I know, its Valentines day, and I am talking about singles! Well Cupid isn’t always welcome, especially when we have ‘the perfect single’ thats really not trying to hook up with the perfectly matched partner to ‘balance’ it.. This is not the single thats smooth, low twist and relaxed.. in my eyes thats not always ‘perfect’, in fact, sometimes its just too damn smooth for its own good, I mean, if I wanted ‘that’ kind of perfect single, wouldn’t I just go and buy a commercial spun yarn? Nope, my perfect single has got its crazy kinks, its wobbly moments, its slightly thicker slightly thinner bits. Its the single that tells you its got movement, its got style, its got character by the mile…

I know we all have them, they are the quirky cousins who come along every year to our holiday celebrations, they sometimes come uninvited during moments of stress, or they hang about in corners occasionally waving to us for attention.

Overspun singles.

So, nobody likes to waste fiber, what can you do with this little collection of overspun yarn? Lots!

You can either use them as they are, or work on reducing the twist. Using overspun yarns can be quite exciting, what happens is that it will create a ‘slant’ or bias in whatever you are creating with it. If you have previously washed and set the twist, with a weight on it, you will not see this ‘slant’ until after you have finished creating, and then wash the piece, at which point the overtwist will come back to the yarn and you will see the slanting in your stitches or weave. But you can use this to some advantage. Try this – don’t set the yarn, keep it and use it straight off the bobbin, you should see some interesting results, if it is highly energised you might find your knit stitches look very different, as the yarn is trapped into the stitch but still trying to reform its shape, it can open up those stitches in quite decorative ways! Check out this knit from Kate Larson (on Spinningdaily.com) that shows the effects of energized yarns that have been spun in different directions:

3438.Larson_Spinzilla_energized2-72px.jpg-550x0 (1)I haven’t tried this (yet) but I am thinking this could be pretty cool in a circular weaving, with some rows of  S spun singles alternating with a bunch of rows of Z spun singles.. anyone game to try?

Alternatively, if you really wanted to create a more balanced yarn that will not cause a visible bias, there are a few things you can do with your single. One is to run it back through your wheel again in the opposite direction to remove some of the twist. This works best of course if you spun it quite evenly with the same amount of overtwist throughout, if not dont worry, just keep an eye out for any areas where taking out twist might weaken it and let that go through faster and leave in more twist there. Singles yarns make amazing knitted and woven fabrics, allowing for a simple definition of your stitch or weave pattern, it is very pleasing to the eye and can feel smooth and drapey.

Another thing you can do is simply to ply it, this will also remove twist, and if you use a technique such as coiling, or something that requires it to wrap more around the plying thread, that will help a lot – also consider making something like a ‘snarl’ or ‘pigtail’ yarn with it! Letting that overtwist form its own snarls is a great way to let out that energy and make a really unusual yarn with it! This one is a combination of both coils and snarls in one yarn:

saturday (9)

I guess my point is: an overtwisted yarn is not a disaster or a yarn that hasn’t worked, its just fiber on its way to becoming something. Whatever you are doing, you may find you get to that ‘it’s not going to work’ stage in your head, where you feel like giving up on it. But don’t! This was advice I got from my Mum: ‘just keep working at it until it comes right’. And you know, most of the time, this is exactly what happens, don’t give up on your yarn, keep playing with it, use it , ply it, put it in a corner for a week if you have to, but come back to it and never see it as a fail, see it only as a WIP.

2 thoughts on “In Praise of Singles

  • February 14, 2014 at 4:14 pm
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    love this! for years I thought I couldn’t spin because I was making all these nobby yarns, I have a whole bag of them! Even after I learned to spin a smooth yarn I knew there was something I could do with these… can’t wait to try some of these ideas

    Reply
  • February 14, 2014 at 4:35 pm
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    Great ideas on what to do with those over twisted singles. I also say if you want perfect commercial looking yarn than why spin. We are creating yarn with our own hands.

    Reply

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