Last night I finally finished a knitted pillow that I had started at least five years ago. Well, the front and back had been finished all this time, but I never got around to finding a pillow form for them. A post-Christmas trip into a craft store found bags of poly snow on sale and the size and shape of the bag jogged my memory of this long-forgotten project. I present it here for your knitting pleasure should you choose to knit one for yourself.

The graph below is one that I sketched out after making a suitable graph paper in a graphics program. No, I am no whiz at it, but I managed to make it work. If you can read it, you can use it to make your own pillow.

The pillow “recipe” or pattern is pretty loose. Grab a few skeins of Noro Kureyon or something similar (worsted weight), whatever is languishing in your stash. Knit up in stockinette two skeins for the front and two skeins for the back, then work the chart in duplicate stitch on each side, centering the lettering.

After finishing all the stitching, single crochet the two sides together, leaving an adequate opening for a pillow form or other stuffing.

Once the pillow is stuffed, finish joining the two sides with single crochet. I then did another row of SC all around to make it look a little better. Perhaps it needs a bit more? It’s up to you.

Here are the two sides of the pillow.

I hope you enjoy making your own.

Save

Save

This past weekend was another of Walker Homestead’s very hospitable open houses, a New England Christmas by the Hearthside. I managed to sneak away from the dyepots to spend an hour or so enjoying the scene which included many, many delicacies from the kitchen, warm fires, hosts in period costumes, Father Christmas and, of course, shopping opportunities.

Kris Casucci and her elves make wonderful seasonal garlands out of natural materials. Who can resist? And, this year, Pied Potter Hamelin and Garine Arakelian were on site with a roomful of their redware pottery. Yes, I succumbed to temptation. I thought you’d like to see a few pictures of the event. If you are in the area, it’s well worth putting it on your calendar for next year.

Save

This year I finally made it to Stitches East! It’s been held in Hartford, CT, for several years now and this is my first visit. I’ve been to most of the sheep and wool festivals but never this retail knitting show sponsored by Knitting Universe/Knitters Magazine.

No surprise, it was a ton of fun. Here’s a peek at some of the floor.

A very creative skirt knit by the wearer with inserts of faux fur

The lovely Ashley Martineau getting ready to sign her newly published book. (BTW, great book with tons and tons of photos!)

Can’t forget the book cover so you can look it up.

Of course, I came home with a few bags of yarn, a knitter’s abacus bracelet and the book. Maybe a few other things. It’s a long year away until the next Stitches East!

Save

This year’s Backroads Studio Tour was wonderful and I finally got to visit a couple of places I’d never been before. One of them was Great Rock Alpacas in Barre, MA. Oh, such temptation. Of course, I did not resist.

I thought you might like to see some of the farm and what I bought there on Sunday’s visit. I’ll also show you some of the process of sorting and preparing the fleece for handspinning.

Here’s a pile of the really black, black alpaca fleece prior to my sorting. I had to have it! Yes, there was a bit of VM (vegetable matter) in it, but don’t forget this is a natural product, fresh from the farm! Besides, the VM was minimal and so easy to see against the black, I thought I wouldn’t have too much trouble picking it through. I was right.

It pays to pick through any fleece by hand prior to washing or other processing, even if you are sending it out to a service. No fiber mill will take as much care with your fleece as you will, yourself. Remember that any VM or second cuts left in the fleece will be broken up into smaller pieces through the whole process of washing and carding, and that makes it harder to get out.

This image shows a bit of the fleece teased apart, revealing one of the few second cuts in it. You really do want to get these out, along with the bits of hay.

Some of the locks had visible sand at the tips so I used my flick card to get it out. A flick card and tweezers are a wool fanatic’s best friends! Notice the bits of dirt showing up so well on the white tabletop.

After all the work, about five or six hours over two days, I had a huge pile of gorgeous alpaca fleece and two, tiny piles of fleece, one with VM entangled and the other of hairy and short locks. Of the two pounds of original product, I lost less than two ounces of fleece. That is a great yield!

I had thought I would be washing the fleece at this point, but it seemed so darned clean I decided to try putting some through one of my drum carders, my Pat Green Big Batt. It fed through like butter, so I went ahead and carded more. It is being spun up now just as is and the finished yarn will be washed when it is plied, prior to using it. I plan on weaving something luscious with this.

So, how about some pics of the farm animals, you say? Why not?

And, what visit to a farm would be complete without the chickens?

If you are ever in the central Massachusetts area, please stop by and pay the Lathrops a visit at Great Rock Alpacas. They’d love to see you!

Save

Yes, summer is coming to an end. Although it isn’t fall until the end of September, per the calendar, Labor Day marks it’s beginning in my mind. The good thing is that fall is my favorite time of year with so much beauty to see. It seems that there are so many activities and antique and fiber shows I cannot possibly take them all in.

We are kicking off the season by joining some fiber friends demonstrating various fiber crafts at the Spencer Fair this weekend. Running four days from Friday, August 30 through Monday, September 2 at the Spencer Fairgrounds in Spencer, MA, there is a midway and all sorts of agricultural exhibits, including our own fiber tent. You can find us next to the farm and fiber animal tent (but not the cow barn!), set up with demos of spinning, knitting, weaving and more.

There will also be sales of handmade and/or locally produced goods. I will be spinning on a Majacraft Suzie Pro, so any of you in the area who are curious about this wheel are welcome to come and see and try it out. I may also have some products for sale, including fiber and hand dyed wools. My demo days are Saturday and Sunday.

I’ve also been busy adding a few new products to the website. We have three new Woolart Samplers and more to come.

Wishing you a great end-of-summer weekend, however you choose to spend it!

Save

Fiber-related finds at an antique show

Yesterday was this spring's version of the Walker Homestead Antique Show in Brookfield, Massachusetts. It's only a few miles from my home but, believe it or not, this was my first visit! Oh, boy! What a nice show.

I had pre-arranged with Pied Potter Hamelin, who was vending there, to pick up a custom order he'd made for me. It is a yarn holder which was fashioned after an antique redware string holder in his collection. I just loved the idea of a flat-bottomed yarn bowl, which struck me as being ever so much stabler than a regular yarn bowl, so Rick obliged by making it larger with a larger opening to accommodate an average size ball of yarn. BTW, I usually like to wind traditional cannon balls instead of the yarn cakes you get with modern "ball winders."

Rick also made my holder in yellow slip with green decoration called "spangles." Cool. I already had a soap dispenser in this color and similar pattern. Oh, and now I also have two redware plates in the same color and decoration. No pics of those, though. Here is my very wonderful yarn holder.

I also was lucky enough to find another fiber-related gem, but I'll post about that tomorrow.

Presenting the Notta Noddy™

I admit it. I hate niddy noddies. Keep forgetting how to wind them. It's worse than chewing gum and walking at the same time for me. Bah!

We've adapted a traditional tool so that you can use it to wind your freshly spun singles off your bobbin or spindle with ease. It's also good for winding yarn of any sort, including store-bought skeins.

Simply attach your singles (or yarn) to the Notta Noddy™ and start winding. Fast and easy. You make either a 2/3 yard (24") skein or a full yard (36") skein. Count the wraps and figure your yardage. The picture below shows the smaller of the two.

The carpenter makes them for me in his woodshop.

A visit to Walker Homestead

A few weeks ago we paid a visit to Walker Homestead, a local primitives place featuring locally grown, natural decorations, antiques and the like in an 1698 house in Brookfield, MA. Kris and Paul Casucci are the proprietors and have the able Celeste as helper extraordinaire.

The weekend of November 16 through 18, 2012 is their annual New England Christmas by the Hearthside and you are kindly invited to visit. We thought you'd like a preview in the way of some pictures from my October visit. Please check their website for more information.

Yes, that's a chicken on her shoulder. Miss Chickie, to be exact. Ask them about her if you visit.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!