My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Biasing and Vacuums and Paws, Oh My!

A couple of questions on yesterday’s post about what biasing in yarns is.

Sometimes yarn that is constructed of a single ply is overspun and that causes the fabric knitted from it to slant in one direction. The yarn needs to be balanced for the fabric to not slant.

This is my highly unscientific take on it, and no doubt someone can explain it better. I did a quick google search but came up with nothing succinct and definitive on the subject, so you’ll hafta google for yourselves.

And it is certainly true that not all yarn composed of a single ply is overspun and will bias. The Morehouse Merino seems not to be, because there is no biasing in my knitting here.


But in the skein, it does look a bit overspun to me.


Go figure.

Penny T. asked:
Would you consider using some of your own handspun singles for lace?

Probably not, because I tend to overspin my singles. When I ply ’em, that pretty much takes care of it. And besides, plying is my favorite part of spinning!

And Vacuums

Yep, I have a Dyson and I love it. That is, when I actually use it. I used to have an Oreck, which was wonderful because it was so lightweight, but it actually kind of sucked at sucking. I gave it away and got the Dyson last year. Another thing I like about the Dyson is that it’s bagless and the cannister that collects the yutz you vacuum up is clear. It’s a tad alarming to see how much you can suck up in one vacuum session, but also nice to see what a good job it does. And it’s easy to take the cannister off the vacuum and dump it in a trash bag.

Last night when I was doctoring the photo of my Dyson by circling the on/off switch, I actually circled the wrong place on it and had to go back and look at it again to locate the on-off switch. At least I now have photographic evidence to refer to when I forget, the next time I vacuum. I think I need to follow Chris’ suggestion and paint the on/off button on the vacuum itself red or something. Strangely, I have no problem figuring out how to empty the cannister.

(When I first bought my condo in 1994 I vacuumed once a week. Ha ha ha ha ha! Wasn’t I funny?)

And Paws

If you mess with Lucy’s paws, she daintily withdraws them and looks offended. Sometimes she will say “meow” in an offended tone of voice.


A couple of you mentioned that you remembered that Lucy had been declawed by her former owner before she came to live with me. This is correct, and could possibly account for her aversion to having her paws touched. However, I’ve known declawed cats in the past who loved to have their paws fondled.

Lucy does have her hind claws, and she trims them herself from time to time by biting them off. This enchants me. (I’m easily amused.) I’ve had some cats in the past who did this, and some who didn’t.

Oh, and Books

As I mentioned a little while ago, I read fiction while eating lunch and knitting (ooh! I multi-task!). A little while back I was having a discussion of books with a coworker, and she gave me a book that someone had passed on to her and told me to pass it on to someone else when I was done.

This gave me an idea — always a dangerous proposition. As I finish the books I read at lunch, I’ll offer them up on my blog to whoever wants them. Unless I want to keep them for myself. I do have books I will never part with — I own everything written by Barbara Pym and everything written by Iris Murdoch. I would not part with those books for love or money. Or qivuit.

But a lot of stuff I read at lunch is stuff I don’t feel the need to keep — I’d rather pass the book on to someone else. Before we had our office suite renovated, I filled three shopping bags with books I had sitting in my office, left over from lunchtime reading. I offered them up to my coworkers first, and gave what was left to a sale to benefit the daycare center in our building.

So anyhow. I’m now gonna offer my books up to you guys, as I finish reading them. You can pass the book on to someone else after you finish it. Or donate it to a book sale. Or something like that. Whatever.

The first book I’m offering is Seeking Sanctuary by Frances Fyfield. I’ve linked to the listing for it so you can read the reviews there to see if you might like reading it. It was a little slow at the start, but all in all a very good read.

Would you like my copy of it? Send an email to blogcontestATcomcastDOTnet before noon Eastern time on Sunday March 25, and I’ll use the random number generator to pick a lucky recipient. Once again, anyone with a mailing address on Planet Earth is welcome to enter the drawing.


  1. Thank you for your explanation Wendy. It made perfect sense.

  2. Can’t the “slant” be blocked out? (I’ve not knitted any lace that did have a slant, so I’m wondering…)

  3. What a wonderful idea!! I love reading and I mostly keep my books, but sometimes there are ones I don’t like so much. I usually take them to the used book store that I frequent (too frequently).

    Thanks Wendy!

  4. Have you ever heard of That’s what I usually do with my fluffy lunchtime fiction, plus it’s fun to hunt down other books people have released into the wild.

  5. Excellent taste in Barbara Pym. She is (was) truly wonderful and I also have read all her books plus a bio.

  6. Lucy may be sensitive about her paws because of the declawing as it is a pretty traumatic surgery. Some cats are fine after it and some aren’t. My mother’s cat still yelps sometimes when he lands on his front paws and my theory is lingering pain from the declawing process. Anyway, cheers!

  7. I thought my cat was suffering from anxiety issues because of his nailbiting. Nice to know he isn’t the sole nibbler in felinedom. He also bites the dog, though.

  8. I adore Iris Murdoch and read one fabulous book by Barbara Pym. Thanks for the reminder–I will have to read the rest of their books.

  9. Have you considered registering your books with bookcrossing ( before releasing them into the wild? It can be neat and interesting to see where these books travel after they leave your possession.

  10. What a wonderful idea – recycling books!

    And I was thinking as I read yesterday’s post that “now Wendy has a reference to look back on when she needs to find the on/off switch on her Dyson”! LOL Funny to see you put it in writing today. With two big furry Labs, I have a Dyson too. I love it. But yes, it’s a bit scary to see how much, uh, dirt, accumulates between vacuumings.

  11. Oh man, that sounds like a great idea! I love to read, but I haven’t had time to read much that hasn’t been for class. Which means a lot of reading of plays and German short stories- “Der Kleine Prinz,” Brothers Grimm, and soon “Harry Potter und der Stein der Wesen.”

    Knitting looks gorgeous, as always.

  12. Kathryn Alexander works with nothing but handspun singles. And she has some very interesting biased things going on in her knitting – but on purpose. Google can point you towards her if there is more interest. I took a class with her several years ago in entrelac. She’s a fun lady.

  13. My Pagan Kitty is not declawed and hates having her paws touched. It’s a battle every time to trim toenails.

  14. Another question about bias. I have read that wrapping knit and purl stitches in the same direction will cause knit fabric to be biased. I notice that there are times when my gauge swatches show this. Steaming does wonders, but I’m always nervous when working on a large project, especially a gift. Anyway, any thoughts? Is steaming a temporary fix?


  15. Some cats, just like some dogs (and especially certain breeds), simply hate having their paws… man-handled (pun intended!) Neither of my cats like it, though the wussier of the two will just sit there and whine while the other runs away and won’t approach me for a while afterwards. And neither of them have been declawed. (Their aversion to paw-handling makes it near impossible to trim their claws, though, so I end up with a very shredded couch…)

  16. Yes, a Dyson and a cat is an interesting combination. Sometimes I think one could just make a whole new cat out of what comes out of the drum. And how nice to be reminded of Barbara Pym – ‘Really, did one look like the sort of person to have a bucket?’ That’s from one of the later ones, but I can’t remember which one. It’s obviously time I read them all again.

  17. PICAdrienne says:

    Our Taz got his name, in part, due to his reaction as an 8 week old kitten, to having his front paws touched. Didn’t like it one bit. He is ‘better’ now, and reacts like Lucy, unless you have already ticked him off. Taz has had other surgery, but I wouldn’t declaw him. George, he could care less, of course, he started to purr one time when he got kicked in the head. (It was an accident, he was running one way, and my daughter the other, and he lost when they crossed paths.)

  18. As I understand it from my Spinning teacher, you only see the bias in stockinette stitch. Maybe lace patterns balance out the singles like garter stitch does.

  19. Lovely! I have casted that same scarf, although I’m on row 12 or something. I can only work on it when I’m alone, and that rarely happens.

  20. Hey, forgot, I have had the Dyson “Animal” for over 2 1/2 years. I love it. I had a Windtunnel and vacummed the carpet – then went over it with the new Dyson. It is scary how many times I emptied that Dyson. For a week, I kept pulling stuff out of my carpet. I couldn’t believe it.
    The Windtunnel was new and the best they made too.
    My Dyson is purple and aqua. I should send you a matching picture. I wonder how many of us have Dysons?

    Great vacuum.

  21. Wendy- Is that what the vacuumm picks up- yutz?
    In our house it’s schmutz- probably yiddish for yutz.

    I’ll shut up now.

  22. Wendy, I have long been meaning to read some Iris Murdoch and I havent yet. (Doris Lessing is another.) You’ve inspired me. Is there one you suggest as a good first Murdoch read? And I will have to check out Ms Pym! I do think you would enjoy bookcrossing, by the way.

    As for kitty feets, my Cody got his nickname (Roo) 14 years ago because he sat up on his hind legs so much. Took me awhile to figure out it was bc he was declawed. Last time I’ll ever do that to a kitty. I’ve been making it up to him ever since!

  23. Man is that shaw looking so good. Seems like Lucy likes it too. =)

    Thanks for the explanation. It made complete sence to me too.

  24. Great idea! I will admit ๐Ÿ™ as an avid reader who loves to knit, I find my reading suffers. I love both but simply cannot live without knitting. I recently borrowed my 1st book on tape from the library, Tara Road by Maeve Binchy. I wasn’t sure if it would “feel the same” as reading. Believe it or not it really does come close. Just a suggestion for those who don’t have the ability to do both at the same time.

  25. Maggie, my mom’s cat does not like to have her paws fondled either…

    And, your idea to give away books is great. Any books I don’t keep, I usually end up donating to the local library. I haven’t mastered knitting and reading at the same time and haven’t decided if I want to just yet. I do some audiobooks, but sometimes I just enjoy the peace of savoring a good book and nothing else… And, your lace shawl is lovely. : )

  26. Maggie, my mom’s cat does not like to have her paws fondled either…

    And, your idea to give away books is great. Any books I don’t keep, I usually end up donating to the local library. I haven’t mastered knitting and reading at the same time and haven’t decided if I want to just yet. I do some audiobooks, but sometimes I just enjoy the peace of savoring a good book and nothing else… And, your lace shawl is lovely. : )

  27. Oh how I love Iris. And how I love my Dyson. It has done wonders with two cats and a 80 pound dog!

  28. Awww!
    Lucy <33333
    I wish I had a cat who glomps my knitting. Then I could take pictures of their loooove!
    *is totally cat-poor*

  29. Love Pym, Fyfield……..try Patricia Wentworth……..big fun………does anyone vacuum once a week?.ok… if there are kids….great explanation……made sense to me….love the lace!

  30. Tabbetha says:

    The term I have heard for knitting twisting due to unbalanced yarn is “torquing”. You may get different results with searches for that term. As a fellow knitwear designer (with 4 cats – one of the 3-legged variety) I love to read your blog!

  31. Goodness, I thought I was the only person who still reads Barbara Pym. I adore her. I once loaned a co-worker one of her books and she would never return it. I still haven’t forgiven her and it has been years! I haven’t read any Iris Murdoch yet. Have you read any Josephine Tey? She’s another favorite of mine.

  32. I have two cats, neither of them declawed. One of them doesn’t mind at all if you touch her paws – the other hates it. And one always flicks her ears if you touch the tips of them, while the other one couldn’t care less. My 10-year old son found all this out by ‘experimenting’ with them one day ๐Ÿ™‚

    It’s not singles being overplyed that makes them bias, but just the fact that they’re spun at all. Since there’s not an opposing ply to balance the twist energy in the single (in effect, cancelling it out), all singles have the potential of biasing; those with the lowest twist probably won’t show any bias though.

    I think HJS Studio says it better than I just tried to:

    There are two types of balanced yarns. One is a low-twist singles in which there is so little twist energy that the yarn behaves essentially as if the twist is balanced. In theory, no singles with twist can truly be balanced, but in practice it works.

    A balanced plied yarn has the twist of the original singles balanced by inserting twist in the opposite direction. If just the right amount of opposing twist is plied into the yarn, it will have no active twist left when you work with it.

  33. My cats are declawed and they really don’t have any issues surrounding their paws. One puts up with have her paws touched and the other doesn’t care one way or the other and long as it’s gentle.

    If you are easily amused by cats cleaning their paws, check out one of today’s posts on Cute Overload.

  34. Hmm, I wonder if there’s money in selling aftermarket red on/off buttons for Dysons… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  35. Count me as another vote for bookcrossing. I’m “tzurriz” over there.

  36. I think the book “Spin to Knit” by Shannon Okey has some information about bias. I just had the book from the library but had to return it, so I can’t check to be sure, but I seem to remember a photo of a hat demonstrating bias, along with an explanation.

  37. I found this explanation of balanced yarn (including overspinning, biasing, plying, setting twist, etc.) very helpful: It made sense to me even as a non-spinner :).

  38. Thanks for the heads up on knitting with singles. I’m an awful spinner but I once thought that when I improved I could knit with singles.

    I’ll never improve that much. Trust me.

  39. Haven’t read all the comments, here, so this may be redundant, but Knitty had a good article on yarn ply awhile back, which explained bias fairly well, I thought. It’s here: .

    Sock knitting question for ya — have you tried the new Lantern Moon “Sox Stix” yet? I’m eager for a review from you or Clara or Grumperina….

  40. Afew years ago I read of a program to randomly leave books that you’ve read in public places (airports, train stations, even laundromats) for others to find and enjoy. We also noticed this happening in the vacation condo that we rented yearly in Colorado. I suppose now that any randomly left object would be subject to security alerts, police squad arrival, and cause a great deal of comotion to discover that it was just a book.

  41. Recycling books by passing them on is a great thing! I found myself buying far too many books I didn’t want and have since fallen in love with my library (being on a really tight budget was one impetus, and it leaves me money for yarn). Cats and paws are funny. I started clipping my cats paws when he was young, and now he actually puts up with it to a degree that I think he likes it because he protests just enough to remind me he is a cat.

  42. Mae doesn’t like having her paws touched either. I love the shawl – I’ve worked with Morehouse 1-ply before, and it really blocks out beautifully. No bias problems at all!

  43. Michelle from Arizona says:

    Hi Wendy. I have 2 cats, one declawed on the front and the other will all claws. The declawed love doesn’t mind at all if you play with his paws. He frequently lets me wash them off and get in between his toes after playing in the dirt outside for instance. My other love however completely resists invading her paw space. Get near the paws and she runs. I think it is a personality thing.

    About your book giveaway… that is really nice that you are sharing yours with your blog friends. I too give away books (to make room for more). Have you heard of It is a kind of fun spin on trading books. You label a book you want to give away with a bookcrossing identifier and then set it out in the ‘wild’ where it is likely to be picked up. Then if the recipient is fun enough to play along they can post the books current location. Kind of fun actually. It’s a nice website. I did it for awhile then stopped giving away books for awhile. I may try again though.

  44. I have had cats of both the clawed and declawed variety who either loved or hated their paws being touched.

  45. We read Pym’s “Quartet in Autumn” in a British literature class I took in college. It was an excellent book, and I’ve always meant to read more of her work. That class also introduced me to Jeanette Winterson, whose “The Passion” is one of my favorite books, but it also forced me to read “Little Dorritt” (Dickens at his least entertaining) and “Roxana” (DeFoe at his most hypen-heavy). I’ve never quite decided if the tradeoff was worth it…

  46. Most cats who have been declawed don’t like to have their toes touched. I’ve read that it’s because they are tender, though, that makes me wonder how they walk on them. I have 2 cats who were declawed… one hates it when you touch her paws, the other LOVES it. I massage them and it is nirvana for her. I have 2 that have their claws and one hates for you to touch them, the other loves it. Go figure.

  47. Hi Wendy and Lucy,

    I have one kitty who absolutely hates to have her “precious” paws touched and yet another who hates to have her tail fussed with. They are definately individuals with their own set of likes and dislikes.

    I just love your shawl. It is so gorgeous. Love those leaves!

    Thank you for offering up your books! I’m reading “Friday Night Knitting Club” and it is starting to grab my interest (took a little bit). Have you ever read the Knit Lit books? They are fun.


  48. Everyone’s comments have convinced me to get a Dyson. Having 2 cats (one Rag) and a crummy vacuum doesn’t work. The current vacuum laughed at me and rolls the cat hair into little balls then permanently adheres it to the carpet where I have to spent an hour on all fours picking white blobs out of the carpet – unless my youngest cat goes on a furball eating rampage first. Don’t know what is worse – picking all the balls out of the carpet or cleaning up the after affects of Bert eating too many balls (YUCK!)

  49. My kitties have an aversion to paw-touching, too. Mister will go so far as to pull his paw back behind his head and glare at you. They have not been declawed.

  50. The dyson is on my “I’ll get one someday” list. I’m just not enough of a clean-freak to make the investment yet.

    One of my cats is a nailbiter, unfortunately, it’s the one that actually lets me near his paws to let me clip his nails. It’s an exercise in futility to try to trim my other cat’s nails.

  51. You are the only person I’ve encountered who also loves Barbara Pym. In fact you are the only person I’ve encountered who has heard of or even read Barbara Pym. Isn’t she wonderful?!?!

  52. I’m interested in hearing how you like the Morehouse laceweight when you join more skeins. I knit my first “real” lace project this winter using the Morehouse. I loved knitting with it and was thoroughly entranced for the first skein. The second skein started as expected but quickly turned out to be a VERY different weight. I was very discouraged and likely won’t buy their yarn again…

  53. I MADE A SOCK!! I MADE A SOCK!!! FIRST SOCK EVER!!! YIPPEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Used your generic pattern. Was actually quite straight forward. A little large for my foot, but it will do. I will know for next time. Starting next one tonight. Hopefully, I will have a whole pair to wear to work Monday.

  54. My Martha is not declawed and “trims” her own back claws between visits to have them all clipped. (Hubby and I have tried; the most we can do is about one nail per day.) She only likes to have her head area petted. For the first couple of years we had her, her skin “crawled” when we touched her. George has been declawed on the front but is a marshmallow. (Both our cats are from shelters.)
    Apropos of not much, Dr. Phil had a guy named Dyson on this week. Dyson cheats regularly on his wife and sees nothing wrong with it. I used the word “suck” in a different way while conversing with the TV that day.

  55. I regularly pass along books to my co-workers, friends and relatives, but to give books away to blog readers! What a great idea! I’m probably going to do this too next time I have a book to pass on. I haven’t been reading much lately as I’m doing too much knitting. I have yet to master knitting and reading at the same time. ha ha

  56. I’ve got a Dyson animal as well and I love it with a cat and three dogs in the house. It’s almost gross how much crap gets sucked up by that thing

  57. I like your idea about passing on books – generally I’m lazy and just take them to Goodwill or try to pass them off to friends. But this is a good idea!

    I’d be enchanted too if my cat trimmed her claws. As it is, I’m amused when she plays with my row counters (only because I’ve built up a stockpile of them)

  58. Not a comment, but a confession. Today I was feeling so stressed (work has been too interesting) that I needed to buy yarn. I’ve been trying to knit from my stash, and have 3 WIPs, but the urge was too great. Is there an appropriate penance?

  59. I have the dyson too, and I’m always shocked at what it picks up daily. I have no furry type pets, just fish, and I vacuum every single day. But still, every single day there is a huge amount of yuck in the canister…where does it all come from? I mean we are total clean freaks with no furry pets! Weird.

  60. Ive never heard that some cats trim their own claws! Oh, if only my Puma would do that. It’s WW3 to trim her nails. I just looked in on the website. Neat idea! Wendy, the lace is gorgeous!

  61. Actually, all singles yarn is energized, or “overspun” to a degree — you are adding twist to fiber without balancing it. You can set the twist to minimize the biasing, but the best way to avoid it is to knit your singles so that the knit and purl stitches are balanced — garter stitch, moss stitch, etc., rather than stockinette, which will acccentuate the bias.

  62. I bought a Dyson for all the pet hair from 4 pugs. I think mine my be defective. I keep having to go to the manual to do something to it because it won’t stand up. I must admit I have a cleaning lady and she hates it (so heavy).. she brings her own. But- when I do use it- I am always amazed at all the hair and dirt it finds.

  63. As always, thank you. I learn at least one new knitting thing every day:) Linus doesn’t his paws fondled either and that just makes me want to more.

  64. My cats are constantly manicuring themselves and if you touch their paws you get the claws. I could never consider declawing a cat – claws are the most valuable weapon in their armoury. Cats still need to defend themselves on occasion too!

  65. Hi Wendy. I’ve a question about the Alpine Knit Scarf. I looked at the pattern and I don’t see how to do it, but perhaps you’ve thought this through. The this is this: I like the ends of things to be symmetrical. Is there a row in this scarf where you could graft two ends at the center back of the thing? Gracefully? I see that there is a row of straight knitting — no yo’s– in the diamond pattern, but I don’t have in my head where that row hits the leaves. Thanks, Wendy.

  66. Willa Jean says:

    As you said, an unbalanced single will tend to bias in any stockinette stockinette-based stitch, but in a garter-based stitch the bias will tend to balance itself out. You can often block the bias away, but it will generally keep returning. Spin-Off Magazine has published some interesting articles about knitting with unbalanced yarns and, as Anne said, Katherine Alexander does amazing things with them. And have you seen the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook? Their handspun, deliberately biased socks are very high on my TBD list. Besides, it’s the most amazing yarn porn I’ve ever seen.
    Dogs are funny about their feet, too. My lab won’t have her feet touched, but the Rottweiler will stand on three legs forever, if you’ll rub his foot. And he moans. It’s very disturbing.

  67. someone else who loves Barbara Pym! I have all her books plus A Very Private Eye in my collection and could never part with them. I’ve not read Iris Murdoch though. I’m going to check my library for her writing. ’tis a good thing you are doing with the books, Wendy.