The Eighteenth Blendling: Goethe Test

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 her book Color in Spinning, Deb Menz talks about balancing different colors in a blend. She talks about an artist named Goethe who came up with a scale of how much of each color is needed to make a “balanced result” (p. 39). You can also use this scale to throw a little more weight to one color, contrasting the proportions.

I thought I’d give it a try with some of the colors I had. I had a lot of bright purple, dark green, and blue. Here are the proportions Goethe assigns to those colors:

Goethe: blue 9, purp 8, green 6

I was able to muster up .5 oz of blue, and I put it with .4 oz of bright purple, and .35 green of green. From Goethe’s scale, that makes a slightly lesser proportion of bright purple and dark green. That was intentional on my part: I knew that my blue was the dullest of the three, and I wanted it to hold up in hand-to-hand combat with the very saturated purple and the dark-value green. 

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I didn’t have an exactly equal number of strips, so I divided them up as closely as I could, pre-drafted them into mega-nests, and when they plied together it didn’t make much difference.

In between starting this spin and finishing the previous Blendling, I came across two important pieces of information.

First, in Episode 55 of Wool N’ Spinning, as a total aside to what she was really talking about, Rachel discussed the problem of having stash fiber that’s too old. She was working with a braid that had been in her stash for three years, noting how it was very compressed in places, so much that she wanted to put it through her drum carder to open it up and make it easy to spin. Without an intervention like that, fibers compressed for a long time are harder to spin consistently, and tend to spin denser yarns.

Tend to spin denser yarns.

Um. I literally have no fiber in my stash that is less than three years old. Most of it is like six or seven years old, and this stuff I’m working with now could be way older! I have no way of knowing, as it was destashed to me from another spinner. 

This made me feel a lot better about all the grist issues I’ve been having. I was frustrated with how dense my yarns were coming out, unsure what else I could do about it. Now I know that it’s not necessarily because there’s something wrong with my spinning technique; it’s the fiber itself, and there’s not much I can do about it. (I also asked my mom to mail me my hand cards at the earliest opportunity.)

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Check out how intensely packed this little center-pull ball is compared to the previous one, spun semi-woolen! The grist went back to being quite intense, under 600 YPP, but this time it didn’t bother me so much.

With that in mind, I gave up trying to make a lofty yarn, and set to just learn a drafting technique, not too attached to how dense it made the final yarn. I went back to trying to do a basic worsted technique, and that’s where I came across the second useful piece of information: a while ago, Rachel did a video on short forward draft that I happened across when I was exactly halfway through spinning these singles. I realized I was moving both my hands quite often. For the rest of the spin, I disciplined my right hand to sit still, and just drafted pulling forward with my left. I just tried to keep the length of my draft and drafts:treadles consistent, changing the thickness with the uptake, not worrying too much about exactly how much fiber was in the drafting triangle, unlike what I was doing at the beginning of this series.

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For plying, I didn’t overply as much as I’ve been trying to do, but tried putting in just enough twist for it to twist on itself a few times, enough that it would come out balanced in the wash. I pretty much succeeded, though the finished skein tends to twist slightly in the underplied direction rather than overplied! Meaning I could have added even more twist and it would not have been overplied at all. It’s not as tight and beaded as some of the others have been, but it doesn’t look leggy, and it doesn’t look as tense as some of the overplied ones have been. I’d love to get more control of these different nuances of plying; for now it’s enough to know they exist and experience them in my hands. 

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To return to color: I think the balance of colors came out quite nicely. It definitely landed in the realm of blue, which makes sense, since there’s blue in both green and purple. A stronger test of the theory would have been to mix non-analogous colors with the Goethe numbers. Still, I think I understand a little more about what he and Menz were getting at – I could shift this more in one way or the other by contrasting the proportions more. And I understand that the balance is affected by the balance of proportion, not by the absolute amount of one color. (For example, by his numbers I could have added just .15 oz of yellow or .2 oz of red to compete with all these cool colors!)

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #18):

1 single, combo drafted by weight: .5 oz blue, .4 oz bright purple, .35 oz green.
Spun short forward draft – first half with both hands moving; second half with only left hand moving after watching video.
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
1 treadle per draft (~1-1.5″)
Plied from a center pull ball
Plying Ratio: 6:1
plied just enough to seem balanced, ~5 treadles per 12″
S twist, Z plied
Yardage: 42.4 yd after finishing
Weight: 1.2 oz
Appx. Grist: 562 YPP
TPI: 3.25 before and after finishing
WPI: 10 before finishing, 8.5 after finishing
Angle of twist: 30 degrees before and after finishing

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