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.

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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!

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Carding with tulle

Many of our readers are fiber artists. They hook rugs, stitch, knit or crochet, weave and spin. Many of the spinners eventually succumb to the romance of processing their own fiber, be it wool, angora, mohair, alpaca or some other delight.

Carding is one of the first steps in processing after washing, if that is necessary. One of the most common problems they encounter is removing the carded batt from the main drum without destroying it or leaving behind lots of fiber. The method shown below helps a great deal with this when carding  very fine fibers. I've illustrated the steps using some of my home-grown angora.

First,  apply some ordinary nylon tulle, cut to fit, to the main drum by slowly placing it on top and turning slowly.

You can see that the tulle is sitting on top of the points. Do not force it down or you risk damage.

Now you're ready to start  carding. This is some shorn angora.

Start feeding the fiber into the licker-in.

The next  two images show the fiber being carded.

Finished? Now remove the batt by splitting it at the break in the points, then slowly and carefully lifting the tulle off the drum.

I hope that helps!