Posted in Crochet Technique, Yarn

Twists and Plies: Part 1

Have you ever heard it said that a yarn with a tight twist makes for better crochet stitches? Read on to understand where that saying comes from.

One consideration when choosing yarn is the ability of the yarn to keep its shape within the stitches themselves. This is not the same as keeping its shape within the fabric, like with how drapey or stiff the fabric is. Rather, does the yarn hold up when creating each stitch?

Some yarns create flimsy stitches, regardless of the size hook you use. Other yarns create stitches that just stand up and salute. Most of the time, this can be attributed to the twist of the yarn. The image of the single crochet fabric above shows neat stitches, but if you look closely, you can see some separation of the yarn fibers indicating a lightly twisted yarn. Why is that, and how can you tell when purchasing yarn?

You may have heard the term “Z twist” or “S twist,” especially from spinners. Most commercial yarns are twisted in an S shape, that is, they are twisted in a counterclockwise turn. Z twist yarns are twisted in a clockwise turn.

If you are a right-handed crocheter, you make your yarn overs in a clockwise manner, and this has the effect of untwisting your S-twist yarn. If the yarn twist is very tight, the effect of untwisting is less noticeable, but if the twist if very soft, your yarn will become quite flat. This is why choosing a yarn with a tight twist will create crochet stitches that are very clean and pronounced. As you may have guessed, left-handed crocheters don’t have the same issue since they do their yarn overs in a counterclockwise direction.

The image with 2 yarns shows fairly common yarns with a moderate twist. The white yarn is a little fuzzy so the twist doesn’t show up well on camera.

These two moderately twisted yarns hold their shape during a yarn over.

The blue yarn has a very soft twist, as you will see in the next photos.

The image on the left shows what happens to the blue yarn with the soft twist during a normal yarn over. See how the yarn becomes untwisted and flat? On the right, the yarn is wrapped over the hook in the opposite direction and shows that the yarn stays twisted because of the direction in which it is wrapped. Right-handed crocheters don’t normally wrap the yarn in this direction, so the stitches end up being flattened.

If you want to test the twist on your yarn, take a short length of yarn and attempt to untwist it. If the strands come apart easily, it is a light or soft twist. If it takes a few turns to get them apart, that is a heavier, medium twist. If you have to have a third hand to get them to stay untwisted, that is a tight twist. If there is nothing to untwist, read Part 2 — the discussion on plies.

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