Knitty�: little purls of wisdom
Fuzzy Wuzzy Fiber Wool And Wheels

Spinning Low-Twist Singles


excerpt from Spin Control: Techniques for Spinning the Yarns You Want
by Amy King

I have always been in love with good singles—low-twist singles, fulled singles, energized singles. They’re fun to make and fun to use. They’re essentially not much different from plied yarns, except that you get to use them sooner. They are weaker than plied yarns but used for the right project, they’re wonderful. Singles can also be challenging, but armed with the right tools, you’ll be able to make consistent singles yarns.

Low-twist Singles
Low-twist singles are sometimes available commercially, although they are often fulled to make them stronger and ensure that the fibers in the yarn hold together well.

These yarns can be a challenge for many spinners. How much twist is enough to hold the yarn together without making an unmanageable overtwisted yarn? It’s all about finding the right amount of twist per inch. For thin low-twist singles, aim for about 2 to 3 twists per inch; for thicker low-twist singles, you need less than one twist per inch. For thick-and-thin singles, there will be sections of higher and lower twist.


low-twist single spun woolen-style

For all low-twist singles, adjust your wheel for a faster uptake and lower twist ratio than you would use to make energized singles or yarns for plying. Don’t hold onto the yarn for so long that a lot of twist builds up; let it feed onto the wheel fairly quickly. Choose airy fibers that you can draft easily; you want to be able to choose whether to draft thin or thick. A low-twist singles is one yarn for which it’s easy to predraft too much. If you severely strip down the fiber and feed it onto the wheel without drafting, you’ll make a heavy, dense yarn.


low-twist single spun worsted-style

Also consider the staple of your fibers. Shorter fibers and thinner yarns need more twist than long fibers and fat yarns. This is no less important in a low-twist yarn than a tightly twisted one. Low twist doesn’t mean spinning to the same number of twists per inch for every type of fiber. It means that the yarn has low twist relative to that particular fiber type and yarn thickness.

If you are just beginning to experiment with low-twist yarns, practice with longer-staple fibers. It is easier to spin them in a continuous thread, and it will build your confidence and physical memory. When you move on to a more difficult fiber, your hands and feet will have a better idea of how to behave.

Some fibers are not suited for low-twist singles. Although singles made with short-staple fibers can be fulled to hold them together, superwash wool yarns and cotton yarns cannot be fulled. These yarns are more likely to fall apart and, in general, shouldn’t be used for low-twist singles.


Thin Low-twist Singles
This yarn is wonderful for lace. It’s difficult to find from commercial sources, so you have the opportunity to make something unique. The basic process to make it is the same as for other low-twist yarns—use strong draw-in to add less twist. It is especially important to use airy, easily drafted fibers.

Thin low-twist singles yarn is interesting because it’s challenging to find the right balance of twist for such a thin yarn. But aside from the spinning challenge in creating a good usable yarn, there’s a benefit to the lace knitter: a well-made singles yarn won’t split like so many plied lace yarns do.

This yarn can be fulled, but this Romney laceweight singles has enough twist to keep it stable without fulling. If the fibers are long, as in this Romney, and the yarn is well spun, there is no need to full it, though you can if you want assurance it will hold. If you’re spinning a shorter-staple fiber and you want to be assured the yarn will hold, then by all means full it.


Spin Control author Amy King answered some nosy questions from us.


[Did you know she Hula Hoops?]

JM: Why did you want to write this book?  
AK: I love spinning. It is my passion and I wanted to share it. It's like when you find a really good ice cream brand, you want all your friends to try it.  This is what I want. I want to share spinning with everyone. I want them to love it like I do and know what I know.

JM: What did you want to spinners to learn?
AK: I think the main thing I want people to take away from the book is a “Yes, I can” feeling. I want people to learn that they can do it. They can make what they want. With some knowledge and practice any yarn is possible.

JM: How is your approach to spinning different than other spinning teachers?
AK: I don't know if it's necessarily different. I approach teaching with knowledge, information, and lots of good fiber.


JM: You used to be a potter, how did you move from pottery to fiber?
AK: Fiber was a hobby, pottery was my occupation. Homeschooling kids and being home more, just didn't work out too well with a business that had me on the go all the time. When it turned out that people really wanted the fiber I was just happened organically.

JM: What’s next for you – what do you want to learn?
AK: I want to learn it all. I hope I never stop learning. I'm a fair weaver but I want to be a much better weaver. I'm also a fair hula hooper and I want to be really graceful (something I've never been).

JM: Will you start traveling and teaching? What’s on your schedule?
AK: I am traveling and teaching a bit. It takes a bit of a balance between the kids, shop, dyeing, and events.  I will be in Michigan at The Spinning Loft in September and at SOAR in October. 

I'm already working on dates for 2010 but nothing is set in stone at the moment.

3 tips for spinners

1.Sample. Learn to sample. It's so worth it. From these samples make index cards that hold information about the yarn you spin so you can easily duplicate it.

2. Try everything and listen to those around you. You never know what you'll learn from making a yarn that you don't desire.  It may improve the yarn you do want to make.  I know that seems like an abstract concept but sometimes it really works.

3. Most importantly, don't give up. Keep working at it, find a teacher, read more, you can do it.  If you really want to do it, it just takes practice and perseverance.

Blank Amy King is a crazy homeschooling mom by day, whacked-out dye maven by night. Her first book, Spin Control: Techniques for Spinning the Yarns You Want, has just been published by Interweave Press.

All her exploits can be found here.