January 17, 2017

From Sheep to Shawl

You hear a lot these days about the resurgence of natural wool in Europe, and how a handful of Europeans are bringing back "old school" wool to the knitting community.  Here in the states, I don't think the average crafter is really aware of just how much natural yarn is available.  Old School has been available for a long, long time!
In 2014, I convinced my husband that my path to greatness required me to raise sheep. Although I know that he didn't really want to go in that direction, we borrowed a trailer, drove to South Carolina to locate a breeder in the middle of literally nowhere U.S.A., and we bought our first sheep: a ram lam and two ewe lambs.  I named them Stanley, Stella, and Blanche, and they have each lived up to their A Streetcar Named Desire caricatures.  Stanley is a teeswater/cormo cross.  Stella and Blanche are corriedale/finn crosses.  And so began the breeding program.
Stella & Blanche
Now, in 2017, we have twelve sheep (having lost 3 to one thing or another) and I have my own farm-raised yarn. I bred it for its luminosity and depth, for its sturdiness and drape.  I sheared it and skirted it.  I sent it to Mountain Meadow Wool in Wyoming, where Ben bent over backwards to make the single-ply that I had in my head. I dyed it here on the farm. I named it Single Sheep. I sold a bunch of it--it's still available in the shop, don't worry!--and while attending middle school basketball games this season, I knit it up into this lovely little number which, incidentally also happens to be in my daughter's basketball team colors. The pattern is the Soho Shawl by Kristin Ledgett. I used most of a skein of Autumn Afternoon and about half of a skein of Natural, but your yardage may differ because I made mine a bit larger than the pattern suggested. Although the yarn is a little "curly" in the skein, it relaxes both while knitting it and after a good soak followed by light blocking.
Cedar Hill Farm Company's Single Sheep isn't your average yarn, folks.  I don't mean to toot my own horn, but in the sunlight, it literally GLOWS. This isn't a superwash. It's a natural, American farm-raised wool. It hasn't been chemically abused or bleached in any way--as a matter of a fact, it amazes me that the mill was able to get all that red clay out without resorting to a chemical ooze.  It's sheepy. It's organic. The colorways that I have chosen are earthy and vivid. It's just plain wonderful wool yarn! And if you are like I am, which some people may refer to as a "wool snob", then this is a yarn that you will love, too. If you would like to try it, just click on any of the links in this post or go to my shop's home page. Single Sheep is the featured yarn on the home page, and you can just click on any of the photos to get your hands on some for yourself.

August 19, 2016

A Simple Hat Pattern and a Very Good Cause

The Georgia Fiber Fest is upon us once again (Sept. 8-10), and this year we are welcoming the SSK Yarners podcast to the event.  These lovely ladies have graciously volunteered to do a podcast about the festival, and we are very appreciative!

But the best part about the presence of SSK at the show is that they are directly connected to the STAND DOWN group, which provides volunteer aid to homeless veterans.  The ladies of SSK will be bringing a donation box to the show and will be collecting handmade (knit or crochet) hats that will be sent on to this organization. I couldn't be more on board with this!

So, folks, in case you'd like to donate, as I know all crafters are happy to do, I thought I would share my super simple hat pattern.  I like to work up hats for charities in a wool/acrylic blend so that they are machine washable and don't require much in the way of care.  I'm giving you two different sizes because you may also want to make hats for children's charities at some point.  Winter is, believe it or not, on the horizon.

Simple Hat Pattern:

Yarn: 82 g worsted weight for an adult hat; about 75 g for a child's hat
Needles: US 8 (5 mm) circular (about 24")
Gauge:  18 sts x 24 rows = 4" stocking st
Sizing:  Elementary aged child (Adult)

Using a long-tail cast-on method, CO 88 (96) sts. Join and work in a 2 x 2 or 1 x 1 rib for 4 inches.  Knit the next 4 inches (24 rows).

Rnd1: *K6, K2tog; repeat from * across rnd.
Rnd 2 and all even rnds through Rnd 12: Knit.
Rnd 3: *K5, K2tog; repeat from * across rnd.
Rnd 5: *K4, K2tog; repeat from * across rnd.
Rnd 7: *K3, K2tog; repeat from * across rnd.
Rnd 9: *K2, K2tog; repeat from * across rnd.
Rnd 11: *K1, K2tog; repeat from * across rnd.
Rnd 13: *K2tog; repeat from * across rnd.

Cut yarn, leaving a 6" tail.  Weave through live sts. Remove sts from needles and draw sts closed. Secure yarn tail on inside of hat and weave in any remaining ends.

You could knit this in your sleep, I'll bet. I hope that you will get on the bandwagon and knit up a hat for someone less fortunate this year, even if you just knit it and hand it to someone on the street as you pass them by.  I'm sure it would be appreciated.

June 24, 2016

So much knitting, so little progress

The unfortunate thing about succumbing to the desperate urge to cast on for a large number of projects at once, no matter how good the intentions, is that, ultimately, it seems like no progress is being made on anything.  Right now, I have a baby blanket (Bounce), a pair of knee socks (Sockmatician's Toe-Ups), a pair of cable-y socks (Paragon Socks) that have only the cuff done so there's no point in sharing a pic of that, a cardigan (Hitofude), a cape and a vest for the book, and a lace scarf on the needles.  If I'm going to be totally honest, there's also the Pi Shawl that I cast on about 16 months ago that languishes in the car and the Two Hearts sweater that has been languishing for slightly longer. The only projects that I have finished in the last 4 months or so are two consecutive pair of All About That Curve, both of which I cast on and knit feverishly because I got bored with the million other WIPs, and a much-modified version of the Amiga cardigan for the Shinybees Rav group. To say that I have created a situation of overwhelming stagnation is an understatement.  Really, I've backed myself into a stressful corner, as nearly all of the projects on the needles have looming deadlines.

So here's how it's going.  Bounce is suddenly at the forefront, as I was misinformed and the baby it is intended for will be arriving at least a month sooner than I thought. I am committed to working one full 12-row repeat a day.  I only have 18 more gradient repeats to go.

The Toe-Ups are probably not going to get finished before the KAL that they are a part of ends.  So, let me just give my final impression of this new pattern here because my insane choice to knit wool knee socks when the temperatures are in the upper 90s-low 100s every day in no way reflects the pattern. I do want to show off the amazingly invisible increases that I am working on the legs.

Overall, I think that if you are a toe-up sock knitter, this is a great pattern.  I'm neither a toe-up fan nor am I a single-sock knitter.  This pattern is clearly written for both.  I just don't like the fit of a toe-up sock through the heel and ankle, and the thrill of finishing is somewhat diminished for me when working a sock in reverse.  Finishing the leg is more like "Sigh. Finally. Well that was anticlimactic." Finishing the toe is a downright thrill. The super cool thing about this pattern is that, if you own an iPad, the math is automatically calculated for you.  I don't know many knitters who love doing the math on their own, so this is definitely a plus.

The only difficulty I had was with the gusset instructions, which weren't particularly clear to me, and I had to rip back and re-do.  I did post some more detailed instructions on my Rav project page for anyone who knits this pattern two-at-a-time.  Otherwise, it's a good pattern.

Hitofude is like the blanket in the regard that I am trying to knit one repeat per day.  So far, I'm up to 8 repeats and only have 6 to go.  I am enjoying this pattern now that I have it memorized and it is working up quickly, which is a plus because the blanket is not.  This fingering weight Silk Sheep flies through my hands, whereas the DK wool in the blanket, though incredibly soft and squishy, does not, and it also makes my arthritic hands and wrists hurt to work a heavy fabric on large needles.  I think I have also re-activated my golfer's elbow thanks to this blanket project.

And I can't show you anything else because it's top secret book knitting. We've been exploring our publishing options recently, so I've had less time for knitting on these items than usual.  Also, my life this week has been in a total chaotic shambles, for most of which I blame the appocolyptically hot and dry weather and Chester, the stupid donkey who won't stay in his pasture despite barbed wire and electric fence.

Alright, well, I have livestock to feed and chores to do before I can get back to feeling like a human knitting machine.  Have a great weekend!


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