“Fractal” Spinning

The nice thing about socializing with other fiber folk (besides the fact that they get your obsession with wool) is that you learn new things.

Case in point: Most of the fiber I spin is either mostly unprocessed or undyed roving. But once in a while, a hand-dyed braid speaks to me.

Peppermint Knits, Corriedale cross, “Her” colorway

Peppermint Knits, Corriedale cross, “Her” colorway

A friend suggested that this fiber be “fractal”-spun. I’d heard the term before, but didn’t know what it meant.

“Fractal” spinning is simply dividing up and spinning the fiber in a particular order so that the yarn stripes in an interesting way when knit. “Fractal” refers to dividing up the fiber into strips of different widths so that the color order in the strips is identical. So the method is based on the idea of a fractal, yet is not a really a fractal.

There are plenty of ways to spin using this method to get different striping effects: vary the numbers of strips, spin from different ends of the fibers, etc. Here’s one way (the way I used) to prep and spin fiber for a “fractal”-spun 2-ply.

Step 1 Divide the fiber in half lengthwise.

Step 2 Keep one of the halves intact. Divide the other half into as many strips of equal width as desired.

Graphic showing how to split fiber into strips

Note 1: When starting a new strip, start spinning with the same color each time.
               (e.g. In the diagram above, spin each strip by starting with the blue.)

Note 2: Spin back and forth across the strips to spin each color completely.
               (e.g. When spinning the strips in the diagram, spin all the blue, then all the yellow, etc.)

Step 3 Spin the full half-strip onto a bobbin.

Step 4 Spin the strips that make up the other half onto another bobbin.

Step 5 Ply the singles!

When the singles are plied, each color will line up with itself for a bit. The final effect will depend on how well the fiber is divided equally and how consistently the singles are spun.

Image showing how strips are formed when singles are plied

Now we can move on to the results! This particular fiber was very easy to draft and the singles spun up quickly. Also, very pretty!

pic of spun singles on bobbin

Spinning the singles

The real magic happens when the singles are plied and the stripes appear.

pic of plied yarn

Plied yarn on a very full bobbin

When the yarn is in a skein, it’s hard to see the stripes but they are there! The final skein of 2-ply yarn is on the right. Just for fun, the leftover N-plied singles is on the left.

pic of skein of handspun yarn

Final yarn: 2-ply, ~ 300 yards, 3.1 oz

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