Maryland Sheep and Wool was a lot of fun this year! I drove up with Caroline on Saturday morning and we met Laurie there. The three of us spent about six hours, minus fifteen minutes for lunch, walking around looking at everything! It wasn’t too crowded, probably because the forecast called for rain in the middle of the day but clear skies on Sunday. Indeed, we did get drizzled on a tiny bit, but not a lot. And there was a lot of mud on the ground; I was glad to have my boots. But because we did very little standing around and waiting, I didn’t get very many pictures.

I couldn’t resist pausing for these paintings, though – and later I got a good shot of their subjects.

And then there was the shopping. I went to the festival armed with lists of possibilities. On one hand, if I could find inexpensive DK-weight yarn, I could knit up some more of the colourwork hats that I have charted out. On the other hand, I was invited to join a “Combo Spin” team for this year’s Tour de Fleece, so I had noted down some of the coordinating colours of fibre already in my stash. Whichever I found first, I said, I would go with for the rest of the day.

It was the fibre, and it was the greens and pinks of a rose garden.

First I found some Ashland Bay merino/tussah in the “Autumn” colourway. Their dyed fibre in this blend is apparently being discontinued, so it was on sale and I bought eight ounces of it. I’m sad that it won’t be made anymore and I’m seriously considering looking around the internet to see if there’s any more at discount prices. Once it’s gone, it’s gone – and I really love Ashland Bay fibre. It may not have the prestige of being handpainted but it’s consistent, it drafts well, the colours are lovely, and it feels nice. Ah well.

Then I saw this FatCatKnits braid in “Ranchero,” on both a plain merino and a merino swirl base. After much deliberation, I went with the swirl, and I regret nothing.

My third buy was a Greenwood Fiberworks braid in merino/bamboo/silk called “Spice Market.” There were a few other colourways that would have worked, but I resisted buying them all.

I brought everything home and set it all up on the table with the two braids of fibre that had gotten me started down this road in the first place: Into the Whirled “Martini & Rossi” romney, and Cloverleaf Farm “Cranberry Bog” merino. I bought that merino nine years ago, before I was good enough to spin it, and I’m glad that it will finally be part of a project. But I thought the group needed something else… not just for quantity, but for the overall colour scheme, to keep it from being too dark.

This braid of Romney that Amabel gave me last year seems to fit in perfectly. I might card a few batts to bring the total up to two pounds, because I have a plan for (eventually) making a sweater from this pile of squishiness. (Also because I haven’t carded up a blended batt in a while, and it seems like a fun thing to do on this cool and windy day.)

So what’s a Combo Spin, anyway? The idea is that you take a bunch of fibre with one or two colours in common, split it up into many small pieces, and randomize the pieces to make a blend. Once it’s spun and plied, you end up with a mostly homogenized yarn that looks like it was all meant to be together. The colours get evenly distributed throughout the whole yarn, and the textures of the different fibres combine in really interesting ways. There’s a thread on the Ravelry forums with further explanations and examples, or you can check out this video.

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I was in the artsy-crafts store the other day and saw this ball of Sugar ‘n Cream in a new colourway that I just could not resist (Pebble Beach Ombre). And for $1.20, why should I? So I brought it home with me. At first I was going to make my usual washcloth pattern, but then I had the idea (perhaps inspired by mopping the floor) that I should come up with a textured stitch that would be useful as a washcloth, dishcloth, or re-usable mop pad. It came out so pretty that I wanted to share… so here it is. (It’s also on Ravelry if you prefer a pdf for your library.)

I started with a chain of 36 stitches and a US H / 5mm hook for a washcloth of about 10″ / 25 cm. Any even number of stitches to start will work just fine.

Scrubbing Nubbles Washcloth

Yarn: 1 ball Sugar ‘n Cream or other worsted weight cotton, 95 yards / 57 grams
Hook: US H / 5mm

Row 1: Chain 36. Skip the first chain and sc across (35 stitches). Chain 1, turn.
Row 2: (sc, tr) across, ending with sc. Chain 1, turn.
Row 3: sc across. Chain 1, turn.
Row 4: (tr, sc) across, ending with tr. Chain 1, turn.
Row 5: sc across. Chain 1, turn.

Repeat Rows 2 through 5 until the cloth is the size you like.

Optional hanging loop: When you reach the end of your final row, chain 15 off the corner, then sc back down the chain. Fold to create the loop and sl st to attach the end to the corner of the cloth. If you prefer a border on your washcloths, you can sc around the whole cloth, putting three sc into each corner (except for the one with the loop).

Fasten off yarn, weave in ends, and enjoy your new washcloth!

The texture is so neat that I took a giant picture of it. At 3658 x 2774, it could be used for phone/computer wallpaper. Feel free to download it here.

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Last May we bought a fleece at MD Sheep and Wool.

We were only going to look at the fleeces, not buy one. We were only going to compare a few, not buy one. We were only going to pet them, not buy one.

Suuuuure we were.

Pictured: two people who don’t yet know that they’re in over their heads.

We washed it all, and opened up some locks, and carded a few batts.

Pictured: All the fleece that can be fed into a drum carder at one time. It is… not a lot.

And then we lost steam.

But today! Today was a fibre day. We were going to get this project reinvigorated! We decided to work on opening locks, so that everything would be ready for the drum carder. Two hours later the box of flicked locks was quite full but the fleece itself didn’t look any smaller… and we gave up. This is just too much for us. We have other projects that we want to work on, and quite honestly, this isn’t very much fun at all.

Pictured: a very, very small fraction of the total fleece, which weighs about 6.5 pounds after washing.

It’s a gorgeous fleece, and it’s going to go to a mill for processing, and then we’ll have the fun of spinning it without the tedium of carding it ourselves.

It’s been a beautiful learning experience, though.

Pictured: amazing fleece with amazing crimp.

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Moorefield is a four-colour stranded hat that I designed to celebrate ten years (can you believe it!) of this very knitblog, started on a whim one night when my sister and I got into an argument over whether pirates or ninjas were superior. I said pirates, she said ninjas, and the next thing you know… ten years, nearly 800 posts, and countless stitches later, here we are. Here’s to the next ten years!

The pattern is charted out for 128-stitch and 144-stitch hats. Choose the right size for your gauge and head! For a close-fitting hat on a 21.5″ head, I used size 4 needles and DK weight yarn to get a gauge of 6.5 stitches to the inch in the colourwork pattern. Only two colours are used per round, making it easier to knit.

Get it on Ravelry here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/moorefield-hat or click here to purchase:

(For April 3 and 4 only, the coupon code 10YEARS will give you 10% off!)

YOU WILL NEED: 16″ circular needle (optional, but recommended) and a set of five double-point needles in the size needed to get gauge for your particular yarn, a stitch marker for the beginning of the round, plus a darning needle to weave in ends. Three extra stitch markers to indicate the quarters of the hat will make it easier to keep your place in the pattern.

YARN: Four nicely contrasting colours of DK-weight yarn (or the yarn weight you prefer, based on your gauge). Five different colour schemes are provided for inspiration. The pattern sample was knit with Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool, which unfortunately seems to have been discontinued in the US, but just about any DK weight yarn should work just fine.

Get it on Ravelry here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/moorefield-hat or click here to purchase:

Important Copyright Information: The Moorefield Hat knitting pattern is © 2017 Knitting Pirate. You may not sell or otherwise distribute copies of this pattern, but you may absolutely sell the hats you make with appropriate credit given for the design. If you have any questions about what you can or can’t do with this pattern, please feel free to contact contact the Knitting Pirate.

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I’m fortunate to have friends with good cameras who are willing to point them at me and my knitting.

Just a week and a half to go!

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It’s almost here…

The hat pattern that I’ve designed as a celebration of ten years of knitblogging! Here it is enjoying a nice warm bath with a little bit of Eucalan before making its debut. I let it fully sink into the water, of course, but not before getting a picture of it floating on the suds!

After a half-hour of soaking, the hat dried over a slightly small blocking head. One of these days, I’ll get one that’s the same size as my own head! I’ve found some that are prohibitively expensive, and some that get terrible reviews, so the search will continue…

I’m thrilled with the way the crown of the hat came together. This is the part that I always have trouble envisioning when I look at the chart. When I pulled the last threads through to cinch the top tight, and saw how neat the whole thing looked, I couldn’t have been more happy with it.

The pattern is under final edits, the test-knitters have provided some feedback, and I’m super-excited to put the finishing touches on this and release it to the world! Look for it on the 4th of April!

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Moorefield Mittens (take two) – now with a cuff of a more appropriate length. I’m getting pretty good at the alternating cable cast-on, which is still a little fiddly but no longer frustrating to do. I like how the cuff looks with red as the consistent colour – it’s a different ‘feel’ than on the hat, but still nice looking. The wonky stitch tension will even out with blocking; for some reason I have more difficulty with stranding on DPNs than on circular needles.

The thumb stitches are being held aside, and I’m up to the part where I’m going to create the opening that will make these flip-top mittens. This is accomplished by knitting a row of waste yarn across the palm, then continuing on in pattern. This technique allows the colourwork to progress uninterrupted up the back of the hand.

When I made the Fleeps I knit the glove with fingers part first, and then picked up stitches across the back of the hand to make the mitten top. This time, the mitten top is knit first, and then the waste yarn across the palm will be pulled out to give me two rows of live stitches from which I can knit the glove fingers.

I made the stitches across the inside of the thumb in pattern, though it’s probable that they won’t even show in the finished object. The thumb hole seems a little large, but that might be necessary for a range of motion. When I go to knit the thumb, I could decrease by picking up just one stitch into both “corner” stitches – where the stitches on waste yarn meet the stitches I cast on to bridge the gap. That would bring the total from 26 down to 24, which might fit my skinny fingers a little better. Conveniently, it might also help to prevent holes in the thumb!

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The hat has been finished for a while now. The ends woven in, the yarn put away (sort of – more on that in a moment) and the styrofoam head located. The hat, finished but unblocked, has been sitting on the styrofoam head in my living room, where I’ve been admiring it on a nightly basis. “But,” I said to myself, “I can’t finish writing up the pattern without pictures, and I can’t take pictures without blocking the hat.”

So it had a good warm bath, luxuriating in the Eucalan suds for half an hour or so…

…and now it’s back on the styrofoam head, its stitches far more even (especially around the decreases) and looking good. The head is actually too small for the hat, so it doesn’t look as good as it might. I’d love to have a proper-sized blocking head. One day!

It has a name now, too: I’ve decided to call it Moorefield.

As for the yarn, which has been sort of put away (it’s in a cubby of the coffee table), I might be making some matching mittens. I got started but then had to rip back; the cuff on these isn’t nearly long enough. But they’re pretty, so I’m sharing anyway.

There might not be enough brown yarn left to make two full mittens, so I’ve changed the colours around in the chart to have the main stripiness be red instead of brown for the second attempt. I’m also going to do these as flip-tops, because flip-top mittens are the best thing ever. If I really focus on them, I might be able to get them done and written up in time to release along with the hat. That’s ambitious, but not impossible.

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When I vacation in new cities, I like to buy yarn as a souvenir. I don’t collect figurines or spoons or mugs; I don’t want anything that will just sit on a shelf collecting dust. Yarn, especially sock yarn, is perfect – I always know how much to buy, and when I get around to knitting it up I can remember the whole vacation and the excursion to the store. Later, when I wear the finished project, I get even more remembering! (Like the socks I was knitting in the hospital waiting room during the hours before Eldest Niece was born. I like those.)

I was in San Jose on my birthday, where I bought this skein of Malabrigo Sock in the “Lotus” colourway at Green Planet Yarn. (And Michael got a set of Karbonz DPNs, as long as we were in the store. They’re niiiice. They’re gonna be mine when he’s done knitting his socks.) I had a hard time picking just one thing to buy, and I kept getting distracted by the sample knits in the store. Some of them were really gorgeous!

After San Jose we went to Salt Lake City, where I found two yarn stores right near each other. First, we went to Unraveled Sheep, where I bought a Greenwood Fiberworks braid of merino top in the “Twilight” colourway. I have a braid of their yak/silk already, which is the softest thing I’ve ever touched, and when I found out that they’re a local dyer – well, I just had to get this one.

Next we went to Knittin’ Pretty, where I had an even harder time deciding on what to get, and finally settled on this Cascade Heritage Paints in “Teal Mix” that kept calling to me.

It was a lot of fun to visit these three shops, talking with the owners/staff, and seeing the variety of yarn, notions and samples in each one! I also made significant progress on my current pair of socks – the first one is done and the second is nearly to the heel flap. I’ve got a double handful of design ideas from people-watching in the ski lodges, too. It’s so nice to come back from vacation rested, relaxed, and full of ideas and inspiration.

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So, this mistake where I swapped a brown stitch with a blue stitch had to be fixed. I couldn’t just leave it there, not if I ever wanted to be pleased with the finished project.

I placed a removable marker around the stitch below the offender and knit to just before that column of stitches. (I’ll note that I should have put the marker into the stitch, rather than around it. I learned from this small mistake and got it right in the second column.)

…and then I dropped the next stitch off my needle and helped it to ladder down. The marker is now where it should have been: holding the stitch just below the one I need to fix and keeping the column of stitches from dropping even farther.

It was surprisingly easy to re-catch the stitches and pick them back up to the needle. Here the first column has been fixed, and I’ve moved the marker to the stitch below the one that needs fixing in the second column.

When it comes to picking up the stitches in a ladder, I’ve found that a small DPN is easier for me to use than crochet hooks. This is a US 1/2.25mm needle that I borrowed from the nearest sock-in-progress. It’s a good deal smaller than the US 4/3.5mm needles on which I’m knitting, which is beneficial if the stitches are tight.

I slipped the DPN through the lowest stitch, then picked up the strand coming from the neighbouring stitch of the appropriate colour. It’s easy to find with a little bit of tugging on the yarn. Then I can either duck the tip of the DPN with the picked-up stitch through the lower stitch, or use my fingernails to lift the lower stitch over the new one. Either way, it’s important to be careful that neither stitch is twisted and that all the yarn’s strands have been captured.

Here’s the fix! You can’t even tell that it was ever wrong.

I was just as concerned about the inside looking good as I was about the outside! Whether it was dumb luck or skills I didn’t even know I had, the inside of the hat looks exactly as it should. Once it’s been washed and blocked, it will be next to impossible to find the fixed stitches.

Q: How long did it take to fix?
A: Not very long. Less time than I spent agonizing over it, anyway. The timestamps on the pictures say it was 24 minutes, but I also spent eight of those minutes on the phone and I also paused to take pictures of the process. So maybe, maybe, it was fifteen minutes at most.

Q: Was it difficult?
A: Way easier than I thought it would be! The colours have so much contrast that it wasn’t challenging to see which strand I needed to pick up. I did split one stitch on the way up the second ladder, but I went back and fixed that too.

Q: Will you spend so much time waffling over whether to fix the mistake the next time this happens? Because you know there will eventually be a next time.
A: Of course I will.

Q: Even though you really know, deep down, that you can’t leave a mistake like that and you’re going to fix it?
A: Yup.

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