Dear Spinning Circle,
Each month, I release Spinning Purls, which is the teaching content that those who are Patrons of the community enjoy! Released on the first Thursday of each month is an accompanying PDF download for those Co-Executive Producers of the show – it is an opportunity to read what is coming in the Spinning Purls Vlog for the month, see extra photos and often, charts, tables and graphics to accompany the content for the month.
At the same time, this year, we were studying the sheep breed, Radnor! Katrina Stewart of Crafty Jaks Boutique had created an amazing study for us to engage in for the year – she really outdid herself this year!
The Wool n’ Spinning Community took this study by storm and I had the pleasure of sharing many of your yarns, projects and makes on the podcast throughout the year, including Seussarian socks, combination spun and plied yarns, beautiful chain-ply and more.
I took my time with this study, starting slow and figuring out what I wanted to do with it. There were a few guiding principles – I wanted to maximise yardage for something woven and showcase the two analogous colourways as best as possible. From September 2022 – December 2022, I wrote and recorded Spinning Purls about my journey through this study, including information about the Welsh breed, mostly isolated in it’s breeding program for many generations due to geographical location, spinning this yarn and finally, weaving beatuiful overshot scarves.
Here is an excerpt from September’s Spinning Purls:
Spinning Purls (September 2022): Spinning Analogous Colour
Defining Analogous Colour
Sometimes I think we overlook the analogous coloured spinning fibres when we see them at fibre festivals or Etsy shops because they seem boring or uninteresting. Our eye skips to the braids and batts that have tons of texture and complementary colours. For good reason – these elements make our spinning interesting! How many times have we complained to one another about spinning endless white? It is no joke that when we want to spin yardage, the spinning experience becomes long and tedious if our eyes aren’t engaged. The endless repetition of our hands and feet moving can be hard to endure if we just want the finished yarn so much!
There’s a but coming, though. Analogous colour offer us something different to work with and are often brilliant in their own way. Katrina often says that the analogous colourways offer us so much in terms of experiments and projects because the eye isn’t competing with other elements so this is where we can add subtle texture, which comes to the forefront or stitch patterns that would otherwise compete with the background colour of the spun yarn. We are able to stretch ourselves and look at our projects in a new way, either shunting colour to the backburner and focusing on texture, shape, movement, line, contrast, space, pattern, proportion, value, hue, saturation, white space, negative space, composition, alignment, symmetry, point, geometry, asymmetry, tint, shade, tone, framing and more. What?! There’s all that outside just colour? Obviously some of those elements of design are related to colour but when we are talking about just one or two colours bordering one another on the colour wheel, saturation takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?
As an example, what would happen if we added a beautiful pale apricot to a mix of darker, saturated oranges and reds? David Schulz did just that in an article in The Color Issue of PLY Magazine (2013). This play with saturation resulted in an absolutely beautiful swatch sample. The ‘thin layer of the [pale] apricot [kept] the overall look of the scarf dark and moody’ he stated in the article (2013, p. 16).
Let’s take a step back for a moment and talk about what analogous colour is and is not. There are conflicting points of view out there so this is just one approach that Katrina and I took for the book, Unbraided. We had to decide where we fell in terms of what was and wasn’t analogous so we took a very conservative approach and defined it as 2 – 3 bordering colours on the colour wheel. For example, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange and yellow would be analogous but adding in red – purple, which adds the third primary colour, blue, would not be considered analogous. This is what happens when a braid of fibre has brown in it! Brown contains all of the primary colours – red, blue and yellow. It’s a combination of all the primaries to create a muddy brown so when a braid has brown in it, which is one of my favourite colours in spinning, it is no longer analogous. In a braid of red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow and brown, one would probably just assume it’s analogous but if we are getting nit-picky, which we are, I would describe that braid or batt as neutral. Now, I know there are differing opinions out there about this so please share but for the purposes of my writing and teaching, I would call that braid neutral because if the colours are that closely related with the addition of the blue in the brown, it’s very close to being analogous but it’s not quite. We could get into a whole discussion about whether it’s a red-brown or a blue-brown, tilting the conversation to tip in one direction or the other but suffice to say, these colours in our spinning matter. They change the way our projects come together, whether we like the results or feel something isn’t quite right.
When Katrina and I were choosing the breed we would study next, we came upon Hill Radnor as something completely different and an opportunity to celebrate a breed of sheep many spinners wouldn’t be familiar with, particularly in North America. Hill Radnor kept coming up on our radar and we just thought we would ‘go with it.’ Originating in Wales, these hardy sheep are a meat breed that has some fleeces that are next-to-skin-soft for many. In an effort to keep our notes to a minimum, and easy to follow, I thought I would summarise their characteristics here in a list:
- Mainly meat sheep
- Medium sized with male average body weight between 70 – 80kg and ewes average 50 – 55kg
- Dense white fleece, with light brown face and legs
- Males usually horned but ewes are normally polled
- Mother well, due to hardiness, and are often crossed with lowland rams to create market lambs (Hill Radnor Sheep: Characteristics, Uses & Breed Information, n.d.)
In terms of their wool specifically, the following is generally true of this ‘vulnerable’ breed in the United Kingdom:
- Average fleece weight 2 – 2.5kg
- Staple length roughly 8 – 10cm
- Locks are indistinct, rectangular with short, pointed tips
- Medium crimp that is generally disorganised
- Lends itself to carding, combing and spinning directly from the locks
- Generally easy to draft (Hill Radnor Sheep: Characteristics, Uses & Breed Information, n.d.)
That’s a lot of initial information in just point form but it gives us a good place to start as we learn more through the spinning process. Generally, Hill Radnor yarns are ‘crisp, with nice body, making them a good choice if you want to maintain the texture of a fabric construction or keep distinct areas of colour from blurring’ (Robson & Ekarius, 2013, p. 110). This leaves us with good food for thought when we are planning our projects – textured knits with good definition would be a great place to start!
If you are curious about what other Spinning Purls content you would have access to with joining, please have a look here. It’s pretty comprehansive! And of course, the major reason to join is the amazing community you would be accessing, which mostly takes place over on Slack. I hope to ‘see’ you over there!