Fractal Spinalong!

I am excited and terrified to announce my first spinalong! For the month of May, I am going to try fractal spinning for the first time, and I hope others will join me in this learning adventure.

Excited? Yes! I think the best way for me to learn is with a group, since we’ve recently seen how badly I botch things up when I learn on my own.

Terrified? Absolutely. I’m normally a process spinner, so putting this much thought into my yarn ahead of time is outside of my comfort zone. Plus learning a new fiber planning approach. Plus doing it very publicly!

This post has three sections, so you can skip quickly to whatever information you need. (Or read the whole thing! That’s fine too.)

Fractal Spinning

A fractal is “a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole.” In other words, each smaller part of a fractal has the same characteristics as the overall fractal.

Fractal spinning is an approach to preparing your fiber, spinning it, and plying it where the colors in the smaller parts of the fiber (says, a section of singles yarn) has the same color characteristics as the whole braid. When the singles are plied together, the intermingling of colors creates unique and sometimes unexpected results!

If my brief description didn’t explain well enough, here are several additional articles:

As you can see, there are many interpretations of fractal spinning, which is great! There are lots of opportunities to play and explore colors. It can also be overwhelming, which is why I thought fractal spinning would be great for a spinalong – everyone will try something different, and we can all benefit from each others’ experience!

Any fiber is fine although multicolored braids of top really lend themselves well to fractal spinning. It’s “better” if you pick colors that are not opposite each other in the color wheel, because those colors may appear muddy where they are plied together in the final yarn. I wrote better in quotes because of course I messed that one up with the braid I chose (see below)! Oops!

Spinalong Participation

#1 – NO STRESS! If you have too many spinning works in progress (WIPs) already; if you have too many other time commitments; if the thought of a new spinning approach makes you break out in hives – please participate by following the hashtag #peahenfractalspinalong. You can still learn with us, and maybe try your own fractal spin in the future when it works for you.

#2 – From May 1 to May 31, 2021, try out a fractal spin! Any interpretation of “fractal” is welcome, and any spinning tool (wheel, suspended or supported) is fine. Share photos, updates, and lessons learned with the hashtag #peahenfractalspinalong so we can all find each other’s posts. I will be primarily posting to Instagram, but also here and The Spanish Peacock Flock Facebook group. I may repost your content if I feel it would benefit others in their process, for example a really good in-progress photo, a top-notch explanation of the process, etc.

#2A – May 31 is NOT A DUE DATE. I know for a fact I won’t be finished spinning and plying by then, because I’m the world’s slowest spinner. That’s just an end date for the official spinalong itself. I hope folks will take all the time they want/need to create a gorgeous yarn, and even continue posting after May 31st if they feel so inspired.

#3 – On Monday, May 31st, I will post to Instagram & The Flock to ask what everybody has learned during the month of fractal spinning. Leave a comment on the post (in either location) for a chance to win prizes! Just to be clear, you must actually participate during the month and post about your progress to qualify – no showing up on the last day hoping to win! No, I don’t have the prizes locked on yet, but I may have already “voluntold” Mr. Peacock that a Spanish Peacock spindle will be part of it. Also, if I can secure enough prizes we may have multiple winners – still TBD.

The Peahen’s Plans

This.

The braid of fiber I want to spin...
The braid of fiber I want to spin…

This is the gorgeous braid I want to spin fractal. Five+plus ounces of merino/silk blend from Allons-y. The colorway is called “In Search of” and it’s so beautiful to me, I want to cry.

Am I going to spin it during May? Heck no! I need to practice first. Enter: Chincoteague by Created by Elsie B. Also a merino/silk blend, weighing in at four ounces.

The braid of fiber I'm GOING to spin...
The braid of fiber I’m GOING to spin…

Right away you can see I have blues, oranges and browns, which may end up plying unfortunately from a color theory perspective. I guess we’ll find out!

I plan to make a three-ply yarn, which presented some interesting challenges from a braid-splitting perspective. Strategy 1, and the most accurate “fractal” from my perspective would be

  1. Split the braid into thirds
  2. Leave the first third alone
  3. Split the second third into thirds
  4. Split the third third into ninths.

NINTHS. Here is a diagram showing this approach.

A diagram showing fractal Spinning Strategy 1: Dividing the fiber into thirds recursively
Fractal Spinning Strategy 1: Dividing the fiber into thirds recursively

But with a four ounce braid, each of those nine strips that make up the third ply would only weight barely over 4 grams. (Four ounces = 113.4 grams; one ninth of one third would be 133.4/27, so 4.2 grams.) And when I examined the braid, it just didn’t seem realistic that I could split the fiber that finely.

This braid is too narrow to divide one third again into ninths!
This braid is too narrow to divide one third again into ninths!

Strategy 2 is less “perfect”, but more feasible:

  1. Split the braid into thirds
  2. Leave the first third alone
  3. Split the second third into halves
  4. Split the third third into fourths

This doesn’t have the same “balance” as Strategy 1, with everything neatly divided by thirds. But it’s a lot more likely to get done! Which probably matters more. (Especially with everyone watching!)

A diagram showing fractal Spinning Strategy 2: Dividing the fiber neatly into thirds, then halves and fourths
Fractal Spinning Strategy 2: Dividing the fiber neatly into thirds, then halves and fourths

Ooof. Look at all the browns and blues lining up. I guess my finished yarn will be an exploration in color theory, as well as learning fractal spinning! Thankfully the colors are more subtle and nuanced than my diagrams make them appear, so I may luck out after all.

I intend to spin predominantly with my Electric Eel Wheel 6. I can hear the shocked gasps now! Why wouldn’t I use my stunning Spanish Peacock supported spindle collection?

It comes back to process versus project spinning. I spin supported most of the time because I love the process. I love spending time with the fiber, and keeping my hands productive while watching a movie or spending time with friends. The fractal spinalong, by contrast, is project spinning for me. I have a specific goal: spin a fractal yarn. And the Eel will help me do that faster than I can ever manage with hand spindles, as much as I love them.

Who’s with me? Let’s spin some fractal yarn!

One comment

  1. Love you explanation TJ. I will be using my Aura for this along with the fractal for dummies in a hurry fibre that I nuked last night in anticipation!
    Really looking forward to this with everyone

    Like

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