Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Knitting Pattern #5: Leafing Out Hat

I realized yesterday that I completely forgot to write a garden blog post on Saturday, so to make up for it I'm posting a new free knitting pattern!

This hat was a lot of work...I had an idea of what I wanted (stockinette hat with lace around the edge), but just couldn't find the right lace pattern to make it work.  I ended up changing what I originally wanted to do, and switched to a stockinette hat with a vertical lace motif.  I chose a gorgeous skein of handspun merino/silk/bamboo, and started knitting.  It was the first hat I'd ever designed, and due to the lace motif I had some issues with the decreases at the top.  It ended up having pointy corners, so I scrapped the pattern (not the hat though) and started over.

The second time around I went back to the original plan...stockinette with a lace edge.  I found a really simple but visually appealing lace pattern and modified it for working in the round.  This time I chose a plain tan handspun CVM yarn to knit with.  All in all I really like how the pattern came out!

I make a really bad model...

Leafing Out Hat

Women's Small/Medium

Autumn Hill Llamas DK Weight, 1 skein (or ~120 yards DK weight yarn)
#6 needles (double point or circular)

20 sts and 28 rows = 4" in stockinette

Cast on 102 stitches, join to work in the round.

Knit 1 round.

Work pattern chart.

Knit in stockinette (knit every row) until 5.75" from edge (at longest point).

Begin decreases.

  • *k23, k2tog, k11, k2tog, k11, k2tog* twice around
  • knit
  • *k10, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k9, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k8, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k7, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k6, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k5, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k4, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k3, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k2, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k1, k2tog*
  • knit
  • *k2tog*
Cut yarn and thread end through the remaining stitches.  Pull tight to close the hole.  Weave in ends.

The pattern hasn't been test knit, so forgive any mistakes you find and please let me know so I can fix them.

**It is now on Ravelry!**

I also have to mention that my baby (Autumn Hill's Karakoram) turns 2 today!  It's hard to believe that she's the last baby we had on the farm...and kind of sad.  Kara has really grown up in the past 2 years, but I'm hoping she grows a little more in height before she's done!

Newborn Kara.

Kara a few weeks ago.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dealing With Mud

Spring in upstate NY means one thing...mud!  Back in Indiana, we had tons of pasture, so even when things got a little muddy in the spring the llamas couldn't do much damage to the fields.  Here at the new farm however, their pasture is much smaller and they could do a lot of damage by walking around in the mud.

My solution this year is a sacrifice pen.  It is about 30' square, and is just outside their pen in the barn.  I've slowly been covering it with waste hay from their feeders, to cut down on the mud.

They're not happy about their reduced "digs", but it's better in the long run!

The right side of the pen.

The left side of the pen.
It's been almost 2 weeks since I planted grass seed in the pasture, but it has been rather chilly so it doesn't seem to have germinated yet.  The existing grass is starting to grow, so hopefully the new stuff will start soon!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Etsy Shop Updates

I don't have much to write about this week, I'll apologize.  Once it quits raining I'm going to take pictures of my 2 new knitting patterns and get the patterns up here, I promise!

Until then, lots of pretty yarn and batt pictures...

All of these are available in my Etsy shop!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Seedling Progress

The broccoli seedlings were getting too big for their peat pellets...roots were growing out of the bottom, and the leaves were hitting the lights!  I figured I procrastinated enough...time to transplant them!

I put them in 4" square pots, filled with potting soil.  I had to work outside on a very windy day, so the seedlings were a little worse for the wear after I was done.  Luckily they look to have improved since then.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

More Grass Seed

I really hope I'm done planting grass seed this year!

I posted a couple of weeks ago about working on renovating the pasture, and then I spent several days planting grass seed.

The grass/pasture seed that I'm planting this year is a Northeastern camelid mix from Nature's Finest Seeds.  It is a nice mix of orchard grass, meadow brome, Kentucky bluegrass, and timothy.  I really wish there was some clover or alfalfa mixed in for nitrogen fixation, but I couldn't find a blend that I liked that contained one of them.  I figure clover will end up growing in the pasture eventually.  I also special-ordered some chicory seeds to mix in.  Chicory contains tannins, which have been shown to reduce parasite loads in sheep and goats.  I figured the llamas wouldn't mind a little variety, and I definitely won't complain if it helps them keep parasites at bay without chemicals!

My grass-planting tools.  I bought a hand spreader (green thing on the left), but it was worthless so I just used my hands.  

There were a few big spots in the pasture where the grass had literally been eaten down to nothing...it was completely dirt.  Those areas got raked, seed scattered, raked again, and then I spread some waste hay on top.  Technically, that is the "proper" way to plant grass seed.

One of the bad areas raked and seeded.

Another bad spot covered in waste hay.

The rest of the pasture still had short grass, so I hated to rake it and disturb what was already there.  I decided to take a gamble and spread the seed without preparing the soil first.  I waited until it had rained (and it was still raining while I spread the seed), so that the soil would be soft.  I wanted to spread peat moss and hay on top of the grass seed immediately, but I was sick of being wet so I waited until the next day.  Luckily it didn't rain very hard...

Grass seeds!

I covered the worst spots with a thin layer of peat moss, and then some waste hay.  Not all of the pasture got this covering, so hopefully the remaining grass also acts as a protective cover.  Then I let the llamas out of their sacrifice area, and let them walk around on the pasture for the weekend, hoping that they would push the seeds into the soil.

A thin layer of peat moss on top.

T thought the peat moss was very interesting.

I planted the grass seed last Friday, and covered it Saturday.  The llamas were let loose on Friday, and put back in their pen on Sunday evening.  Of course it rained really hard on Tuesday, but I hope that all my seed didn't get washed away!  I went out after the rain had ended, and couldn't see any of the seeds on top of the soil, but I also didn't see spots where the seed had washed downhill and pooled in depressions in the ground.  So I'm hopeful!

The llamas grazed for a few hours before they realized it was worthless and they went back to eating hay.

Apparently orchard grass takes 7-14 days to germinate, so hopefully I will see some new seedlings soon!  The temperatures took quite a dip the past few days, so that may retard the growth a bit.

The snow we got Tuesday night.

With the recent downpours we've been having, the grass everywhere else is getting nice and green!  Hopefully in another week or 2 I'll be able to set up the portable pen in the field and let the llamas out to graze.  They'll love that!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I have a bad habit of spinning what I'm comfortable with...which typically ends up being a smooth 2-ply yarn, either DK or worsted weight.

My default...DK-weight 2-ply yarn.

In preparation for my first big fiber festival in several years, I'm trying to break out of my shell and spin a greater variety of yarns to sell.

As far as the smooth 2-ply yarns go, I'm hoping to have a good variety of sport, DK, worsted, and aran/bulky weight yarns.  I also hope that I will have original patterns to go with each weight of yarn.

More smooth 2-ply yarn.

And then there are the "art" yarns...my achilles heel.

Last spring I was gifted a bunch of gorgeous rayon embroidery thread, so I've been doing a lot of thread/spiral ply yarns.  The smooth-spun singles end up being worsted/aran weight when plied, and I've also done some thick & thin singles that end up being bulky weight when plied.

A thick & thin single (dyed) plied with a smooth single (natural).  I really love how this one turned out.

A TNT single plied with rayon embroidery thread.

I still feel like I need to try some new art yarns though.  I have a couple great books that talk about spinning art yarns, but nothing really seems to catch my fancy right now.

One example of "art" yarn, in the middle.

I think I might re-visit corespinning or lockspinning.  I traded for some gorgeous locks last summer, and I finally got around to buying cotton crochet thread to use as a core!  I think there is some grey mohair calling my name...

A corespun, spiral-plied yarn.

Lockspun suri alpaca (black) plied with dyed multicolor tencel.

Lockspun suri alpaca plied on itself.

Extreme tailspun Wensleydale/Gotland fleece.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cleaning the Gardens

Today was gorgeous here in upstate NY!  I knew from the forecast that it was supposed to be nice, so I was a bit worried in the morning when it was still overcast and cold.  By the time I got back from my errands and had lunch, the sky was blue and it was quite warm.  Perfect for working outside!

I originally planned on pulling the plastic and old carpeting off the vegetable garden (and of course take pictures to blog about), but my other "to-do" items got in the way, so that will be for tomorrow.

Most important on my list was to get the grass seed that I planted yesterday covered in peat and old hay, so that the llamas could stomp it down over the next few days.

Freshly seeded pasture!

I also seeded some random spots around the lawn by the house.

Last but not least was cleaning out the flower gardens around the house.  Luckily there wasn't too much to clean, just some dead iris leaves and flower stalks from daisies, hostas, cedum, etc.  I can already tell that the weeds are going to be terrible this year though!  The bulbs are just starting to poke through the soil, and we finally have crocuses blooming!  Guess it really is spring after all!

First signs of spring...crocuses are blooming, irises are just starting to grow, even the grass is thinking about growing!

A clean garden on the front of the house.  I'm not a perfectionist, the rest of the dead weeds can come out later!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Llama Birthdays!

My mom thinks it is silly that I concern myself with remembering the birthdays of all our llamas (at least the ones we currently own), but I think it is important to remember their important milestones!

April is the big one this year...on Tuesday she turned 20 years old!!  They say that the average lifespan of a llama is 20-25 years, but the more I talk to breeders it seems not uncommon to lose a llama due to old age at 15-16 years old.  So, 20 is pretty old for a llama!

April was part of the second batch of llamas that we bought in the spring of 2000.  You can read her full biography here.

Baby April, back in 1994.

April in her prime, spring 2003.

April's crowning achievement...winning 1st in Heavy Wool Adult Female and 3rd overall Heavy Wool Female at the 2002 Great Lakes Regionals!

April as she looks now...this was spring 2013.  She hasn't changed much!

Duque's birthday is tomorrow...he will be 17!

Duque was part of the very first group of llamas we purchased in the fall of 1999.  You can read his full biography here.

Baby Duque with his mom, 1997.

Duque in his prime, spring 2003.

Duque's biggest achievement, Reserve Grand Champion Non-Breeder at the Great Lakes Regionals.

Duque as he looks now...this was spring 2013.  He is so grey!

Kara's birthday is at the end of the month...she'll be 2!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fiber Forecast

While carding away at work today (I work at a local fiber mill, if I haven't mentioned that before...), I realized that I'm barely going to have any of my own fiber to work with this year!

I may be the only person who plans ahead this much, but I look forward to shearing so much each year that I fantasize about what I'm going to do with each fleece while I'm waiting.  Silly, maybe, but it helps pass the time!

Last week a woman from a nearby farm pre-ordered Kara and T's raw fleeces.  I was planning on having them blended together into roving, maybe with some bamboo, but I'm excited to see what she does with them instead!

T has a bit less fiber this year (he was body shorn last spring), but it is still the best on the farm!

I will still be showing Kara's fleece this year.  I need to decide how many shows I can afford to send it to...

I really need a more recent body shot of Kara!

April's fleece is too coarse for roving, so hers will be made into insoles with the rest of the neck/belly/leg fiber that I shear off the boys.

April has many great qualities, but fine fiber isn't one of them!  Luckily her crias had it!

The felted insoles I had made last year.

Duque's fleece is going to be made into a special project this year.  I'm going to wash, card, and spin it myself, and then knit a lace piece.  Details to come, I can't give too much away!

Good old Duque!  It is hard to believe that he was born almost coal black!

And last but not least is Ralph.  His fleece is the only one I will have available to get processed into roving!  Last year it was processed into a beautiful roving, with 20% brown merino wool and 10% red multi firestar.  It sold out pretty quick, so I might just have to repeat the blend!

Ralph with his terrible haircut.  Hopefully we'll get his legs trimmed better this year.

Ralph's roving blend from last summer.

Of course you could always purchase his fleece for yourself...it is available as part of our fiber CSA!

And in other news...today is April's birthday!  She turns 20 years old, which is quite a feat!

Baby April!