New Year, New Yarn

Happy 2017!  It’s a new year, full of new promise.  In my case, that’s knitting promise.  This is the year I’m going to finish my impossibly complex fairisle sweater, I’m going to knit with all of my cashmere this year, and mostly, I’m going to have lots of fun doing it!  And, to get things off to just the right start, I have a new Elliebelly yarn to tell you about.  I like yarns that combine silk with wool.  It has to be just the right amount of silk: shine and softness, but enough wool that the yarn is still cushy and has great stitch definition.  And, of course, it has to be the right wool.  I’ve been lucky enough to have success with some silk-involved yarns over the years.  But I’ve had difficulty finding just the right worsted weight single-ply.  That is, until now!  I’ve finally found it, tested it, and fallen in love.

Elliebelly's Pussy Willow in the Vintage Silver Colorway
Vintage SIlver

This is Pussy Willow, 273 yards a skein, worsted weight, and I’m hopelessly in love!  It’s got a nice tight twist — essential in a single ply yarn.  You’ll see it kink just a bit in places, which is exactly what you want to insure it will knit up nicely.  And color.  Wow!  Color is the real reason I like having silk content in a yarn.  Yes, it does soften the blend, but it’s real virtue is the way it makes color so intense and beautiful.  I’ve dyed it up in several colorways and it never has a bad hair day.

Elliebelly Pussy Willow in Supernatural; Worsted Weight Silk/Merino Yarn

I am really looking forward to knitting with Pussy Willow this year!  It has so much potential.  I’d like to have a basic cardigan in this yarn, but also, I’m thinking it may want to become a cabled scarf, a chic little cowl (maybe in the new Grimoire colorway), and a pair of very fun, soft mittens.  Endless possibilities with this one!  I hope you’ll fall in love with Pussy Willow too!


All of these colorways will be available in our first shop update, when Elliebelly reopens this month.  But just a word of warning, because I’m a very small, one woman dyeing operation, like all Elliebelly yarn, it will be available in limited supply.  To stay in touch and be the first to know about the details of our reopening store stockings, take a moment and sign up for our newsletter, in the box at the top of the page.

Catherine Are You Weeping on Pussy Willow
Catherine, Are You Weeping?



Dyeing For Spring

I'm going to need a hat to wear on my travels this spring.  I want something lighter weight than the hats I have managed to keep out of my children's greedy little hands and also a springy green color.  Since I didn't seem to have anything the fit the bill in stash, I dyed this.

Yellow green kraemer maria silk merino

It's a new-to-me yarn, Kraemer's Maria, a 50% silk/50% merino blend with 225 yards in 100 grams.  The yardage and the look are both about right for me to call it a worsted weight yarn. For patterns, I'm still deciding between a Plum Tree Slouch

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com

(c) NNK Press (with permission)

and an Irving hat.

image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com

(c) Melissa LaBarre (with permission)

They are both tempting choices and I feel sure I'll end up knitting both of them.  The yarn itself seems to almost completely lack a Ravelry presence, so I'm knitting blind here.  But I tend to like Kraemer's yarns and this one dyed up beautifully, so I have high hopes.

A note about the dyeing process.  I like to apply color to yarn in layers, rather than all at once, to get more organic color variation in yarns that aren't going to be level-dyed a solid color.  This yarn was originally dyed a pale yellow and then overdyed with a blue that was a dilute almost-navy solution, before being glazed in a yellow-brown.  Although I'm often asked is glazing is worth all the work, there is no doubt in my mind that the same principles I used to use in painting collage backgrounds are equally at work in dyeing yarn, and there is simply no substitute for carefully applied layers of dye, each of which makes the final color full and rich.


Gadabout: Knitting That Is So Much Fun I Can’t Wait To Do It Again

I liked knitting Gadabout a lot.


I like knitting cables and these were unique.  And somehow, although I was able to memorize that pattern on the first repeat — something that almost never happens with me — it never got boring.  Gadabout is one of those patterns where you want to do "just one more repeat" before you put it down for the night, so you keep going until it's done.

It does not hurt that this is in cashmere.  It does mean that I haven't taken it off since it finished drying after a good wet blocking, which really brought out the pattern.

This is a go to pattern.  I'd like to knit it next in The Plucky Knitter's bulky Snug — a cashmere blend.  But I'd also like to do it in a gently variegated yarn, perhaps a Malabrigo Mecha version.  I think it would also look great in Elliebelly Basilisk, a silk and merino blend, and I may need to dye some of that up in a wheat color to use as well.


Sometimes, We Dye Things That Around Here That Aren’t Yarn

Photo 1 (1)

This week, I needed a quick fix of color.  But I didn't have the energy for a dyeing session.  So I did these pillow cases, in roughly half an hour, using some dye that had been sitting around in my studio for almost too long (anything over six weeks starts to show its age).

Photo 2

These pillowcases start life as a nice, undyed charmeuse silk (you can buy them here).  I dyed them using a quick version of the method outlined in more detail here to get a faux tie-dye effect.  I soaked the pillowcases in hot water with a bit of vinegar so the dye would strike immediately.  I made a weak solution of a base color and swished the cases around for it to take.  Then, after squeezing out the excess water, I scrunched them (as the linked article details) and poured the dye onto them.  Instead of a more traditional steamed dye bath, I nuked them in a microwave reserved just for dyeing for two minutes, let them cool, and repeated for two and one-half minutes.  The liquid ran clear after that, and I let them cool and gently laundered them.  You could also do them solid or in a much more muted crackle dye, but we needed a little bit of color around here, so I went bright.

This is the perfect easy pick me up or a great idea for a quick DIY holiday present.


Dyeing Yarn with Natural Dyes. Part One.

Photo 27

You will never guess.  What natural dyestuff do you think I dyed these yarns with?  It's definitely not an obvious choice, unless you've done this before, but all three of these skeins were dyed in a vat prepared from black beans.

Photo 2

Here they are, soaking in the kitchen.  I use a pot with a strainer so I don't have to fish all of the beans out after the "juice" is ready, and since this is nothing but black beans, I have none of the usual worries about working in the kitchen.  

I'll include tutorial notes on the steps I took, in case you want to dye along with me.  I eye-balled the amount of water I would need to cover my skeins, and after rinsing the dust off of the beans, covered them in water, stirred them up, and left them to soak. This batch soaked for about two and one-half days.

Photo 4

The day before I wanted to dye my yarn, I pulled it out to mordant.  The mordanting process makes it possible for the dye molecules to stick to the yarn molecules, much as in commercial wool dyeing where citric acid is used in the process.  There are a number of mordants available for use with natural dyes. Here, I'm using aluminum sulfate, which, although considered safe, means we're back to using designated dye pots and a mask for mixing.

Photo 5

We're using skeins of three different yarn bases here, because natural dyeing produces fascinating and often unpredictable results on different fibers.  On the left is a skein of Elliebelly Pixie Superwash Merino.  The middle skein is Elliebelly Panda, a 50/50 silk bamboo mix.  The final skein is undyed Malabrigo Mecha, which is a single-ply Merino, that is not superwash.

Photo 7

Here they are in the mordanting bath, with 5 tablespoons of Alum and a tablespoon of kitchen grade Cream of Tartar, which acts as a mordant/brightener.  I take close to an hour to bring the submerged yarn to a temperature where the yarn is not quite simmering.  Then, lid on but off the stove, the pot sits until the yarn is completely cool before going into the dyepot.  This is particularly important in this case, as dyeing with black beans is a cold process, and the colors gray out if heat is applied.

Photo 10

Remember to use your stove fan if dyeing in the kitchen. (With thanks to my husband for the lovely magnet that graces the hood of our stove).

Tomorrow, we'll walk through the dye bath and admire the finished yarn in Part Two.



What Would You Knit With It?

I've been doing some dyeing for myself, as well as some for prizes at the close of the Adventurous April Knitalong.  I thought it would be fun — and helpful too — to show off the yarn and ask what you would knit with it if it came to live with you.  You can respond in the comments here or in this thread on the Elliebelly Group on Ravelry.


The first yarn is BFL Silk Sock — It’s a 55% superwash Blue Faced Leicester/45% Silk yarn with 438 yards to the skein.  It’s a fingering weight, and I’ve dyed two skeins of it.

The colorway is Strawberry Roan — inspired by our trip to Iceland and the “Little Horses” (we were told it’s an insult to call them ponies) that populate the island. The Strawberry Roan horses were so pretty and particularly sweet.


Also inspired by our Iceland trip, this is the Gullfoss colorway on aran weight Blue Faced Leicester.  There are 183 yards in a 100 gram skein, and again, I've dyed two skeins.


Panda is a silk and bamboo blend, roughly 50/50 that has 150 meters to a 100 gram skein.  This is a new-to-Elliebelly yarn that I'm testing out for the first time.  I am very fond of the sheen so far — the yarn seems to glow from within.  There are two skeins of this and I wish I had dyed more as it would make a lovely large summer weight Clapotis for wrapping up on the beach at night or for movies in the park!


Pink Loves Brown is a classic Elliebelly colorway that I've dyed here on 8-Ply Coventry Cashmere.  Each two ounce skein has 130 yards, and I've dyed two in this colorway.


As yet unnamed, this new colorway was my effort to replicate some of the rich blues and greens we saw on our Iceland trip.  The three dye bath process was definitely worth it.  I've dyed four skeins of this colorway on 8-ply Coventry Cashmere, again with 130 yarns per skein.


Finally, another classic Elliebelly colorway, Lakehouse.  This is on aran weight BFL, with two skeins of 183 yards each.  It's been a long time since I dyed this colorway, and it took all the strength I could muster to avoid casting on with it immediately.  I love how the golden strands peak out from between the variety of blues and greens in this colorway.

So, friends and knitters, what would you knit with this yarn?  What patterns have you been dreaming over?  Inspire me.  Motivate us all.  It's so much fun to see different knitters' take on the same yarn!



Recent Dyeing

I've done some dyeing over the last few weeks and thought I would give you all a peek.

This is a wonderful Superwash Merino/Mulberry Silk blend from a new undyed yarn supplier (or rather, new to me) called Polika.  I like this yarn a lot; not as much as Moth & Goat which is a Cashmere/Silk blend at about the same weight, but this is a slightly more economical version that is still very pretty.


The colorway, Perseid, is actually the result of some experimenting with dyeing and overdyeing that gave me results I was looking for with some more somber colorways.  This picture is a lot brighter than the actual dyeing, but the picture below, which is Perseid on Blue Faced Leicester, is a bit truer.


I've also been experimenting with a yarn that has a bit of silver sparkle in it — I'm tentatively calling this Silver Sock, but if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.  Several skeins of this yarn have gone out to friends for their opinion and I'm searching for a project to devote my skeins to.



I've got two skeins in the colorway on the bottom, Wendy.  Although socks seem like the right choice for a yarn with so many colors in it, I'm also going to look around for some other ideas since I've got two full skeins.