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All rights reserved. Copyright Helen Sharp 2017




Just as in life, a lot of knitting (and getting a good-looking product off the knitting machine) is about balance.
The eye likes to see balance. Unbalanced things can be visually jarring – or they can be visually stirring, even exciting. Let’s look at where balance can be a good thing in knitting.

An unbalanced yarn creates an unbalanced fabric – sometimes.

Yarn is composed of fibers that are stranded together by twisting. We call this a ply. Twisting adds strength and elasticity to the ply. Machine knitting yarn needs some twist, but not too much, to create smooth knitting.

single ply

single ply


If there is barely any twist at all, we call this roving, or pencil roving. This yarn is inherently weak with lots of potential to break apart during the knitting. Careful, slow knitting is needed.

Too much twist causes the yarn to kink back on itself which can drive a knitter crazy quickly.

kinky yarn

But even when the amount of twist is just right, the fabric can be unbalanced, meaning it can skew or torque if it is in a single bed structure.

We have all had a t-shirt that spirals around the body causing the side-seams to move to the front and back. This is because the fabric structure (single bed) was not appropriate for the yarn used (or maybe the designer just wanted that to happen!).

skew2 ply

The swatch on the left is knit with a single ply yarn in jersey structure. The one on the right is a two ply yarn also in jersey.
To get a more balanced yarn, two or more plies are twisted together. Now the twist has another yarn to twist against offering stability.

two ply

two ply
But maybe you only have the single ply, it is your favorite color and you really want to use it to make something. You would have less chance of skew if you worked with a double bed structure. Rib is a more balanced, stable structure than jersey stitches and can cope with single ply yarns.


single ply used to knit jersey and 1×1 rib

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