Pause Button: Simple Structures

Since I went to the trouble of making these last four samples for the 51 Yarns SAL with the same singles from the same fiver, I thought I’d take a moment to compare how they turned out.


  • 2-ply: 1169 ypp
  • 3-ply: 713 ypp
  • 5-ply: 383 ypp
  • 4-ply Cable: 585 ypp

Surprising graph, right? Not surprising that I made one, cuz I’m a big nerd, but surprising what’s in it.

So there’s obviously an inverse relationship between the density of the yarn and the number of plies. It should take twice the length of singles to make the same length of 4-ply as 2-ply, right? I think so, as long as the yarns have about the same angle of twist (which these pretty much did).

What surprised me was the cabled yarn. It looks and feels more dense than the others do. I expected it to have a closer grist to the 5-ply for that reason, but it was closer to the 3-ply. I wonder if that’s because of the path the singles take: going back and forth through the middle of the yarn, rather than the longer path around and around.

The cabled yarn is denser in that it is a little thinner than the 3-ply – 11wpi rather than 10.5. Perhaps the 3-ply singles have more room to poof out since they aren’t locked into place like in the cabled yarn.

So even though the singles are more compacted horizontally because of the way they are interlocked, they give more length for weight because the singles travel a shorter path. That’s my amended hypothesis.

The fabrics were all very cool. I just chose a needle double the us size of the number of plies (an arbitrary choice, but with some relationship to the wpi). In any case, handspun tends to lead me to knit to the gauge of the yarn, rather than the needle, if you know what I mean. Each sample was solid but supple – nice for a shawl, but I might go down a size for a sweater.

The standard, spiral-structured yarns did get increasingly smooth and bouncy as the number of plies increased. The 5-ply is so cushy and confident. If you wanted to knit a bulky-weight sweater that actually wore well, this would be a great way to do it.

The cabled swatch still feels a bit nubbly, but all those bumps mostly settled into place and bloomed in the fabric. It didn’t suffer for being a 11 wpi yarn knit on us 8s, anyway.

Again noting that colour isn’t the main purpose of this part of the study, I can’t help but notice it. These yarns confirm for me that value contrast is king. The 3-ply, with its widest spread of colour and fewest intermediated, is the most violent, while the same colours with a couple extra intermediated in there makes the 5-ply more pleasant.

Well, I think I’ve rambled on enough about this! Onward to more complicated structures!

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