Thursday, March 17, 2016

Broadening horizons March 2016: colour blending with handcards

I thought it might be useful to summarise each of our sessions here on the Rampton Spinners blog, as well as provide any important information I forgot to tell you! You can ask questions - and answer mine - via the comments.  

May meeting
I'll start with a question for you: we don't have a topic for the session on 7 May (July will be spinning cotton unless you'd rather do something else), so is there something you'd like to investigate?

Now a quick summary of what I remember of what we talked about at the last meeting. 

Colour blending to match a colour precisely
I started by talking about mixing primary colours (red, yellow, blue) to create secondary colours (red+yellow=orange, yellow+blue=green) and so forth. The book I used as an example of an explanation of colour theory is Johannes Itten's The Elements of Colour, which is currently available from Amazon at a vastly inflated price. Some of the 'also bought' might be as effective and cheaper. Sometimes I just play with coloured pencils.

I then described the system used to produce colour for print. Known as CMYK for its component colours (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black or 'Key'), these inks when mixed produced most of the colours in most of the books published until relatively recently. This is the system I used to produce the colours in the 'Hellebore' swatch that I passed around, working with the closest match to the ink colours that I could find:

Wingham Wool Work dyed 70s merino:
5/124 Bright Blue (Cyan) 
3/72 Cerise (Magenta) 
7/3 Canary (Yellow) 
5/1 Black 
white/undyed (they do 7/1 vanilla, but I think I used undyed).

I posted a lengthy description of the blending process used to make the Hellebore yarns on my blog at the time; you can find it here.

Remember to spin samples of your blend before deciding you've got the colour you need: the colour may be more intense in the spun yarn than in the rolag because there are far fewer gaps and shadows between the fibres. The green I blended was too bright when spun - the colour of the rolag was made duller by the shadows, so it needed a tiny hint of black to recreate that dullness in the yarn.

Aids for choosing colours that work together
A colour wheel can be helpful if you're trying to compose a colour scheme from scratch. 
My favourite way to find a set of colours is to work from a photograph or other illustration. Pick as many colours as you need, blend samples to match (remember to record the weights of the different colours used to produce each sample!) and decide if those colours span the full range you need for your project. If something brighter or darker is needed for contrast, choose another colour from the illustration and try it for effect. Remember that blending enough wool to spin for a large project will be time-consuming even if you scale up the quantities for a drum carder: take the time to choose the right colours.

Colour books such as A Book of Colors can be useful if you have no illustration to hand.

Optical blending
This is the term used to describe the way that our eyes and brain blend small flecks of colour together to create new colours. I brought a sample of yarns I'm currently working with to illustrate the principle:

I've blended the orange and green together in two different ways. On the righthand side of the card the colours are blended (or not) in three-ply yarns. From right to left: pure orange; two plies orange and one green; one ply orange and two green; pure green. To the left of the pure green is a wide band of 2-ply spun from orange and green carded together, roughly 50/50. (I didn't weigh it!) The green yarn with orange silk nepps on the far left isn't part of this discussion.

If you move away from the monitor or sort of squint at the image, even the clearly speckled 3-ply blends begin to merge and become a rich reddish brown rather than orange and green.

Here's a closer view of the significant yarns:
Photoshop helps to demonstrate the blending more clearly. 
a. shows the yarns as wound on the card; 
b. shows two of the blends blurred to brownish;
c. shows the same two with the colour flecks much reduced in size, which has an effect similar to blurring.

As someone pointed out on Saturday, colour blending of dyed wool relies on this: the individual coloured fibres are clearly visible if you look closely at the rolags or spun yarn. 

How to spin what you've blended on the cards
I very briefly demonstrated carding, followed by different ways of spinning the blended fibre. 
1. Traditionally fibre is rolled off the widest side of the cards from bottom to top (where the handle is) to form rolags. These tubes are spun long draw from one end: the fibres spiral out of the rolag to create a relatively lofty woollen yarn. 

2. If the fibre is rolled from short side to short side, the fibres are aligned much more in parallel than they would be in a rolag. If you spin the fibre tube from one end, the fibres come out roughly aligned in parallel to produce a yarn that is smoother, denser and more evenly lustrous than if spun from a rolag. 

3. It is possible to spin the fibre straight off the edge of the handcard, moving smoothly with control along the edge to pick up all the fibres and perhaps even tilting the card slightly to pick up some of those that don't overhang the edge. It's a relatively slow method of spinning, but can be very useful to spin small quantities of fibre contaminated with vegetable matter: if done correctly, most of the VM is retained between the teeth of the card as the fibres are pulled out into the yarn. I've only used this technique for washed fibre; I think the VM might stick too firmly to grease wool for effective removal.

I think that's it. If you have questions, ask in the comments and I'll check regularly. Do remember to suggest something for the May meeting!


No comments:

Post a Comment