A Spinner’s Manifesto: Standing Up for Singles Yarn

When it comes to spinning techniques, it’s no secret that spinners often disagree. Discussing a hotly debated topic such as whether to predraft your fiber will prompt some handspinners to take sides. Do you usually ply your yarn? In the Spin Off Spring 2018 issue, contributor Deborah Held stands up for singles yarn.

I’m here to stand up for the oft overlooked and underappreciated unplied singles yarn.

A yarn spun and left as singles is elegant. When spun from a handpainted, color-repeating top, a singles yarn dares to carry the burden of color distribution all on its own. And let’s not overlook the fact that it’s a darned quick and satisfying spin. Spin your singles from a wool and silk blend, and the resulting yarn will surprise you with its strength, luminance, and drape.

Miffed by a seasoned spinner’s offhand comment that handspun singles yarns are “unattractive,” I warped my rigid-heddle loom with my most recently spun singles yarn, a Merino and silk blend spun from a space-dyed handpainted top, using it for both warp and weft. I was all in.

singles yarn

Deborah Held’s Kissing Singles Scarf uses singles yarn for both warp and weft. Photos by George Boe.

Once I took the fabric off the loom, even I was surprised by the wisp of cloth I saw before me. Its weight and translucency were ethereal, and the vertically aligned, slightly heathered pooling of color told its own tale. It seemed that the rigid-heddle loom had provided the perfect backdrop for showcasing a color-repeating handspun singles yarn.

In order to highlight the occasional textural imperfections, I gave the scarf a thorough fulling. I let it air-dry to dampness, then gave it four minutes in my dryer to get out the last bit of moisture, tighten selvedges, and further strengthen yet soften the fabric. Once dry, I could still see through the cloth, but looking through it was like peering through a tweedy cotton gauze.

I’ve woven scarves using a similar method a few times since and developed this plan. I can’t stop!

—Debbie

To make Deborah Held’s “Kissing Singles: A Four-Season Scarf,” which is woven using singles yarn for both warp and weft, pick up a copy of the Spring 2018 issue of Spin Off.

Are you new to weaving on a rigid-heddle loom? Take Handwoven editor Susan Horton’s Introduction to Weaving on a Rigid-Heddle Loom class at Interweave Yarn Fest.

Featured Image: The Kissing Singles Scarf is named for its gentle method of beating the weft.


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