When we use a single fiber, we benefit from all the qualities that one fiber possesses. When we blend fibers, we get a combination of qualities from the two different fibers. Blending different proportions of each fiber can alter the way the fiber preparation behaves.
For example, a 50/50 blend of silk/merino is going to be much slicker and shinier than a 20/80 blend of the same fibers.
Try this experiment.
Choose a base fiber (wool, alpaca, etc), and a supplementary fiber (silk, bamboo, etc). Before you start, identify the qualities of each of your fibers. Is it crimpy or smooth? How long are the individual fibers? How does it draft on its own? Does it have luster? What is the texture?
Once you’ve identified some of the qualities of each of your fibers, let’s try some blending. You can either blend by hand, with the use of hand cards, or a drum carder.
For your first blend, measure out 4 parts base fiber and 1 part supplementary fiber. If you chose wool and silk, you might use 1 oz wool, 1/4 oz silk, for example. For your second blend, measure 2 parts base fiber, 2 parts supplementary fiber.
Before you spin, note the qualities of each blend. How does the one with more supplementary fiber compare to the one with less supplementary fiber? Consult your original list of qualities and compare the two batts. How do the different yarns compare once you do spin them?
Repeat this experiment with different types of fiber and try other proportions to see how much of each fiber’s qualities shine through in the blend.
By playing with blends in this fashion, it becomes easier to identify what a fiber brings to a blend. When you’re out looking at indie dyed braids, you’ll have a better idea if you want that 50/50 yak/silk blend or that 80/20 merino/silk blend for a particular project.