exploration of colour.

Over the years, my mom has accompanied me on many trips to the yarn store, fibre festivals and other adventures to do with my knitting. Because of her background as an artist, I often will bounce ideas off of her about my projects. I am not an artist. I do not have a BFA (Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts).

I am often at a loss as to why something worked well or was a #fail. Since beginning to spin, I have found that there are major gaps in my knowledge surrounding colour theory. To be a successful spinner, in the sense that I would like to be able to better anticipate the results of a braid or batt, I think spending some time on learning how colour theory works would be useful!


I bought this braid of 100% Falkland from an indie dyer on Etsy. The fibre is beautiful to work with, incredibly soft and has a staple length of roughly 80-90mm (3-3.5in). Falkland comes from the very isolated Falkland Islands, which means the fibre usually has had very little exposure to chemicals or toxins.


When I pulled the braid apart, as pictured above, I noticed that the colour repeat was difficult to decipher. The colours themselves were very close together and there were complementary colours next to one another. Time to talk to Mom.


Within this top are all the primary colours: Red, Blue and Yellow. There is quite a bit of green. Since green is actually blue and yellow mixed together, it is more effective to call green, ‘blue and yellow,’ as this clarifies what colours are actually used to create the colours we see. When the three primary colours are mixed together, the result is brown mud (see the white arrow and red circle in the photo above to see how this actually happens on the colour wheel). It is in fact how the colour grey is created. You can maybe anticipate where I am going with this?

Godiva Yarn Falkland - staple

We noticed that the length of the individual colour repeats were equal in length to the staple length (I mentioned above that the length of the staple on this fibre was 80-90mm [3-3.5mm]). The result to the hand spinner is that as one is spinning, the colours will mix immediately* because there is no cream or black to break up with colour. Adding white or cream will create a tint, which increases lightness. Adding black will create a shade, which reduces lightness. If one studies the above photos, there are complementary colours (ex. red and green) bordering one another in this particular dye pattern. Once one starts to spin, one is basically spinning red, blue and yellow together. This creates mud or the colour grey. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily if one is prepared for this to happen.

*The only way to avoid these colours muddying together in this situation would be to pull the top apart and spin all the red together, all the green, all the blue, etc. One would then Navajo-ply the singles or finish the yarn as a singles yarn to keep the colours truly separate.


The result is actually quite lovely although slightly dull. We decided that the result of this braid, based on the ratios of colours within and the overall ‘blue feel’, would create an overall blue-violet tone (see the circled area in the photo above). A tone is produced either by the mixture of a colour with gray, or by both tinting and shading. This is in fact what I got:


Fibre: Godiva Yarns 100% Falkland in colourway Tea Party

Attributes: Traditional 2-ply, washed and thwacked

Stats: 204yrds, 35 gr, 10WPI (half finished)

I spun a couple of other samples for you to see what other plying techniques would create. In a singles yarn, the result is a soft pastel – basically a violet tint again but more so:


Navajo-plying does nothing to keep the colour repeats together in this fibre because the repeats are too short. It ends up looking like a traditional 3-ply without multiple bobbins to have to spin! This can work to one’s advantage if one knows that this will be the result and would prefer not to spin many bobbins to make a 3-ply yarn. I do, however, love the angles of twist on this sample but that is a post for another time!

Godiva Yarns Falkland - nply

Exploring colours in spinning is a new frontier to me. It is challenging to study a braid, envision what the results may be, and subsequently embark on creating one’s vision. If you are interested in reading and learning more, here are some great links to explore:

There is a sad lack of information out there for someone wanting to learn more about exploring colour when spinning.

Do you have some good colour theory resources? Please share!

Happy spinning :)

James - 2 years

ps. Because I was doing so much photography in the kitchen (lots of natural light!), James was very interested so I asked him if I could photograph him. This was on his 2nd birthday last week!

Join the Conversation

  1. You don’t need a BFA to be an artist! And I have a BFA and I’m not an artist :) Paid a pretty penny for it, and work now in a TOTALLY different field. Looks like you’re doing a grand job there!

    1. You are so right Heather! I really appreciate my mom’s expertise though!! It’s great to have someone do close who had such an amazing eye (she’s got a back!) :)

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