I’m a half-hearted swatcher at best. And I’m lazy. If I have a very specific project in mind then I’ll sample and swatch to make sure the colors, gauge and finished knit sample are what I want. But I will also admit to buying pretty dyed braids solely because I’m intrigued by the color combinations…and I will just sit and admire them without a plan to best showcase them. I hate doing spinning swatches with these braids, in part because I only have 4oz in that colorway, and if I don’t like the result I end up with less finished product once I come up with something I do like.
I bought these three braids last year, thinking they went together color-wise. I’m sure I could make a Knitty möbius shawl, or I could send them through the drum carder a little and they would blend together nicely. But I bought these braids because the colors are placed together as they are, and I’m interested in how plying can bring out the best (or not) in a finished yarn.
I had an idea: if I treat each braid as a macro single, I can get a reasonable idea of how any sort of finished yarn would look. It’s not a complete replacement for making sample yarn, but it gives a fair idea of how the end result will read. I simply put some twist into the roving and away I went. Here’s the roving on the left, plied onto itself:
All the white in that braid really shows up. It’s kind of busy. Here it is as a two-ply with the alpaca braid in the center of the first photo:
This isn’t displeasing to me. The alpaca definitely cuts down on all the white.
Here are the three braids plied together in a three-ply:
Now that I look at them like this, I can see that the sea-foam blue in the mostly-green braid really doesn’t look good to me with the other colors. What are you doing there, sea-foam?! The good news is, I haven’t spun any yarn yet.
Here are some more options, plying with white Shetland roving from my sheep:
I like the two-ply, I think the three-ply has too much white. However, with the right project it could be nice.
Some more options, with a natural brown ply:
I think if the brown roving was a little richer in color it would look fabulous. I could either over-dye that brown roving, or actually clean and card the lovely brown fleece from Charlie that’s sitting in the barn.
Here’s what I finally ended up with, and the good news for me is that it might enable me to start in on a project that I’ve had in mind for a while. I split the difference between the brown and the white roving, and tried a white with red-tipped Shetland lambswool fleece that I bought:
I really like this. The bright colors pop without being too garish. I think it will be a pretty, interesting yarn that I will be excited about spinning and knitting with.
Now for the green braid that didn’t actually go with the other two. I sort of assumed I’d ply it with black:
But that sea-foam is still a problem to me!
Again, the white parts just really stand out in a clunky way for me.
Here we have plied with a natural-colored merino blend:
I like this better than plied with the dark colors, which surprises me. If I’d been spinning to swatch I don’t think I’d have even bothered to try this. The other thing I like about this technique is that I can get an idea of how the barber-pole striping might look.
I also like this option, plied with a yak/silk blend:
For me, this is the winner. This might motivate me to spin up some Blue-the-goat mohair and do a boucle with this. In any event, I’m excited about this braid again, instead of feeling vaguely guilty that I haven’t done anything with it.
Update: here is that green braid actually spun up with the yak/silk. As I was playing it I felt disappointed in the result, but once I skeined it, it really loosks just like my quick sample, except much, much nicer:
Here is La Technique:
Add twist (in the same direction) to your “singles”. Hold them together, then turn them back around each other in the opposite direction until you have a nice ply. It took me just a little practice to get the hang of it, and now I can make mock-ups of all kinds of yarns. I’m pretty excited about this, because now I can make decisions without making any commitments.