Sea Green and Sapphire

A blog about a love of colour, addiction to fabrics and joy of crafting…


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Bobbins

A basket of bobbinsThe craft world is full of mysterious dysfunctions. Some people suffer from Startitis, others from the Second-Sock Syndrome. And all those U.F.Os (UnFinished Objects), surely they are symptoms of that most mysterious dysfunction of all, Losing-One’s-Mojo-itis.

I certainly have my fair share of U.F.Os, but I don’t consider it a huge problem. I like variety and believe in following my inspiration, and not forcing myself to toil on a project that I don’t feel like doing. Crafts are a passion, a joyful hobby, not a duty. If something doesn’t inspire, just move on, leave it until it does.

So to me at least, a U.F.O is just a project whose time has not yet come (although I do not deny that, occasionally, it’s a good idea to see what you can find in your craft baskets and try to finish some of them. January is often a good time for this, when you are in a mood for some worthy activities and need to prove to yourself that you, despite all the evidence to the contrary, actually have some self-discipline and the will power to finish a project).

My spinning basket is full of these Projects-Whose-Time-Has-Not-Yet-Come (or PWTHNYCs, which I do admit is not as catchy as UFO). But there is a reason for this, and it is a fairly rational one.

Spinning to me is such a soothing and relaxing activity that I always have some wool on the go. Often I don’t even spin for a specific project, I just spin. I know it would probably be better if you had a specific use in mind for the wool before you start. That way, you can try out different approaches, sample and determine the best way to proceed. And I do that, too, when I need to. But often my spinning is not that rational and goal-oriented. Spinning is something I do if I feel too tired to think about anything else, or feel the need for some crafty therapy if I am in a grumpy mood (of course I spin in good moments too).  In those tired or grumpy moments, I just feel the need to spin something, no matter what exactly it is. The less I have to think the better.

So if I don’t already have a project on the go when the I-Must-Spin-NOW moment comes, I grab the nearest wool that inspires me at that moment and just start spinning. And often the first important decision – how to spin the wool – is not such a big decision at all: the wool itself, and the form it comes in, typically suggests a good general approach. If it is long fiber, and comes in a top form, I’ll do worsted in short draw. And a good supply of ready prepared top in some beautiful colour is always a good thing to have on these moments. But I love long draw spinning, and whenever I have short enough fibre, I will do that. I aim for twist that sort of looks about right for that wool. Not very scientific at all (no matter what Anne Field in Spinning Beyond Basics recommends).

But when it comes to plying, you need to commit to some sort of an outcome: do you want two, three (or even more) plies? And for that, it definitely helps if you know what you are going to use the yarn for. So, quite often, my spinning projects enter a period of hibernation at this point.

As a result, I have a basket full of bobbins that have some singles yarn that is waiting to be plied. And I am happy to let them wait until the right time comes and I know what I want to do with them. So, you see, they are just PWTHNYCs waiting for the right time.

This approach does mean you need lots of bobbins, and we all know wooden ones are very expensive. So it was necessary for me to invest in a bobbin winder and buy some plastic weaving bobbins for storage. But yarn stored this way takes less room than a finished skein, so it is not a bad way of storing your stash.

Here’s a little tour of what can be found in my basket of bobbins at the moment:

Spring coloured singles from Falkland top

singles from a painted Falkland top. Ideal for spring, I love these colours so I am sure I will get round to plying these soon

Brown Shetland For Lace Shawl

This is Shetland wool in the Moorit colour. Unusually, I already know what this is going to be (a lace shawl)

My first silk spinning experiment using Tussah silk top. I need to ply this into both 2-ply and 3-ply yarn and knit some samples.

My first silk spinning experiment using Tussah silk top. I need to ply this into both 2-ply and 3-ply yarn and knit some samples.

Grey Shetland wool

I’m pretty certain this is grey Shetland, but why on two different bobbins??

Remnants of sock yarn

And these are just some remains of a sock yarn I spun for my mum. (note to self: must really do something to free up these bobbins…)

Sea Blue Yarn

And this, I have no idea what this is…


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Gloves for Dad


Homespun Gloves for Dad

For last Father’s Day, which in Finland was in the late autumn, I decided I’d knit my dad a pair of gloves from some home spun yarn. Given that I only got this idea about one week before Father’s Day, I knew I was already hopelessly late to get it done on time, but little did I realise the gloves would finally be ready in February, months after the event. But here they are, finally.

I wish I could post a little sample of the yarn I spun, because it was the softest loveliest yarn I’ve ever made –  an angora & Shetland blend which was a bit tricky to card but absolutely beautiful to spin and knit. And the resulting fabric is just gorgeous, warm and soft, easily compares with cashmere, I promise I am not exaggerating (at least not much).

Before I started carding and spinning, I consulted the good ladies of the Online Guild of Spinners, Dyers and Weavers about what is the best approach to spinning angora. Here’s what they advised:

  • angora felts if you as much as look at it the wrong way, so it’s better not to wash it before spinning. Good angora should not be too dirty even in its raw state because the rabbit, if well cared for, looks after its own fur (if the fibre is not clean you need to change your supplier). Mine was very clean, so I was happy to leave the washing until after it had been spun.
  • only buy angora from a reputable supplier, as apparently there can be animal welfare issues with commercial angora (a bit like battery hens, they are sometimes kept in very small cages).
  • a good companion for angora is Shetland wool, as it is about the same length and has enough crimp to make a bouncy yarn even after it has been blended with angora (which is more like silk in that it’s fine and non-stretchy as it has no crimp).
  • the best way to blend wool and angora is to make a layered sandwich, with a thin layer of wool at the bottom, angora in the middle and a thin layer of wool at the top and then feed this sandwich into a carder

Carding this blend was the tricky bit. Initially I had fed in wool and angora into my carder individually, and the angora would just get stuck in the smaller drum. After a bit of trial and error, I realised the fibre sandwich needs to be made before feeding it into the carder, and not try to feed the fibres separately. Even so, if the sandwich contained too much angora, it would just get stuck in the smaller drum, so the angora fibre definitely needed to be well covered with wool before feeding it in. I took each batt several times through the carder, each time adding a bit more angora and that seemed to be the easiest way increase the angora content of the batt. This way I managed to blend perhaps 25-30% angora to 70-75% Shetland wool.

A tweedy home-spun yarn from Shetland wool and angora

Given that I was going to knit men’s gloves with this yarn, I decided a medium grey would be an ideal understated colour, made from a mix of black and very light grey Shetland. As you can see in the picture the angora fibre was a most beautiful shade of pale grey (if I was good enough spinner I’d definitely try to spin it on its own).

The yarn looks tweedy with some black and light grey bits in it – I didn’t actually intend this to happen, it is just the way the fibres behaved, but I quite like the effect as it created some subtle interest in the otherwise very plain yarn. I’ve noticed that whenever I spin Shetland there will be little nepps in the yarn, so perhaps that’s just its character?

And the knitting pattern – it was the free “Modified Army Gloves” pattern you can find in Ravelry. It turned out to be a good basic glove pattern, plain and classic, just what I was after. The gauze of my yarn was slightly different from the one used in the pattern, so I had to do some maths to adjust. I also knitted the fingers a bit longer than it was recommended in the pattern, as they seemed a bit on the short side. But otherwise, it was pretty straight-forward and I am sure to use this pattern again (particularly as I too would now like a luxury pair of angora-Shetland gloves).


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New Ideas

Home spun embroidery wool

I’m sure my reason for learning how to spin and dye my own wool was a very common one. I really wanted  to be in a position to be able to have any yarn in any colour, whenever I want it (I’m sure everyone reading this blog understands what a luxury this is!), without constantly having to buy new yarn just because I don’t have exactly the right combination of colours in the right yarn type and weight (despite having boxes and boxes of yarns already…)

And now, after about a year of learning experiments, I am finally getting to that stage. Having practised dyeing with both natural and acid dyes, I finally have a nice collection of wool in various colours, and with my drum carder I now know how to mix many more. So what to do with all this beautiful wool?

In recent weeks I have been thinking about what the next phase should be. I think it will involve some kind of picture and/or pattern making. I have been spending a lot of time taking photographs of plants and trees that I see in the garden and the woodland next to our house (you can see some of these pictures in my other blog). And although photography is a very satisfying activity in itself, I am beginning to think it would be nice to be able to interpret some of these images in a textile format, as I wrote a few weeks ago. This is a completely new area for me, so it feels pretty inspiring and exciting.

I am definitely thinking I will have a go at tapestry making, but I haven’t got round to making a tapestry frame yet, so as a first, easy and instantly accessible step I have decided to try a bit of embroidery next. I don’t need to buy anything for it, I can start straight away.

So this week I have been spinning some embroidery thread which has been great fun. You get to mix lots of lovely colours, and you don’t need to spin too much of any given colour, just a few grams is quite enough. I have been using Finnsheep top, as that’s pretty much my default wool for dyeing so I have it in lots of different colours. And it’s got a nice silky sheen to it, so although I originally intended to use it as knitting wool it will work perfectly well for embroidery too.

There are of course lots of other types of wool that would be great for making embroidery yarn (I am thinking all those long lustre wools) as well as silk. So as ever, the possibilities are endless, but for now I am planning to stick to materials I already have.

Although for knitting I always ply my yarn, when making my embroidery thread I decided not to. Strength and durability are not essential for my purposes so I don’t think plying is not necessary. And not plying means I don’t have to try to spin such incredibly fine thread, all I need to do is to spin my singles yarn the right thickness. And the lazy part of my is happy to save time by not having to ply (it’s never my favourite part of spinning).

I put quite a lot of twist into these yarns to make them stronger. I tame the twist by finishing the yarn fairly vigorously, agitating it in hot water and then putting it straight into cold water, felting the wool slightly. By the end of this rough treatment the yarn will have quite a furry halo, but that’s OK for my purposes.  If I wanted really silky smooth yarn then no doubt I’d have to treat it more gently.

To save a bit of time, I spun all my colours into a single bobbin, joining them one after another, making just one skein with all the different colours in it. I only separated the colours once I wound the wool into little balls.

Today I have been trying my yarn and it works very well (it never ceases to amaze me that I can actually spin something that can be used!). Any extra twist just falls off the yarn when I cut it into the right length for sewing, so having twisty yarn is not a problem at all. It is a bit thick and thin in places, as my spinning is still not that good, and it does show in the sewing, but I’m not too worried about that, it just makes the line more interesting.

When I first started sewing with my own home made yarn, I got that “wow, did I really make this all by myself!” -moment. It might have taken me a year, with all that learning and practising, but it was definitely worth the effort!


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My Big Fleece Washing Project

To really appreciate the character of wool you need to see it as raw fleece. I just love the crimpiness of this Shetland wool, it’s going to make a lovely bouncy yarn.

There’s no denying buying wool in the form of combed top is easy and convenient. The really hard work of scouring raw wool has been done for you, and even if you choose to wash it one more time before dyeing, it’s not too much of an effort. And there are good suppliers (such as the World of Wool) that provide wool of lots of different breeds for you to try. And if the fiber is short enough, you can still card it and spin it long draw for warmth and fluffiness.

Yet, there’s something wonderful about seeing and feeling wool exactly as it comes from the sheep. At this stage, you really sense the essence of that particular breed. You see the locks, you see the crimp – all of this will already be gone by the time the wool reaches the combed top phase.

For this reason alone, I would always prefer to buy my wool as raw fleece, if only there wasn’t that one big drawback – the time, effort, energy and water it takes to get it clean. It is a big question if all that effort is justified and the best use of your limited time, energy and resources.

Grey Shetland fleece

Dark grey Shetland fleece, bought at Fibre East 2012

In July, at the Fibre East festival, I had my first ever opportunity to buy a whole fleece. I normally have to rely on the internet to buy my wool, but online shopping is not ideal if you want to buy raw fleece, you just need to be able to see it and feel it to see what you are getting. So I was incredibly excited when DH kindly agreed to take me to Fibre East, a couple of hours of drive away from us.

And given that it is not often that I get this fleece buying opportunity, I couldn’t just stop at buying one, I bought five: 4 Shetland fleeces and one Manx Loaghtan (as well as a few other smaller lots). The Shetland fleeces came from the Shetland Sheep Society‘s stall, so the sheep will have been raised on the mainland UK, not actually in Shetland.

You might think buying five fleeces in one go is a bit excessive and I can’t say you would be entirely wrong. But there was a good reason for it. You see Shetland sheep are small, and each fleece only weights about 1-1.2kg, and after washing, you will be left with 700-900g of wool per fleece (which is still a lot of spinning, I do admit). But it comes in lots of different colours, so buying just one fleece wasn’t going to be enough for me, as I wanted several different colours, black, white, brown, grey…

With Shetland fleeces, you can get several different shades from one fleece, as this one from a lamb named Pearl shows.

So there I was, a proud owner of several bags worth of raw wool. As you can imagine washing so many fleeces has been quite a big project in itself. It took me several weeks over the end of the summer (and I still have some to do). And like anything, it has been a big learning experience too.

So what did I learn?

Whenever I’ve read an article or a blog post about washing fleece, it sounds so easy: soak it cold water overnight, wash it with a bit of washing up detergent, rinse it and if the water doesn’t run clear yet, repeat the process.

Well, my experience has been that is never quite that easy – I don’t think I’ve ever got away with just two rounds of washing, it always takes at least three, most often four rounds. I even bought specialist fleece washing detergent (Power Scour) to make it easier. It is pretty good stuff, I do like it as it leaves the wool wonderfully soft, but it still takes several rounds of washing.

It has taken me quite a bit of experimentation to find the washing method that has worked best for me.

Inside or outside? Raw fleece is typically very dirty, so washing it outside might be your preferred method. And if you wash your fleece outside, you can reuse the water by watering the flower beds with it afterwards. And if you have a water butt, you can save water by doing the initial soaking in the rain water from the butt (if the water in your water butt is clean enough, you can of course do the whole process with it).

Although initially looking pale gray, after washing, wool from Thomas (also Shetland) turned out to be almost completely white, with a hint of gray at the roots

But washing fleece outside makes the process physically more strenuous as you will be carrying lots of water around. Washing it inside would give you easier access to hot water, but it will be less easy to recycle the water in the garden. My own compromise on this is to wash the first couple of rounds outside, when the wool is most dirty, and then bring it in and wash it in the bathroom for the last two rounds, to save a bit of effort.

What water temperature? Recommendations for water temperature vary between 30-60 degrees C. There are several factors here that determine which you should choose. Higher temperatures obviously consumer more energy. On the other hand, at least 60 degrees is the temperature that is best for making sure germs get killed in the process. And crucially for spinners, lanolin in the wool (the grease) melts at higher water temperature, so if you want grease in our wool, you need to wash it in cold water.

When I spin I prefer my wool relatively grease-free, so I heat the wool in a large pot to 60 degrees once, but the subsequent rounds I wash with hot water from the tap (which tends to be cooler, between 40-50 degrees), saving a bit of time and energy.

Another lovely crimpy, multi-shaded Shetland fleece

With or without a net bag? Initially I washed my wool without a netbag, which worked pretty well until I managed to felt some of my fleece, so I started using netbags. This makes it easy and convenient, but I find the wool forms a big ball within the bag, and the outside gets washed well but some sand remains trapped on the inside. So the best way would be to keep the wool really flat, and then turn it around during washing so that all the sand can fall out. From this point of view a bucket is not so convenient, you’d need something with a larger surface area. Netbags at the bottom of a bath tub can work, but I am now thinking buying a few perforated crates or similar as they’d give more support than netbags.

So is it all worth it?

I haven’t actually saved any money by washing wool by myself, the end price has been about the same as combed top. But to me quality is more important than trying to save money.  I have struggled to get some very cheap wool clean (a beginner’s mistake), and better quality wool is of course always nicer to work with, an important consideration when you put so much manual effort into it.

While I am washing the wool, I tend to think I must be mad to be doing it, my time and energy would be better used on more fun things. But once the wool is washed, I forget all that effort and I just love working with the washed fluffy wool.  It is just so lovely!

Home washed wool is reasonably easy to pick (=tease the locks open) before carding. I have worked with industrially scoured wool that is all tangled up and really hard work to open, whereas my home washed wool is never like that, it is just a pleasure to work with. Picking wool is surprisingly time consuming – it’s one of those stages in the process people don’t much talk about, but it takes at least as long as the carding itself. But I don’t mind, I actually like doing it.

An important factor is of course that you can buy wool from breeds that are not common enough to come as combed top. And with multi-coloured breeds like Shetland, you will get shades that are not available as top, which tend to be standard mixes of the most common colours. It was only once I bought a Shetland fleece that I realised each fleece is in fact a unique colour (not just your standard moorit, fawn, or whatever). Moreover, some of them are multi-coloured, so contain lots of different shades within them. One of my grey fleeces, for example, will give me at least four different yarn colours from just one fleece.

So my own conclusion is that it is definitely worth the effort to buy raw fleece and wash it yourself, but only as long as you buy a fleece that is good enough quality to justify the effort. For most of my dyeing work I will still be buying white top, I just don’t have enough time and energy to do everything from scratch. But for all those special breeds and lovely natural shades, I will definitely be buying (and washing) more raw fleece in the future.


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Making Sock Yarn

Socks knitted from home spun yarn

Today I am proud to present to you another family collaboration project: socks knitted by my mum from yarn that has been dyed and spun by me.

My mum loves knitting socks so for her birthday I decided to spin a stripy sock yarn for her. I had never attempted to spin sock yarn before so it was an interesting experiment for me. For strength and durability, I decided it make it a 3-ply yarn, spun worsted and have some nylon blended into it.

In Finland people tend to wear woolly socks on top of normal cotton socks so I could use wool that is reasonably strong, rather than something that is soft and delicate as it wouldn’t be worn next to the skin. I chose some natural coloured dark grey Jacob and white wool of mixed English breeds that seemed quite robust but not too coarse. The dyed wool was all Finnsheep, which is a great all-round wool, soft, but not too delicate. The nylon I used was white, and I didn’t bother dyeing it, as I was going to mix the colours on a drum carder and I thought it would just blend in. When blending I added approximately 10% of nylon.

I had great time designing the colours. My mum likes blue and red, and I also wanted to blend in some natural greys and whites for a wintery colour palette that has a traditional Scandinavian feel to it. And I think I succeeded as my sister said that the colours look very old fashioned (in a good way). The Finnsheep top was dyed with acid dyes. I used some basic primary colours: navy and royal blue, magenta and scarlet red as well as some black and grey.

I created lots of different colour blends on my drum carder. Most of them were sort of melancholy pale and medium blues, with a fair amount of black and grey blended in. I also wanted a nice lingonberry red for an accent colour. It was mostly magenta with some scarlet red and a hint of black and navy blended in. I loved this bit in the process, it was just so much fun taking a bit of this and a bit of that, feeding it into the drum carder and see what comes out.

Once I had all my colours, I took the batts and pulled out some small bits, approximately 1g each, and used these as building blocks when designing the stripes. As I was going to have two yarns with 3 plies each, I needed to spin 6 different singles. I placed my 1g bits of wool in six different lines on the floor, moving colours around until I was happy with the stripes. Some stripes were made of identical colours in each of the singles, other stripes were made of different colours, for example white on one singles and two different blues on the other two.

I spun and plied the yarn for each sock separately as I was hoping to have identical stripes for each sock. But as I didn’t weigh my building blocks, they weren’t exactly identical, so once spun and plied, the two yarns weren’t exactly the same. So the socks didn’t end up identical, but they are not so radically different that it would matter. I can see that if you really wanted stripes that are exactly the same using this method, you would have to be very careful with measurements and spinning. I think it would be more hassle than it is worth.

I was slightly worried that I had plied the yarns too loosely and that they would split when knitting, but my mum said this was not a problem. With three plies spun worsted style, the yarn ended up being quite thick and dense, so they took quite a bit of wool, approx 70g each and my mum nearly ran out of yarn. Being so thick, the socks are definitely going to be warm, but I am also very interested to see how well they last.

I really enjoyed this project. In a way, making sock yarn is an ideal colour spinning project – you can play with lots of colours and you don’t need to spin a huge amount of yarn so you get quick results. And the knitting of course won’t take too long either. I will definitely be trying this again.


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Busy Times

It is a busy time of the year and there’s a lot of competition for my spare time in the garden and the greenhouse. It’s a time of gluts, and so I’ve been picking runner beans, apples and blackberries, pickling chillies, drying flowers for dyeing with later,and roasting tomatoes with garlic, olive oil and thyme before freezing them (my favourite way to deal with a tomato glut). Making apple and blackberry jam will be my next mission.

It’s all good fun being a domestic goddess every now and then (and it’s an ideal season for it), but as a result my woad experiments haven’t progressed at all. Having boiled the leftover woad leaves, I dumped some mordanted skeins in the pots thinking I’ll come and simmer them later, and now, well over a week later, they are still there. Well, looks like they are now being cold-dyed instead.

But when there’s no time for big dyeing sessions, spinning is always a good activity that  you can do even if you only have a spare 10 minutes available. For the last month or so I have been spinning a hand-dyed combed top that I bought at the Fiber East festival in July. It’s a lovely top, 75% merino and 25% seacell, it feels very soft and silky and it has been a pleasure to spin.

It has been dyed with a mixture of magenta and dark blood red, with large gaps between the colour stripes, so there’s a fair amount of pink in it too. I could be wrong but it looks like the Seacell part of the fiber hasn’t picked up the dye at all which probably explains why there are narrow white vertical stripes in the top.

Given the lovely soft feel, I thought I’d spin a lace yarn from it (just in case I ever manage to overcome my absent-mindedness and tendency to make knitting mistakes and so be able to make some progress with lace knitting). I decided to spin it worsted style, with a short forward draw, as I thought it would give a nice stitch definition to the knitted lace (and this style spinning has the advantage that it is easy and relaxing, not requiring too much concentration, so making it ideal for spinning in the evening) .

I wanted the colours to change slowly, so I did not pre-draft it in any way, just spun straight from the edge of the top. Although the top itself looks quite stripy, the yarn looks nice and tonal, more semi-solid rather than variegated.

I’m not a big fan of knitting with singles yarn, the garments never seem to last that well,  so I made mine a 2-ply yarn. The top was quite generous at 120g, and I managed to spin nearly 470 meters from it. That makes 381m/100g, so it is quite a bit thicker than “real” lace yarn, but I wasn’t really trying to spin it as thin as possible, I just spun the way that came naturally. In any case there should be plenty there to make a scarf or a small shawl out of it.


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Inspiration

You never know where you will find inspiration

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.

The colours that went into my green and teal yarn

The colours that went into my green and teal yarn

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!).

Batts of colour

I blended the colours to produce these batts

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.

Multi-coloured batts pre-drafted into roving

First attempt at combining the colours: two groups of four colours each. Once carded into batts and pulled into roving, one ended up being a bit lighter than the other.

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.

A stack of batts pulled into roving with thick stripes

A stack of batts pulled into roving with thick stripes

A Stack of Batts, pulled into roving

The second stack of batts was pre-drafted much less, producing even thicker sections of individual colour

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.

The singles yarn

The thick stripes produced a lovely singles with longish sections of individual colour combinations

Singles yarn just before plying

The first two bobbins at the front were produced from the 4-colour batts, the two bobbins at the back were produced from the stack of batts pulled into roving.

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.

Finally, my green and teal skeins

The skein at the front is a two ply produced from the 4-colour batts, the one at the back is a two-ply produced from the batt stacking method.

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.