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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Blendlings 11 and 12: Old Made New

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 Blendlings have been humming along so nicely that I decided to do something I wasn’t sure I wanted to do at the beginning: rejuvenate the two pre-spun yarns that came with my colors. Of the 12 colors originally in the kit, two had already been spun up into a two-ply worsted. My initial goal was to match these so I could use them all together. But as I proceeded, these originals looked more and more underspun and unhappy. I could see there was plenty of twist in the singles, but they hadn’t been plied enough, and the result was leggy and ropey. They’re also the two warmest colors in the kit, so bringing them back into play would seriously extend the range of colors I could play with.

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Caked and ready for transformation!

Here are their original numbers.

Initial stats (Old Gold): 942 YPP, 9 WPI, 2 TPI, 24 degrees ply twist angle
Initial stats (Old Salmon): 586 YPP, 8 WPI, ~2 TPI, 27 degrees ply twist angle

For reference, my final yarns have been landing somewhere in the range of 4 TPI. I was liking the look this gave. 2 TPI or less is WAY underplied, especially since I could see that the singles had plenty of twist in them.

The first thing I did with these two old yarns was to take half of each and put them through the wheel, adding another 2 TPI, so they’d match the yarns I was making. Check out the difference a little more twist makes!

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #11, New Gold):

Two singles of gold ~20 WPI
Spinning style unknown
Re-plying Ratio: 6:1
2 treadles : ~12″
Z twist, S plied
Yardage: 25 yd after finishing
Weight: .4 oz
Appx. Grist: 1000 YPP
TPI: 4 before finishing, 4.5 after finishing
WPI: 11 before and after finishing
Angle of twist: 34 degrees before finishing, 40 degrees after finishing

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The salmon is decidedly thicker, but I added the same amount of twist: hence, in the end, a higher twist angle.

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #12, New Salmon)

Two singles of salmon ~16 WPI
Spinning style unknown
Re-plying Ratio: 6:1
2 treadles : ~12″
Z twist, S plied
Yardage: 17 yd after finishing
Weight: .5 oz
Appx. Grist: 544 YPP
TPI: 4 before and after finishing
WPI: 9 before finishing, 8.5 after finishing
Angle of twist: 40 degrees before finishing, 43 degrees after finishing

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Don’t they look happier now?

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So now you’re wondering – what did I do with the other half of each color? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

A Non-Yarnie’s Visual Spinning Glossary

I know that most of my readership are not spinners; many are not even knitters, and are just friends and family who like to know what I’m up to. These recent posts have probably been hard for you to follow, non-yarnies, and it’s been pointed out to me that you might want to follow what I’m saying. With that in mind, I’ve prepared this short primer to some of the terms I use when I talk about spinning. There is, of course, much more information, and I’m sure there are many better posts like this one out there, but my college buddies aren’t going to read them. So I’m just going to give you enough to understand my blog posts.

The Wheel

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You will here observe my ineptitude with GIMP and the clutter of the study/spinning closet. I am a firm believer in making others feel better about themselves by sharing an accurate depiction of my clutter.

Let’s start with the big tool, shall we?

  • The big wheel is called the drive wheel.
  • The pedal is called a treadle.
  • That general business end on the left is called the mother-of-all or flyer assembly (no, those terms aren’t really interchangeable, but I’m not sure I could describe the difference, let alone in a way you’d care about).
  • The small wheel on the business end is called a whorl.
  • The short version of how a wheel spins: The treadle makes the drive wheel spin, and the drive wheel is connected via a string called a drive band to the whorl. The point of the entire mechanism is just to make a whorl that spins fast.
  • When I talk about ratio, I’m talking about how many times the whorl goes around for every one time the drive wheel goes all the way around. A bigger whorl means a lower ratio, and thus a slower spin; a smaller wheel makes a higher ratio.

Here’s another angle to show you the business end bits.

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  • The whorl (at least on this wheel) is part of the flyer – that whole thing spins really fast when the wheel turns.
  • The bobbin is where the yarn goes as its being spun; it’s removable.
  • The maidens have little bearings sticking out of them that hold the flyer in place while it spins.
  • The oriface is a hollow shaft in the flyer that goes from the bobbin side of the whorl, through the whorl and the bearing on the maiden, to point at the spinner.
  • The way that yarn goes onto the wheel is this: The yarn, as it’s being made, goes through the oriface from right, out a hole on the side of the oriface, over the guide hooks, and onto the bobbin.
  • The brake (on this style of wheel) makes the bobbin go slower than the flyer is spinning, and that pulls the yarn onto the bobbin as I’m spinning. When I’m adjusting the brake, I’m adjusting the tension, i.e. how much the wheel is pulling on my yarn as I make it.

This is all very nice, but in all these pictures the yarn is already yarn. How do you actually make the yarn, Rebecca?

Well, it starts as some kind of fluff. It starts on a sheep, of course, and some spinners start with the wool right of the sheep, but I usually don’t, so I’m not going to go there. I usually start with dyed, prepared fiber, which has gone through some fancy processes to get all the fibers lined up and easy to spin. I’m usually working from one of these:

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  • Top is put through a process called combing to make a very fancy fiber snake with all its fibers lined up nicely.
  • Roving (not pictured) looks a lot like top to the uninitiated, but goes through a very different process to become a fiber snake, with its fibers rather more jumbled up.
  • Top and roving are often stored in braids. They’re really giant crochet chains, but whatever.
  • Batt is fiber that has been through a drum carder (google it).
  • Rolag (not pictured) is what comes off handcards; you might have seen these operated at olde tyme re-enactments. It’s rolled off the handcards to make a fiber caterpillar.
  • Puni is basically a baby rolag. It’s finer fiber, like cotton or something more exotic and expensive like qiviut or whatever, that’s rolled tightly over a chopstick or something to get off fine handcards.

Here, for the person who has never made yarn and probably never will, is what I do to make yarn. I take my prepared fiber, fiddle with it to have a small, fluffy bit ready to go, attach it to yarn already coming through the oriface, then I make the wheel go with the treadle. The spin in the drive wheel goes into the flyer, and transfers to the yarn going through the oriface. That makes the yarn through the oriface go really twisty. I use my hands to draft. That is, I pull or fiddle with the fluff in my hands in some way, then carefully let all the twist energy in the yarn go into a small amount of the fluff at a time (the fluff in my hand is called the fiber supply).

Drafting: pulling a bit of fluff out from my fiber supply, ready to be twisted.

Drafting: pulling a bit of fluff out from my fiber supply, ready to be twisted.

The twist goes into the drafted fibers. Now it's yarn!

The twist goes into the drafted fibers. Now it’s yarn!

Then voila, yarn! Yarn is basically fluff plus twist. That’s really all there is to it. There are many many different kinds of draft, and I write about them a lot as I experiment with them. However, I’m still very much learning them, so there’s not much point in me trying to explain it, and I think that’s beyond the purview of this non-yarnie’s primer.

The yarn

When you’re first spinning from fluff, you’re making a single: just one strand of twisted stuff. You can have yarn that’s just a singles, but most yarn you see is two or more singles twisted together into a plied yarn. When it’s going to be plied, or is already in a plied yarn, one strand is called a ply. (The word ply is also the verb for twisting singles together.) Handspun yarns are usually one or two plies, plied in the direction opposite to that at which the singles were twisted. The twist or ply direction is described as “S” or “Z” – just look at the strands and imagine an S or Z on top of them. For an S twist, my drive wheel was spinning to the left; for a Z twist, it was spinning to the right.

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A sample card from one of my Blendlings. The top two samples are singles yarns (wrapped around the card a few times); the bottom sample is a 2-ply – two singles twisted together. If you tilt your head sideways, look at the plied sample, and imagine a letter “Z” over it, you can see it was plied with Z twist – to the right, or with the drive wheel going clockwise.

The kind of yarn I make is controlled by all sorts of factors: from how I draft and what ratio my wheel is at, to how the fiber is prepared originally, and how it’s prepared immediately for spinning by me, and other factors. You can see why I have to sample – make practice pieces of yarn. I try different things ’till I get the yarn I want, then measure it (see below), and put it on a sample card to stare at while I work to try to stay consistent.

Tools 

I don’t have very many spinning tools, but I thought I’d show you what I do have, since I talk about them.

From left to right: niddy noddy, lazy kate, ball winder.

From left to right: niddy noddy, lazy kate, ball winder.

  • A niddy noddy is what I wrap finished yarn around to make it into a skein (a big loop of yarn for storage.)
  • lazy kate holds my bobbins when I’m not using them, and when I’m plying. They come in many different styles.
  • ball winder is used for winding yarn into center pull balls that looks like cakes. Center-pull balls just mean that you can get at the other end of the yarn that’s in the middle of the ball, so you can pull from the middle, or pull from the outside and inside at the same time, which is often handy.

Measuring Yarn 

I’ve been recording my “Nerd Numbers” (and I use the word “nerd” in the most proud and affectionate way possible, of course), because all those little measurements are how you make a particular kind of yarn – thick or thin, soft or strong, etc. – to be used for a particular thing. I’m still learning how to control all those factors, so I’m measuring a lot. Here’s what I’m talking about:

 

  • WPI is wraps per inch. This is a measurement of how thick the yarn is. When you gently wrap yarn around a special tool (or a pencil, or a ruler, or your finger), you can measure how many diameters of the yarn fit in an inch. The smaller the number, the fatter the yarn.
    • Yarn weight just means thickness. I’m not going to go into the weird names for all the weights, but I’ve been shooting for worsted weight, which is a sort of standard sweater yarn, which comes in at 9 WPI.
My quick-and-dirty method for measuring WPI on a finished skein: stick a finger into the skein and line up some yarns gently across my finger. I know this isn't "proper", but since I'm enough of a beginner that my yarns are pretty uneven, it feels pretty pointless to measure WPI by wrapping a short length around something. This gets me a nice average across the skein if I try it in a few places. Does anyone else do this?

My quick-and-dirty method for measuring WPI on a finished skein: stick a finger into the skein and line up some yarns gently across my finger. I know this isn’t “proper”, but since I’m enough of a beginner that my yarns are pretty uneven, it feels pretty pointless to measure WPI by wrapping a short length around something. This gets me a nice average across the skein if I try it in a few places. Does anyone else do this?

  • Angle of Twist is the angle of the fibers in the single, or the plies in the plied yarn. A yarn with a smaller angle is more loosely twisted or plied; a yarn with a bigger angle (45 +) is tightly twisted or plied.
Measuring twist angle got way less annoying after I made this card!

Measuring twist angle got way less annoying after I made this card!

  • TPI is twists per inch. I literally lay the yarn next to a ruler and count the bumps. This number varies with the thickness (WPI) and angle of twist. It’s controlled by the ratio (described above) and how long I draft between my fingers.

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  •  The weight (as in literally how much it weighs) and yardage (how long a piece of yarn I just made) are pretty self explanatory.
  • Grist is a measurement of yardage per weight – usually yards per pound (YPP). It’s a way of measuring how dense the yarn is. Two yarns with the same WPI, based on how they’re prepared and spun, might have a very different YPP. A higher YPP (for the same thickness of yarn) means a lighter, airier yarn than a lower YPP.

And that’s it! Clear as mud.

I hope this makes the rest of my spinning posts a little more enjoyable for my non-spinning / normal friends. This is not actually any kind of tutorial or how-to; If you want to actually learn about this stuff, check out this handy list of resources for spinners. If there’a anything else you, as a non-spinner/non-yarn-interested person are curious about, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Have a great Monday doing whatever not-spinning thing it is you like to do.

The Tenth Blendling: Paunnait

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.

I liked the last Blendling so well that I decided to do something similar, colorwise, with #10. this time with dark green as the designated dark value, I matched it up with a contrasting bright purple, this time with cooler beige as the other “supporting” color along with the light teal.

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I decided to try the same color spread as before – put the green and light teal together, hoping difference in fibers (the light teal is much crimpier and more roving-ish than all the others) would encourage them to take turns and make the green pop, and that the purple would be calmed by being plied with the teal. More on how that turned out later.

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For the last Blendling, I’d tried spinning slightly softer singles while still plying tightly. I saw some difference, but not a ton. For this one, inspired by a class that 100-Mile Wear describes teaching, I decided to push this to an extreme. I spun the singles as fast and loose as I could while staying pretty consistent. This took a bit of practice, but soon I was doing a modified long-draw, and it went fast. See above for what a plyback looked like. Below on the bobbin, you can see those soft singles next to the crazy-overtwisted leftover singles from Blendling #7. The singles had quite a halo on them too.

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I then dumped the same amount of ply into it as I have been doing: 6 treadles to my default “length” (I thought this was 12″ but I measured later and it’s more like 10″).

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This is a drastically different yarn from what I’ve been making!

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Energized unfinished yarn and the sample book.

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The colors did not do what I expected. The purple competed with the dark green a lot more than I expected. It’d be hard to say whether the purple or green is more dominant. The effect is very natural, like purple flowers in a green wood. I’m reminded of the dwarf fireweed – paunnait – that grows on the slope in front of our house in the summer. Oh, how far away that summer seems now…

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #10):

ply #1: 2 light teal, 3 dark green
ply #2: 1 beige, 4 bright purple (the purples were thinner)
Spun supported semi-long draw: right hand positioned about 4″ back into the fiber supply, drawing back across my lap, as I treadled w/ left foot, body turned about 60 degrees away from the wheel. L hand supported the twist coming out of the fiber supply and pinched when necessary for control, but no smoothing.
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
6 treadles all the way across my lap! (maybe 18″)
Plied from two bobbins
Plying Ratio: 6:1
6 treadles : ~12″
S twist, Z plied

Yardage: 32 yd before finishing, 29 yd after finishing
Weight: .7 oz
Appx. Grist: 662 YPP
TPI: 4.5 before finishing, 4 after finishing (not sure what happened here)
WPI: ~10.5 before finishing, 9 after finishing
Angle of twist: 37 degrees before finishing, 43 degrees after finishing

I like this a lot! Like I said, it went fast, and was very fun to do. As I was doing it, I was thinking to myself, I could totally spin a sweater’s worth of yarn like this. I’m curious how it’d wear, though, and I’d want to make a wristlet to test it out before committing.

Check out Blendlings 6-10 together: the weight is much more consistent, but you can see the yarn go from extremely ropey on the left to extremely round and soft on the right!

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The Ninth Blendling: Tomato Bisque

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.

#9’s color selection came from Instagram, of all places. I was mostly through the archives of the Wool N Spinning blog and had caught up and made a nuisance of myself on many of the active topics of the Wool N Spinning Ravelry group, and I needed a different source of inspiration. I have never gotten into Instagram, though I had an account; I just didn’t see the point. It never tickled my funnybone to look at filtered selfies and sunsets, and my preferred self-expression on social media is witty verbage in a facebook status. But then Rachel mentioned #handspun. And oh boy. Instagram is basically made for yarn porn.

Late one night when I couldn’t sleep (see previous post about Big Work Thing – awesome and I’m actually not anxious about it but does not lend itself to sleep), I was scrolling through this new favorite feed when something unusual caught my eye. I found out later it was the Sweet Georgia Yarns January Club fiber, though the version I saw looked much warmer than those in the post I just linked to. What I saw was a handspun skein with a couple of tones of coral and sage in it. I kept staring at it, then realized I could do something like it. I was up in a trice.

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I would never have thought to put these together before that post, but as soon as I did, i was in love. Alone the pink looks salmony; in this mix it looks coral. The teals usually look really cool, but being put together with almost-a-complement, they are made to look more like the complement, and so give the impression of a light forest green. Way cool, eh? (I say “eh” now. Or “hey” since half my friends up here are from the Maritimes… I digress.)

I wasn’t sure how to pair them up: reds and greens together? Maximum value contrast in both? I went with putting the lightest and darkest values together, because it was late at night and I felt daring. When they were both spun up, I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision.

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Honestly they look kind of gross. But plied together, Wow.

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I am in love!

Here’s what happened: The light teal is actually a different fiber than all the rest of the color samples, so it’s hard to combo draft. This meant that the light teal and red took turns, and the red really popped in the final combination, being the darkest in value by far of the four colors. The medium teal and pink were pretty much the same value, and combo-drafted perfectly, so they blended into a pukey grey. But together, the teals had depth, and the pink played a supporting-role coral to make more sense of the red.

The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #9):

ply #1: 3 pink, 2 med teal
Spun semi-worsted: short forward draft w/ some twist in the fiber supply, left hand smoothing a little
ply #2: 2 red, 2 light teal
Spun more supported semi-woolen, right hand pulling back fiber supply, left hand supporting the twist and smoothing a little
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
1 treadles : 2″ approximate
Plied from two bobbins
Plying Ratio: 6:1
8 treadles : ~12″
S twist, Z plied

Yardage: 32 yd before finishing, 31 yd after finishing
Weight: .7 oz*
Appx. Grist: 709 YPP
TPI: 4.2 before finishing, 4.5 after finishing
WPI: 10 before finishing, 9 after finishing
Angle of twist: 38 degrees before finishing, 44 degrees after finishing

The spinning, too, was a serendipitous experience. I was starting to think, after changing it up a bit, that maybe my yarns were so dense not because of my drafting style per se, but because of the amount of twist I was putting in. I set myself to let my hands run by instinct a little more, only putting in as much twist as made sense in the moment. It changed a good bit, but by the end I was almost doing some kind of supported long-draw.

As I was starting this, I put on episode 54 of Wool N’ Spinning (which had just come out), where Rachel addresses exactly this topic. She has a finished spin of intentionally soft-spun singles that are tightly plied together, making the bouncy, rounded two ply I have been wishing for. Even using the same breed of sheep as I’m spinning (BFL)! She’s even talking about making a kid’s sweater out of it, so it can’t be too fragile? How fun to spin along, confirmed that I was on the right track.

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I’m getting the hang of making the right singles for 2-ply worsted weight, always using the previous yarn’s singles as a sample to match or deviate from. My grist was still pretty intense, but definitely closer to the mark. I think I’ve gotten used to putting a lot of twist in, so it turns out I didn’t loosen it up that much. Still… I’m on the right track; this is a great middle-of-the road yarn! I did break 700 YPP with the target WPI! And I am in love with these colors.

*I’m gradually upping the size of my samples. Most importantly, because I need time and yardage to get used to the changes in spinning I’m making, but also because it’s taking me longer to blog about each one than to spin it! I’m dreaming of putting them into a striped yoke, so it makes sense to have increasing quantities anyway.

The Eighth Blendling: Mix-It-Up Maroon

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.

I wouldn’t want to give you the idea, from two samples ago, that I dislike purple. In fact, one of my very favorite colors is maroon. By maroon I mean a dark, warm purple; I find this color inviting and dramatic.

Since we did N’s favorite colors last time, I wondered if I could get my favorite color this time? So I took the dark purple for a starting place, then added a healthy dash of the dark red to warm it up, and a splash of bright purple to brighten it.

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Anna Karenina is my audio companion. This is the very last audio book I haven’t listened to from that time I got a free trial with Audible then forgot to cancel it for a year. This happened in college. This is me dealing with deep stash on a couple of levels!

As I mentioned before, it was time to drastically change things again with the drafting. I had gotten all I could out of the “airlock” draft; this was obviously just compacting the yarn. So I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and spin over the fold. I have spun over the fold before, but only with fleece in the grease, so doing so from strips of roving was rather the opposite. The picture halfway down this Wool N’ Spinning post was my lightbulb moment, and just about my only guide. (Again with my theoretical research. I just get an idea and get too excited to start, then it only occurs to me when blogging about it that I could have actually put more forethought into it!) As she describes in that post, this woolen drafting style puts a literal core of air into the ply, which should lighten it up a good bit.

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I had six strips of color which I ran together through my hands, then broke them into short lengths – about as short as the staple would allow. (Again, guessing this is BFL.) I made a sort of color sandwich out of each one: purple in the middle, red spread out underneath, and the one strip of purple fluffed out over top. I lined them up ready to grab, then for each one, I folded it over my finger (red on the bottom), and tried to draft slipping it over the end of my finger.

I did it all in one ply because I knew it would take some practice, and I wanted to keep at it without interruption. It sure did take practice. The colors didn’t blend easily this way, and trying to make them do so made me fight more with the draft than I should have bothered with. Even so, there wasn’t much combining, and the colors tended to dominate one at a time.

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There were, however, some really sweet moments when I was just drafting with one hand, pulling back, the drafting zone slipping perfectly over my left fingertip. That was so cool! And as it turns out, I actually really like the effect of the colors taking turns being dominant in the final yarn. It’ll make the yarn look more variegated than heathered in the knitting-up, I expect, but that’s fine as a feature, and the colors still mix well to give that overall maroon impression.

I still put a lot of twist into it, about a treadle per inch or two or so at 6:1 (~4 TPI), and plied it at my new fairly-tight angle.

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I’m getting used to these twisties when they come off the niddy noddy.

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The Nerd Numbers (Blendling #8):

both plies #1: 3 dark purple, 1 light purple, 2 red
Broken into 5″ pieces & made a sandwich of colors, spun on the fold
Spinning Ratio: 6:1
1 treadles : 2″ approximate
Plied from hand-wound center pull ball
Plying Ratio: 6:1
6 treadles : ~10″
S twist, Z plied

Yardage: 21 yd before finishing, 19.5 yd after finishing
Weight: .5 oz
Appx. Grist: 624 YPP
TPI: 4.6 before finishing, 4.5 after finishing
WPI: 10 before finishing, 9 after finishing
Angle of twist: 35 degrees before finishing, 47 degrees after finishing (I am so crap at measuring this)

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As you see, this was some kind of a breakthrough. I finally hit the magical 9 WPI after blocking, and the grist is much lighter. Still not that close to what I’m used to from commercial yarn (I am used to seeing ~800 YPP from worsted commercial preparations and more from woolen), but 624 is a LOT closer than in the 400s!

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This was a dramatic improvement, but I was still confused by the relatively heavy grist. I couldn’t draft any more woolen than that with this combed top! How could I get it lighter? Finally it occurred to me that, maybe the problem isn’t with the draft, but the amount of twist…