Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Dyed Fibre Should be WYSIWYG Too - Part 1

Except that it very often isn't.  And I often have beginning spinners come to me saying "What did I do wrong?  It doesn't look anything like the roving."  Truth is they did nothing wrong.  Some dyed fibre can't be made into yarn that looks anything like the original fibre.  My friend, OVFA, gave me a very good example of this for Christmas one year.  It's from a large, well known commercial supplier.  It's labelled 100% wool top.

The top is narrow, which is perfectly fine, but look at the length of the stripes compared to the length of the fibre.  The fibre is nearly 5" long.  Many of the stripes are less than 2".  The sample of fibres I pulled out to measure length actually has 3 colours on it.

What this means is, no matter what I do, short of twisting without drafting at all, is that the colours are going to blend.  A lot.  When you draft the fibres don't stay lined up, they move around.  And that pink and green that look striking on the roving?  They are going to go grey and possibly muddy.  Here's some samples spun up to about fingering weight:

1.  The roving spun as is and plied back on itself.  Pretty muddy and blended.  Overall the effect is much darker than the original roving, though there are some flashes of the original colours

2.  The roving split in half and the halves matched, more or less, in plying.  Better but doesn't look like the roving. Over the whole roving it would be very difficult to keep things matched up, even over the small amount I did I was off by a nearly a foot.

3.  A chain ply from a singles spun from the full width of the roving.   Usually makes for clearer stripes, but not when the stripes are so short.  Much of this one blended in the plying with all 3 colours even when I chained really short (2-3") sections.  There are some sections with 2 plies of one colour and even the odd one with more or less one colour but not many.

4.  The singles.  Pretty blended, but some clear stripes.  You can see barberpolling even in the singles.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with any of these, they just don't look anything like the roving.  When I look at the roving the overall impression I get is "green with stripes", but the yarns say "dark blue with spots".  As yarn this fibre becomes an interesting heather with occasional flashes of fairly pure colour from the occasional spots that are at least as long as the fibre length.  The colour and value choices are such that there is nothing clashing about them.  Rovings like this do make it quite a bit more difficult to judge what the finished yarn could look like.  Even with experience it's a bit of guess until you sample.  When the colour and value choices are less careful they can end up as what I (not so fondly) refer to as "clown vomit".  "Rainbow" rovings that have shortish stripes of colours from across the rainbow with wide variation in value have a tendency towards this.  They don't end up looking like rainbows at all.  When values are very similar in these rainbows you can end up with muddy greys.

So how do you know what that marvelous handpaint you are holding is likely to look like when you stop admiring it and actually spin it?  Next post we will look at a hand-dyed roving that is meant to be WYSIWYG.  Then we will consider what we can learn from both rovings that will help us make more informed choices at the next fibre festival.

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