Spinning for a project – Use of colour

I am quite keen on making the most of both the time I spend spinning and the fibre I use, to that end I spin most of my yarns with a project in mind.
Hand dyed spinning fibre is a big temptation, but so many spinners are disappointed with how their yarns knit up. Due to; muddied colours, barber pole effects, length of colour repeats, strong striping, dye lot changes, etc. The list is endless.
So I thought I would write some blog posts addressing these issues.

The first issue I thought I would address is the effect on the length of colour stripes when the width of the knitting fabric changes.
Eg. You spin some beautiful yarn from hand dyed top or graduated batts, and proceed to knit a triangular shawl which starts with a few stitches per row and increases to several hundred per row.
The closer you get to the edge the thinner the bands of colour become, to the extent that the edge doesn’t even have stripes.
The effect may be pleasing, or it might not.

To keep the bands of colour more equal make a simple change to the way you prepare your fibre before you start spinning.

Here is an example:
I have 100grams of hand painted top which has repeats of colour along its length and 100grams of hand dyed top which has very little variation in colour.
I plan to spin both lots of fibre and ply them together to form a 2ply.
I then want to use it to knit a large circular shawl, If I work from the top as I received it, without any splitting the resulting shawl with have a large circular of colour in the middle with the bands of colour getting smaller and smaller towards the edge and even mottled at the far edge.
If I want the bands of colour to have a similar width across the diameter of shawl I can strategicly divide the fibre before I start spinning.
For this example I will just divide the fibre for 1 ply and leave the second more solid fibre as is.

Undivided Top

fig1: Undivided Top

I split the fibre in half length ways as my fibre is a silk brick which is much wider than regular top, so for regular top skip this step or your fibre may be too thin to split further.

Split in half lengthwise

fig2: Split in half lengthwise

fig2 diagram

fig2 diagram

Next comes the strategic dividing of fibre. I broke the top into 5 fairly equal pieces, you can do this based on the colour repeats in your fibre for best results.
The first piece is not split at all (1). The next piece is split in half lengthways to make 2 thinner strips (1/2). The next piece is split into 3 lengthwise for even thinner strips (1/3). The next piece is split into 4 lengthwise (1/4). The last piece is split into 6 lengthwise (1/6) (I can’t manage to get 5 equal strips so I do 6, I do this by spliting in half, then spliting each into 3.) You can see in the photo the piles of fibre getting thinner from left to right.

fig3: Strategic dividing

fig3: Strategic dividing


fig3 diagram

fig3 diagram

I then crochet chain the strips of top in order so that they don’t get mixed up before spinning, if you want the colours to follow in sequence make sure you take note of the ‘start end’ and the ‘end end’.
You can see in this picture that the chain goes from fat, to thin and then thinner, the thinnest I rolled into a ball as it would be messy to chain.

fig4: final chained top

fig4: final chained top


When you have spun and plied your yarn you want to use the end with the short colour changes at the small part of your shawl (centre for round shawls) and the slow colour change end will be for the longer edge of your shawl.
For this fibre I will straight 2 ply with the 2nd solid ply, but you could navajo ply for great colour alignment. Or if you are really confident in your dividing skills divide in the same way for both plies for a matched 2ply.
I’ll update this post with a photo of the shawl when its finished.

Fractal Spinning

I’ve been playing with fractal spinning the last few days.
This is a draft tutorial and needs more information and images.
What is fractal spinning?
Well it is method of spinning, it works best with tops which have been painted with stripes (there are alternatives, but I will ignore them here for simplicity).
The principal is to create a yarn where the plies have different lengths of colour repeat.  This is achieved by dividing the top lengthways.
This method shows how to create a 2ply yarn, though the theory can be applied for 3plies.
It works best with tops that have a regular colour repeat, 3 colours works well.  This example has only 2 colours.
Starting off with 1 length of continuous top (this  is Superwash Merino from ColourflDesigns.com), we want to spin all the tops in the same direction, so we need to make a note of the end.  I will be spinning from the end with the longer yellow stripe (top of  photo).
Fractal Step 1

Fractal Step 1 - Undivided Top

Split the top along its length being carefuly to keep both peices equally, providing you with 2 lengths of top that are half the width of the original.

You now have 2 lengths of top that are thinner, remember the end to spin from (bottom left of both peices in this picture).

Fractal Step 2

Fractal Step 2 - First Divide

1 of these will become the first ply for your yarn.  The 2nd needs to be split again length ways, making 2 equal thinner strips.  Remember which end you are spinning from.  In the image below: Left; Top for first ply (spinning end is bottom left),  Right; Top for second ply, 2 thinner lengths (spinning end is bottom length of both peices).

Fractal Step 3

Fractal Step 3 - Final Divide

You may want to roll these into a ball, or pre draft by attenuating them if you wish, but this may cause the colours to blend together, disrupting the striping.

When you spin each of the plies, the first ply will have long colour repeats, (in the image above the 1st ply will have 9  long colours repeats of yellow, purple), the 2nd ply will have shorter colour repeats (in the image above the 2nd ply will have 18 shorter colour repeats of yellow, purple).

Making sure you spin the tops from the right end will meake sure you get matching colour repeats aong the length, and when you ply you should ply from the same end of each single.

The effect will be a yarn with slow colour changes over laid with faster colour changes, making a really interesting colour blend effect.  Where both plies are the same colour you will get a solid section, but other sections will be blended.  If you are using more than 1 length of top for a larger garment follow the same steps and identify the same starting end if possible (this is easier when 3 or more colours are present).

I will post more pictures of the finished yarn and a knitted item when its finished.  It works well for socks!