Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lessons, learned and not learned

So last summer while I was visiting Victoria's sweet little fibre arts store, Knotty by Nature, I bought two 4oz. braids of the most beautifully dyed Corriedale. I couldn't wait to start spinning them, and by odd coincidence I had brought my Houndesign spindle with me, so off I went.

When I was about halfway through the first braid, Mitchell commented, "Wow. I think I liked the colours better when it was just fibre."

This was remarkable, in that Mitchell rarely notices what woolly thing I'm getting up to, unless I physically grasp his head, turn it toward the WIP, and say, "Isn't this a (fill in adjective of your choice here) (fill in name of project here)?" At which point he will obligingly respond that yes, it's the best, most artistically knit pair of socks he's ever seen; or alternatively, that no, that's one butt-ugly pattern, the designer must have been selling it to feed his or her crack habit, and I'm quite right to want to set it on fire and stomp on the gory remains. Mitchell is very supportive that way.

Anyway. This one time last summer, he noticed that the fibre I was spinning was starting to look kind of muddy, with one colour running into the next and getting lost. I later figured out that this is because I'd been a bit overenthusiastic with the predrafting—a mistake I haven't made since then, and my spinning has been much the better for it.

The other thing I did with those two beautiful braids was spin and ply each one separately: I carefully split each braid in half lengthwise, spun it up, and then plied it to its other half. Makes sense, right?

By the time I was about a quarter of the way into the second braid, though, the horrible truth began to dawn: although the braids had looked like identical twins when I bought them, as I spun them, the subtle differences began to show in a not-at-all subtle manner. One skein of finished yarn was kind of mauve (okay, muddy mauve), while the other was more of a light brown with hints of purple. They were cousins, but definitely not identical twins.

In hindsight, I figured out that I should have plied A to B, rather than A to A and B to B; at least that way the finished yarn would have, um, matched. Okay, I thought. Lesson learned.

And yet...when Rachel gave me two braids of the most delightful blue-green Fleece Artist merino/silk sliver at Hannukah, do you think I followed my own sage advice?

Not a chance.

It's like the whole mauve/beige yarn thing had never even happened. I happily spun up the singles from A...and plied it to a second singles from the same skein.Pretty, huh?

And once again, by the time I was about a quarter of the way into B, a small nagging doubt began to work its way into my brain.

"Hey, this is a lot more blue than the first one," it said.

"Oh, shut up," said I. "It'll all even out by the end. You'll see."

"Doubt it," said the Nagging Doubt.

I ignored it, and kept spinning. And then plying. And when I finally took the finished yarn from Braid B upstairs and compared it to the results from Braid A, the Nagging Doubt just sat there smirking.

"Not even close," it said.
I will not record what I said. (And yes, I do realize that more cautious souls take a more organized approach to spinning. They spin up samples, and keep the first yarn next to them so they can compare and adjust the results as they go. I wish I were that kind of spinner, but I'm really not.)

Anyway, just so you know: I think I've got it now. **Spin a singles from Braid A. Spin a second singles from Braid B. Ply them together. Repeat from **. Or risk this:

p.s. Yes, I know I haven't posted in a while. Sixteen whole days, as one reader helpfully reminded me. All I can say is that it's late winter, and for some unknown reason everyone and his dog feels the need to have conferences and meetings and whatnot at this time of year. And since my livelihood kind of depends on this happening, I can't really complain about it, even when it cuts into my blogging time.


Mary Keenan said...

If only they weren't both so beautiful...

slipstreamfiberarts said...

My solution: knit something (doesn't matter what), and alternate two rows of A and two rows of B. There's always a way around not planning ;)

Kathleen Taylor said...

They're not identical but they do compliment each other, which means you can artfully segue from one color to the other I(alternating rows for a bit) in a large project like a shawl. It'll be beautiful and it'll look like you did it on purpose.

Amanda said...

Well, they are both gorgeous and they sort of co-ordinate...all that blue and green is very watery. Maybe you could use them for a shawl or scarf with a wavy pattern (like feather and fan) in it?