Spinning a Gradient From Multiple Braids

Marble Ruins, Mosaic of Delos, Nafplion, and Greek Olives from the Greece Collection

Spinning a gradient is really easy when you have fiber braids that are already dyed in such a manner, but in this post we are going to go over how to approach multiple braids in different colorways for such a project. The colorways we are using are dyed as a set meant to go together, but the same techniques will apply to others. The key is finding braids that share similar or the same colors with their neighbor.

Color and Value

There are a couple options to approach this from. We can go from the colors and how they align or by value. Turning an image grey scale can really assist in visualizing light and dark values.

We can see that between the braids, 1 and 2 share a soft yellow and similar blues. 2 and 3 share the same soft yellow and the rust. While 3 and 4 share the olive greens, but the rust from 3 will lead into the wine color in 4 as well. For this project, we are going by color pairings instead of value. If we had chosen value, it would be best to swap color 2 and 3 as noted be the dark values in 2.

Braiding your halves together can be a really quick and easy way to visualize your prospective gradient as well. Braiding like this is done just like a crochet chain.

Splitting the Braids

To start, I split each braid in half widthwise by matching the ends up and finding the center to pull apart. One half of each braid was then set aside. Next, you will want to find the seam in the remaining half of each braid, like above, and open the braid up. You can split this in half lengthwise, creating quarters. Weigh each quarter and match up your neighboring colors by weight. Your end colors in a set of 4 will end up with additional pieces after this step like so.

You can see we are beginning to create single colorway skeins and transitional skeins between them which sit lower in the photo above. This gradient set is really shaping up into a lovely project. Having your transitional pieces matched up by weight will make plying an easier job. For this project, I am shooting for traditional 2 ply yarns to make it really simple. If you are seeking to do more plies, you can split these further, keeping your weights the same for each ply. For uneven plies, you can match up a mixed set from the two colorways for the odd number that equals the weight of the even number plies.

One thing that is not going to work here, is the last colorway being a gradient while the other 3 are variegated. This is a great opportunity to do some Color Editing by splitting the gradient pieces into multiple sections and aligning them in a way that we start spinning with the same end every time. I absolutely love gradient style braids for this level of flexibility. Having the colors in clear, definable sections makes it very easy to customize layouts.

Here, after color editing the last braid, you can see that it blends much easier into the set. I will probably split it a little further than pictured to make it more random when I go to spin this piece.

Spinning and Plying

The singles are lovely at the end of spinning! You can split these as many times as you like, but since the smallest portion was a quarter, I split those one more time lengthwise to thin out the color repeats. This means every portion except for Greek Olives, the last braid, was split into eighths and then spun into the singles that I needed to keep the color repeats consistent in every skein. Being a long run gradient, Greek Olives needed to be split one step further lengthwise to reduce the color section sizes. I spun it so that I started with the bright green with every portion and allowed a good amount of overlap with each join to blend them together a bit. This turns a gradient into a variegated yarn really quickly and you can see below that it worked out really well!

When plying, the transition skeins were plied together from the smaller cakes as they were. Since I spun the single color skeins into one strand, they were first split in half by weight and then plied. It is not advised to ply direct from both ends of a center pull ball as you can skew the twist of your singles and your yarn can end up justified to one direction.

This was such a fun experiment and will make a fantastic gradient accessory to wear. I hope this gives you new inspiration for your stash and some of the Color Editing that can be done to get really customized projects.

Make Pumpkins With Us! Photo Tutorial for our Fall Festival

Pumpkin Kit from our Harvest Collection of 2022

Our Fall Festival is coming up and with that is our handspun Pumpkin making event held on our Instagram and Discord Server. We will have bunches of kits available, but feel free to bring your own fibers along, too! For this year, the even starts on September 18th and lasts until October 16th. Two weeks for spinning your beautiful yarns and two weeks for making pumpkins so we can do it as relaxed as we like for pacing.

We went with a super simple way to make cinched pumpkins from rectangle so any finished fabric will work! Woven, knit, or crochet!

We made this blog post printable here!

I chose our Mint Autumn Dreams batt kit because it matches our living room decor the best. From this, prepared a gradient z-striped roving with a Diz and spun roughly a sock weight chain-plied (3 plies) yarn. Having the extra plies helps for better stitch definition and a thinner yarn will maximize your yardage. I really recommend swatching and playing with your yarn to get a feel of the size of fabric you can make. You want to aim for a fabric that is dense with few holes so that it contains the stuffing well, and also be able to make a sizeable rectangle.

From my swatches I was able to figure out that an 80 stitch wide rectangle would net me a piece of fabric around 16″ x 9″ which was perfect! Whatever ratio you end up with will change the final shape and size of your pumpkin and they are all unique. You can alter it into a range of squat to tall pumpkins in various widths. For this one, I used US 2.5 sized needles and knit a simple Garter Rib pattern. 10 stitches knit, 10 stitches purled on the wrong side row. Knit across on right side rows.

You could make this fabric in the round, but a flat piece suited our tutorial needs better. Go ahead and fold what will be the side seam edges, for this one that was the shorter sides, towards each other with the fabric inside out. Using a piece of really old handspun from my 2nd skein ever spun, I used a running stitch close together to sew the edges to each other. This handspun was really over twisted as can happen with your first and early spins, but just because it isn’t perfect or not what you hoped doesn’t mean it isn’t its own beautiful and useful thing! It might not be strong enough to cinch the pumpkin in the next steps where I switched to some leftover DK weight yarn, but it is definitely sturdy enough to seam the sides.

With yarn leftover from another project, we did a really loose running stitch around what will become the bottom of the pumpkin. Don’t sew through both layers, though! When you make the full circle, go ahead and pull that really tight and the bottom will cinch right up. Tie careful knots to secure and use one end to make a few extra stitches over the cinched fabric to keep it closed.

You will have something that resembles a bit of a bag or a hat when you turn it right side out!

Then comes the stuffing! This one was stuffed about 3/4 of the way up and a little firmly. I used clean waste wool from carding and hand combing, but feel free to bust out whatever works for you! If you are using wool, be sure to give it a lot of fluffing up so that it is very loose inside of the pumpkin for your next steps.

Cinch the top about 3/4″ of an inch or so down from the top edge in the same way that the bottom was done. Ends from the knitting can just be tucked inside and don’t necessarily need woven in. Be sure to leave ends from this cinching several inches long! We will need them later!

This next part is a little tough. Secure a rather long strand of your leftover yarn to the bottom with a few knots. You want this one there quite well. Using a crochet hook or a Doll Needle (which I found much easier to work with), you want to go up from the bottom center and out at the base of the top cinch, following the pattern of the fabric if you textured it like I did. Align the strand of yarn with the fabric texture, and pull tight. Continue around the pumpkin and then tie very securely on the bottom. You can also align all your strands and then pull tight at the end by easing each strand from beginning to end.

Tuck ends inside and it should look like this!

Add your stick stem into the top cinch! Those extra long strands from the top cinch, you can take and wrap around the little bundle of fabric and stem a few times and then tie as a cute bow. I ended up using two sticks here to make a stem of appropriate width, but all of our kits will be receiving thicker apple wood sticks that have been heat treated. The heat treating is important for any pests that may be inside. Alternative stem options that work great are other sticks, wine corks, or cinnamon sticks!

Our kits will arrive with the usual tie we do for our batt packaging, a coconut button, teeswater locks, and wool felt squares with leaf templates. For this one, I threaded the button onto the packaging string and tied a cute bow behind the top cinch bow. Teeswater locks were threaded inside the wrap of the top cinch with a crochet hook and they are pretty secure under the tight wrap. There are so very many cute ways to embellish these from embroidery to beads to going all out on buttons. There’s no end to customizing at this stage.

Time for the leaf! The finishing touch. Doing a bit of ghost cutting around the leaf template provided will give you this cute shape. I went ahead and folded it in half for acute crease down the center.

The stem was threaded in the same way as the Teeswater locks, and we have our pumpkin!

This turned out SO much cuter than I anticipated and I cannot wait to make more of these little guys. We hope you join us for our handspun pumpkin event in our Fall Festival and are on the edge of our seats waiting to see what you come up with! Thank you for following along and Happy Fall!

Spinning Multiple Batts Together

Cloud Strike Batt Pair

Analyzing The Batts

In the photo above there are two Cloud Strike batts that I couldn’t help but keep from our May 2022 Natural Events Collection. This colorway really emphasized the use of texture and colors that pop against each other for a well defined artistic batt. The hope with this spin was to retain the same gradient and color layout that the batts presented. As detailed in our Tackling Art Batts post, the underside of your batt tells a really helpful story for prep. Chain ply is an excellent method to retain a gradient, so I knew right away that it would be the intentional way to spin these. However; I wanted one entire skein and not two.

I could have split each batt into thin strips, aligned the matching color sections, and spun them consecutively. Instead, I chose the method detailed here so that I could spin the batts held together as though a single roving. It worked out really fantastic in the end!

Using A Diz

Batt face

When you open up a batt, you can easily see the topside and the underside. When viewing the batt, you can also determine the top and bottom being the fluffy ends where it was broken off the carder and the sides. To keep this gradient intact, we want to work from one side to the other. In doing this, I chose to use a Diz to prep each of these batts separately before joining them.

A Diz is any item with a small hole in it. You can use items specifically made for it or anything down to spare buttons so long as you can get a comfortable grip on it. The Diz is not going to have too much pressure on it because you do not use it to pull on the fiber. Typically your fiber thickness is going to determine what size of a hole you want to use. Finer fibers do better with smaller holes and thicker fibers with larger. This Diz from The Dancing Goats is a durable metal dome with 4 size options. Knowing these batts are made from Rambouillet primarily, which is a fine wool, and that I want to spin this yarn rather thin, I want to choose one of the smaller options.

To Diz the fiber, you would start at one corner and work up one side of the batt and back down once you reach the other corner and repeat across. Using a threader is really helpful to start it and determining your fiber’s staple length helps to tell you how much you can pull fiber forward before breaking a length off. You only want to pull about halfway of your fiber’s staple length. Wool is covered in microscopic scales that naturally want to grab each other so long as you don’t pull too far off. This is why yarn holds together so strongly with twist and your fibers are capable of grabbing the next in line when you draft. A Diz does a wonderful job of taking advantage of this while creating a loose roving.

Putting a light pressure on the batt with one hand, you pull the fiber that is threaded through the Diz as if you are drafting some out and keep to half the staple length pulled from the batt. Then you slide the Diz back to smooth the fiber. Repeat in a zig-zagging top to bottom path from one side of the batt to the other.

Utilizing the Figure Eight Wrap

After you have used the Diz to create a loose hand-pulled roving from each batt, you could just roll it into a ball for the next steps or utilize a figure 8 wrapping method. Rolling a ball naturally introduces twist into a fiber. To keep each batt drafting smoothly, I did not want twist to happen in the roving.

Wrapping your fiber in a figure 8 like the steps shown above imparts hardly any twist onto your fiber. I wrapped both batts in this method before starting my next preparation step which was to combine them and align the colors. Each batt was a slightly different weight and you can’t guarantee your colors will align perfectly just holding them side by side and spinning. To fix this, I laid each roving next to each other and drafted them thinner together. They are still separate pieces, but it is much easier to align the colors this way. If one starts to get out of alignment, you can break that piece off and draft the other one until the colors match up again. Then hold the pieces side by side and draft together.

I did figure 8 wrap this again and one batt was certainly just a bit longer than the other in the end. Overall, I adored this prep method and the results really sing!

Finally Spinning!

In spinning, just be sure to draft from each roving evenly. They will still be separate pieces, but having a small pre-drafted roving that your hands can fully grasp and not have to work across as you would a full Combed Top, is really helpful. This would have been rather difficult to tackle if I had spun directly from the batts at the same time. If you feel your colors fall out of alignment again, you can break the one side off and rejoin once the other matches it once more.

It was really fun watching the resulting gradient emerge on the bobbin of my Cadorette/Laurence Quebec Production Wheel. I am really enamored with spinning on antique and vintage wheels, and this specific Double Treadle has been such an honest treat to have in my flock. Spinning these batts was an absolute breeze, even if it did take many hours. This bobbin held the 5oz of fiber easily, but I did need to chain ply on my modern Schacht Ladybug just for the bobbin capacity. You may have noticed yarn takes up more space in plying as it blooms with lower twist plying produces than it did as a single.

I’m so happy with the results of the spin. The batts are perfectly represented right down to where the yellow and brown stripes were laying in the batts. I will without a doubt be using this prep method a lot more in the future. I am really curious how color management may go in a spin using multiple colorways for the same yarn in the same method. I hope you find this really useful, too!