Hot Tip: Resist the twist

Hot Tip: Resist the twist

When I was first knitting — almost entirely in the round, mind you — I had a lot of trouble with my yarn kinking up on me between my work and the ball. Some yarns were worse than others, and I remember running across a discussion on Twitter (this would have been 2012) wherein Clara Parkes was talking about it potentially being a problem of too much twist in the yarn, and/or that it can be an issue with yarns that are Z plied vs S plied … or maybe it was vice versa. I don’t remember! I have no doubt that was accurate information, but it didn’t lead me to a solution. One day I went to the nearest yarn store (which no longer exists) and asked the owner about it, as I was having a LOT of trouble with it and my yarn of that moment. She suggested I try knitting from the other end of the skein, which made no difference.

It was only in the past couple of years that it really sunk in that when I was knitting around and around and around in a circle, I was adding twist to the yarn in the process. So it’s only natural that it would have to be unspun once in awhile to get the kinks out — like the phone cords of yesteryear. But I also realized I have a habit of turning my work the same direction for every next row when working flat, which means I’m effectively doing the same thing whether I’m knitting flat or in the round. It was a hard habit to break, but I’ve gradually trained myself to turn the work one direction and then back the other, and I rarely have kinky yarn anymore.* The mnemonic that eventually worked is that I turn the work clockwise when turning to the right side (right/right, get it?), then counterclockwise to go back to the wrong side. Problem mostly solved!

*To be clear, this yarn I’m currently knitting with has no twist issues whatsoever. I forced it to kink for the sake of this photo!


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24 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Resist the twist

  1. Oh! When that happens to me, I dangle my knitting while holding onto the yarn where it comes out of the ball. My knitting spins around and the kink comes out. I think you’re way is easier!!!!

    • You can also dangle the yarn instead of the knitting, once the knitting gets bigger/heavier than the yarn. I use one of those bendy hair clips to anchor the ‘far end’ (closest to the ball/cake) of the working yarn to the ball/cake, so it doesn’t just keep coming off/out of the ball/cake. Dangle the ball/cake, and let ‘er spin.

  2. Great “hot” tip. I’ve done the same as Maureen, but it the knitted part is heavy (like a sweater) it can put undue stress or stretch on the object. Thanks for this tip; invaluable.

  3. A lot of the twist issues can be resolved by placing the cake of yarn on a spindle that revolves on its own little stand stand. Mine is called a Yarn Buddy, purchased from Sun Valley Fibers from WI (while you are on the website, check out their beautiful yarns as well). Each time the yarn is pulled upward from the cake, another 360 of twist is added. Turning the cake as you go solves that problem,

    I am a definite lover of the hand wound round ball, and believe that the round ball, rolling around freely, acquires less added twist. But if I am knitting off of a cake, or from a cone, I always “buddy up”

    • This. Someone bought me one of those Yarn Buddies, and I always wondered what to do with it, since it’s kind of cumbersome. Then I read another post somewhere else about this…and really, it is like magic. Using it now by my recliner as I work on fingerless gloves.

  4. Exactly! And this is how you avoid having to “spin the sweater” in your lap when working top-down sleeves in the round.

  5. This is the same concept I’ve had to use when doing stranded colorwork to prevent them from wrapping around each other and knotting up.

  6. I hope I understand the ‘clock’, when my knitting needles are horizontal and not vertical. This will be a great time saver.

  7. Hmm! I was thinking just last week about actually making the stitches, and how which way you wrap the yarn can potentially add or remove twist from it. This adds an important point—it’s really the entire process of winding/handling/moving the yarn, as well as how you knit it, that determines how much twist you are adding or taking out!

  8. I started doing that a year or two ago when I went through a phase of making a lot of striped things (which has resurfaced as my obsession with two-color brioche). It’s such a lifesaver when I can remember to be consistent about it!

  9. I was recently working a piece where I held three strands of fingering weight yarn together and one of the yarns was a nightmare for kinkiness. The other two behaved admirably. Next time I will hopefully remember this trick.

    • Oh yeah, that’s the worst. And why if I’m holding two different yarns together, I don’t wind them together but keep the two cakes separate and pull from both.

  10. Oh there’s that fabulous matelasse spread again! I turn my knitting alternately from one side to the other and it pretty much solves the problem. But for those times when it doesn’t, I thank you for all the good ideas!

  11. That is so curious! I actually seek out the yarns with a slight overtwist, because I found they help with the way of preserving texture of my 3D knits. And just generally help the texture read better in a knit fabric. And I rarely see Z-twist yarns anymore to some reason. I have discovered they seem to create a more balanced and crisp surface for fuzzy fibers like alpaca, but that was in my experience!

    • Are you familiar with the work of Kathryn Alexander? She would hand-spin seriously over-spun single ply yarn (she calls it “energized”) and then hand-knit or weave with it.

      Her fabrics and garments, off the needles or loom, ‘relax’ into the most amazing textural topographies.

      • I have never heard of her work previously, and just looked up some of her work on Ravelry. To my shame, I’ve discover that both of us were even part of the same book, Scarf Style 2, in which she achieved 3d knit with some smart entrelac tessellations! I do love that scarf. I wish I could find more of her woven works. I have never heard of the overtwisted yarns being called “energized”, but that is fascinating! I have learned a bit about those overtwisted yarns used in weaving and these days in machine knitting too. They are those tiny yarns that are carried together with some main yarn, but those twists help the woven fabric to pleat naturally. Habu has some that people used for handknitting and it does this amazing stuff just by knitting and purling!

  12. As a left handed sweater/sock knitter, the reverse happens for me. I find it worse with a caked skein so I ball my skeins (I know, old school).

    I use a bowl larger than the ball to spin the twist back into the yarn. When the twist is too loose, I just spin the ball of yarn in the direction of the twist and viola, it’s back to normal.

  13. Another thing I think worth considering when you’re running into yarn kinking issues is how you’re managing your yarn. What I mean is how you wound your ball of yarn (if you started with a hank) and how you are pulling yarn from the ball. Hand-winding a ball adds twist (or subtracts twist, depending on the yarn’s actual twist direction and the direction in which you wrap the yarn around the ball). You can really run into a problem if you then pull the end from the center in a direction that will double the amount of twist you’ve already added to the yarn by hand-winding. I wrote a blog post that touches on this issue and why I prefer to use a ball winder / “yarn unwinder” combo to just avoid the whole added twist problem, amongst other things. (Thanks for letting me link this, Karen!)

    And, this video by Roxanne Richardson goes into a bit of detail about avoiding added twist (and how to keep track of your winding/pulling direction so that you are always removing any twist you added beforehand) that might be helpful for people who do like to work from center-pull balls:

  14. This is interesting because in 15 years of knitting I’ve never noticed this being a problem. Does the extra twist impact the fabric? Or is it just annoying to the knitter? I’m curious!

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