Getting fleeced

Some natural-light pictures of the alpaca fleece for the workshop…

This beautiful fiber is actually seconds (Andy’s blanket is the one being saved for competition), but it’s absolutely delicious.

And here is Andy himself:

Pretty cinnamon fleeze from Bronzy:

Miss (or Mister…?) Bronzy, looking quite regal.

Fluffy white goodness from Mr. Carl:

And Carl, wearing his own fleece:

Black with some dark chocolate tips from little pop-eyed baby Ci-Ci:

Look at little Ci-Ci! If you think she’s adorable here, you should see her bald! She looks like a muppet!

Hot chocolate from Hannah:

Miss Hannah:

Velvetly Liana. Interestingly, the blacks were the heaviest. I think they hold way more dust for some reason. They seemed dustier.

Naked Liana, Ci-Ci’s mama, freshly shorn:

Pretty fawn-colored fleece from Tino:

Naked Tino (so! cute!):

And finally, white tipped with a little dusky gray from sweet-faced old Valley Girl “Val”:

And the matron herself:

Hurrah! The gang’s all here:


Whee! Just bought a bunch of alpaca fleece for this fall’s fiber workshop. We’ll be touring a local alpaca ranch (Alpacas at Wildcat Hollow), so I wanted us to be able to spin from the animals we meet. This was my first time seeing alpacas up close and personal, and they’re so fucking cute I could cry. The looked particularly alien and puppety, since they’d just been sheered. There was even a youngster, an adorable black cria with gigantic googly lobster eyes. They all stare at you at once, bobbling their darling little heads on their crazy long necks like those ostrich marionettes. Cute! They even poop cute. They pick a toilet zone & everyone poops in just one spot, which they back up to daintily.

The color in the picture is for crap. I’ll hope for sunshine to get some nice closeups, but here’s what I bought: black from Liana and her baby Ci-Ci; a coarser white/gray from Val, the old lady of the herd; fluffy white from Carl; fawn from Tino; cinnamon from Bronzie; chocolate from Hannah; and white from Andy. Andy’s fleece was seconds, from his neck/legs, because they were saving his blanket (the fleece from the back and sides) for competition. Even his seconds were yummy-soft and nice and long. I also got seconds from Liana, Ci-Ci, Bronzie, Carl, and Hannah. If they’re too short, I’ll buy that Japanese felting book at the Yarn Barn and play with them.

I didn’t get first pick, because I missed the shearing on Saturday morning (we were up very late working), but there was still lots of nice fiber. Not that I actually know anything about it. I just shot for the softest, longest, and my favorite colors.

The owners, Marta & Ed, were wonderful and so friendly. Marta promised to email me pictures, so I can show off what came from who. Besides the alpacas, they have goats (pets), a pair of Maremmano-Abruzzese (I think that’s right–just looked them up and those seem right) Italian sheepdogs, the alpacas’ guardians, and two lovely, sweet Australian shepherds, one old lady and one pup. They were very warm and kind, and they’re going to arrange for some finished yarn to be available (from their remaining fiber and other local ranches) when we tour the ranch, and we might even do a little wine & cheese thing there. The grounds are beautiful and very inviting. Oh! And they may have hooked me up with an angora lady, which would be really fun.

I noticed in the paper that 4H is selling lambs…. that might be another avenue to invoostigate as well.

Red Pajamas!

As part of my RIT kick, I took all my ratty old flannel pajams & dyed them red. So now instead of 4 dumpy faded floral pairs, I have 4 cute red ones!

I did it in a long hot cycle in the machine, with 2 cold rinses & the results were as bright as my stove-dyed ones. But I did use the bottled stuff instead of the powder. I also learned that if you start my machine with liquid (in this case, a bottle of dye and a cup of salt dissolved in a couple gallons of hot water), it will drain out all the liquid before starting the cycle. Pushed start & heard it draining. The laundry’s in the basement, which means all drains empty into this hole in the foundation & then gets pumped up & out, so I ran into the boiler room & watched in horror as all my dye ran right back out. Luckily, I had a second bottle, so I ran upstairs & dumped just the dye & a cup of salt into the washer & hoped that wouldn’t rate heavy enough to drain. It didn’t, and it turns out pre-mixing wasn’t necessary. I do wish I’d bleached out the patterns a bit more first, as you can still see them a bit on 2 of them.

I love red pajamas! They’re all old-timey. They always make me thing of a Popeye-faced hillbilly in long underwear standing on the front porch of his shack with a shot gun. I must’ve seen that in a cartoon somewhere.


I decided (in retrospect) that I wanted to do a different pattern swatch from 365 Knitting Stitches a Year each week this year. I’m going to make 3-4 6″ x 48″ strips of swatches & then seam them all up as a simple poncho. The yarn’s actually a bit less shiny than this, so the stitches fade into oblivion more in real life. Hopefully that means it will be cute & not look like a hideous crazy grandma poncho.

And if that threatens too much, I can always make it into a throw instead.

I didn’t want to block mid-strip, so it’s rolly. From the top, down:

  • January 29, Diamond Panel
  • June 28, Diagonal Seed Stitch
  • Random Bobbles and–I can’t remember what those little warty things are called, but I love them.
  • May 16, Diamond Pattern
  • January 24, Four-Stitch Cable
  • January 1, Basket Rib (originally, I was just going to star at the beginning & go from there, but January 2 was too similar to January 1).

My favorite so far is the first one (from the bottom), the Basket Rib, which reminds me of thermal underwear and which I think would make a really great simple fitted sweater. It’s pretty bulky, but it’s also quite stretchy. And I don’t like baggy sweaters, so unless it’s fitted, I ain’t making it.

I’m a little behind. Week-wise, I’m at the beginning of February. But I didn’t start until March, and I had to order more yarn (I only had 1 ball, which I had bought as a sample). It’s the Webs Berkshire, which looks a lot like Lamb’s Pride, but the hairy part is alpaca instead of mohair, so no itch! The fabric gets softy-wofty and drapier when it’s washed. I really like it. Plus it’s $4.99 for 100g (which translates to $3.99/$3.74 with the Webs discounts), very thrifty! Many yummy colors, including lots of good reds, blues & greens, but no good chocolate browns or khakis, annoyingly.

1 ball made the first 5 squares. And they’re not really all different colors, I just sloppily adjusted the levels on the various squares to compensate for the lighting.

Not so bright

You know what’s clever? Signing on to write a bunch of knitting patterns before Prom. I’m doing some for the 2 Lion books knitgrrl is editing and 2 for Vickie Howell’s upcoming crochet book! I’m feeling both thrilled about the projects and sheepish for throwing more irons into my fire. I’m like Kelly Sue with the writing, only worse, because I’m actively seeking it out, while she’s just a girl who can’t say no. Because we don’t already have a zillion things to do. I am a dumbass and a glutton for punishment–and working on some very dandy new projects, so there. I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t knit otherwise. I can’t control myself with the knitting, so I might as well make a little scratch off it, right? And they’re not actually due until after Prom. And most of them are practically written already. And it’s work, and work is good, right? And knitting reduces stress, right? Ah, very nice. Procrastination by way of knitting, neatly justified.

As long as I’m deluding myself, now I’m going to go pretend the thunderstorm that’s on its way is going to magically bypass the leaky roof and/or that the guy who came to give us an estimate on the repair didn’t look at the wrong fucking roof, and also that I called him back immediately and he came right back out and looked at the right one, and the estimate was very low and so we said, take care of it! and he fixed it and so thunderstorm, shumderstorm! La la la la la.

There is no spoon. There is no spoon.

And as penance for making sure I have an excuse to knit & crochet, I’m going to go move those eleventy million boxes of craft supplies in the hallway into the craft room. I’m not actually going to unpack and orgainze them; I don’t have that much stamina. But I can move them. Ooh! I even have a dolly. Goody goody gumdrops!

FREE PATTERN: Inca Cotton Tank

Inca Cotton TankTime: 6 hours

Cost: $12 – $14

Skills: knitting in the round with circular needles

Level: beginnner

You can wear it with the ribbon woven through the whole thing, or (how I’m wearing it now) with the ribbon woven through just the eyelets between front &/or back straps and cinched up a bit.

Calling this a 1-ball pattern seems a little cheaty. Technically, it does use just 1 hank of yarn, but they’re big hanks. But, I don’t control the put-up size, so there. 1 ball it is!

Inca Cotton is a thick/think super-soft, baby-yummy cotton, but a little sheddy to knit, so don’t wear black, or it will look like you rubbed yourself all over with a cotton ball.


  • 1 hank (about 8 oz) Henry’s Attic Inca Cotton (100% organic cotton), Sage (a green/natural twist)
  • 1.5 yds 1/2″ sage green grosgrain ribbon (verision 1) or 1 or 2 1-yd lengths green or teal velvet ribbon (the velvet stuff was from The Ribbon Jar)


Women’s M, with a lot of wiggle room. Will fit a 34 – 40″ bust, measured at widest part. I was going to try it on with progressively more wildly padded bras to see just how far it would go, but I can’t find it. It’s either in a hamper, or was crammed away somewhere stupid in my last mad dash-and-stash cleaning frenzy.


US 10.5 24″ circular


13 st = 4″ in stockinette st


CO 100. Join & PM, being careful not to twist stitches.

Eyelet top edge: *K2tog, YO, repeat to end.

K 21 rnds.

Place dart markers: K40, PM, K10, PM, K40, PM, K8 (not quite finishing row).

Starting 2 st before row marker, ssk, SM, K2tog, the continue in stockinette, repeating ssk/K2tog decreases around each marker. You’ll work all your increases & decreases in the same way, starting before that first marker (since the rnd marker is also your 1st dart marker).

K1 rnd

Repeat decrease rnd

K 10 rnd

Increase around each marker by K tfbl on stitch before and after each marker

K 3 rnds

Increase rnd, as above.

K 4 rnds

Increase rnd

K 5 rnds

Increase rnd

K 6 rnds

Increase rnd

K 7 rnds

Increase rnd

Work 2 rnds in seed & BO.

With RS facing, examine bust darts. Each side will have 2 darts centered in the middle. Follow stitches up from darts to top edge, then count 4 eyelets out from that stitch & mark with a pin or locking stitch marker. Repeat for remaining 3 darts

With WS facing, working from one of the front strap markers, PU 4 st around each marker thusly: 1 into the stitch on the left of the eyelet, one into the eyelet hole itself, 1 into the stitch above the eyelet, and one into the stitch on the right of the eyelet.

Work 48 rows in garter, slipping the first stitch of every row. BO.

Repeat for other side, being sure you’re starting on the front & not the back marker.

Sew each strap into place over the marked position on the back.

Weave in all ends.

Starting at the start of the row, which will be comparatively untidy, weave the ribbon back and forth between the eyelets so that imperfect spot will be obscured by ribbon (i.e., the ribbon should go over that part, not under it). Tie in a bow to suit.

Tshirt yarn

All those dyed shirts, cut into strips. The 2-color ones were made from sweatshirt rags, dyed separately & then stitched into big loops. The darker balls all started gray. I’m carrying a strand of wine-colored Schulana Morbido (80% wool/20% nylon, sorta lofty thick/thin) along the whole way.

I’m trying to decide what stitch to use. The Alterknitsversion just uses garter. I experimented with plain garter, this moderately pleasing thermaly stitch that probably has an actual name (K1 row, P 1 row, *K1, Sl1 wyib 1 row, *K1 Sl1 wyif 1 row), and the K1 Sl1 wyif every row pattern used in that woven strips rug in Simple Knits with a Tiwst. I tried them all for about a ball’s worth, then ripped them out, not able to decide. I think the last one was the best suited, but just as I was feeling well pleased with it, I decided I wanted a big fat cable down the center and ripped it all out. Then I decided that would be stupid with such busy fibers, but it was too late. Story of my life.

FREE PATTERN: Big Stripe Big Cable Capelet

Time: 8 hours?

Cost: $12

Skills: Knitting in the round on circulars, cables

Level: Beginner

I just love my little capelet (is this actually a capelet? I’m not 100% on the terminology, but it seems too little to call a poncho…). It’s toasty, but light and short enough (elbow-length) to throw over anything and still have a pretty normal range of motion. If you don’t like the rolled edges, trim in garter or seed or something unrolly, or start with a couple knit rows and a purled row & turn the edge under to hem.

It’s knit in the round from the bottom up, and there’s a simple, fat cable going up the middle. It’s a good, easy project for My First Cable. And this was, in fact, my first cable that wasn’t just a swatch. I kind of only like big fat cables.

This yarn is cheap (under $4 for a 4oz hank) and old timey and I love it. It’s called Briggs & Little, from Canada’s oldest yarn mill, apparently. It’s got lots of lanolin & feels stiff to begin, but kind of warms up as you knit it. With washing, it blooms from a somewhat stiff fabric to something soft and full and bouncy. It’s a little rough for a next-to-skin item, but it’s fantastic and sturdy for something layered, like this capelet.

This garment uses 3 natural-looking colored heathered grays. There’s a fair amount of vegetable matter you have to pick out, but I actually kind of like that, makes it feel all the more rustic.

You can mail order it from Deanna Dunsmuir in New Brunswick.


Women’s One size (SML).

Note: For larger sizes, use an extra hank or two (for instance, start with a hank of Sheep’s Gray, lighter, or Threaded White & Gray, a twist; or end with a hank of Black) and adjust pattern based on washed & blocked gauge. (If that’s too vague, email me & I’ll quit being so lazy and figure out the math.)


  • 1 hank (4 oz) each color Briggs & Little Atlantic (100% wool) in Dark Gray, Medium Gray, and Light Gray


  • US 10.5 24-30″ and 16″ circular needles
  • Close size dpn in wood or bamboo (or you can use a cable needle or the extra circular)


  • 11.5 st=4″ washed & blocked


Cable 12 back: Slip next 6 st onto cable/extra needle. Move those stitches to the back of your work, then knit the next 6 stitches on your left needle. Side the reserved stitches to the end of the needle they’re on, and knit them onto your right needle.

Cable 6 back: Slip next 3 st onto cable/extra needle. Move those stitches to the back of your work, then knit the next 3 stitches on your left needle. Side the reserved stitches to the end of the needle they’re on, and knit them onto your right needle.


Light Gray

  1. With Light Gray, CO 145. Join & PM, being careful not to twist st.
  2. Place cable panel markers: K64, P2, PM, K12, PM, P2, K to end.
  3. Work 13 more rnds in pattern
  4. K 64, P2, SM, Cable 12 back, SM, P2, K to end
  5. Work 8 more rnds in pattern

Switch to Medium Gray. Starting with #3, work as for Light Gray.

Switch to Dark Gray.

Note: You’ll need to switch to the smaller needles after a few decrease rows–after the cable is a convenient point.

  1. Work 9 rows in pattern.
  2. PM for raglan shoulder decreases: K24, PM, K24, PM, K16, P2, SM, K12, SM, P2, K16, PM K24, PM, K to end.
  3. Decrease before and after each shoulder marker (not cable markers or row end marker!) every other rnd, three times–121 st
  4. Work rnd in pattern, working Cable 12 back at center panel.
  5. Decrease before and after each shoulder marker (not cable markers or row end marker!) every other rnd, two more times–105 st
  6. Work 1 rnd plain
  7. Decrease before and after each shoulder marker (not cable markers or row end marker!) every rnd, three times–81st
  8. Decrease one last time before and after each shoulder marker, and also work the following decrease/cable between the cable markers: ssk, K1, Cable 6 back, K1, K2tog.
  9. Work row plain, except between cable markers: ssk, K4, K2tog.

BO. Weave in all ends, working in ends at color joins in duplicate for a few stitches, then weaving in normall.

Soak in cool water with wool wash or shampoo for 5 minutes. Squeeze suds through gently, rinse gently, roll in towels, pat into place, and let air dry.

Here’s a crappy picture of me wearing the capelet, which is a little rumpled from being worn nonstop for a week & then wadded up on a chair for another week. It’s I’m useless with the auto-timer, so I’ll try to get Ron to take a fresh, pretty shot next time I get around to washing it.

big stripe big cable capelet