Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Spin a Fractal Yarn - A Photo Tutorial

Recently, my daughter made this gorgeous new colorway in art batt form that we decided to call Renaissance Festival. Inspired by the colors, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to make a fractal yarn and show you how at the same time.

I have to start with a bit of an explanation. Normally fractal yarns are made using dyed top. The top is split in half lengthwise. If you're making a two-ply yarn, then one half of the original batt is spun, and then the other half is split more times so that the color stripes are shorter. Lastly, the two (or more) are plied together, resulting in rich color combinations.

I love working with batts and really prefer them to spinning from dyed top because it's possible to combine different materials into one yarn, so I wanted to come up with a way to make the wonderful complexity of fractal yarn using an art batt for one ply and dyed top spun in succession for the other. Here's how:

I started by spinning the 2-ounce batt, tearing off a strip at a time as I spun it as you can see below. I was aiming for frequent color repeats, and the batt was made in multiple layers of stripes to make that easy.

Here is the yarn I spun from the art batt. As you can see, the colors change frequently, and there's a lot going on. The art batt has merino, bamboo, some kid mohair locks, some gorgeous muga silk, a bit of sari silk in multiple colors, and a touch of firestar and angelina.

The next step was to prepare the top I wanted to use in the second ply. This time, I took 0.4 ounces of each of the four colors of merino as well as one of the shades of bamboo. I decided not to use the other shade of bamboo or the other ingredients this time, focusing instead on the predominant colors. I divided each color into quarters and spun one section at a time in ROYGBIV order as you see below.

Here I am just starting out with the ruby merino top....
 ....and here I am finishing up the first 0.1-ounce section of ruby and ready to start the topaz bamboo.

 My preferred method of joining yarn is just to lay one over the other and make sure enough twist enters the join area. If I were aiming for yarn that was absolutely the same consistency all the time (and I almost never am because what's the fun in that?), then I would use a different method to join.

My daughter was kind enough to photograph me as I went along, and our family dog decided to make an appearance as you can see.

After that, I had to stop and do other things for awhile. I finished the second skein in the evening. Each color section in this second ply was a lot longer. I should have measured, but I would estimate that each one is 5 or 6 feet as opposed to 5 or 6 inches for the first skein.

Here it is in the daylight next morning:

And here are the two bobbins right before I started plying them together:
My goal in spinning these was to emphasize the color. To that end, I avoided my usual coils and beehives in favor of nice, smooth plying.
 I love my Lendrum wheel, but I will say I'm not in love with the lazy Kate that came with it. Some day, I hope to get one of those arched ones that holds the bobbins in a horizontal position. This works well enough, though.
 I spun the singles with a lot of twist as you can see from how they curl here.

Here is the two-ply fractal yarn in progress:
 And here it is sitting in my scale looking very proud of itself.

Even before washing it, the plied yarn was very nicely balanced, as you can see here:

Here are a few pictures of the yarn after I washed it. 

You can see this yarn in my shop here: You can also find it in my Etsy shop here:

I am hoping to have some fractal yarn kits available soon too.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Flagstaff Wool Festival

It's almost time! For the first time I will be participating in the Flagstaff Wool Festival this year. I've been wanting to do it for a few years now, and each time I have gone to it, I have just loved fondling fiber and finding some new and wonderful fibers to add to my inventory from local alpaca and sheep farmers.

The absolutely crazy thing is that I am 8 months pregnant, but I thought it would be easier this year than next. I couldn't do it without a lot of help from my wonderful husband and several of our children who are wonderful at making batts and will be helping at the festival. The 2-year-old may or may not be a lot of help, but he's sure to be cute. :-)

I will be selling my handspun yarn, hand-dyed yarn, premade art batts, and I'll be giving visitors a chance to design their own art batts as well. Figuring out all the little details has been a bit challenging, but I think I have most of it worked out at this point anyway.

If you are in the area, the wool festival info can be found at I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dimension Yarn - A Photo Tutorial

In my last post, I showed you the finished product from my first skein of the new type of art yarn I just came up with, which I'm naming Dimensional Yarn. The thing that makes this yarn unique is that it goes from thin at one end to super bulky at the other end, which makes it possible to make something that's warm where it needs to be warm and lacy where it can be lacy. There's more about this in my last post here:

I thought I'd walk you through how to make the yarn, so below you can find a photo tutorial on that.

First, here's one more photo of the poncho with my daughter modeling it:

It's not that this is a complicated yarn to make. It just requires a bit of planning. Here's how I did it:

I started by making batts from mostly merino with some bamboo and mulberry silk as well as a bit of firestar. In the photo below, I'm removing the batt from the drum carder.

I made two batts totaling 4 ounces together. I divided the first batt into 5 sections and the second batt into just 2 sections. The idea was to have approximately the same length of each weight of yarn. I planned to use the first batt for the finer weights of yarn and the second batt for the bulky and super bulky parts of the skein. Here are some of the sections.

Here I was just starting to spin the finest weight of yarn, which was a sport weight at 16 wraps per inch:
And here I am near the end of the first section:

As I got near the end of each section, I gradually increased the weight of yarn to the join of the next section.

Though I had intended to wait on the bulky yarn until I got to the second batt, in the end, I had increased the diameter a little more quickly than I planned, so sections 4 and 5 were in the bulky range at 8 and 7 wraps per inch respectively.

That meant that by the time I got to the second batt, I would be spinning super bulky yarn. The 6th section was 5-6 wraps per inch, and the final section was really super bulky at 4-5 wraps per inch. Each of those was a whole ounce.

And here is the yarn spread out on my skein winder:

If you're wondering what the funky-looking stuff at the bottom is, it's my teenage son's creation. He took my skein winder and added a Mindstorm robot too it so it spins on its own. Pretty cool, huh?

Later this week, you can expect to find some new Dimensional Yarn in my Etsy shop here:

and on my website here:

Thanks for looking. Happy fiber artistry!

And now for something completely different...Dimensional Yarn

Over the course of the last few weeks, I came up with what I think is a completely new type of art yarn. I am calling it dimensional yarn. There's thick yarn and thin yarn and thick-and-thin yarn but this is more like thin-to-thick yarn. The idea was to make yarn that went from very fine all the way up to bulky or super bulky all in one skein. This particular skein went from sport weight to super bulky. It was a total of 126 yards long and 3.9 ounces.

I tried it, and I liked it. Then I knit it up into a poncho for my daughter, and I loved it!

Here's a photo of the poncho I made for my daughter:

The thing I love is that it goes from tight stitches at the top (the super bulky part) all the way to open and lacy at the bottom. Here's a closeup:

As you can see, there's definitely some thick and thin going on inside each thickness of yarn, especially at the bulky end.

I think the possibilities for this new kind of art yarn are nearly endless, but I mostly envision using it for knitting things like this poncho that I knit in the round or for triangle shawls--items that have a top and a bottom to show off the different sizes of yarn.

I used 24-inch size-19 circular needles to knit this, but next time I might even go up to size 25 or beyond. FYI, I used a free pattern from Nine Rubies for this project. Here's a link to her pattern:

If you wanted something that showed off the variation in yarn but wanted to keep the same stitch tightness, you could also change needle sizes as you went.

In my next post, I'll be making a tutorial showing how you can make this yarn yourself if you like. If you'd prefer to purchase it, I expect to be making several skeins for my shop in the next few weeks, starting with some from these lovely spring rainbow batts that I plan to start spinning today.

P.S. If you decide to make some of your own, I would just ask that you mention Purple Lamb as the original creator of this type of yarn.
Happy fiber artistry!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rainbow of Colors

I couldn't wait to share the beautiful rainbow of colors that is my first order from Ashland Bay. I was delighted to see that all their wool is sourced from the UK, including the organic polwarth that came from the Falkland Islands.

I got right to work on my new Purple Iris batts here: They look like this:
 ...and were inspired by this:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ashland Bay!

I have a bit of news I'd like to share. I've been using Ashland Bay fibers for years. I keep coming back to their fibers because they have unparalleled quality and consistent dye colors for their fibers.

I just got approved as a retailer for their wonderful merino and other fibers. I just placed my first order today. Now I just have to figure out exactly where I'm going to put about 45 pounds of fiber!

Friday, February 19, 2016

New website &15% Off Sale

I am really excited to announce the creation of my new website at It includes everything I have in my Etsy shop ( as well as a feed of this blog and lots of other great information.

My Etsy shop isn't going anywhere, but now you can choose to visit Purple Lamb in either locale.

In celebration of the new website, I'm offering 15% off everything in both places when you purchase at least $15, so come take a look!

The coupon code is NEWSITE15, and it can be used through Sunday, February 21st, at either or

Happy fiber artistry!