As the saying goes; “And now, for the rest of the story!”
Let’s go back and start at the very beginning so that you can follow from inception to completion one of my more recent creations – and one of my favorites (so far). I call this yarn “Sky Blue Pink Turning Yellow in the Moonlight”. Quite a mouthful, I know, but it evokes warm memories of my late Mother-In-Law, Bobbie, as well as describing some of the truly spectacular sunsets we are privileged to witness here in Alaska. Of course, in the end I took quite a bit of “artistic license” in my interpretation, since I also wanted a yarn that would spin up nicely into something pretty.
My M-I-L, Bobbie Frost, had a special term, fondly remembered by her family, applied only to the most gorgeous of sunsets – no matter what colors they actually were. I first heard the term when Jerry’s parents were in Alaska visiting us back in the late summer of 2004.
The sky overhead was finally darkening towards night that August, a few stars already twinkling over the mountains far to the east. To the west of our hillside home, Mother Nature and the setting sun was putting on a brilliant show! We stood on our back deck, delaying bedtime to watch the sky through and above the darkly silhouetted wood-line to the west. Sunsets in Alaska this time of year arrive late and can be a long, slow dance, changing from minute to minute. You can literally have night falling on one side of the sky and the blue sky of the fading day still clearly visible on the other. When these awesome sunsets occur, you don’t want to miss a thing!
Here are a couple of examples of sunsets as viewed from our deck … not nearly a wide enough variety to do justice – nor do I have a good enough camera to capture sunsets to best effect. But it should give you an idea.
These neon orange, salmon and bruised purple sunsets are some of the most spectacular (again, a better camera would have been great!). If you look closely at the top of the photo, you can see the edge of blue sky above the clouds. The sky above the sunset was still very much blue, fading into twilight as your eyes scanned further east. My photos were focusing on the sunset, so were cropped for best “sunset effect”.
The shot (above) shows a lot of the salmons and pinks, but not quite enough of the contrasting blue sky I so vividly recall from the gorgeous sunset that special August.
And speaking of jaw dropping (and off-topic); this winter sunrise, captured in mid-December many years ago, may yet turn into a yarn. 😊 Can you just imagine it?
Anyway, on that particular August evening, after a lovely blue summer day, we had clouds gathering on the horizon for a coming storm. The setting sun reflected off of them in moody and vibrant waves of purple, lavender and pink changing to salmon and neon orange as the sun lowered. The blue sky still held sway above the clouds, the sun still defiantly sending bright beams of yellow spearing through the trees below our house. The blue sky gleamed between the clouds for the longest time, refusing to give way to the storm OR the night. Alaska truly does have wonderful, LONG summer days with abundant sunshine. Gotta love it!
As twilight finally overcame the last of the glowing sunset, touches of deep red streaked through the pinks and yellows still visible along the treetops. With a sigh, Jerry’s Mom summed it all up. She said, “That was probably the very best ‘blue sky pink turning yellow in the moonlight’ that I’ve ever seen!” Well said, Mom.
That fond memory of precious days spent here in Alaska visiting with Jerry’s parents, George and Bobbie, and sister, Shannon, live on. More precious now, since both Mom & Dad Frost have passed. Pretty much every time Jer and I see a particularly brilliant sunset, one of us will smile and say, “Look! It’s a “sky blue pink turning yellow in the moonlight”! No matter what color the sunset actually is. 😉
“Sky blue pink turning yellow in the moonlight”; this particular sunset shot reminds ME of the term Bobbie used, even though it really wasn’t what it looked like the night she was here!
So, earlier this year, this memory spoke to me again, begging to be recreated in a vibrant, Alaskan sunset yarn. I started gathering fibers from my existing stash. This would definitely be a blended-fiber yarn, as the colors already on hand included hand-dyed sheep’s wool of indeterminate origin, luscious alpaca, some fine Merino wool blended with silk, BFL (Blue-faced Leicester sheep and one of my favorite wools to spin) Shetland and Cashmere (Angora goat). Oh my. I decided to just call this an “Art Yarn” and see how it spun up. There are times when it really IS all about the art.
I gave a lot of thought to what foundation color I wanted the yarn to carry throughout. I’m not a real big of orange, so although orange and salmon play a major role in many sunsets, I knew I wanted to use them more sparingly in the yarn. I mean, if you look UP, there is an entire SKY up there – the sunset is only the highlight. So, I wanted the sunset to stand out, but not overwhelm the other colors. My foundation for this yarn would be sky blue.
Having made that decision, it was time to dig through my fiber stash and see what called out to me.
Hmm … good start! I had the blue sky and clouds in one lovely hand-dyed roving, most of the sunset shades, the tree-line and the midnight sky. I was pretty sure I still had some of the sunny yellow fiber used in the bobbin of yellow in the photo. I had only to keep digging! Of course, some of these colors would only need the lightest of touches, like the midnight blue and the natural taupe used to indicate the tree-line. And although I really wanted to add the silver gray of the storm clouds, I needed to balance the ‘idea’ of storm clouds with what needed to overall be a brighter yarn. So, not too much gray. 😉
Sometimes laying all the colors side by side is the best way (for me) to start pulling the picture together to envision the finished yarn. OK, definitely more light and bright blues, way less midnight blue. I was already seeing the overall yarn as having a sky-blue foundation and building the ‘sunset’ off of that. Maybe more pink and salmon, less red, although I sure wanted touches of red, remembered from the last rays of that fading sunset. More yellow, less gray. Getting there!
At this point, I started pulling long strips of colors free from the individual rovings and batts, twisting them together in a hank to give myself a better idea of how they might look in the finished, plied yarn. Can you see the sunset starting to form in the sky? No, not yet?
How about NOW?
As I worked the colors together in my hands, adding color here, taking a little out there, inspiration struck (for better or worse) and I decided I didn’t want to use the carding machine to finish blending these colors. Call it artistic license or gut instinct. I wanted the randomness of the original sunset, with the blue sky, the night sky, the storm clouds … all setting off the sunset itself – without blurring the colors. How best to recreate that mood?
I chose to combine the colors together by hand until I had the balance that struck me as right, twisted it into one large roll, then pulled and stretched the entire mass out longer and longer until I had one long, continuous fiber-snake spread across the sofa. It was about 5’ long – and you can bet I had both Dachshunds kenneled at this point. The last thing I needed was one of the dogs deciding they were going to romp through this fluffy, colorful pile of fiber!
Finally satisfied with the finished fiber batt, it was almost time to spin! I gently divided the long, thick batt into four equal lengths, about 15” long each, then folded and re-stretched each one into smaller, more manageable lengths and stored three of them in plastic bags to safely await their turn on the wheel.
I know, right? Spinning is my favorite part of the entire process and it’s taken me this long to get to the fun part? Anticipation is half the fun, I kept telling myself. An idea doesn’t always take this long to come together, but seriously, I was having a blast at this point and felt it was worth the extra time. Let me know what you think. This was the first bobbin, just started on the wheel. Sunset!
Bobbin number two, not quite half way complete. As I spun the ‘singles’ (remember, it takes three full bobbins of single ply yarn before you can then ply them together to create a finished 3-ply yarn), watching the sunset unfolding before my eyes, I suddenly knew that there was going to be yet another necessary step …
I was achieving my spinning goal of nice sections of brilliant, undiluted sunset shades; pink, lavender, orange, salmon and yellow, with pops of red, gray and midnight blue, but I’m already thinking ahead to the finished yarn. Although I used a higher percentage of blues in proportion to the other colors, I felt it was lacking overall cohesion. My vision was for a stronger foundation color flowing throughout, with the sunset shades standing out as highlights.
I suddenly knew what was missing, and I realized I had just the right solution! Back to my fiber stash I dashed, digging for a bag of already blended roving intended, originally, to be spun as a stand-alone yarn. It would’ve been pretty too. When I first bought the 8-ounce roving from Paradise Fibers (www.paradisefibers.com; a great online resource), I’d planned to spin it up into a 2-ply yarn and knit a hat and matching gloves. The mostly sky-blue wool (80% fine Merino, 20% silk) was already blended with muted pinks and yellows that would complement my bright sunset tones. It would be the link I needed to pull the picture together. I set back to spinning – this time a full bobbin of just the pale sky blue.
The photo above shows the three bobbins of single ply yarn (referred to a ‘singles’) on my Lazy Kate; two bobbins of “sunset” and one bobbin of “blue-sky” – in the process of being plyed together for the three completed skeins of 3-ply yarn.
Spinning is exhausting to watch – just ask Rhonda. 😉
And here is the finished project; a bouncy 3-ply worsted-weight yarn. If you look closely (zoom in if you need to), you’ll see that although the other colors come and go randomly, there’s a twist of sky blue included along the entire length of the yarn. This should make for a lovely, balanced yarn for a scarf, smoke-ring, hat, gloves or whatever it ends up wanting to become. My part in its creation is done. 🙂
Thank you for joining me on this journey through the creation of a unique hand-spun yarn. I hope you enjoyed the ride! I certainly enjoyed sharing it with you. Please feel free to comment or ask questions, “Like” my post and, if you want to hear more stories, subscribe to my blog. Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!