Pro spinning tips on color management

Managing Color.png

How would you plan this spin?

Hello, spinning friends! Do you look at a braid of boldly-painted top and immediately think of the dozen or so ways you could spin it, based on color management alone?

Not so much?

Well, I do, and I want you to be able to do so, too. That's why in the next few newsletters, I'll be highlighting some of my favorite theories, tips and resources on the topic of managing color in spinning. From face-palm simple to downright deliberate, there's a color-management trick or tool here to grab your interest.

First, a few tips culled from Jillian Moreno's Interweave video, "12 Ways to Spin Handpainted Top," perfect for those who enjoy bold color but prefer to spend their time spinning, rather than prepping fiber:

  • Color always appears brighter and bolder when spun at a thicker weight yarn.
  • Altering the outcome of your yarn is as simple as changing the order of the color repeats and/or the way you split the braid itself. Keep it intact or nearly so, by splitting it down the middle once for long color repeats, or rip it into thin strips for shorter runs of color (and anything in between). Try a fractal split, leaving one half of the fiber as is and then stripping the other half into shorter bursts of color runs, for the best of both worlds. 
  • There's no reason to abide by a dyer's color inspiration if it doesn't strike your fancy. Don't love a color in your braid? Pull it right out of the fiber bump and spin away.
  • Try tearing half of a braid into small chunks and spinning this bobbin against half you leave as is. Or, try "chunking" the entire bump of fiber itself and then spinning it randomly.

For a more thorough look at Jillian's love for spinning colored tops in different ways, there's more in her great book, Yarnitecture.

Speaking of books, Deb Menz's Color in Spinning is my go-to source for all things on color. Meticulous and yet relatable, Deb has been creating and spinning the blends and handspuns we now consider to be "on point," notably blended rovings and tops and even purposeful handspun that fades in intensity, and she's been doing so for more than three decades. Her optical blending process begins with the dyeing and goes through the careful pre-drafting of her fibers (if you've never been a fan of pre-drafting, this book will make you want to try it Deb's way), but her lessons are applicable to any spinner who wishes to better manage the way we see colors in our spinning projects.

You need this book. No spinner's library is complete without it.

If spinning is your zen, then time spent with Judith MacKenzie McCuin (even if she's in digital format) is nothing short of therapeutic (Franklin Habit once called her "the bodhisattva of spinning"). Judith still believes in putting in the effort to spin that "perfect yarn" for a project, and she gets there through employing the use of practical spinning theory--heavily influenced by 20th Century Swiss expressionist painter Johannes Itten. Watching her and hearing her soothing voice throughout her Spinner's Color Toolbox video never gets old . . . . If you've longed to take a class with a true Spinning Legend, this video is the next best thing.

And finally . . . how could we talk about spinning and color without mentioning Felicia Lo, founder and creative director of Sweet Georgia Yarns. If Deb Menz teaches us how to optically mix colors by being mindful on the front end of our spinning, then Felicia is our guide to managing optical mixing through spinning. Her book, Dyeing to Spin and Knit, is full of brilliant photos and talks about every topic from marling to barber-poling, even down to the nuances of taking control of color transitions. It's all in there, which means that no spinner never need fear a colorful bump of fiber again.

Above all, experiment. Use a few of your most colorful fiber bumps for the sole purpose of understanding some of these theories and practices, and make sure to keep a detailed notebook of yarn samples and knitted swatches for future reference.