Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Questionable Blend number 1 - Higglety Pigglety

This year I’ll be writing a blog series, sharing several different ways of spinning commercially available, multicoloured blended tops. I’ve tried to choose blends that contain colours from more than half of the colour wheel.  The kinds of blends that are a little tricky to guess immediately how they’ll spin up.

I’ll be using the word questionable to describe any blend that would cast doubt in the mind of even the most experienced spinner. A blend that would cause you to pause before ordering it and question how it might turn out.  

Novice spinners are regularly attracted to the bold, multicoloured stripes of a vertically blended top, but are frequently left disappointed when their beautiful combed top turns to mud on the wheel.  In this series, I’ll be sharing quite a few different techniques that can help to reduce the amount of optical blending during spinning so that some of those original colours still show up in the final yarn.  By the end, the tops will almost certainly not be questionable.

Higglety Pigglety

Images reproduced by kind permission of World of Wool

The first blended top is Higglety Pigglety. Of all of the blends, this probably raises the least doubt in my mind as the colours are already quite well blended together. From a distance, I could make a guess that it would spin up into an olive-green yarn. The fact that it’s more blended does mean that any colour variations I do achieve will be quite subtle.

Images reproduced by kind permission of World of Wool

Here are the colours within Higglety Pigglety.  The green, orange and pink in this blend should result in a little muddiness but the green fibres are definitely pulling their weight in this top.

When I opened my package of Higglety Pigglety, I felt that the blended top was much prettier in person than on the website. 

The pinks and oranges aren't as dominant as I thought they were going to be, but the overall colour has much more warmth to it.

I spun 8g of Higglety Pigglety to see how it looks if I allow the colours to optically blend together.  I just drafted it out and then spun it from the tips.  I then chain-plied it at the wheel to achieve a 3-ply yarn.

I arranged all the yarns from the blends I’ll be spinning in this series, into a kind of muted gradient and I’ll be spinning them in this order.  They have all been spun with no attention paid to colour management, they’ve simply been pre-drafted, spun and then chain-plied. 

Mitred square knitted from the original 8g sample yarn

I’ll be knitting all of the yarns into a mitred square blanket as I progress through them.  That’s the plan anyway!

All of the yarns in this series will be spun on my Electric Eel Wheel 6 - This is an affiliate link and if you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you. Any income from my blog goes a small way towards funding future blog projects.

Spinning Higglety Pigglety 4 Different Ways

Technique 1: Combed Gradient 

You can see video summaries of all of the yarns in this series on my YouTube channel -

For my first yarn, I’ll be trying something I haven’t intentionally tried before.  As Higglety Pigglety contains both merino and bamboo fibres, I thought I’d see what kind of gradient I achieve when I comb the top.  Last year, I used my hackle to turn a custom blended merino and bamboo top into a gradient.  Bamboo fibres tend to be shorter, on average, than merino fibres.  By taking advantage of the difference in average fibre length, you can usually achieve a gradient when you remove the fibres thinly from the hackle or comb.

Here’s Higglety Pigglety after I’ve combed it a couple of times.  The tips of the fibres seem to be mostly made up of the citrus merino, while all of the Juliet bamboo fibres are bunched towards the middle and tines of the comb.

I combed and drafted off four little gradient nests and then spun them from alternate ends.  So, if I finished on a citrus green end, I began the next nest on the citrus green end and vice versa.

It’s a little paradoxical that I’m beginning a blog series on the various ways to spin less blended yarns by blending the fibres together as much as possible, but you do get a pretty cool effect when you sort the fibres by length using the combs.

Of all of the Higglety Pigglety yarns I spun, this one had the most distinct colour changes.

The brown and green kind of reminds me of camouflage print fabrics.

Technique 2: Spun from the fold

One of the best ways of avoiding the colours in a blended top from mixing together can often be to spin from the fold.  As you are spinning the top sideways, one colour after the other, from just a little over a staple length of the top, spinning from the fold can result in brighter, but much shorter colour sections. However, the colours in Higglety Pigglety are already quite well blended so it could easily result in the colours just optically blending together when I chain-ply it.

As my options are limited for this top, I thought I’d give it a shot regardless.

When I spin from the fold I break off a little over a staple length of fibre.

I tend to begin with the fibres wrapped over my finger and then shift the fibres along until I'm just left holding a bunch of folded fibres at the end.

The citrus greens and oranges are showing up really well in the singles, but those colour sections are short.

When I chain-plied it, those short bursts of colour then plied with each other to create a marled effect.

Spinning Higglety Pigglety from the fold resulted in quite a subtle, speckled yarn.  It might be described as heathered.  It’s quite understated but not nearly as flat as the original drafted yarn.

Technique 3: Rolags from a Blending Board

This is one of my favourite methods that I discovered when I was writing my first blog post on trying to find ways of avoiding spinning mud.

I simply break off two sections of top that are the length of my blending board, open them up and brush them down…

… and then roll off three or four relatively thin rolags.

When you spin these from the end you get a little colour blending but the colour sections tend to be longer than when you spin from the fold.

Spinning from the end of blending board rolags still resulted in quite a bit of muddiness but not quite as much as spinning from the fold.

Technique 4: Tearing off vertical strips

This is probably the most popular method of avoiding spinning mud, but as Higglety Pigglety is so well blended, I had to break it down into very thin strips to ensure that I got just a small amount of colour variation.

I opened up the top to try to get all of the colours sitting next to each other…

… and then broke off sections that contained just 2 or 3 colours.  I tried to vary the width and colour selections of each strip but it was quite tricky.

I managed to cover my little coffee table in fibre nests and then spun them in random order, trying to ensure that I varied the colour arrangement from one nest to the next.

This yarn is much more designed than any of the others so the possibilities for this technique are a lot greater.  As I only had about 70cm of this top left I was limited to spinning quite short colour sections.  If I were spinning for a sweater, I would definitely make sure that I was spinning from much longer strips so that those colour changes created subtle stripes along the entire width of the garment.

Of all of the yarns I spun, this method gave me the brightest colours and the most distinct colour changes.

The Final Higglety Pigglety Yarns

This was a tough blend to start off with, as the colours were so well blended together already.  I was always going to get a significant amount of colour mixing in the final yarn.  However, I did manage to achieve various shades of blues, greens, browns and oranges that have much more complexity and heathering than if I’d paid no attention to colour management.

As a guide, here are all of the yarns knitted up in reverse order of how blended they are.

0: drafted and spun from the end
1: combed and drafted to achieve a gradient 
2: spun from the fold
3: blending board rolags
4: tearing off vertical strips

I love the complexity you achieve by spinning the same blend in several different ways.  I can't imagine how the final blanket is going to turn out, but I'm really looking forward to adding to it next month!

If you've found any of this post interesting or useful, please pin this image to Pinterest.  It makes a big difference to me and helps other spinners find it too.

At this point, I normally suggest similar related blog posts, however, my list of spinning-related content is becoming a little unmanageable...  If you'd like to read more blog posts about spinning and fibre preparation, please take a look at this page here where you will find links to all of my spinning and fibre articles.  

Thank you for reading, and happy spinning!

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1 comment:

Kimberly said...

This was an incredible read and I am looking forward to every month! You are so incredibly talented!