Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Twined Knitting, volume 1

I've seen several writeups about the technique of "twined knitting", also known by its Swedish term "tvåändsstickning" or by the equivalent Norwegian term "tvebandsstrikking". It has been written up in Knitty here (with a pattern, here), and there are several YouTube videos showing the various stitches (knit, purl, and so-called "crook" stitches).

Twined knitting is done with two strands of the same (often even same colour) yarn, and with every stitch you twist the two strands around each other. Unlike stranded (colour) knitting, the yarns are twisted constantly in the same direction, never untwisting. The backside of twined knitting looks quite different from fair-isle colourwork - it's much denser. Knitting with two strands allows you to play games with loops of yarn from the strand you're not using, which leads to some fun textures. Also, because it's double-thick, it's very warm (and windproof, if done at a tight gauge, as is traditional).

You are traditionally supposed to  twist the yarns in the opposite direction to which they were plied, so this action slowly unplies or opens up the yarn. This apparently makes the end product trap more air. I think it probably also enhances felting. Traditionally, the technique employed so-called "z-twist" yarn (for spinners: spun clockwise and plied counterclockwise) and the twisting was done by lifting the strand from the second-to-last stitch knit over the last stitch knit (ie. twisting the two yarns clockwise) on the back.

Nowadays, this type of yarn is hard to find, and most yarns are "s-twist" (for spinners: spun counterclockwise and plied clockwise).  But, I was at Vogue Knitting in early November, browsing the vendors, and I came upon The Yarn Guys booth, where I chanced upon an American-spun special z-twist yarn (Hygge Tveband Sport) especially meant for this type of knitting. So I bought a couple of skeins....hence this series of blog posts!

[on the Left: good old regular "s-twist" yarn. Note that the strands lean LEFT, 
like the middle part of the letter "s".
on the Right: special-snowflake "z-twist" yarn. Strands lean RIGHT,
like the middle part of the letter "z".]

Z-twist yarn is hard to find. Hygge Tveband Sport is milled to spec for the Yarn Guys and it isn't cheap (count on $50 for a couple of skeins - enough for 2 pairs of mittens - shipping incl). Contact them directly and they'll send the stuff to you.  I've only found one other called Mora, which is sold by Nancy Bush at Wooly West (I've never ordered from this site). Note that I'm not talking about the Malabrigo Mora yarn of the same name.

But, if you want to use "regular" yarn (s-twist), hey, no problemo! For the most authentic effect, you just need to twist the strands counterclockwise on the back of your work: ie. bring the second-to-last stitch thread under the last stitch knit.  This action then has the same effect : it gently unplies your yarn.

I'm not making this up, this info is from that eminent bible :  Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt, who lists her sources. But I do I note that the point of unplying your yarn is not discussed in the Knitty article, nor is it mentioned in any of the videos on YouTube that I skimmed. In fact if you use the traditional "clockwise" twisting actions meant for z-twist yarns and shown in the Knitty article, or demonstrated on YouTube, on readily-available s-twist yarn, you will compact your yarn rather than opening it up...this is a picky detail, obviously, but it matters to some kntting geeks (ie. me). Compacting your yarn will affect the stitch definition and the final drape/loft of your fabric. It's a personal preference thing, so try both twist directions to see which you prefer!

Another, even more subtle, point is that regular knitting - even without twining - tends to unply z-twist yarns, making them rather unpleasant to knit with (this is the reason millspun yarns are s-twist).  So twined knitting with z-twist yarns delivers a double whammy of unplying. Again, this will matter only to knitting geeks. I'm really wondering why the good knitters from way back settled on z-ply yarns and clockwise twisting, rather than standard s-ply and counterclockwise twisting...will have to do some experiments...

I'm knitting up some twined mittens now. And I'll be posting on what I learn as I go.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent information- I can't wait to see how the mittens look!