carding wool · fibre preparation · handspun · process · spindle spinning · spinning · yarn

Breed & Colour Study: Gotland & Split Complement

These past 6 months, we have been exploring the breed Gotland in the Ravelry group, as well as the play of split complementary colour schemes on fibre. I think one of the biggest learning curves I experienced when I was a new spinner was how to manage and handle colour. The opportunity to explore different techniques in a group creates endless learning opportunities, as well as the chance to laugh at ourselves and the mistakes we make along the way! Since this particular study will be coming to an end on September 30th, I wanted to share some of my reflections with you before we move onto the next session of breed & colour study on October 1st. As part of the Patreon support of the podcast, my friend Katrina and I write a monthly article or blog post of sorts about the projects we are working on, reflections we have about spinning in general and book spoilers, which is called The Thoughtful Spinner. The proceeds that we raise from this particular tier will go towards publishing our book in the coming year. Anyone who contributes to that tier will see their name IN PRINT at the beginning of the book with a massive Thank you from the bottom of our hearts inscription. This blog post is part of The Thoughtful Spinner essay for September – to read the entire article, please head over here for more details and thank you in advance for your support! Please note that to participate in the Breed & Colour studies, one only needs to be a member of the Ravelry group!

Split Complement Colour Scheme: Purple, Green & Yellow

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To begin our study, we would be studying carded prep, since we had just finished split complementary colour schemes on combed top. Many in the Ravelry group submitted photos in the Ravelry group and Katrina chose a photo that was not only a split complement scheme but also was really beautiful. I know many people love purple and green together, so we decided to pursue that combination of colours! On the grey Gotland, the dyes were even more interesting to work with – mostly because the dark grey barely showed the yellow at all! It was subtle and really interesting in the finished spin. Split complementary colour schemes contain three colours: The base colour and two colours adjacent to its complement. Because it is adjacent, it has a strong visual contrast without the same ‘tension’ as a complementary colour scheme. If we had chosen purple and yellow in the same tone for this colour study, it would have been quite visually jarring. I strongly feel that this is one of the reasons that no matter how you choose to spin these colour schemes, they always work. It’s very difficult to create ‘mud’ with these braids and batts. The colours just sing together and create movement, rather than tension.

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Above: Gotland batt, dyed on natural grey by Katrina of CraftyJAKS; Below: BFL & Gotland, dyed on white, photo by Katrina of CraftyJAKS

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The question becomes, what is your personal taste in yarns? What do you like to knit with, rather than worrying about ruining them!

The Wools: Gotland versus BFL

The long wools are really interesting as a group of fibres: They are lustrous and strong, they bend instead of ‘poof’ and remain smooth. Sometimes, they can be described as ‘toothy’ or ‘coarse’ from the prickly nature of their tips that tend to poke out from the yarn or garment. The locks of long wools are characteristic and easily distinguished due to their hair-like appearance. They have a loose curly nature to them – almost like ringlets. Gotland as a sheep breed are a small breed, in comparison to other sheep out there, and lamb well, which means they are good mothers, tend not to have miscarriages or stillbirths and produce lots of milk. They don’t have horns and are a solid grey colour. The micron count of their fleece is between 29-34, which means many would not consider their wool next-to-the-skin soft but I think for outwear that one is wearing a shirt underneath that I would have no problem wearing a Gotland sweater. We studied BFL in conjunction with Gotland to offer a contrast between the two breeds and give us a fibre that we are quite familiar with (BFL) to compare against a lesser-known breed (Gotland).

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Above: Soft spun Gotland

You may notice from your samples that the Gotland yarn is significantly heavier when compared to the BFL. Rebecka Roy [@Bethy40] in the Ravelry group quoted Deb Robson the best saying that “when twist is added, the fibres nestle down together and make a yarn that feels heavier and had better draping qualities that you’ve been led to expect it will produce when you see it unspun.”

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Above: Spindle-spun Gotland, twist angle: ~25 degrees; Below: BFL spun on ratio of 6.4:1, twist angle ~45 degrees

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I suspected that the Gotland would become lofty with finishing. In the end, yes and no. It made a dense yarn with good loft, drape and sheen, but it didn’t regain the amount of loft I was expecting that was evident in the BFL yarn when finished. It is toothier than the BFL by a significant amount. Note in the photos above the difference in their respective halos! The Gotland has a significant halo in comparison to the BFL, which has more of a halo compared to the fine wools. And, note the difference in twist angle! To the hand, the BFL in incredibly soft when compared to the Gotland and the carded prep made for a light, lofty and soft yarn.

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Above: Soft spun singles with high twist plying resulted in a lovely BFL yarn!

I think I enjoyed the BFL spin more when compared to the Gotland. I spun the BFL by striping down the batt and spinning a gradient from yellow to green to purple. I kept the twist in the singles low, which meant the singles broke a few times when chain-plying – annoying more than anything! I finished the two yarns the same way – yet the Gotland remained denser than the BFL, which is next to the skin soft and ‘poofier’ in comparison.

The value of a breed and colour study is that each of us were able to work with the fibres individually and come back to the group with our thoughts and reflections, asking one another for further ideas and help. This is the value of these studies – to come together and further our learning together in order to have a richer experience of our spinning and making. Even though we are spread out around the world, we are able to reap the benefits of one another’s process, albeit all very different, and add that to our spinning repertoire! It’s engaging and exciting! I hope you enjoyed this process as much as I did – I look forward to the beginning of our next breed and colour study coming October 1st!

Happy Spinning!

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