Why does my yarn drift apart when I'm plying?

Pure Snow - handspun BFL/Alpaca available on byourhands.etsy.comFirst ... thanks for all the input on plying.

Buuut, before I go there, I have a question remaining from the one that brought up plying. Actually, I've also discussed this here and here. But some new thoughts percolated up, so let's do this one more time :-) ...

Sometimes, when you ply, one of the singles in the ply separates and drifts apart. Before you know it, you have one strand merrily getting untwisted and feeding onto your wheel, and the other one just sitting immobile in your supposedly plying hand. Eeek!

How'd That Happen? you ask yourself. Believe me, I've asked myself this, too!

I find this happens to me the most when I am spinning cotton. And not because it's cotton ... but because it's a high twist single, and thus a high twist ply, too.

You're putting twist in as you ply, which means you're taking twist out of the single. If there's a length of the single that's underspun, then chances are, if it's underspun enough, the plying twist can completely unspin it, and it can separate while you are plying.

What causes a length of the single to be underspun? Several possibilities:
  • twist travels to thinner spots as you spin the single. So, thicker spots will have less twist in them. If you have a thin spot, followed by a longish thick spot, followed by a thin spot, alot of the twist in that length will be in the thin spots.

    When you ply, that thick spot could be completely unspun ... and if it's longer than your staple length, chances are good it will drift apart, too. Oopsie.

  • could be your rhythm changed for a short period of time -- one of the kids called and you let some of the fiber feed onto the wheel with less twist on it. Or something exciting happened in the movie you had on the telly. Or the phone rang. Or you got the hiccups. If your treadling slowed or your drafting sped up, then a length of fiber is likely to have less twist in it.

    When you ply, that underspun spot could be completely unspun ... and if it's longer than your staple length, chances are good it will drift apart, too. Oopsie, again.

  • could be the fiber drafted muuuch more easily for a short piece of time, or even got a bit away from you in the drafting; you didn't hang onto it to get the same twist in, and so it's on the bobbin or spindle with alot less twist than the surrounding singles.

    Say it with me this time ... When you ply, that underspun spot could be completely unspun ... and if it's longer than your staple length, chances are good it will drift apart, too. Oopsie!
So, you're getting the idea ... drifting apart of singles during plying is caused by irregular twist in the singles. Can you fix this during plying? If it's already separated, you can overlay the two separated ends and continue plying past that point. You can keep an eye open for underspun parts and put less plying twist in so they don't separate ~ though likely it's only one ply that's underspun, so the other ply will be underplied.

Irregular twist in the singles can be reduced by placing the singles on a kate (for spindle or wheel) as far from you as possible, across a room, and plying from that onto your spindle or wheel. As the singles travel to your hand, the twist in them gets a chance to move along that length. Now, if you have let your singles sit for a month or set their twist already, then the twist isn't going to shift much. But this can help some.

Can you fix this while you spin your singles?

On a spindle, there's a clever way to even out twist in the length of yarn as you spin -- unroll some of the old yarn from the spindle before you wind on the new yarn. This lets twist move between lengths to average twist out between twirls.

On a wheel, you can put your bobbin of singles far away from you (the further the better) and then quickly run it through, not trying to add twist, but spinning it back onto another bobbin. This lets the twist move along that long length between kate and wheel. This is easier to do than plying, when your singles are fresh -- since there isn't another single getting tangled up with the one you are rewinding.

Beyond that, practice. Practice getting twist consistent in your singles. Do alot of checking of samples against your base-line sample. And just keep spinning!


Next time: Do I Move to a Higher or Lower Ratio to Ply?

And also now in the queue: Why does my yarn drift apart when I'm spinning singles?


Got a spinning fiber question you'd like answered? Ask The Bellwether! Thanks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to tell you that your blog is amazing- just discovered it a few weeks ago and have already learned so much. Thanks for helping me become a better spinner!