Using a color wheel to find color harmony in your spinning

how to, what we doSasha TorresComment

On the left, an analogous colorway using yellow-green, green, blue-green, and violet. On the right, a split-complementary scheme using blue-green, red, and orange. 

In the last blog post, I offered some of my favorite "pro tips" on color management in spinning, culled from what I consider to be the best sources available on the subject. Today we dive deeper, as I talk about using a color wheel to suss out color harmonies, or color combinations known for yielding pleasing results, in the braid you want to spin.  

If you'd like an easily digestible lesson in understanding the principles behind the color wheel (and so much more), I recommend Felicia Lo's  book, Dyeing to Spin and Knit. Once you know a bit of color theory and understand how a color wheel works, then you can better decide what you'd like to achieve with the fiber you've got before you.

Due to a little something called "optical mixing" (the theory behind pointillist paintings like this one), our eyes perceive the tiny dots of color produced when we create handspun yarns as mixtures of the colors in question. Let's put this to practical use: First, you'll unbraid your fiber and take a good look at the colors and their alignment on the color wheel. Depending on these relationship(s), you'll then decide on your desired outcome. Here are some examples:

  1. If, as in the photo on the left above, the colors are analogous, or side by side on the color wheel, then you're in luck. These colors will play well together no matter how you'd like to spin and ply your fiber. Your next decision is whether you'd like to preserve the brightness of the colors, their order in the fiber itself, etc. Anything will work, even a fun barber pole effect. Your colors will not muddy.
  2. If the colors in your braid are complementary, or opposites on the color wheel, or even, like the fiber on the right above, split-complementary (one color or hue with the two hues adjacent to the opposite color), then you've got more to think about. These opposites can dim or muddy one another, depending on proportions and other factors. Or, they can also be used to create lovely colors on their own, again depending on proportions. Maybe you do want to tone down the brightness of this braid of fiber? Maybe you don't. Before you go and spin your default two-ply, think through the outcome. (Sampling is in order!)
  3. Don't write off or destash an overly-exuberant (loud) braid of fiber. Instead, spin it fractally, or even as a traditional 3-ply. The results will be a much more muted version of the colors in the original fiber and a highly knittable yarn. You won't believe the difference!
  4. Consider bringing a solid color to the mix, if you have one on hand. Whether it's black to deepen the tone, white to brighten, or a color similar or even complementary to what's in the fiber bump itself, you can completely transform your end results with this oh-so-simple addition to your spin.

The options are truly endless when it comes to spinning and using the color wheel and color harmonies as your guide, and knowledge is power, as they say. Learning more about color harmonies is a terrific way to become a more purposeful spinner!


what we doSasha TorresComment
Spinzilla Post Image.jpg

Sasha here, to talk about what's got me excited, and that is the fifth annual Spinzilla (October 2-8, 2017)! As always, it's hosted by The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA), which is promoting "a monster of a spinning week."  

Spinzilla is a global competition in which spinners (either on teams, or as "rogue," or individuals) try to spin as many miles of yarn as possible in just one week, both for bragging rights as well as to bring visibility to our craft. Registration fees are donated to TNNA's evolving mentorship program, so that our kids can grow up and be fiber-loving spinners too!

"But Sasha, 'miles' of yarn?" you may be thinking. "Maybe I'll just sit this one out."

Aw, don't do that—at least, don't do it based on fear or intimidation. Instead, take that week as a gift to yourself and your inner spinner within. Feed your spinning monster. Below, I offer my key reasons why Spinzilla is an event well worthy of joining.

  1. Camaraderie: Not everyone has the good fortune of being able to belong to a fiber arts guild. For one week each year (even longer, if you join in the Ravelry forums in time to enjoy Spinzilla preparation and discussion), you can join ranks with spinners from all over the globe. Ask questions, gather intelligence, or simply enjoy the online companionship. It's a beautiful thing.
  2. Success: First of all, one mile is the equivalent of 1760 yards. That right there sounds a whole lot more attainable, doesn't it. Factor in the TNNA formula for counting yardage  [plied yardage] + [plied yardage x # of plies] = yardage for which you can claim credit, and a person's end results are looking a whole lot longer. Or, focus on attaining a goal during that week, such as becoming more proficient at core spinning or even spindle spinning. Tailor the week to meet your definition of success.
  3. Sustainability: By making learning accessible to the next generation, we can all be party to sustaining this craft as not just a hobby, but hopefully a lifestyle or means of support for decades to come.
  4. Inspiration: There will be bobbin and handspun porn galore during and just after Spinzilla and I, for one, cannot wait to lay my eyes on it.
  5. Prizes: I almost didn't add this one to the list, but I did. I am only human, after all. It's as simple as could be to be entered to win all kinds of incredible prizes, too. Just make sure to post photos in your team thread and to turn in your final yardage tally to either your team captain or to TNNA (if you go rogue) by the competition's deadline. You will be notified if you've won any extras.

Truly, whether your monster is a Godzilla or a Gonzo, I look at this competition as one that benefits all spinners, current and future. Registration is open through September the 30, so gather that fiber stash and get ready!

Goodbye to yarn

behind the scenes, what we doSasha TorresComment
goodbye to yarn picture.jpg

Have you ever noticed that the really important conversations are the ones we most often put off having?

This is one of those conversations, but here goes: as of the end of this month (September 30, to be exact) Sheepspot will no longer be dyeing and selling yarn online. Instead, we’ll be focusing 100% of our energies on providing our spinning customers with beautiful fibers and the information and support they need to make beautiful yarns with them.

I know this decision may be disappointing to those of you who don’t spin, and who have enjoyed knitting with Sheepspot yarns, so I want to be transparent with you about how I got here

When I first started Sheepspot in 2014, I really thought I was creating a yarn company. I wanted to give knitters who didn’t spin access to some of the wonderful wools I had discovered as a handspinner. And I was genuinely excited about sourcing wool and working with mills to realize my yarn-making ambitions at a bigger scale. 

I wasn’t prepared, though, for how travel-intensive and physically exhausting sourcing wool would be. Or how long it would take to see that wool turned into yarn. Or how unpredictable the results could be. (Remember the Ile de France Aran? Argh. It was so lumpy and unevenly twisted I couldn't sell it.) Or what all of the above would mean for Sheepspot’s cash flow. 

And along the way, something else happened. I started dyeing fiber. And I discovered how much I loved it. Because I am, at my core, a spinner. And, in my heart of hearts, I want to serve other spinners

Maybe that’s why I’ve always sold much more fiber than yarn. At any rate, I’m following my biz coach Tara Swiger’s advice: do more of what works

And crucially, not just what works in a what’s-best-financially way, but what works in a follow-my-heart way

Enough about me. Here’s what this means for you:

  • If you’re a knitter, September 30 will be the last day you can buy Sheepspot yarns online. Until then, and while supplies last, all yarns will be deeply discounted. Any unsold yarns will be available for purchase (again, at discounted prices) in person at festivals only. 
  • If you’re a spinner, stick with me, kid! Going forward, I’ve got even more delicious wools for us to sample and enjoy together. More preparations (including batts and more dyed locks). More videos. More learning. More spinning. 

I’m so excited about Sheepspot’s future. Here’s to growing forward. 


PS: Starting this fall, I’ll be opening the Sheepspot Studio for live, in-person spinning events and classes. If you live anywhere near London, Ontario, head over to to learn more about what I have planned!

Do you pre-draft?

how to, what we doSasha TorresComment
predrafting picture.jpg

Hi, All. Sasha here to talk about a subject which is often debated among Big Name spinners, and that is pre-drafting. Pre-drafting is just what it sounds like—you take a strip of fiber and attenuate, or draft, it in advance of spinning. Some find it to be an extra preparatory step worth taking, as the fiber is not merely attenuated and ready for twist to be added at the wheel or on the spindle, but it can also be stripped into narrow, easy-to-manage parcels. There's now less to think about while actually spinning. Those who protest its use do so because this pre-drafting of fibers changes the original bump of fiber, particularly when it's been hand dyed. Here at Sheepspot, we fully support the use of any tips and tricks which may help spinners feel more in control of their own spinning and their end results, and I believe that pre-drafting is one such tool. By all means, do it if it helps! Let's get to it.

How to pre-draft your fiber for spinning

You can predraft the roving or top without stripping it, but, remembering that this is all about more easily managing a bump of fiber for spinning with greater ease and control (we're going to use combed top from my stash, though technically the steps are the same for roving and batts), the first step is splitting the fiber into more narrow strips. Think about what's easiest for you to manage, because this is personal preference. I don't like to make my strips too narrow, because they start to become equally difficult to handle if the fibers have trouble clinging together. Find what works for you.

Fiber-stripping tip: hold the strip of fiber up vertically, then poke your finger through halfway across, starting a few inches down from the top. Using quick, firm movements, tear up to the top, then all the way to the bottom. You should get two even strips of fiber using this method.

Now, we attenuate the fibers. One strip at a time and with your hands several inches apart, you will gently, sloooowly at first, draft out the fibers ... not so far that it breaks apart, just to the point that your see and feel (and if you listen carefully, perhaps even hear) the fibers begin to slip past one another. Your strip of fiber will become a fluffy pleasure. Carefully roll it into a nest, put it aside for spinning, and continue until you've completed your task.

What to do if you accidentally pull too far? Say "Oops!" and just keep going. It happens. (And it gives you an opportunity to practice your joins.)

Just in case anyone is wondering why someone would hate on such a peaceful method of spinning, I do want to mention that pre-drafting of hand-dyed fiber does slightly alter the intensity of the colors. If you attenuate in advance, you do lose a bit of the coloways' oomph, but frankly, I don't think most people would notice. As for purists' upset over the fact that we're splitting the top and breaking down the color runs, some of the greatest spinners I know do this every day because they want to experiment and play with color!

As always, I say to do what works for you. If pre-drafting is that, do so proudly.