Early on in my spinning journey, I used to thwack everything. I smacked my skeins against a hard surface. Why? It was all I knew, and I used this finishing technique to demonstrate that I had created a usable, sturdy yarn. I know better now; the finishing method does not determine the usability of my yarn, but it can enhance it.
Thwacking a skein against a surface or snapping it between your hands may seem like a harsh way to treat your freshly spun yarn. Why on earth would we want to treat our precious handspun in such a way? There are a few reasons that come to mind, but first, let’s look at the how.
Prepping Handspun for Finishing
- Skein your handspun on a niddy-noddy and tie your skein with figure-eight knots in four places. (Use lengths of cotton twine, the end of your yarn, or a combination of the two.) This secures the yarn and lessens tangling.
- Soak your freshly spun yarn in a bath of plain water or wash it with your favorite washing agent. Use hot-to-cool water but keep the rinse water at the same temperature as the wash if you want to avoid fulling in this step. Soak in each bath for approximately 20 minutes to thoroughly wet the wool.
- Remove the yarn from the water. Use your hands to gently squeeze out the water, or lay the yarn on a towel, roll, and press out the water. Also, spinning your yarn in a salad spinner or spin dryer will help remove excess water.
Now the yarn is ready for the next step.
Secure your skein with a figure-eight knot.
Thwacking is a finishing technique where you take your freshly washed handspun and let it collide with a hard surface. Yes! Smack your yarn against a counter or other hard surface. This technique is not for the faint at heart, but it definitely has a purpose in your handspun arsenal. But be sure that your yarn is structurally sound before attempting this method.
Use thwacking when you want your yarn to bloom. Sometimes, we need our yarn to be a bit thicker than our plied yarn weight. Thwacking will cause a bit of blooming and can aid in helping us reach our goal yarn weight. This technique also tends to strengthen our yarn and lessen elasticity.
- Yarns that will be used for hard-wearing projects
- To strengthen warp yarn for weaving
- Woolen-spun yarns
- Some fibers, such as luxury downs
Emonieiesha’s finished skein
Snapping is a gentler way to set the twist than thwacking and does the job without any abrasion to the fibers or need for extra tools. The only tools you will need are your handspun and your hands! After the water is extracted (as described above), place your hands inside the skein, yarn length apart, and quickly move your hands apart while inside the skein. Your hands will bounce back, or as we handspinners say, your yarn will “snap” back. Repeat this motion by placing your hands in different locations inside the width of the skein a few times.
Snapping allows the fibers to realign and to even out the twist.
- Most traditional plied yarns
- Worsted spun yarns
- Yarns with a complicated structure, for example lock spun and spiral plied yarns
Sample to test whether your yarn blooms and changes thickness with a wraps-per-inch tool after you thwack it.
Each handspun yarn we create deserves its best finish. As always, what you choose to do depends on the desired outcome. I encourage you to think of your end use, sample, and use the best method for your future project.
For more finishing techniques, check out Kate Larson’s workshop, Finishing Up: How to Wash, Block, Dry & Finish Handspun Yarns.
Emonieiesha Hopkins is a Chicago, Illinois, fiber evangelist. She loves to gather her wool and good fiber friends, any time, any place. Emonieiesha can be reached via www.hopkinsfiberstudio.com.
Originally published August 31, 2020; updated September 28, 2022.