Since moving to the smallholding I wear a lot of hats, literally and metaphorically!! I have a few favourites…
My lattice hat, knitted up in a gorgeous sock weight alpaca yarn I bought on the Great London Yarn Crawl, my River Knits yarn hat, which is a gorgeous sock weight yarn and I knitted a super slouchy beanie hat in it!
More recently I have been knitting up hats for a few people around here and using double knit yarn!
This one is knitted in our hilltop blend and it is rarely off the farmers head at the moment!
I have also been finding the boy’s hat strewn about the place…. this one was found out by the stream in the last cold snap frozen solid!!
I often get a lot of comments as people see me knit out and about, or see the yarns, or my knitted socks….. “I wish I could knit”
Well the honest truth is it takes practice, but its actually quite easy!! and realistically if you can knit, purl and can google what the other terminology means then you can pretty much knit ANYTHING!! This thought is borne out in some of the FB groups for knitters I am in and seeing some of the amazing first projects people have put out!!
My first project, when I relearnt to knit in my 20’s was a blanket! Several million (well it felt like it towards the end) small knitted squares and then I taught myself to crochet to put them all together! This blanket now resides in the boys room on the rocking chair, has sat round my shoulders whilst I fed them in the small wee hours and might need the odd repair as they now haul it about over their heads to be ghosts etc.
I then knit a LOT of hats!!! At first seamed and then after discovering the local Stitch and Bitch group in Cardiff and support and enabling properties that came with, I moved onto in the round, graduated to socks, sweaters and shawls and never looked back!!
Then I started to dye and design my own patterns for things I couldn’t find quite what I wanted in the huge bank of patterns out there in the world.
So I guess I am saying….
I am going to launch a series of videos over on the YouTube Channel for learning how to knit….!!
Eek there I have said it!
I also plan to resurrect Maker’s Monday over on the Channel and do a monthly update of what I have been making, whether that be knitting, crochet, sewing, spinning or weaving, dyeing, designing etc! So feel free to hop on over subscribe and check out the videos I have made already over there!!
Now I love sock weight yarns… I certainly dye up enough of them! and I love socks knitted out of them…. but I am finding with more limited knitting time these days with the two kids, a smallholding and a few businesses to sort that sock weight yarn socks just takes an age….. I have definitely been more in the mood for quick and easy finish projects.
More recently I have been using the DK yarns to make up socks! The Rustic ranges of DK both make up gorgeous socks and the Hilltop does too!
I have even designed a few patterns for DK weight socks!! You can find them here on Ravelry, or in my Etsy shop.
I have been knitting up some custom socks for a smallholder friend and her husband and have the second set of two pairs ready to go to her. The farmer whose fleeces became the Hilltop yarn blend has requested a pair of socks as well made up from the yarn from his sheep. He is currently living in the hat I knit him!
So…. I thought I would add in a plain set of DK socks as a free pattern… You can download the pattern here!! Hop on over and join the FB discussion I would love to see the socks you knit up!
I have also hit upon another idea!
I fancy a collaborative Knitalong!!
I thought a scarf, as this would allow newer knitters to join in the fun.
So I thought:
Cast on 30 stitches
Then each week a person in the group is chosen to provide the patterning idea for the next week’s worth of knitting.
This could be a new stitch you have been itching to try, a bit of colour work or anything you fancy, as long as you keep to the stitch count!!
Hop over, join the FB group and add a comment to the thread with the image above, then go get your needles and yarn ready! I am thinking a February 28th start date??
For the past week or so I have been slowly working away and harvesting willow.
I have been using it around the holding to make all sorts of things. Firstly Fedges…. Willow fences basically. These are living fences, provide cover for birds, food for bees and insects and lattice up beautifully as they age. I will also be using them to continually provide more basketry willow each year.
In addition, in this time of not having much cash for fencing, it provides us with a quick sustainable fencing supply!
So this year I have cut back the willow dome, arch and tunnel and a few of the larger stools and pollards. I have offered to build a dome for the boy’s school. Also I will put in some fedges to allow the infant class to have a natural corral area in their vast expanse of green.
Still there will be tonnes of basketry willow left over….
This is therefore the year I will be learning to make baskets!
Once a month I am going to tell you the story of our sheep and how we came to acquire them!
First up is our first sheep on the smallholding, Wanda. She is a Beulah Speckled Face sheep, which you can see more in later photographs.
Wanda turned up in the lane and on our yard just before I had Mati so three years ago next month. She was scared, alone bedraggled and very, very thin. We managed to coax her into our barn, but as we had sold all our hay bales that year we couldn’t keep her in there for long. Plus the barn was still a bit filthy from having been loaned out to a local farmer.
We called everyone we could think of and then a few more, trying desperately to find her owners. I sent a photo to a local lady who works for animal health and she came out to see her once we had put her out into the field.
She would come running for a bucket of feed and we managed to have a look at her ear tag numbers, which the lovely lady ran for us, to no avail as her last home recorded was on the English borders!! A heck of a long way from here! She also noted on her visit that Wanda was at least 4 years old having no teeth, and at some point recently had had scab. The scab is a notifiable disease but it had been treated, so we were warned to be watchful of her and to not let her out of the field, unless the owners came. Wanda was particularly not allowed to see other sheep until we were certain the scab was clear.
So she stayed in the field, and we put up signs as instructed. Then after 14 days she became ours…. so we got ourselves a flock number and became sheep keepers, easy we thought…..
After the 14 days were up Wanda decided she did not like the solitary life she was leading and tested every single fence, gate and hedgerow on a daily basis. She got out more times than I care to say! Remember at this point I was heavily pregnant with Mati and shouldn’t touch sheep and this continued till I had Mati in a sling for our round ups. She tried joining flocks in both of our neighbours’ fields.
We walked the lanes pretty much daily with a bucket of feed to round her up and bring her back. She happily followed me and the feed anywhere, but it became exhausting. One day we thought she had completely gone forever, as it took us walking halfway down the track that goes through the valley to the next village and part way back up before she heard me and came running for the feed. This last one was a mile and a half of walking, which doesn’t sound much, but just after having a baby, losing a scary amount of blood post birth…. still being paper white and having a toddler to wrangle along the way as well as babywearing it was enough.
We went round all the fences, gates and hedges and tried every field. Eventually we found a field she couldn’t escape from. The relief was immense! We had also in the meantime been speaking to a neighbouring farmer who kept sheep. He had a spare ewe…. and offered her to us as a friend for Wanda to help her settle into the fields and maybe stay put! Finally the friend for Wanda arrived in May 2018, but more on her in a later post!#
Wanda by May was fattening up despite her long walks…. and her fleece was growing back. The scab was completely clear. She was a very confident sheep, didn’t mind Sookie the dog (to be fair Sookie the neurotic spaniel was more afraid of Wanda!) If Will got too close and over enthusiastic then she would head butt him and put him on his bum!
These days, at probably about a minimum of 7 years old, she is still the most friendly sheep, coming running to sound of my voice. Greedy when the bucket comes out, happy to be hand fed by anyone and not fussed if she muscles in on the horse nuts too! She is now shorn every year, wormed regularly and has to have lots of hoof trims as her hooves curl in all sorts of directions! She could live to be 10-12 years old, but some live to about 20! She is certainly stubborn enough to manage that! She helps to coax some of the more nervous ones over with her enthusiasm, but also doesn’t like too many others crowding around her. She will liberally give out head butts if the mood takes her. I love her attitude!!
She is one of our bigger sheep and produces a great huge soft bouncy fleece every year! It sure makes some wonderful or should I say Wanda-full yarn!
If you fancy a bit of Wanda wool head on over to the Etsy shop, anything with Rustic in the name has Wanda fleece in!
One of the most popular yarns in our online shop are our sock weight yarns. We have several bases, Smooshie (the silk, wool blend) Sock (superwash BFL) Stardust (the one with the sparkle) and now we have the Rustic sock!
Rustic sock is spun up from our own sheep here on the smallholding at a local mill and then dyed here on the holding ready for you to knit into the perfect sock weight project. Rustic sock is the little sister of the Rustic DK. It is the same blend of Llanwennog, Beulah and Welsh white and is a gorgeous bouncy yarn that just drinks in the dyes. It knits up pretty darned nicely too! (though I am not at the stage of sharing my projects in it just yet!)
Last Friday I released the first two colourways in this base Dragon’s blood and Deep Blue Sea.
These two colourways are just gorgeous, deep, semi solid, and this yarn would make a super comfy pair of socks for walking. A shawl or scarf to keep your neck warm or a slouchie beanie hat to keep the frost off your ears!
This week I will be releasing a few more colourways in this yarn!
Winter Skyscape, Wooded walks, Oer (pronounced oi-r rolling the r
slightly, which is Welsh for cold)
Crafts from the Smallholding on the hill
For all our beautiful, sustainable Welsh yarns, in a range of vibrant colours
This Wednesday I am going to look at a pattern or two from another source!
I am currently knitting up the fabulous Arboreal sweater by Jenn Steingass (this link is in Ravelry, I am afraid there are no other links I could find where she sells the patterns outside Ravelry)
I am knitting it up using our Rustic with alpaca base which is currently up in the Etsy shop. I am using the natural beautiful grey base colour, a small amount of cream from the Rustic range and the Gentian for the blue.
It is knit up from the top down and all the colourwork is in a yoke around the neck. Beautiful leafy patterns!
The yarn is knitting up beautifully, Roger at the mill puts a lovely twist into the wool and it really is turning into one of favourites to knit with. I am also loving the combination of the natural grey of the wool with the hand dyed Gentian colour way.
True to my form though, as this knitting is for me it gets left to the bottom of the list, so was put aside for all the Christmas knitting and put aside for the custom orders….. but I plan to get back to it at least one night a week now and keep some progress going!
Jennifer Steingass has many many beautiful yoked sweater patterns so I hope this is my first of many! In fact logging into Rav has set me off again and I now rather like the Forestland sweater….. Sooo many patterns sooooo little time…..
I am starting a series of blog posts, about the things we get done and need to do around the holding…. maybe accountability, maybe a kick up the bum when we need it, maybe all just pie in the sky….. I will add videos onto the YouTube Channel for a monthly tour of the main bits of the holding as well! Hopefully around the same time as my monthly updates posts!
So for a first posting, maybe a list of to dos I seem to add to almost daily. These are over and above our daily chores of feeding and watering the animals which has to be done whatever the weather, although the chickens didn’t like the snow we had recently!
So my list at the moment:
Barn gutterings and down pipes (this will have to wait till later in the year and for a dry time, but we have managed to repair the middle barn sidings so far less water incursion there)
Tin hut finishing (there are MANY small and large jobs for this to happen but it will happen this year!)
New duck enclosure, they need a new house, more space and we plan to add it onto the current large chicken run
New willow plantings, both basketry and biofuel (J has finally said the whole little field can be put to willow!! Yay!! Well other than my dye beds, which will move up to allow for the duck enclosure to be added.
Renovate chicken shed enclosure after fox incursion last year, make the run ‘walk in able’
Make a hedgehog enclosure, Holly will need a safe outdoor garden space to live in come the spring, with log piles, a shallow pond and sleeping box.
2 long hedgerows to cut and reshape into a hedge rather than the tangled mess, and to also add to our wood supplies for next year.
Camping pitch x1 in the far pasture.
Start clearing the holding field for building work/landscaping though this will be an ongoing project over the next few years. I plan to build a cabin to run courses and more forest school etc.
Planting, growing, harvesting, fruit and veg
Planting and growing dye plants
Ongoing garden projects, both for the children and for flowers and prettiness!
Make a pond
Make more wildlife garden areas
Continue clearing and sorting the inside of the barns, removing rubbish, from years of accumulation both by us and the previous owners. Making workable areas and storage.
Pigs, at some point in the springtime the pigs will head off on their final journey to the abattoir
We have always had lots of plans each year for this place, last year we did a lot of gardening and we managed a few final fencing jobs, some holiday let building, a pig house, and a play palace for the boys. In fact since we bought the place in 2014 we have built a house, started and almost completed a second, built a veg garden, three huge raised beds and a polytunnel, planted an orchard, fenced and fenced and fenced. We have built a fruit cage, planted withy beds, a dome and a tunnel, more gardening after beating back enormous bramble forests….
So far this year, we have managed to start cutting back one of the hedgerows, the longest in fact! We are about halfway down the inner side, the outer side was done by tractor flail cutting. So just the tops to do on that half and then into the really overstood half! This has so far gained us about 5 foot more garden space for the holiday let. Now I need to chip the brash and get the willow fedge planted and the holiday let garden can rest till spring, when patio, gate building and planting will start in earnest. The far field hedge will allow us to plant some quick growing pines, for biodiversity, screening and firewood and also to prepare the camping pitch and compost loo site for the summer months.
We have planted our little horse chestnut tree, we have mastered sourdough and we have measured, planned out and written a to order list for the three new enclosures or extensions we need to build.
Each week I am going to spotlight a yarn, pattern or something wooly!!
This week it is the turn of the new Hilltop DK yarn!
Just before Christmas the local Mill rang to say that the yarn from this year’s shearing was able to be collected! Sooooo Exciting!!!! So I hopped in the car and drove the twenty minutes to the mill to collect it ASAP!
This year we had two different lots spun up. I purchased the fleeces from my neighbours new yearling lamb flock, who are Balwen and Torddu, basically Welsh hill sheep. Hence the name of the blend! I was super excited to see what this blend of fleece had turned out like! It is GORGEOUS!!
Its is bouncy and super warm when knitted up. I have already knit up a hat for the farmer, so he can wear the sheep to feed the sheep and I don’t think it has left his head these past weeks with the snow and ice! I have also knitted up a pair of double knit socks for James in this yarn.
James reckons they are the warmest socks he has (and he has a number of pairs of supposedly thermal ones!!) They also look to be really hardwearing as boot socks. Something I most definitely look for when choosing yarn for socks for my husband as he is soooo hardwearing on socks. I have watched many a beautiful pair disintegrate into holes rather too rapidly for my liking. I am not talking of little darnable holes either!! A pair of size 10 socks is just over a skein of yarn, so why not grab two and do contrasting cuffs and toes??
The feel of the yarn is akin to that of the Icelandic wool and as such I don’t feel that it is suitable for neck wear for example, but as a sweater I might line the collar line, but it would do well as a good outdoor sweater for the winter months. Especially working outside in the cold. I have managed to dye some of the yarn up already and it is drinking the dye in beautifully making for really rich colours with plenty of depth.
I will be releasing the natural coloured yarn and two rich deep colourways on Friday this week!!!!! (did you see the sneak peek on Instagram??)
Into the wild via the Etsy store, so if you fancy grabbing a skein or two pop over to the shop on Friday! In the meantime there are plenty of gorgeous yarns to coo over and buy in the shop already!! Including our popular Rustic with Alpaca DK, Pure Llanwenog DK (even in a rainbow of miniskeins!! And as always our ever popular sock yarns!!