Now that you have spun your yarn, what should you do next? As with most things in handspinning, that depends upon what you want the yarn to do for you and the needs of your project!
Here are the ways that you can set the twist in your handspun yarn, including the pros and cons of each.
Set yarn with water and dry
Pros: easy to do, works with most project
Cons: can make colors run if dyed
The basic way to set or finish your yarn is to set the twist with hot water then let the yarn dry. You could put a bit of fiber wash in the setting bath if you want to but I don’t.
My basic procedure is to put the spun yarn on the niddy noddy, tie it in 3-4 places with twist ties or a cheap string to prevent tangles, wet set the yarn for 20-30 minutes then hang to dry.
I prefer to hang the yarn outside if there is a bit of wind or inside over the furnace vent in the winter.
There is also a fiber rinse that can be used on your set yarn, but not if you plan to dye the yarn, only if your next step is drying.
I haven’t used any of the fiber rinse products, but would consider it if I did not like the feel of the yarn once it was wet set.
Is Spinning Your Own Yarn Worth It? goes over the costs and benefits of spinning versus buying handspun yarn.
Wet set and weighted dry
Pros: easy setting, helps tame down over twisted yarn
Cons: can leave dents in yarn where attached for hanging or weights
If you feel that your yarn could benefit from being a bit more controlled once it is dry, you can wet set the yarn then dry it weighted.
A weighted dry would be helpful for any yarn that is overspun or any yarn that you plan to use for something that you want the yarn to be smoother and dense (no fluff).
I use the clothes line to do a weighted dry on the rare occasion that I use this method.
I pin the yarn out wide, with two or three clothes pins, or preferably metal clamps if you have a few hanging around, then hang a small weight on the yarn, just enough to pull it straight.
Be sure to monitor the drying progress of your yarn and rotate the yarn around, otherwise you’ll get dents in the yarn where the weight and clothes pins were.
Set with water and thwack
Pros: helps yarn bloom, quick step with noticeable results
Cons: poor choice when stitch definition is a priority
If you want your yarn to be set then finished with a bit of a poof, consider wet setting then thwacking.
Thwacking is taking the still wet yarn after it has been set and whapping it on the edge of a counter or other easy to hit and okay to get a bit wet surface.
This will make the yarn full or bloom (poof out a bit). It sounds a bit crazy, especially if you have been treating your wool gently up until now to prevent felting.
Forget all that now and start thwacking away and you’ll get a nice bloom to your yarn that will make it softer. This is more for a woolen spun or woolen like yarn.
If you are going to be using your yarn in a project where you want significant stitch definition and you are making more of a worsted type yarn, you’ll probably want to skip the thwacking.
Thwacking will full the yarn and give more puff to the yarn as well as the stiches, which is the opposite of the well defined stitches you are going for.
Felt yarn while setting
Pros: holds fibers more securely in the yarn, strengthen singles
Cons: poor choice for yarns that need poof, not all wool or other fibers will felt
Another crazy thing to say when you are dealing with wool yarn is felting it, on purpose!
Especially for fine wools but really any wool that is easily feltable, felting is something that looms over us as an ever present potential disaster that will ruin the project. Not any more!
Lightly or not so lightly, depending upon your project, felting the yarn will make the fibers hold together better and will help to lock in any slippery fibers if at least some of the fiber is feltable.
Folks spinning with angora rabbit wool felt the yarn a bit to help keep fibers from shedding out of the yarn.
Another good reason to felt your yarn a bit would be if you are working with shorter fibers or are spinning a single, felting the yarn slightly will help lock them together and strengthen your yarn.
If you are making a woolen yarn, felting is probably not for you. Felting will compress down your yarn, the opposite of what you want to see in a woolen spun!
Set yarn while washing
Pros: cleans lanolin and dirt from yarn spun in the grease
Cons: not needed if you spun washed wool
If you have spun your yarn with raw wool, setting the twist will also involve washing out the grease that remains in the wool.
This is fairly easily done by using a fiber wash in the wet setting water. I use Unicorn Fiber wash normally and have used it to wash yarn spun from raw wool.
It worked well and seemed to give me a nice, clean yarn after washing and a few rinses.
Can You Handspin Raw Wool? goes over some of the times when you might decide to try spinning “in the grease” rather than with washed wool.
Set yarn with steam
Pros: keeps color separation crisp, prevents free dye from coloring undyed parts of yarn
Cons: harder to do in bulk
For any yarn that you want the colors to stay in very specific areas, consider steam setting your yarn.
The steam will set the twist and keep the colors from running together, or more likely, filling in the undyed spots in your yarn making the spot specific dyeing look less dramatic.
If you are fine with the idea that the colors will bleed a bit into one another or mix at the edges, then don’t worry about steam setting, unless it is an easier way to set yarn for you.
If you want your color work, specifically color changes to remain crisp, you’ll want to be sure to use steam to set the twist in your yarn.
After steaming, you would still thwack or lightly felt the yarn, if you decide that is appropriate for your project.
Don’t set the yarn
Pros: easy, eliminates the steps of setting and drying
Cons: no help for over twisted yarn, yarn can unravel
I know this one may sound crazy, but hear me out. Have you considered not setting your yarn, at all? You could just knit (or crochet or weave) with the yarn right after spinning it.
I’m not into weaving yet, so I can’t speak to that, but as far as knitting or crochet, working with unset yarn seems to be fine.
If anything, I think using unset yarn gives you some interest to the finished project once you are done with it.
Of course, when you are putting together a specifically fitted garment, “interest” may not be something you are looking for, since it is likely to also pull the piece out of shape.
For work where you are happy to see what you get and experiment a little, using unset yarn might be a good place to start.
My experience with unset yarn
I am working through some of my wool stash with my current focus being a Dorset cross ram fleece, that I am using dyed and unset as the main fiber for a crocheted rug.
I don’t have a ton of experience with crochet, so this rug is pretty basic, colored stripes run short ways across a 24 x 50 inch doorway rug.
While you may not consider Dorset to be a rug wool, this fleece is about 18 months worth of growth, so it is longer than normal and from the feel of it, it’s in the 30 micron range.
The other big plus of Dorset, for anyone who is not familiar with the wool, is that it is very resistant to felting. That means that I can wash this rug without too much worry.
Read The Joy Of Handspinning Setting The Twist In Handspun Yarn for a brief overview of setting handspun yarn.