Thursday, November 21, 2013

Knitting Pattern #3: Work Horse Fingerless Mittens

I just realized that I had taken pictures of my fingerless mittens a few weeks ago, so I can finally publish the pattern!

As with most of my patterns, these fingerless mittens were designed out of necessity.  I have pretty small hands, and I couldn't seem to find a simple pattern on Ravelry that fit snug enough to be functional.  I was looking for a pair of fingerless mittens that I could wear to death…thus the work horse fingerless mittens were born!  I have done just about everything in these mittens…I wear them to walk the dog, work in the garden, feed the llamas, put up fence, even at my computer in the house when it is really cold!  They have held up really well!

The best thing about this pattern is how easy it is to memorize and how quick it knits up!  I can make a pair of mitts in just a couple of hours.

So as promised…the pattern…

Work Horse Fingerless Mittens Pattern

Women’s small

Worsted weight yarn (Lion Brand Wool-Ease, 1 ball)
#5 DPN

CO 40 sts
Work 4x1 rib (k4, p1) for 3.5” (or desired length)

Set up thumb gusset:
Work 4x1 rib for 35 sts, m1 purling, k4, p1

Work 4x1 rib for 30 sts, k4, place marker, p1, m1 (the rest of these will be knit), p1, place marker, k4, p1
Work 4x1 rib to first marker, sm, p1, knit to purl st, p1, sm, continue in 4x1 rib to end of row
Work 4x1 rib to first marker, sm, p1, knit to purl st, p1, sm, continue in 4x1 rib to end of row

Thumb gusset:
Work 4x1 rib to first marker, sm, p1, m1, knit to purl st, m1, p1, sm, continue in 4x1 rib to end of row
Work 4x1 rib to first marker, sm, p1, knit to purl st, p1, sm, continue in 4x1 rib to end of row
Work 4x1 rib to first marker, sm, p1, knit to purl st, p1, sm, continue in 4x1 rib to end of row
Repeat these 3 rows until 15 sts (13 knit and 2 purl) between markers

Work 4x1 rib to first marker, p1, place 13 knit sts on scrap yarn or stitch holder, p1, continue in 4x1 rib to end of row
Work 4x1 rib for 30 sts, k4, p2tog, continue in 4x1 rib to end of row
Work 4x1 rib for 1.5” (or desired length)
Cast off

Pick 13 sts up from scrap yarn or stitch holder- knit
Where thumb joins the palm of the mitt, pick up and knit 3 sts between last stitch of thumb gusset and the first stitch of the thumb gusset- join to work in the round
K12, k2tog, k2tog
Continue knitting in the round for 5 rows

Cast off

I've knit a few pairs of these now, so hopefully the pattern is correct, but please let me know if you find any mistakes!  Enjoy!

They are now available on Ravelry too!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Building the Compost Pile

It seems like this entire summer/fall has been spent bouncing around from one project to another!  First it was the really important stuff like fencing and the barn, and now we've moved on to smaller secondary projects.  Of those, one of the most important was getting the compost pile constructed.

For those of you who don't know, I clean up the llama manure on a daily basis (or every 2-3 days).  This is mostly for parasite management, but it also allows me to harvest the manure for use in the gardens.  For the first month or so after the llamas moved in, I was dumping the llama manure around the established fruit trees in our small orchard.  Llama (and alpaca) manure has the wonderful quality that it can be used fresh- it doesn't have enough nitrogen to "burn" plants so it can be applied directly.  Composting is good (especially when there is hay or grass mixed in with the manure), but not always necessary.  It quickly became evident though that there weren't enough trees to fertilize, so we got to work building the permanent compost pile in the fenced garden area.

My compost-building companion, Abby.

In addition to using the manure/compost in our gardens here on the farm, I would also like to sell some starting next year.  So we definitely needed a permanent place for the compost to "brew".  I had seen plans on Pinterest for compost bins built with t-posts and wood pallets- this seemed like the easiest way to go, and I had already found a place to buy pallets pretty cheap.  I chose to put the compost pile in the corner of our fenced garden.  That way it would be out of the way, protected from the dogs, but still easily accessible with the tractor (so I can turn the pile with the front-loader).  Originally I wanted to build the pile so it was 2 pallets wide and 2 pallets deep (it would be 3-sided).  This was wide enough for the front-loader to easily turn the manure.  However, after a month of adding manure to the pile this looked much too small, so we expanded it another pallet wider.  It currently only has 2 sides…I'm waiting to see how it works this winter to decide if I want to add the 3rd side in the spring.

Pallets ready for use.

First we had to set some t-posts.  I measured the spacing for the t-posts by using the pallets, so they would fit snugly.  Then my husband set the posts in the ground with a manual post driver.

Metal t-post after being set.

Next we lifted each pallet over its t-post, and set it in place.  I later went back with some 14-gauge high-tensile fence wire and wired the edges of the pallets together for extra stability.

One side of the compost pile wired together.

The corner wired together.

And that's it!  It was really easy to build, and it looks to be very functional.  Only time will tell how well the pallets manage to keep the manure/compost contained.

The finished compost pile (version 1).  It now has an extra pallet on both sides.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Farmer's Market Wrap-Up & Looking Towards Next Year!

Well I thought I was being good about posting regularly…until I realized it has been over a week since my last post!  Sorry about that!

Anyway, the farmer's market up in Hamilton is FINALLY over!  I'm very glad that I ended up trying it this year, but by the end it was a very cold way to spend a Saturday!  Overall sales were pretty good.  My mother-in-law's doll clothes did very well at the beginning, and once it got cold my knit accessories (hats, gloves, scarves, etc.) sold nicely.  Plus I got a TON of spinning in, and got to educate the public.  All in all not a way to spend a few months' worth of Saturdays!

My knit item display.  I love displaying scarves like this, but once I have more inventory I need to adjust it to hold more hats, ear bands, and mittens.

Any ideas how I can make this work for 30-40 hats/mittens/cowls/earbands?

The rest of my display.  There are doll clothes on the table, along with other random things (stitch markers, handspun yarn, insoles, etc.)

Now that my in-person sales are almost over (see below), I've listed most of my remaining inventory on my Etsy site.  I have a great selection of felted bags and rugs, and some gorgeous handspun yarn.  And of course the usual selection of hats, scarves, mittens, and cowls.  There is something for everyone!

A new felted bag my mom made.

I do have one more in-person sale left, the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  One of the other vendors at the farmer's market suggested that I try this "Christmas Bazaar" at a school just north of Hamilton, so I thought I would give it a shot.  The entry fee wasn't too expensive, and it is INDOORS!  Hopefully it is a successful day.

Some gorgeous new handspun merino/yak/silk yarn.

Before I start making more inventory for next year, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what items I want to make.

As far as knit items go, I think I just need more inventory.  I had a lot of people asking for hats (which I ran out of), and the fingerless mitts and ear bands sold quite well.  The cowls were a bit slower, but I love making them so they're still on the list.  I'd like to be able to make 10-15 of each type of item, in a variety of sizes and colors.

My favorite cowl of the year!

In terms of handspun yarn, I'm thinking about trying a new approach.  I'm going to try and design 5-6 new knitting patterns (1-2 for a few different yarn weights), and then sell kits with handspun yarn and the pattern.  Advertising the patterns (and yarns) on Ravelry should help drive traffic to my Etsy store, and the kits might be more successful than just selling random skeins of yarn.  I'm planning on designing a hat, cowl, and fingerless mitt pattern at the very least, but hopefully I can come up with a few more small project ideas.  I already have one fingerless mitt pattern that might work for worsted weight yarn.

The fingerless mitt pattern I designed last year.  Eventually I will get organized and publish it!

One big decision I need to make fairly soon is whether or not to try and get into some fiber festivals for next year.  I have quite a bit of roving that I could sell, but I'm not sure I'll have enough handspun yarn inventory by spring to really make it work.  I'll have to keep thinking…

Some of the new roving I got back from the mill.  This is brown llama, teal merino, and green firestar.

Once again I have more ideas and plans than will probably ever get turned into reality, but at least I have something to strive for!  Hopefully next year is a great one for my fiber business!

Kara says "hi"!