Twist and Shout.

“Spinning Yarns that were so lyrical

I really must confess right here

The attraction was purely physical”

 Rod Stewart- You’re in my heart.



In this edition of Rivertalk, I’d like to talk about twist in yarn – in particular, wool.

However, there is a disclaimer here.  Yarn attraction, at all stages, is personal preference.  Just because yarn manufacturers followed rules does not mean we yarn users have to do the same.  The following is intended as general information only.

“Lets Twist again”

Twist is required in yarn to hold the fibres together for strength. Generally this strength is required at the spinning stage to allow for further processing (which is why Rod Stewart’s song got a look in!) Further twist, added at the plying stages could generally said to be used more to balance the yarn than for strength.


Funky twist blue green

How much twist is good? That’s personal choice, but here’s a sort-of rule-of thumb.
The amount of twist in yarn defines the look of your end product, and its end use. A yarn with more twist will highlight a cable pattern (for example) beautifully, but a yarn with less twist will highlight the yarn itself delightfully.

Fine wools- more twist; coarse wools- less twist. Silk and filament fibres don’t require much twist at all. Acrylic yarns require much less twist at spinning, but require more twist at plying to balance the yarn.


“You spin me right round baby”.

Worsted spun yarns require more twist than woollen spun, and I’ll get a little technical here.
Worsted yarns have been through carding and combing processes, (gilling) to remove shorter fibres and to align the fibres for further processing –so they all run the same way; therefore there is less space between the fibres. Worsted spun fibre or roving can feel smooth, almost slippery, for this reason, but needs more twist at spinning to hold it together. This yarn will drape well.
Woollen spun yarns are carded to spread the fibres, but are generally not gilled, so the fibres are not as aligned. Woollen spun yarn is more airy. The fact that the fibres are not aligned and still have shorter fibres in the sliver gives it some strength, which means it requires less twist. The shorter fibres can also tend to add a bit of a ‘halo’ effect to the spun yarn.
Generally, if you spin your own fibre, it would be a woollen-spun process, not worsted spun.

If you were to break a single-end worsted-spun yarn between your two hands, it should give a slight ‘snap’. A woollen spun singles would gently separate, almost ‘tear’.
As a weaver, if your yarn doesn’t ‘snap’, then it probably doesn’t have enough strength to withstand warp tension. But, as a weaver, understand that many carpet and rug yarns are made via the Woollen process, just with a lot of twist.

How much twist?

Please note- the following are examples only and not accurate to any particular product. You, as a spinner, weaver or knitter know EXACTLY the type of yarn you like best –you just may not have realised that a lot of what you like about the yarn comes from the twist.
A Worsted yarn that is going to end up as an 8 ply might be spun with about 5 turns per inch (197 turns per metre). A woollen yarn for an 8 ply may only require 3 turns per inch. (118tpm)
A woollen yarn being made for carpet or weaving could be spun with 7 or 8 tpi. (295 tpm)
A folding twist would generally need less TPI than the spinning twist.

“Which way will I turn?”

Twist directions are known as S twist(forward) or Z twist (reverse). S runs from left to right, Z from right to left.
Generally, the first twist would be twisted in one direction, then when you ply the ends together you’d go the opposite direction, and if you wanted a crepe yarn, then you’d go the same direction as the spun twist.
Aussies generally start with a spinning twist as Z twist, and folding twist as S twist, but do feel that this is a rule set in concrete for your hand spuns. It’s rumoured that Italian suit makers spin to an S twist, then ply to a Z twist, and there is some debate too, about crochet patterns responding better to different twist directions.
Experimentation is the key.


“Twisting by the yarn pool”.

Let’s add to your stash. If you are not a spinner, but you want to experiment yourself, I have a special offer. I’ve called it a comparison kit, and it is on the website here for only $4.00, plus postage. ($8.25)
It consists of 2 X 40gm centre-pull cake samples of undyed 8 ply 29 micron wool. Both samples have the spun twist as Z, both have the second twist as S, but one sample has the third twist (the crepe twist) as Z, which is ‘correct’, and the other has a ‘faulty’ twist as S.
The difference will be immediately obvious to you when you receive them, more so when you knit or crochet them, and possibly even more when you wash them.
Which one will you prefer? I will be very interested to know.

The team at Platypus Yarn value our readers. Please feel free to comment, we gratefully accept all feedback, good and bad.

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Weaving a yarn: Kelly’s story.

“There she weaves by night and day, a magic web with colours gay” -Alfred Lord Tennyson.


I’ve always been interested in weaving, but I am a beginner, and I keep running into problems; my yarn is too static, the pattern doesn’t work, my warp breaks or slackens.

I am thrilled then, to talk with Kelly Casanova, a textile and fibre artist.  Kelly has an etsy shop called kellycasanovaart 


Kelly dyes, spins, sews, embroiders and weaves.  And it is weaving that I am talking about to her today.  True to those who know their stuff inside out and back to front, she has given me answers to some of the issues I have.

Whether you are experienced  or a beginner, I am sure you too, will find this interesting.

Platypus: Who are you?

Hi, I’m Kelly – a wife and home schooling Mum to 4 and an avid fibre enthusiast. Most of my free time is spent weaving but I also love to dye, knit, spin, sew, embroider and indulge in a little photography. I am committed to using Australian wool, not only because I believe it to be some of the best in the world, but also to support the local industries of our beautiful country.

Platypus: Can you provide a brief outline of how you weave.

Currently I weave on a rigid heddle loom and have plans (one day!) to upgrade to a floor loom. I like to have a hand in any process I’m working at from start to finish, wherever possible. To that end, I dye most yarn for weaving projects myself (I also spin fleece I have dyed into unique yarns), weave the project – often handstitching the garment on the loom or sewing together once off the loom, photographing and finally wrapping and packing to send to a customer. It is important to me that my projects are unique, authentic and 100% Australian grown and made.

Kelly yarns
I often warp the loom on one day and begin weaving the next. This is because warping can be a lengthy process (depending on the project) and I mostly work at night.
People often ask me “how long did it take”. I usually shrug my shoulders or say either “not long” or “a long time!” I don’t pay too much attention to the time it takes me to complete a project. Perhaps if I thought about it too much I wouldn’t even start some projects that are an investment of many hours! I feel that it is much better that I am completely happy with a project, that I learn by making it and that it brings joy to me as the maker and somebody else as the buyer or recipient than to be hung up on how long it took.
I like to weave mostly functional items, being a practical person I like to know that my work is being used somehow, whether it’s a beautiful shawl to keep someone warm or a lovely kitchen towel that is a bit more luxurious and unique than your everyday towel.

kelly teatowel

Platypus: When did you start weaving?

I have always been a creative person and studied photography and painting at high school. After we were blessed with children, the desire to be creative became very strong and I started to build my skills, first with sewing classes, then an embroidery course, and from there I found it difficult to stop – in fact, I haven’t stopped! The wonderful part of learning so many creative skills is that you reach a point where the skills all combine, sometimes seamlessly. Most of the skills I have learned over the years are an immense help in weaving. I have only been weaving for 2 years but have advanced very quickly due to previous skills and knowledge and a whole lot of enthusiasm and experimentation!

Platypus: Do you have favourite accessories, or equipment that have been a bonus for you?

One of the great things about a weaving loom is that you can add equipment over time. For example, my loom came with one heddle size which was great to begin with, but now I have 3 different sized heddles for different weight yarns. The absolute best thing I have purchased for the loom in more recent times is two pick up sticks. What is a pick up stick? A flat, wooden stick with a tapered end. What does it do? Wonderful things! Armed with just one pick up stick you can create all kinds of patterns with a rigid heddle loom. My type of loom has only 2 shafts, so is one of the most simple looms on the market – however, with the pick up sticks you can create extra shafts and make a huge number of very interesting patterns. My weaving has become very exciting with the addition of these humble sticks. Rigid heddle looms are easy to obtain in Australia.
Platypus: Where do your ideas come from?

The ideas just don’t stop with me! I have a creative journal on hand so that I can sketch and scrawl new ideas – otherwise I forget them. I have a lengthy mental queue of future projects, and often a new idea will usurp my plans as I get new ideas through the physical acts of dyeing and weaving. I have a rather large weaving board on Pinterest and this is a great source of inspiration, as well as weaving groups on Facebook. I love books and beautiful magazines too.

Platypus: What is the best part- starting a project or finishing a project? Or halfway through? Or all.

I tend to agonise over a new project for a little while before I start. I’m a bit of a planner and because a lot of my projects are experimental I like to be a little bit careful. I hate wasting yarn and I hate it when something doesn’t turn out how I envisioned, so I go to great pains to avoid these outcomes! I do absolutely love finishing a project, cutting, unrolling from the loom and really seeing it for the first time as a whole piece. Most of the time I am overjoyed with what I see and if I’m not, at least I have learned. Every project teaches me something. I also love the process of photographing and sharing online, it is great to receive feedback and share what you’ve learned.

kelly scarf2

Platypus: Are there downsides?

Currently, my family commitments far outweigh my creative time. I weave mostly at night when the kids are in bed, which is not always optimal as I get tired at the end of the day. At the same time, I am so grateful to be able to pursue creative outlets in my own home and with my family. If I weave for a larger block of time I do get sore shoulders. The cost of setting up with a rigid heddle loom is quite affordable, particularly if you’re lucky enough to find one second hand. It is also relatively small and very portable. A floor loom, on the other hand is a large investment, so I may have to wait a long time to make that happen!
Another downside I have discovered is that Australian yarns from a weaving perspective are very limited. Particularly when using lighter weight yarns or materials like tencel and silk, there is little choice but to order from overseas or at least an overseas product from an Australian retailer. I think this is a great shame, we have such fabulous natural resources here but there is not enough demand.

Platypus: What tips would you give to someone (like me!) wishing to start.
I wanted to start weaving because there was something about hand woven cloth that absolutely captivated me. I waited, I researched, I talked to a lot of people, I got the support of my husband and after buying my loom I haven’t looked back. It was absolutely worth the money and has changed my life for the better. I didn’t do any classes for weaving, but if you’re unsure, a class can be a brilliant way of having a go without committing to a loom. There are weaver’s guilds in almost every state, some yarn shops offer classes and if these aren’t available Craftsy and Interweave have online classes so you can at least see how it’s done. Then there is Youtube, lots of information to be found there. Have a look at your library for books as well.

If you are already weaving but are unsure, get yourself a chart on sett and epi. It helps to understand which heddle you need to use for which weight of yarn. For example, for an 8 ply yarn I use a 7.5 dent heddle but for a 4ply I use a 10 dent heddle. Usually if I have warped with an 8ply I will weave with an 8ply as well to obtain a balanced weave – but this is adaptable too.
I work almost exclusively in wool and cotton, but many other types of yarn can be used. Some people use acrylics and this is fine if it is what you like and is appropriate for the project.
One important point on warp yarns – make sure it’s strong enough. Give it a tug between your hands before using – is it likely to break? Broken warp yarns are a bit of a pain (ask me how I know!) If you have a yarn that isn’t strong but you love it, use it for the weft – it doesn’t have to take stress under tension like the warp does.

Kelly spun
Consider how your yarns are going to be together. For example, if you use an acrylic for the warp and a merino wool for the weft, how are they going to wash up together? Is one going to shrink and warp your garment?
“Sticky” yarns can be problematic. I once used an alpaca yarn to weave a scarf that ended up being awfully sticky and made it difficult to get a clear shed (or gap) to place the shuttle through.
Platypus: And what would you advise them NEVER to do?

Never listen when people tell you “you can’t do that” or “what a waste of time!” I heard a woman once say (a non creative, obviously) about one of my favourite yarn shops “those places are for people with too much time on their hands”. What rubbish! It’s how you choose to utilise your time that matters. Using your time to create beautiful and unique items with your hands is simply a wonderful, natural thing to do.


Platypus: Can we buy your product? If so, where?

You can find my etsy shop here
My Facebook page here
And sometimes I even update my blog here!

The team at Platypus Yarn value our readers. Please feel free to comment, we gratefully accept all feedback, good and bad.

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Yarn addiction turns into a business.

I know I have said this before, but it really amazes me how there are so many talented fibre and yarn people out there, and I must say that I feel it is a priveledge to be a supplier to such folk.  I am a small step in the creation of great magic.

One of Platypus Yarns first ever customers was the lovely Kira from Teggletots, who purchased some undyed yarn from us to dye.  I was absolutely blown away by the end results, and was thrilled when she agreed to this interview. You will find lots of tips and inspiration.

Jade: Tell us about yourself.

Kira:  Hi! I’m Kira from Teggle Tots. I’m a stay at home Mum of 3, aged 2, 9 & 11. My home is currently in the North West of beautiful Tasmania. I am a self confessed yarn addict who loves knitting, crochet and dyeing beautiful variegated and semi-solid yarns.

Jade: Can you provide a brief outline of how you dye your yarn.

Kira:  The first thing I do, once the yarn is skeined, is soak my yarn in lukewarm water with a glug (technical terms here 😉 ) of white vinegar.

Skeined Yarn

 If you are using a machine washable yarn you will only need to soak it while you are preparing your dyes. Non-superwash will need soaking longer, preferably a few hours at least, till there are no ‘shiny’ spots left.

While the yarn is soaking you need to get your dyes organised. The dyes I use are in powder form so need to be dissolved in water before using. You can be technical and measure out the dye powder if you want to be able to repeat the result or just go by feel and add a bit at a time.
Try to be a little restrained with the amount of dye you use. Remember if the result comes out lighter than you wanted you can always overdye it. If you use to much dye the yarn won’t take it all up and you will be rinsing the excess out and wasting your hard earned money!

You can either put the dye in the pot before the yarn or put the yarn in first and tip the dye over it. You will get different results depending on which way you go.
Turn the heat on and warm it till it is just simmering, you don’t want it to boil.

Move the yarn so you don’t end up with white bits.

Once the yarn and the dye are both in the pot use a spoon to gently move the yarn a little to get the dye right the way through so you don’t end up with white bits.

If you have used the right amount of dye the dye bath should ‘exhaust’ (go clear) and you can then remove the yarn to let it cool. Be careful! The yarn will be HOT!!

Once the yarn is cool, rinse the yarn in cool water until it runs clear. Hang your yarn up to dry and marvel at your wonderful creation!

The beginning of gorgeous.


Jade: When did you start dyeing?

Kira: I started out dyeing yarns around a year ago now. I had seen all these gorgeous hand dyed yarns online and wanted to have a go myself.
I began with researching different techniques online and finding what information I could. From what I came across it sounded like food dyes were the best place to start. I got some food colour from the local supermarket and found some white wool yarn in my stash. It was the beginning of an obsession with playing with colour!
After a few tries with food dye, I went back online and found out about acid dyes. I got some Landscape dyes and the results were so vibrant, I decided not to use food dyes anymore.
Jade: Do you have favourite accessories, or equipment that have been a bonus for you?

Kira:   I simply couldn’t get by without the upright yarn swift my Husband built for me. It has adjustable rods so I can change the length of the skein depending on what I need. It’s made from recycled timbers so it was reasonably cheap too. 

Kira’s yarn swift.

The majority of my base yarns are Australian or New Zealand grown. If I can I buy direct from the mill. If this isn’t possible, I try to make sure I purchase from an Australian business to help support our local industry. The only issue with this is, because they are smaller mills, that sometimes they can run low on stock.
The dyes I use are Australian as well and are made by Kraftkolour, a local Australian business.

Jade: Where do your ideas come from?

Kira:   Most of the time my inspiration comes from pictures. I also get requests from designers to create colours for their designs. For example the Leaving Kansas collaboration with Whirlsie’s Designs uses 3 base pictures, a field of wheat, a field of sunflowers and a tornado. I look at the colours in the picture and try to pull the yarn colours from that. Another collaboration I am working on is with Faithfully Yours Designs and is based around 4 characters from a TV series. The colourways were inspired by the ‘feel’ of each character.

On occasion I will have a colourway come to me and I then try to find a corresponding picture to go with it. I recently created a ‘Dragon’ colourway that came to me when I was laying in bed one night. I then spent the next day trying to find a picture that matched what was in my head so people could see where the colours were drawn from.


Jade: What is the best part- starting a project or finishing a project? Or halfway through? Or all.
Kira:  The best part for me is seeing the colours in the dye pot. I love taking the yarn out and watching the colours as they dry. The freedom to play with colour and add a bit of this one and a bit of that one and just waiting to see how it turns out is extremely rewarding.
I also love seeing what people create with the yarns I have dyed. It feels very fulfilling to see a beautifully knitted or crocheted piece and know that you dyed the yarn that was used.

Jade:What are the downsides of what you do?
Kira: I think the major downside would be the preparation time involved. Most yarns come in bulk either on a cone or in a 1kg hank and have to put split up and skeined ready for dyeing.

Yarn prior to being skeined onto workable size hanks.

It also takes a lot of room to dry the yarn, and being in North West Tasmania, the weather can be very unkind to yarn drying. When the weather is bad, I have to dry the yarn inside, which can be difficult with a toddler running around and wanting to play with the pretty yarn!

Jade: What tips would you give to someone wishing to try this?
Kira:  Get some food dye, some white/ cream wool yarn and just have FUN!! There are no mistakes in yarn dyeing, just unexpected results!

( insert from Platypus yarn here -we sell undyed yarn on 112gram hanks, perfectly sized,ready to dye.)

Kira:  If you like to plan and research then the internet is a wealth of information. There are also many groups and forums you can join, such a Ravelry or groups on Facebook, where you can ask questions, read other peoples experiences and get ideas.
For the more hands on learners there are a number of people who run classes on dyeing and the different techniques involved. Contact your state spinners and weavers guild who can give you ideas of who to contact.

Platypus: And what would you advise them NEVER to do?
This could be a story of experience, or a warning, or just a funny incident related to the specialty.
Never ever tip boiling water into a glass jar to mix your dye’s up!!! I made this mistake once, and only once, and ended up with a lovely black bench. Needless to say, I haven’t done that again! 

The bench!

Make sure you always wear gloves as well. Multi coloured hands can be a difficult look to pull off 😉

Who needs tattoo's?
Who needs tattoo’s?

Platypus:Can we buy your product? If so, where?

Kira:  I sell my yarns on my Facebook page ( and also have a Ravelry group ( where you can find info about any stockings that are coming up.

Jade:  Thank you so much for your time Kira.


The team at Platypus Yarn value our readers. Please feel free to comment, we gratefully accept all feedback, good and bad.

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Unlevel Dyeing of Protein Fibres -repair and prevention

Unlevel 2

You enjoy your crafts and home dyeing sounds interesting and fun,  so you think “why not give it a go”. Trouble is, the wool you dyed came out patchy and uneven, not the solid colour you were hoping for. Well, take heart, you’re not the first. You’ve produced an unlevel dyeing, and even in professional dyehouses this can still happen.

What’s happened is the dye has gone onto the fibre too fast (strike) and in the subsequent completion of the dyeing process the dye hasn’t dispersed through the fibre (migration).  Control and management of these two factors- strike and migration – are the key to level dyeing of protein fibres.

Repair of unlevel protein fibre dyeings

Can my unlevel dyeing be repaired?

Maybe. Firstly, lets look at the type of dye you have used.

If you have used reactive dyes (Lanasol, Procion, Drimalan) then I’m sorry, these dyes don’t shift, you’ll either have to use your item as it is or overdye it to a much darker colour. Typically, reactive dyes on wool are only used for very dark colours where a high wash fastness is required. I would recommend that you don’t use them unless it is unavoidable.

However,If you have used Acid dyes (Lanaset, Acid milling, pre-metallised dyes etc) then re-levelling your item is worth a try.

Re-levelling without a levelling agent.

Set a neutral dyebath (no vinegar/acid) using 35% of the original amount of dye. If you normally use salt in your dyeings, then add 5 to 10% on weight of goods (eg.5 to10 grams for a 100 gram item).

What you also need is a levelling agent that will promote the even migration of the dye throughout your item. You could try using a plain dishwashing detergent; 4 grams for every litre of your dyebath. For this method keep you liquor ration to 10 or 12:1 (eg. dyebath volume of 1.2 litres for a 100 gram item.)

So if you have  210 grams of yarn,  you will need about 2.4 litres of water, a little over 8 grams of detergent and 35% or less of your original dye amount. (Plus10 to 20grams of salt if you use it)

Heat your dyebath to a weak boil & hold for 15 to 20 minutes, then cool, rinse & finish as normal. Hopefully you have now got a level dyeing.

Re-levelling with a levelling agent.

I can’t guarantee that the method above, using dishwashing detergent will work.

A far better option, especially if the garment or yarn is precious, would be to use a purpose designed wool levelling agent. Use the above method but instead of the detergent use 3% on weight of goods of the levelling agent. Albegal SET is a very good product.

So, for  210gms of wool, use about 6.7mls of Albegal SET, 2.4 litres of water and 35% or less of your original dye amount. Heat your dyebath to a weak boil & hold for 15 to 20 minutes, then cool, rinse & finish as normal.

Please note; re-levelling may alter the colour of your item, it’s more likely to be weaker than darker. If this is a concern add more dye at the start of the re-levelling process.

Prevention of unlevel protein fibre dyeings

  1. Pre-wash your items. Use a small amount of a mild detergent and hand wash your item in warm water (40-50’C) for 5 minutes. This will help to thoroughly wet out your item, remove any water repelling oils & in the case of machine washable wool, help neutralise the pH. No need to rinse afterwards, just squeeze out the excess water.
  2. Use Sodium Sulphate (Glaubers Salt) in your dyebath – between 5% and 10% on weight of goods. Glaubers Salt has a retarding/levelling effect when using acid dyes.
  3. Buffer your additions of acid (vinegar or citric acid). Instead of adding it all at the start, break it up into 4 or 5 portions and add it in stages throughout the dyeing process. Protein fibres require an acid pH (below 7) for the dye to bond to the fibre. The lower the pH the faster the dye will strike onto the fibre. Pale colours only need a mildly acid dyebath; very dark colours need a lower pH. Note: The process to make wool machine washable gives it a higher dye affinity, dyeing pale colours may not require any acid.
  4. Use a levelling agent. You could try dishwashing detergent – between 1 & 2 grams for every litre of your dyebath. Much better is a chemically product designed for the job. These work in two ways, either they join with the fibre or the dye. These bonds slowly break as the dyebath heats allowing even absorption of the dye onto the fibre. Use 1% on weight of the item being dyed.
  5. Don’t start the dyeing too hot and control your heating rate. Begin at around 38’C (starting cold is also okay) and heat to 96°C at around 1°C per minute. Use pauses in heating to achieve this. Be patient, slower is better.
  6. Some sort of movement of the dyebath is needed. Stir, shake or rattle, find some way to have the dyebath gently moving through the fibre.

Hopefully some or all of these steps will help you achieve a nice even dyeing of your items. If you have any specific questions pass them onto Jade ( I’ll attempt to answer.

Dr Dyer.



The team at Platypus Yarn value our readers. Please feel free to comment, we gratefully accept all feedback, good and bad.

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