I am on a Spinning yahoo group and they recently had a discussion about over-twist I thought I would share with you all:
I remember a vicious "twisted" cycle when I first started spinning
about 3 years ago. I would treadle faster to ensure adequate twist
so that the fiber would not break before being taken up by the
bobbin. To compensate for my slow drafting, I would also lower the
tension (Scotch Tension) and treadle faster. I would do anything to
avoid having the yarn sucked up by the bobbin and then having to re-
thread the bobbin. The lower tension and fast treadling decreased
the tendency for the yarn to break, but my resulting yarn was highly
overtwisted and basically had the texture of wire, even after
plying. The root cause of my dilemma was that I could not draft
quickly enough to keep up with my treadling. Or was I was treadling
too fast for my leisurely drafting? Either way I was producing
overly twisted, hard textured yarn that would never be next-to-skin
soft and could not be tamed with plying.
To break this cycle, which had quickly turned into a bad habit, I
had to force myself to treadle more slowly and really concentrate on
how much twist it actually took to make a fiber hold together as a
yarn. An important concept is that larger yarn or more fiber takes
less twist to hold together than smaller yarn with less fiber. That
doesn't mean that you have to spin larger yarns to get balance. You
just have to learn to control the amount of twist.
A very good exercise that helped me was to measure the amount of
twist in my singles yarns. This website describes the process in
Using the twist angle card is an excellent, hands-on, measurable way
to see what is actually going on with your yarn's twist. You may
have to use a magnifying glass to get a close enough look at your
yarn's twist angle, but it is worth all of the squinting. Working
with the twist angle card, I was able to adjust my spinning
technique to get yarns with more reasonable twist angles.
I can now spin soft textured singles that are balanced and behave
well after they have been steamed and blocked. I start by spinning
my yarn on my jumbo, plying bobbin that came with my Lendrum folding
wheel. Using this big bobbin and flyer assembly with a low whorl
ratio means the twist takes time to accumulate in the fiber and I'm
less likely to get carried away with the treadling or get ahead of
my drafting. After I've spun my big bobbin full of low-twist yarn,
I wind the singles directly off the bobbin onto a ball winder,
keeping it under tension so I don't get tangles. I then steam the
wound ball of singles in a vegetable steamer for about 30 minutes.
The yarn is damp when done steaming, not soggy. I wind the damp
yarn from the center end of the center pull ball directly onto a
large wooden swift that is set for a two-yard sized skein. I leave
the yarn on the swift for a day to dry. I then come back and either
tie the skein for storage or wind directly back to the ball winder
if I'm going to knit with the yarn soon. Before I had the swift, I
used a PVC kniddy knoddy to block and dry the yarn.
Measuring your twist angles and then modifying your treadling or
drafting accordingly will help improve your technique. As others
have mentioned, lots of practice helps reinforce good technique.
A singles yarn will always be "alive"! If you really want to work with
singles, then, to preserve your sanity, you probaby will need to block
it first. But I would then knit a test swatch and wash it to see if you
like what happens when the single comes back to life. And you may
really really like it!
If you want a yarn that is not "alive" in this sense, then you need to
ply it. This will result in a balanced yarn that will hang straight and
will be very easy to work with.
When you are knitting with singles with a lot of twist/energy, if you use a
combination of knit and purl stitches (i.e., ribbing, moss stitch, seed stitch,
etc.) the knitting fabric will be more balanced and have less tendency to
Also found This site which is the same as the twist angle one but this page talks about spinning low twist singles. As a knitter rather than a weaver, I think learning to spin low twist singles is a great idea. I find I gravitate to the unplied yarn at the LYS.
Hope this helps someone, even though I don't have a wheel yet, I found all of this info incredibly helpful for a newbie.