Handcombs: Put a Rainbow at Your Fingertips

Spinner, weaver, and all-around fiber artist Esther Rodgers was in our video studio recently showing how to blend wool with handcombs to create amazing colors for your spinning pleasure. If you love the rich hues of hand-dyed fiber, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to create similar depths of color from commercially dyed top, just by creative blending. Below are a few takeaways from her newest course Color Blending for Spinners.

Comb Over & Play!

Handcombing wool produces smooth and silky top that is a joy to spin. Esther starts with readily available, commercially prepared merino top, but you could add other prepared fibers to the mix as well. Mini combs are less expensive than their larger counterparts and still let you pretend you are Wolverine when you work with them.


SNIKT credit: Getty Images/jennzhen

3 is a Magic Number

All colors arguably derive from the 3 primary hues: red, yellow, and blue (or magenta, yellow, and cyan if that’s how you roll). Esther shows how to comb these primaries together into secondary and tertiary colors as well. We had to stop her at 12 hues, but that’s enough to make an entire colorwheel of fluffy merino puffs.


50 Shades of WOW

Want something a bit more nuanced? Adding black or white to any hue creates a shade or tint. On the surface this simply means a darker or lighter shade of your original color, but those words don’t begin to encompass the richness you get. Leaving your fibers less-than-completely blended adds the kind of delicious tonalities you’d normally find in hand-dyes.


Splendid inspiration: this color gamp has a whopping 144 different colors in it.

Less is More

Sometimes you may actually want less color than the original hue (I believe this is called “subtlety,” and it’s totally lost on me, but whatever.) Take things down a notch and desaturate your colors. Blending a gray or complementary color into your combed top mutes things a bit. Be careful here, though; it’s possible to take “going muddy” too far and end up with something that looks like, erm, mud.


Desaturating colors in a nutshell. Or a jpg.

Color Blending for Spinners is a new streamable course you can watch at your own pace, anywhere, any time, on any device.

Happy watching!

Want to learn more? Check out these resources:

One Comment

  1. Martha P at 9:58 am January 10, 2018

    Wow! We feel like we’re on the cutting edge of Interweave! After creating a successful color wheel with primary paints, I showed my 7year old grandson how to blend primary colors of fiber to make a color wheel.
    Using handcards led to frustration, so we went to mini combs with better results, but then he found the regular wide hair combs I use with weaving got the best results for his liking. He happily chatted away as he blended colors together until he was satisfied with his very nicely blended secondary color. Then he pulled the fibers off the hair combs and blended them by hand and got good results. We talked about how the colored fibers are not blended together like paint but rather are laying next to each other, so we have to use light and distance to see the color.
    Of course, this leads to Georges Seurat and Pointillism, but that’s for another day!

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