Rescue operation

Last week I released a video where I tried to learn Andean spinning. Towards the end of the video I showed some clips of how the yarn got all tangled and we needed to shoot the scene again. Several followers commented on this and said that they especially liked this part. So, for this week’s post I will take you along on a rescue operation of a spinning project gone south. I did manage to take pictures during the operation. They are of poor quality, but they do their job in showing you what happened.

A pattern request

In February I was asked to write an article and pattern description for Spin-Off magazine. The deadline was short and I needed to spin a yarn, knit a pair of mittens, analyze and write the article and the pattern description. The pattern was in twined knitting, which is quite time consuming.

An open magazine showing an article with pictures of a Pinner and a pair of mittens.
Article and pattern in Spin-Off magazine.

Spinning gone south

I was quite stressed out by this and started spinning immediately. I asked a spinning friend who has made several twined knitting project how she prefered her Z-plied yarn. She said that she liked it with a high twist so that the yarn would be nice and round. A higher twist makes the patterns in twined knitting stand out more, she added. So I started spinning with a lot more twist than I usually do.

But for some reason, my fiber didn’t want to be spun with high twist. Perhaps the fibers were too long, combined with the low (or non-existing) crimp. Perhaps I didn’t understand how to adjust tension and intake. The yarn turned into phone cord with curls all over.

I was a bit bothered by this, but hoped that my problem would solve itself when I plied the yarn.

It didn’t.

Yarn with uneven and curly parts.
This is not publication worthy yarn. The twist is too high and has started to build up phone cord curls all over. It needs a rescue operation.

My assignment for the magazine hovered in my head and I realized that I needed to take some serious action. I decided to implement a rescue operation and respin the yarn.

Rescue operation

The problem was in the singles, but I had already plied the yarn. Therefore I needed to unply the yarn, ease the twist in the singles and reply.

Unply, ease and reply.

This is how I did it:


I put the bobbin with the plied yarn on the flyer and treadled the same amount of treadles as in the plying process, only against the plying direction. After having unplied a section of yarn I rolled each singles section onto a separate bobbin. If there was still ply left, I shifted the bobbins to undo the rest of the plies.

Close-up of a person spinning on a spinning wheel. She is holding two bobbins of singles in her lap. The singles are attached to a plied yarn on the flyer.
To unply the yarn I turn the wheel against the plying direction and store the singles on separate bobbins in my lap.

This process took around an hour and a half for each skein. I had two. It also took some blood, sweat and tears. I had lots. When the yarn was fully unplied I wound the singles onto my niddy-noddy to make skeins.

Overtwisted singles.
Back to the over twisted singles.

I then soaked the skeins of singles overnight.

A soaking skein of singles yarn. The yarn is heavily over twisted and plies back on itself.
Poor little over twisted single needs a bath.


To ease some of the twist I rolled the singles onto bobbins again and ran them through the spinning wheel against the spinning direction until the curls had let go.

A bobbin of singles yarn. The yarn looks mangled.
Singles with eased twist.

The singles looked a bit tousled and shocked, but who can blame them? They had been through a gruesome ordeal.


The final step of the rescue operation was to reply the singles into a balanced 2-ply yarn. This went quite smoothly. I made a skein and soaked overnight. The operation was successful and the patient recovered.

There were a few curls left after the operation. I see them as a reminder not to spin under pressure. The yarn had less twist than I had wished for in the beginning, but it was free of phone cord curls and well behaved, which was more important.

Patient released, lesson learned

I got it all done on schedule. I made my analysis, knit the mittens, wrote the pattern and article and submitted the night before deadline.

The name of the article was Twist analysis.

The irony.

Lesson learned:

  • Listen to your friends.
  • Listen to the wool.
  • If friends and wool contradict each other: Think. And listen to your gut feeling.
  • Don’t spin under pressure.
  • If spinning under pressure, you are less likely to think or pay attention to any gut feeling.
  • Don’t spin under pressure. Really.
Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.
Finished Heartwarming mitts knit with mended handspun yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin

You can buy the Spin-off issue with the article and pattern here. You can also check out the pattern on Ravelry.

Happy spinning!

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7 Replies to “Rescue operation”

  1. To be honest, I love accounts about things going wrong and what the author learned in the process of salvaging even more than straight up how-tos. It helps the recovering perfectionist in me to remember that mistakes are a sometimes frustrating but vital part of doing anything, and that I can learn so much more from them than from having everything work out smoothly.
    Thanks for sharing!

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