Working With Handdyed Fibers, Part 1

Posted in handspun, spinning by tchemgrrl on August 26, 2013

Most of my craft-time lately has been taken up with teaching a beginner’s spinning class and a few one-on-one classes. I had a great time, and hopefully the new spinners did too! I always have grand plans of taking pictures, but if you’ve seen me do educating in person you know that I get a little, um, focused, and that stepping back to take some casual pictures is just not possible. that was the past month.

Right now, I’m working on a project that I hope to publish, so I have very little that I can show. But I’m excited about it, and my plans are working, so that’s always good.

In the mean time, I thought I’d put together a few posts on handling hand-dyed fibers. A number of common questions from both new and experienced spinners involves the use of those pretty, colorful braids of fiber that indie dyers sell. What do we do with them? How do we prevent them from turning to mud? How can I make it look the way it looks in my head?
Over the next few weeks I’m going to work on answering some of those questions. Taken together, they should add up to a handy little workshop on working with a particular fiber.

Starting point: What do you have?

The starting point in working with a hand-dyed fiber is going to be very similar to how one would look at a solid color fiber. If you are not an experienced spinner, are not willing to spend money on a fiber mistake, and are not able to see fiber in person, I’d STRONGLY recommend starting with fiber from a known good dealer and not the first person whose results pop up on Etsy (whoever that is today). There are many recommendations on threads in Ravelry and in my How to get started with spinning post.

In-person starting points: Confirm that the fiber looks okay, not too compacted, not sticky to the touch. Merino top is particularly notorious for getting felted in inexperienced (or having-a-bad-day) hands, and the airiness of a carded roving sometimes gets squished into oblivion by careless dyeing. Check that the dye goes all the way through the chunk of fiber.

Spinning is a bit different than knitting and spinning in that you have a bit more control over the final product from this point–the same braid could be a delicate lacy shawl, hard-wearing socks, or a smooshy hat depending on how it’s spun. While you’re checking out the fiber, think about the questions below. They don’t all need an answer immediately, but looking over them may help you to narrow down your options. If you can’t decide between two things that both sound intriguing, don’t be afraid to sample and swatch a few ideas first!

Color: What kind of colorway is it? Is it tonal, or are there hues from every corner of the color wheel? Would you like to tone the colorway down somewhat, or do you want the final project to look exactly like the fiber? Are the blocks of color very short or very long?

color wheel
A 5-minutes-in-Powerpoint color wheel, which I will be referring back to later.

The final project: What kind of project do you want to use it for? Would long stretches of color or shorter ones be more appealing? Do you have enough fiber to complete your planned project or would plying with another fiber help you to stretch what is available?

Yarn structure: Would singles or plied yarn be more appropriate to the color and project? Which would be better in terms of wear, etc.? Would a fluffy, airy yarn or a firmly twisted, hard-wearing yarn be better?

Personal Preference: Do you want to pay a lot of attention to the yarn as you spin and/or ply it by weighing, measuring, swatching, etc, or do you just want to go with the flow? Do you mind spending a few minutes prepping fiber? Will you be sitting with your wheel in one place so that you can lay out some pre-planned fiber and grab pieces easily, or will you be moving around with your spinning a lot, making such organization difficult?

In upcoming posts I’ll be talking about some of these options in more detail.


5 Responses

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  1. […] Part 1: Deciding on some fiber ——————- […]

  2. […] Part 1: Deciding on some fiber Part 2: Color ——————- The next few entries are going to talk about fiber management tricks. They’re all going to employ a fair amount of what I’m going to call splitting and breaking. So, time to define some terms. […]

  3. […] Part 1: Deciding on some fiber Part 2: Color Part 3: Splitting and Breaking —————– “Lazy rolags” […]

  4. […] Part 1: Deciding on some fiber Part 2: Color Part 3: Splitting and Breaking Part 4: Lazy Rolags ————————- Fractal spinning […]

  5. […] Part 1: Deciding on some fiber Part 2: Color Part 3: Splitting and Breaking Part 4: Lazy Rolags Part 5: Fractals ——————— So this is kind of a funny way to define color-management; this is the sort of thing that someone would normally put with plying techniques. But it’s still super relevant. Chain plying. […]

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