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.