Hooters Hall

Fibre Farming and a Shepherding Hat

If you follow Hooters Hall on Facebook or Instagram you will have seen some of my posts talking about transitioning to becoming a fibre farm. When we first started our smallholding journey we planned a mixed smallholding with a focus on raising rare breed pigs and growing herbs to flavour the sausages we would make in our own butchery. We did just that and our pork and sausages proved very popular.

With a need to keep on top of the grass growth in our paddocks we decided to get some sheep about a year or so into our smallholding life. We started with three Jacob ewes and soon added a ram and some more ewes. Now we have a gradually growing flock, bred here at Hooters Hall. Its not all about the wool of course we also have some Angora goats and have bred our Golden Guernsey goats with our Angora Billy to produce goats that shed their fleece. With fibre comes fibre crafts and over the past 5 years I’ve progressed from improving my knitting skills to spinning my own yarn and learning to weave. We’ve also developed our skills in shearing and small scale fibre processing so we can process all the fibre we produce at Hooters Hall.

It reached a point this year when we had to consider the direction we were heading in. With only six acres we have to plan how we can make best use of the land and as most smallholders discover the dream might be to work on your smallholding 24/7 but the reality is that most people have mortgages and that means earning a wage in non smallholding employment especially when you first start . So for a stress free life its important to find a balance between smallholding work and the day job.

For us the life balance is with fibre farming. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever keep pigs and make our own sausages again but it won’t be the main focus of our smallholding. We’ll continue to grow our own veg, herbs and natural dyes but our choices about how we use the land, the buildings we have and the equipment we invest in will be made with the goal of fibre farming rather than mixed smallholding.

So what does fibre farming mean ? There’s a long history of sheep farming in Britain but fibre farming is slightly different. We raise sheep and goats to produce fibre for fibre crafts rather than meat or for selling livestock on to other farmers. Some fibre farms focus on producing commercially popular fleeces and having their fibre spun into yarn at fibre mills.

At Hooters Hall we’re aiming for something slightly different. We want to produce fibre for handspinning, weaving and felting. Our goals aren’t just about fibre production but also fibre crafts. We want to process all our own fibre share our knowledge about small scale fibre processing, inspire people to learn about fibre crafts and develop their own skills in using fibre and creating for themselves.

In the medium to long term that might mean hosting fibre retreats here at Hooters Hall and maybe expanding our fibre processing with investment in mini mill equipment. Right now it means sharing our knowledge about fibre processing, fibre craft projects and selling the fibre from our Jacob sheep and Angora goats.

So with that in mind here’s my latest knitting project the Shepherding Hat. I wanted a simple beanie style hat to wear when I’m doing shepherding tasks. It needed to be a dense fabric to keep those winter winds out, a snug fit so it would stay put when I’m busy shepherding and a quick and easy knit made from my own handspun yarn.

The Hooters Hall Shepherding Hat

What you need

  • 3.5 mm 40cm circular needles
  • 3.5mm double pointed needles
  • 150g of Hooters Hall dk Weight handspun yarn
  • Tapestry needle
  • Stitch marker

This pattern is one size for adults. You need to be able to knit in the round, make knit and purl stitches and do a knit 2 together decrease.

Abbreviations

K = knit

P= Purl

K1P1 = Knit one Purl one ribbing

K2tog= Knit two stitches together 

The pattern

Cast on 92 sts using 3.5mm 40cm circular needles

K1 P1 and join in the round placing a stitch marker at the start of the round.Continue K1P1 ribbing until your hat measures 11 cm or desired length. (If you make your hat longer you will use more yarn.)

Decrease round K21 K2tog repeat to end of round (88 sts)

Knit all stitches for one round

Crown decrease (decrease 8 sts every other round) switch to double pointed needles when necessary, for me this is usually at round 7.

Round 1.K8 K2tog repeat to end of round (72sts)

Round 2. Knit all stitches

Round 3. K7 K2tog repeat to end of round (64 sts)

Round 4. Knit all stitches

Round 5. K6 K2tog repeat to end of round (56 sts)

Round 6. Knit all stitches

Round 7. K5 K2tog repeat to end of round  (48 sts)

Round 8. Knit all stitches

Round 9. K4 k2tog repeat to end of round (40 sts)

Round 10. Knit all stitches

Round 11. K3 K2tog repeat to end of round (32 sts)

Round 12. Knit all stitches

Round 13. K2 k2tog repeat to end of round (24 sts)

Round 14. Knit all stitches

Round 15. K1 k2tog repeat to end of round (16 sts)

Round 16. Knit all stitches

Round 17. K2tog (8 sts)

Break yarn and using tapestry needle pull yarn through remaining stitches.

Weave in ends.

Block. Dunk your hat in warm water. Remove and roll up in a dry towel. Place over a balloon or head sized object and leave to dry.

This picture sums up what our fibre farm will be about the sheep, the yarn and the craft

 

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