I have always heard that wet finishing and thwacking your hand spun yarn can make a huge difference in how your final yarn feels and behaves in a project. Let’s find the answer to the question, how much does thwacking change handspun yarn with an experiment.
You can watch a video of this thwacking experiment on my YouTube channel.
How Much Does Thwacking Change the Yarn? The Experiment…
I recently spun up two skeins of 2-ply yarn. Both skeins have the exact same fiber-content. I’m going to wet finish one so that we can compare it with one that isn’t wet finished.
Here’s the luxurious fiber blend I used:
The orange stripe in this yarn is a merino 100% wool comb top that I got from Camaj Fiber Arts.
The white yarn with stripes of blue is a blend of polwarth, yearling mohair, and tussah silk from Blue Moon Fiber Arts.
How to Wet Finish a Skein of Yarn
- Using a bowl of warm water, open up one of the skeins and set it down into the water. Press it down to make sure that it is completely covered with water for thorough saturation.
- Let the yarn sit in the water for about 40 minutes.
Be careful not to agitate the yarn in the water. You don’t want the wool to felt!
Wool and mohair fibers are not just a flat surface—there’s actually a cuticle covering the shaft of the wool. If you see bubbles coming to the surface, the wool cuticle is opening up and the water is getting in where it needs to be.
- After a 40 soak, you can be sure that the skein is thoroughly saturated. Carefully remove it from the water.
When working with wet yarn never wring the yarn. The fact that the wool is fully saturated with water makes it fragile, so wringing the yarn with a harsh twisting motion may damage those fibers.
- Remove most of the water by giving it a gentle, soft squeeze.
- Set it on a bath towel and then roll up the towel, pressing with every turn, so that more water will be pressed from the fiber.
- If you have a salad spinner available, place the yarn in the spinner and give it a good spin to get all the last bits of moisture out. This will speed up the drying process.
THWACKING THE YARN
- With the skein loops lined up evenly, I grab the skein of yarn, swing it around and whack, or thwack it hard on the seat of a chair. To make sure that I thwack all the way around the whole skein, I’m going to scoot it a couple of inches in my hand, hold the next section, and give it another swing around and thwack. I continue shifting a couple of inches and then thwack as many times as required until I’m all the way around the skein and back to where I started.
Any of these surfaces may be used for thwacking: edge of the door frame, edge of a desk or table, bath tub, sink, counter, chair, what have you……
- After the thwacking process, I hang the skein up to dry overnight.
Comparing the Finished Yarns
Now that the wet finished yarn is completely dry, let’s compare it to the yarn that was not wet finished to answer our question, how much does thwacking change handspun yarn.
Feel: The thwacked yarn feels more fluffy and lofty.
Drape: The thwacked yarn has lost a little bit of drape—even with the silk and mohair in it!
Yardage: As you might guess from the increased loftiness and diminished drape, the yarn actually shrank from the wet finishing. Yardage is changed!
Gauge: Because the yarn fluffed up so much, the wraps per Inch also changed. The yarn that was wet finished ended up with about nine wraps per inch, which is a perfect worsted weight yarn. The other skein that was not wet finished has thirteen wraps per inch. Four wraps per inch were lost because of the wet finishing process.
If you are using the yarn in a project where gauge and yardage matter, ALWAYS re-skein your yarn after wet finishing. You will need to recalculate your yardage because of the “bloom” to avoid overestimating your yardage!
My Conclusion About Thwacking
It is clear to me that thwacking does change handspun yarn quite a lot! In fact, I would say this yarn is not really finished, until it has been thwacked! The two skeins of yarn feel so different! I love how thwacking gave the yarn more bounce and fluff. In the future, it will also be important to take this change into account when spinning to a standard for a specific project!
If you would like to know how I finish my yarn after spinning on a drop spindle, you can read all about it in this blog post!