Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Direction of Twist/Food for Thought

We spinners are used to spinning to the right and plying to the left. So much so that these directions have become hardwired in our brains, hands and feet. Spinning singles? Don’t you automatically start treadling your wheel clockwise?

Let’s start thinking about direction of twist a little bit from a knitter's perspective. Ever knit stockinette in the round with a millspun singles? Have you ever noticed that it seems like it’s coming untwisted as you knit, so that after a while, you see no twist at all in the yarn as it wraps around your needle? Do you think that is a good thing? Or not? Why?

The best way to get a good idea of how different directions of twist handle is to use the singles fresh, active, right off the bobbin. Pay attention to what is happening as you work different types of stitches, patterns, cables and the like. Alternate knitting 6 rows/rnds of stockinette with one direction of twist, then 6 rows/rnds with the opposite direction. Crochet with it too. You’ll really get an idea of how much twist you introduce into your yarn, what happens as you knit with it. Don’t spin? Knit a sample with singles and with plied yarn and look for the differences.

Plied yarns, although balanced, have their final direction of twist to the left. Try spinning a singles to the left and plying it to the right. Knit with it. Now what happens? How does it differ from your usual knitting with yarn that’s plied to the left?

What happens? What you do like about it? Don’t like? Why go to all this trouble? Everyone spins differently, knits differently to some degree. There is a real push nowadays to standardize knitting techniques, language, instructions. But knitting is far from standardized in the hands of knitters themselves. Many of us still knit as our mothers or grandmother taught us, techniques that have been handed down for generations. So here’s another question: when you wrap your knits and purls, is your yarn taking the same path around your needle? Do you wrap knits counterclockwise and purls clockwise (looking from the pointed end of the needle at your hands)? Many will say yes, but I don’t. Does it matter? It depends.

Ok. Now get ahold of some ribbon…something you can knit that has no twist in it whatsoever. Knit with it as usual. What happens? It twists. What do you do to keep it from twisting?

The reason I’m not answering these questions is that I want you to notice what’s happening for yourself. Because it will give you a better understanding of how you knit, a better understanding of yarn. It also will help you as a spinner to understand how much potential variety you have at your fingertips.

I have also posted this topic on Twisted Friends group on Ravelry so that it will be easier for you to have a running discussion amongst yourselves.

1 comment:

worldygirl said...

Good post and I'm going off to spin the other way and knit samples now...doing it myself and answering the questions you ask will help me imprint the experience in my brain (and hands).