The Joy of Unspinning

The Joy of Unspinning


In Make That Yarn, Patsy Zawistoski shows step-by-step how to tell how millspun yarn was made a reconstruct it in handspun.

Why would you want to do that—take a commercial yarn and deconstruct it? Why would you even be messing around with commercial yarn—you, a handspinner?

Patsy Zawistoski is a handspinner supreme, but she loves to poke and pry into the secret realms of the yarn industrynot to copy what they do, but to see what she can learn. In her new DVD, Make That Yarn, she reveals all kinds of insights and tricks, including her pattern for a "yarn decoder" device that you can make from a piece of poster board. (But where's the secret yarn decoder ring? Oh darn.)

It's pretty easy to deconstruct a simple sport-weight yarn, or what you might think is a four-ply knitting worsted (But wait! Maybe it has only three plies! Check it out!) Things get more interesting when you begin to undo some of the fancy effect yarns.


Patsy uses her Magic Yarn Decoder (which is included with the video) to figure out just how millspun yarn was made.

My biggest aha! moment in working with Patsy on this video was her deconstruction of a big fat fluffy singles. Maybe you know the challenges in spinning this kind of yarn, or maybe you've never tried. There are whole workshops on the subject: How to get that soft bulk in a yarn you can successfully knit with, a yarn that won't make the knitted fabric slant off toward Florida. Well, just try deconstructing such a yarn, as Patsy shows. Turns out it might be a two-ply, or a four-ply, all lightly twisted so that when the singles are plied together they are perfectly balanced and the ply is imperceptible. You can try that at home.

While few of us aspire to spinning a yarn just like we could buy at the store, those store-bought yarns have a couple hundred years of careful, analytical study behind them—study aimed at creating high-performing, efficiently made fiber products. Some of which, in fact, are engineered to look just like handspun! It all comes full circle.

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