using a twisting stack
general,  machine knitting,  wicked

Twisting Stacks for machine knitting with fine yarn

If you are knitting with yarn that is too fine for your type of knitting machine then do not despair, you can still knit with it. What you have to do is use two or more strands together as mentioned in the previous post. You can do this by buying two cones of yarn or by using a wool winder to wind off some of your yarn onto a new ‘hat’.

two strands apart
two strands apart

It is possible to knit with two cones or hats, side by side, at the back of the machine or on the floor. You can just thread each strand through a separate tension dial (a 2-way mast has two) and then thread together in the carriage.

separate yarn masts
separate yarn masts

This is a quick and easy way to use the yarn, but can use up your mast arms especially if you are knitting with more than 2 strands of yarn. I knit with two 2-way masts so I have 4 arms available. I could use a 4 way mast, but i find that it does not give me enough space width-ways for four cones to unravel freely. With two 2-way yarn tension masts (4 arms) I can use 2 colours and a waste yarn without any problems.

But if you only have one mast, then you can thread two or more yarns through the same tension dial. It is worth trying both ways to see which works best for your type of yarn.

Don’t forget your can also do this with two 4 ply yarns for your chunky or mid-gauge machines. You can also twist off 2 strands onto a hat and use two hats or 4 strands to give a DK thickness (light worsted).

I find that it can be difficult manipulating stitches when the yarns are separate and prefer a little twist. I do this with a simple twisting stack.

Using a twisting stack

A google search only finds me one type of twisting stack in the UK today. This is the Hague twisting stack and you can find it here. They also sell them on eBay. Sometimes, BSK also has them in stock.

Hague Twisting Stack
Hague Twisting Stack

The twisting stack comprises of 6 wire frames and 3 smooth plastic rings. The wires fit into the rings. The rings have a rim that you slot your cone on top to keep it in position. This type of twisting stack can hold two or three cones of yarn and by feeding the yarn from the bottom cones through the top cones the strands will loosely twist around each other as you pull them.

Large Cones

too big for twisting stack
too big for twisting stack

The large industrial cones that I buy from BSK will not fit inside the wire cages. Some are too wide and some are too tall. However, this does not stop me. I can wind off yarn onto one or two ‘hats’ and the large cone will easily sit on the top of the stack.

Hague twisting stack
twisting stacks with industrial yarn

I have found that using twisting stacks to twist the yarn helps me to knit more smoothly than if they were not twisted. It is also neater than having lots of cones sit side by side.

Adapting a stack

Recently I purchased some yarn2cone yarn from woolyknit.com and found that the bottom of the cones were not big enough to fit over the rings on the twisting stack. This was a bit disappointing.

too small for ring
too small for ring

I tried to see if I could create something that would fit in the ring that the cone could then sit on, but it was difficult to make something smooth enough for the yarn to unravel without snagging.

makeshift twisting ring
makeshift twisting ring

This was the best method that I could find (cut off bottom off an empty cone and squashed it in the ring).

3 cones of yarn2cone
3 cones of yarn2cone

However, then I found that if I turn the stack upside down the underneath of the rings was flat and that meant the cones could just sit there. I will use a bit of blue tack to make sure they don’t fall over when I am knitting.

Home-made stack

But what happens if you have BSK yarn that will not fit on your stack and do not want to wind yarn off onto a hat. Do not despair, it is time to make your own stack. The main thing is to find something that has a smooth hole so that the yarn will not snag. This can be a challenge. It was for me. I did not have any plastic crates or pan shelves that would take the large cones of yarn.

using two rings
using two rings

So, in typical ‘Blue Peter’ style, I made something out of cardboard and stick tape! But I had to use a twisting stack ring as I could not make anything smooth enough for it work properly. I created a hole, same size as ring in a large box. I then pushed the ring to just fit in the hole. I then put another ring on top to fit the cone. I taped them both to the box. I chose a strong box that would support a heavy cone of yarn, but used the box sides to help support the top.

homemade twisting stack
homemade twisting stack

It worked. I was able to knit with two large cones without having to use a wool winder. I did have to make more room under my knitting table for the large box though. I think it needs a little modification in size.

I then used this setup not just for knitting, but also for winding off both yarns onto a hat using a wool winder. I could then use the hat as a single cone in one mast tension dial.

two yarns twisted and wound together
two yarns twisted and wound together

Three or Four Strands of Yarn

If you have really find 1 ply yarn, then you need to twist 4 strands together to make a 4 ply yarn. How can this be done with a 3 level twisting stack?

I would do this by twisting off two strands of yarn onto a ‘hat’ and then doing the same again. Now you have two hats of 2 strands of yarn. Now you can twist these 2 hats to make a 4 ply yarn.

Knitting with different coloured yarns together can make an interesting marl pattern.

muted marl effect
muted marl effect

I find that using two strands of one colour and one strand of another colour makes a more muted and ‘better’ effect for me.

3 strands total
3 strands total

I do this by twisting off the two colours and then mixing this with a third strands. This gives me a thick 4 ply yarn which is probably best knitted on tension 8 on my Knitmaster as I found tension 7 to be too tight.

Unravelling

If you are unravelling a knitted item, you can use a wool winder to wind back the yarn so that you can use it again. If you are unravelling a garment that has several strands twisted, then it is a bit more difficult because you need to untwist each strand to wind back on their cones or new cones.

However, you can get a new hat and wind all the strands onto it using your wool winder. Then you can use all the strands together from the new hat. It is up to you as to which is the best way.

In conclusion, it is possible to knit without a twisting stack, either by making your own or by using more than one cone or hat. However, twisting stacks are not too expensive to buy, or you could make your own, and I believe that they make knitting with fine yarns easier.

Do you use a twisting stack, bought or home-made? I would love to know if you do? And what you make it out of.

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