Spinning Vertical Colour – by Jillian Moreno

Jillian Moreno is an author and teacher who is very passionate about investigating the structure of yarn and colour, and using them in intentional ways in knitting, stitching and weaving. She explores, questions and plays with fibre and wants to take as many people as possible along for the ride. In this blog post Jillian shares with us a technique for spinning a variety of multicoloured slivers and the different results you can achieve. 

Jillian is the author of Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want. 

You can visit Jillian’s website here www.jillianmoreno.com/ or follow her on Instagram @jillianmoreno

I hope you enjoy these spinning tips from Jillian.

Happy spinning!


Spinning vertical color – by Jillian Moreno

Ashford Silk/Merino sliver was one of the first luxury blends of fiber I remember seeing when I first started spinning. This wonderful blend has been in production for a decade or two. The colors are laid out in vertical stripes that blend into a lovely color, and it is a dream to spin.

After being eclipsed by hand painted braids for a few years this style of dyed braids, vertical or parallel striped color, is making a big comeback.

How is it made?
When a mill makes vertical or parallel color braids, the colors are dyed and prepped individually and then brought together, positioned side by side, in a final step as the fiber is made into sliver. That is why the colors look so clear and there’s very little blending.
Below are the colors I spun for my samples: Sunset, Saffron, and Berries.

It’s completely up to the mill the types of colors, and how many colors a particular colorway has in it. Many have colors that have lighter and darker versions of the same color, these make lovely semi-solid yarns, others add other colors for contrast, and some have all the colors of the rainbow. One of the things that makes Ashford Silk/Merino so pretty is that the silk is white; it adds a glimmer to every yarn spun.

Left to right: Sunset, Saffron, and Berries
Glimmering white silk in the Silk/Merino blends (Sunset pictured above)

What happens when you spin it?
Spinning from the end of the fiber combines all of the colors as you draft, more or less uniformly. As the fiber is spun all of the colors draft together creating a marled yarn, with little spots of color. The colors are then layered as the yarn is plied and it creates a blended, heathered yarn.

Smooth spinning on the Ashford e-Spinner 3
Colors left to right are Sunset, Saffron, and Berries

Can you manipulate the color?
If you don’t want your colors to blend as much, you can spin your fiber from the fold.
To spin form the fold take a small piece of fiber, a little more than a staple – I used about 10cm for this fiber, and fold it over your index finger. Fluff a little bit of fiber from the tip of your finger and draft from there.
Spinning from the fold adds air to a preparation, most spinners use it to make a worsted preparation more woollen. In our case, with vertical color, it orients the stripes in a different direction. Spinning the fiber this way blends the colors much less. The colors blend with their neighbors, and also draft as single colors. The result is a yarn with bigger spots of color, like tweed.

Fold about 10cm for this fiber over your index finger
Create bigger spots of color, like tweed

In the image below, you can really see the difference when they are together. Yarn spun from the end is on top and yarn spun from the fold is on the bottom. Colors are left to right, Saffron, Sunset, and Berries.

Combining colors

If you want to combine vertical fiber for unique yarns, you can always ply two or more together, but my favorite way to combine fiber is to draft it together. 
Drafting fibers together is making a vertically colored fiber with your hands. You hold colors parallel and draft them together like they are a single fiber.

Drafting together is also called combo drafting or parallel drafting, and can be used with any prepared fibers. I’m using two colors of Silk/Merino.

The drafting is easiest if you keep the amount of fiber narrow. I use a finger’s width of each color. I always make sure that the fiber is open and fluffy so it will draft easily. 
Some spinners hold the fibers side by side so they touch when they draft. When I’m using a fiber blend that has fibers of different staple lengths like this Silk/Merino, I put a finger between the two fibers while drafting (I do this when I ply too). I feel like it allows me to draft more consistently and keeps one color from falling away from the other.

Draft more consistently by placing your finger between the two fibers
Draft more consistently by placing your finger between the two fibers

The results are beautifully blended colors. I used Sunset as my main color, when I combined it with Saffron overall it’s a lighter more orange/golden color, when I combined Sunset with Berries, it makes a moodier, darker yarn. In the photo Sunset is by itself in the middle, and drafted with Saffron on the left and Berries on the right.

From the left Sunset and Saffron, Sunset, Sunset and Berries
Berries and Saffron

After I spun those two drafted together yarns, I had to try Berries and Saffron together, which is my favorite of the three.

Spinning vertically colored fiber like Silk/Merino makes a beautiful heathered yarn, and when you start playing with it by changing the drafting direction or adding other vertically color fibers it becomes a glorious spinning adventure.