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Finishing Handspun Yarns
Once you have completed spinning your singles, and possibly plying it into a 2 or 3 ply yarn, you have more than a few options on how to finish it.
Wind your yarn off of the bobbin and onto either a paddle winder, or a niddy-noddy as desired. If you don’t have either of these available, I have found that the folding chairs we all lug around in our vehicles for soccer games, or in my case estate auctions, make a great swift. Just pop open the chair, wind your yarn around the back of the chair. Once you have tied it, when you fold the chair closed again, your yarn is neatly wound. I tend to follow the tradition of tying my yarn using a figure eight in four places. This is very helpful if the next step for your yarn is a trip to the dye pot, but two ties will suffice if you are only steam setting it.
Next, take a moment to determine not just how you want to use your yarn, but what exactly do you want your finished result to be. For example, if you want a light and airy lace shawl that floats and flutters effortlessly, you may want less elasticity in your finished yarn. Also, if you are spinning your own warp yarn, the same would be true. To obtain a firm set for your yarn that you would need, for these uses, wash your finished yarn by first giving it a good soak. I find that you must use a sizeable amount of water, and tend to soak mine in the kitchen sink, not just a bathroom basin type. If you spun your fiber raw, or in the grease, this is the time to get it clean, add your soap, to the water (prior to adding the yarn!), and let it soak awhile. In this case you may want to see my article titled “Scouring Wool” that is also here at BellaOnline. Now for all you folks with clean fiber, I still soak it for a couple of hours, this allows the twist to become even throughout the skein. Once you have soaked the yarn, remove it from the water, take it outside, and swing it to release the excess water. The next step for warp or lace yarn is to hang it to dry under tension. I hand the skein on a hook, and use a weight from a balance scale that I have in a plastic bag to prevent any contact from the metal to the yarn. Tie the weight to the bottom of the skein, and allow the yarn to dry completely. I have also heard that running the finished yarn lightly over a bar of wax makes it easier to warp the loom.
For squishier uses of your yarn, there is no need to dry under tension. If you want a fluffy finished garment, allow the yarn to hang to dry without the weight. You may also lay it on a window screen or sweater dryer to minimize the tension the yarn is exposed to.
To achieve a fuzzy finish to your yarn, after it is dry, stretch it out between the backs of two chairs, or place it on a swift. Try to spread the yarn out so that each strand is visible. Lightly brush it with a nylon bristled brush until you have achieved the desired halo. Flip the yarn over and repeat for the other side. This is better done in a few light passes over the yarn than in one rougher pass, which could damage your yarn.
The last method of finishing, is the one I use most often. If your skein does not twist in either direction when held lightly, congratulations, you have spun a balanced yarn! To finish the yarn for more immediate use, steam it with either a garment steamer, or a good hot iron, and you are ready to go.
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