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Setting The Twist Of Hand Spun Yarn

By: Missy B

I finished spinning up the beautiful purple and blue merino wool that I started in my spinning wheel demo video and now it is time to finish up the yarn by setting the twist. Many spinners ply together 2 or more strands to get a thicker yarn, but I tend to spin kind of chunky and like the look of a single ply, although plying is something I want to try in the future.

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Hand spun yarn on the bobbin.

To get started, I first wrapped the yarn around the legs of one of my chairs. Most people use a niddy noddy or a chair back. But be careful with the chair back you choose. If it has a tapered back that is wider at the top, you may wrap your yarn around it and find it difficult or impossible to slide the yarn back off the top.  Also, the legs of this chair measure 36″ around, so I can count how many times I’ve wrapped it around and know how many yards I have. This one is 102 yards.

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Wrapping the yarn around the legs of a chair.

Once your yarn is wrapped around you’ll want to tie bits of contrasting yarn (about 4) at different points to keep it manageable. Slip the yarn off the chair and ease it into a bowl (or sink) full of hot water. Gently dunk the yarn down to saturate, but do not agitate the yarn. Then just leave it soaking for about 20 minutes.

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Yarn soaking in hot water.

After 20 minutes, take the yarn out and gently squeeze excess water without wringing or twisting the yarn. Then, place the yarn on a towel and roll it up and squeeze out as much water as you can. Wool holds a surprising amount of water in it.

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Roll the yarn up in a towel and gently squeeze dry.

The yarn will still be damp. Grab the yarn on either side in each hand and give it a good snap or two, rotate to the to now hold the top and bottom and snap it again. I also give it a few good whacks. Just hold one end and whack the other end down onto a hard surface like the towel on the floor. Rotate and repeat. This all just helps the twist settle in. Then all you do is hang up the yarn, preferably in the shower where it can drip. It should hang straight without twisting. You can also use a hanger to weigh down the bottom a little bit. But you don’t want to weigh it down too heavily. If so, it will dry stretched out, but when you wash it, it will spring back up and may alter your garment.

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Hanging the yarn to dry.

It took about 2-3 days for this yarn to dry completely. Then I put it on my yarn swift and used my yarn winder to wind it up into a center pull ball ready to be knit! As you can see, it is a little over spun in spots, but with some more practice hopefully I can work out the kinks.


My finished yarn!

Category: Arts & Crafts, DIY Projects, How-To, The Transplants

Comments (8)

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  1. Steph says:

    I’m a beginner spinner myself. I was wondering, if you have a niddy noddy, can you keep your wool on there while you wash and dry it?

    I’ll be spinning dog fur once I really get going.


    Gorgeous wool!

  2. Missy says:

    That is an interesting question Stephanie. Unfortunately, I do not know the answer for sure. I think that while on a niddy noddy the yarn may be pulled so tight that it will dry stretched out and then once knitted into something and later washed it may spring back to where it naturally wants to be. If you give it a try I’d love to know how it turns out though!

  3. Anna says:

    I know nothing about yarn, but I’m so glad you’re posting about the steps to make your own — it’s an intriguing process. Your ball of yarn is so beautiful!

  4. so I should set the twist before plying?

  5. Missy says:

    good question. But no, you should ply then set the yarn.

  6. Birdy says:

    I love that yarn, Missy. I have always been a fan of yarns that change thickness throughout… so maybe just pretend it was on purpose. 😀

    You did great.

  7. Mackenzie says:

    I set mine in cold water. I just figure this means I have to hand wash cold in future…but that’s what I do with all my knits anyway.

  8. Lauren says:

    Thanks for posting this! I made my very own 18yd skein today for the very first time and your instructions were a life saver. I’m terrified I’ll do it wrong and have to start over.

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