Experimental Spinning 2a

plied vs. drum carded

In the first part of ES2 I explored blending opposite, complementary, colors by plying them together. In this additional post I’ll take that one step further and blend those same colors on a drum carder, spin the fiber and knit swatches.

Subject – Blending complementary colors on a drum carder

Hypothesis – Taking the same colors that were used in ES2 and blending them on a drum carder will result in colors that match the Photoshop color blends created from photos of the plied swatches. i.e.

red + green
blue + orange
yellow + purple

Methods – I used the same fiber from the ES2, 50% color1 + 50% color2, and put them through the drum carder. I used 15g of each color for each batt. Every time I ran the fiber through the carder I took a photo of the carder and of the batt after taking it off the carder. For each color combination I ran the fiber through the carder 6 times. The difference between the 5th and 6th time was pretty minimal, but I was aiming for a “solid” color so 6 times seemed the most thorough test. That gives me 12 photos for each color combo, which is more than I want to put up here on the blog, so I’ll just use one color combo as an example. In addition, I made a sample using all colors together to see what that would look like too. Therefore, there are 4 samples in total.

For the photos off the drum carder I’m going to show the most striking example – yellow + purple.

After I created the batts I spun singles from half of the batt. I then chain plied the singles, soaked and hung them to dry. I knit swatches from yarn; 4 swatches in total.

When I finished the swatches I took photos (doing my best in this winter storm weather to get good light!) and then used Photoshop to blend the colors there to see what those color blocks would look like compared to the blends from ES2.

Testing – Here are the yellow+purple drum carder blend photos:

first pass carder
first pass batt
second pass carder
second pass batt
third pass carder

Oops! No photo.

fourth pass carder
fourth pass batt
fifth pass carder
fifth pass batt
sixth pass carder
sixth pass batt

Here are the finished batts next to their plied swatches from ES2. You can already see how much impact blending the fiber has on the resulting color that your eye sees.

yellow + purple
blue + orange
red + green
all colors
all samples

I think that the last photo above, with all 4 batts and swatches together, is the best color representation of the photos. I am not a professional photographer and all I have is winter light and a few floor lights to work with. But this one is pretty darned close to reality.

Here is a photo of the finished yarn, balled up and ready for sample knitting. Again, this looks to me, on my computer, pretty true color.

Here are photos of the finished swatches, next to their matching plied swatches from ES2.

yellow + purple
blue + orange
red + green
all colors

I then took those photos to Photoshop, cropped just to the knit swatches of the blended fiber, and blended the colors into one. Here are the results of that, compared with the same method used on the plied swatches in ES2.

yellow + purple carded
yellow + purple plied
blue + orange carded
blue + orange plied
red + green carded
red + green plied
all colors carded
all colors plied

Results – First, I’d like to say that I was most surprised by the purple and yellow combination. Carding those colors together created a green that was nearly impossible to know which colors were responsible for it! Comparing the 2 swatches side by side shows what a striking difference thoroughly blending fibers together can make. Your eye is completely tricked into not seeing any yellow or purple at all when the “pixels” or pieces of color are so small. Maybe if we had eyesight like an eagle the blended swatch would look like a smaller version of the plied swatch. I don’t know. But human eyes are not up to the task of teasing out individual color once they are so completely combined.

The red and green blended swatch came out darker than I imagined, but when I think about it, it makes sense because both of those colors have such dark values.

The blue and orange carded swatch looks very purple, which also makes sense considering how much a strong orange is composed of a lot of red.

The swatch of all the colors combined is really interesting. Does it remind you of anything in particular? A field of flowers from a distance? Ground sausage? The planet Mars? I think the yarn is really lovely, but my husband doesn’t like it at all. I think it’s a love or hate or too weird situation with that one. What do you think?

The results of comparing the Photoshop blurred images is not really conclusive to me. I think I need to spend more time to understand the algorithm used or find another way to blur the images to “see” the colors really combined. Actually, if you look at the Photoshop blurs of the carded swatches compared to their actual swatches, the colors are very close! I think probably the more “blurred” the image is in the first place (i.e. the carded swatches) the closer the Photoshop “blur” can represent it. When the image has such big color blocks to start with (i.e. the plied swatches), Photoshop cannot really represent it as a good average. Maybe I’ll investigate that further.

Summary – This has been a very enlightening and interesting set of experiments in this edition of Experimental Spinning. I have learned that

  • Blending complementary colors can give you very different results depending on HOW they are blended (plied together vs. carded 6 passes)
  • Combining complementary colors does NOT necessarily create brown colors. Even combining all primary colors and their complements doesn’t necessarily create brown. Brown is more complex than that!
  • Fooling your eyes into thinking you see a certain color is not hard to do. This opens up a whole can of worms – or roads to explore – in regards to color blending.
  • Blending colors on a drum carder is something I want to take to the next level of precision! Stay tuned for more on this topic!