Spinning Barber Pole Yarn

Spinning Barber Pole Yarn

By Benjamin Krudwig

Every third Thursday of the month, we have a spin-in during our office meeting. At our last meeting, I started spinning some hand-dyed merino roving, a variegated light green and a variegated ocean blue. I spun about 500 yards of singles in both colorways. Initially, I thought I would ply each color with itself, but this would yield only about 250 yards of each color. By plying the colors together, I maximized my yardage.

Barber pole plying takes two contrasting singles and plies them together. Normally I do not resonate with barber pole yarn, as it tends to be too busy and rarely looks good in a large amounts. Since this type of yarns tends to make me shy away, I decided to test a 2-yard section as a barber pole ply before committing to a couple of hours of plying. I liked the 2-yard sample so much that I took the plunge to ply the whole amount. I ended with approximately 500 yards of worsted weight yarn.

The results were pleasantly surprising, as the variegation in the singles interacted with each other in wonderful ways. Since I am still a novice spinner and my roving was a bit "sticky" feeling as I was drafting, my singles were not terribly consistent. The variation in size of yarn as well as the saturation of color created subtle changes in color density between the blue and green throughout the yarn.

yarn detail

I learned that the blue and green, although they are contrasting in color, are not contrasting in value. Value (roughly speaking) is the brightness or intensity of a color. In this example the blue and green are near the same level of brightness, although there are some areas of higher contrast in value throughout the yarn.

Since I didn't have a project in mind when I spun the yarn, I now needed to swatch it to see what medium it would look best in.

crocheted swatch
Above, this swatch is hefty and bulky, as is characteristic of crochet. The effects of the barber pole yarn becomes muddled and disorganized due to the mechanics of the stitch, which aligns the yarn in a haphazard way.


knitted swatch

The knitted swatch, above, begins to align the yarn in a more structured manner, since the "legs" of the stitches are nearly vertical. Here, the colors "pool" better than the crocheted swatch. The larger needle allowed the yarn to full more and create a lofty fabric full of drape.


Zoom Loom swatch

Finally, I wove a swatch on the Zoom Loom (above). The strong horizontal and vertical structure of plain weave allows for the colors to seem less disorganized, yet the variation in color density can be seen throughout the fabric. When fulled, the yarn snugs together creating a soft and warm fabric that isn't dense but still has solid structure.

After laying all of the swatches out side by side, I decided that the woven swatch best suited this yarn and will maximize the amount of fabric I get from my precious handspun yarn.

I plan on making a woven satchel with Zoom Loom squares. Stay tuned to the blog for the pattern!

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