Color Blending: The Circle

UntitledUntitled A while ago, a wrote about learning how to make rolags on my drum carder this spring. After coming up with a few combinations of gifted roving, I made sets of gradients between two colors, starting with a bright green and an aqua. I’ve done this before – when I made my first Bohus cardigan. This time, both the rovings are 80% merino, 20% silk; I didn’t want to blend textures or qualities like shine from the silk thanks to an earlier recent rolag experiment blending two dissimilar fibers together.

circleFirst, I made rolags of the solids, weighing out 20 g of each. Then I mixed them 50-50, with 10 g of aqua and 10 g of green. Finally, I mixed them 25-75, with 5 g of one color and 15 g of the other. I really love these colors and how they blended, but I started to think about adding a third color. When arranged on a flat lay or diagrammed on a piece of paper, I had a straight line of aqua->gradients->green, but if I added a third color, I could make a circle, which I did. The third color, blue, has a slightly different fiber content – 70% merino, 30% silk – it’s definitely a different roving base as the roving is very thin, perhaps half as thin as the other two rovings, and the silk has some nubs and chunkier texture than the other two, but it’s close enough in texture that it’s not too noticeable.

Just before Tour de Fleece started I decided to warm up and spin the circle. I didn’t think about how much yarn the circle would make, but that’s 240 g of roving, about 8 1/2 oz of fiber. I realized during the first gradient that it wouldn’t all fit on one bobbin, so I spun from blue to the last gradient before aqua, started a new bobbin for aqua to the last gradient before green, and then one more for green to the last gradient before blue.

lineupDuring spinning, I was thinking both actively and in the background about what to make. (You know when you have a problem to solve but actively thinking about it doesn’t help so you take a walk and while thinking about something else the answer comes to you? That’s what I mean.) I really wanted to maintain the circle idea, but the only thing I could think of that would work was an infinity cowl, but I knew I was going to end up with much more than a cowl’s worth of yarn. I decided I’d make a scarf instead, casting on lengthwise and knitting all through the gradients. To keep the colors all evenly striped, I’d need to spin 20 g more of one of the solids – I picked blue. For the picture above, I chose aqua but evenly divided one 20 g set of rolags for the photo.

I chose the blue because is a much darker hue than the aqua or green and it could act as a frame for the two lighter colors. Also, I’m not entirely happy at how much more dominant the blue is because it is so much darker; the aqua to green transition is much more subtle than either of the transitions to/from blue – something I’ll need to compensate for the next time I do this.

color blended handspunI chain plied everything and while skeining it, spit-spliced the ends to make one giant skein. I washed and whacked it, let it dry, and then gave my jumbo ball winder a workout. That’s a US quarter in the picture for scale – this is perhaps the largest yarn cake I’ve ever made; it was almost too big for the jumbo ball winder. The finished 3 ply sport weight yarn is about 768 yards and weighs 279 g. I’ll post about the scarf I’m making with it once it’s done and I have some fancy pictures of it.

First, some things I’ll do differently the next time I make a gradient:

  • I might exercise my math muscle a little more to make smaller rolag quantities. I honestly picked 20 g because it is so easily divided into the necessary portions.
  • As I mentioned, the darkness of the blue bothers me. I’d like to either figure out how to properly blend a dark color with a light for a more subtle transition or stick with colors with the same … values? Is that the right word?
  • I need to read a book about color theory and blending.
  • For symmetry, I would repeat one of the other colors, making one the center. The yarn I made has blue, light green, aqua, blue stripes. My circle idea would be abandoned, but the resulting skein and FOs made from it would be more pleasing to the eye and my sense of order if it had blue, light green, aqua, light green, blue stripes (or with light green in the center).

Stay tuned! Fancy pictures and scarf details are forthcoming!


Bohus Stickning or What I Do In My Spare Time, ed. 1

I started knitting again when we lived in IL and found a knitting group here in VA two years ago. I came across Wendy’s Keele’s Poems Of Color on the Knitter’s Review forums when I was exploring color work and have loved those designs and the story behind them for quite some time.

Last year, against all my previous intentions, I learned how to spin. That is, spin yarn from fleece/unspun fiber, not the exercise spinning, although I might be able to do that as well. For a while, knitting was touted as the new yoga – for me, the new yoga is spinning. Both are relaxing, both are hand-work that results in a physical transformation, but when it’s going well, spinning is very calming and centering.

In April, Loudoun Needleworkers went to Willow Hawk Farm‘s spring shearing and I ended up sharing 4 fleeces with another spinner, Jenni, so that we could try fibers from different sheep breeds. Jenni and a few other friends skirted the fleeces (picked all of the poopy, yucky part out) and Jenni & I split washing duties.

After washing, most fleece needs to be further prepared (combed, carded, or flicked) for spinning. In May, my husband gave me a Schacht Matchless wheel and a Strauch 10th anniversary drum carder for my birthday & Mother’s Day. The drum carder, by the way, is used for blending fibers into batts, which look a lot like batts of insulation, and is actually not as helpful as I had hoped at handling large amounts of washed fleece.

All of these things – Bohus Stickning, fleece, carding, and spinning – came together over the summer; I am currently knitting the Red Palm Cardigan. The pattern for is in Poems Of Color but I am making it in shades of blue instead of red. Another difference between this sweater the orginal bohus sweaters is that mine lacks angora, which gives the bohus sweaters a subtle halo of fuzz. In addition, all of the yarn that I am using is handspun.

Final Batts
These are some of the batts that I made using my drum carder that blend the brown wool from one of the Willow Hark farm fleece from a sheep named Abigail (1/2 Romney, 1/4 Finn, 1/8 Corriedale, 1/8 Merino), with a braid of blue-faced leicester from Miss Babs in the Regent colorway (blue), and white cormo that I got from a very generous spinner during the first-ever Spinning Loft Retreat, which happened last spring as well. By varying the percentage of fibers blended, I was able to achieve some very subtle color changes from cormo->BLF->Abigail, which was really just an experiment for me as a new spinner & carder.

Blending Experiment: Final Skeins
These are all of the skeins of spun yarn that I ended up with from the carding experiment, from light to dark, with 100% cormo at the 9:00 position, 100% Miss Babs BFL at 12:00, and 100% Abigail at 3:00. All of these are 2-ply yarns, which means there are 2 strands of singles (what gets spun initially) twisted together to make the yarn.

Most of the Bohus sweaters are yoke sweaters, which means all of the color work is done over the shoulders, rather than, say, near hem edges on the bottom or the sleeves or in an all-over color work pattern. They are worked from the top-down in the round, which means (basically) that you knit a starting at the neck and working your way down to the bottom hem, stopping at the armpit to make each of the sleeves. The pullovers and the cardigans are constructed the same way, but when you are done knitting the body of the cardigan, you cut (with scissors, no less) right up the front and knit a button band on. This is a steek and it strikes fear in the heart of many knitters, but I hear if it’s done properly, nothing will unravel.

My first yoke that goes from dark to light to dark shades, as does the original red palm cardigan. I miscalculated the color that I needed to start with and end up frogging it (a.k.a., ripping it out or unraveling it) because I ran out of colors before I should have.

bohus progress
My progress so far, arms and all. If you look closely at the yoke, you will see the colors go from light to dark to light as opposed to the sequencing in the original and in my first attempt. I have another 4″ or so and I’ll start the ribbing for the bottom hem.

I had to prepare and spin more of Abigail, which is what I’m using for the main body of the garment. I still have more fleece, but here is a closeup of the 3 additional skeins (about 1416 yards total).

Abigail Close
As you can see if you look closely, this is a 2-ply yarn as well.

I’m hoping to finish this by the end of next month so that I can wear it while it’s still cold. I am able to carefully try it on, so I know it will fit. At this point knitting, particularly with this project in the all-stockinette stitch stage, is so easy that I can do it without having to look at it most of the time, which means I can do other things (like watch TV/movies) while I knit.

So, uh, that’s what I do when I’m not digging up the past in writing, poking around on etsy, or keeping up with my suburban mom gig. Oh! Here’s the project on Ravelry (for you ravelers out there) and the complete photoset on Flickr.