Do you ever look at a braid of combed top and find yourself wondering whether it will really look the same when spun up? Often, it does change quite a bit, depending on how you handle the fiber. Let's take a look at one of my recent projects and see this in action.
This is Felix Felicis, a subtle gold tonal, on our Opulence blend - Rambouillet, Cashmere, Tussah Silk, and Bamboo. I wanted to spin a singles yarn, aiming for a light fingering weight. Before spinning, I split the braid lengthwise 4 times. This does a few things:
- For one thing, when spinning fine, it's often a lot easier to manage your combed top if it's a bit closer to the diameter you intend to spin. Splitting it into quarters by no means gets it anywhere near to a fingering weight yarn, but the difference is great enough to make for easier handling.
- Secondly, it helps us manage the color. As you can see, this is a variegated or tonal colorway; it doesn't have distinct stripes or gradients. However, portions of the braid are darker than others. Since I was planning on a singles yarn, I wanted to distribute these variations throughout the skein, and splitting in quarters felt like a reasonable number to use for this purpose. If you have an extremely variegated/striping braid, splitting even further can help keep your color transitions poppy and distinct.
By looking at this bobbin end (bobbins by Akerworks) you can see how the yarn almost does stripe, but the deeper golden tones are distributed throughout.
The transformations fiber undergoes as it is spun is one of my favorite things about this craft. So, how did this fiber change as it was spun? Check out a spun hank of yarn (this is not yet set, fresh off the bobbin) next to this same braid from the first photo:
Isn't it amazing how it looks like true molten gold, rather than a strong yellow? Here's a closeup:
What changed to make such a difference? There are several factors at play:
- The Opulence blend contains white bamboo, which runs through in streaks. Bamboo does not take the acid dyes that the wool takes up; so it stays white. In this colorway, it's a bit harder to see in the braid itself, but it's there. Any blend with bamboo is going to lighten and become a bit more pastel as it's spun, as the white fibers blend with the dyed fibers during drafting.
- Even without the bamboo, since I only split into quarters and I spun this quite fine, the color variations in the dyed top were blended together and softened as I drafted.
- I added a metallic gold thread as an auto-wrap while spinning. This won't change the color of the fiber, of course, but adding it into the mix does tone the entire skein.
- Light also reflects off of spun yarn a bit differently than combed top.
I spun this as a single on my Majacraft Aura, auto-wrapped with a metallic gold thread. Because the Aura has what's called a "pigtail orifice, you have to be a bit careful with the auto-wrapping technique - if you just place the wrapping yarn at your feet, it can get all caught up on the pigtail and tangle. To mitigate this, I hold the thread loosely between a couple of fingers in my drafting hand, so it can feed onto the fiber naturally. A side effect of this is that my wraps are almost entirely uniform, matching the amount of twist in the fiber.
Here's the yarn after it was set by fulling and thwacking:
You can see a few curlicues here and there, as the wool shrunk a bit but the metallic thread did not. This will even out once it's wound off and knit. If I were showing this skein, I would reskein it after performing the fulling process, to make for a tidier presentation.
Opulence is quite a delight to spin. You do have to exercise a bit of care; there is a vast difference in staple length between the cashmere (short) and the other fibers in the blend (long). Plied, it's incredibly plump. Here as a fulled single, it gleams and has fluid drape.
I hope seeing this transformation is inspiring for you! Heavily variegated combed top can be so enticing, but I adore working with subtle tonals. The result may not be quite as "eye-candy" as barber-poled explosion of color skeins, but they are imminently knittable and pair well with others. Here, I obtained about 850 yards, and I'd say this is more of a heavy lace than a light fingering. However, it is plump and round and will be a joy to knit. This yarn is intended for the Veter shawl by Life is Cosy.