Breed & Colour Studies: Where we have Been & Where we might be Going

On the most recent episode of Wool n’ Spinning Radio, Becca posed the thought that many of us may have seen our spinning and fibre choices change over the past couple of years as a result of Breed & Colour Studies. I am curious to know whether you have experienced this or not. Some of you have participated in all the studies, others have picked and chosen from the studies as they suit you, and others are newer to the community and have only participated recently. Some have chosen not to participate at all but have made your own studies from local-to-you fibre or dyed your own wools. There has been an incredible diversity in participation and that was what I had hoped for when we started out with Breed & Colour Studies because everyone’s wants and needs are different. Katrina and I can offer one avenue, while the remainder of the study is a series of Choose You Own Adventure-type choices: How you want to spin your fibre, manage the colour in you fibre, or what you’d like to learn from that particular study. Those are questions only you are able to answer and therein lies the interest of a study like these.

As Becca, Katrina and I reflected upon the studies we’ve done to date, we commented on the amazing array of colour we’ve explored, as well as fibre. It’s been really quite amazing. To explore the Patreon posts associated with these studies, please have a look through our Index here and in particular, look at the Colour Management section on page 7.

First, back in April 2017, the community decided to explore split complement colourways. The photos submitted were vast and Katrina eventually chose a photo that featured greens, purples and yellows. I wrote an extensive blog post on this study here. We looked at BFL and Gotland, which really pushed people out of their spinning comfort zones. The colours spun up very differently and we looked at how the underlying natural colour of the fibre, as well as staple length and grist affects our yarns.


Above: Gotland spun randomly on a spindle and 2-plied. Below: BFL spun worsted and chain-plied.


From there, in the Fall of 2017, we moved into a massive Breed & Colour Study on Finn. For many in the community this was a new-to-us fibre and many had a great time getting acquainted with it. I love spinning Finn and this was a favourite study of mine. The colours and the challenge to spin combinations was challenging and interesting. I loved everything about this study!


Above: The 3 primary colourways we were encouraged to explore and spin, each spun on their own. Below: Combo-spinning of the three colourways to create new skeins.


From Finn, we moved into more combo spinning because it’s one of Katrina and my favourite things to explore. We both love combo spinning and the colour play that results. It’s the reason there’s an entire section in the book devoted to just combo-spinning! Our Targhee study in the Spring 2018 was bright and loud and wonderful. On a carded preparation again, just as our BFL/Gotland study had been, this study really pushed many of us out of our comfort zones with colours we would never purchase, wear or interact with. That is the beauty of these studies though – to see how much we can learn about our own purchasing decisions, colour choices and more.


Above: Targhee from carded preparation, spun in 3 different ways from a traditional 2-ply, 3-ply and carding all the colours together in another 2-ply. The effect is really amazing from the optical mixing to the grey-brown quality of the mixed colours to create a new colour.

From there, we shifted quite drastically to begin looking at darks. The bright colours of the Targhee study had left Katrina and I wondering about black and dark grey and even brown in our spinning, so we decided to look again at some beautiful colours with black and white added. This time, we looked at Masham, which was a largely untouched fibre for many in the community. We learned so much in this study and the creativity seemed to really flow through the community with ideas, execution and reflections. Blending in the black or white, whichever the fibre was, changed the colours drastically and left the community with even more questions than before.


Above: The control colourway of the Masham was rich blues, greens & ochre yellows. Below: When black and white were added (far left and right skeins), the colourways changed significantly, darkening and lightening respectively. The underlying colours in the black fibre actually changed in colour in places that was unexpected.


Because we’d learned so much from the Masham study, exploring black and white on combed top, we decided to shift to our Spring study on carded prep, looking again at black and white. This time, we looked at one of my favourite fibres to spin from the Down breeds, Dorset Horn. This lovely fibre spun up beautifully from rolags prepped by Katrina and  participants were able to also choose a kit of their own to do with what they liked. This had gone over really well in the Targhee study and Katrina repeated this offering again.


Above: Light and dark rolags spun from Dorset Horn. Note the incredible heathering of the neutral colours and different colours in each, even though all the base colours are the same, except the addition of either black or white. Below: A gradient yarn created from the carded kit. One single was spun of the white added to the carded prep, while the other had black added.


This most recent study left us with even more questions around colour and colour management. Many of us have seen huge improvements in our spinning skill from spinning so many different fibres, reflecting upon our spinning and learning from our challenges. I know I see a huge difference from where I was even just a few years ago to now. I love the variety of spinning opportunities we have had to look at how our spinning can improve and change given the fibres we have explored.

Our next study will be beginning October 1st and I know Katrina is already dyeing for this study. We chose the photo in the summer to allow ample dye time and I’m so excited to see this study get up and off the ground! I hope you will be joining us! Remember, you do not need to be a patron of the community to participate as this is a study for all. There is supplemental content from the studies for patrons of the community but there is also a lot of discussion in the Ravelry group.

What has been your favourite learning throughout these studies, either as a participant or observationalist? Have there been any large takeaways for you? Please share below!

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