Blendlings 14 and 15: Simultaneous Contrast

The Blendlings are a series of small skeins of handspun I am making, in order to study color, learn combination drafting, and improve my spinning by studying and adjusting my practices in small amounts. For a fuller project description, click here.

In Color in Spinning by Deb Menz, I read about a phenomenon called “Simultaneous Contrast.” That’s when you take a color that’s nearly a complement – say, a green and a violet-red – and put them together. When one is dominant, it tricks your eyes into thinking the other color is closer to the actual compliment. So if the green was dominant, the violet-red would really pop, looking more red than it actually is. (This is paraphrasing Menz, p. 36).

I really wanted to try this, since the color combinations Menz showed as examples of this were some of my favorites. The problem was, most of my colors were on the cool side of the color wheel, so I had very few complements to work with. (Kinda like preaching. Kidding! a joke!) So when I got two warmish colors back into my arsenal, I consulted the rest of my colorful nests to see if I could scare up any simultaneous contrasts. Here’s what I came up with:

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I would call that salmon orange-red, so that would put green in a simultaneous contrast position. My dark green was really too dark, so I threw in a little medium teal to lighten it up.

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I decided the gold was most like yellow which would put it complementary to purple, and in a simultaneous contrast position to red-purple or blue-purple. I only had one dark purple left, so I had to add a lot of red to make it weigh the same as the other ply.

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N has become my afternoon spinning buddy. We’ve been talking about color so much that, the other day, she kept talking about primaries and coloring with them.

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I spun the singles for each of the two yarns one right after the other, then plied them one right after the other. Above are the green/teal single with the salmon, and below is the gold with the red-purple.

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Once they got together, I was in for a surprise!

The salmon and green did not turn out how I expected, and I do not love the results.

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Instead of simultaneous contrast, what we really have here is an exercise in differences in saturation. In Menz’s words, when you put a bright and a dull color together, the bright color looks brighter, and the dull color looks duller. (See Menz, p. 195.) In this mix, the salmon looks an unpleasant fleshy color.

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #14, Fleshy Green):

ply #1: Salmon, ~16 WPI. Spinning style unknown
ply #2: 2 dark green, 2 medium teal, ~19 WPI
Spun worsted, kinda alternating between short forward draft and short backward draft; I’d do one for a while then would notice my hands had switched.
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
1 treadle: 1-2″
Plied from 1 bobbin, 1 cake
Plying Ratio: 11.5:1
4 treadles : ~12″
Z twist, S plied
Yardage: 25 yd after finishing
Weight: .6 oz
Appx. Grist: 667 YPP
TPI: 3.5 before finishing, 3.3 after finishing (not sure what happened here)
WPI: 10 before finishing, 9 after finishing
Angle of twist: 30 degrees before finishing, 37 degrees after finishing

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The second combination, though? wow.

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I think I did end up with some simultaneous contrast here, though not in the way I expected. I was mistaken in categorizing the gold as yellow; it’s more between yellow and orange. That would make blue-purple the true complement, which means that just purple is really in position for simultaneous contrast. You can see that happening perfectly in the picture below: the streaks of purple (which I did not have very much of) really pop and look blue-ish!

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #15, Medieval):

ply #1: Gold, ~20 WPI. Spinning style unknown
ply #2: 4 red, 1 dark purple, ~21 WPI
Spun worsted, as above
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
1 treadle: 1-2″
Plied from 1 bobbin, 1 cake
Plying Ratio: 11.5:1
5 treadles : ~12″
Z twist, S plied
Yardage: 48.3 yd after finishing
Weight: .9 oz
Appx. Grist: 853 YPP
TPI: 4 before finishing, 4.2 after finishing
WPI: 11 before finishing, 10 after finishing
Angle of twist: 34 degrees before finishing, 37 degrees after finishing

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I guess one measure of success in color mixing is how the colors make you feel. I could look at that blend all day! It reminds me of a medieval tapestry, or colors you’d see in a costume in The Tudors.

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Put all the warm-influenced colors together, and that medieval feeling is carried through. I think it’s the gold mixing with the dark simultaneous-contrasting green and violet-red that does it, with the salmon adding in a strong dose of pure “vintage” feel.

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So fun!

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