Handspinning Tutorial: How to Spin Stable Singles Yarn

24 August 2022

Sponsored in part by:

Ad description: Cover of the book Sheep, Shepherd & Land, and the words, "THE book about Canadian Wool, by Anna Hunter. Photos by Christel Lanthier. Buy now."

Ad description: The words, "The socks you knit won't last forever, but you can make them last for years and years. Shop now." Also featuring the cover image of the Sock Mending Guide.

Every yarn starts with a strand of twisted fibres we call a single. The way we spin that single determines the character of the yarn, whether we use the single without plying or we ply it with other singles. The degree of twist we use, the amount of fibre we spin into the single, and the spinning technique we choose all contribute to the structure of our finished yarn. And when we spin a yarn to use as a single, we need to consider the impact of each of these factors.

image description: four small skeins of handspun singles yarn

Sometimes it feels wonderful to sit down with my wheel and just spin, but most of the time I like to begin with an idea of what kind of yarn I want to make. Knowing whether or not I plan to ply changes some of the things I do when I spin. Singles used for plied yarns usually need to be made with more twist to compensate for the untwisting that happens when we ply it with other singles in the opposite direction. A yarn that I intend to use as a single would be deliberately spun with less twist to prevent it from coiling while I work or making my cloth bias. We can always change our mind and ply a yarn that we spun to use as a single, but most of the time it is tricky to use singles that were spun to be plied as stand-alone yarn. (For more information on how the twist in singles affects different types of cloth, see my article Plies and Whys: Singles.)

There are lots of ways to make a great singles yarn; I’m going to walk you through the way I like to do it.


All images by Michelle Boyd.

Copyright © Michelle Boyd except as indicated.

About Michelle Boyd

Michelle Boyd is a Master Spinner, weaver, and writer who lives in Olds, Alberta, located in Treaty 7 Territory, the ancestral lands of the peoples of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Michelle learned to spin in 1995 when her local yarn shop closed, and she became obsessed with the art and science of making yarn. She has taught workshops across North America and instructed for the Olds College Master Spinner Program for fifteen years. She is also a frequent contributor to both PLY Magazine and Digits & Threads and is currently completing her first book about spinning.

Related Posts

Yarn Knowledge: Why We Finish

Yarn Knowledge: Why We Finish

[For Studio Members] Master spinner Michelle Boyd explains the hows and whys of “finishing” yarns for use in weaving, knitting and crochet projects. This helpful guide also includes tips for finishing a variety of fibre types under different water conditions.

Weighty Issues: How to Interpret Yarn Weight Descriptions

Weighty Issues: How to Interpret Yarn Weight Descriptions

[For Studio Members] Master spinner Michelle Boyd dives deep into how we communicate yarn thickness, explaining the various systems that are used, and the strengths and weaknesses of each. And she provides excellent tips for how to assess a yarn for use in knitting, crochet or weaving.

Plies and Whys: Cabled Yarns

Plies and Whys: Cabled Yarns

[For Studio Members] Cabled yarns are constructed from multiple plied strands, and can add strength and lustre to items made with them. In this third and final installment of her series on yarn structure and how it affects the fabrics we make, master spinner Michelle Boyd illuminates the role cabled yarns can play in knitting, crochet and weaving projects.

Get 10% off!

Join our mailing list to get special Studio Membership pricing! PLUS hear about new Digits & Threads content and community news.

Subscription success! Well done, you.