Thursday, March 21, 2024

Questionable Blend Number 2 - Over the Rainbow

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.

Over the Rainbow 

Images reproduced by kind permission of World of Wool

The second blended top is Over the Rainbow.  I had to include this blend as when I spun it for the first time, 6 years ago, I inadvertently ended up with 300g of sludgy green yarn.  It was this disappointment that inspired me to experiment with various ways of avoiding spinning mud.

I think the images above of Over the Rainbow on the World of Wool website are a pretty good representation of its true colour. 

2018 Over the Rainbow on the left, 2024 on the right

As you can see, after 6 years, I still haven’t managed to find a project for my original yarn! Interestingly though, I noticed that World of Wool have replaced the blue stellina blend with a silver glittery accent.  I think this lifts and lightens the final optically blended colour and turns it a slightly more lime green than the original.  I definitely prefer it now.

Images reproduced by kind permission of World of Wool 

Here are the colours within Over the Rainbow. It’s one of the more blended tops, and with the combination of red, blue/greens, and yellow, it will be tricky to avoid quite a lot of muddiness.

I spun 8g of Over the Rainbow to see how it would look if I allowed 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 of 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 Over the Rainbow that
has just been drafted and spun from the tips

As I progress through them, I’ll be knitting all of the yarns into a mitred square blanket.  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 may 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 Over the Rainbow 4 Different Ways

Dizzing off a Blending Board

I wanted to revisit this technique as there was a slight flaw in my process the last time I tried it.  I put three layers of fibre onto my blending board.  This made it easier to diz off, but it also increased the likelihood of all of the colours mixing together.

This time I broke off just two lengths that were the height of my blending board, opened them up, spread them out to fill both halves of the blending board, and then brushed them all down with my blending board brush.

I then used the smallest hole in my diz to draft off thin roving from my blending board.

There should still be quite a bit of muddiness when I spin from this fibre as I was pulling off several colours at once, but it will be interesting to see the effect just reducing and fluctuating the colours along the roving like this has on the final yarn.

From a distance, there’s really very little difference between this and the yarn spun from fibre that was just drafted and spun from the ends.  It was a more pleasant spin though, and when you look closely there’s a little more heathering of the original colours.  It’s very subtle.

Spinning from the Fold

This, and the following method are the two most popular techniques for attempting to avoid all of the colours blending together.  I intend to use both of these techniques for all of the yarns in this series as they require no additional tools. I'll be adding other methods along the way in an attempt to see how many different ways I can prepare a multicoloured blended top.

I tend to pull off a little over a staple length of yarn when I spin from the fold.  This way I'm not left with too many short fibres at the end.

You can see in this animated gif that I tend to pick up any short fibres left in my hand while I work my way across the individual colours.

The colours in singles spun from the fold seem to be brighter but shorter than any other method...

... which tends to result in a lot more barber poling when it's chain-plied.

Spinning Over the Rainbow from the fold results in a green yarn speckled with red.  It probably had the most red of all of the yarns I spun, but it's quite busy looking.

Splitting the Top Vertically

The colours in Over the Rainbow are probably as blended as in Higglety Pigglety that I spun last month but they're much more contrasting and quite a lot easier to split up.  This is because I was only really concerned with avoiding the red mixing with the optically blended green.

Once I'd split it up, the colours became much brighter and the contrasts became quite striking.

Of course, it was impossible to split the red out completely and still have draftable fibre, but the brown hues created help to tone the colour palette down.

Of all of the yarns I spun, this had the most definite blocks of colour.

I laid all of my yarns out and this one really stands out.  It was the only one where I managed to capture long lengths of the red and pastel blue colour combinations within Over the Rainbow.

The real advantage of this technique is that, unlike the other methods, the lengths of the colour sections can be controlled by varying the length of blended top that you begin with.

Making pencil Roving from two lengths of the Blending Board

You can read more about how I came up with this technique earlier this year and it's based on technique 8 in my Spinning into Focus blog series.

I basically cover my blending board with two lengths of blended top. I then brush it down and roll it off without drafting it at all.

This gives me a very loose, fat blending board rolag.

I then draft it out very thinly from the end to make it easier to spin from.

You can see that there is quite a bit of colour blending, but always from a much more reduced number of colours.

This gives me subtly variegated roving that contains a complex mix of colours throughout.

The singles look like a toned-down version of the singles spun by stripping the top vertically.

I love that there isn’t any lime green fibre within Over the Rainbow, it’s just the aquas and yellow coming together to play tricks on your eyes.  Optical blending is amazing!

The colours are still very muted, and frequently turn brown, but this is because Over the Rainbow is quite a well blended top.  I’m looking forward to trying this technique with one of the less blended fibres.

These two mitred squares sitting next to each other really highlight the advantages of this technique.  The one on the left is knitted from yarn spun from vertical strips of blended top, while the one on the right is knitted from yarn spun from blending board pencil roving.  The colour changes on the first one are sudden and contrasting, while the colours in the one on the right flow gently from one to the other.

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!

Relevant Blog Posts

Spinning 12 Questionable Blends
from World of Wool

Questionable Blend #1 Higglety Pigglety

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