As a new spinner, it can be discouraging when you start to calculate the costs of all the tools you need to spin yarn. But the truth is, much of what we do can be done with very simple tools or no tools at all.
Blending for color or fiber content is a great way to create a yarn with the elements and qualities you want. You may blend silk with wool to create a yarn with drape or you might blend red and yellow fibers to create an orange yarn. Blending is another tool in the spinner’s tool belt. We often talk about how to blend on combs, cards, hackles or drum carders to obtain specific preparations. If we simplify, you can blend with just your hands.
Shouldn’t I use the right tools?
There’s no reason why your hands can’t be the right tool in the right circumstance.
I often talk about living in the grey spaces; there is not a right or wrong way to do things as long as you understand that different methods will result in different finished results. Sometimes those differences are minimal, sometimes not, but it is up to you to determine what is acceptable in your own work. While the right tool can make a world of difference, there is still value in boiling something down to its most basic elements, which is our goal today.
Select two or more fibers which you would like to blend. You will get the best result if you choose fibers with a similar staple length and micron count. Fibers with significantly different characteristics are more likely to pill and become damaged over time. Experiment and sample to see what fibers you like together.
1. Pull out several staples of your first fiber and lay them across your leg. This first layer of fiber should be very thin. Less is more when you’re working without tools.
2. Then pull out several staples of your second fiber and lay them across your first layer.
3. Repeat until you have a thin sandwich of fibers. You should still be able to see your leg through the sandwich. You also don’t have to blend your fibers 50/50. You could do several layers of one fiber and one or two layers of another. Play around with ratios.
4. Choose one hand to be your working hand and one hand to be your holding hand. With your holding hand, press the butts of the fiber against your thigh, letting the tips hang free. If you are working with locks or fleece, direction matters, otherwise, choose one side to be the butts and one side to be the tips. With your working hand take the tips and tug gently.
When you pull your working hand away, about half of the fiber should be in your holding hand and half should be in your working hand.
5. Lay the fibers in your working hand on the top of your fiber sandwich. Repeat drawing out staples and placing them on top of your fiber sandwich. Each time you do this, your fibers should blend further. Repeat until you have reached a level of blending you are happy with. Remember, you might want to only blend a little so you see the different colors or fibers or you may want to heavily blend to get a really integrated fiber. It is your choice.
You may also choose to roll your fiber into a rolag afterward.
You may still want to invest in tools as you delve deeper into the science and art of yarn, as you learn the importance of different fiber preparation and how they behave. Yarn can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.