Yarn Knowledge: Why We Finish

5 April 2023

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“A yarn isn’t finished until it’s finished.” – Rita Buchanan

“Cloth isn’t finished until it’s been wet finished.” – Laura Fry

Finishing yarn or cloth is a necessary step in making just about anything. It’s a step we have all skipped at one point or another. Some of us got away with it, others learned a hard lesson about the importance of finishing. But what does finishing—soaking our yarn or cloth in warm water and laying it out to dry—actually do?

How Finishing Changes Yarn and Cloth

The first effect of finishing is obvious. We are washing out any impurities that may have gotten into the fibres as we worked. For spinners, this includes spinning oils, leftover lanolin, or the oils and dirt from our hands or tools. Anyone making cloth from yarn will have to remove those things as well as any sizing additives or enzymes used to finish the yarn, dust and pollens from the air, any spills that may have happened as we were working, and the pet hair our furry friends leave behind when they nap on our work in progress. Soaking our cloth in warm water also helps remove any dye that may not have been fully rinsed out by the mill or dyer. But finishing is so much more than simply removing unwanted substances.

All photos 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.

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