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.
2 thoughts on “How To Cheat at Yarn Samples”
Totally genius! Great post. I’m going to try it next time I’m trying color combos.
Hey thanks! I’m pretty psyched to actually go do some productive spinning now.