So why did I choose to use only Madelinetosh in my Mardi Gras blanket, rather than mixing it with some of my lovely yarns? Initially I was seduced by some some of their wonderful colours. (When you are on the road, visiting beautiful yarn stores and lonely for yarn, it’s so hard to resist.)
I had planned to mix in some of my own yarns too, but then I realized that I had a technical issue that precluded successful intermingling (IMHO). I’d like to explain why, but first we need a mini spinning lesson!
Most of the yarns we use for knitting are balanced yarns made up of two or more single ply yarns. In order to create a plied yarn, we have to begin with singles.
Unbalanced Yarns – Singles
The singles are usually created by spinning fiber with a Z twist. (The angle of the twist / is in the same direction as the middle of the Z.) Take a look at a piece of yarn, deconstruct it if necessary to check the individual plies.
A piece of yarn twisted in only one direction is an unbalanced yarn. It’s desperate to untwist to become comfortable again. Left to its own devices, it will want to ply with itself.
To see this in action, cut an 8” length of single ply yarn, hold both ends apart then immerse the yarn in water. Move your hands together to fold the yarn into a U shape, and see what happens. Does it ply? Aquacise for yarn! Here’s the test.
Balanced Yarns – Plied
Two or more Z twist singles are generally twisted (plied) together in the opposite direction (S twist-the angle of the ply twist \ is in the same direction as the middle of the letter S) to create a nice balanced yarn. The idea is that the amount of untwist put into the singles by this causes them to happily entwine together, with the overall result being a nearly neutral yarn. If you try the ‘aquacise’ trick with a plied yarn, there should be very little inclination to twist.
Stitches knit from balanced yarns look like VVVVV from the public side of stocking stitch. Have you ever noticed fabrics where the stitches look more like this l/l/l/l/l/l/l/l/ or \l\l\l\l\l\l\l\l\l ?
This is due to an imbalance in the twist in the yarn rather than any fault of the knitter.
There is nothing wrong with working with a non-neutral twist yarn, as long as you know what to expect.It may change your choice of garment construction or stitch pattern. Kathryn Alexander has specialized in working with energized yarns.
Don’t forget our January DVD combo of the month Knitting Gems 2, both the disc and virtual version for the price of the virtual DVD only.