The Nineteenth Blendling: The Kitchen Sink

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.

It was inevitable: the last Blendling would be a hodge-podge mixture of whatever I had left. And I had some weird colors left. My interest was piqued, however, by the fact that I had two strips each of almost all these leftovers. 

What I really wanted to do was blend them really thoroughly, to see if they made brown, or something properly muddy. I have no equipment for this, though: my handcards are in the mail from three thousand miles away, and I certainly don’t have a drum carder or blending board. 

So I hatched a truly goofy plan. I decided to fake having handcards.

What I did was strip each strip down into tiny strips, fluff them up by hand, and lay them close together. I did this with one color at a time.

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Dark green, pink, dark teal, light teal, and beige made the first half of my leftovers. When they were piled up like this, I rolled them up over a chopstick to make a giant fake rolag! A “faux-lag”, if you will. (Ok so a fauxlag is really a thing according to ravelry, and it’s not quite this. But I’m not sure what else to call this thing.)

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Cheerios and play-doh, respectively, kept my little observers pretty content during this labor-intensive process.

Faux-lag #2, from outside to inside, had beige, light teal, red, pink, dark green. I reversed the colors, basically, and the dark teal was swapped for red, as I only had one of each.

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Aren’t they hilarious? They’re more like sandworms than anything else.

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We protect the spiccccceeee

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I could have done something more sensible than this. I could have waited for my handcards to get here. I could have just combo drafted five colors together, in keeping with what I’ve been trying to learn this whole time. But you know what? This is the last time for a while that I’m going to be able to try something that’s just silly that doesn’t threaten to mess up a larger project. I know I’m going to get all intense and intentional about my next projects. This is my last chance to cut loose.

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I stretched my faux-lags into long, messy fiber snakes. Unsurprisingly, despite all my fluffing, the strips just tended to slant and elongate rather than widen as I stretched it out.

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The spinning experience was a little weird, but it wasn’t as much of a pain as I feared. It was just a strange way to combo draft – good for randomness, bad for consistency. I was usually drafting some two colors together – the dark green tended to take over for a bit at a time sometimes, whether it was on the inside or outside of the faux-lag – but there were some pretty sweet moments where I was drafting five colors at once for a while. I did a sort of variation of short forward draw, but I was a little preoccupied by managing this silly snake.

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The end bobbins were… pretty weird. And there was a lot more of the second one, the one with the red – clearly I should have weighed my halves rather than counting strips.

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Still, the final result was not at all un-pleasing. It’s almost Christmas-y. It’s very similar to #9, though more variegated. That’s how I think it’ll knit up – like a variegated yarn. A variegated yarn with marling and heathering thrown in! It would probably be really fun to knit up something large in stockinette with this much variation. Overall it probably would look greyish, and up close all the craziness would look interesting. I’ll never know what it would have looked like properly blended by carding, but it would have been very different.

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #19):

Spun from “faux-lags,” see above for construction. Total color strips: 2 dark green, 2 pink, 2 light teal, 2 beige, 1 red, 1 dark teal.
Spun short forward draw, spinning off a pre-drafted “faux-lag”.
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
1 treadle per draft, on average. Maybe 1-1.5″ draft.
Plied from 2 bobbins
Plying Ratio: 6:1
6-7 treadles : 12″
S twist, Z plied
Yardage: 36.7 yd after finishing
Weight: .8 oz
Appx. Grist: 734 YPP
TPI: 3.5 before finishing, 4 after finishing
WPI: 10 before and after finishing (9 with thicker bits in the picture)
Angle of twist: 30 degrees before finishing, 35 degrees after finishing

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The final four, all .8 oz or more.

And that’s it for the Blendlings! I’m sure you’re sick to death of them, but I’ll give them one more post tomorrow to talk about what I’ve learned and where we go from here. Cheers!

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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Stop! Ply Break

We interrupt your daily dose of Blendlings to give you a little plying.

This poor little single has been sitting on a bobbin for over three years, maybe more than four. It’s from the fabulous Cormo X that mom and I split One Hundred Years ago (i.e. May of 2012; Mom introduced it here). Mom actually bought me combs to process it, because she was enjoying combing so much. I tried to get into it, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t do a great job washing the fleece, anyway. We had a baby. Then another one. If spinning went on the back burner, fleece processing went on the back porch: the place hobbies go to die. I’m still not sure I’ll ever go back to it, and being half in-the-grease for all that time, it might be damaged by now. Can you tell I’m sad about it? I have a deep and abiding hatred of abandoning projects, even when I hate them!

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For all that time, my first little bobbin of Cormo X sat on the bobbin. I didn’t love combing, but I loved spinning the rolags, so I had positive feelings toward it.

During the last couple weeks of rather intense spinning, I decided it was time to let it go.

The girlies helped me wind it into a center pull ball, when they weren’t trying to treadle. (N almost got it. She wants to spin and knit so badly. She is already a fierce crafter with her paint and coloring and glue and scissors and whatever else I let her make a mess with.)

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You can see how incredibly rigid the singles are, after being stretched and greasy for all that time. It was almost like plying sticky strands of twine.

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But, I had faith, and I was armed with new knowledge. I knew I could still scour the yarn; I knew I could put a lot of twist into it for strength and not worry too much about balance; I knew from sitting on the bobbin forever that it wasn’t going to look balanced until I washed the heck out of it anyway. And, I knew how woolen-spun yarn can bloom when you snap and thwack the heck out of it. And yes, most of this information came from the Wool N’ Spinning blog, which I rambled about at a previous break.

This is what a skein looks like that has *all* of its expressed energy in the ply twist.

Pre-wash: this is what a skein looks like that has *all* of its expressed energy in the ply twist.

I executed these moves, and ended up with a downright tolerable little skein.

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The Nerd Numbers:
Cormo Cross, spun half-in-the-grease (poorly washed – not that there’s anything wrong with that, just, again, not what I thought I was doing!)
2 ply from center pull ball
Z spun, S plied
Plied 12:1 ratio, 4 treadles: 12″
WPI: 11 before finishing, 9 after finishing (worsted weight)
1.8 oz
134 yards (pre-finishing), ~1,100 YPP

I scoured the living daylights out of it (about 20 plunges between HOT soapy water and cold rinse water), and it is a different yarn. Being woolen-spun, it’s not going to be strong – I even wonder if the fibers are damaged from all that time on the bobbin in the grease. It’s not soft either – I enjoy a toothy wool, but I’m not even sure I would want it on my head or hands.

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I’m not sure what one can do with yarn that is neither tough nor soft nor enough for something large and utilitarian. I’m thinking about doing what I did with N’s Aviatrix and holding it together with some more leftover Kidsilk Haze, to make it a little more tolerable as a hat or mitts, for myself. Or maybe I’ll just add it to whatever I use the Blendlings for. I don’t know! Why do I always want to cast on my handspun right away???

UPDATE: Since I drafted this post, I have found this post on Diana Twiss’s blog on a Cormo fleece in the exact same condition! What a relief that the bag of Cormo X in Mom’s basement might not be a total loss… and that it might not matter if I wait another year or two to deal with it…

The Seventeenth Blendling: Variations In Blue

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.

My next experiment from Deb Menz’s suggestions in color study exercises (Color in Spinning, pp. 48-50), was mixing value. Basically, I wanted to take one hue, and mix it slowly from dark to light, to see what happened.

I mixed three colors for my sample: light teal, dark teal, and blue, mixing from light to dark. This time the gradation shows up very clearly on the bobbin.

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Remember my nice little speech yesterday about how I was going to take my gradient experiment and spin the ends together, which would pretty much ruin the gradient effect, but make it more usable with the other blendlings in a bigger project? When I was planning this one, I thought about that, said NAH and split all the strips in half. The above is half the fiber, spun from light to dark; the rest would be spun dark to light, then plied from a center pull ball, which would pretty much match things up.

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So as not to repeat the mix-up of the previous blendling, I took my separated nests and wrapped them into one mega-nest in the right order!

You can see the gradient mirror in the center-pull ball: light to dark then back to light.

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With the matching colors together, the gradient effect is intensified.

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #17):

1 single, short strips of light teal, dark teal, and blue in the following proportions:
2 lt teal:1 dk teal
2 lt teal:2 dk teal
1 lt teal:2 dk teal
2 dk teal:1 blue
1 dk teal:2 blue
This sequence was then mirrored for the second half of the fiber.
Spun supported semi-woolen, pulling back across my lap.
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
6-7 treadles per “length” across my lap
Plied from a center pull ball
Plying Ratio: 6:1
8 treadles : ~12″ (measured)
S twist, Z plied
Yardage: 68 yd after finishing
Weight: 1.3 oz
Appx. Grist: 841 YPP
TPI: 4 before finishing, ~4.5 after finishing
WPI: ~13 before finishing, 12 after finishing
Angle of twist: 43 degrees before finishing, 35 degrees after finishing (huh?)

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I have to admit, when I took this off the niddy noddy, I was really disappointed, because it had gone so thin. I had tried to spin the same way as the previous skein – semi-woollen and fast and fun as possible – but it was late at night, and I hadn’t been attending to my work as much as I would have in a different state of mind. There’s an important lesson in this: if you want to be consistent in a project, don’t spin when really tired!

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That, plus the intense gradient effect, means I probably won’t be able to use this with the others. At least there’s a good bit of it, enough to all by itself become a hat for one of the kids!

 

The Sixteenth Blendling: Sandy Water

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.

For the remaining Blendlings, I wanted larger quantities, and I wanted to push the color experimentation as far as I could. For a treat, late one quiet night before a big day, I finished Deb Menz’s color theory chapter in Color in Spinning, examined her color study exercises on pp. 48-50, and picked a few that I could do from the fiber I had left.

The first was experimenting with gradations in saturation.

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I had lots of beige left. These pictures make it look very tan, but it looks quite greyish in natural light, so I thought it would work mix it in with another color to desaturate it. I picked the teal that was closest in value to the beige.

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I then took each strip of color and broke it down into short lengths, combining them into mixes that slowly included more beige and less teal, in the following combinations:

4 teal:1 beige
3 teal:2 beige
3 teal:3 beige
2 teal:3 beige
1 teal:2 beige
1 teal:4 beige

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A clever plan, yes? It had two flaws: (1) the strips of color I was combining were not consistent in width. A proper experiment would change the mix by weight, and my scale is just not sensitive enough to even try with these small amounts. (2) I prepped late at night, shoved it kinda-carefully in a bag, then spun it at the end of that big day, when I was really tired. You guessed it: I mixed up some of the carefully ordered bundles. At least the last two; I may have mixed up others.

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I filled up the bobbin intentionally from one end to the other, so we could see the change on the bobbin. And… you can’t see much. You can see the mostly-teal on the left, but the rest just looks like mud.

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I wound the whole thing onto a center pull ball to see if the differences would show up a little more that way…

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…nnnope. Oh well! I think the beige isn’t really grey enough to carry out this experiment properly anyway.

I had planned all along for the gradation to only be visible on the bobbin, and to ply from a center-pull ball, which would totally fold the gradient in half and almost erase the effect. That’s because I want to use this color with the others I am making, and a gradient would kinda stand out. It’s a good thing this was my plan, because it would have happened anyway.

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It reminds me a lot of the water lily colorway that I made Dwarrowdelf with. It’s a nice color… we’ll call it “sandy” instead of “muddy.” And it does seem kinda desaturated, don’t you think? Though more in a brownish direction than a greyish one.

For the spinning, again it was late at night, but I did my best to emulate the style I used with #10: soft singles, lots of ply twist. It ended up a little thinner than I wanted, but not too much. I wanted something fun; as I’ve mentioned twice already, it had been a long day.

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #16):

1 single, short strips of beige and medium teal in the following proportions (probably):
4 teal:1 beige
3 teal:2 beige
3 teal:3 beige
2 teal:3 beige
1 teal:4 beige
1 teal:2 beige
Spun supported semi-woolen, pulling back across my lap.
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
6-7 treadles per “length” across my lap
Plied from a center pull ball
Plying Ratio: 6:1
8 treadles : ~12″ (measured)
S twist, Z plied
Yardage: 46 yd after finishing
Weight: 1 oz
Appx. Grist: 734 YPP
TPI: 4.25 before finishing, ~4.5 after finishing
WPI: ~11 before finishing, 10 after finishing
Angle of twist: 45 degrees before finishing, 35 degrees after finishing (huh?)

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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The Thirteenth Blendling: Recombined

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.

It was nice to see how the two pre-spun yarns could look better with a bit of extra ply twist, but I really want them for their color. To play with their colors any more, I would have to deconstruct them. In other words, I took the other half of the two pre-spun colors, and un-plied them.

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Measuring 12″ for each two treadles.

I’ve unplied before, and it’s a pain in the neck. After some trial and error, I decided to just untwist the plies onto the bobbin first. Meaning, I calculated the original twists per inch, and fed the yarn through the wheel in the opposite direction for the same twists per inch.

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Unplied yarn, ready to be separated. For the whole length of yarn, the two plies are just lying next to each other.

Once the yarn was untwisted, it was ready to be separated it – one ply onto the wheel again, another pulling away onto my ball winder. I’m not entirely sure why, but I had to spin my wheel back in the direction the yarn was plied in order to get the plies to keep coming away from each other. This meant I had to keep the brake on hard and make the whole process go pretty fast, or I’d actually be putting more ply twist back into the yarns I was supposed to be pulling apart. It was all pretty confusing, and I’m explaining it badly because even as I was doing it, I didn’t understand why it worked this way.

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For the salmon, this went really well. For the gold, not so much.

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I’m not sure what I did wrong, but I couldn’t get into a rhythm, and quickly there was so much ply twist back into the yarn I was trying to un-ply that I spent the rest of the time fighting with the snarls.

But I persevered. In the end, I had four separate plies to show for my efforts.

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For my first attempt to play with these two colors, because I wanted some quick results, I took the two plies on the bobbins and just put them together.

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Because the singles were different thicknesses, however, this made the yarn quite textured. I’m not sure I love this, though it’ll probably be much less noticeable knit up.

Colorwise, I like how the analogous colors kinda mute each other. They almost want to blend, to my eye, to make a sort of terra-cotta. The value difference is a little too strong, though. Compare it to the original colors to see what I mean. The dots are too big to really mix, though they are trying.

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #13, Recombination)

Ply #1: Gold, ~20 WPI
Ply #2: Salmon, ~16 WPI
Spinning style unknown
Plying Ratio: 11.5:1
4 treadles : 12″
Z twist, S plied
Yardage: 24 yd after finishing
Weight: .5 oz
Appx. Grist: 768 YPP
TPI: 3.5 before finishing, 3.7 after finishing
WPI: 10 before finishing, 9 after finishing
Angle of twist: 35 degrees before finishing, 38 degrees after finishing

Tune in tomorrow to see what I did with the last two singles from the rescued yarns.

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