Spinning: Manx Loaghtan – Color Choices While Spinning

House is having remodeling done, so I’m a bit limited in my ability to dye right now. Should be done soon, I hope!

So, spinning! Color! A lot of people ask me, “How do you know how a fiber will spin up in terms of color?”

Like just about every question in textiles, the answer is a very clear, “it depends.” Depends on the length of the fiber, how you spin it, how you divide it, how even your spinning is…

But there are definitely guidelines. The most obvious being, as long as it’s not solid, you can probably spin it so it looks “tweedy.” But that’s honestly not all that helpful, now is it?

Manx Loaghtan:
Manx Loaghtan is a very English breed of sheep, with 4 horns similar to a jacob. They are native to the Isle of Man. Soft enough for most next to skin wear. With a soft loftiness, very warm! My favorite pair of fingerless gloves are made with Manx! It’s resistant to felting, though if you try it will certainly felt. This is a very “poofy” fiber, so make sure to spin it finer than the final result you want!

This fiber is naturally a fawn brown, and it takes dye well to make great rich earth tones. My next-to-skin tolerance is fairly high as things go, and this one (as I’ll talk about later) is quite susceptible to different spinning styles in relation to softness.

So I started with something fairly simple in the braid for a couple reasons, primarily to make it easy to show the process. For this we can only think about color in terms of what’s next to what.

A simple, two-color space dye. Red – Long Gold – Long Red – Gold.

Something you can quickly see from this photo is how it was probably dyed (hint: it was), folded in thirds, then half dyed each color. I’ve also shown the braid here so you can see what it looks like braided. This is a useful thing to remember, if you’ve got colors next to each other on different strands of the braids, they’re a third apart on the actual fiber. We’ll get back to that.

So here’s a super accurate schematic of what I’m working with:

If I spin a singles yarn, one end to the other, it’ll look exactly as is, and knit up in similar as stripes.

Another super accurate schematic:

Similarly, if I strip the braid lengthwise into more pieces and then spin and ply them back together, they’ll still be the same striping pattern… with a small margin of error for differences in spinning between the singles.

If instead I divided it in half shortways and spun/plied into a two ply…

This super accurate schematic:

Becomes EITHER this super accurate schematic:

or this one:

Which brings us to thinking about plying. If we again assume this second theoretically flawless schematic is spun by an equally flawless spinner, red will be next to gold for the entire length of the yarn once plied. You’ll get an even barber pole effect. Interesting, but not what I’m looking for.

If you go back to the one above, you’ve got 3 regions of color. Red next to red, red next to gold, and gold next to gold. So you’ll get three stripes of color when you knit it up, all red, then a barber pole red/gold, and then all gold. When knit up, barber pole tends to look like a tweed version of the brighter color. So solid red, reddish gold tweed, gold.

Interesting, but still not what I’m looking for.

Now we get FANCEH. Ok, totally not, but we talk about other options.

Relevant here is obviously what you’re making. If you’re making a series of small things, these big long color repeats are just going to result in say, a mostly gold glove and a mostly red glove. Now, I don’t have a plan for this yarn (or didn’t when I was spinning it) though I had vague hat thoughts, which show off stripes well.

Back to our original schematic:

I said originally if I strip it the long way instead of the short, it will spin up exactly like this, and knit up the same. That, obviously, assumes you spin both pieces from the same end. If instead you flip one, you get…

And we’re back to red always being next to gold… Two-ply obviously has limited options. Let’s see what three-ply has to offer! As noted before if you don’t move anything around, you just get a three-ply in the colors as is. But if you DO flip one of your strips…

Oh! Well now, that’s interesting… But what’s it going to LOOK like, you’re asking, I’m sure. Because these colors don’t just all sit next to each other in three lines, do they? From a quick and dirty perspective, you’ll get a striped yarn that goes from red tweed, to gold tweed, to red tweed, to gold tweed.

Another flawless schematic, this time a “close up” of the yarn, so you can see each ply going around.

Ok, I think this is interesting enough! Obviously, you could also split the whole thing into red and gold, and then do whatever you felt like with the two colors.

Time for spinning. Last yarn was a long draw to warm up that skill again, we’ll do a short forward draw on this one. Why not, right? Again, I decided I was focused on the technique itself, so I wasn’t going to obsess over having it be flawless in terms of evenness. So I tried ot keep consistent, but didn’t use a control card or sample or anything.

Important, once stripped longwise, make sure I’ve got one flipped.

Now, here it’s worth mentioning that roving and top can have direction. That is, they can be far easier to spin from one end than the other. This particular one didn’t have that problem, but if it had, I would have simply pulled off the whole of the next color, and spun from the other end of that color.

Ok, pretty fast spin, Manx drafts really easily because its so lofty. Nice fiber, my hands mostly remember the motions with periodic problems like realizing my position was making my hip hurt. Good good.

To keep the fiber I wasn’t spinning safe, I used one of the large wedge bags from Stitched by Jessalu (in a great Gnome pattern).

Spinning spinning… yay! 3 bobbins!

You’ll see even from this photo how it’s generally going to spin up, two of one to one of the other. Next, plying! I plied this fairly tightly. No particular reason.

Well, as you can see… my spinning wasn’t identical on all three strips. Though really, for stripping by eye, and spinning by eye with no control card I didn’t do badly.

So I don’t have my perfect schematic, quite. I’ve got some offset between the strips, so instead of

I’ve got something more like this

Where periodically all three plies are the same color. Well that’s not awful, I’ll get pure color stripes between my tweed stripes, but they’ll be short since it’s just the offset. Could be an interesting effect!

Ok, time to wind off the bobbin, and loosely tie it with figure eights.

Then a wash in hot water with some medium heavy beating. It was at this point I started to realize I’d actually used the short forward draw fully. I have a tendency to fall back into a sort of double-draw/supported draw hybrid thing. This was not that, even with beating, it had little halo, and was quite dense. Well, so maybe not hat material. A lesson for others, if you want to wear it, spin it with some woolen quality. Though as spun it will be lovely and durable.

But it did make a pretty yarn!

Pretty pleased with the color, which is what I was going for. And, while it wasn’t what I expected, I’m actually pleased that my short forward draw resulted in a very worsted spun yarn, means I can still do the two ends of the spinning spectrum.

Here you can see three of the four color sections. Red/Red/Red, Red/Gold/Gold, Red/Red/Gold. I couldn’t get a Gold/Gold close enough to get it on the dime.

Given the durability and other characters, this yarn has now gone off to undergo a very secret Becoming ceremony at the fabulous Creechure Shop. I think the yarn is hoping for the ceremony to result in a Dragon, but you never know with Becomings. It could come back as an Arboreal Octopus or almost anything! Stay tuned!

Next up, Gotland (probably)! That mysterious fiber of Hobbit cloaks and deceptive halo and softness!

Until then, The Princess demands more naps.

That’s all for now!

~The Gnome

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