Acorn Hill Ponies ( & Unicorns)

Pretty sweet, don’t you think? I’m especially proud of this knit because the pattern on Ravelry bears my name, with attribution to and permission from the original Waldorf school designer. Here’s the Rav freebie: Acorn Hill Pony. My lead version is knit in Blue Sky Fibers Extra, with a mane worked in colorful wool oddments from a Lorna Miser slipper kit.

This version is knit in purchased handspun. The gray was simply labeled Emily, which I figured was the sheep’s name. And the sweet pink/brown handspun is from Alpena Michigan’s Spruce Shadow farm.

The original Acorn Hill Pony is attributed to an unidentified knitter associated with the Acorn Hill school, a Waldorf kindergarten and nursery in Silver Spring, Maryland. In May of 2017 the school’s administrator, Janet Johnson, gave written permission for this pattern to be published to Ravelry, with my modifications and an extensive re-write of the original pattern to conform to the sensibilities of modern knitters.

In this next version the Spruce Shadow pink/brown colorway is the body. The Lorna’s Laces yarn again provides the mane and tale.

Here’s the herd. For the pink and the gray version I decided to experiment with safety eyes. That’s not “Waldorf-approved,” but they still worked out well.

At one point I had a lot of extra pink wool yarn from the Merino Sheepskin Company. Apparently my inner Barbie kicked in. Pink ponies tumbled off my needles.

Here’s a look at how this quartet took shape. As you see: easy peasy. All one piece.

The sewing-up takes very little time. I typically seam them looking at the right side, leaving a stuffing hole in the belly.

Here they are looking a little scary. I don’t usually use safety eyes mostly because that’s not a Waldorf thing.

When you look at the projects on Ravelry, you’ll see that it’s the stuffing that has tripped up a few folks. When my son was in Waldorf school I stuffed with unspun wool. That got pricey. For decades now I’ve stuffed my animals with polyfill. But–whatever stuffing you decide to use–you are going to need a lot of it. Experienced toy knitters know that. I think it trips up some of the newbies. There are quite a few Acorn ponies on Rav with front legs that don’t hold the weight of the pony’s head. Either that or some knitters planned on having a trick pony who is bowing to the audience. Bottom line. Stuff firmly. And shape the “gesture” of the horse you want before you sew up the belly.

IA few Wolverines snuck in to this next herd.

These Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride ponies were donated together for a local nonprofit gift shop. Here’s a look at the herd-in-process.

This next pony’s a recent version all in Lamb’s Pride Worsted. Purple Pony has pride-of-place in my Grand Rapids knitting room. I’ve knit half-a-million of these ponies over the last 35 years or so. They are so popular that Purple Pony is the only one that hasn’t yet been gifted or donated.

By now you may be weary of ponies. I got the idea to change my pony into a unicorn because some of the Ravelry knitters had done that. Cool! (Plus my granddaughter loves unicorns.)

It has been a joy to see the creatives among us play with this pattern. Ravelry’s knitters have saddled the pony. They’ve embroidered and appliqued his hide. They’ve knit a basketful of ponies. And they’ve even knit a herd of longhorn cows!

The Acorn Hill school’s generosity is greatly appreciated. They let me rescue and reinvigorate a wonderful critter pattern. And the school was grateful in turn because they’d lost the pattern over the years. I was able to restore the original pattern to them, along with my update.

Red stuff day

This is Faye Kennington’s fun “Off With Her Head” design. She writes that “The hearts and flouncy garden trellis motif of this hat have an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality to them.” Indeed they do. My Glass Head shudders to think of Iracebeth’s a/k/a the Queen of Hearts uttering her famous cruel phrase. Maybe it brings up old memories from the glass factory? Anyway, the hat does have an Alice in Wonderland look going.

And somehow this hat also conjures up a much less threatening Valentine’s Day vibe. I knit mine in Berroco Ultra Wool Worsted. The yarn is a sturdy superwool that’s skeined up in a huge variety of colorways including many solid shades.

The pattern is wonderfully clear. The fair isle chart didn’t even need magnifying to make it a comfy-on-the-eyeballs knit. It was almost completely clear of longer floats. That’s definitely a plus in fair isle work.

I followed the pattern precisely, including working the ribbing for 3.25 inches. If I knit it again I believe I’ll either shorten or lengthen the ribbing because the hat’s a tad awkward to wear. The ribbing is too short to fold over nicely. But with the ribbing unfolded the hat lengthens into more of a slouchy than I prefer. Still, an excellent pattern. And a fun knit!

The position of the hearts just before the crown decreases begin is a great look.

Next up, red socks.

These are Carol A. Anderson’s Iowa Crew/Cruise Socks. Mine are knit in a new-to-me yarn, Raggen by Viking of Norway. It’s another sturdy worsted in 70% wool 30% nylon. Steve’s pair has machine washed well–absolutely no felting.

Anderson’s been at the helm of Cottage Creations for a month of Sundays. Her booklets have been digitized and are now available on Ravelry. The pre-printed booklets are also still available through the Cottage Creations website and at many local yarn shops.

If you need a warm pair of boot socks or bed socks, this fits the bill. The pattern is written for all size feet. As with all Anderson’s patterns, she holds a knitter’s hands in a tight grip throughout the knit. The patterns are wordy and folksy. They make for a good read as well as a good knit.

Back to hats. This next one is Susan Villas Lewis’s Breck knit in sportweight Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. This my fourth Breck. You’ll find the others here and here. I haven’t yet found a color combination that doesn’t work.

The simple slip stitch work has always been very effective for me. Go for the high contrast is my only advice. My sense is that it’s the mix of stockinette and garter that makes this hat stand out from the crowd. And the knit 2, purl 1 relaxed ribbing throughout the body is a great touch too.

The crown decreases are simple. But they work. It doesn’t bother me that the ribbing first changes to 1 by 1 and then to stockinette as the crown stitches draw closer together.

Breck is a seriously excellent pattern. Give it a try, especially since DK weight seems to be squeezing the sportweight yarns off the shelf. I’m finding sportweight somewhat over-represented in the sale shelfs of my local yarn shops.

Whether it’s Valentine’s or Galentine’s or Palentine’s …or even just another Wednes Day…have a great 14th!

February critter call

This trio gave me the giggles at every step of the knitting. They are Cheezombie Garden Slugs. I splurged and knit mine in Noro Silk Garden. I love the resultant color-changing nature of their skins–or whatever is the proper name for a mollusks’ outer gelatinousness. Their donut lips and eye stalks are knit in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted. The three bodies together used less than one skein of Silk Garden.

Think of all the gardeners you know, or all the people who don’t garden for that matter, and that’s who’d likely get a kick out of these guys. Their bodies are knit all in one piece. One seam. Sew on the lips. Done. No fiddly little bits to deal with.

These slugs tend to fall on their faces and take a bit of a nap unless you weigh down their tail ends with something. I broke down and bought a small bag of polybeads to bolster this trio. The beads worked well. Except for the part where static electricity took over and stuck them in all the wrong places as I stuffed them into the tails. I was picking up beads from the floor, the table, and even my shirt for a few days.

I gifted this trio of slugs to a trio of sisters, my nieces. They were delighted. My nieces that is. Maybe the slugs were delighted too I suppose.

Next up. Another Annita Wilschut Olivier. Knit in worsted weight this is a large pup.

I’ve knit Olivier twice before, check them out here and here. He was basically a scrap yarn pup in my first knit and turned out super cute even though not all his limbs ended up precisely the same size. Knitted critters can be quite forgiving of that. So can children. The next time I knit him in super colorful Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted. It’s a great look.

This time I used Jamieson’s Shetland Heather, an Aran-weight. A good friend gifted me six 50-gram balls. Olivier consumed just over 200 grams,

His color scheme worked out really well. He’s been gifted to an adult and she couldn’t be happier with him.

The goofy little tail is probably my favorite body part.

There’s finally been a few sunny days here in southwest Michigan. Thirty one days in January and the sun shone on only one of them! Sunshine makes a knitter think spring. So do Claire Garland’s Sitting Hares. I knit mine in DK Schachenmayr Merino Extra-fine 120.

Sitting Hare is an easy garter stitch knit. Just a touch of short row shaping give them a subtle hare-like gesture. A quick fun knit.

How about one more look at that slug trio?

Some knitters knit these slugs by the basketfuls. I may need to knit a great big glob of them in a bunch of sizes. Changing the weight of the yarn and the needle size would do it. Maybe I’ll even knit a few slime paths to trail behind them. Such silliness. Critters definitely bring out that goofy inner child in a knitter.

Same Encore, different stuff

It’s back. If you’re a regular reader and you’re surprised, I am too. I thought I was done with “same yarn different stuff” posts. Turns out I was wrong.

I bought four skeins of Plymouth Yarns worsted weight Encore in Winter White and four skeins in Lagoon for a baby blanket I planned to knit. I thought I’d have one extra skein but I hadn’t yet decided which color would be my main color and which would be the contrast. Turns out I that after knitting the blanket I had enough left over for 2 accessory knits. So I thought I’d return to my past “theme” and write about how my Encore worked out in three different knits.

The hat is a fairly new pattern from Shelby Nichols, the Sava Springs Cap. That pair of mittens tucked around Glass Head’s neck is Sophie McKane’s Coin Slot Mittens. And the star of the show, that slip stitch/mosaic baby blanket, is Amy Marie Vold’s Sleeping Under the Stars.

Here’s a view of the entire blanket. I rate it a spectacular design for a wee one.

I knit the stars in the contrast-color (white) and the background in the main-color (teal). My blanket is 33.5 wide and 35.5 long (so almost square). Encore kept those dimensions even after machine washing (on delicate) and machine drying (on a low temperature). As I knit the blanket I was concerned that the mosaic stitch was creating too firm a fabric. I was knitting basically at gauge on US size 8 needles and I was concerned that if I moved up to a size 9 I’d run out of yarn. I want the blanket to nestle nicely around the new babe and not just sit atop him like a stiff paper bag. So I was concerned about the firmness of the fabric. But Encore saved the day, relaxed nicely into the stitch, and softened in the washer and dryer. I’m completely satisfied.

I took the designer’s advice and used the Chinese Waitress Cast-on with a matching Double Chain Cast-off. If you haven’t tried these techniques yet, consider taking them for a test drive. Admittedly the cast-on is a little fiddly at first. But you’ll pick up speed in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. The cast-off is super easy. The result is that your knitting will begin and end with a neatly chained row of stitches. Quite spiffy.

With some of the remaining Encore I decided to knit the Coin Slot Mittens. While shopping at Country Needleworks recently I made myself comfortable and browsed through their crates of discounted patterns. This one commanded my attention and my frugal bone. 99 cents for what looked like an excellent pattern.

I wasn’t wrong. The fair isle in this mitten is easy and well planned. The directions are error-free. And I was super pleased to see that the charts were super-sized so I wouldn’t need to test my computer skills to try to enlarge them. My new personal wimpy-knitter whine is charted patterns so small you need magnifying glasses to read them.

The coin-slot top pattern integrates well with the palm and thumb patterns. I followed the instructions exactly and it worked out perfectly. The mittens did need an extra amount of sewing repair at the base of the thumb though. The pattern calls for placing the thumb gusset stitches on a holder and then casting on a bunch of stitches using the backward loop method. Next time I knit these I’ll likely substitute an afterthought thumb.

The mittens needed a good soak to relax the stitches and let the coin slots emerge. Next time I will try to be more aware that I need to loosen my tensioning over the slot section.

After knitting the mittens I had an entire skein of white left and a tad more than a half-skein of teal. I had the Sava Springs Cap in my queue and decided it would be a good fit for the yarn.

I wasn’t wrong. This beefy worsted, sometimes identified as an Aran weight, worked out well.

The pattern provides alternatives for the cuff. You can work a short section of ribbing, a traditional longer folded rib cuff, or a doubled cuff. I decided the doubled cuff would be totally cozy. I started with a crochet provisional cast-on. Be sure to follow the pattern directions and knit (no purls) one round after the cast-on or you’ll have a royal mess to untangle when you try to unravel the cast-on. After knitting the proper length of cuff you unravel the cast-on and place those stitches on a circular needle. Tucking that extra needle of stitches inside the cuff creates the folded cuff. Then continue with your working needle, knitting one stitch from the working needle with one stitch from the needle containing the stitches that emerged once you unravelled the cast-on. Once you complete the round you’ll have a permanently folded cuff.

The crown decreases create an attractive well-behaved top. If you gift the non-pompomed hat to a kid you can look down at their head and congratulate yourself. They won’t look like their head comes to a point.

I decided a colorful pompom would work well with this hat. I use a Clover pompom maker to make my pompoms. The not-so-secret to using that tool to achieve a very full pompom is to stuff it so full of wound yarn that it will barely close.

I abhor wobbly pompoms so I sew them on very firmly, going back and forth through the core of the pompom 2-3 times. That makes them very difficult to remove when washing the hat though. And pompoms do not weather machine washing very well. So pick your poison I guess. A wobbling pompom or one that matts somewhat after washing. Sewing a snap onto the bottom of the pompom and the top of the hat can work. But my sewing skills aren’t quite up to the task.

I’m so pleased with how my Sleeping With The Stars worked out that I thought I’d give you another look.

Two warm hats

We’ve had the weirdest entry into winter in recent memory here in southwest Michigan. December was the warmest on record in eons. And there was no snow. None. OK. One dawn we woke to a dusting on the lawn but it was gone with the sunrise so that doesn’t count. But snow is on the way in the coming week or so. The 1/2 inch we had last night hasn’t yet disappeared and it’s nearly noon. Plus very soon the highs will be only in the 20’s (Fahrenheit). Definitely the time to feature hats.

This first pattern is Jeanette DeVita’s Seafarer’s Beanie. It’s a freebie available through Ravelry or directly downloadable at The Seaman’s Church Institute website. I don’t think I can do better than the Institute’s website to describe itself and its mission:

Since 1898, volunteers of the Seamen’s Church Institute have knitted, collected, packed, and distributed gifts to mariners who were miles away from home during the holidays. Today, for seafarers calling on the Port Newark and Elizabeth in New Jersey, the gift consists of two hand-knitted garments, a Christmas card, and information on SCI’s services for mariners along with toiletries like hand lotion, lip balm, and toothbrushes, and individually-packaged candy or snacks. The items for the seafarers’ gifts are housed in an individual hand-sewn ditty bag, and they are delivered to the ships by SCI chaplains from the Monday before Thanksgiving through Epiphany on January 6. Mariners working on U.S. inland rivers receive a box for each boat containing handmade Christmas cards and a knit for each mariner.

The only modification I made to DeVita’s pattern was to work the double-thick earband by knitting the live stitches into the cast-on ones. Joining live stitches to a traditional cast-on is always an awkward process for me. So I used a provisional crochet cast-on. And when the time came for the join, I removed the provisional cast-on, placed the stitches on a second circular needle, and then knit the two sets of live stitches together onto my working needle. That worked well. Also, it made for a more stretchy join that helps the hat fit larger heads.

The crown decreases are super simple but very effective in making sure that the top of the hat lays flat. Allright. A digression. I know that English grammar is not a matter of consensus building. But does the top of my hat lay flat or lie flat? What I recall being drilled into me is that you lay in a bed you don’t lie in it. (Though I supposed you might speak lies in a bed also.) And you lie with your mouth and obviously don’t lay with your mouth. In search of some clarity, I consulted the Associated Press Stylebook.

AP says that “lie indicates a state of reclining along a horizontal plane and does not take a direct object.” The phrase “lay flat” has no direct object. And maybe my hat’s crown is sort of in a state of reclining along a horizontal plane. Do you think? The past tense of lie in the reclining sense is “lay.” That’s way too much for my head. AP acknowledges that “lie” means speaking an untruth. Clarity has not been achieved. So let me try this again. The super simple crown decreases make sure the top of the hat doesn’t come to a point.

I knit my first Seafarer’s Beanie in Plymouth Yarns Galway Worsted. It’s such a reliable workhorse wool. And it’s available at a decent price point in lots of colorways. For my second knit of this pattern I chose Kelbourne Woolens Germantown. Great wool yarn. Not such a great price point though. Many fewer colorways but every one is a winner.

This teal version has been getting a lot of favorites on Ravelry since I posted it. Maybe that’s just because I offered the tip about starting with a provisional cast-on. It’s such a reliably great pattern. Both hats were selected from this year’s Pick-Your-Gift in an early round. Here’s the beanie laying flat. Or is it maybe lying flat?

Next up is another Seaman’s Church Institute freebie: Kristine Byrnes’s 1898 Hat. Here’s a direct link to the pdf on the Institute’s website if you’d rather go that route. (Let’s not start on the subject of singular possessives with names ending in an “s.”)

My skein of Lamb’s Pride Alaskan Sea must have been a bit short on the yardage. So I used an oddment of Orange You Glad Lamb’s Pride to add in some stripes. I’m very pleased with how that worked out.

This is a great whirligig crown decreases that behaves itself well.

If you haven’t knit this hat before you’ll be surprised about how its earband is knit. Here’s a teaser: that’s not an I-cord at the bottom edge. And both the inside and the outside of the double thick earband are knit flat at the same time. Totally clever.

A lot of knitters have found that the earband works best if it’s knit on a smaller size needle than the body of the hat. I used US size 7 for the earband and size 9 for the body. Major pumpkin-heads may find this hat’s a tad snug. Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride can stand up to size 10 needles and that might work better for the big heads among us, including me.

To quote a famous piggie “Th-Th-The, Th-Th-The, Th-Th… That’s all, folks!” Welcome to 2024!