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Setting Handspun Yarn With Steam

Have you ever wondered if there is a quicker or easier way to set yarn after spinning? I usually get on a spinning tangent and will have several skeins of yarn hanging in my studio before I get around to setting—and then I have several to do at once, which can be time-consuming.

There is a much quicker way, though my preference will always be wet setting for most of my handspun yarn.

Best Choices for Steam Setting

Once in a while, I will have a skein that is a good candidate for setting with steam. Silk is one example of handspun yarn I like to steam set. Art yarn that isn’t going to be used in a garment that would be concerning for shrinking would be another.

Wool is especially prone to shrinking or springing up once the twist is set. The more springy the finished yarn, the more the skein shrank up in the setting process.

In the following short video, I show just how quickly a freshly spun spiral-ply yarn transforms into a beautiful finished product in a matter of minutes. I’ve subtitled the video to make it easier to understand.

If you’d rather read than watch, skip below. I promise the video is not very long. I know I am stretched for time, and I’m sure you are, too. 🙂

In the video, I demonstrate the process using freshly spun Targhee wool and silk spiral-ply yarn. The technique is particularly effective for yarns with extra twist. You’ll see just how quickly the yarn relaxes once exposed to steam.

Setting Yarn with a Garment Steamer

I happen to have a garment steamer, but you could also use an iron on the steam setting. I also use my garment steamer to block my knitting. I normally wet-set my yarn but occasionally use steam to set the twist.

spiral ply yarn screenshot 1

You Should Wet Set Your Yarn

I know this is a post about steam-setting yarn, but I still encourage you to wet-set your yarn. If you soak your handspun with a bit of dish soap or Sythrapol, you’ll be sure to release any excess dirt or oils from the fiber or simply from your hands spinning it. If there is any residual dye, it will also come out in this process.

This also will deal with any shrinkage before you start your knitting project, as some wools will spring up significantly when the twist is set.

I’ll have to make a video on how I wet set my yarn, but for now, back to the steam setting….

spiral ply yarn screenshot 2
these kinks and extra twists will soon fall away once steamed

This particular yarn is a textured art yarn, so I won’t be using it for a piece of clothing where shrinking would be an issue. Right now, I’m thinking of using it as the weft of a woven scarf, but I may change my mind once I sit down to use it.

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You can see how the extra twists and kinks disappear almost instantly with the steam. I’ll flip the skein so the inside is out and continue steaming.

The Final Product

I’ve thoroughly steamed this yarn inside and out and repeated this process twice just to be sure. Now, here is a closeup of the now-dry yarn. The other bonus of steaming is that it dries much quicker than wet setting. Look at those spirals!

spiral ply yarn screenshot 6
I adore these spirals

Spiral plying is one of my favorite ways to spin when I want to relax and do something fun (spinning-wise, anyway!). I wasn’t going for an actual thick and thin yarn; I was just letting the fiber do as it pleased while I watched TV.

The thicker ply is a Targhee sheep wool top that started out bright yellow, and I over-dyed grey. I dyed it initially bright yellow for a spinning project, then changed my mind at the last minute and used another roving in my stash instead (this happens a lot, haha!).

I love how the grey toned down the color, making a golden-green color similar to golden pear. Moments like these remind me why I love spinning & dyeing fiber.

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I’ll chat about the construction and inspiration for this yarn in another video. Hopefully, I’ll have decided what to make with it by then. I’m notorious for making yarn but having it sit around due to my indecision on what to make. It’s so soft and squishy that I keep it around to admire for far too long.

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Will you give setting yarn with steam a try? Have you tried it? I love the instant gratification, but for the most part, the best way is not to take shortcuts and wet set handspun yarn.

Until next time,

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