Nimbulous Gradience

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Spinning / Techniques

Sitting somewhere deep in my big-involved-project queue is an Evenstar Shawl. While covetously perusing the FO’s on ravelry, I noticed many of these beautiful shawls (like this one) are knit up in a custom gradient yarn by The Unique Sheep. Lovely of lovelies, it compels me to make it!

Now of course, this spinner is thinking – how would one spin a long gradient from hand dyed fiber? You may be asking “why not just buy some existing long-gradient yarn?” or “why not dye it yourself after spinning?”

The answer? For Science! Or in other words, when you’ve got an itchy hypothesis, you gotta scratch it with a proof. Also, I have a few hand-dyed batches of wool from beesybee fibers:


half unbraided roving

I’m starting with a blue and grey colorway that makes me think “Nimbulous.”  The first thing I do after unbraiding the roving is break the roving into pieces, trying to isolate blue from grey as much as possible, and sorting them as I go into mostly-blue/mostly-grey.


presorted roving

I wanted the color blending to be fairly uniform. If I just spun these pieces as they are, it would produce a single with a sort of barber pole look – which is beautiful in it’s own right, but not the effect I want for this project. It’s also hard to accurately judge the overall hue of each bundle of roving, which makes it harder to achieve the gradient I’m going for. So I am going to card each bundle to blend the colors, and then pull each handcarded batt into roving, sorting them further as I go. Hilariously, that only takes about 10 seconds to type. In reality, the execution of that statement takes, ahem, Somewhat Longer.

After carding about half of one bundle, I roll the batt off the carder from one side to the other, rather than from heel end to toe end (as one would to make a rolag). This process goes a lot smoother if you first loosen the batt from the loaded carder by turning it over and scraping it from toe to heel against the heel of the empty carder.

Rolling off a batt

rolling off a batt (not a rolag)

Then I predraft the rolled off batt into a long skinny bit of roving. At this point I have the cat’s severe and undivided attention.

Drafting into roving

making taffy

And then I simply repeat these steps 100 times, adding each new ribbon of roving like a stroke to my growing watercolor. Somewhere in the process I get Daniel Johnston stuck in my head, and start singing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Gradience.”

Repeat 100 times

Insertion Sort: Activate

Starting at the graymost edge, I roll the first piece of roving into a ball, and then add strip after strip until the ball’s circumference gets too big to wrap a strip around. Kitty is beside himself with excitement.

One ball

fabrication of the cat magnet

Then I start a new ball with the next strip, and repeat, until I have five ordered balls of roving. I’m going to start spinning with the bluemost ball and retrace my steps back to the gray end, with only two or three intermissions caused by the cat victoriously snatching the middle ball and leaving it in trails about the house for me to pick up and card again.

Five pretty in a row

five pretty in a row

I spun this up pretty thin – around 40 wraps per inch for the single. To preserve the gradient, I navajo plied the single into a three ply finished yarn. Navajo plying is so fun, rhythmic and a bit tricky, and always reminds me of childhood string games. After washing and beating the crap out of my skein, here’s the (pseudo) end result, even though it’s necessarily hard to see the gradient when the yarn is skeined.

I must disclose that in the time I took to upload this photo, the cat pounced on my woefully unattended skein and started making muffins. This is WAR.

More to come once I’ve knitted it up, although I don’t believe there’s enough for the Evenstar. Nevertheless, a shawl it shall be.



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