Breaking Out of a Color Rut

Changing the order of the colors in a handpainted braid? Inconceivable! Or so I thought.

Katrina King Feb 5, 2024 - 4 min read

Breaking Out of a Color Rut Primary Image

Can repeating colors in a braid be reconfigured in order to create a gradient yarn? All photos by Katrina King

I must admit that, for the most part, my colors in spinning have been pretty boring—spinning solids or tonals or spinning handpainted braids from end to end without any consideration for what the braid wanted to be. That has changed since reading about Kim McKenna’s technique in the Fall 2023 issue of Spin Off. Taking apart a handpainted braid to change up the color order? Completely unheard of in my book; that is, until I started digging in my fiber stash. A braid from Greenwood Fiberworks called out, “I want to be something different.”

Aligning the colors next to each other allows Katrina to see how much of each color she will have to work with.

The braid was aptly named ‘Sunrise’ and I wanted to place all the portions of the same colors together so I could make a gradient skein. First came unbraiding the fiber and folding it so the matching colors aligned side by side; this way I could see exactly how many colors I would be working with.

Katrina blended each separate pile using handcards to get a more cohesive color.

Next, I pulled the braid apart into five distinct color piles. Because I did not cut the roving at the color shifts, the break between colors was not complete. Since I did not want mismatched flecks of color in the fiber, I used handcards to blend each pile. While this did add colors that were adjacent to each other into the main color, it helped to diffuse the outliers and create a homogenous blend.

Katrina applied Kim McKenna's method of fiber prep: loading each color onto a handcard and drawing it through a diz, which resulted in an airy sliver that’s easy to spin.

The next technique I borrowed was one Kim wrote about in the Spring 2022 issue of Spin Off, using a blending board and diz to create nests of roving to spin from. This blended the colors even more and gave me the style of preparation that I enjoy spinning.

The finished skein showcases all the colors of the sunrise, just as Katrina had wanted.

I arranged the colors from dark to light and got my feet moving! With all that prep to keep the colors in order, I chain-plied my single and now have a skein that travels from bright yellow to deep grey just like the sunrise the braid was named for.

Read Kim McKenna’s article “Handcard & Diz: An Unexpected Pairing for Smooth Prep and Color Effects” in the Fall 2023 issue of Spin Off to learn about the techniques she uses to create different color effects, which result in a gradient yarn and a fractal yarn.

Katrina King is the assistant editor of PieceWork magazine, an avid crafter, and continuing student of life.