One popular method for spinning hand-dyed braids is the fractal technique. A simple definition of ‘fractal’ is when “similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales”. In fractal art, “the same pattern repeats over and over”.
Translated into spin-speak, this means splitting a hand-dyed braid into multiple sections and spinning them end-to-end, then plying the results. Start by stripping the braid in half lengthwise; set aside one half to spin onto one bobbin. Split the other half lengthwise into narrower strips, maybe in thirds or fourths. Spin these sections one after the other, starting at the same end as the first half. Ply the results into an interestingly color-changing marled (or barber-poled) yarn.
Here’s my attempt to envision how the above spins might turn out. There are so many variables that any guess like this is going to miss the mark to some extent, but it can be helpful in working out the general theory. Let’s start out with the idea that there are 3 colors of equal lengths (which there aren’t!), looking something like this:
Splitting and spinning in ‘standard’ fractal technique as shown in the top of the photo, you would end up with these color combinations – each row is one bobbin-full, which would be plied together. You can see here that the resulting yarn would include a pure section of each color.
If you wanted to mix things up a little differently, you could flip the narrower strips and spin them starting with the opposite (blue) end, as shown in the bottom of the photo:
Hm. That didn’t change the outcome much, did it? BUT, if you split the second half into two narrower sections instead of three, and then flip those:
Yes! This one would result in longer stretches of mixed colors and no pure color sections, so the knitted results would have much less obvious striping. Too bad I didn’t have enough of the roving to try this one out.
So that was the theory. We knew from the start it wasn’t going to be an accurate representation of the real outcome, but it was closer than I expected, and shows the color combinations in the same general order.
The knitted swatches are both interesting tweedy combinations, but the flipped fractal version has more distinct striping because of the abrupt breaks where both colors change at the same time. In the regular fractal swatch, only one color changes at a time (mostly, except for the first and last bits) for softer transitions. That’s an interesting principle to remember!
Next time, we’ll play with a hand-dyed section of roving with four colors and see what happens there!