Welcome to Sweet Tree Hill Farm! Founded in 2007 in Central Virginia
Home to Hilltop Shetland Yarn, 1910 Socks, Landscapes Dye, and about 40 Shetland Sheep, 7 Angora rabbits, 45 chickens all on our 20 acre farm. Our specialty is simply processed fingering weight yarn, in 8 natural colors and 10 plus dyed colors for stranded Fair Isle, lace and sock knitting. We are writing patterns and all are available in our Farm Store, at the 3 Festivals we attend and now in your local yarn shop.
Sweet Tree Hill Farm is located in the hills of Central Virginia, in Cumberland County. We arrived Christmas, 2007 and have been working hard to renovate this 100 year old property of 20 acres with many old pecan, walnut and pear trees, hence the name of the farm. The old house is a bungalow style farm house which overlooks an 8 acre 20 foot deep pond.
The pastures were over grazed and was littered with bits of an old chicken barn that had burned down. But over the course of a few years, we have made many repairs, added our cashmere goats and later began raising registered Shetland Sheep and angora rabbits for the wool. And built a barn shaped dye studio.
Our mission is to provide you with American raised Shetland yarn, with unique original patterns, artisan quality clothing such as socks made on the farm where the wool is grown.
Our line clothing created on the farm, our 1910 Socks. We have several knitted up, but you can custom order them as well:
So join us on our journey as my family and I shepherd these beautiful sheep, and plant our garden, gather eggs from our chickens and bring our wool products to market. Visit our farm store and my blog, WoolFarmGal, as this middle-aged shepherd lives her woolly dream!
One of my favorite things to do is knitting with the yarns Kevin and I have developed from the backs of the sheep we raise. I have long been a fan of Northern Shorttail sheep, one of the reasons we raise Shetlands. One notable member of that group is the Gotland Sheep. So about 3 years ago, we introduced a Gotland ram to our flock. There are several interesting factors about Gotland sheep. They are an ancient breed from the island of Gotland off the coast of Sweden. They have not been imported into the US, but have been developed by upbreeding using Gotland semen first imported in 2003. So using similar breeds like Border Leister and others, the Gotland Sheep was recreated here. Only recently, have there existed a 100% Gotland sheep in this country. Kendrick, our ram is 89%. What I love about the Gotland fleece, is the shimmer silver and the curls. And I absolutely love the result from crossing Shetland with Gotland. Shetland adds softness to the shimmer as well as different colors.
So in developing a Hilltop Gotland worsted, we blended several of Kendrick’s fleeces with some of his Shetland/Gotland cross lambs and yearlings fleeces that were silver. And to help in the spinning process, added just a bit of merino. The result is stunning! A lofty silver worsted weight yarn that has the shimmer qualities of Gotland and the softness of Shetland. I wanted a 1st project to be enjoyable to knit but not too complicated so you can enjoy the bliss of knitting with this yarn.
Ok..on to the pattern! This is a relatively quick knit using 2 skeins of the Hilltop Gotland. This Victoria Shawl pattern is designed by Ceecee Crafts in Northern Ireland and the link to the free pattern is HERE.
Beginning using size 8 16 inch circular needles, casting on using the 2 needle method. I usually use a 1 needle method, but here is quick video explaining the 2 needle cast on method HERE. Casting on the 20 stitches. This will begin the lace lower edge portion of the shawl. After knitting 1 row, you will follow the 12 row Edge pattern. The pattern here is pretty straight forward. However, on row 8, where you cast of the 3 extra stitches you have added during previous rows to create that scalloped point, the stretchy cast off is a bit confusing as explained. So here is a nice explanation with a video that should help HERE.
Continue knitting until you have 24 repeats of the Edge pattern. (Or until you have 24 points.) Then continue with the 1st 7 rows of the edge pattern, then cast off in stretchy stitch leaving the last stitch on the right hand needle. At this point, you will be picking up stitches to begin the shawl top. So without turning your work, pick up 171 stitches in the ladder between each garter row. I ended up with about 10 stitches less. The patterns indicates if this happens, to increase that number of stitches on the next row, which is a knit row.
Following the directions for the shawl top is pretty straight forward. It is just knit rows with yarn over/knit 2 together rows thrown in. And after the 1st 7 rows, you will have your 1st decrease row. 7 more rows of the shawl top pattern and another decrease row. 7 more and another decrease row. The you knit 14 rows.
So as I work towards completion…I will post additional progress. If you would like to begin your Victoria Shawl, here is a link to where you can purchase your own Hilltop Gotland, in natural silver and 2 hand dyed colors.
The Victoria Shawl is Complete!
The next steps involve adding another decrease row, then another 14 rows knitted. Once the Shawl Top is completed, the last step is to pick up along both lace edges and shawl body for a total of 165 stitches. Two rows are knitted, then on the wrong side of work, do a eyelet row of k2, yfwd , repeating across whole row. Four more rows are knitted before casting off in a modified picot stitch. I actually have not blocked this yet, but I recommend blocking to even out the stitch tension. I love how this turned out, and photographing it on a day with a pending storm brings out the stormy color. The drape is just right, that it hugs your shoulders and stays put. One could add a shawl pin, bit it does not need one to sit nice. I hope you give it a try! It is a fun, quick and useful project.
I was so excited to discover this pattern because Hilltop Shetland fingering yarn is perfect for knitting this pattern. And now is the perfect time of year to embark on this kitty cardigan. I am inviting you to join me. I will be interpreting this pattern (you can purchase your pattern here.) As I knit, I will be happy to share my advise and offer a little hand holding as we figure this out together. And for those wanting to give this a try, I am offering 20% off discount on Hilltop Shetland Fingering. I have lots of color choices in the farm store right now, just use coupon code SINISTERCAT at check out.
And speaking of color choices, I have assembled some right here. I am trying to choose myself. I have narrowed down the main body color to natural colored Silver Streak (though you could choose Shaela or Black.) And the kitties, I have chosen White (but also Fawn and Dove grey are nice choices too.) My challenge is to choose the background behind the kitties. These are just a few of the many possibilities. But I have narrowed my choice down to Eclipse, Butternut, Northern Lights, Rose Hips, Meadow, Blue Ridge, Prairie Grass, Mystic Sea and Shabby Chic Pink. I am still waiting on needles I ordered, so I have a few days before I get started. I will be posting progress here and on my Facebook Page if you would like to ask questions or comment. So check back often to see the progress…next time we will be casting on!
Some decisions needed to be made before casting on this sweater. First of all…color choice. After much hemming and hawing, I decided on Silver Streak for the main color, Mystic Sea for the yoke background and instead of white, like I had initially intended, I wanted my kitties to have a little more pop, so I opted for Prairie Grass (yellow.) I once befriended a stray cat while I was in college. Actually, our whole 4-plex befriended this yellow cat named Pineapple. So in memory of Pineapple, the kitties will be yellow.
Another decision needed to be made is size and do I want a shaped or straight sweater. I opted for straight as my almost 60 year old body is no longer curving in very much…well that is the truth, no point denying it. The pattern does give nice choices of sizes and lots of measurements to determine which size is best. I always defer to the chest size. Also, one could tweak as one went along. I might do some extra increases for the hip area. So I have chosen size “10” . The next step is to mark all the stitch counts and instructions that relate to size 10 so that you can keep from making an error.
Now I look over the instructions. I like how it goes over the skills needed to complete this project with some how to’s and also links to further instructions. Some of the skills are short rows, color work, button holes and..oh yes..STEEKING! If you are following along with me and have never done a steek…that makes 2 of us. (Yikes!) There is a reference to a tutorial that we will go over together. I feel we should always look for opportunities to learn something new in knitting, and since I have been kniting for over 30 years..I had better put on my big girl pants and dive in. We need to do a steek so we can knit this cardigan in the round.
Our next step before casting on is to do the dreaded gauge swatch. When knitting something you want to fit, it is primo important. I will mention here that your back and forth knitting gauge might be different from your knitting in the round gauge. But for now, I cast on 28 stitches and knitted 38 rows in St st. This was supposed to knit 4 inch square. I am most concerned with width. I can adjust length if I need to while I am knitting. The needle size I used was size 2 (3.0 mm) That size gave me the correct gauge. I will recheck as I knit the sweater to make sure my knitting in the round is to gauge.
Now I am ready to cast on. I cast on 173 sts of the main color on a smaller needle from my gauge needle, and placed my steek markers as well as the start of round marker. I work 8 rounds of k2/p2 rib, with straight St st in between the Steek markers. I change colors to my yoke color and change needles to my gauge needles. I work 6 rounds St st . Then I am ready for the 1st increase. I work the increase round. It is a repeat of a M1 and k4 (beginning and ending each round with a k3. Steek is still St st between the markers). And then knit 6 more rounds. I put a little safety pin marker on the round I increased so I can count the rounds to the next increase without loosing my place. It is also a good idea to recheck your gauge. If you need to adjust your needles..do so now. I had to. Ok..Check back in a bit and we get into short rows.
Increasing for Shoulders and Chest
Most traditional Fair Isle garments are knitted from the bottom up and decreased from the chest to the shoulders. The reason I suspect is because a decrease does not create a slightly raised stitch like increasing with a “make 1” does. So as we commence with the pattern, most if the increases are M1’s . You can see and feel little bumps at each M1. My thought is that once the sweater is washed and blocked, the bumbs will be less noticeable. So make sure you follow the directions for your size. The pattern is pretty straight forward. The exception is the short row shaping.
Make sure you circle the number of stitches that corresponds with your size on your pattern so that you work the correct number of stitches in the short row instructions. It would not be a bad idea to research how to do wrap and turns and how to secure the wraps as you come to them.
So after the short row, continue the increase rounds and straight knit rounds until it is time to finally begin your kitties. Before doing so, do a quick check of your stitch count.
So here is a little preview before next installment..when we begin your SINISTER CATS!
Stranded Knitting, Working the Cats
The first thing you might notice is that the 1st part of the charted pattern involves 3 colors. This is not usual for Fair Isle knitting, when just 2 colors are used on any given row or round. But there can be exceptions. Rules do get broken if there is a nifty design element. involved. Now as charts go..this is an easy one to follow.
Beginning at the top of the first row of cat’s ears, the colors include the outline, the background and the color of the cat. The best way to keep the strands organized is to separate 2 strands and treat then as 1 strand as it relates to the 3rd strand. The 3rd strand is goes above and below the other 2 as if they were 1 strand.
Soon you will have a few rounds done. And after the eyes, you are done with the background color and can then continue knitting with 2 colors. There are different methods you can use in doing colorwork. Some knit with both hands…1 yarn wrapped around fingers of 1 hand, and the other wrapped around fingers of the other hand. This is probably the fastest technique. I am not as quick using that method. I flick yarn with just my right, keeping 1 yarn under to the left, and one yarn draped forward over my work. My right index finger can find both yarns as I need them. The challenge regardless of the methods is the floats. You do not want to have too much tension in the floats or this creates puckering in the knitted fabric. And you do not want your floats too loose, or the fabric is not cohesive. and the loose floats can catch on things. This does take a bit of practice to get even tension. But if you see a bit of puckering. Much is forgiven during blocking.
Now as for long floats…I usually twist the opposing yarn around the long float as I am knitting. I do not like a float longer than 5 stitches because it will catch on things. This pattern will require you to capture some long floats. Look up some methods on YouTube and see what you like best.
Here is how I have the yarn organized as I am doing the color work.
Here is how the steek is shaping up. It will be quite dramatic when it is time to cut it to form the opening to the cardigan.
And here is as far as I am..starting on the 3rd row of kitties. It has been fun so far. Check back again for more progress. Hopefully you might be inspired to make this cardigan too.
As Summer begins to wane…and we soon will be slipping into the busyness of Fall, my thoughts and fingers start to plan and begin small gifts for the coming holiday season. It is still hot, so a small quick project is ideal. Thoughts that cool temps are right around the corner is comforting. So a quick project, when an art yarn does all the design work is a fun idea. The genius is that the knitting needs to be kept simple so the yarn can shine. I have been spinning up some different colorways of Wool Paint roving I have dyed, for just such a project. Several skeins are now in the Farm Shop.
Fingerless gloves only require one skein, so why not make a few pairs? I will try to make it easy. So if you have not knitted gloves before, or have not knitted in the round. I am providing a little tutorial here. We are using worsted, or light worsted yarn, and set of 5 size 7 double pointed needles. Also, have a couple of stitch markers handy, some waste yarn and a good size tapestry nedle
Cast on 32 stitches, dividing evenly onto 4 needles, being careful not to twist.
The Pattern Stitch is simple: Round 1: *K3, sl1 (purlwise): repeat from * around. Round 2: Knit.
Knit rounds 1 and 2 of Pattern Stitch 10 times. (20 rounds total.)
So as you can see…this is a simple stitch and the variegated nature of the handspun yarn creates interesting transitions. You can’t get this result from millspun because each ply of the yarn changes color at random. This is the fun part, watching the colors emerge as the glove is being knitted.
Now it is time to begin the thumb gusset.
You will be increasing 2 stitches for the thumb gusset every third round while continuing the 2 round pattern stitch.
Round 1: K1, place marker (PM), k1, PM, k1, sl 1, continue with round 1 of Pattern Stitch to end of round.
Round 2: K1, slip marker (SM), M1R (=Make 1 right slant-with left needle tip, lift strand between sts from back to front, knit lifted st through the front.), knit to marker, M1L (=Make 1 left slant-lift strand between sts from front to back, knit the lifted st through the back.), SM, continue with round 2 of Pattern Stitch around.
Round 3: Knit to 1st slipped stitch (slipping markers), sl1, continue established Pattern Stitch around.
Round 4: Knit around
Round 5: K1, sm, M1R, k to marker, M1L, sm, k1, sl1, continue with round 1 of Pattern Stitch to end of round.
Round 16: Knit around. There should be 11 sts between the markers.
This part is when the glove really starts to take shape. So grab about 10 inches of waste yarn.
Next round: K1, lift strand between first st and first marker M1R, place the 11 thumb sts onto the waste yarn using your tapestry needle, removing the markers. Join yarn, k1, sl1, continue with round 1 of the Pattern Stitch around.
Next round: Knit around.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 of the Pattern Stitch 6 more times. (12 rounds total.) Bind off purlwise.
Ok..into the home stretch…place the 11 thumb stitches onto 3 dpn needles-4 sts on 1st needle, 3 on 2nd, and 4 on 3rd.
Round 1: Join yarn and knit 11 sts on needles, pick up and knit 5 sts in the thumb hole space. (16 sts total.)
Round 2: knit 11 sts, ssk, k1, k2tog. (14 sts)
Rounds 3-7: Knit around.
Bind off purlwise. Weave in loose ends, paying attention to any gaps at the base of the thumb cinching up those gaps. And now you are ready to repeat the whole process for the 2nd glove. And as you notice..with art yarn, the 2nd glove will not match exactly. But that is part of the fun.
This little pattern is so fun and quick, you will have oodles of pairs done before Christmas. And you might get bold and come up with cool modifications…like maybe a different cuff or stitch pattern. But keep it simple with art yarn. A complicated stitch pattern would be lost in a variegated yarn. ..So get those needles clicking and feel free to share your results on our FaceBook page. Or you can also ask your questions there as well. Happy knitting!
Today is the first day of summer, and many knitters will often put their needles down in favor of more summery activities. I have a different idea. Why not turn your knitting to smaller less time consuming projects and celebrate a summer theme. So in that vein, I offer you to follow along with a mystery knit along cap with a garden theme. We will explore Fair Isle knitting, a traditional technique associated with Shetland sheep’s wool and yarn. I will post directions and charts for each step. Once a week, on Fridays, I will add another step. The fun part is that we can share our questions and tips and updates on how the project is going.. on the Sweet Tree Hill Farm Facebook page. And for all who comment on the 1st KAL post on the Facebook page, they will be entered to win a kit, including Hilltop Shetland yarn and printed pattern, to make the Mystery KAL Summer 2019. The sheep (who grew the yarn) and I will announce the winner LIVE, from Sweet Tree Hill Farm on Friday July 12th. So comment and share with your friends so they can get in on it!
Ok..let’s get started. So to get you thinking Summer and Garden…here are some inspiration pics from our gardens. These colors and insects inspired the hat you are about to knit.
The garden has many interconnected members, the flowers and vegetables with bright colors. These colors attract needed partners to aid them in their purpose…to be pollinated for procreation. And to create…to make..that is what knitters do. So in this hat…we will be celebrating the colors of the garden, but mostly, the makers. The insects that keep the garden humming (hehehe).
The yarn needed is fingering weight Shetland wool. There are 5 colors in this hat. The colors I have chosen for the example are my choices, but several color combos will work. I selected 2 possibilities from the color choices available in the Sweet Tree Hill Farm Store. The five 200 yard skeins are enough to make 2 hats, or a hat and a matching cowl.
So we will use the 1st group for our hat example. And needles needed are #3 16 inch circular and later, #3 double pointed. The gauge is about 9 sts to the inch unblocked. For reading the charts:
Yarn A = Black Yarn B = Rosehips Yarn C = Butternut Yarn D = NorthernLights Yarn E = Fawn
Here is the first chart for the brim of the hat:
This is a knit 2, purl 2 rib stitch pattern. Begin with Yarn A and cast on 140 stitches onto the circular needles. Join, being careful not to twist. Beginning the chart with Row 1 reading from right to left working the 4 stitch repeat 35 rimes across the round. Continue working Chart A changing colors as indicated until round 12 in completed.
As you can see, only 2 different colors are worked in any given row. I usually choose 1 yarn I hold to the right and flop over the needle and the other hangs to the left. Now ideally, one yarn is worked with the left hand continental style and the other worked with the right hand. But I have not mastered continental and work both yarns with the right hand. I just keep yarn organized in the back this way so my hand can find each yarn. This also helps to avoid twisting.
So this completes the first step of your hat. Next week we will continue our garden themed hat. Check back next Friday!
And don’t forget to leave your comments and questions on this KAL announcement on our Facebook page to enter to win the hat kit in the colorway of your choice!
Welcome to Part 2 of our Mystery Knit Along
I hope you are enjoying your project. Ok..now that your rim is completed, the next row is an increase round with Yarn A.: Knit 5, Make 1, repeat to end of round, 168 sts.
Here is the next chart to tackle. Or should I say part of the next chart, Chart B. Now we are getting to the meat of the project. Now we are getting the 1st clue about the heart of the design.
Using Color A, begin with row 1 and repeat the 24 sts 7 times to complete the round. In row 2, introduce Color B…Rose Hips or Fairy Dust if you are knitting with the 2nd color group. Continue to knit each round working left to right following the chart making color changes as the chart indicates. When you reach round 6, introduce Color E…Fawn or White if knitting with the 2nd color group.
Sweet Tree Hill Farm has many butterflies floating through the garden right now. They are attracted to purple cone flowers, the 3 white crepe myrtles, orange day lilies, and the hollyhocks. They are not only beautiful, but they provide the service of pollination. So this week we are celebrating this lovely garden helper.
Now I will give you a clue for next week. We are celebrating another garden helper…can you guess who it might be? Check back next Friday to find out.
Welcome to Part 3 of our Knit-Along!
Well, many of you guessed…the next garden helper we are celebrating are BEES! And what essential helpers they are. Without an army of bees visiting flowering plants, we could not eat…our plants would not bear fruit. And it goes without saying that the world would be less sweet without their amazing honey. Many of you know that bees are in crisis. Many theories exist as to why our bee population is shrinking. But we can all be mindful of doing all we can to promote bee health. We can make our gardens welcoming to bees and other helpful insects. Limit or don’t use insecticides, insert bee attracting plants into your garden, have water available, maybe even raise bees yourselves. And bring attention to the crisis online and by what you wear! So with that in mind..let us continue with our hat. I can now tell you that the name of the pattern is “Butterflies and Bees”.
Continuing Chart B on the same number of stitches. Use the color guide above. In this chart we are introducing Colors C, D and E. C is Butternut or Cancun…D is Northern Lights or Prairie Grass, and E is Fawn or White. For longer floats over 4 or 5 stitches, I recommend twisting the stitches every 4-5 stitches in the back of the work. This will keep the fabric intact and prevent the floats snagging on something such as a hair barrette.
And here is what it looks like after the 2nd part of Chart B is completed. Afterwards, time to repeat rows 1-12 of Chart B…the Butterflies part. And next week we will be going into the home stretch, the top of the hat. So get those double pointed needles ready!
***And do not Forget***
Leave a comment on any KAL post on our facebook page for a chance to win this hat kit including yarn and printed pattern, an $85 value! You have until midnight July 11 to enter, so don’t wait. The sheep and I will announce the Winner next Friday July 12th at 1PM !!
See you next week!!!
Welcome to Part 4 and Final Reveal of Butterflies and Bees Cap
I hope you have enjoyed working on this celebration of Summer hat. I have seen some pretty hats in progress online…so exciting! You are on the final lap of our project, the decreasing and the top. You will continue with your circular needles as you begin. But after 3 or 4 of the decrease rounds, you will want to switch to your double pointed needles. Divide stitches evenly onto 3 needles. So here is the last chart:
Please note, the blank spaces outside of the bold outlines are not knitted. I have added an additional key to indicate the decrease stitches. Begin Chart C reading from right to left and repeat the 24 stitches around the 1st round. Using earlier keys for color changes. Continue up the chart.
As you are knitting, keep ends organized inside the hat and combed downward so that they stay out of the way of your knitting. When working with double pointed needles, firm up the tension between the needles so that you do not have gaps.
Finishing: On the final round: Row 22: Using Yarn A only, K2tog 6 times. You will have 6 sts remaining. Break yarn. Take a tapestry with yarn threaded into it and pick up the remaining stitches and cinch close and weave the end into the wrong side of hat. Weave in your remaining ends and block hat. I use a hat form, but balloons work too.
So congratulations!! I hope you have enjoyed making your hat and the practice using Fair Isle. There are so many design opportunities using this traditional technique. And nothing does Fair Isle like Shetland yarn. Please head over to the Sweet Tree Hill Farm facebook page and share your progress, thoughts and ideas on this and other Fair Isle projects you are working on. And visit our farm store for a beautiful pallet of natural and dyed colors of our farm produced Shetland yarn. Your purchases support our sheep and family farm.
Here is the completed hat. I will have a printable hard copy of the pattern available soon. And stay tuned..later today I will be announcing the winner of the knitting kit to make this hat.