More Knitting With Blue Faced Leicester

On the heels of yesterday's post, I thought it would be fun to share more of the projects, like yesterday's Little Plum Shawlette, knit in Blue Faced Leicester yarn by the incredibly talented group of knitters who have been helping me test yarns.


These test knits use a variety of different BFL based yarns. The cowl on the top left was knit in Elliebelly BFL Superwash. The brown portion of the floral socks is knit in Elliebelly BFL Sock, the same yarn used in yesterday's shawlette. The red mitts are knit in Elliebelly BFL Aran, the original BFL yarn I dyed and still my favorite yarn to knit with.  The green socks are knit in Elliebelly BFL Constant, a yarn I was originally hesitant to dye because of its high nylon content.  I convinced myself to try it because of its potential to result in super strong socks for kids, but ironically, it has become one of my favorite sweater yarns as well.  The nylon in no way alters the feel of the BFL and the yarn resists pilling and takes color beautifully.


For Ruxton, the green shawl in the upper left hand corner of this collage, we are back to BFL Superwash Sport.  I adore this yarn and it's paired perfectly with this pattern, which is such a clever, textural knit.  The red sweater is knit in Elliebelly BFL Cash-Silk Sock, a blend of 70% BFL, 20% Silk, and 10% Cashmere.  It took only a couple of projects, this being one of them, to convince me this yarn was a keeper and compared favorably to other luxury blend yarns.   The sweater with the large cable down the front is knit with two fingering weight yarns held together for a marled effect.  One of them is the ever-versatile BFL Sock.  Definitely not just a sock yarn.  The lacey blue sweater is also knit from BFL Sock.

Conclusions?  You should all run out and find some yarn with Blue Faced Leicester and knit with it.  Now.  Seriously, it's wonderful yarn.  And fortunately, you won't have to go to England to  buy some like I did originally.  Although Elliebelly yarn isn't being sold currently, there are a number of good commercial and indie options for buying BFL and I encourage you to enjoy the experience of knitting with it.

The first purpose I envisioned for this yarn was diaper cover pants for babies who were cloth diapered.  It's fabulous for that purpose, and if you want to see some of my earliest dyeing and favorite projects, you'll find a few pages of adorable projects for babies on Ravelry.

image from images4-e.ravelrycache.com© elliesmomm  Elliebelly BFL in the Guppy Creek Colorway


A Simple Knit Scarf

One of my favorite fibers to work with is the wool of Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) sheep.  It is a long fiber wool and quite light, so it produces soft yarn with the additional benefit of a pretty sheen, much like wool fiber that is blended with silk.  It produces a strong fabric that is perfect for socks and has long been a staple of British knitters, but it was relatively unknown here 16 years ago.  I first stumbled upon it on a trip (because I visit yarn shops on family vacations.  I just do) and picked some up to use for diaper covers for my daughter.  And I was instantly hooked.  It became one of my favorite fibers to knit with and later, to dye.

image from forums-d.ravelrycache.com

BFL is increasingly well-known to US knitters. Canadian and American raised BFL is spun into yarn along with its counterpart from Great Britain.  Lately, I've been testing different blends and spins of BFL yarns to try and come up with a few favorite yarns.  And, I admit, it's virtually impossible, because I like them all.  This project is the Little Plum Shawlette and it is knit in BFL Sock, a 100% fingering weight yarn, not treated with superwash, that is primarily intended for socks but is versatile enough to work for scarves and other accessories.

Over the years since I first discovered with it, I've knit frequently with Blue Faced Leicester and the results are always pleasing.

BFL Projects

A quick note about the purple scarf pattern.  It was released the month that Prince died and the designer's description of the pattern made it impossible for me to pass up, especially since I had some yarn on hand that I had dyed in my oldie but goodie Purple Rain colorway:

 I have loved Prince since the 1980s and was so sad to learn that he died suddenly. This shawlette has stitches that each commemorate a song by The Artist. I get that this is MAJORLY dorky, but when I was between designs, Michelle from Bo Peep Fine Yarns messaged me suggesting a Prince commemoration. So, when you’re a knitter, you knit, and when you’re a fan, you fangirl (yes, that’s a verb….my 12 year old daughter knows.) So, this is me fan-girling in an utterly mortifying way, no doubt!

This must be made while watching Prince videos or listening to his music. But you knew this, anyway. If there’s any desire for a KAL, let me know…although I’m probably one of only 3 Prince knitting fans!

There are 6 elements that commemorate Prince in this design, from bottom to top:

1 – Purple Rain drops
2 – Diamonds and Pearls
3 – Doves
4 – Doves again because this is my favorite song.
5 ”X’s” for “Kiss”
6 Seed stitch…it works round and round and is a a cool kitty. And I love it.
7. As an afterthought, the shawlette is skinny, just like Prince!


Dyeing Roving For Spinners

Dyeing roving is a little bit magical!


The colors always seem to play so nicely.  Roving is carded fiber that is reading for spinning, in this case, a very fine Merino. The addition of color makes it beautiful, but can be a little tricky.  Roving requires very careful handling to avoid felting the fibers, and a nice, slow drying time, followed by some gentle fluffing to loosen up any fiber that has become compacted while wet.

This roving is going off to a friend for spinning.  I can't wait to see what she does with it.  It's always unpredictable — you can't quite imagine how the roving will spin up (see an example here).  Handspun yarn is so pretty that I often  keep a skein on my desk just for its looks.  But it deserves to be knit with and one of my knitting resolutions is to knit with my handspun more often.  The results are always wonderful.  I have some of this yarn sitting around, waiting to become something.

image from joycevance.typepad.com

And I'm hoping to use the yarn from the roving pictured at the top to trim a gray hat and mittens set.



Elliebelly: A Sneak Peek!

I've just received the photos from our photo shoot for the new website, and they are just amazing!  The lovely Amy P outdid herself.


I can't wait to get to work on the website and figure out how WordPress actually works (as opposed to my current midnight forays into adding a few things here and there) and bringing y'all the information I've been collecting through testing the different bases out with different patterns.  I'm going to have some serious advice about yarn selection for you when I get it all together!


Until then, I wanted to share a few of Amy's beautiful pictures and some of the lovely knitting that has been done with Elliebelly yarn recently.





Random Pretty Yarn

Here are a couple of random pretties to brighten up the middle of your week.


This is "Bliss" — the palest of my pinks, ready for a little color work adventure.


It's mate, "Mahogany" is my favorite brown of all time.  Just enough gray.  Just enough brown.  Definitely not boring.  I want to knit a bulky sweater out of this color for winter and hibernate in it!


"Margaery" is one of my all time favorite colors, but I'm not a good enough photographer to capture its rich turquoise tones.  The photo above is on a silk/cashmere blend, so it's slightly more muted than its Blue Faced Leicester cousin, below.  Although there is some variation in this (and all hand dyed yarns), depending on the precise blend of fibers used, these two are actually quite close in real life, and somewhere in between the two photos.  Getting a good picture of Margaery is my knitting holy grail at the moment.



My Knitting Weekend


This weekend, I'm dyeing some yarn.  That's "Blossom," the palest pink that I dye.


I'm knitting away on Mithril whenever I get a few free moments.


My doggies are showing their support by sleeping a lot.  That's Trouble and Miss Fig, the Boxer.


I finally got a good picture of the beautiful Ivette Cardigan my wonderful friend Rita knit for me.  We've known each other since we were pregnant with our now 17 year old daughters, and she is one of my knitting heroes.  She knit Ivette in Elliebelly Angel Fingering.  It's a blend of Alpaca, Silk, and Cashmere, and I wanted to see how it would knit up for a sweater.  Other than having to use sharp point needles to avoid any issues with splitting, she seems to have had a great time knitting it, and it's stunningly gorgeous.  I have cleverly blocked it out a little bit so that it's really too large for anyone other than me to wear.

In other knitting news, I managed a quick hour at In The Making, my local yarn shop, to try and pick out buttons for Lake Effect.


While there, I got to visit with Jamie Thomas, who writes really beautiful, wearable patterns.  Her newest pattern, Vested Interest, is knit in Quince's aran weight Linen ribbon yarn, Kestrel.  It's the perfect, light weight summer piece.  I sat in the shop and knit for a few minutes while I pretended to deliberate, but I knew I had to buy the pattern and the yarn on the spot.  I'm looking forward to casting on when I finish Mithril.  Isn't the yarn gorgeous?

     image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com© Jamie Thomas



Not Just Another Pretty Skein

I buy yarn because it looks pretty in the skein.  I just do.  I don't always have a project in mind.  If it makes me happy, it's probably coming home with me.  I'll worry about how it looks knit up later on.  That's my personal approach.

But, as I've had time over the last couple of years, as a hobbyist dyer, to contemplate how color placement in the dyeing process works on a finished project, I've developed a lot of focus on how the pretty skeins I dye will look when they become sweaters and cowls and baby blankets and hats.  And realizing that I can't knit fast enough to do all of the testing I want to do, I've been fortunate enough to find a dedicated group of knitters, whose testing work has really advanced my ability to tweak how colorways are dyed to produce both a pretty skein and a pretty finished project.


I was thinking about this as I put my Big Island Wrapper out for blocking (Thanks, family cats, for the lovely claw marks on my blocks.  No, not a scratching post!)  And I decided to go back and look at projects I've knit with my own yarn.  I confess, I'm not as good about getting them into Ravelry as I should be, but when I went through them, I was able to create a group of 27 Elliebelly projects.  Wow, were my early photos bad.  I'm still not a master yarn photographer, but, just ouch!  Were my kids ever really that small?  It's fun looking back through the projects and seeing still-favorites like Steven West's Honegart Hat, which I wore last winter, although it was knit in 2011.

image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com

And, it was a good reminder that it's the time of year to pull out the Clapotis I knit in Elliebelly Chemise.  It gets softer and softer every year and I love wearing it.

image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com

I'll always love the sweater I knit for Ollie out of Crayon when he was small.  It's still a favorite.

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com

I love looking at these older photos and examining the projects closely.  The more you dye, the more you learn about dyeing and about knitting. And I hope I'm constantly evolving as a dyer. My goal is to create yarn that isn't just another pretty skein.  Although I love the pretty skeins too!