Friday, February 8, 2008



After I wind the first 100 yards of the skein, I cut a length of a yarn that will not take acid dye. In this case I am using cotton yarn, and, because of the fineness of the yarn, I am using a finish cotton--10/2. I wind this yarn around those first 100 yards and tie it very loosely.

After winding 100 more yards, I undo the loose knot and loop the two ends around that second group. The part of the tie that went over the first group goes under the second group. And the part of the tie that went under the first group goes over the second group. I then tie that very loosely. I continue to do this every 100 yards.

By the time I have the 750 yards on the skein winder, I have encircled the warp ends a total of 8 times with each loop of yarn. Then I get out the beginning of the skein and tie that beginning yarn to the end of the yarn. I remove the skein from the winder and it is ready to be weighed in preparation for the dye pot.

It is these ties that will keep the yarn in some semblance of order. This will make winding them onto cones after the dyeing is done much easier.


To see a good set of pictures for how to make these figure-of-eight ties, go here.

To see a really clear picture of a skein tied this way into four groups, go here and scroll down about a quarter of the page.

I will be honest, however, and tell you that in reality I tie in two places, not just one. Indeed, when I feel really paranoid about the process, I tie in four places. Tying in more than one place on the skein makes it easier for me to align the yarn properly onto the swift when I am ready to wind the dyed yarn into either cones or balls.


I hope that it is clear that I do not wait until I have wound all 750 yards before I tie up my skeins. Every place I have read about winding skeins, the writer says to make the skein and then tie the skein into groups of ends with the ties.

There is an assumption, false in my experience, that when you make a skein of yarn each yarn you wind ends up right next to the previous yarn. In my case here, it would assume that the first 100 yarns are lined up nicely next to each other.

When I stop at that point, they actually appear to be. But it also assumes that they stay that way as I continue to wind the next 100 yarns. It assumes that no ends you wind on in that second group might possibly end up on top of the yarns in the first group. That is where the trouble begins. That is where the yarns in the second group start making friends with the yarns in the first group.

This mixing up of the yarn only gets worse as you go on. By the time you have 750 yards wound, who on earth knows where the actual groups are. They are all quite totally mixed up because the yarn has gone willy nilly over previously wound yarn.

A good way to see what happens is to make the figure-of-eight ties in one place and do it as you go along. When you are done, slip your fingers into the spaces the ties have created and move your hand 12”-18” along the skein. You will soon find that you have to do some pushing and shoving of those yarns to get them where they belong. That is how I learned what happens.


I suspect that 100 yarns to a group is a fairly good figure to aim for no matter what size the yarn is you are skeining. Those 100 yarns are of course going to get mixed up among themselves. Because there are relatively few, they separate out rather easily in the process of unwinding them onto cones.

Silk is very slippery and very very willing to make lots of friends. This is why, if I am not careful, it can take me hours to unwind a skein onto a cone. One time it took me days........... And that is why I tie up the skein in more than one place. In fact, usually I have tied up the skein in four places. But I thought that if I were really careful about how I put the dyed yarn back for unskeining, I might be able to get away with tying in two places..............

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Once again you have clarified a long standing issue and given me much food for thought. I have spent far too many hours untangling skeins. While there is a certain sense of satisfaction in creating order from chaos, there are many better ways to spend the afternoon. Bravo!