Singles or 2-ply? I’m biased.

After (finally) finishing my Malabrigo Nube yarn last Friday, my wheel was taunting me with its alluringly empty bobbins. “C’mon, what are you going to spin next? I’m ready!” Not counting all the new stuff in the Spinzilla pack from Louet, my fiber stash has somehow blossomed to about 60 lots of fiber… I was overwhelmed by choice.

Single or 2-ply? I'm Biased. | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf BFL/Silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes.

I eventually settled on some fiber from Bee Mice Elf that was part of the co-op custom order organized on the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary spinning board last year. I have two 4 oz. braids of the lovely stuff and wanted to spin something special… but what?

Singles in progress

Singles in progress

My first thought for this fiber was a lovely, thick, fluffy singles yarn. I chose the largest whorl of the regular flyer and got going. The single wasn’t very thick at all, it was about a light fingering weight thickness, so I plied it into a 2-ply to compare.

Singles yarn (left) and 2-ply (right)

Singles yarn (left) and 2-ply (right)

In truth, I loved the look and feel of the 2-ply a bit better, but  I always gravitate towards thick cushy yarns and have plenty of that in stash already. Many people on Instagram voted for the singles so I decided to swatch to get a better feel for the yarns.

I cast on with size US 6 needles (16 sts for 2-ply, 20 for singles) and knit small stockinette swatches for both yarns. A charming thing happened with the unblocked singles swatch: it biased! This happens in stockinette fabric when there is too much twist in the yarn (it has something to do with the physics of all knit stitches on one side and all purl stitches on the other). To balance an overtwisted yarn, one could:

  • ply the yarn
  • run it back through the wheel in the opposite direction to remove some twist
  • knit a balanced stitch pattern (like garter, ribbing, or seed stitch)
  • block the dickens out of the finished piece to even things out

Or, one could embrace the bias and use it as a design element, as in the new Bias Stripe Wrap pattern from Purl Soho:

Photo copyright Purl Soho. Click for pattern page.

This wrap alternates sections of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch to highlight the bias in an overtwisted yarn and create the interesting chevron effect with very simple knitting. So now I’m tempted to spin the rest of my singles up in this overtwisted fashion and knit a simple, striking wrap. What would you do?

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