Finishing hand spun yarn

At one stage I thought finishing my yarn was when  I reached the end of the plying. I didn’t appreciate that ‘finishing’ had another meaning altogether. I suspect I was not alone. I spun fibre, plied two singles together, made a skein and it hung straight. Great. Only later did I realise that if it hung straight without a wash it was probably under-plied.

Recently Alison Daykin and I tested different methods of finishing for ‘inspired spinning’. We have read about 7 or 8 different ways of finishing yarn and wondered if it really made any difference to the yarn in the end. As with our washing experiments, we were surprised by the results.


We tested 8 methods on 5 yarns, we found little difference. However our yarns were fairly similar so we tested a wider variety of yarns. This time we decided there were probably only 3 categories. 

  • Gentle – steam or soak – just reactivates dormant twist
  • Moderate – snapping, lasso, plunging – reactivates twist and supposed to even out twist
  • Firm – fulling, thwacking and menacing – starts to felt fibre and adds a halo

We had both used soaking as our preferred finishing method, unless the yarns were ‘awkward’ when we might try something else 

NOW – Steaming is our favourite method for virtually everything 

It is quick, effective in reactivating twist and seems to give a more even yarn than virtually anything else.  

But here are a few pictures to show you what we found – each photo has the gentle (steam), moderate (snapping) and firm (thwacking) in that order.

Softly spun Corriedale singles 

  • The steam seemed to relax the yarn and leave it with only a slight twist. 
  • Soak and snap only removed  a little of the twist – any shortening visible here is just because of remaining twist
  • Thwacking removed twist , and straightened the skein. The skein was slightly firmer and  shorter. 

Softly spun double knitting yarn (? shetland)

We noticed some skeins that was balanced by every other method seemed to become unbalanced when treated aggressively

For 4 ply firm knitting yarn in merino there seemed little difference


The firm weaving yarn in alpaca was overplied but the effect of the different finishing methods was marked 

  • Steam virtually removed over-twist
  • Soaking had little effect
  • Thwacking resulted in a smoother yarn but over twist was still evident

Difficult to see here but this spiral plied slub yarn is fluffier and slightly shorter with thwacking but shows less difference than we expected

Interestingly this softly spun mohair fluffed up as much with steam as anything else and wasn’t noticeably shorter or fluffier with thwacking 

Methods of finishing 

Steam – hold yarn over steam – kettle with the lid off – or steamer

Soak – place in bowl of warm water with splash of washing up liquid – leave for 15 minutes 

Snapping – wet the yarn – or soak it for 15 minutes, place hands within the skein and ‘snap’ sharply outwards, do this in 4 different places around skein. This is supposed to even out the twist

Lasso soak then whirl skein around head like a lasso – similar effect to snapping

Plunging – place skein in v hot water then ice cold – can be repeated – no agitation, slight felting effect

Fulling – repeated plunging with agitation 

Thwacking – soak than thwack the skein against something hard – a table a wall etc (care as can abrade the yarn

Menacing – from Jill Moreno – soak then full but use a sink plunger to agitate!!

You can download a pdf of this blog

2 thoughts on “Finishing hand spun yarn”

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