This is about what happens where order and chaos intersect. When we take a well-ordered plan, and subject one of its parameters to random changes. With three tones (or colours, if you prefer) of Shetland wool.
Black, White and Gray wool from those lovely Shetland sheep, native to the Shetland Isles, off the top-right corner of Scotland.
The objective is to use these three colours in the same proportions, but achieve different results – by a combination of differences in method / formula, and the random variability of one attribute.
Above are Skein A (left) and Skein B (right) that resulted. Both are spun and two-plied with very similar twist to give a ‘Light Aran’ weight yarn.
Skein A :
- BGWBGW : 1 Rolag each of Black Grey and White in that sequence
- BBGGWW : 2 Rolags each of Black Grey and White in that sequence
Implied in this simple formula is that all the rolags produce the same length of yarn, and thus that the resulting yarn will be coloured along its length in the following rigid sequence, each combination of two colours lasting for the same length :
Black+Black ; Grey+Black ; White+Grey ; Black+Grey ; Grey+White ; White+White
If that’s all there were to it, I would never have learned to spin in the first place. And though this sort of thing is what weaving is supposed to be all about, I don’t think I would want to weave, either! Thank heavens, then, that it’s difficult to achieve a uniform length of yarn – even with exactly the same weight of fibre!
True, I used a consistent method to pull fibre off the rope of tops, and then stripping down each length into three, and rolling these into mini-rolags ; but I made no effort to check the results and adjust the method so as to limit the variation in weight (and consequentially, the spun length) of yarn from each rolag. I let the fundamental chaotic quality of the universe – and all thing in it – do its job of making life ‘interesting’. Or at least, make this yarn more interesting!
With the lengths produced of each rolag varying significantly, any initial synchronization (yes, I did start both with black) was very soon lost entirely, and the succession of one strand would alternately creep ahead of the other, then fall back for a while, before creeping ahead again. Before long, it was impossible to tell whether one strand was four rolags ahead of the other, or two behind ; and anyway, what did it matter?
In theory there should be six permutations, but only four combinations, and none of those Grey+Grey (ie all grey) – which was intentional, because I wanted the tones to be ‘polarized’ – ie avoiding muddy greys.
However, although according to the formula there should be no Grey+Grey anywhere on the yarn, due to the variability in the length produced from each rolag, the Grey+Grey does indeed occur, though not very often. What is noticeable is how the finished yarn is relatively high contrast, being dominated both by all-white (ie White+White) and all-black (ie Black+Black).
Skein B :
A very similar approach to that for Skein A was adopted, but a different formula. Which was –
Which in theory should result in the following sequencing when plied :
White+Black ; White+Grey ; Grey+Black – ie only three combinations and three permutations.
This uses the three tones or colours in the same proportions as for Skein A, but because only two colours are used in each single strand (one omits Black, the other omits White), there should not be any occurence of White+White, Black+Black, or even Grey+Grey, and thus the yarn should be more evenly toned, more grey. In practice however, the ‘creep’ of colour sequencing in one strand relative to the other results in limited occurrence of these single-colour combinations ; but it is surprising how limited this must be, because the colouring of the actual finished yarn, though variable, does conform broadly to the desired appearance.
There’s a side to my personality – the engineer! – that continually strives to find patterns, build structures, impose order. Thank heavens, then, there’s another side of me – one that prefers to let go, to open wide the thought and let in the serendipitous, the many wonders that fall into our laps without us having to do a thing, and which we might never even have imagined existed or thought to be possible.