Posted by: Leslie | February 14, 2011

Fractal spinning: an experiment

Spin-Off’s Summer 2007 issue had an article on what’s been called, among other things, fractal spinning. Multicoloured rovings/tops, while beautiful, often come out looking muddied or busy in the final yarn. I know I’m not the only one who’s been attracted by colours on the shelf only to be disappointed by the garish and unpredictable colour combinations of the resulting yarn. Fractal spinning turns these fibres into a somewhat predictable self-striping yarn, yielding a nicer-looking final product.

Fractal spinning is essentially this: take a multicoloured strip of fibre and split it in half. Spin one half as is, which makes a singles yarn with very long colour blocks. Split the second half further, into two or more strips, and spin them in succession on another bobbin. Same colours as the first singles, but with more repeats. Ply together, and marvel at the orderly stripes (some solid, some barber-poled) that result.

I decided to try this for myself. I don’t usually wear super bright colours, but I wanted obvious colour changes, so this Fleece Artist merino braid in a clown vomit rainbow colourway fit the bill.

I split the braid in half and divided the second half into three equal parts.

What I didn’t do was weigh the two halves first to make sure I’d have equal amounts of wool on each bobbin (this becomes important later).

On the bobbins, trouble begins to reveal itself. The first half of the braid wound up on the bobbin on the left. See how much less yarn is there, compared to the bobbin on the right?

When I plied the two together, I realized the second bobbin contained about 30% more yarn than the first, meaning I’d done a pretty poor job of splitting the braid in half initially. I decided to Andean ply what was left, which still gave me stripes, but not the same stripes I would’ve had if both bobbins had been equal. I was going to hopefully compete this skein, but not with that kind of mistake. It’s a nice yarn, so I may go ahead and knit something with it (something I’d only wear at Pride, I’m sure), or sell it.

Live and learn, I suppose. Time to find that gram scale.



  1. This is a cool idea, even though you weren’t pleased with the amount thing. The plied yarn is still attractive, and the singles on the bobbins are gorgeous!!

  2. Wow, so pretty. 🙂

    I am wondering if you are offering spinning classes in Montreal for someone who would like to learn?


    • Just sent you an email, Marie 🙂

  3. Ooh this still looked really pretty!

  4. i love clown vomit…. this is very very cool!!

  5. […] spinning. The Knitty Article – “Fractal Spinning” by Alex Tinsley and then this blog post by Slipstream Fiberarts. Both were extremely clear, and it was nice to have both of them to have the examples of what your […]

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