Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Crazy Eights Angora Handwarmers

School is out this week for the public school kids, so for some reason Charlotte and Lydia have taken the week off as well.  It is well past midnight here, but I am up finishing the last canner load of potatoes before heading to bed.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this for some time, and I decided to try my hand at writing my first knitting pattern.  The number eight appears frequently in this pattern, and it reminded me of a game I used to play with my grandmother--Crazy Eights.  I haven't played that game in over 40 years, and have no idea now how it was played.  Maybe someday I'll look up the rules.  Anyway, the "eights" come from the size of the needles used, eight rows of ribbing knit in the round, eight rows of stockinette stitch knit in the round, eight rows of knitting and purling back and forth to form the thumb hole, eight rows of stockinette stitch knit in the round, and finally eight rows of 1x1 ribbing, followed by a bind-off with US8 needles.

So I started off with about 1.3 ounces of chocolate tortoiseshell angora.  I didn't wash or card it; rather, I just fluffed it up and began to spin.  I spun it all onto a single bobbin and then Navajo plied it. Two hours later I had roughly 78 yards.

After washing the yarn in hot water and a little bit of Dawn to set the twist and prepare for dyeing, I rinsed it and put it in the dye pot with some hot water.  

Despite having purchased dozens of different colors of dye, I've been a little hesitant to use them, which is silly.  If I don't like the result, I can always over-dye.  Anyway, I decided to see what fire engine red from Dharma dyes looks like.

 I have no idea how the camera made the dye look blue instead of red.

The result was a bit pale and uneven, so I added more dye.

After rinsing in hot water and drying on the clothesline, this is the result.  Now for the pattern:

Crazy Eights 100% Angora Handwarmers

Notes:  Pure angora yarn lacks elasticity.  To compensate, I doubled the number of stitches one would normally cast on, and then in the first row knit two together, purl two together to form an elastic edge. This is an easy pattern.

Yarn:  Handspun 100% angora, about 60 yards (of the 78 yards in the skein)

WPI: 12
Gauge:  4.5 stitches per inch; 6 rows per inch
Needles:  US6 dpns (double pointed needles); US8 dpns or US8 9-inch circular needles
Measurements:  6.5 inches circumference of my hand, 7 inches from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger
Additional items needed:  yarn needle, locking stitch marker

Using US6 dpns, cast on 52 stitches.  Divide onto three or four needles, PM (place marker), join to work in the round, taking care not to twist.

Row 1 To make 1x1 ribbing,  K2tog, p2tog all the way around; 26 stitches remain.

Rows 2-8:  Ribbing K1P1. 

Rows 9-16:  Switch to US8 9" circular needle (or dpns).  St st 8 rows.

Rows 17-24, to form thumb hole:  
Row 17:  Knit to marker and turn.
Row 18:  Purl to marker and turn.
Rows 19-24:  Repeat rows 17 and 18 three times.

Rows 25-32:  Join both sides together again and knit in st st.

Ribbing, rows 33-40:  Switch to US6 dpns and K1P1 for 1x1 ribbing.

Row 41:  Bind off loosely using a size 8 needle for bind off.  Weave in ends with yarn needle.

I think each mitten takes about an hour.

This free pattern is provided for your personal use only.  It may not be copied or distributed without written permission.  Copyright Black Diamond Rabbitry, 2015.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Angora/Merino Ballet Sweater for Lydia

Lydia had initially decided that she wanted the Lindon sweater that I had already knit twice, once for Charlotte and once for me. 

But then she saw the Fuzzy Ballet Sweater pattern by Kris Percival on Ravelry ( 

I spun two plies of blue merino and two plies of very pale blue angora.  It is a very easy pattern to follow and knits up really quickly.  I made it in the small  size.  I should have made it a medium or large. Live and learn.  The more I knit, the better I get at choosing the correct size.  

I would knit this sweater again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Differences Between ARBA and 4-H Shows

What is the difference between ARBA shows and 4-H shows?  There are actually some significant differences.  I'd love for my readers, especially the youth, to understand so that they are more prepared for their first shows. 

For example, 4-H shows are almost always smaller, with far fewer people and rabbits.  One will not find vendors selling cages and other products at 4-H shows.  Sometimes they are limited to just 4-H members; other shows invite the community--including adults--to participate.  Though it seems like adults would not enter a 4-H show, sometimes these shows are a good way to help get started because they are less chaotic. 

In addition, 4-H shows usually include three classes that ARBA shows do not.  These are the cross breeds, DQs (rabbits disqualified permanently or temporarily for color, weight, congenital defects),  and pet classes.  Not only are these classes judged first, at least here in Northern Nevada, but the prizes are usually pretty cool!

At 4-H shows, we learn more about the health of rabbits in general, entrepreneurship, and record-keeping.  At ARBA shows, I learn specifically about improving French angoras. 

ARBA shows have nice prizes for Best in Show and Reserve in Show.  For 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in the breeds they usually have cheapie ribbons.  On the other hand, 4-H often have nicer ribbons and nice prizes for Best in Show.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ear Mites

Ear mites are usually contracted at shows, either from another rabbit when they are on the show table, or by the judge passing them from one rabbit to another as he judges the show. 

How do you know if your rabbit has ear mites?  Well, you should be performing a quick health check on your rabbits once a week or so.  When you check the ears, if you see dry, peeling skin on the inside, it's a pretty good bet that your rabbit has ear mites. 

Fortunately, this condition is easily and cheaply treated.  All you have to do is get a little coconut or vegetable oil and spread it around the inside of the ears.  Do this every day for a week or so. 

No more ear mites!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How To Sanitize a Cage

Sanitizing a cage is very important.  If you have a rabbit that is going into a cage that has had a different rabbit in it, you will want to sanitize the cage to kill germs.

The first thing to do is get all the loose waste out of the cage by dumping it and using a stiff brush on the wire and pan.  Then hose down the cage.  After that pour a little bit of vinegar on a scrub brush and scrub all the way around the cage.  Then hose down the cage again. 

The next step is to set it in the sun to dry.  The ultraviolet light of the sun helps to kill germs. 

The best thing to do to make sure the germs are really killed is to use fire.  Because it isn't always convenient to start a bonfire in the backyard, especially here in the desert, we use my brother's acetylene torch.    When you torch a cage, you need to wear gloves for protection.  You also need to torch your cage far away from trees, grass, and anything that can catch fire.  We have a lot of sand here, so we just do it on the sand.  All you do is turn the torch on and move the flame all over the cage.  It burns the hair right off, so it really is the easiest way of removing hair from the cage.  If you are a kid, make sure you have an adult supervising while you do this.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

It's Been a Really Busy Week

It's been a really busy week here at Black Diamond, so we haven't blogged as we should have. 

Charlotte and Lydia actually sold an amazing seven rabbits, making for a hopping busy week.  While I was occupied with a whole lot more emailing than normal, Lydia and Charlotte were visiting with prospective buyers and demonstrating how to groom, talking about 4-H, etc. 

Two rabbits--Winchester and Blueberry--went to their new home today.  Four--Honey, Duchess, Colt, and Honey Bear--will be going to their new homes tomorrow.  Another one--Lady Amber (being renamed Pumpkin)--will be going with Winchester and Blueberry.  Lady Amber just couldn't help wriggling her way into her new owner's heart when the latter was here to visit about Winchester and Blueberry.  But she has to wait for an extra cage to be ordered. 

Also, as you may have noticed, the girls finally bred their does on Monday.  We are happily anticipating three new litters of kits on November 4.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Lindon Sweater, or Instant Gratification

This sweater really is Instant Gratification. 

The pattern was featured in the Spring 2015 issue of Knitscene.  If you can't locate a copy of the magazine, the pattern is also online at 

The yarn called for in the pattern is Classic Elite Yarns Silky Alpaca Lace (70% alpaca, 30% silk; 440 yds; 2 skeins required) and Classic Elite Yarns Soft Linen (35% wool, 35% linen, 30% baby alpaca; 137 yds; 1 skein).  (I used one ply of alpaca and one ply of angora for the main color, and doubled this yarn for the contrast).  Of course, I wasn't going to make it in those colors.  Black was the natural choice.  It goes with everything. And it was going to be my first dyeing project with professional dyes, rather than the food coloring I had been using. 

I don't remember much about the whole project.  I should have blogged about it at the time, but I finished this sweater in May, and who wants to read (or write!) about an angora sweater in May?  I only got to wear it twice for short periods before it had to be packed away for the summer.

I know I used one ply of alpaca and one ply of angora.  I don't even remember which bunny the angora fiber came from.  Shameful.  It dyed up beautifully.  I do remember that.

The pattern was very easy to follow.  I think it took me only two or three weeks to make it.  I think the sweater photographs horribly on the table. 

As you can see in the photograph above of the model wearing the yellow/gold sweater, it is a very open fabric.  That is precisely what I wanted for an angora sweater.  I wanted to be warm, not overheated.  However, that means the sweater needs to have a layer underneath it.

I'm actually wearing this sweater right now as I blog about it and the pattern.  Our high today is supposed to be 59 degrees.  We've been getting rain and have more in the forecast--yippee skippy (we do live in a desert already and on top of that we have been in a drought for some time now);  it's gray and looks cold outside.  So that means I should be able to start up the pellet stove, right?  Wrong.  Unfortunately, the thermostat says it is already 73 degrees in here.  I can't justify turning the heat on.  (Well, I could, but my children might rat me out to my sweetheart.  Were I home alone....)  Anyway, the point is, I am deliriously happy in this sweater.  It's making me think I should knit up a whole lot more in various colors.  Immediately.  For instant gratification whenever I need it.

I only used about half the yarn (I had planned this yarn for a different sweater, but changed my mind), so I got to thinking that I could make a similar sweater for Charlotte.  Charlotte, of course, was thrilled with the idea.

She wanted a contrasting color, so I got out an angora alpaca blend that I had dyed with Kool-Aid.  It's pictured somewhere on the blog, but if you don't want to go look for it (I didn't), it was lime green, lemon yellow, orange, and pinkish-red.  Naturally, Charlotte did not want that on her sweater.  So for my second dyeing project with the Dharma dyes, I overdyed this yarn with Berry Crush and then knit it doubled stranded for the pattern. 

I didn't have quite enough yarn, so her neckband is thinner.  But she still liked it just fine.  Her sweater looks better photographed on the table.  I think the contrast helps.  Or it could be that she is 35 lbs lighter than I am.  I would photograph her wearing it, but she is upstairs recovering from the stomach bug that afflicted Lydia last week.  So that's why I have been doing almost all the blogging lately.

Did I say yet that I absolutely love this sweater?