Jillian Moreno is hosting an informal sample-along on her blog and on Instagram under the hashtag #samplealong. I can't recommend her book Yarnitecture enough, and I even had the opportunity to take her Yarnitecture workshop several years ago.
During the workshop, we spent a whole day sampling different ways of spinning yarn. It was like a playdate for spinners! So often, we feel like we don't have time to play with our fiber before we get down to the business of spinning. We feel like we can't "waste" fiber, especially if it's something special. The irony is that if we take time to sample before starting a big project, we'll make better choices instead of diving headfirst into a project and then realizing that we should have done it differently. (But only after there's no turning back.)
The first step in the sample along is preparing your fiber. I've chosen to spin Monsoon Sunset in Polwarth. Last year, I spun Monsoon Sunset as a self-striping colorway for a cowl, but always wondered what it would look like spun up with different color manipulation techniques. This sample-along is the perfect opportunity to find out! Plus, I haven't spun Polwarth wool since I began spinning, so this is a great opportunity to try a different base.
An important step in choosing how you will spin your fiber is to look at the length of your color repeats. Jillian Moreno suggests trying to lay the fiber out like the dyer might have during the dyeing stage. Above you can see how I apply dye to get long color repeats in my fiber. This is one of the longest color repeats of all my fiber - so long I couldn't get it all in the frame!
This fiber is relatively fresh from the dyepot, so it hasn't had a chance to get too compacted. Plus, I work very hard to make sure my fiber doesn't felt at all during the dye process, so basically I just needed to unbraid it. If your fiber is a little compacted, this is a great post on how to gently open up a braid of fiber.
From there, it was time to divide the braid lengthwise into four long strips. Most braids weigh four ounces, but I dye 6-ounce braids to give plenty of opportunity to sample or spin a few extra yards. Each of my four sections weighs between 1.4 and 1.6 ounces, which I'm hoping will give me enough yarn to have a sample skein and a decent sized swatch of each sample style.
The spinning styles Jillian Moreno is sampling are:
Because of the way the colors repeat in this braid, "flipped" will result in a very similar yarn to "as it comes," so I'll be thinking of a different way to play with the color for that one. While we're supposed to spin our default yarn, the yarn that we spin when we sit down and don't think about what we're going to do, Jillian recommends a heavy-fingering or thicker yarn, which is slightly thicker than my default, so I'll be working with my Spinner's Multitool to keep a consistently thicker yarn.
Now that my fiber's ready to go, I just have to get my wheel ready!
Using the Fiber Sprite Spinner's Multitool: A Diz,Twist Angle Checker, and Wraps Per Inch Checker all in One
There are as many ways to spin a gorgeous yarn as there are people who spin. For many of us, getting a consistent yarn is really important - especially if we're spinning lots of yarn for a big project.
There are many ways to make sure you're spinning a consistent yarn. One of my favorite ways is to use the Spinner's Multitool. It helps me prepare fiber, and then check my yarn as I'm spinning to make sure I'm getting the yarn I want.
In this post, I'll walk you through all the ways you can use the Spinner's Multitool. In these videos, I'm using the original multitool, but if you're into something a little different, we also have a Sheep Shaped Spinner's Multitool. (Try saying that five times fast!)
Using the Spinner's Multitool as a Diz
Each Spinner's Multitool has several different holes. These are designed so you can diz fiber from a drumcarder, hand cards, a blending board, or hand combs.
In this video, I share how to diz fiber from a drum carder. Remember, the bigger the hole you use, the thicker your roving will be (or combed top, if using hand combs). But you might be surprised - even though those holes seem pretty small, a lot of fiber fits through them!
Dizzing fiber is a great way to prepare fiber for spinning. I find that hand-dizzed fiber is a real pleasure to spin. It is light and fluffy and fun to work with!
Learning to diz fiber can take some practice. The key is to not try to get too much fiber through the diz at one time, or else you'll get stuck and frustrated. When this happens, back off a little bit, draft the fiber gently, and then keep going. And remember to be patient with yourself! The results are well worth it.
Using the Spinner's Multitool to Check WPI and Twist Angle
The Spinner's Multitool also lets you check your WPI (wraps per inch) and twist angle. These are two factors that can help you spin a consistent yarn. They're also helpful if you're trying to replicate a commercial yarn.
Here are some key things to remember when you're checking your WPI and twist angle:
Have you heard of making shade cards as a way to plan out colorwork projects? It's a technique I learned from weaving, but it's useful for knitting too. It's simple, easier, and faster than swatching, plus it doesn't mess up the yarn by getting it all crinkly. A win-win-win, if you ask me.
All you have to do is wrap yarn around an index card, like I've done in the photo above. Use more yarn for colors you plan to use more of, and less for accent colors. You can do this as blocks of color, or you could sprinkle the accent color across a background of your main color - whatever works for you.
There are two things I like about using this method instead of just piling balls of yarn together.* First it lets me play with relative quantities of each color. Second, I can try out many different color combinations and compare them to each other - something that's hard to do with yarn in the skein unless you have lots and lots of it.
And another thing: unlike swatching, which leaves your yarn all curly and could mess up your gauge if you re-use it without steam blocking, wrapping your yarn around an index card keeps it as nice as it was in the skein. This is also great for more delicate yarns that start to look fuzzy if they're ripped and re-knit.
Of course, swatching might still need to be a next step (especially if gauge is important). In the swatch above, I quickly scrapped my original color palette to add more depth on each end of the reds range. I found that there wasn't as much contrast between the pink and the red as I thought, and played around with different colors. But that's the beauty of it - I at least had a starting point that gave me a solid idea of what I was working with.
So there you have it! A super easy way to play with color combinations. How do you plan out the colors for your colorwork projects?
*Which I still love, and do as a first step. The color cards are the second.
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