As soon as we met Sonia who owns the hip local yarn shop Stash earlier this year at VK Live Seattle, we knew we’d be taking over the world together. Our first challenge, dream up a window display made entirely of yarn to show off one of their products, Simplicity HiKoo, a luscious soft DK-weight merino/acrylic/nylon blend from Skacel.
Immediately our imaginations conjured a breezy Pacific Northwest fiber wonderland where alpacas and blackface sheep frolicked over every hill. What a surprise when few miles out of town on our drive up, the stately Cascades turned to rolling pastures of sheep with guard alpacas, just like our sketch!
Our jumbo crocheted alpacas and miniature flock of sheep bounded across the pasture and right into our hearts, so we had to share them with you. Both crochet patterns now await you as instant downloads in my pattern store.
As our motto goes: the right craft for the project. So we knit some parts and crocheted others. In total the two of us spent about a week on design and construction and three hours on installation. Keep reading for the story of our process, and be sure to follow our Instagram feeds to see all the fun as it happens! (Lorna & Jill).
But first, let me introduce you to these two new animal crochet patterns:
This alpaca crochet pattern hits all the spots that make alpacas special: quirky leg joints, great hairography, and big Ewok eyes. Lifelike and whimsical, these guys are totes squee-worthy. We named them Pedro and Tina, for obvious reasons.
The small crochet alpaca doll uses Simplicity yarn held single with a small hook. The jumbo crochet alpaca toy uses the yarn held double with a larger hook. It’s practically a body pillow! I guess Jill and I just can’t get enough of jumbo projects. We encourage you to experiment with this doubled-up yarn technique in any pattern where fit isn’t a factor.
Miniature Sheep, Assembly Not Required
In order to fill the pasture with flocks of sheep, we needed an expedient yet adorable design that didn’t involve sewing many parts together. Since no such pattern existed, we designed it. Voilà! An amigurumi style design with no assembly or sewing required.
In this project you’ll practice two clever crochet techniques that add versatility to your repertoire. Invisible color changes and skipped stitches introduce body parts instead of sewing separate pieces together. With these simple tricks, you’ll discover a whole new world of possibilities in your crochet projects.
This project is like potato chips: you can’t make just one. In fact, we made a whole sheepnado! Good thing you can make 10 sheep with a single hank of Simplicity.
Making of the window display
We “machine knit” the pin wheels, clouds, and grass on an Ultimate Sweater Machine, with the pin wheel sticks “machine knit” on an Elna 2400. I put machine knit in quotes because it sounds easy, but there’s no electricity and it still required full days of work, which is why some even refer to it as “hand loomed”. The Ultimate Sweater Machine put up a good fight, but after the Squid Tree, Monster Benches, Banana Tree, and plenty of snakes, we finally wore it out. Time to replace carriage plate number 4. At least it gave Jill a blister before it went down for the count.
Here is the knit window display from sketch to sneak peek to installation. We were surprised how close to the sketch it came out!
Each pin wheel is a pair of simple stockinette stitch squares each in a contrasting value of the same color. Simplicity has such a fresh color palette with dozens of colors to choose from. We cut a square of plastic fencing from the hardware store and cut it again like this, clipped the knitted panels front and back, machine sewed a V in each cut space before cutting the knitting so it wouldn’t unravel, then hand sewed all the front and back edges together with the plastic fencing inside. We then sewed each arm of the pin wheel in place and added a little unstuffed crochet sphere. We first tried out plastic fencing for the leaves in our Banana Tree yarnbomb, and found it to be a strong yet flexible canvas for props.
For sticks, we tried shoving a dowel inside an Embellish-Knit i-cord maker while cranking out an i-cord around it. Turns out this works! However, with just 4 stitches, it was stretched too tight for our desired dowel thickness so we went another route. I’ll have to do a post on magically knitting i-cord around smaller dowels in the future, because it’s amazing! Instead, I made a long skinny rectangle on the Elna 2400 and seamed it up the side.
For each cloud, we traced the shapes on big pieces of (actual) newspaper, knit a double-tall panel on the Ultimate Sweater Machine, pinned it folded around both sides of the canvas, and seamed all around, stuffing along the way.
Installing, we realized shoving stuffing under the grass panel is a quick and easy way to make hills. Feeling creatively blocked and masochistic the week before, we chose to papier mâché the “mountain” on an upside-down basket augmented with tons of crumpled up newspaper (and named it Gregor Clegane for all the trouble and mess).
Of course we do all the fun parts first and save the drudgery for last. Though, there’s plenty of drudgery in ripping out alpaca stitches, making 21 sheep, and hand seaming all those edges! I suppose rather we save the boring, mindless part for last. I told you we wore out the carriage plate on this part. Well, it was over 45 square feet of fabric, using 5 One Pound balls of acrylic yarn (that’s almost 2.5 miles). Sonya called it “five pounds of love.” The needle bed is too narrow to knit it in a single panel, so we had to seam two narrow panels together, each still maxing out the needle bed with its extension attachment. Can you say co-azy?
What a relief amidst all that carriage-pushing to play a little. I’m sure you understand the fatalistic feelings that gave us such a chuckle while making this little animation:
Fishing line and a staple gun are our new best friends. They join us on every installation now. Since fishing line stretches a little over time, we hang things a tad above where they’ll end up. Another trick this time was sticking toothpicks in the sheep to anchor them on every hillside. We were surprised that, even taking our time, this install only took 3-4 hours to install.
As if hanging out with Sonia and Liz at Stash wasn’t enjoyable enough, we entertained ourselves by installing a pair of yarnbombs out front before we started. Everyone who stopped and hugged them lifted our spirits while we worked!
Photographing windows presents a challenge by virtue of being windows: reflections are such a bitch! Seriously during the day the clouds didn’t even show up in photos. Not until nearly 10 pm could we get good shots, but thanks to Jill’s amazing photo skills we can share the final fiber-themed wonderland with you.
If you’re near Corvallis, Oregon, be sure to head over to Stash for a few hanks of Simplicty and an alpaca or miniature sheep pattern. They’ll be waiting for you!
Lorna (& Jill!)