Blending Adventure: Intro Part 2

Yesterday, I explained my inspiration; today, I explain my plan.


A few years ago, a friend of mine was destashing, moving on to do more weaving than spinning, and gifted me all kinds of goodies. Many of them I passed on to those who will use them sooner, but for some reason, I held onto this set of twelve one-ounce balls of dyed top (two already spun up).

The source is Haltwhistle Fibers, and I haven’t the foggiest idea if she’s producing fiber any more, though I’ve messaged her on Etsy and I’ll update you if I find anything out. The bag calls this the “Haltwhistle Fibres Color Sampler Kit.” It gives the dyer’s information, the names of the colors, and says it is “medium/fine 100% wool imported from England.” Statistically, that means it’s probably largely Blue-Faced Leicester. They all seem to be the same blend, anyways, except for the light teal, which is much crimpier. My examinations show me the staple length is about 4-5″ (I am less than confident about my measuring methods).


These twelve one-ounce balls are all beautifully heathered, cool, natural shades. Every single one of them is a color I would wear in a one-colored sweater (save maybe that bright purple). I adore them. They already have a good bit of complexity and nuance in the way the colors were blended into the top. (I think it’s top and not roving. I think I understand the difference, but again, I’m not super-confident on the subject.)

I brought them up to Iqaluit from the larger hoard in Mom’s basement because I thought, in those little 1 oz quantities, I’d be more motivated to spin it up.

For my reference, I am calling these colors (left to right): orange, salmon, pink, light teal, beige, medium teal, dark teal, blue, bright purple, red, dark purple, and green.

Of the twelve colors, when I received them, two had already been spun up into a sort of messy aran-or-heavier two ply. My plan for this wool has always been: Spin the remaining 10 colors into a 2-ply worsted or aran to match those already spun, and put them together with a commercial natural white 2-ply to make a sweater with stripes or small bands of fair isle.

I was not, however, as motivated as I thought. My knitting calls to me, and spinning is a little inconvenient. My wheel and things are ensconced in the study, away from the ranging toddlers. I have to really want to spin in order to forego the comfort of the couch and TV in the living room. Six or so months ago, I spun up about a third of an ounce of the pink, then forgot about it.

But boy-o. Reading Ms. Menz’s chapter on combination drafting made me really want to spin.

My attempt to sort the colors by value. Below, the same picture is in black and white picture below. You can see I was almost spot-on. Only the darkest two should trade places; the purple is darker in value than the green.


All twelve colors in their relative positions on the color wheel. There's really a much bigger gap in the warm colors; the dark red and dark green should be across from each other.
All twelve colors in their relative positions on the color wheel. There’s really a much bigger gap in the warm colors; the dark red and dark green should be across from each other.

Here’s what I realized: Instead of making 10 colors of uniform heathered yarn, I could make more like 20 colors of much more nuanced yarn. Along the way, I could experiment with color theory, and learn combination drafting. Also, working in such small batches (half an ounce at a time), I could do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: figure out how to make a consistent thicker yarn. Each little skein would be the size of a sample, after all.

So here’s what I did: I took each color and made pencil rovings, stripping them down until they threatened to fall apart. I got between 10 and 14 strips out of each color, made each into a little nest, and stored each color of nest in a different ziplock bag. Then, each time I make a ply, I pull three nests out of a bag, make sure it weighs in at .3 oz on my little postal scale, predraft, and away we go. I generally plan out the color scheme of the whole two-ply at once, at least in my head.

Nests of stripped fiber.
Nests of stripped beige fiber.

My goal, as far as spinning skills go, is to make a consistent, balanced 2-ply worsted-weight yarn (~9 or 10 WPI) with a high angle of twist. To get there, I’m going to spin worsted so I can be as controlled as possible, and make records of exactly what I’m doing as I go so I can make adjustments.

In one sense, such small quantities could slow me down. Each ply is only 3 oz, and after each one I have to stop, change bobbins, pre-draft, and start again. Then when two are done, I have to stop, ply, take lots of notes, finish the yarn, and wait for it to dry before starting the next one.

But this is perfect for my life right now. I only have one- or two-hour periods of time to work with right now, a few times a week at best. It’s incredibly motivating that each time I sit down, I can see a different combination of colors spin up, even if I only have 45 minutes to squeeze out one ply. Also, I’m seeing my spinning improve with each mini-skein, and that’s very exciting.

That, in the shell of an oversized nut, is the plan. On the blog, I will document my progress with each mini-skein, indulging in all of the nerdy details. I have a few done already, so the posts will be daily for a while, but I’ve no anticipation it’ll continue that way, because life. But that regular sharing helps with the motivation, and makes it more fun!

As always, thanks for reading, for commenting, and for sharing your thoughts. Do you have any creative sparks under your bum right now?

19 thoughts on “Blending Adventure: Intro Part 2

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with in this (what is sure to be) fun experimental project! I love every one of those colors. (And I would TOTALLY wear that bright purple!)


    1. LOL Tammy yes that purple would look great on you! I probably could wear jewel tones like that, but I always look at them and think “nope I am not that happy and extroverted today”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s