Don’t get unspun by single-ply yarns!

This week we’re looking at Classic Shades Frenzy by Universal Yarn. It’s a single ply yarn that has a marled look and several gradients of colors in one skein. Yesterday we looked at the 4 newest colorways, Botanica, Quarry, Fern, and Madras.

Top: Botanica and Madras. Bottom: Quarry and Fern. Great new colorways of Classic Shades Frenzy’s soft, bulky single-ply yarn.

There are many yarns that are single-ply yarns (referred to as “singles yarns”) on the market. This means that the combed fibers are aligned neatly and then twisted on themselves tightly enough so that they hold onto each other when pulled. The force of the pull cannot be much more than what a knitter uses when she pulls some yarn off a ball that is rolling away from her on the floor, or the yarn could come apart. However, single-ply yarns are not usually so fragile that you have to worry about them coming apart while you knit  — they have been spun so that the garments you make with them will stand up to wear.

All yarns go through the “singles process.” Yarns with multiple plies have 2 or more plies twisted together, usually in the opposite direction to the way the singles were spun. Plying singles together makes an even sturdier yarn. The number of twists and the direction of the twists are what give different yarns their own characteristic looks. These actions also affect their performance.

Examples of sliver before it is spun into yarn.
Source: Conversion of fibre into yarn by E. Raja

The fibers in almost every processed yarn are carded and/or combed into long rope-like strands which are called sliver. You can see some pictures of sliver on slide 7 of this Slideshare presentation. Note the fourth and fifth examples (from left to right) that are called drawn sliver. When the mills that make Classic Shades Frenzy prepare the drawn sliver, they add in the different segments of colored combed sliver, with some overlap and then draw them through a machine that is reminiscent of an old-fashion washing machine with rollers.

Yarn mills have sophisticated drawing rollers systems that work on a similar principle to vintage wringer washing machines.

I remember getting my finger caught between those wringers when I was a youngster, and the pinch was unpleasant. Fortunately, fibers don’t protest or get hurt by these machines, but benefit from going through the rollers to be drawn out into thinner and thinner “ropes” which are called roving. I don’t know if the mill that makes Frenzy adds the different colors manually or whether or not the machines are smart enough to dole out the different color segments, then line them up to create both the marled look and the gradual gradations from color to color. I’ve done this by hand on my spinning wheel, but it would be so exciting to see it done on a grand scale. There’s enough variation within a skein of Frenzy and from skein to skein that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that human hands are involved.

I untwisted a section of Classic Shades Frenzy to show how the roving would have looked before any twist was added to it.

The roving is then processed through a spinning mill (sometimes referred to as a spinning Jenny) to tighten the twist and set it so that it has elasticity, bounce, and enough strength to be knit by us. I “unspin” a segment of Frenzy, and it’s tougher than I thought. It took a while to get it to untwist and stay untwisted. You can see the segment where the gold fibers and blue fibers were overlapped to appear green while so fluffy and loose, yet look marled (or candy-cane-like) where they are spun tightly.

Sturdy single-ply yarn that results from pencil roving.

Now that we’ve looked at the construction of Classic Shades Frenzy, we’ll review several free patterns that you can knit. Come back tomorrow!

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Revive your knitting with marled gradient yarns!

Go to part 3: Free pattern roundup for Classic Shades Frenzy yarn

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