Elliebelly is Coming Back


So….This is definitely a thing, and I'm doing it.  Elliebelly is coming back in January 2017.


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It's exciting and nerve wracking!  There is lots and lots (and lots and lots more) work to do on the Elliebelly Website, which is pretty bare bones at the moment.  The fun part, of course, is the dyeing, which is happening at full speed right now.  And, a little bit of plotting: those of you who remember the old Elliebelly know that it contained a lot of guidance on yarn selection and "What Can I knit With It" kind of help.  I'm going to amp that up.  A lot.  And, I have a special collaboration with one of my favorite designers in the works too. Knitting brings a lot of joy, friendship, and support into my life and I hope the new site will do that for you too!  Please make sure to sign up to receive the newsletter in the box at the top right hand corner of the page, so you'll know when we're ready to reopen. 


One of my favorite parts of the new site is the photography of sample knits. If you're not sure whether you're a yellow person, meet Oryx.  Pretty in the skein, but amazing knit up in this Andromeda shawl.  Oryx also looks great paired with other colors, like Crake and Lady Mary, in Ashburn.

image from images4-e.ravelrycache.com

This is Carino, knit in Elliebelly Angel Fingering in the Mystic Tangerine colorway. Angel is incredibly soft, spun from Cashmere, Silk, and Alpaca for the perfect luxury yarn.


The last sample knit I'll share with you today is Isabel Kraemer's Lemmy K Shawl. It's knit here in the heirloom rose colorway in Elliebelly Cloud Soft DK, a cashmerino blend. This is a fluffy scrumptious shawl.


As I work on the new site and prepare to reopen, I'm incredibly grateful to the cohort of knitters who worked with my yarn and supported my ability to select the best base yarns and tweak colorways.  The community of knitters is a wonderful place and each and every one of the sample knits makes me think of a friend, sometimes a new friend who I have never met in real life, but a friend nonetheless.  For me, knitting is all about community.  I'm excited about reopening Elliebelly and helping to give to that community, and I hope you'll come along with me and be a part of it!






Elliebelly Paintbrush Yarns

I have always believed that some of my best dyeing techniques, like many life skills, come from learning to fix mistakes.  Overdyeing, for one.  I have very well-developed skills in that area.  One of my favorite techniques is dyeing my Paintbrush Yarns, a technique that evolved out of a disaster many years ago.  As far as I can tell, the earliest Paintbrush Yarns I sold were in 2007, although the technique started as a skein-saving measure several years earlier when I discovered playing with a toddler and  silk ribbon painting were two things that shouldn't be attempted at the same time!  Typically, I consider my paintbrush-style dyes to be one-of-a-kind because of the way they are created, although there are some dye color pairings I like and repeat with results that resemble each other, particularly when skeins are alternated during knitting.  This week, for the first time in a long time, I set up my process table for Paintbrush dyeing and had at it.

Feeling frisky big blue

This is "Feeling Frisky" dyed on Elliebelly Big Blue Bulky, a 100% Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) yarn.  Although multi-colored yarns can require thoughtful project selection, I've had good luck with them and am going to start with a pair of Melissa LeBarre's new Bearberry mittens with a skein of this yarn.

Lente cowl

One of my all time favorite Paintbrush projects is this Lente Cowl, which I knit during the annual Elliebelly Knitalong, Adventurous April, in 2014. Monika Sirna's brilliant pattern was a perfect choice for this style yarn.


These yarns are all Paintbrush Colorways using variations of the same base colors.  The cashmere on the left became this gorgeous Liebevoll shawl.

Liebevoll© ck510


On Ravelry, there are only a few Paintbrush Colorway projects and stash uploaded.  I'm looking forward to dyeing a few of these yarns and seeing what new projects I haven't envisioned that people will come up with for them.



Making A Mess In The Studio

I need a creative day.  One of those messy, carefree, just for fun days.  So, I'm up early, mixing dyes and soaking yarn.


I'm always at my best when I'm playing. And, it seems like a good day for working with a gray I have been wanting to capture on yarn.  Old jeans and a big apron are the attire of the day and I'm listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack.  If you haven't, you really should.  The music is catchy and the lyrics are clever. If you're anything like me, you'll find yourself inextricably drawn to rediscovering the history of the revolutionary era, reading biographies and thoroughly enjoying yourself.  But I digress, back to knitting.


In addition to Elliebelly BFL Constant, which is the undyed yarn soaking above, I'm planning on dyeing some Rainey DK.  Rainey is a yarn I started working with this summer as part of my ongoing search for the perfect linen blend.  Rainey, which is a blend of linen, silk, and alpaca comes in both a fingering and a dk weight, and is a new favorite.  You can read about a test knit project with Rainey here

NewcolorsI also need to get  labels on a bit of yarn I dyed last weekend. (If you look closely, you can see I was listening to Hamilton last weekend, too).  If you haven't noticed the sign up box at the top of the right hand column on this page, I'm gearing up to reopen Elliebelly in January.  More on that later, but for now, I'm working on dyeing and implementing some long planned changes on the Elliebelly Website.  I hope you'll stay in touch and look forward to Elliebelly coming back as much as I am!


Rainey DK: A New Elliebelly Yarn In Testing


It's fun to test out base yarns for dyeing.  Fun, and a little bit frustrating at times.  As a small hand dyer, I rely on an unwieldy assortment of sources for base yarns.  It's a pleasure to work with small producers and mills and there are some fabulous, slightly larger suppliers out there who work with hand dyers, as well.  For me, it's been a one by one process over many years of trying different bases out: dyeing them, knitting with them, seeing how they look after they've been washed and worn.  Different bases have their charms and their detractions, so you need some experience with them to come up with your favorites, the ones that are dye and knit-worthy.

The past year has been fun for me as I've been working with a wonderful group of knitters to experiment with the possibilities for some old favorite yarns and play with some new ones. Not every base succeeds, and among those that do, it's a very personal selection of what works for me and which yarns are best for which purposes.  Those of you who've known me for a while know that I have a near obsession with linen.  It last forever and it gets softer every time you wash it.  It's lovely.  It's been around at least since ancient  Egypt (there are tomb fragments to prove it).  And I like to knit with it, particularly when it's part of a blend that softens its feel — knitting with pure linen can be a bit like knitting with string, although I still adore it in this form.


This shawl, knit in a new base I've been working with, Rainey DK, showed up late last week.  And I'm enthralled with it. Rainey is spun from 50% Alpaca, 25% Linen and 25% Silk.  It's virtues include the softness of Silk, the strength and beauty of Linen and a fabulous halo from the Alpaca.  It has just the right halo, not a "hair everywhere" kind of thing but enough to be soft and a bit rustic without shedding.  Although I can envision shawls and shrugs for Claire Fraser in the Outlander series knit from this yarn, it makes a lovely, sophisticated shawl for today, as well. Rainey, which I'm dyeing in a fingering weight, along with this DK version, is going to be a fun addition to Elliebelly Yarns.  I can't wait to play with its potential some more, but it's clearly a winner for shawls.



Overdyeing Results: Pretty Yarn


Yesterday's overdyeing experiment has left me with some very pretty cashmere yarn, in colors much better suited to fall knitting than what I started out with.

The turquoise blue yarn is now a soft brown-green.

Blue to Green Brown

That one might not seem as intuitive as it is.  Overdyeing blue yarns with brown always give me a pretty patina effect, so I was expecting it.  It's a good solution for yarn that is too-blue.

Pink Collage

I took the pink yarn one step further.  The blue-gray was pretty.  But I decided to add an additional step, and mixed a red for use on half of the skeins (using the same base red to mix my brown for the yarn above, so they would compliment each other) to overdye the gray.  Because acid dyes adhere using a molecular bond, you can't overdye indefinitely, but three baths – the original pale pink, the gray, and finally the red, is well within what works for me.  The gray and red play nicely together.


Overdyeing is a nice solution to yarn you love that needs a change in color.  I'm undecided on whether to stripe these skeins into something soft and lovely to wear around my neck — they all coordinate nicely, or whether to turn them into hats and mittens and other small items.  But having use the over dye process to give them a bit of a color change, I know I'll be using them soon.



Overdyeing Yarn

Do you ever end up with yarn in your stash that you love in a color that isn't right for you?  Years ago, and I do mean years, I purchased some Debbie Bliss Pure.  It's lovely yarn — aran weight cashmere in 25 gram/49 yard put ups.  The yarn is now discontinued, but I'd like to knit with it for winter.  I had two and one-half skeins of a blue leftover from this cowl.

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com

I love the color, but didn't want to knit with it again.  And, I also had 10 skeins of a pink that was a bit too bluish for what I wanted.


This yarn is a dream to knit with – no idea why it was discontinued.  One of my favorite projects of all time, my Orchids & Fairly Lights hat from Little Owl Knits is knit from it, using some natural colored skeins.

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com

So, I decided this afternoon that it was time to overdye these skeins and find a fall knitting purpose for them.  A couple of easy steps will guarantee a good over-dyeing result, whether you are an experienced knitter or not.  Here's my overview:

  • Make sure your skeins are clean and the fiber is "open" to absorb dye evenly.  There are two steps here.  First, remove any ties on the skein that might be tight enough to act as a resist and keep dye from evenly covering your yarn.  I removed a wrap around the skein that was tied too tightly and replaced it with a very loose figure 8 wrap that wouldn't get in the way of the dye.  Second, soak your yarn at least one hour although overnight is better; especially for something like cashmere that is slow to absorb water.  I added in a little squirt of Synthrapol, a gentle low suds soap that doesn't promote felting, but you could just as easily use a gentle dishwashing liquid.  This insures that anything that got on the yarn in the finishing process or any dust or dirt that may have found its way onto your fiber doesn't get in the way of even dye absorption.
  • Prepare your dye.  I use acid dyes.  They are easy to use and you can find directions as well as supplies at websites like www.dharmatrading.com, but there are lots of internet tutorials and people seem to have lots of success with food coloring, kool aid, and other food quality dyes.  Just remember if you use acid dyes, any pots, spoons, etc., that you use in the process can't be used for food any longer.  Also, take care to mix your dyes in a well-ventilated area while wearing a mask.
  • What's the best process to use for overdyeing?  There are lots of good choices.  First, think about color.  Your dark blue skein is never going to be pale pink.  And the color you start out with will influence the color you end up with.  Keep that in mind and work with the color you start with, and not against it.  For instance, a shocking chartreuse overdyed a deep brown will end up a woodsy brown green that you will be delighted to knit fall socks from.  Yes, the basic blue plus red equals purple does come into play, but it's a lot more about tone and subtle color movement.  Here, I used a deep brown over my turquoise.  If I had just dipped the yarn in and then remove and steamed it, I would have ended up with a pretty copper patina blue-green.  But, wanting a deep dark brown, I filled a dye pot with a quantity of the brown dye, immersed it, and steamed on the stove top for an hour to end up with a deep brown.  My pink yarn has a blue undercast.  So I settled on a medium blue-gray as my goal.  All of the blue tones will come from the yarn I started with, so I mixed a true black, diluted it, and again steamed the yarn in a pot to get dark, even color.  The options I've mentioned in the course of discussing colors are two of the easiest ways for a home dyer to overdye yarn.  You can dip the yarn into the dye you've prepared, leaving it to soak until it's the shade you want (but beware it will dry a bit lighter than it appears while immersed) and then steam it (I like to use a dedicated bamboo vegetable steamer for this) or steam it, fully immersed in dye solution, in a dye pot (stainless steel is the best and Amazon has some relatively inexpensive ones, but canning pots found for under a dollar at yard sales are great for the home dyer).  Other possibilities involve the use of a microwave, but here again, it's best to have a microwave used exclusively for dyeing, making this a less than efficient solution for the casual over-dyer.

The best part of this is that if you don't like where you end up, you can overdye the yarn again, once you understand how the color you started with and your end goal are playing together.  And, of course, if you don't want a semi-solid or solid yarn, you can take steps to maintain some of the original color for a variegated or even a speckled yarn.

That's all there is to it!  Allow your yarn to cool, carefully rinse it in room temperature water until it runs clears, and dry it.

My results?  The yarn is still gently cooling in the pot.  In summer, I hang my yarn from the branches of my bay tree until it's dry, so hopefully, I'll be able to share photos with you tomorrow.  Here is the blue yarn's progress from turquoise to brown, simmering gently in the pot.

Blue to brown


This Weekend In Knitting

Look, they made a meme just for me!


I don't really think it's accurate, at least not all the time.

This weekend, I'm definitely not crabby, because: good knitting.


Leuntje's gorgeous Winter Blumen hat, knit in Elliebelly Talia Sport, showed up in my mailbox from Holland this week.  It's a gorgeous fairisle pattern, and I love it knit up in this yarn.


This stunning beautiful aran weight cashmere from The Plucky Knitter arrived too.  I don't think it will last in stash for very long.  I'm itching to cast on with it.  The color is stunning and the yarn is the proverbial to-die-for spin.


And, I am ever so slowly, knitting ribbing on 1.5 needles and looking forward to moving on to short row shoulder shaping for Sjølingstadkofta. It's a beautiful, almost-fall weekend, and I'm going to sneak in as much knitting as possible.