Monday, March 19, 2012

They see me rolagin', they hatin'...

Inspired by the fabulous NJStacie, I put together a little post about how I do my hand-carded progressions. For this little demonstration on how I figure out my progressions, I’m going to use the same fiber that Stacie used in her mini-batt-a-thon. Hopefully, this’ll provide an apples-to-apples sort of comparison and then you can decide which method you like more (or are more likely to want to do).Since the nature of hand-dyed is that each bump is unique, I am picturing my fiber.

1. Select a fiber that has clearly delineated swaths of color. It’s ok if there’s some overlap/bleed. This is Hello Yarn’s “Pate de Fruit” on Rambouillet.


2. To make the task a little easier, I usually try to see if there’re any repeats to the dye job. I usually try to card a lightest to darkest progression, but that’s by far not the only option. We will talk more about some options later, though. For now, just admire and observe and squish your fiber.


3. And now we separate, trying to keep all like colors together. Ideally, you have a large table upon which to work.
Be prepared to sub-separate. You don’t want to overload your hand cards and while it may seem daunting, the more rolags you make, the subtler your progression may be. Also, some sections that you rip off will be smaller than others based on the dye job. It's ok to have a small rolag - size doesn't matter here. Here I have two rows of somewhat-progressing fiber bits (two rows simply because they fit on my table that way):

4. If you’re lucky, you’re only halfway through a nice, quiet afternoon and you can start carding! After the first few rolags, you’ll get a feel for it and you should be able to card up everything in just a few short hours. My first attempt at a progression (Spunky Eclectic’s Storms of Jupiter), I kinda didn’t have a plan, but I still managed to card everything in one evening - an evening filled with saucy stories, cheese, and not a little wine. Ah, Fiber Nite in South Philly....

Pick up your first rolag-to-be and charge one of your hand cards. I like to start in the middle, then alternate filling the card right and left.

Once your card is loaded, proceed to card the fiber. There are tons of videos on how to do that. I like the preview for How to Card Wool: Four Spinners, Four Techniques for a quick reminder of how to possibly do things. I also recommend Ruth MacGregor’s video - it’s heavy on fleece prep in the beginning, which isn’t a bad thing. Around the 2 minute mark, it really gets into the actual making of rolags. Then, lest you think it’s a 2 minute per rolag process, around the 4:40 mark, she shows the process at her normal speed.

every progression begins with a single rolag

I typically do 2 passes, though you may want to do more. I did 3 passes for some of these rolags. You can card too much, causing fibers to break and creating nepps. Start with less fiber on the cards - you’re really aiming for fluffy cloud-like rolags. Keep making all the little wool sausages until you’ve run out of fiber.

5. Now, the moment of truth! Arranging the rolags! This is the hardest part for me and I can literally spend days obsessing over the order before committing to spinning them. I suppose I could spin 30+ mini-skeins, but I’m a one-big-honkin’-hank kinda girl. I like big hanks and I cannot lie.

With my Flicker progression, I had a sort of ROYGBIV thing going on. I had a yarn in stash that complemented the fiber and I wanted the progression to end in that matchy-match.  So, for that project, I went V-ROYGB-gray.  You can also use different colorwheel tools: this one is pretty interactive. My favorite thing I've found via Pinterest is Design Seeds - I actually spend more time on that site than I care to admit. It’s a great starting point for color ideas and the palettes can serve as a suggested order. BigHugeLabs also has a color palette generator where you can upload your own photo and get color ideas. I would definitely recommend using Design Seeds and other color chips as a springboard for colorwave ideas if you are feeling uninspired.

For this progression, I’m going to use tonal range. I’ll arrange the rolags, take a black and white photo, then rearrange them according to tonal range*.

I'll compare the black and white image to the values on the tonal range and make adjustments to the progression as necessary. For this particular progression, I had two spots I was not happy with and after try to make them fit in other spots, I decided to blend them with their neighboring rolags. Click here to see the notes about this in Flickr.

6. Here's the final progression, in both color and black and white:
IMG_3191pn  IMG_3192pn

7. Unless you live in a cat-free (child-free, gremlin-free, pukwudgie-free, what-have-you-free) home, you'll want some way to secure the rolags. Zippie bags and baskets work, but you don't want to have to reorganize your progression whenever you sit down to spin. With my More, Please progression, I had the idea to tag each rolag. This worked great, so long as nobody touched my rolags!  It was tedious and didn't really keep the rolags organized. With this project, I had a flash of genius and decided to run a threaded needle through the middle of each rolag. This made it super easy to keep them in order!

8. The final step - SPIN! Spin for singles or spin for Navajo-ply or split each rolag in half and spin for a 2-ply! 

I hope this was useful for anyone interested in hand-carding progressions. Working with hand-cards is a great way to spend extra time with your fiber. The steps are very similar to drum-carding, but I find that hand-carding makes it easier to focus on the subtle color shifts that make a progression great. Whatever method you choose, have fun!

*I'm not doing a true tonal range, though! If you look at the photos, you'll see I start with a darker gray rolag, then move to the light grays, before finishing the tonal range. I really liked this particular gray rolag, so I didn't try to blend it further. Also, I have some yarn in stash that I think will pair nicely with that gray (and thus the rest of the colors), so I'm imagining some sort of striped shawl.


NJStacie said...

This is awesome! Thanks for doing this. The tonal demonstration is super duper helpful. YOU ARE A ROLAG BADASS.

DebbieB said...

The threaded needle idea is pure genius.

knithound brooklyn said...

I agree with DebbieB, the thread through the rolags is pure genius.

skeller said...

#thisissoawesomeyouaresoawesomethank you!!!!

Anonymous said...

Pukwudjies! Lol. We can watch them when come up in May.

Sara said...

Oooh, lovely! I can't wait to see the resulting yarn.

Megs MadeIt said...

This was super helpful, thanks so much. I'm going to try this as my weekend spinning.