I’m dashing out the door in twenty minutes, so for today’s Spin-In I’m recycling my answer to a question I asked earlier in the week. Hope you don’t mind!

Q: Why is my skein underplied now, when before I washed it it looked balanced, or maybe a little z-twisty?

Plied yarns can be considered underplied, balanced, or overplied. In a balanced yarn there is a complementary amount of twist to that which was put into the singles, the plied yarn hangs in an open loop. Underplied yarn has less plying twist than spinning twist, and will hang with an s-twist (twists up like the letter s), overplied yarn will hang with a z-twist. There may be cases where you might want any one of these three - e.g. extra plying twist will help your yarn bounce and poof up, great for a woolly hat, but not what you want in a lace yarn though!

If you are plying your yarn fresh off from spinning it, you can check whether you are over/under/balanced by pulling some plied yarn off the wheel or spindle and letting it relax - does it twist up or hang open? But where you might run into difficulties is if your yarn hung nice and balanced when plied, but after washing was suddenly underplied. This is where we get into the complicated territory of singles that have been left to ‘set’ before plying.

Let’s say we put (a random number) a twist of ‘5’ into our singles when spinning. For a balanced yarn, we want to ply it back also with a twist of 5, or maybe 6 for a bit of bouncy overtwist. But the singles have been sitting on the bobbin for three days and even though they have a twist of 5, they look like they only have a twist of 3 now. If we ply with a twist of three, it will look balanced right up until it’s washed. Then all that twist will come back and our skein is underplied. Think of when you put your hair into braids. If you leave them in long enough, your hair will end up wavy, but this will disappear next time you wash your hair. Similarly with yarn, the original twist will come back when it’s wet - but we can’t wet our singles before we ply them.

You’ll almost always be plying yarn where at least one of the plies has been left to sit for a while, and you need to know what the original twist was. There’s two ways of dealing with it: If you’re of the organised persuasion, break off a length of yarn from your freshly spun bobbin/spindle and fold it back on itself, letting it twist up. This will show you the balanced twist of that yarn. You can leave that singles sit for a month if you like, just don’t lose the sample and you will know what your plied yarn needs to look like. The second way, for the absent-minded, is to break off that piece of yarn from the ‘set’ bobbin, fold it in half and knot the loose ends, then drop it in water. It will twist up in a very satisfying cool-to-watch way. And you have your balanced twist.

As you’re plying, ignore what the yarn is telling you - it will probably kink up like a maniac - and keep your little sample close by as a gauge. Once you wash the yarn, the twist will all balance out and you should have the correct amount.

Lastly, if you have a washed skein which you’re not happy with,  simply wind into a ball and ‘ply’ it again, adding more twist or taking some out with the spindle or wheel until it’s where you want it. You can do this with any yarn that has too much or too little twist. You can even undo it completely and wind it back into singles - if you really wanted to…


I’m out teaching today, and eating cake at Alice’s (yum!) but I’ll be back for Lingr between 6pm and 10pm tonight. Hope to see you there!

P.S. I haven’t forgotten the prize draw! The random-number-generator-hat just popped out two people for me, congratulations Carie and SylvChezPlum! I’ll email you tonight, or drop me a line if you see this :-D

3 Responses to “Spin-In: How twisty are last week’s singles?”
  1. Amanda Cathleen says:

    you are a wealth of knowledge girl, and I love these posts where you share bits of your brain with us!

  2. Amanda Cathleen says:

    *L* Just so ya know,I didn’t intend my comment to sound as horribly morbid as it sounds!

  3. Joanne says:

    Hey, I loved talking to you the other night. It really cheered me up. Thank you!

    Uhh, with your most recent post, we’ve just hit the level of “technical” spinning that makes my head feel slightly like exploding! (not to riff on Amanda Cathleen or anything) It might help your non technical sorts remember (like me) that you can create lovely yarns relatively intuitively with practice. The numbers, twist amounts, all that? Are for the maths-enabled folk. Good news is that the rest of us make ok yarn too… (I hope.) I am awed and amazed by your ability to describe this so technically–just not sure it will help everybody–if those everybodies might be like me! :)

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