Spinning commercially dyed rovings

Two and a half years ago I took a workshop with Deb Menz called “Spinning commercially dyed rovings.” I enjoyed the workshop and thought I would put my notes about it in the blog.

Deb typically spins singles and she rarely plies. She only plies when she particularly desires it in the design. She uses her yarn for knitting (as opposed to weaving). She doesn’t like the striping that can occur with handspun from variegated rovings. She prefers smaller amounts of color, more like pointillism. She also finds more colors easier to work with than fewer in her projects. She thinks most commercial roving doesn’t use enough color. These preferences explain much abut her technique.

In short, she is getting an effect like plying in her singles yarn, using a lot of color, but not getting muddy colors (as might happen when dyeing large quantities of small amounts of color on roving if you aren’t as good a dyer as Deb Menz).

Each roving, even if in multiple colors, has a dominant color (hue, value and saturation). Think about the rovings in this way and then look at other rovings that are analogous or complements, using standard color theory. Twist the two roving together and hold them at arm’s length to see how they look together. You may want to use two or three rovings at a time and you may want to use unequal amounts of each. It is important to pay attention to value differences in the rovings.

Split off a thin section of each roving and then predraft them together so they will start behaving as a unit. Then spin a yarn using the two or three rovings at the same time. Experiment with the size of the yarn – a thin yarn will have much smaller bits of color than a thick yarn. Try to keep all the rovings in the drafting triangle evenly.

The yarn will often have a “barber pole” effect, which some people don’t like in a yarn. Deb cautioned not judge a yarn until you see it knitted up.

The singles yarn should ply back on itself to make a very puffy yarn. This is far less twist than is added for energized singles and this shouldn’t make a huge difference in the knitting. You can also spin it intending to ply for yet another effect,

After the workshop, I realized what would have really helped my record keeping is if I had put a small amount of plain roving (white or black) between each sample to easily differentiate. And in a class like this where you will have a lot of samples make from a wide variety of things, it would have been really helpful to take a picture of the rovings for each sample. As it was, I had very spotty notes and jumbled memories.

I knit my samples into a very odd sampler. I tried to label some of the sections of it. My labels are:

  • Various random combinations (1st is red with variety of other colors)
  • Two rovings, color in common
  • Two rovings, analogous colors – 4 different rovings
  • Three rovings, analogous colors
  • Three rovings picked randomly (Deb toss them over her back to workshop participants)
  • Two rovings, dull colors; various two roving mixes (possibly 8 different), including complements, warm/cool and value differences.





I also made a small sample of two different combinations of three rovings plied together.


I think these samples came from when I showed this to Guild. One sample is singles and the other is plied.



Now, why am I writing about this out if the workshop was so long ago? Well, I still have odd bits of the merino roving around. I have been using them in some of the novelty yarns. I want to actually make something using beaded yarn, so I have decided on a hat, with beads only in some sections. Because I’m not too fond of the bright pink, I have used that for several samples and the beaded hat might work for DJ. So, I pulled out all the analogous colors + yellow and started spinning some of this yarn for the non beaded section. I also added pink beads which blend well and added beads to another small skein.



The beads are so close a match and there is so much going on in the yarn that the beads are extremely difficult to see. It may not be a good use of the beads, but it’s all an experiment. The size 6 seed beads beads are about 18” apart.



One thought on “Spinning commercially dyed rovings

  1. Pingback: Beaded hat | Wendelkate procrastinates

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