How do you tie a skein?

© November 14, 2013 by Amelia of Ask The Bellwether

A post on tieing skeins, really? Yes, really. As a spinner, this is something I do a lot. Every time I have a full spindle or bobbin of yarn ready to be finished (with a gentle wash, usually), I have to skein it up.

That skein has a lifespan with chapters: first, it needs a wash. After washing, it is reskeined for storage. It might then be reskeined in preparation for the county fair or dyeing.

In this video, I show the skeining of the spindle-spun singles that are destined for the county fair:

Here are some skein facts for you:

  • For two ounces or more, I wind 2-yard skeins. For less, I usually wind an arm skein (like winding an extension cord, around your arm).
  • I will tie most 2-yard skeins, sock-weight or thicker, in 4 places. Skeiners such as the one in the video, and niddy-noddies, conveniently wind skeins with 4 posts in the skein. So it's easy to decide where to tie it.
  • For finer yarned 2-yard skeins, I will put 6-8 ties in. the last thing I want is for the skein to get disorganized in the sink.
  • For arm-skeins, I use 3 ties for most yarns, 4-5 ties for finer yarns.

As shown in the video, the first skein winding, of to-be-washed yarn, uses self-ties. The inner end, at the start of the skein, is self-tied around the skein: wrap the end around the skein and tie it to itself the way you tie a shoe or a ribbon before making a bow; not pulled tight, not loose, just so the yarn wrap rests on the surface of the yarn it goes around. The outer end is then taken and unwrapped as far around as it needs to be, including pulling it out from under the first tie, to put ties on the other three sides (the extra lace weight ties I will add after with cotton string). For those three sides, the first two ties are simple half-hitches around the skein, snugged up to the surface of the skein but not pulled tight. On the final side, the end of the skein is self-tied.

Why so precise? To be efficient, actually. I am going to have to rewind the skein to make it tidy and separate any clingy strands. Experience has taught me that it is easier to rewind a skein if I start from what was the outside the first time I wound it ... basically, reverse the winding. that's because strands collapse in and disturb the inner wraps as you wind a skein.

Starting with the inside end, strands tend to be more likely to tangle and be difficult to separate. Starting at the outside, I am pulling off the strands in reverse order. To be extreme, it's a bit like unstacking a cord of wood, where do you start? At the top, taking wood off in the reverse order you put it on the stack (more or less, since the pieces aren't strung together like the fiber in your yarn is). I don't know anyone who unstacks woodpiles from the bottom.

And, with how I have tied the skein, I can easily tell which end is the outside end: the one that makes three ties.

And and: The inner tie only has to undo a short length, so it won't get discombobulated or be in the way as I rewind. I can tuck that short end back under the skein.

The longer end is the end I wind from. Very obvious which one to use, and I have a nice long run to run between my swift (holding the skein) and my skeiner, which I wind the skein onto.

Whew! So, how do I tie the reskeined skein? For storage, I will grab the nearest cotton string and put on 4 ties (or more, for fine yarns, or fewer for small skeins). For those, I usually use the "classic" figure-8 tie as described by Spin-Off Magazine. Here's the picture from my book Productive Spindling showing a 3-tied arm-skein:

Notice that I have not used the skein yarn itself in these ties. The ends lie flat within the yarn of the skein.

When the skein is prepared for the county fair, I will cut lengths from the skein itself, or if it is very precious, find an inobtrusive yarn in my stash of similar color and the same thickness or finer. These lengths are used to replace the cotton ties when the skein is retied for the fair.

When the skein is prepared for dyeing, I use very obvious ties in a material that won't take up the dye: white or cream acrylic, usually. I may put on a few extra ties for dyeing, as I need them to be loose enough for water and dye to make it through the tied area. Those pale acrylic ties are easy to spot in the dyepot, allowing me to lift out the skein without turning it into a pot of spaghetti yarn.

The style of tie on my skein tells me what its status is, another benefit to my thoroughly thought-out skein-tyeing philosophy.

That is how I tie a skein. How about you?


© November 14, 2013 by Amelia of Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/

2 comments:

pecunium said...

I run a treble loop through the skein with a tapestry needle, using fine linen cooking twine.

Let's see if I can explain it.

Thread the needle, run through the skein from the back, and then out again, so that about 1/3rds is between the ends.

Cross the twine behind (I use an overhand/half-hitch, to make it more secure, but this isn't needed).

Pull around the outside, and tie-off with a sheet-bend/square knot.

I tuck the ends of the skein into the bend, so it's easy to find them.

The nice thing is that cutting the twine, at any point, makes it possible to just slip the twine off the skein.

pecunium said...

I run a treble loop through the skein with a tapestry needle, using fine linen cooking twine.

Let's see if I can explain it.

Thread the needle, run through the skein from the back, and then out again, so that about 1/3rds is between the ends.

Cross the twine behind (I use an overhand/half-hitch, to make it more secure, but this isn't needed).

Pull around the outside, and tie-off with a sheet-bend/square knot.

I tuck the ends of the skein into the bend, so it's easy to find them.

The nice thing is that cutting the twine, at any point, makes it possible to just slip the twine off the skein.