SCS+BCS: Carded Blended Gradients

Here I am, just a couple of nights before (Lord willing) leaving on vacation. Bags are packed, boxes are ticked, final lists made. On the list is to share with you this last spin before we leave.

The Breed and Color Study, this time around, included both carded and combed-top prep. To my surprise, I found myself drawn to the carded batts first. Probably because they were so fresh. Spinning fresh batts (made by someone other than me) is such a treat.

I spun the solid colors in a cable-plied yarn, to see how this carded blend acted color-wise on its own. Now I wanted to try blending the two colors together. Each colourway contains only analogous shades, but the two colourways are complementary to each other. Orange-red and Green-blue. Put them together, and they should make some flavour of brown. But if you have more of one than the other, at what point does it start looking grey? I set out to find out.

First, with half the remaining fiber, I made a gradient by carding different amounts of each together on my handcards. I rolled each sideways into a “cigar” so the prep would be more worsted, as this is for socks. Starting with one cigar of just the pure colorway on each end, I arranged them into a gradient.

I love optical mixing. It’s such a play on your perception, a trick on your eyes to decide when disparate things mixed together become another thing. In this middle cigar, you can sorta tell that the evenly blended color is going to look grey. It’s much more obvious in the finished yarn, when the dots of color in those fibers become super-tiny.

That grey tells me these two are really complements – To my un-nuanced eye, the pure colorways read as red and blue, but if they were, they would blend together to make purple. Put complements together make some kind of neutral, which this has done.

Beginning of the carded-together gradient singles.

I spun these singles to a bobbin with my now-standard sock spinning: 30:1, short continuous backward, about 4 treadles/12″.

Before plying, I went ahead and did my second experiment. It was essentially the same, combining different amounts of each colorway into a gradient, but instead of carding the colors together, I simply held a small strip from each batt together and spun them into one single. On one end was a small strip of red, then a thicker strip of red with a tiny strip of blue, then a bigger strip of blue with slightly smaller red, and so on. Forgot to take pictures of this process.

This type of spinning is definitely more difficult. It’s challenging to keep both colors going into the singles at the same time. It creates a different look.

You can see the slight difference between the two singles on bobbins. Can you tell which one was the carded-together gradient, and which was the held-together gradient? Hint: the one that looks like a hot mess is the held-together gradient.

I then chain plied both of the singles. There would have been more mixing in the singles if I had done a traditional 3-ply gradient, but then there are issues of getting the shades to line up, etc…. for 1.4 oz of fiber each, I didn’t want to break it up any further this time.

Here’s how they came out. In the skein, the differences are pretty subtle! If I look closely, I can tell which is which right away. There’s much more barber-poling in the held-together gradient, of course, though there is some subtle barber poling in the carded-together gradient as well.

Carded-together gradient

But backing away, a little they look pretty similar, don’t they?

In the knitting, I think that one will have more blips of solid color interrupting the gradient here and there, while the carded-together gradient will be smooth as butter from toe to cuff.

And lo, I am coming to the moment where I will put this to the test. This whole time I’ve been saying that I’ll have more answers when I knit up all these sock yarns. The experiment will not really be complete until I do so.

I’ve been saving them. On our month-long RV trip, I’m not bringing any other crafts. No secret projects, no spinning, nothing big. I’m just bringing 9 pairs of sock skeins and a bunch of sock needles, and I will knit as many of them as I can in that time. To finish them, I’d have to knit more than half a sock a day, which doesn’t seem awfully likely. But then, we will have a lot of driving time.

Think of us as we make our flights down to Winnipeg over the next couple of days. Lord willing, next time I update you, it will be from somewhere in the prairie provinces. When I get back, the handpainted tops will still be waiting for me!

3 thoughts on “SCS+BCS: Carded Blended Gradients

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