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.