SCS+BCS: Analogous-Complementary Combo

Okay, this is really the last sock spin from the amazing Breed & Color Study put together by Rachel Smith and dyed by Katrina Stewart. Not the last post, obviously; I still need to knit the socks! But it feels amazing to have spun this pound of fiber over the last several months, and have such a variety of color arrangements from two colorways that look so deceptively simple.

This spin was a treat for me because it brought me all the way back to the beginning of this sock spinning journey. After I got back from Vancouver in March 2020, I surprised myself by spinning a sock yarn in just ten days. This was the beginning of a paradigm shift for me; I was mastering the short-continuous backward draft, accelerating my literal spinning speed.

When I spun that first sock yarn, I knew from knitting up my 51 yarns samples into socks that four full ounces would get me enough yarn for nearly knee-length socks, which I did not need. So I stripped off about 1/4 of the braid, rebraided it, and set it aside. When we received the Radnor Breed & Color Study, the blue-green analogous colorway looked very familiar. Lo and behold, it was the same!

Radnor colorways behind, targhee in front.

What a fabulous opportunity. I get to study how the same colorway looks on different fibers (Targhee and Radnor), and how these two colorways – analogous within themselves, but complementary to each other – play together when they are not balanced. Red is so much more powerful than blue; this way I can see if having a 2:1 blue:red ratio makes for a different effect from when they are 1:1.

As with my previous combo spin, I broke the colors up to make one socks’ worth into a combo ply, and one into a combo draft.

Nests prepped for six bobbins: Combo draft on the left, combo ply on the right.

The combo ply singles would be a repeat of what I’d been doing, so I jumped right in on the combo draft. The colors are so complex when you combo draft – all the complexity that you get from a combo plied yarn are present in each combo drafted single. But, the drafting itself can be challenging.

I like this picture because you can see just how much finer the Targhee (left) is than the Radnor (centre, right). The Targhee drafts a bit different from the Radnor; the Targhee has that sense of being so fine as to be almost sticky, while the Radnor is a very easy-going middle-of the road sort of draft. Not that the Targhee was difficult, but the Radnor was just… less microscopic. The Radnor will dominate this blend obviously, but I will have three pairs of 100% Radnor socks of exactly the same yarn construction to compare this to when I start wearing them.

After struggling through two bobbins of combo drafting, I took a cue from Deb Menz’s Color in Spinning – from the cover of it, actually – and did some extreme pre-drafting. You see the resulting nest above. This did help make the spinning easier, and probably made the colors blend even more than if the not-predrafted combo-drafting had gone perfectly.

I ended up with three bobbins of beautifully complex, dark singles. Not as consistent as I can be, but within a margin of error that will look fine when the socks are knit.

I did something a little different, and before plying, I spun the combo-ply singles right on top! that worked a treat. I’m all for saving steps.

Again here, you can see the difference between the Targhee (centre) and the Radnor (top).

Here are the resulting yarns. Zoomed in this close, can you guess which is which?

Zoomed in, they don’t look so different. The dots of color are more prominent in the combo-plied skein on the left, but this close, you can see them just the same in the combo-drafted skein on the right. This close, the optical mixing hasn’t happened yet. But zoom out, and it’s dramatic.

I must ask you to ignore the stripe of red in the top skein. This was the remnant of the red bobbin, and if it’s in that sock at all, it will be in the cuff. That aside, wow! That combo plied yarn is going to stripe like the dickens. Value is king! There were so many spots where two plies were light or two plies were dark, and those similar values united to create a tone for that section of yarn, while the competing value set it off. As the colors changed, the yarn completely changed. The section with two aquas and a dark red feel completely different from the section with peach, light teal, and forest green.

I’m going to love the dramatic, shifting stripes in this yarn, dominated by lights and darks, and shifting through all kinds of color harmonies that each evoke a different landscape. They cohere, but in a very broad sense. This will be like a map of a fantasy world – many different regions, but one universe.

The combo drafted yarn is a different animal altogether. Remember how, in my first combo spin, the combo drafted yarn looked noticeably lighter? This one looks noticeably darker. I know it’s not because of any difference in fiber; each skein is made from identical strips of each braid. I think it’s just because, with so much going on, there’s always more than one dark present. There are no sections, as in the other yarn, where two or three light plies dominate the yarn for yards at a time. The lights are always peeking out, but briefly; but they aren’t locking arms and singing in chorus.

This yarn will make much more subtle stripes. There’s just so much more going on here. I think, because the complements are more all mixed together, it has more of that overall “Christmassy” look. Not that there’s a lot of green, but there is some, and it doesn’t recede as much into the background as much as in the combo plied skein.

In the end, does the blue colorway dominate? I really don’t think it does. I mean, if I were pressed to say if these skeins look more blue or red (again, ignoring that stupid red stripe), I would probably say blue. But I think they really do balance nicely in these proportions. It’s a bit subjective, and as much as I want to reduce everything to Goethe numbers, that’s a bit above my pay grade. “Pretty darn balanced” will have to be my evaluation.

I love how different these two skeins are. What a lovely surprise. I have some more knitting to get done before I can cast on the next family of socks, but soon, little skeins! Very soon!


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