Monday, May 3, 2021

Blending Boards: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I was so happy to be able to take a class about using my blending board at this year's (virtual) Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. I signed up for this class last year, but everything was cancelled due to COVID. The cancellation happened after I ordered a new blending board. I tried to use it a couple times over the summer, but my results were very poor. 

The class, titled Blending Boards: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, was taught by Heavenly Bresser. She created class kits, and I was super excited to open mine. Doesn't this look like so much fun?!??

The big pieces of fiber are merino top. There are also a bunch of add-ins, including tussah silk, eri silk, sari silk waste, tencel, comber's silk, alpaca, angelina, and firestar (the latter two are sparkly). 

Heavenly taught us two different methods of applying the fiber to the board. Here is my very first attempt. I forgot to take pictures as I loaded the fiber on the board, so you see here the first rolag I pulled off, as well as the remaining fiber which will become the second rolag:

It is so fun to "paint" these fibers onto the board. Heavenly pointed out that we're not technically blending fiber on the board - rather, we're layering it. Here are my first two rolags:
I spun one of them up really quickly to sample it - you can get a little sense of how the colors look in a finished yarn. The finer the yarn, the more blended it will look (because the spots of color are smaller):

For our next rolag, we all tried to work from the same "recipe." We began with these colors but applied them in different amounts. I have more navy blue than purple, and more purple than pink, and only a tiny amount of green (a complementary color):
Here I've started to layer the colors on the board. I'm only using the bottom section because this is just a sample rolag:
Here is the final (wee!) rolag, and also the yarn I spun from it (just a little sample):

The yarn is really fascinating to spin, because you never know what chunk of color is going to predominate. 

At the end of the 4-hour class, I decided to explore a more wild colorway. Here are the raw materials I started with (sometimes I add other stuff once I'm into the process):

These four colors are fairly equidistant from each other on the color wheel, sometimes described as a "square" arrangement. If I were to blend them in equal amounts, I would get a muddy mess. The trick is to let one color dominate and another recede. I filled the entire board this time, and ended up with these beauties:

I started and ended with the oranges and yellows. The blues and greens are sandwiched in the middle. Stay tuned to see how they spin up!

I'm still a beginning blender, but the process is so instantly gratifying and fun. Who wouldn't want to spin these colorful rolls of air?


  1. This is so interesting and I'm glad you had a way to take the class virtually! I had to embiggen your pictures and read up on blending boards a bit so I could better imagine the texture of one. This seems like something you could have fun with and learn about for years, and produce beautiful rolags and yarn in the process. Way to go!

  2. there seems to be some sort of gauze left on the board - do you actually put something on the board before adding the wools?

    1. No, I didn’t. You may be noticing the rubber-y grid that is UNDER the blending board to keep it from slipping on the table. It’s the same stuff you use under carpets. But I’ve heard that placing toille on the board first helps you lift off the fiber in one piece, as a batt... I just haven’t tried that yet!