Home » Amy King » The Barber Pole – Why I love it.

The Barber Pole – Why I love it.

I’ve been thinking lately about things that spinners hate and try to avoid. Barber poling is one of those things. It’s sort of like the whole pooling thing with many knitters. Spinners will try to avoid the barber pole at all costs.

For those of you who don’t know, barber poling is what happens when you are plying and two different solid colors wrap around each other.

I think it gets a bad wrap though – get it? bad wrap? I crack myself up.

Hers’ the thing, as I said in my Ply post last week, yarn is not a finished object. For this reason I try not to make any final judgements about my yarn until it’s been used in a fabric. Today I have an example for you.progression

A long time ago I
spun a four ounce bit of Blue Faced Leicester fiber that had been dyed by Amy King. This is a photo of what a progression dye that Amy does looks like. It’s one that I’m thinking of adding to my cart. (Feel free to save me from that.) I made the yarn for an article or a class or something I can’t remember now. Last week I needed a bit of yarn to knit something during a long wait I would have at the hospital. I dug around in my stash and pulled out that skein.

2015-11-30 19.11.47Sadly I don’t have a photo of the original fiber but here’s what the yarn looked like all wound up. 342 yards.

I wanted a two ply yarn that kept the colors in the order they were. I wanted it to be able to be knit into a project that would change color like the fiber did. So, I split the fiber in half down the center as close to even as I could get. Then I made the singles, spinning both halves beginning with the same end. Then I plied it.

Of course when you do that there is no way that the singles will match exactly. That’s when the barber poling happens and it happens between evey color change and sometimes it’s longer than others. Look closely at the picture and you can see it. It makes some spinners crazy!2015-12-03 08.10.25

So I began knitting the Wings on a Cloud shawl/scarf. I had a little less than the pattern calls for but I decided to just go for it. It’s another easy knit that turns out beautifully if you are still looking for one last thing for a gift.

OK, back to the barber poling. Here’s the benefit. Look at this photo. See how there is that lovely transition from color to color? See how the lines aren’t sharp? Let’s look closer.

2015-12-09 10.09.23

The barber poling is not obvious. But look at those beautiful smooth transitions.

This rambling is really to say, before you make a decision about whether or not you like something in your yarn, at least make a swatch and see how it acts or looks.  This same barber poling, if used in an entire fabric, knit or woven, will make a fantastic tweedy look.

Use your yarn. It’s good for your soul.

4 Responses so far.

  1. beth says:

    I read this, and then decided not to make myself crazy matching up the colors during plying for a gradient I’d just spun. There’s barber poling, and I’m making my peace with it, just waiting to see how it all works out.

  2. Susan says:

    There’s barber poling and there’s barber poling. Your example shows barber poling of colors that are adjacent in the color wheel (if I’m saying that right). It does make for beautiful transitions. But barber poling of color extremes make visually noisy fabric, IMO; I can’t think of a single example I’ve seen that I liked.

    I’m glad you have highlighted the case where barber poling works well!

  3. Sophy0075 says:

    While barber poling might interfere with the clarity of a cable, I think it is lovely (given the color qualifier you mentioned, definitely!) in stockinette (heck, it keeps stockinette from being a snooze fest), garter, simple eyelet rows and good ol’ Feather and Fan. Besides, for spinning novices (like me) it helps me to see my twist angle and learn how to keep it nice and even.

  4. RK in Denver says:

    I *like* marled yarns, myself, and the interesting tweed effects that they produce. I could never figure out why people make such a fuss about this “barber pole” thing… it doesn’t look like that in a finished piece whether knitted or woven.

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