In the first Experimental Spinning post I used shades of purple to demonstrate the effects of multiple plies and multiple colors on the final knitted fabric. In this post I will continue with the theme of using plying to play with color, this time working with opposite colors on the color wheel. Again, I am using a somewhat scientific structure to organize my method from start to finish: Subject, Hypothesis, Methods, Testing, Results, Conclusion
Subject – Plying Opposite Colors
Hypothesis – Plying so called “complimentary colors” from a color wheel will result in muddy brown color in a knitted swatch.
Everyone knows that mixing blue and yellow will give you green. blue + red = purple. yellow + red = orange. I have heard and read and found in dying wool, that mixing complimentary colors will often end in mud. If you’ve done any painting or fabric dying or fiber dying, you may also have had this experience. But does this always hold true? Will it hold true with simply plying them together?
First of all, what is the definition of “complimentary” color? Using the most common generally accepted color wheel, complimentary colors are those found directly opposite on the wheel. The compliment of blue is orange. For red it is green. For yellow it is purple.
Methods – I began by spinning singles in each of the 6 colors needed: red, blue, yellow, orange, purple, green. Your basic rainbow.
I used European Merino (27 micron) that is inexpensive and readily available from a local shop. It is commercial dyed. I didn’t need a lot so only spun 20 grams of each color. I spun everything for this experiment on an Electric Eel Wheel 6.0.
I then plied HALF of the amount on the bobbins with their compliments.
Then I knit swatches with the yarn.
I then decided to ply the rest of the singles together into 6-ply yarn to see what that would look like. My additional hypothesis was that all 6 colors together would look muddy. I had never made 6-ply yarn before and was a little nervous about handling all those singles, but it was actually pretty easy.
Testing – Testing the hypothesis is a very subjective process. Do these colors look muddy to YOU? Do they look muddy to ME? With this method, only the green/red combination looks muddy at first glance. I think this is because the value of the colors are very similar. Meaning, they are equally dark. Mixing yellow and purple in a 2-ply yarn only looks like a marled yarn because the value of the colors is so different. The yellow is so bright compared to the purple. To test this further I took a black and white photo of the yarns together. Here you can see what I mean.
It’s clear from the photo above that the red and green colors are very similar in value and thus more easily fool your eye into thinking they are blended together.
What if you would see the effect of the color mixing more obviously if the pieces of color were tiny pixels instead of large chunks of yellow and purple? I decided to look at the photos of the swatches in Photoshop and see what I could do there to blur the image and see what color would result.
I used the Blur filter on the photos and came up with these results. The algorithm finds the average color from what it sees in the image.
Results – Mixing complementary colors via plying does not create a stark or obvious mud color to MY eyes. Possibly the result would be more mud colored if I had spun very fine singles and knit a swatch with 2mm needles the stitches would be small enough to make more of a muddy impact.
However, if you visually mix the colors fine enough it is clear that a muddy color results. So, if you are painting, or mixing dyes, the Photoshopped blur colors are likely what you will get as a result.
Summary – I consider my hypothesis proved right, even though my swatches were too large in their pieces of color to see the effect at first glance. Blurring the images shows the true mix of the colors when the size of each “pixel” is inconsequential. But this leads me to sub-hypothesis, and the next episode of Experimental Spinning…. what happens if you blend these same combinations on a drum carder? How many passes on the carder are needed before you see the complete blending of colors, matching more or less the blurred images above? Do we still end up with mud? Does blending on a drum carder mimic blending dyes in a dye pot? I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.
Side note – I have fallen in love with the 6 ply multi-colored yarn. I was surprised how easy it was to ply so many singles together and I’m very happy with the result. It’s not ropey. Not terribly bouncy, but not hard either. I’m very tempted to spin up some more singles and ply enough to make a hat. I think it would make me smile every time I put it on. My advice to spinners – go for lots of plies and see what happens! It’s only wool after all. You are the boss of your spinning.