Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Hat That Sally Made

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A little bit of creative photo editing and Sally
becomes very stylish
I've been having a lot of fun with my alpaca fleece.

I have been washing fleece, drying fleece, picking fleece and carding fleece for what seems likes ages.  I love it.  Fibre is definitely my thing and I can think of no better way to spend any afternoon than pottering about, doing all things fleecy.

Once I had about 30 bags of fleece ready to spin, the time had come to practise my spinning. 
I chose a bag of 'Sally'.  She is one of our delightful alpacas - the first to come to us for hand feeding and so gentle and lovely.

I spent many an afternoon spinning and listening to the audio book series of 'Anne of Green Gables' - it's a delightful way to spend some crafting hours (although, I will admit to finding it hard to see my spinning through my tears during the tragedy of Anne's first born).
'The Hat That Sally Made'

.. and just like that, I had some alpaca wool ready to knit with.  Not much mind you, but I had some none-the-less.

I figured that I had enough for a warm winter hat.  Ever since we have been here the weather has been fabulous - but everyone has said, "just you wait - it will get very cold and it will last for ages".  With a warning like that, I don't think a few more winter hats will go astray.

This hat is very simple.  As the wool is thick (10ply) it knitted up very quickly.
Washing, picking, carding and spinning

A skein of 'Sally'


..Skein of hand washed, hand picked, hand carded & hand spun Sally (or commercial 10ply)
..Set of size 6mm DPN's and a small circular 6mm.  The hat can be knitted entirely on DPN's or you can change to a circular needle once the hat is big enough.
..Stitch markers 


Knit front and back (Kf/b).  Place your working needle into the front of the stitch on your main needle as you normally would and knit, before you slip the stitch off the needle, knit into the back of the same stitch - then slip the stitch off the needle.  This is an 'increase' stitch.
Knit 2 together (K2tog).  Insert your working needle into the front of the second stitch on your main needle and then through the front of the first stitch on your main needle.  Knit them both together.   This is a 'decrease' stitch.  (If you are right handed, the main needle is the left hand and the working needle is the right hand).


Cast on 8 stitches

'The Hat That Sally Made'
Row 1:     Knit the front and back of each stitch - (16 stitches)  Place 4 stitches onto each DPN and get ready to join - being careful not to twist your stitches.
Row 2:    Purl all stitches.  Traditional patterns tell you to place a stitch marker at the beginning of this row to indicate the start of the round, but I find they always fall off when using DPN's - so I always purl 1, then place a stitch marker.  This way it stays in place.
Row 3:     *K1, K1Front and Back* repeat to the end of the round. (24 stitches).
Row 4:     As you purl this row, place a stitch marker every 3 stitches.  It is handy to have the first stitch marker a different colour to ensure you know where the beginning of the round is.

Row 5:     *K1F/B, K to next stitch marker, slip marker* repeat to the end of the round - there should now be 4 stitches between each marker.
Row 6:     Purl 

Repeat rows 5 & 6 until there are 10 stitches between each marker - there should be 80 stitches.

Continue knitting in garter stitch - knit 1 round then purl 1 round for a further 12 rounds.  If you would like a more 'slouchy' hat, then knit for 16 rounds.

Decrease (K2tog) 10 times, evenly across the round.

Most patterns will tell you to change to smaller needles at this point, but because I am using a thick wool, I kept the original sizing for the brim for fear that it would be too tight at the end.

Brim - You can either use a 4 x 2 rib or a 2 x 2 rib.  Repeat for a total of 10 rounds.
Loosely cast off.    Note:  at this point, I originally did a normal cast off but as the homespun had less elasticity than commercial wool, it was too tight, so I undid it, tried a looser cast off and the end result was much better.  Fitted perfectly.  The decision not to change to a smaller needle paid off.

Loose cast off instructions can be found here 

To finish:  thread the tail of the yarn invisibly through the stitches and snip off.

I added a button embellishment - and there you go, a winter hat ready for the cold that is coming - or so I am told.

Happy knitting,
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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Needle Felt Alpaca

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The room I use to store all of my craft goodies is pretty much full at the moment.  It's not a designated craft or sewing room as such, but a multi purpose space that is quickly being overtaking with fabric, yarn and assorted paraphernalia,  This is the reason I try not to purchase too many gadgets or things that take up extra room. Fabric and yarn can be added to existing boxes and shelves, but with gadgets and other crafting tools,  I find I need to work harder to justify the purchase to myself - I see this as a good thing!

Recently though it's become obvious that a new craft has been calling to us and I'm afraid it meant a trip back to our craft store to purchase everything we needed to start needle felting.  Andie and I have walked passed the kits and needles many times before when we were shopping, but it wasn't until Louise's alpacas were shorn that we realised that all of those little bits of fleece could be put to good use with felting and what better project to start with than a needle felted alpaca.

There's some really informative and easy to follow youtube tutorials for making needle felt alpacas, some require a specific kit, but making a basic alpaca shape using wool or polyester fill tied with twine and then needle felting straight onto that seemed like a great alternative.

The process of needle felting simply involves using the tool and pressing it into the fleece over and over again until it holds together like fabric.

After a morning of making the initial alpaca shape and then felting the fleece, the fun began when it was time to add the details, A face, ears and a tail quickly transformed the felt into something a little more lifelike.

Happy needle felting

Deb and Andie


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Sunday, 31 January 2016

Shearing time at Winter Creek

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It seems like an age since I have made any projects.  Moving interstate, starting a new job and setting up our small holding 'Winter Creek' has taken up every ounce of my spare time. 

My craft room is set up and ready to go but each time I go in, I can't seem to string enough hours together to make starting a project worthwhile.

However, all that changed on Friday with the arrival of our shearer.  That's right .. I finally have access to a supply of wool and what's more, the wool is from our very own alpacas - Martha, Sally, Jefferson and Little Bear.

Grazing happily before the big shear.
Being newbie alpaca owners, we were a bit concerned when the shearer said that we needed to round them up in a pen because, firstly, we didn't have a pen and secondly, how do you 'round' them up?

We improvised by enclosing our chicken coop with some pickets and wire which took about an hour and when we turned around, our girls (and Jefferson) were lining up at the entrance - couldn't have been easier.  Just called them in and shut the gate.  They are easier to handle than our dog.

I was really looking forward to seeing how it is all done.  Growing up in Australia, everyone knows about sheep shearing.  We learn all about the importance of wool in establishing the colony that went on to become our nation - but very little is known about alpaca shearing.

Happy smiles - before the wrangling started

I invited Deb and Andie along to have a look as it's always nice to have a day out in the country and it was lucky they were there when Sally made a bolt for it after shearing and we needed all hands on deck to gently coax her back to the chicken/alpaca holding pen.

Genuine wrangling in action

Sally is in there somewhere

She doesn't look all that impressed with her new clip

Glorious alpaca fleece
I must admit I was a bit shocked when they were completely trussed, feet tied like a pig on a spit.  Surely they must find that distressing, but to their credit, they were really good.  I think they handled it better than I did.  The end result though was a large number of bags filled to the brim with what seems like acres of
Cleaned fleece - fluffy like a cloud

Then the fun started.  I picked the fleece to get out the debris (or VM as it is called), washed and soaked it in hot water, picked it again to get the clean fluffiness I was after and carded the fleece using my hand carders.  

1st rolag - decided to get a drum carder
after about 100 of these.

It didn't take too many hours to realise that hand carding just wasn't going to cut it, so, as I type, I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of my new drum carder.  Let the games begin.

A gorgeous basket of lovliness

Time for some serious carding action

Finally, some spinning action
In the meantime, I was thrilled to be able to get 'Evie' out and begin to spin our hand fed wool.  I can't begin to tell you how wonderful that felt.

The end result - I hope Sally is proud.

 .. and here is the end result.  My first skein of 'Sally'.

Sally says 'Hello'

Thanks so much for visiting.
Louise, Deb & Andie

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Sari Silk Crochet Cowl

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I've been a bit obsessed with recycled sari yarn lately.  Not long ago I made some crochet placemats out of sari ribbon and while I was purchasing the yarn for that, I became intrigued by the silk yarn and one thing lead to another (as they do) and I ended up placing an order for the silk yarn as well.

The yarn itself is as soft and silky as the name suggests and while mostly uniform, there still is a little texture to add interest along with the muted colour palette.  My original plan was to use it for weaving, but sadly this time of year there simply isn't time to get the loom out and so with my trusty crochet hook in hand a cowl was soon under way.

You will need:

1 skein Machine Spun Sari Silk Yarn
Size 5mm crochet hook


Chain 70 and slip stitch into first chain to form loop, being careful not to twist the chain when joining

*Row 1:   Chain 2 (forms first double crochet) Double crochet (DC) into front of each chain in the loop. Complete entire loop and slip stitch to join.

Row 2:  Chain 1 (forms first single crochet) Single crochet (SC) into front of each chain in the loop.  Complete entire loop and slip stitch to join.*

* to * forms pattern. Continue to crochet until cowl is desired width (our cowl repeats the pattern 8 times)

Weave in ends

I really enjoyed working with the sari yarn, this is a one skein project and lucky for me I purchased a few skeins when I placed my order, so I might just get to weave with it after all.

Happy crocheting


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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Homemade Chutney

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I've been doing a lot of preserving lately and while not quite obsessed, I have spent the last few months collecting every glass jar that comes into the house with thoughts of filling them to the brim with pickles, preserves and jams.  One thing I've been wanting to make for a while is a really good tomato based chutney.  When I mentioned this to a work colleague she raved about a friend's chutney, but had no way of getting the recipe so I've been biding my time, looking through recipe books to see if one caught my eye.

In the end it wasn't a recipe book that caught my imagination, but Mary Berry's TV show and in a fantastic twist of fate, the recipe is on youtube and so simple that anyone with basic cooking skills could make it.

Sadly, my small container garden is no where near as productive as I need it to be to provide a couple of kilos of veggies, but we do live very close to a market and so as I was spending my Saturday morning driving children to where they needed to be, my husband was sent on a mission to the markets with a long list of vegetables and spices to purchase.
Making any preserve is a long and satisfying project so you do need to set aside a couple of hours while pots of lovely vegetables and spices simmer gently on the stove.

In the end, the chutney smelled divine and I filled every jar I had to the brim.  Mary says it will last up to two years, but given how delicious it is, in this household I don't think we'll be having to worry about use by dates.

Happy preserving


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