Spinning: Let’s Do the Twist

My last post was on plying and how I usually go by the feel of it.  If you are a perfectionist, then my by-feel method probably won’t work for you.  It can be hit or miss at times, though with the majority of my spinning I get what I want and that’s close enough for me.

So how much twist do we really need in the yarn?

Only a little twist and it will fall apart, too much and you’ve made rope.  Fiber choices and how they are spun make all the difference. The one thing that is for sure, besides death and taxes, is the amount of twist determines the yarn strength as well as the number of plies.  With the more plies you use in the yarn, the stronger and longer life in the wear of the item.

A few ways to know how much twist:

  • Good old experience or as I call it, “by-feel”
  • Sampling and recording your results
  • Duplicating another yarn
  • Technical grist and twist charts
  • Counting your turns and twists

Making It Count:  
You can check any of your yarn’s twist using a measurement of length and by counting the number of turns in your yarn.  Measure a length of yarn and count the number of single turns within it. Divide the number of single turns by the number of plies, then divide by the measured length.  The final answer gives you your TPI (twists per inch).



I used the count of the lighter colored single. Very simple math.

What can we do with this information?

Let’s say we  are spinning up a full fleece for a specific yarn-weight project.  This could take quite some time to complete and making a sample with this information will be a great tool to stay consistent in the spinning with all the stopping and starting in the life of the project.

Sample Card

Simple Record Keeping:

  • Make a sample of your yarn
  • Make a sample card to attach the sampled plied yarn to and write the calculation of TPI.
  • Hang it on your wheel for reference during your project.

pretty twist card

A sample of a prettier sample card I think I will include in #spin15in15 for gifting.

As Chubby Checker sings, “Come on baby, let’s do the twist.”

Spin on!

Spinning: Finding Balance

As a new spinner in the early 90’s, I learned one trick to fix those over-spun newbie yarns, weigh it down after washing.

I would find a can of some vegetable or beans that the family would be overly joyed for me to use in something other than their dinner.  After soaking my finished yarn, I would hang it outside to dry, balancing the can in the bottom loop, precariously waiting for it to tip out.  It solved the problem of the out of control curly Q yarn. Temporarily.

As years went by, I graduated from can to the wet, heavy towel.  I rolled all the excess water from the yarn in the towel, then I would use it to weigh it down.  There was no walking away from this trick and having to hear the can fall and roll across the deck.  I just didn’t think twice about weighing down the yarn as it was just what I was supposed to do, so I thought.

Then some 20 years later, in a class with Judith MacKenize, the light bulb went on!  Why would I want to pull a defense play on my yarn by tricking it in to being something it’s not.

yarn balance 1

I started in with a new philosophy.  If my plan was to knit with it, I would give it a good soak, several whacks and a few snaps to then just hang it up to dry.  I stopped rolling the skein in a towel to get the excess moisture out and just give it a good squeeze.  For yarn I plan to weave with, I do not sett the twist.  I always label these type of yarns as it is better to be safe than sorry.

I don’t go into the mathematical parts of spinning very much, though I know fully well about the twists per inch and ratios.  I do accounting all day, so when I spin on my wheel or spindle, I don’t want to have to think about numbers.

I tend to go by feel.  I spin a bit, knowing what I want my single to be like and if I will be doing a 2 or 3 ply.  I maybe check it at the beginning of my spin by having the yarn twist back on itself.  If I like what I see, then I continue on.  If I need to tweak it a bit, I do.  I do like a little bit more twist in the ply as it will loose/distribute its energy in the finishing process.

We know there are no spinning police, yet some spinner out there may say we should always go by the spinning rules.  I agree that we should know the basic principles of spinning,  I just don’t think we have to follow them religiously.

The art of making thread and yarn dates back a pretty long time and I’m sure there were no hard and fast rules.  I would venture to say many of the folk spinning those fine threads for the king weren’t readers either.  My point to this post is that finding balance as a spinner is a lot like riding a bicycle.  Once you get the feel for it, you are able to know what you can and cannot do.

In life, like spinning, finding balance is a good thing.

Spinning: Making pretties for yourself!


I have been spending a lot of time on Instragram with all the terrific fiber folks over there.  For the #spin15in15 challenge to the world, I have also been on my own personal year of #spindown2015.

Back in 2013, when I was over on twitter (FYI: I have since deleted my account) I was working on a goal of #spindown13.  My abundance of fiber stash was feeling a bit beyond my spinning life expectancy.  Between that time and the end of 2014, I had picked up several more fleeces and small quantities of roving.  It felt even more out of control.

I am not a one project woman, though there are times I wish I were.

Recently, at a meetup with @mylovelylins at The Artful Ewe in Port Gamble, WA, we were chatting away about something to do with spinning and Heidi stated that everything has an end.  Shearers only sheer the wool, they don’t also spin, weave and knit with it.  That is their end, removing the wool.  Spinners can have an end as well, spin the yarn, done!

That gave me food for thought as I use to always want to have a project to spin for, taking it from start to end.  That’s a great way to approach things, but when you have fiber that weighs in almost as much your do, then it’s time to look at the process at a higher level.

I had my son draw up a lovely sheep with a scarf and had it handmade by Stamp Studio to use for a multiple of purposes, such as the yarn labels for my handspun.  It makes everything feel so organized and pretty.

So, 2015 is about spinning down all of my misc rovings, get started on my fleeces, wash, tag, and place on the shelf to look pretty.  I can figure out what to use it for later or maybe even gift some of it away.  That seems like a good end!


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