Inspiration is such a curious thing. You can go looking for it but you can’t ever force it. The best sort just suddenly strikes you.
I’d love to be able to understand the brain process behind it. It seems very simple: you see or hear or read about something that really appeals to you, and suddenly you feel compelled to do something about it, create an art work of some sort or whatever it happens to be. Artists and craftspeople spend a fair amount of time looking for that elusive source of inspiration, visiting museums, art exhibitions, gardens, inspiring landscapes or whatever works for them. Yet you cannot command inspiration, it has a will of its own.
To me at least the most fun and pleasing sort of inspiration happens when you least expected it. This happened to me the other day when I happened to see a little heap of scrap yarn on the coffee table. It was a result of my carding and spinning experiments of recent weeks, when I had been creating various green and teal blue blends on my drum carder (as you see, it pays not to be too tidy…). It suddenly struck me that it was a rather nice combination of colours, and that it might be fun to try to create a multi-coloured yarn from them.
I have taken a rather scenic route with my spinning, as I did all my initial practise with natural coloured wool. As I also wanted to learn to dye my own wool, it took me several months before I could progress to spinning with colour. And now, several months later, I have a nice stash of basic colours that I can play with. So finally, I’ve got to a point when I could make my very own multi-coloured yarn. It has been a slow process, but all the better for it, as I have truly enjoyed all the different stages.
So here are all the ingredients that went into my yarn: Finnsheep combed top dyed with Sabraset acid dyes, in navy, turquoise, sun yellow, mustard yellow, pale gray and black.
I then spend many hours on my drumcarder, creating batts in the colours matching the little scraps of wool. Luckily, for once, I had kept notes of my earlier experiments so I had a rough idea of what had gone into each colour.
I just loved these batts, not only were they so soft and airy, but they were in my favourite colours (I still can’t get over the fact that I can now have ANY fiber in ANY COLOUR I WANT!).
Next I had to decide how to combine the batts. As it was my first attempt to create variegated yarn, I thought I’d try a couple of different methods.
First I split my eight colours into two groups, and created two batts containing four colours in each of them. In these batts the colours appeared in four even layers, so when I pre-drafted the batts into roving, the colours appeared in long stripes. When spinning, all four colours were always present in the drafting zone, so the yarn itself does not seem that variegated as the colour is evenly mixed throughout (you will see a picture of this shortly).
Because the colours in this first method were quite thoroughly blended by the time they ended up as yarn, I thought I’d also try another approach that would give me more bold colours. I created one big stack from all the batts, and then started carefully pulling this stack to produce spinnable roving (you can find a good description of this method in Deb Menz’s book Color in Spinning).
The roving produced this way was still stripy, but the stripes themselves were much thicker.
And finally, I created one of more stack of batts, but I didn’t pull it into such thin roving, but rather left is as a pretty thick lump of wool. This way, when spinning, each colour (or colour combination) lasted quite a while before transforming into another colour, so the singles yarn had long sections of that would only contain one or two of the colours.
Although I really liked to look of the singles yarn, I wanted to see what would happen to the colours when they were plied.
I first plied the two singles from the four-colour batts. Although clearly multi-coloured, the overall colour effect on this yarn was pretty even as all of the colours are present most of the time in the yarn.
I then plied the singles produced from the batt-stacking method. This yarn is more strongly variegated, as you’d expect. In particularly the yellow colour pops out a lot more in this yarn.
The difference between the two skeins does not seem that huge, but I would imagine once knitted up you’d see a clear difference. Unfortunately I haven’t quite got to that stage just yet, so I can’t show you any pictures.
As I have been looking at these skeins in different light over the last week or so, I’ve noticed that the colour really looks very different at different time of the day. At clear daylight, the skeins look cheerfully green, but in the low levels of light in the evening the green seems to go into hiding and the teal comes out.
It’s so exciting to be finally able to produce exactly the kinds of yarn I want, in any colour I want. And I am so looking forward to seeing what these yarns will look like as knitted fabric. Who knows, I might not even like them as I often find variegated yarns look a bit too busy for me. But whether or not I will like the final results almost doesn’t matter since I have had such fun during the process. It’s been great to be able to move from inspiration all the way to the final yarn.