Knittyspin : - Spring + Summer 2019


Feature: Knittyspin



Blending Color with Combs: Load ‘Em Up

fiber, yarn and swatches
Fiber to blend and mini combs

This year seems to be a lot about blending colors for me. I want to make colors that are my own, tweak them, make them bright or broody, but I have no desire to get out the dyepots. My cards and combs work my color magic.

I’ve started really paying attention to how I blend on combs – how lightly or thoroughly I blend colors. Mostly it comes down to the number of passes, but I noticed how I load my combs affects my blending too. I used to do it any which way until I noticed the difference.  Should I load my colors along side of each other, or stacked on each other?

I did some quick blending experiments on my little sample combs using two colors of fiber. I mixed some gold Corriedale with a magenta Merino/tussah blend. I wanted something peachy, something in the neighborhood of when grenadine hits orange juice. Anyone else remember Tequila Sunrises?

Something else I learned. It turns out those two fibers don’t blend all that well when I’m going quickly.


fiber, yarn and swatches
I weigh fibers to get a balance of colors and to not overload my combs

I measured equal amounts of the both colors. I started with 1.5 grams each, and backed down to 1 gram each after I saw how the Merino/silk bloomed on the comb. I really like my sampling combs because they’re small and quick to use, but I can’t quite get it through my brain that I cannot overstuff them with fiber.

I made four samples. I loaded my combs in two ways: with colors side by side and with colors on top of each other. For each way I loaded my combs, I did a sample with one pass, and a sample with three passes.

A pass when I comb is moving the fiber from one comb to the other. Some spinners count a pass as moving from one comb to the other and back again. Both are 100% right; pick one and be consistent. Ask me how I know….


fiber, yarn and swatches
Left: fibers loaded side by side; Right: stacked on the comb

Loading a comb with fiber side by side is alternating colors across the comb in stripes. Stacking is alternating colors on top of each other in thin layers. Both ways will blend colors, but each can have their own interesting effect, especially if I blend with fewer passes.


fiber, yarn and swatches

Fiber loaded side by side; one pass on the left and three passes on the right

Fiber loaded on a comb alternating colors side by side looks striped. After one pass, it still looks pretty striped. The individual colors are still very distinct. After three passes, it starts to blend into peachiness, but I can still see areas where the colors are clearly one or the other.


fiber, yarn and swatches

Fiber loaded stacked; one pass on the left and three passes on the right

Stacking fiber on a comb is like making a sandwich with thin amounts of each color repeated over and over. The colors are more blended than the side-by-side fiber, even with one pass.  By three passes, the colors have become a heathery peach.

The interplay of and blending (or not) of color showed itself when I spun a little of each blend.  Here’s where it became apparent that rushing to comb a fiber with tussah in it makes even combed fiber lumpy in the yarn.

I spun each blend with a woolen draft and plied it on itself.


fiber, yarn and swatches
Yarn spun from fiber loaded side by side. One pass on the left and three passes on the right.

Yarn spun from one pass of side-by-side colors has big chunks of color. It blends in some places, but mostly marls. The colors play out in a random and fun way.  After three passes on the combs, the yarn becomes much more peach, but still with flecks of each color. Even though the colors in the fiber don’t look completely blended, the drafting and plying do the rest of the bending work.


fiber, yarn and swatches
Yarn spun from fiber loaded stacked. One pass on the left and three passes on the right.

The color stacked yarn from one pass looks more blended colorwise than the side by side yarn, but in an interesting way. The pink is still quite dominant and not blended. To me it looks marled, but with peach and pink instead of gold and pink.
A big surprise to me is that the three-pass yarn doesn’t look as blended as the fiber. The yarn looks peach with a few speckles of pink.

This experiment gives me even more ideas for blending colors. There will never be just one answer, which is why I like spinning and working with color so much.

When I blend my own colors, I get to think beyond just making a new color. I always knew the number of passes in blending affected the color. Now I can decide if I want chunks of color, or all-over heathery color, or a little of both.  I know that how I apply my colors on my combs can help get me to interesting types of color patterns and how colors play out when spun, as well as an overall new color.


Jillian Moreno Jillian Moreno is the editor of Knittyspin and Catalyst for Knitty. She's the Developmental Editor for PLY Magazine and PLY Books. A couple years ago, she wrote the best-selling spinning bookYarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want. Now she’s writing another spinning book and trying hard not to start weaving.

She lives in a house packed with fiber and books and blogs over here.

Pattern & images © 2019 Jillian Moreno. Contact Jillian