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A 'Nutty'shell: Singles, Plies and Setting

I'm having trouble getting any decent pictures to put into this post, so I've decided to just write the info, and then sometime later if I can get the pics to come out, I'll add them in.  (I think I can do that?!) 

Anyway, the idea here, was for me to put into one place all I know about singles, plies and setting as it pertains to singles.  If I 'dump' all I know, then I think it's easier for everyone to digest that info, collate it with what they know that isn't here, then we can toss around the questions and ideas, which of course will fuel all of us to..........spin more fiber!!! =)))))))



Definition:  A yarn in which there is a single strand and the fiber has only one direction of twist.


How do you make one?

Put less twist into the fiber than you would for a plied yarn.

The amount of twist should be enough to give integrity to the yarn, but not show bias in stockinette.  You don't want the yarn to have spots where there isn't enough twist which may result in the fibers from sliding apart during future handling.  But singles that have too much twist will produce a biased fabric when you knit a project in stockinette, and no, it doesn't block out! =(

There isn't really a 'quick test' for singles to know how much twist is enough.  (When spinning plied yarns we use the 'twist back on itself' test to determine the amount of twist we want.) I think the best way to test a single, is to take a 2'-3' length (minimum, you could use more) and actually set and dry it.  Then you can check to see if there are low twist weak spots that may come apart when the yarn is being handled.  If you want to check for over twist, knit up a swatch.

Yes, this means that producing a singles yarn can be labor intensive.  But, like other things that we are just learning, after a while, the testing may not be necessary because a 'feel' is developed for how to make a singles.  And there may be other methods I haven't heard of.  This is just my preference.


So, how do you set a single?

The same way you set a plied yarn.

Soak in warm/hot soapy water.  Rinse (with vinegar in the finall rinse, if you like.)  Squeeze in a clean, dry towel.  Then hang to dry.

Some special considerations:

Tie your skein in several places!  At least 6, IMO.  This yarn has not had the twist balanced out in the opposite direction so it will 'kink'.  If it is tied in a lot of places, you will minimize the possibility of knots in your skein.

You can't handle this as roughly as you can a plied yarn.  I know several people 'thwack' their yarns when setting them.  Consider carefully before doing this with a single.  It could cause breakage or separation if there are any weakly twisted spots.  Of course, longer staple fibers will be stronger than shorter staple fibers.

Steam setting is a very pleasant option for singles that reduces the possibility of 'kinking' and knotting.



Definition:  A yarn that has two or more strands consisting of two directions of twist.  All original strands are twisted in one and the same direction.  When placed together they are twisted in the opposite direction.


A few thoughts on plying & plied yarns.

A law of science:  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This is true for the twist that is put into fiber.  It is an energy that if not 'contained' (set), will react by untwisting.

This untwisting is used to accomplish an opposite direction of twist when two or more singles, spun in the same direction, are put together to make a plied yarn.

When singles are left on a spindle or bobbin, they do not kink back on themselves as readily as newly spun yarn will.  This is not because the twist has become 'set', but because the energy has become latent.

This energy can be 'released' by immersing the yarn in water.  So......if you have singles that have been sitting on the bobbin for a while, and you are not sure how much twist to put into the plied yarn do this:

1. Break off about 18"-24" of single for each strand you wish to have in your finished yarn.  (EX: 2 strands for 2ply, 3 strands for 3ply)

2. Lay all of these together and knot both ends.

3. Follow the same steps you use for setting your yarn.

4. The resulting yarn will show you how much twist to put in when plying.


Also, this fact can be an advantage for someone who wants a high twist plied yarn, but is having problems with the singles kinking during the plying process.  How?

1.  When you have determined the proper amount of twist by sampling with 'twist back', break off your sample.  Keep it in a safe place.  Many spinners wind it on a note card and include reference info.

2. Spin your singles and then set the bobbins aside for a while.

3.  When you decide it is time to ply, use your sample as your reference for how much twist to put into the plied yarn.

4.  When under tension, the yarn you are plying will look like your sample, but may not when you release tension to wind onto your bobbin.  It's okay!  The twist will even out and look right after setting because that latent energy will be released.



Well, I think that's all that started bouncing around in my head as I read through the little conversation some were having and asked me to comment on.


But there is one more thing I would like to add.  I cannot say enough times how much I like Rita Buchanan's video  How I Spin, by Interweave Press.  (NO!  I don't get a kickback! - Rats!)  But seriously, this woman covers all the basics, and a little beyond, that any spinner would want to know.  And, although she has a scientific type brain, she presents things to people in a common language, conversational manner.


Hope this has been helpful!


Happy Fiber!


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Comment by Nutty4Knitting on October 20, 2011 at 3:49pm
Singles are usually fairly loosly spun, so the biggest thing about handling them, IMO, is that they don't frog very well.  You can pull out stitches if you're very careful, but the yarn becomes fuzzy or 'ratty' very easily.  Especially if you've crocheted with it.  I think it's not as stiff as plied yarns, so I like it for items that need to have drape and pliability.  On the other hand, you can reduce your gauge and still create a fairly stiff project with it.  And if it's wool, non-superwash, it can be fantastic for fulling (felting).  Yes, I've noticed there is not a lot of memory to a singles.  How well it recovers it's gauge/fit after washing, if it's been stretched out, is not something I've had enough encounters with to share an opinion on.
Comment by Anna Murphy on October 20, 2011 at 12:59pm
I'm not a spinner, but I was fascinated by your description of energy in the yarn. I'm currently crocheting a project with single ply yarn. It is a little bulky, from Manos del Uruguay. Do you have any recommendations on proper handling of the yarn and the type of projects it would NOT be good for? I notice there is not a lot of give to it. (I bought it for the colors )
Comment by Nutty4Knitting on April 12, 2011 at 2:54pm
I'm glad some of you have found this to be helpful. =)
Comment by KnitterGirl39 on April 12, 2011 at 11:09am

As usual lots of helpful info from Nutty!!!!

This is just perfect, thank you for sharing this!  Bookmarking the page now!

Comment by wendy on April 6, 2011 at 8:43pm

This is very helpful!  Thanks! 

Earlier today, I was reading Deb Menz book, Color in Spinning, where she mentions spinning singles with a twist at a 25* angle.  The reason she says to do this is to avoid having a single that knits up with a bias.  So what between this and what you are saying, it makes much more sense.

Comment by PickleSue on April 4, 2011 at 11:48am
Nutty- wonderful explanation.  Very helpful.  :)  Thanks for putting this in a great location for future reference and referrals!!  :)
Comment by cherylbwaters on April 4, 2011 at 8:47am
Thanks, Nutty. There were so many questions about how to set singles and when I tried to research all I kept turning up was how to then ply. As always a great explanation.

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