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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