Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Spin-Off Spring 2014 Issue

Like the Autumn 2013 issue of PLY magazine, this issue of Spin-Off features colorwork as its primary theme. It has been interesting to see how these particular issues differ, since the PLY issue seems to focus on the well-rounded approach to colorwork--blending, spinning, plying--whereas this issue seems to focus primarily on dyeing and blending to achieve a variety of colors. Both issues work very well in tandem, so if you're really interested in building your colorwork arsenal, these two issues are wonderful resources to have in your library.


Stepping into a new world, color blending can seem very daunting. I have to admit that I encountered some timidity when performing my first color experiments. I kept in mind the color rules of my high school art class...blue and red make purple, yellow and blue make green. But this is a very limiting way of experimenting with color. Luckily, I had two great resources on hand right after I started combining colors on my borrowed drum carder. I had a Munsell color chart (from my school library) which helped me identify hue, saturation, and value of my archaeological surrogate samples I made for the experiments for my master's dissertation. That color chart help me understand how to identify whether a color was bright or dark, and now I can identify the value of a color without a color chart on hand. Now, I know that most people won't have this kind of chart in their home library, but if you're very serious about understanding color, it would be worth looking for it through your local library (and probably interlibrary loan). However, it isn't necessary to have used it to understand color--but it it'll take more time and experimentation to really understand those three indicators of color: hue, saturation, and value. Hue refers to the specific color, saturation refers to the intensity, and value refers to the lightness/darkness.

The second valuable resource was a dvd I got for Christmas one year: Color Works for Spinners by Deb Menz. She's a wonderful teacher, and I love her crazy red hair. She's soft spoken, but really knows her stuff. I felt myself listening raptly as she plainly explained hue, saturation, and value, while also demonstrating it on camera. She chose a color she wanted to make, then chose appropriate mixing colors to achieve the hue, saturation, and value for the desired color. She didn't always get it right, but she talked about how to identify what a blend needs to get the right color. The Munsell color chart and Deb's instruction are what really helped me break out of the high school art class mentality regarding color (also, I'm not implying that all high school art teachers are created equal).

Yet, these magazines will send you on your way to blending and creating beautiful colors. The first article I found most salient for budding colorists was the "Never-Ending Blending" article. You start out with a set of primary colors, then blend together the two adjacent colors evenly (evenly = 50/50 blend of the two parent colors). The more you do this kind of blending, the more gradual the gradient between colors will become. For example, if you start blending yellow and red, your first color blend will be orange. If you blend yellow with orange, your second color blend will be a golden orange color. But this is when you need to break the rules of art class. You don't always have to start with the same three primary colors: yellow, red, and blue. Sure, you can get a wide range of colors, but the blending is still limited. As the author attempted, try using a different set of three primary colors. One of the experiments used the three colors of printer cartridges: yellow, cyan, and magenta. Those color blends will be otherwise impossible to make if you started out with yellow, red, and blue.


If you start out with bright colors, you'll get bright blends, and vice versa with dark colors. Experiment with adding in white or black to your blends in increments of 10% (like, 90/10, 80/20) to change the value of your color. For example, if you wanted to darken an orange, you could combine 9g of orange with 1g of black wool. If you wanted to make it very dark, you could combine 5g of orange with 5g of black. You would lighten the orange similarly by combining it with white.

These blending experiments provide an excellent setup for experimenting with making tweed yarns. Tweed can refer to the color of the yarn and it can also refer to the texture of the yarn. For example, tweed the color is made by completely blending together several colors to get one, semi-homogenous color. This yarn would appear to be one color from a distance, but many colors upon closer examination. Tweed the texture is made by adding small noils into the fiber mixture, sometimes in a variety of colors, then spinning it into yarn. This will give the yarn a nubbly appearance. The article "Blending and Spinning Tweed Yarns" introduced me to the proper names for these two types of tweeds: Harris tweed refers to tweed the color, and Donegal tweed refers to tweed the texture (as well as color). Adding the principles behind preparing tweed batts will enhance your colorwork overall, and is a nice way to help mix and match different batts together.



Finally, the article I found very useful for natural dyeing was the article called "Making Dyestock Solutions from Natural Dyes." In a nutshell, it tells you what you need to know to figure out a formula for standardizing your dyestock--which might be challenging given that the extraction of color from natural dye sources can produce a variable yield. With all natural dyes, you won't get 100% consistency from batch to batch. But you can come close. If you keep notes about your dye stock and the depth of shade (DOS) for various saturations, you will produce similar results from batch to batch. As with the above articles on color blending, you can mix and match your naturally dyed fiber to create new colors, and blend them with professionally dyed wool to stretch your naturally dyed colors.


After reading the PLY issue on colorwork, I didn't think I would gain much from reading this issue of Spin-Off. Given their very different approaches on the same theme, I'm happy to have both of these issues in my library. The last thing I need is a shelf full of duplicates.

I hope you enjoyed this review; more reviews will be coming later. I can't do justice to these magazines, so if you find the things I talk about in this review interesting, get your hands on a copy. Hop over to Facebook if you want to share your own personal thoughts about colorwork and your experiences.