We’ve spent a lot of time discussing fiber prep and spinning techniques in past entries on the Louet blog; today, we want to talk about what happens after the spinning is done!
Before you begin to knit, crochet or weave with your handspun yarn, there are a few steps which will make your finished yarn both prettier and easier to work with. Today, we’ll be talking about plied worsted and semi-worsted spun yarns for the sake of brevity; note that single-ply and woolen spun yarns will require slightly different finishing techniques.
First, we recommend first winding it into a skein using a niddy noddy, which allows you to measure your yardage in the process; our own niddy noddy is a half-yard, meaning you can multiply the number of wraps around the niddy noddy by the length to find your total yardage. If you don’t have a niddy noddy, try using a swift or the back of a chair to skein your yarn (though you won’t be able to calculate the yardage unless you happen to know the circumference around your skeining device).
Skeining your yarn also allows you to wash your it in warm water with a no-rinse fiber wash such as Soak. You’ll definitely want to add some ties to your skein with scrap yarn to prevent future tangles like so:
This step helps the fibers relax and sets the twist in the skein. If you find that your plied yarn is energetic and often twists back upon itself, taking the time to rinse your skein can help calm it down to make working with it much easier down the road. You only need to let your skein soak for about 10-20 minutes, then remove it from the water and ever-so-gently squeeze out the excess water, being careful not to wring in the process. If you intend to knit or crochet with your yarn, hang it up to dry unweighted; weavers may wish to weight the skein as it dries with a soup can or spray bottle for a straighter yarn.
Even if you have measured your skein on the niddy noddy prior to rinsing, you’ll want to measure it again once your yarn is dried. Remember when we said that soaking the skein can help your yarn relax? This may very well affect your finished yardage, so it’s a great idea to wind your yarn back onto the niddy noddy to take a second measurement. There are plenty of alternatives for measuring your yarn such as a yardage counter, yarn balance, using a kitchen scale, or even using a yard stick if you don’t have a niddy noddy, too!
You’ll also want to weigh your skein and calculate the WPI (wraps per inch) to help you determine what size needles or hook you should use with the yarn. To calculate your WPI, you can either use a special notched tool (known as a WPI gauge) or a ruler, then simply wrap your yarn around it. Try to get each strand close to the next without wrapping too tightly; then, simply count the strands you have in the inch measurement; in this example, the yarn has a measurement of 6 WPI, categorizing it as a bulky weight (click here to see the Ravelry standard yarn weights to help you determine your yarn’s weight based on WPI).
If you don’t plan on using your handspun yarn right away, make sure you write down all of this information on a tag which you can include with your skeins; it might also help to make use of Ravelry’s handspun stash features for future reference.