How to Finish Handspun Yarn: Steaming

Emonieiesha shares three methods for finishing handspun yarn in a flash with steam and explains why steaming is a good choice for textured yarns.

Emonieiesha Hopkins Jul 27, 2020 - 5 min read

How to Finish Handspun Yarn: Steaming Primary Image

This sample spun from rolags was quickly finished using steam, allowing Emonieiesha to see the finished yarn right away. Photos by Emonieiesha Hopkins

Finish strong; finish well. You guessed it; today, let’s chat about finishing your handspun yarns, which are not complete until the twist is set. But which method works for your finished yarns? I’d like to share a few ways that you can benefit from using steam.

Why to Steam

Steaming sets twist and allows me to have a completely finished yarn in no time. Sometimes, I want to know whether the fiber I prepped will spin into the yarn I imagined without spinning an entire amount. For example, I created some art rolags and wanted to see what they looked like spun into yarn. I spun two rolags, wound the yarn into a center pull ball, and made a two-ply yarn. Once the yarn was plied, I steamed it and loved it! Once I’ve seen the yarn, I can decide to either add that yarn to my binder of samples or continue spinning using the current preparation and spinning technique. Steaming my yarn and setting the twist instantly allows me to decide what I want to do next quickly. I can document or give myself the green light to keep on spinning.

First, a word of caution:
Steam can be extremely hot, and you need to protect yourselves while setting the twist in the fibers. First, I recommend wearing thick rubber gloves. The gloves should not be too thick or loose fitting but just thick enough to shield you from the heat of the steam without slipping. Then I recommend using a set of tongs or a hanger (not the velvet-coated kind) to hold the yarn and using one of the following methods for generating steam.

Hopkins-Steaming-Tools

Use these tools and one of Emonieiesha’s three methods below for steaming yarn.

Steaming Methods

Method 1: Portable, Handheld Steamer
Pick up and hold the handspun yarn with the tongs or place it on a hanger. Move the steamer over your yarn and allow the steam to flow through the yarn and its fibers. Make sure all the yarn has been kissed by the steam. Add a light weight if needed, but don’t weigh the yarn down too much.

Method 2: Stovetop
Use a pan a quarter full of water and a colander. (The colander will keep the yarn from accidentally falling into the hot water.) Let the water heat up on the stovetop until you see steam rise. Hold one end of the yarn with the tongs and the other with a gloved hand. Move the yarn from left to right over the pan and let the steam work its magic.

Method 3: Iron
When using an iron as your source of steam, suspend the yarn from a hanger and add a light weight at the bottom. The weight will act as an additional hand while you move the iron up and down the yarn and manually add short bursts of steam.

Hopkins-Texture-in-Tact

Highly textured yarns and art yarns benefit from steam’s gentle kiss.

Keep the Texture Intact

Textured yarns take time to create, and all that work needs to stay intact. How to finish these yarns can be a mystery. With steaming, I can control how long I allow the steam’s moisture to stay on one area of the yarn while being careful to maintain its integrity.

Hopkins-Travel-Spinning

Emonieiesha’s spinning travel kit has everything she needs for on-the-go finishing.

Travel with Steam

Yes, I am that spinner! My wheels have been everywhere from Fiji to the overhead compartment on the Amtrak. A portable, handheld steamer is a part of my spinning travel kit and fits in my luggage. That means I can finish my yarn anywhere.

I hope these tips have inspired you to give steam a try!

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.

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