My mother used to knit with Stratnoid knitting pins. It was a metal pin, encased in quality plastic. For ordinary knitting, we used 30cm pins. For large projects, we used 35cm pins. I still have a huge container full of straight knitting pins. Unfortunately, with the arthritis in my hands, straight knitting pins became tools of torture.

When I opened Yarn in a Barn, I purchased the entire range of Elle knitting pins. Long ones, short ones, circular ones. Plastic, aluminium and bamboo. I had it all. And eventually, I GAVE IT ALL AWAY! I had to learn the hard way, that people willing to buy expensive, natural fibre yarns, won’t be interested in cheap, yucky knitting pins. 

So what was wrong with these knitting pins?

  • The metal part is slightly bent at the back of the pin, just before it is joined to the cable. That little bend, makes for very uncomfortable knitting.
  • The plastic cables are terrible. Every single time I wanted to use a pair, I first had to warm up the cable in hot water, and straighten them out. Even that wasn’t enough. The cables on the Elle needles are just gross.
  • The needles were not sharp enough.

I started looking for new knitting pins I would be willing to sell. After the disaster with the Elle needles, I vowed never to buy anything for the shop again, unless I have tested it myself extensively. I will not stock any product, that I cannot recommended with a clean conscience.

I bought a set of Knitpro cubics, interchangeable needles, from I Love Yarn. This is what the sets looks like.

I still use them. I love the square knitting needles. But still I didn’t buy it for Yarn in a Barn. So what’s the gripe?

  • The packaging was disappointing. I expected something a little more classy, for such a special set. The plastic bag just looks cheap.
  • I broke a 4.5mm knitting pin on a cable pattern, and I wasn’t even fighting with it. My husband repaired it for me, but it won’t be the same again.
  • The size numbers came off the needles within an hour of knitting with it.
  • Although the cables were much better than that of Elle, I still wasn’t impressed. I had to warm them up too, in order to get them to relax a bit.

Next I reviewed the Addi Clicks. I didn’t buy them, I only looked at them when a representative came to see me. Not impressed. I understand the sentiment that needles that click into place on the cable, won’t come lose. But then again, I never had my Knitpro needles come lose while knitting. I just tighten them sufficiently I guess. To get the needle and cable aligned to successfully ‘click’, will take a bit of practice. I decided to skip that one too.

I went to Ireland on our yarn tour, with firm plans in place, to buy myself some Hiya Hiya, and Chiaogoo knitting pins, to test. And I did. I bought a 3.25 pair of Chiaogoo from This is Knit, and I bought an entire set of Hiya Hiya from The Constant Knitter.

Let’s look at Hiya Hiya first. I chose the bamboo set (unfortunately) and it looks like this.

  • This set looks beautiful. The entire presentation, is fit for luxury yarn lovers. It isn’t cheap, and it certainly doesn’t look cheap either.
  • It is difficult to screw the pin all the way to the cable – even with the rubber grips, I sometimes couldn’t do it. It felt as if some of the holes just were not big or deep enough.
  • The cables had the same problem as the others; I had to heat it up to get it relaxed enough to knit with.
  • All four cables, snagged the yarn. Right there where the plastic meets the metal, it snagged. All of them.
  • One of the 4mm knitting pins, had a gash in the tip, and snagged the yarn too.

To say I was disappointed, is a huge understatement. Fortunately, Hiya Hiya was very friendly when they received my complaint and I will receive a full refund. My set is on its way back to Ireland.

The only one left was Chiaogoo. I only bought one lose Chiaogoo Twist set. Oh man, how I regret it! I bought a 13cm set of 3.25mm pins, and a short Twist Cable. The cable, oh the cable! I am dancing with joy here! TWIST cables are memory-free!  They consist of a multi-strand, steel cable coated with red nylon. When I took the cable out of the small packet, and held on to one end, the other end dropped straight down, without a kink! Amazing! The needles are sharp enough for comfortable knitting, but not so sharp that it will injure a pusher (I am a pusher). It is luxurious knitting all the way! With packaging to match the amazing product.

So ladies and gentlemen, soon, in Yarn in a Barn, CHIAOGOO!

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