Stocking Ornaments Pattern

I've been making these stocking ornaments for a few years now. Originally I found a wonderful pattern from Little Cotton Rabbits. I loved the look of the stocking but I didn't like having to seam it up (and I'm not a fan of color-work that is knit flat). So I came up with my own stocking ornament in the round. A friend recently asked for the pattern so here you go.

Notes on the pattern:
I like to use fingering weight wool yarn with size 1 needles because they are comfortable for me. Any size yarn or needles will work. Different size yarn will give different size ornaments. Using wool yarn and blocking after finished helps even out the pattern and keep everything neat and tidy. I just typed this up without looking up knitting terminology so most things are spelled out. I've also included some notes on how I distribute the stitches on my needles but feel free to adjust and do what feels comfortable to you so long as you follow the stitch counts.

Using contrast color cast on 24 stitches, distribute evenly on three needles and join to work in the round. Leave tail to use for loop for hanging.
Row 1: Purl
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: Purl
Row 4-21: Join Main Color and knit.
If you would like to include a pattern insert it into this portion of the main color. The pattern should be over 24 stitches and I generally like to have 2 rows of solid main color above and below. Feel free to add a few rows if needed to accommodate your pattern.

Row 1: Change to Contrast Color, knit 7, turn work. (Place remaining MC stitch on needle with other MCs)
Row 2: Slip 1, purl 6, with second needle purl 7, turn work. (Pick up 4 MC stitches from needle with other MCs, this will distribute the MC stitches evenly over 2 needles. You will not be working with these stitches during the heel. Move all of the CC stitches onto one needle to work the heel.)
Row 3: Slip 1, knit 13, turn work
Row 4: Slip 1, purl 13, turn work
Row 5: Slip 1, knit 13, turn work
Row 6: Slip 1, purl 13, turn work
Row 7: Slip 1, knit 13, turn work
Row 8: Slip 1, purl 13, turn work
Row 9: Slip 1, knit 9, k2 together through the back, knit 1, turn leaving 1 stitch on needle
Row 10: Slip 1, purl 7, purl 2 together, purl 1 , turn leaving 1 stitch on needle
Row 11: Slip 1, knit 6, k2 together through the back, turn leaving 2 stitches on needle
Row 12: Slip 1, purl 4, purl 2 together, turn leaving 2 stitches on needle
Row 13: Slip 1, knit 4, knit 2 together through the back, knit 1, turn
Row 14: Slip 1, purl 5, purl 2 together, purl 1, turn
Row 15: Slip 1, knit 3
You should have a total of 8 heel stitches 4 on each needle.

Row 1: Change to Main Color, knit 4, pick up 5 stitches (4 from slipped heel stitches 1 from the MC at base of heel), knit 10 (put first of 10 on needle 1, 8 on needle 2, and 1 on needle 3), pick up 5 stitches (1 from MC at base of heel 4 from slipped heel stitches), knit 4 (I knit them using the 4th needle then transfer to needle 3).
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: Knit 7, knit 2 together, knit 10, ssk, knit 7
Row 4: Knit 6, knit 2 together, knit 10, ssk, knit 6
Row 5: Knit 5, knit 2 together, knit 10, ssk, knit 5
Row 6-11: Knit
Row 12-13: Change to Contrast Color, knit 2 rows
Row 14:  Knit 2, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 4, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 2
Row 15: Knit
Row 16: Knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 3
Draw yarn through remaining 15 stitches and draw tight to close.

Weave in ends on inside and tie a little loop in the top for hanging. Wet block to even out knitting (it really does make it look much neater!).

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions or if I've made any mistakes!

Here are a few of the colorwork patterns that I have used. Click to make them bigger. Please note the patterns are oriented as they appear on the final stocking. When knitting you will need to start in the upper left corner and move from left to right, top to bottom (this is the opposite direction from what you will be knitting).

Many more awesome colorwork patterns can be found here! You'll have to tweak them a bit so let me know if you have any problems.

Raw fiber to sweater

After a conversation with someone about making a Ruana, (it’s kind of like a free-form sweater) from handspun alpaca I was inspired to attempt a calculation of how long would it really take me to make such an item?

In thinking about the project initially I had looked at this pattern: Knit Ruana by Annie Dempsy. It calls for ~1000 yards of Super Bulky Yarn. I was excited about the Super Bulky because it means the actual spinning of the yarn and the knitting will go much faster. However further thinking reveals that I neglected to factor in that this will be offset in part by the volume of fiber that I will need to process. Crafting it seems has its own system of checks and balances.

For the purposes of my calculations I also relied heavily on past/current experience making “Foot-Oven” socks. I’ve knit the pattern multiple times in the past. And I’m currently working on spinning hand processed alpaca into Super Bulky Yarn to make two more pairs (possibly three if I keep going and make a pair for myself).

I just finished two skeins of yarn for the socks. Together they weigh approximately 8 ounces and are 174 yards of yarn. If I need 1000 yards of yarn for the Ruana that means I’ll need approximately 46 ounces or 2.8 pounds of yarn. When working with raw fiber you lose a good bit of weight from the dirt that washes out and from things like shorter bits of fiber that aren’t desirable. So I figure I’ll want to wash about 5 pounds of fiber.

Washing alpaca fiber isn’t a necessary step (especially because it has no lanolin) but I enjoy working with the fiber much more after it is washed. Alpacas are incredibly dusty. So much so that despite the washing when I get to the spinning step I generally have dirty lines on my hands from the fiber passing over a specific place on my hand. Washing takes up quite a bit of time although a lot of it is spent waiting. These days tend to wash batches of ~ ½ a pound or 8 ounces. It involves letting the fiber sit and soak in one or two baths of soapy water then 3 rinses. And it takes me 1.5-2 hours. I’ll usually only wash 1 batch on a given evening. On the weekends I can get 2 possibly even 3 batches done. Except at that point drying space becomes an issue. The fiber then takes 1-2 days to dry. So if I work rather intently I can get everything washed in about 2 weeks. However I don’t think I’ll include this in my calculations just because its more of “passive” time than active.

After I have clean fiber I can start combing it into top. The combs are my newest fiber toy and I’ve only made myself bleed a few times. They work absolutely amazingly well with alpaca so I’m able to process it from the raw locks into the top ready to spin much more quickly. Based on recent history I’d anticipate combing 1.5 ounces in about an hour. So in total that’s about 31 hours of combing.

Up next is the spinning. The fact that I’m going for super bulky yarn finally speeds things up! For the socks I was able to spin 4 ounces of prepared fiber into approximately 87 yards of yarn in around 3 hours. For the full project I’d be looking at 34 hours of spinning.

And lastly would be the knitting. I haven’t actually knit up the socks yet this year so I’m stretching back in my memory and doing some pretty serious guesstimating to say that I think I can probably knit up about 200 yards of yarn in around 6 hours. Using that very rough estimate I would be around 30 hours of knitting time for the full project.

All together I’m looking at around 95 hours or approximately 4 days of solid work to go from raw sweater to finished project. And realistically most of my time estimates are probably best-case-scenario and in the real world things will take longer. But I am not at all intimidated. I look at it as a super amazing project that I can accomplish over the course of a few months and I’m looking forward to tackling it in 2016.

It's sweater season

October starts tomorrow and the forecast high is only 64 degrees. I hereby declare that it is officially sweater season.

And because I am crazy that means I really need to get working on the sweaters that have been living in my head.

First and most importantly is the sweater that I promised Father for Christmas. He declined to participate in the pattern and yarn selection so this is what I've chosen for him!

The only thing I'm unsure of is if i want to keep the cables on the arms or if stockinette arms would look better.

Men's sweaters require ridiculously large amounts of yarn. Also please ignore the fact that I almost immediately messed up one of the cables when i was knitting the gauge swatch.
Up next I decided to try my hand at another crochet sweater. I'm actually hoping I can finish it in one month. Crochet is totally fast, right? I am probably delusional.

I'm not a huge fan of most crochet sweaters but I like the simplicity of this one.

And my yarn. The swatch is a different color but it was the same yarn. I'll add the trim and decor colors later. Also the yarn is cream/tan not grey. I was trying to take pictures at dusk.
And lastly I want to make this awesome sheep-y cardigan because it's awesome. Happily for my sanity I don't have any real or self imposed deadlines for this sweater. It has a steek which is when you knit the whole sweater as if it was a pull-over and then cut it to make the cardigan. I'm excited and scared at the same time.

Due to the quantities of yarn that I found on sale I anticipate switching the grey and the blue for my own sweater.

A word to the wise: Don't leave your swatch in progress out in the craft room. The cat might decide the skein of yarn looks fun and you'll find it downstairs in the living room where you can follow the yarn trail up to the swatch on the needles still upstairs.
Time to get crafting...

2015 Tour de Fleece

TDF is most widely recognizable as The Tour de France. The epic 21 day cycling race around France. I am probably, at best, a casual follower of pro-cycling. When talking to average Americans who know nothing about cycling I sound quite knowledgeable. When talking to average cycling fans I probably sound like I know nothing. But I like watching the race quite a bit. It's fun.

But more importantly TDF also stands for the Tour de Fleece! The Tour de Fleece is an annual spin-along during the Tour de France. Every day that they spin on the bikes, we spin yarn. This year marks my 5th year of TDF participation. Over those years my spinning abilities have grown by leaps and bounds. And that growth is probably in large part due to the goals and challenges I make for myself with TDF spinning.

This year I tried to cut back on being overly ambitious with my goals. But I'm seriously addicted to fiber and failed miserably at exercising restraint when I ended up with some ridiculous goals. And then I stayed up late many nights spinning.

My goals were as follows:
My primary goals are:
  1. Spin 113 grams of GalesArt Polwarth and Silk Blend into a fine two ply laceweight to be used for a shawl.
  2. Spin 498 grams of Max (brown) and Lance (fawn) into a fingering or slightly heavier yarn to be used for a sweater with a colorwork yolk.
  3. Ride my bike, bumblebee, at least 221K (137 miles) to match the longest stage of the race. Hours and hours spent watching the race and spinning yarn really isn’t a good reason to ignore actually maintaining some fitness.
If those are going well I may also focus on my secondary goals:
  1. Spin 142 grams of Hilltop Cloud Cobblestones gradient. Inspired by the famous and sometimes devastating feature in some bike races it seems only appropriate to start this project when the cyclists go over the pavé on day 4.
  2. Spin up the 122 gram dying experiment of my own creation. I mostly just wanted to add more color to things.
  3. And if everything is going really really well I will add in 122 grams of black alpaca spun to match the Cobblestones yarn so that I can use them together in some kind of amazing knitted something, probably a shawl.

By the end of the tour I had accomplished the following:
 1608 yards of laceweight wool/silk nicknamed Tourmalet.
876 yards of Max and 184 yards of Lance the alpacas.
I biked 139 miles on Bumblebee the bike.
384 yards of Cobblestones and still two unspun colors.
236 yards of my own hand dyed Experiment.
I didn't touch the black alpaca.
But I did add in plying of the previously spun Lemon Blueberry singles for a finished yarn at 632 yards.

(thats 2.23 miles of yarn) 

This fiber was purchased at Maryland Sheep and Wool from Gales Art. During the tour I named the project Tourmalet in honor of the famous mountain in France often featured during the TDF as the peloton races up its slopes.

It spun up using my trindles as a wonderful laceweight yarn. I cannot believe how much yardage I got (1608 yards).

This alpaca fiber comes from a friends pets. Before the tour started I prepped the fiber from its raw state into these little balls of fiber.

My plan is to make a sweater with color-work around the yoke and possibly other places (sleeves hem). I'm actually probably a little bit short on yardage for that however. So I need to get more fiber and do a bit more spinning.
 A before picture of the biking is a bit more difficult. So here's Bumblebee waiting by the river to start a ride.

And this is what i looked like after the final 30ish mile ride.

 Here are the unspun Cobblestones. They were purchased from Hilltop Cloud. She based the colors on a picture of cobblestones, a feature of stage 4 of this years TDF.

 In the end I was very short on time so I sacrificed the spinning of the final two colors. But I'm sure I'll get to them soon.

This fiber was my dyed by me! I have fancy acid dyes now and am learning to use them. My aim was to have Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Purple all mixed up in sections on this fiber and I was going to call it "Skittles". In practice the green took over most of it somehow and it was renamed "Experiment".
The finished yarn makes me think of Christmas.

Alas since giving up sleep entirely is not such a smart plan I did not end up spinning any of the black alpaca whose yarn was to go along with the Cobblestones:

But I did end up finishing another project that was already mostly spun up. The fiber started as these super amazing wonderful little battlings from Hobbledehoy that I purchased at Maryland Sheep and Wool.

Before the TDF started I spun them all so they were in two batches of single strands like this.

To finish I plied the two strands together and the final yarn is this amazingness.

It was a good TDF.

Veni, vedi, vici, emi or MDSW part 2

It was around 1 o’clock before J and I actually began visiting various vendors to do our more “normal” shopping. Per my plan/shopping list going into the event I never found a good source for raw angora. But that’s ok since the place where I purchased the fiber I used before is local and I won’t mind visiting again at some point. In the end it became the year of (mostly) hand dyed wool-silk rovings.

This green and neutral tone blended roving is actually an Ashland Bay commercially produced roving. So not as exciting as some other items. But the price was great and I’m actually thinking that it is the same process/producer as the Snapdragon fiber used to knit my recent lace shawl. Since I am also worried that my plans/ideas for spinning up the other hand painted rovings (lace but still maintain the vibrant colors) may fail this one I know can always be a winner for that particular type of spinning.

Into the Whirled has been on my radar for a number of years and I’m not really sure why or how. They have awesome color combinations that are labeled with super geeky names. I’ve visited their booth each year at MDSW but never purchased anything. I think a good bit of the problem is that I like so many of the options I can never choose so I would move on. This year however I was determined to pick something awesome. I made it a little bit easier for myself by going in knowing I wanted a wool/silk blend. After a good bit of internal debate I narrowed it down to two excellent options. And after even more consideration made my choice (based largely on not wanting to choose colors that were so similar to another roving I had my eye on). The colorway is called Walla Walla. I feel like I should know what this reference is. But I don’t and I couldn’t even find it on the interweb. Shucks.

Gales Art is where I first found trindles 5(?) years ago. Since I am now a trindle junkie it only seems appropriate that I have also become obsessed with Gales wonderful rich vibrant dyeing. A few days before MDSW Mr. or Mrs. Trindleman had posted on facebook encouraging selfies from Gale’s booth. Being the overachiever that I am I fully intended to do just that. I stopped by the booth earlier in the day but things were still pretty crowed. I didn’t want to be in the way plus I am rather self-conscious. So I snapped a quick picture but also inquired as to how late they would be there. My eye had also been caught by some gorgeous long drapey silky braids of roving in the corner of the booth. Later in the day when the crowds had died down I returned, claimed the fibery-goodness, and snapped this dorky selfie.

The revelation of this years MDSW was for me Hobbledehoy Yarn and Fiber. I absolutely love love love pretty much all of her crazy batts. The texture and the vibrant colors are so wonderful. She has been vending for quite a while so I’m not entirely sure what it is that drew my attention this year. I suspect that my fiber tastes are growing and changing, which is awesome. Plus it does help that I am (dangerously) becoming more willing to spend for the good stuff. After much deliberation I finally choose these lemon blueberry battlings. Despite what I just said I’ll still confess that the lower price drew me. And while I’m not sure about going with fiber that matches my old high school colors there is just something so fun about these little batts.
I am very happy with my haul. Now it’s time to get spinning.

Veni, vedi, vici, emi or MDSW part 1

The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival was on Saturday. And I most definitely came, saw, conquered, and purchased.

The weather really couldn’t have been better. The forecast was originally calling for a cooler day so I was prepared with multiple layers. For most of the day just the t-shirt was perfect although the newly finished shawl was a perfect layer as needed. Plus two random people complimented me on the shawl!

As has become our tradition J and I headed straight for the fleece barn. We had both done quite a bit of research about the breeds or types of fleece that we were looking for. But in the end I’m not sure that either of us accomplished that feat. Things seemed more pricy this year. We’re not sure if we were there a bit later than last year. Or I’m also thinking it may be a case of as more and more people are buying fleeces the farmers are able to price higher.

My first find was this little 2lb Border Leicester. Being a coarser (medium) fleece the breed wasn’t on my wish list, I like soft things. But the price was super low and the fleece was small. Plus it really did look quite nice, the white should be good for dying. And it’s a breed that I’ll now be more educated about for the future!

Next I was determined to find a grey/silver fleece. Here I was struggling with the prices as there were some excellent options that I just wasn’t willing to afford. But there were three very unique Polypay X fleeces that J and I kept coming back to. I decided to take a chance and go for it. The colors are excellent and the fleece looks great albeit not the softest. I also really appreciated that the farmer included some of the breeds that have been included in the cross: Dorset and Lincoln. 

And lastly I still wanted more white fleece to use for dying. And I wanted it to be soft. I settled on this Merino. It seemed and uninspiring choice since Merino wool is everywhere. But I’ve never processed merino from raw so it will still be a new experience. My fleece is quite dirty but the crimp is so tiny and amazing. It should be fun.

After carting my 10+ pounds of fleece (along with J and her 10+) back to the car (which was rather inconveniently up near the top back corner of the parking lot hill) it was time for a well earned break and a picnic lunch! A few of us purchased a few different types of sheep and goat cheese and we had brought our own fruit and crackers. It was of course delicious.

This has gotten long so more tomorrow (or maybe the next day).

Shopping List

MDSW can be overwhelming. So it seems wise that I’m going into it this year with a plan.

First and foremost is the purchasing of fleece(s). J and I will once again be stopping first at the sheep barn to stake our claims. My number one hope is to find an excellent grey/silver fleece that is also soft. I love natural colored fleeces and dream of having a new handspun handknit sweater (and probably a shawl, I love shawls). I’m also torn between doing the fun thing and buying something cheap and white (and ideally soft) to be used to play around with dying. The being torn part comes into play when you consider the fact that I really ought to finish what I have already. But where’s the fun in restraint?

I figure that will take us a bit and we’ll want to head back to the car to deposit the goods. At which time we can pick up some fruit and crackers and head next to the fancy cheese vendors! The food at MDSW is somewhat underwhelming generic fair food. But it has become our tradition to feast on cheese and crackers. This year we’re taking our planning even farther and bringing extra awesome goodies to the feast.

After satiating ourselves it will be time to do the rest of the shopping.

During last years TDF I spun up a yarn that is 100% angora. It was a pain to spin but the result is quite special. Unfortunately the result was limited in yardage. I’d like to find more raw angora that I can spin up to eventually knit the most amazingly soft airy scarf.

I am also on the look out for some amazingly dyed merino/silk roving. The giant shawl I just finished knitting was merino silk and I love the yarn that it produced. I want to spin something similar but with much more vibrant colors. Eventually I will knit it into a Shaelyn shawl.

Given my new-found fascination with dying I will be on the lookout for dye supplies. Namely powdered acid dyes, citric acid, and undyed roving. Some preliminary research however indicates that I may be able to get significantly more bang for my buck by purchasing online. So I’ll have to just wait and see.

There are also few specific vendors that I want to check out. I’ve always heard amazing things about Bosworth spindles. I suspect I will once again check them out and exercise restraint, but we will see. Recently I’ve started watching the amazing items that are produced by Jennie the Potter. I’m pretty sure she has something of a cult following in the fiber community so I’m not exactly holding my breath that I will be willing to shell out the cash for one of her items. But definitely worth checking out methinks.

J and I are also planning to check out the tool/equipment auction. From what I’ve read online it can be a pretty mixed bag of what is available and the prices. And while I know I really shouldn’t be thinking about such exorbitance I really can’t help but consider what awesome types of wonderful things may be up for offer (looms, drum carders, and wheels - o my).

I did it.

Fiber prep = done.
In total I have 1lb 6 ounces of fiber in 137 little super cute awesome ready to spin (although I may dye them) balls of combed Tunis:

Spinning = done.
I want to knit with this yarn. Except its under plied. D'oh. I'll probably run it through the wheel again to add a bit more twist. But still it’s just super soft and wonderful and it needs to be knit into something amazing. I spun a total of 266 yards.

Knitting = done.
This shawl was by far the most tedious boring knitting I have tackled in a long time. And it is huge. But despite some doubts I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’m already planning another laceweight shawl from handspun :-)
Now I may go to MDSW and procure more awesomeness.

Hand painted roving

I really should have been focusing on my MDSW or Bust goals, but I am a fickle crafter so other endeavors have been catching my eye (and time).

Dyeing my own fiber/roving is an idea which has been floating in my mind for quite a while now. I’ve done a bunch of experimenting before but never anything larger scale. Until a few weekends ago I decided I wanted to attempt my own space dyed roving.

4 ounce braids of hand dyed fiber seem to be the thing to do these days in the handspinning community so that was my goal. I already had some blue RIT dye powder from a project last fall and I picked up a box of green from Michaels. I thought the colors should go nicely together in a happy green/blue teal spring-ish type of way.

Before dying the whole 4 ounces I tried a few samples.

First up (on the left) was just straight up green and blue. It came out fine but much much too dark. It wasn’t at all what I had in mind.

Next (middle) I tried the same green and blue but using a lower concentration. It was a little better but still not a result that I could get excited about.

With the green and blue not getting me the desired results I branched out (right) and tried including some yellow using food dye (from last summer's dye experiments). I wasn’t really a huge fan of the result but it was at least more interesting. And I was getting tired of all the testing, so I just went for it.
This picture is the truest to color. Capturing color really is dreadfully difficult at times.
  I’m pretty pleased with the results. It’s been very tempting to spin it all up and see what the yarn looks like. I’ve held off in part because I really do need to focus on the other goals I set for myself. But also because I think it would be fun until I had a few dyed braids that I could spin together for some kind of crazy sweater project or something.

Given the relative success of this project I already have many other ideas in my head for what’s next. I’m excited.