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Unplying

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Finished
March 20 2016
March 21 2016
Project info
Unplying
Knitting
Needles & yarn
Knit Picks Palette
17.06 skeins = 3940.9 yards (3603.6 meters), 853 grams
Knit Picks
Notes

February 29, 2016

I bought the complete set of Palette when it first came out, so 2005-ish? IIRC, it was three shades each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple; three shades of warm browns; three shades of cool browns; black, white, and two shades of gray. I think it cost $50. It came packed in a plastic bag with the colors all laid out neatly, with a beautiful rainbow effect. I loved to just look at it in the package.

So I made some small things with it, but there was still lots left over. I conceived a long winter coat, made top down with navy yoke and sleeves, then the rainbow in vertical panels. It was pretty messy trying to maneuver the eighteen total balls for the intarsia color panels, so I did something really stupid: I wound each group as a ball on my totally bitchin’ Nancy’s KnitKnacks ballwinder, instead of just holding them together, so when I (naturally!) changed my mind about the coat and wanted all the yarns back in their own balls, well… let’s just say that the winding together was easy. The unplying was a complete PITA. Well, actually, it was soreness in my shoulders and back! And feet, since I have a sit-down job.

March 18, 2016

Last night I made my first attempt by winding each strand on a brand-new roll of paper towels. It did not go well. But this morning when I wound the small balls by hand to put the paper towels back on the shelf, I had a sudden inspiration for how to split them. If it works out (or maybe even if it doesn’t), I’ll post pics so others may learn.

Note to self: If you want to knit with multiple strands at the same time, don’t make them a single ball. Leave them in their own balls, and if you need to corral them, put them in a Ziploc bag.

March 19, 2016

Rewound all the balls. I think that if I turned my ballwinder handle clockwise while winding the three yarns together, then rewinding them counterclockwise once (or twice) might undo the barber-pole slight twisting of the three strands.

On the ball they look a lot less twisted, so fingers crossed!

March 21, 2016

Yeah, no more winding different yarns together--EVER. It only took me about ten hours to unply all the balls back into singles.

By weight I had 17.07 balls wound together three strands at a time. So I had to unply then wind back to singles a mere 3943 yards.

Yeah. Meaning no. Never again. If I need to hold multiple strands together for something, that’s all I’m gonna do--hold them together, not ply them together.

Note: I was not trying to unply a commercial multi-ply yarn. I was instead unplying a yarn I made by winding three separate yarns together as one on my ballwinder. I don’t think trying to unply a commercial yarn to its individual plies would work very well.

Here are the two contraptions I used to speed up the process at least a little bit.

It was just over 17 balls’ worth of Knit Picks Palette, which amounted to a mere 3943 yards. Yikes.

Two-Axis Gyroscope

So, really, what I needed for this problem was a two-axis gyroscope. What does that mean?

Imagine you’re looking straight at your toilet-paper dispenser. You grab the free end and start pulling. That’s the first axis. Now, suppose you could spin your toilet paper another way at the same time. Imagine the toilet-paper dispenser itself can spin where it’s attached to the wall (OK, it’s probably attached in two places, but work with me!). So while you’re pulling the end to unroll, you’re also spinning the thing around like it’s a steering wheel. That’s axis number two.

And since when you wind yarn on a winder, yes, the center “hub” spins, but most winders (I think--mine does, anyway) also spin in such a way as to twist the strands into an impersonation of a barber pole’s stripes.

Ball winders don’t just spin the way you would rewind a pile of toilet paper if a cat or toddler found a new toy. They spin in another axis at the same time.

So to truly unwind three strands of yarn wound together as one thicker yarn, you have to undo the spinning that happened in two directions (or axes--which is the plural of axis and pronounced AX-eez, although now that I think about it, an ax would have put me out of my misery a bit sooner!).

First Contraption

Respun the ball on my winder so that I could put a cardboard tube in the middle of the ball. I needed some structure to bear the yanking that was about to happen.

I slid the now tubed ball onto a metal straight I happen to have (no idea why--I use circs exclusively), then put the ends of the needle down into some slits I cut in the sides of a convenient cardboard box.

My destination contraption was three fresh rolls of--what else--toilet paper threaded on my broom handle, then the broom handle got put through the backs of two of our barstools. Very handy.

Method

I pulled off about three yards of yarn, separated the strands, then wound them individually on the three rolls of TP. I was pulling the combined strand off the outside of the ball--hence using the straight needle to allow it to turn freely, just like pulling a length of TP off the roll.

Why onto TP rolls as opposed to spare cardboard tubes? Well, partly because I didn’t have any more cardboard tubes, but mainly because the bigger around the thing is that’s receiving the newly separated yarn, the less I have to turn it. Since the TP is about six inches across, that means I get half a yard wrapped with every turn.

Why not do all the strands onto one thing, like a roll of paper towels? Two reasons:

  1. Sometimes I had to take the TP rolls off the broom handle and rearrange which strand was where. So if they started as in positions 1-2-3, sometimes I had to untangle the strands, then put them back on the broom handle as 2-3-1. If all three strands were on a single roll of paper towels, well, that tangle was going to stay with me till the bitter end.

  2. I figured if each strand was on its own roll, then when I wound the newly unplied singles back into balls, it would be better to only spin one roll at a time.

Anyway, it worked pretty well, especially after I taped some DPNs to the end of the box to help separate each strand as it came off the single ball on its way to the individual balls.

Every little bit, about a yard or two, I had to take the combined ball off its straight-needle axis, then do that “turn it like it’s a steering wheel” thing to undo the twist imparted by winding the three strands together originally.

Last night it took me about an hour per rainbow color to separate the three shades, then wind them up in their own balls. That was a total of 443.5 grams, and I had another 410 grams of navy. I wanted to see if I could speed up the process a bit. So I tried to figure out a better way to turn the combined ball on that second axis.

Second Contraption

I cut the bottom of a clothes hanger in two (the peachy-pink one), then threaded the combined ball on it, adding the straight needle for structural integrity. grinning Then I used some tape to keep the cardboard tube in the center of that hanger, hung that hanger through a convenient hole of a second hanger that had a spinning hook (the white one), and finally hung the white one on one of those collapsing thingies put over a door.

I used the same triple rolls of TP to receive the newly unplied yarn on, and periodically I would spin the whole hanger contraption in the proper direction to undo the barber-pole twisting.

It took me about the same amount of time to do the navy as the colors.

Conclusions

Just holding multiple strands together seems to be a much better option--I do it all the time for socks. I’ve read several threads recently about getting tension differences when winding two strands together, leading to annoying loops of one yarn compared to the other, though that issue seems to be worse if the yarns are different. That’s one thing.

But suppose you get a third of the way through such a project and decide it just isn’t working out. Now you have all this yarn wound together and you want it not wound together.

Lesson learned: DON’T WIND MULTIPLE STRANDS TOGETHER INTO A SINGLE BALL.

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Finished
March 20 2016
March 21 2016
About this pattern
Personal pattern (not in Ravelry)
About this yarn
by Knit Picks
Fingering
100% Wool
231 yards / 50 grams
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  • Project created: March 21, 2016
  • Finished: March 21, 2016
  • Updated: March 29, 2016