Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Saturday, November 26, 2016

On the Needles Today (26 November 2016)

Today, and for the past week, I've been working on a sweater from a pattern in the winter 2010 issue of Interweave Knits, Ginevra's Pullover.

 Ginevra's pullover, dramatic neckline.:

Here's the link to a Pinterest page for it:

Instead of using the yarn recommended in the pattern, I (of course) had to spin my own.  And because this is a blogpost on an angora blog, there had to be some angora fiber in it.  :)

The yarn for the body is three plies of white alpaca and one ply of broken blue angora.  The yarn for the laceweight neck insert is one ply of alpaca and one ply of angora.  And all the yarn is dyed using Dharma dye deep magenta.

Because this post is about what's on the needles today, I don't actually have a finished sweater to photograph.  Here is how it looks today:

It has been knitting up rather quickly, for which I am quite grateful, because I have to have this done for my husband's company Christmas party in three weeks.  I should make it with plenty of time to spare.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

On the Needles Today (November 19, 2016)

Most of what I knit with our hand spun fiber here is sweaters for the family.  However, I'm in between sweaters right now and have been for the past week. I had to hurry and finish Charlotte's sweater for her birthday last week and that resulted in not enough time spent spinning yarn for the next project, a sweater for me.  But I need to have something to work on while I help the girls with their studies. 

So today's project is a pair of preemie-newborn booties with some incredibly soft angora/alpaca blend yarn.  As I contemplate the softness of this yarn, I am prompted to consider that I should spin a whole lot more of this yarn and make a sweater.

The pattern is "No Button Booties" from  But I am modifying it a bit so that I don't have to sew the sole to the sides of the booties.  I prefer to avoid seaming as much as possible.  

When the booties are finished I'll take more pictures and post them in our Etsy shop.  And I plan on writing my own pattern for them in the future.  I just have to work out what I perceive to be kinks in the original pattern as I modify and improve it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How We Got into Sheep

One year ago, actually about 54 weeks ago to be exact, we were heading home after we had finished selling four rabbits.  Lydia and I were chatting about all the Legos we could buy, when an idea struck.  My mom noticed how I had stopped participating in the conversation of all the toys and clothes we could get.

I had been thinking about it for about five minutes when my mom asked, "So, Charlotte, what are you going to spend your money on?"

I immediately answered, "A lamb!  I want a lamb!"

I started researching right then and there, since we had brought a laptop and myfi with us.  I was able to research numerous breeds of sheep before we even reached home, a two-hour drive when I began the search. 

I knew I wanted a smaller sheep--after all, I'm only fourteen.  I was afraid I couldn't handle a one hundred-fifty pound sheep. 

So miniature was on the list of requirements.  I knew that just beginning in the livestock business I wanted a docile wool breed; no messy butchering.  But also one that could be used for meat should the need arise.  And lastly, I wanted an easy lamber and good mother.  I was beginning to think this sounded more like a dream sheep, a sheep breed that probably didn't exist.  And then I found it:  American Brecknock Hill sheep.  It satisfied all my requirements. 

And then just as suddenly, my hopes were dashed, because "American Brecknock Hill" did exist, but were no longer being bred.  However, with a little more research, I found it did exist still, but under different names--American miniature cheviot and border cheviot.

I continued the research and emailing a breeder on this breed from early fall until mid-spring, when I got my first two beautiful miniature cheviots.

Little did I know that such a perfect breed of sheep existed.  In fact, it has existed for more than two hundred years.  It is actually a descendant of the historical sheep that resided in Wales.

It is the perfect breed.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mittens for Abby

If you've been reading our blog for some time, then you know that the oldest son and brother in our family has been sick for a long time.  Jared and I traveled to the Mayo Clinic in January and finally got a diagnosis for him.  We thought all would eventually be well, but such has not been the case.  Jared's recovery is taking a long time.

Anyway, Jared had to drop out of school and spends most of his time lying in bed.  He'll be well someday, but it's going to be a while.  Fortunately, Jared has some wonderful friends all over the world that keep in touch with him and keep his spirits up.  We appreciate every one of them.  And then there are the friends that go a bit further.

Abby is one of those friends.  She added Jared to her Netflix account so that Jared can escape his boredom every once in a while.  And the rest of the family gets to watch, too.  We've all been sucked into a few Korean TV shows. Descendants of the Sun is fabulous, in case you were wondering.

So I really wanted to do something for Abby to thank her in some small way for her kindness.  I offered to let her pick out anything from our Etsy shop, or I could make something custom for her.  Abby wanted natural-colored mittens, and she wanted them to be warm but without so much halo.  So I blended gray alpaca with blue angora and then spun it up and knitted the mittens.

I thought they looked kinda blah.  So I asked if Abby wanted some snowflakes on them to jazz them up a bit.  I gave her a couple of options and Jared showed them to her through his laptop camera.  This is the one she chose. 

Maybe if I get lucky she'll send a pic of her wearing them.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Preparing for Winter

First and foremost, the bunny must be protected from wind.  Wind can be quite bitter, and we must remember that for our rabbit's health.  Although the rabbits don't need protection from the cold, they absolutely must be protected from rain and snow.  It is not only because of the various sicknesses that can occur (pneumonia, snuffles), but with angora rabbits rain or snow can completely destroy their wool.  When their wool gets wet, it mats, and then the body heat from the rabbits can totally felt the wool, which can make the rabbit really uncomfortable.

During the winter, around the Sierras, sometimes the semi-trucks carrying hay and feed can't make it over Donner Pass.  This can be pretty serious because you can't just suddenly switch the rabbit's feed to something else; rapid changes in feed can be fatal.  And of course, you need hay.

When temperatures drop below freezing, water bottles can freeze and even burst.  For a thirsty bunny you want to get it water as soon as possible, so it isn't such a bad idea to store one or two extra water bottles.  That way the bunnies don't have to wait for you to thaw their water bottle inside the house.  On bitter nights it can even be a good idea to get up at midnight to change bottles.  Rabbits won't eat if they can't drink.  It can also cause kidney problems later in their life if they go long periods without water.

It is a good idea to buy extra food for those days when the semi doesn't make it.  It causes a lot less stress when you don't need to worry about feeding your rabbits.  I would recommend three extra bags of rabbit feed (for my ten rabbits).  It isn't likely that the semi would actually take that long, but you don't want to be going to the store once a week asking if they have food.  People who didn't store food before winter can get stressed when they go to the feed store and there is no feed.  They can then end up buying a bit because they don't want that to happen again.  This happens with multiple breeders.  Even though the semi eventually made it, it can be bought out quickly. 

In areas that experience freezing temperatures

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Feeding Naturally

Along with pellets and hay, we also give our rabbits greens from the garden.  Not only do these greens help keep our rabbits healthier, but they also help us keep feed costs down.  Therefore, feeding rabbits greens from the garden is not only easy, but also a big money saver.
What greens do we feed our bunnies?  We feed our bunnies grasses, weeds, strawberry leaves, corn stalks, lettuce (only a very little), broccoli leaves, beet greens, and carrot tops.  We never feed any plants from the nightshade family (tomatoes and peppers) because they are poisonous.

broccoli leaves
carrot tops

wheat grass

strawberry leaves

corn stalks