Jack of All Trades Sheep Ornament
Designed and made by Nancy Ellison
My local Zumbro River Fiber Arts Guild always has an annual project. This year, we're making ornaments for a tree to donate to the Festival of Trees fundraiser. Since I'm a member of various subgroups in the guild, I wanted to combine techniques for my sheep ornaments. Our inkle weaving group recently got into tube weaving, so my sheep has tube legs. Its knitted head and embroidered eyes represent two more groups. Handspun yarn honors the spinning group, and I wove the body on an Easel Weaver for the portable loom group.
After I finish sheep ornaments for the guild's tree, I'll make some more to honor favorite sheep in my flock, like Buddy, Marshmallow, and Sparky. This project would also be a great way to showcase fleece samples for a breed study—the locks will stand out in this barely spun yarn.
Finished size: 6" x 5" x 2"
Weave structure: plain weave
Inkle weaving: 15 total warp ends, 8 heddled and 7 unheddled
Easel Weaver: 18 total warp ends
I used my Schacht Navajo spindle and Easel Weaver for this project; both products have been discontinued. You can spin the yarn on a spindle or a spinning wheel with the extra slow whorl and Bulky Plyer Flyer. You can weave the body on a Lilli Loom or School Loom. If you don't want to knit the head, you can weave it on a Zoom Loom.
Note: Hang all sheep out of reach of small children and pets—these are ornaments, not toys. The sheep aren't fragile but they're no match for claws, teeth, or small fingers. The legs and lock tips can be choking hazards as well. Keep everybody in your household safe!
What You'll Need
- 90 yards sturdy wool yarn for the legs and face—I used Brown Sheep Lana Bouclé (180 yds/100 g; Aran weight, 8 wpi) for warp, weft, and knitting
- 2 ounces washed uncarded locks, 3" to 5" staple length for the body weft
- 4 yards 8/4 cotton carpet warp for the body warp
- yarn or embroidery thread for eyes and face
- finishing touches: scraps of red yarn for bow, sheep bell, yarn for hanging loop
Inkle Loom, belt shuttle, and 8 heddles (for legs)
size 6 knitting needles (for head)—or weave on a a Zoom Loom if you prefer
- tapestry needle
- sewing needle and thread
Tube Weaving the Legs
Warp the inkle loom with your sturdy wool yarn. You'll need 15 warp yarns, 8 heddled and 7 unheddled. Tie the beginning and ending warp ends together.
- Wind weft yarn on the shuttle (I used the same yarn for warp and weft). Open the shed. Pass the shuttle through from right to left.
- Insert the weft tail around the edge warp and back into the shed to secure.
- Change sheds and beat. To make a tube, bring the shuttle across the top of the weaving and pass through the shed, again from right to left. (For flat weaving, you would make the second pick from left to right, but here we're making a tube.)
- Pull the weft firmly to start pulling it into the start of a tube.
- Change sheds and beat. Weave the next pick, always passing the shuttle from right to left and pulling the weft firmly to close up the tube. After the third or fourth pick, you should see a tube forming.
- Weave a 15" tube for each sheep. If you are making a flock of sheep, weave the legs for 4 sheep on one warp with the inkle loom's shortest warp length (5 feet). Secure the weft tail and remove the tube from the loom—we'll cut the tube later as we assemble the sheep.
Spinning the Yarn
Use clean, uncarded locks, unless you want to spin in the grease and then scour the yarn. Choose a medium type wool, 3" to 5" staple length, with locks that come to a point.
- There are several options for spinning this fiber. You could use a drop spindle or a Navajo spindle. You could also use a spinning wheel with the extra slow whorl and a Bulky Plyer Flyer. The main concern is good control of your twist—you want a lightly twisted yarn so you can see the tips of the locks.
- Spread out the butt ends of the locks, leaving the tips intact. Draft from the butt end and don't draft the entire lock. You want just enough twist to hold the yarn together, with the points of the locks sticking out.
- If you use a spindle, try a park and draft technique: add twist, then stop the spindle as you draft more yarn. Roll the finished yarn onto the spindle before it gets too much twist.
- On a wheel, use the largest groove on the extra slow whorl. Set up the wheel for Scotch tension with very strong take-up. (See Resources for a lockspinning tutorial.)
Weaving the Body
Warp 18 ends on an Easel Weaver with 8/4 cotton carpet warp for a weaving that is 3-1/2" wide. Place the shed stick going over 1, under 1 all the way across, then push to the top of the loom, next to the teeth. (Leave the shed stick in place as you weave.)
- Break off a length of your handspun yarn and thread it through the weaving needle.
- On the first pick, weave across the loom in the shed created by the shed stick. Beat firmly.
- On the second pick, push the shed stick to the top of the Easel Weaver. Weave across, going in the opposite shed from the shed stick: if a warp end goes over the shed stick, weave under it and vice versa. Beat firmly.
Continue weaving by repeating steps 2 and 3. Beat each row firmly. When you run out of weft yarn, break another length of handspun and overlap the tails in the weaving.
Note: As you come to lock tips in your handspun, pull them to the top (right side) of the woven fabric. Don't stress over precise measurements or even angles as you shape the weaving—the selvedges and tied-off warp ends will be hidden inside the sheep.
When you have woven 3-1/2", start making the weaving narrower. Over the next 1" of weaving, gradually drop off the edge threads until it measures 1-1/2" wide.
- Continue weaving for another 1/2". The total length should be 5".
- Remove the weaving from the loom: cut the warp ends at the top, just below the loom teeth. Then gently pull the loops off the bottom teeth.
Secure the weft, starting at the right selvedge: pull on the two outermost warp ends to close up the gap at the bottom—the loop should rest against the woven fabric. Tie these ends securely in a square knot at the top of the woven fabric. Trim the tails of the knot. Repeat at the left selvedge: pull up two warp ends, tie a square knot, and trim the tails. Work inward from each selvedge until you end up in the middle of the weaving with all warp ends secured. Now the weft will stay in place when you assemble the sheep.
Knitting the Head
With your sturdy wool yarn and size 6 knitting needles, cast on 10 stitches (change needle sizes if necessary for a 1-1/2" fabric). Knit in stockinette stitch for 2"—the overall rectangle should measure 1-1/2" x 2". Do not bind off. Break off yarn, leaving a tail at least 8" long. Thread the tail in a tapestry needle and pull through the last row of stitches. Pull the yarn tail tight, drawing the knitting together to form the sheep’s nose. Secure the seam with a small knot but do not cut the yarn yet—we'll use it in the next section.
You can weave a Zoom Loom square for the head if you prefer. Fold into a rectangle and seam with a rounded nose; with a folded square, you may not need to stuff the head.
Legs: Each sheep needs two pairs of legs. At 1/2" from one end of the woven tube, tie a matching yarn very tightly and securely. This tie is the "ankle" of one leg. (If the yarn you used for weaving isn’t strong enough, use cotton warp yarn.)
Measure 6-1/2" from the tie and make a second tie. Trim the tube 1/2" from the second tie.
Fringe both ends of the cut tube for the sheep's feet. You've completed the first pair of legs for the sheep. If you wove a tube for multiple sheep, assemble all the legs at the same time. Once you cut the tube, the weft can come out.
Body: Place the body fabric right side down on the work surface. Place the pairs of legs on the wrong side. Rear legs should sit about 1/4" from the wide end of the weaving and front legs should sit close to where the weaving starts to narrow.
Sew down the pairs of legs in 3 places with warp yarn or sewing thread that matches the sheep body. I used red thread in the photo for clarity.
Attach the head: place the head right side down and sew the 1-1/2" neck edge to the narrow end of the body. Your sheep should now look like the schematic above. With the yarn tail from the head, stitch the two long sides of the rectangle together, closing up the underside of the head. Stuff the head with stuffing (if necessary).
Fold the body in half, wrong sides together. Starting at the neck, seam down the entire length of the body, stopping when you reach the wide end that will become the hindquarters. (The fuzzy fabric will hide stitching.) Don't cut the yarn tail yet!
Stuff the body lightly with leftover locks of wool or lock spun yarn.
- Finish the body seam at the sheep's hindquarters: sew the halves of the wide end together. Secure the yarn tail with a knot and bury the knot inside the stuffed body.
Face and finishing touches: The sheep starts to come to life when it has eyes. You can use yarn or embroidery thread to make French knots, straight stitches, or whatever you like.
I made simple knots: Cut a 6" length of yarn or thread for the eye. Tie a knot near one end, as big as you want the eye to be, and trim off the knot's tail.
Thread the needle with the other end. Run the needle into the sheep's head at the spot where you want the eye. Then bring the needle out of the sheep's body: you now have a knot in place for the eye, with the yarn tail coming out of a woolly area.
Tug on the tail and cut it—the tail will spring back under the woven fabric. Repeat for the other eye.
Make your sheep festive:
Tie a red yarn with a sheep bell around the sheep’s neck. Finish with a bow.
Cut a hanging thread to whatever length you wish. Stitch it through the sheep’s back and tie the ends in an overhand knot.
Sheep are herd animals, so make some companions for your first one and enjoy your flock!
Dixon, Anne. The Weaver's Inkle Pattern Directory. Interweave, 2012.
Lockspinning on the Sidekick tutorial
There's no need to autowrap the yarn unless you're worried it will fall apart.
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