Jillian’s Spinning: Finishing Yarn

As I’m working on more samples for my Rhinebeck classes, I noticed how differently I finish my yarn now. Really, I noticed that I actually think about different ways to finish my yarn. I used to just do a quick soak in warm water and hang my yarn, sometimes it did what I thought, sometimes not. Recently, I’ve been adding more ply twist to my yarns, I like the look and I like the spring that it gives the yarn.

I decided to do some finish sampling – is anyone surprised? All of the yarns are two ply, spun woolen-ish, with extra ply twist. I finished them 5 different ways. There are more ways to finish, weighting, ironing, sizing and I’m sure more that I can’t think of right now. These are the five I do regularly.

5 different ways to finishing.
Finishing 5 ways.

This is what my yarn typically looks like when I take it off of the niddy noddy – sproing!

Two if by Hand Rambouillet, 2-ply not set.
Two if by Hand Rambouillet, 2-ply not set.

This is what it looks like after it’s been soaked in hot-ish water with some SOAK, rolled in a towel and then hung to dry. It’s still pretty lively, the twist is uneven.

Soaked in hot water and hung to dry.
Soaked in hot water and hung to dry.

The next sample I soaked in hot water with SOAK, but between rolling in a towel and hanging it, I snapped it. I snap a skein by putting my hands inside the skein, like I’m going to play cat’s cradle, then moving my hands apart quickly, snapping the yarn. Not hard enough to break it, but hard enough to get some water sprayed in your face. I do this about four times, sliding the skein around my hands so a different two points are across the backs of my hands each snap. I love how that little motion evens out the twist. This is the way I finish yarn most of the time.

soaked and snapped yarn.
Soaked and snapped yarn.

Then there’s whacking. A favorite of mine when I’m irritated at someone. I soak and roll like the first two, but before I hang it to dry, I beat the snot out of it. I literally hold one end of the skein and whack it against the floor, or counter. This one I whacked on the deck and scared the stupid squirrels who have been systematically stripping my hammock to shreds for their nests. Whacking evens out the twist and makes the yarn bloom. If a fiber or fiber blend  is inclined to be fuzzy or puff, whacking will get it there fast. If you want a smooth surfaced yarn, don’t whack.

Just soaked yarn top, whacked yarn bottom.
Just soaked yarn top, whacked yarn bottom.

Fulling is up. For this I use a bowl of water as hot as I can stand to put my hands in and a bowl of ice water. I soak the skein in one, squeeze it, then soak and squeeze in the other. Back and forth between hot and cold, not agitating, just squeezing most of the water out between bowls. This fulls the yarn, a light felting. It’s firms up a little, pulls together a little. It evens out the twist and stabilizes the yarn. This is my favorite finishing for singles.

Hot soak on right, hot/cold fulling on the left.
Hot soak on right, hot/cold fulling on the left.

Last is the full-on menace. Felting your skein. I learned an easy, un-hand-burny, way to do this in a Judith Mackenzie class. Use a sink plunger. I use a bowl of really hot water from my kettle and a bowl of ice water, the skein goes back and forth from hot to cold, but not gently. I menace that skein with the plunger, like a sink backed up after a hair dyeing slumber party. I’ve never taken it to hard felt, but I’ve gone to firm. The whole look and feel of the yarn changes and it resists pilling.

Menaced yarn left, soaked yarn right.
Menaced yarn left, soaked yarn right.

A downside to felting is shrinkage.

Felted yarn top, soaked yarn bottom.
Felted yarn top, soaked yarn bottom.

Those are my top five ways to finish, what’s your favorite?



(542 Posts)

Jillian is the​ author of the best-selling spinning book Yarnitecture. She is the editor​ of Knittyspin and Developmental Editor for PLY and PLY Books. She kinda loves this spinning thing and wants everyone who spins to love it too, so she teaches and writes a lot. She knits, weaves, and stitches and tries to do as much of it as she can with handspun yarn. She's always cooking up all kinds of exciting and creative things combining fiber arts. She likes her mysteries British, her walks woodsy, and to spend as much time as she can laughing. Spy on her on her website jillianmoreno.com

8 thoughts on “Jillian’s Spinning: Finishing Yarn

  1. EstherGrace

    I always whacked before but I’m going to try snapping too. It sounds like a better way to wash my face – two tasks accomplished for the effort of one. One task I like, the other I don’t so much.

  2. Alicia

    Wow, it’s amazing how some of the techniques were so strikingly different! I’ve always soaked, snapped, and whacked each skein. Now I will try to avoid whacking the ones that I want to stay sleek.

  3. Renee Anne

    For the few finished skeins I have, I’ve snapped them. It works for me. But, I’m also not a great spinner so I needed something to even out my ply…

  4. Louise

    Well, I’m from the abusive end of the spectrum. I generally spin singles, and when I’m done a skein, I put it in my old Pasta Express (which I never once used for pasta) and pour boiling water from the kettle over it. I then put the lid on it and put it in a sunny window until the contents cool. Then I spin it out in my washer. Works for me. Ymmv.

  5. Rebecca

    How fascinating…I hadn’t even considered this part of my spinning. I have been a thwacker but am looking forward to trying the fulling and felting too. I have had a lot of pilling from merino bats spun 2 ply (I tend to underply) – felting might resolve the issue with the stuff I have already spun whilst I aim for more twist.

  6. Cal (SkyNorth on Ravelry)

    I really enjoyed reading this! Made me laugh but also gave good idea of how to turn my knobbly, too-twisty spindle-spun two-ply into yarn that looks acceptable! And it worked! (
    I went with the snapping technique. Haven’t got any SOAK but Ecover Wool Wash is just as good.)

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