TNT - rainbow 4
“Rainbow” by Suzy

Arlene:  I thought I knew Wool Wench pretty well.  Afterall, week in and week out, hours of Skype sessions, uncountable emails…and then, accidently, I found out that while I love Thick &  Thin yarns, Wool Wench isn’t a fan.  What?!?!?  I have to say, it shook me to the core.  We debated the merits of this classic technique and decided to bring our debate to the world at large.  So, in this post, we bring you “The Great Thick & Thin Debate” — feel free to chime in with your points in the comments, of course…

Me, first, cause it was my idea.  I loved the Thick & Thin style of yarns right out of the gate when I came to spinning.  From an aesthetic point of view, I love the contrast of the fluffy puff tapering down to the delicate, slender areas.  And, it’s not easy to get that right.  It actually takes a lot of skill to be able to get that look.

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“Perk” by Suzy

Suzy: Thick & Thin yarns? Arlene! Let me see, how often do you spin a Thick & Thin? How often do ‘I’ spin a Thick and Thin? Well… for a while I was spinning a LOT of Thick & Thin, because people wanted to buy them! But you know what? It wasn’t fun, I dont mind that it took ages to teach my hands how to make nice ones, you know, avoiding the whole ‘Ima gonna curl up in hard little over twisted bunches of gnarly THIN bits and RUIN the whole idea of soft and fluffy for you’. Because really, I don’t mind perservering till I get something right. What I do mind is that once I had it right, I just knew that it was never going to stay that beautiful smooth soft ginormous skein of puff and fluff. Nope. Knit this baby up and you get something pretty alright, but don’t touch it again! It has the staying power of a leaf in the wind, one gust and its going to pill right up, fuzz out in unintended ways, and generally lose its beauty long before its time. So I have to wonder.. is it all worth it?

Arlene:  I hear what you are saying…but, does everything have to last forever?  Can’t things just be beautiful in the moment like fresh flowers or sunsets?  I have a lot of finished pieces from all the years that I have been making things and frankly, I don’t get a chance to wear them out.  So, they tend to stay looking pretty good.  The pieces that I know are a bit more delicate, I take care of them as such.  I don’t count on them to be my workhorses.  Beautiful textiles are often fragile.

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Fresh off of Arlene’s loom last night!

My next point is that without having Thick & Thin in your skill set, there are a lot of wonderfully textured yarns you won’t be able to go onto produce such as marvelous coiled yarns with spectacular contrast in the thickness of the coils.   Somehow I don’t think you’d willing forego that…it looks pretty smashing in weaving.

Suzy: Well, I do admit to liking the thick and thin in my weaving, makes a lovely texture, however I do feel that having it IN the warp does offer it some protection. Most of the Thick &  Thin I have spun has been for customers, and (ok I admit it) being a bit of a control freak, I worry that I might send someone yarn that might not be suitable for what they want to use it for, that they will use it for something that gets quite a bit of wear, and find that it pills, and be disappointed.

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“Easter” by Suzy

I DO like to use thick and thin yarn for other effects though! Turning it into coily beehives is always pretty, thats one of the reasons I forced myself to keep practicing spinning it! And when its rolled up into those cute little coils, well it does make it a lot more durable, the fibers are tighter, and washing just makes it bloom and the fibers stick together even better.

Arlene:  Ha!  I’ve got you on the ropes I see!  So, maybe for your customers ordering Thick & Thin, there needs to be a disclaimer or proper usage instructions…:-)

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Suzy’s gorgeous yarn

My final point about Thick &Thin is that sometimes it’s just plain nice to spin a simple single.  Sure it can be used as the basis for other things, but let’s face facts, sometimes it’s just nice to have the lovely softness of a single.  And, Thick & Thin is a single with all its own personality…no “special sauce” needed and what other preparation can show off the beauty of a fantastically dyed solid color better?

S: Ah yes, a ‘simple’ single.. but I am not so sure that thick and thin is at all simple, there is quite a knack required to get it right, to avoid over twisting those thin bits and making sloppy thicks bits, to getting it even and nicely spaced. If I want a relaxing spin, this is not the one I go to, I would choose a smooth single, even a  bulky one is easier to spin!

This is not Suzy's yarn!
This is not Suzy’s yarn…it’s actually one of Arlene’s first yarns – a good example of unintentional Thick & Thin

Seems like a lot of trouble to go to, spinning a Thick & Thin yarn. And then there is the extra setting I think it requires, in order to at least stabilize it as much as possible, the best Thick and Thin is ever so slightly felted, or fulled, to give it at least a bit of a chance at durability. I guess to me, thick and thin is a bit like adding salt to a cake, its not so great on its own, but you use it because you know its necessary to the end result after you add in all the other ingredients, and this is the only reason I spin thick and thin yarns these days, to make cake. Um, to ply it into something else.

This is Suzy's yarn and beautiful weaving
This is Suzy’s yarn and beautiful weaving

Arlene:  Well, there you go…it seems we do agree on some points when it comes to Thick & Thin…it’s a great building block yarn, takes real skill to do it well, it’s nicest if it’s slightly felted and looks great as a weft yarn.  Common ground has been achieved!

15 thoughts on “The Great Thick & Thin Debate!

  • March 7, 2014 at 12:34 pm
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    I understand both of your points and I can relate with both! A T&T yarn for me as a single is very very pretty but would not use it as it is because it does not last as Suzy mentioned… that is why most of the time I like it plyed, or navajo-plied or weaved as you said.. I love the blending of the thick parts with the thin… colors texture.. “accidental” coils and beehives <3

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  • March 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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    What a joy to read! I hear your voices in your writing and love the joy and sense if humor you share. As to T&T, I am still trying to master the technique, and really o ky use the singles as I pursue beehives and coils. I do enjoy the mantra I have to say to myself in order to spin this tyoe of yarn well. Thanks for the debate! You are both winners!

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  • March 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm
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    Thick and thin is one of my favorite yarns to spin. Guess I never had any problems with pilling, so never got discouraged. I love the way it looks in any of my projects. I have a very simple scarf and, after seeing it, the thick in thin is what people love. Knitted, crocheted or woven, or used as the basis for my supercoils, it is my favorite yarn.

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  • March 7, 2014 at 2:34 pm
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    I’m kinda with Suzy…most of the thick and thin I spin goes into coils/beehives or spiral ply yarns. But I do love thick and thon for how it plies! To keep those thick spots from pulling apart, I spin t&t with a longer staple wool and keep the thick sections shorter than the staple length of the fiber.

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    • March 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm
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      Fun article! I love spinning t&t yarns, and I always full them slightly when washing them to help reduce the fuzz and increase the lifespan. It also makes them easier to knit with.

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  • March 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm
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    Maybe this is a bit of a handspun sin, but when I make a t&t I wash it with soap and wack it like crazy to felt it just a bit. If the fiber is very fine, you hardly notice any softness lost and it makes the yarn hold up against pilling.

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    • March 8, 2014 at 4:05 am
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      I agree….I wash and whack mine and it doesn’t have any issues

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  • March 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm
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    Love t and t as weft! Also like plying t and t. My smooth alpaca makes me dream of t and t sometimes to appreciate the texture. Glad to have the tips on fulling. Good discussion!

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  • March 7, 2014 at 5:31 pm
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    Let me say first that the weaving is beautiful.
    I love thick and thin and have to admit, I purchased several of the thick and thin yarns on Etsy before I actually got the hang of spinning it. It takes some repeated effort to get looking like Arlene’s lol.
    When I finally got it to the right look, I made some beautiful coils that were fashioned into a slouch hat. A lady tried to get me to sell it to her right off of my head!

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  • March 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm
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    I love spinning T&T, but I also ply it with a fairly fine yarn with no bumps, and then knit it into baby beanies etc, and texture in the knitting is just beautiful. There maybe a bit of ‘fluffing’ with handling, but not sure about ‘pilling’ as these items have been sold.
    This article has made me think I’ll do a test sample of my plyed T&T . Coral

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  • March 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm
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    I’ve never been a fan of thick and thin yarn. As a spinner I’m truly not looking to replicate anything that can be made by machine. I like the quirks that pop up in handspun yarn, the subtle variations of a kettle dyed roving spun up into a delicious near fingering weight single, but I also appreciate something elegant and timeless. I’m not about the next and newest fad.

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  • March 7, 2014 at 9:07 pm
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    My technique is the same as Laura Spinners. To full a bit for the final step. I love the affect a really thick and thin can give in the appropriate project, projecting beautiful texture. That being said I love to ply a thick and thin with a thread. That’s is another look I love. And besides I just really mastered it from Suzy’s video! So your going to be seeing some thick and thins from this gal!

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  • March 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm
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    I have to say I agree with Arlene that sometimes it’s just lovely to spin Thick and Thin for the sheer (or shear!) beauty of it. Then again, I admit my spinning path has not been the most practical. I have tons of beautiful but impractical yarns in my studio just wondering what to be in this world, which is actually part of the reason I’m on the Journey of the Golden Fleece–I guess to understand my Self as a spinner on a deeper level. I do want to get more practical in my spinning but I have to say, I love the Fluff and the process just for its beauty. I admit I haven’t ever knitted anything I liked with Thick and Thin, perhaps weaving will be just the thing.

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  • September 7, 2014 at 11:28 pm
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    OK! What I appreciated about this post, is the honesty. Similar to setting a yarn is lying….. (~: And I think you do need to make sure that your customers understand its fragility if used as a single. But I have to wonder just how much of it is spun [as sold] these days for the shear reason of spinning coils and beehives.

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    • September 9, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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      I like a really pretty thick and thin if it’s spun right. when I say fun right I mean that the thick parts are very loosely spun looking soft and puffy and the thin parts are not kinked. In my area beehives in coils seem not to sell as well as a nicely spun thick and thin. When I see a thick and thin yarn I imagine it knitted into a very cozy looking hat or matching scarf that looks like you want to put it on and be hugged by it. I do not always master a thick and thin yarn it sometimes comes out with those kinks that I do not like in it.. I think a lot of that has to do with the fiber chosen to spend with. So anyway, in a nutshell I like a thick and thin it looks warm cozy and homespun to me.

      Reply

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