Why Some Yarn Splits – The Difference Between Z vs S Twisted Yarn

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Crocheters and Knitters use yarn, most are s twisted and a few are z twisted. Learn how to distinguish the two and see which one you prefer. It also explains why yarn splits so much using S-twisted yarn.

It’s Saturday morning, and I get an idea about what to crochet next. It will be a beautiful hat with lots of texture and drape. I even have the color visualized. I’m heading to my yarn stash to find just the right skein of yarn in the color and weight I want to use. It doesn’t take me long, I found it.

Excited, I sit down, grab my crochet hook, and get started. But it doesn’t take long until frustration kicks in. The yarn is splitting and it’s hard to crochet like that. A few minutes later, I’m rethinking my decision about the yarn I picked from my stash. But WHY does it split?

Does this sound familiar? It took me a long time to figure out there is not just one type of yarn and not all yarn splits. Let’s talk about the science behind it and allow you to understand why yarn is different so you can make an informed decision about which yarn to work with. And let’s face it, we are all yarn obsessed right?

As we embark on this journey of discovery together, remember that knowledge is power. Armed with the insights we’ll share, you’ll have the ability to troubleshoot yarn splitting issues, maintain control, and achieve a new level of crafting mastery. Get ready to unravel the mystery and say hello to a world of seamless possibilities!

Why Yarn Splits - S twisted yarn vs z twisted yarn

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How is yarn spun from fibers?

Yarn is made up of plied fiber strands. Before they are made into plied yarn, the plied strands are spun counter-clockwise (like a Z). But to prevent curling, the plied strands are now spun together clockwise (like an S). That is true for most yarn which turns them into S-twisted yarn.

The twist of the yarn plays a crucial role in stitch integrity. Because of the twist, Z twisted yarn tends to have more strength and structure, resulting in well-defined stitches. This makes it ideal for intricate stitch patterns or projects that require stability and durability, such as cables or garments. The tighter twist of Z twisted yarn helps hold the stitches together, preventing them from slipping or unraveling. But most of this is true for those who crochet as righties, or knit as lefties.

Now if you would spin the plied strands clockwise and then combine the plied strands counter-clockwise you would create Z twisted yarn.

z twisted yarn

On the other hand, S twisted yarn offers a softer and more flexible texture. It drapes beautifully and creates a fluid look, making it perfect for projects where drape and movement are key, such as shawls or lightweight garments. While S twisted yarn may not have the same level of stitch definition as Z twisted yarn, its gentle twist allows for a more relaxed and flowing stitch pattern. S twisted yarn is typically more preferred for right-handed knitters and left-handed crocheters.

However, more than 99% of the yarn is S-twisted yarn. So you’ll may need to adjust some of your techniques in order to make it work. Read “How to stop yarn from splitting?” below for more details.

s twisted yarn

How does the S vs Z Twist affect crocheting?

Well, when you crochet with S twisted yarn and crochet by yarning over, you turn your hook counter-clockwise. But the S twisted yarn was spun clockwise. So, because you crochet in one direction and the yarn is going in the other direction, you automatically split the yarn.

Crocheting with s twisted yarn - yarn splits

However, Z twisted yarn is spun counter-clockwise which is the same direction as you crochet (such as yarning over). That means you prevent the splitting and actually enforce the twist.

Crocheting with Z twisted yarn - yarn does not split

How does the twist affect Lefties?

Everything mentioned above is for right-handed crocheters. So for lefties, it is actually reversed. Lefties have an easier time crocheting with S twisted yarn as both crocheting and yarn spun direction are the same. That means lefties have a harder time crocheting with Z-twisted yarn.

Is Z-twisted yarn the best yarn for crocheters to prevent yarn splitting?

Technically, YES, IF you are right-handed. Because of the direction of the twist of the plied yarn, you can crochet easier, and have great drape and stitch definition. And let’s not forget about the frustration when you see your yarn splitting when you use S-twisted yarn.

Yarns with a Z-twist are generally more tightly wound and less prone to splitting, making them a great choice for projects where splitting is a concern. However, keep in mind that different yarns have different properties and how you hold and wrap your yarn around your finger matters, so it’s always a good idea to experiment and find what works best for you.

How to stop yarn from splitting?

To achieve the smoothest and most enjoyable crochet experience, it’s important to know how to stop yarn from splitting, especially if you don’t have the right yarn on hand to automatically prevent the splitting.

By implementing a few simple techniques, you can prevent those frustrating splits and create flawlessly crafted projects. Let’s explore some effective strategies that will help you overcome this challenge. The tips below are specially for those who are using yarns that are prone to split due to their style of crocheting, e.g. S-twisted yarn for right-handed crocheters.

Tension Control – Especially for Crochet Beginners

Firstly, paying attention to your tension is crucial. When working with yarn, try to maintain a consistent and even tension throughout your stitches. A loose tension can create larger gaps between stitches, making the yarn more susceptible to splitting.

On the other hand, excessive tightness can put undue stress on the yarn fibers, causing them to separate. Finding the right balance in your tension will greatly reduce the likelihood of encountering splits.

Crochet Nice Stitch Definition

Another key factor in preventing yarn splitting is staying close to your project and even wrapping the yarn with the twist around your yarn finger that holds the yarn in place.

Yarn Over vs Yarn Under

Furthermore, you could crochet yarn under instead of yarn over, as that changes the direction of how you crochet. But that can create a tighter stitch definition and might even hurt your arm and wrist.

However, crocheters who frequently crochet amigurumi, like using yarn under as that helps them create tighter stitches which in return creates fewer gaps for the stuffing to peek through.

If you want to read more about Yarn Under vs Yarn Over, please check out my detailed article about it.

Crochet with the Right Yarn and Hook Size

Choosing the right yarn can make a significant difference in tackling splitting issues. Some yarns are inherently more prone to splitting due to their fiber composition or the way they are spun. Thicker and less pliable yarns, for example, are more likely to split. When shopping for yarn, consider opting for tightly twisted or plied varieties, as they tend to be more resistant to splitting. It’s also worth taking note of yarn labels that specifically mention being “splittable” or “splitty,” as this can serve as a helpful warning.

Finally, if despite your best efforts, yarn splitting still persists, consider adjusting your needle or hook size. Using a smaller size creates smaller spaces between stitches, which helps hold the yarn together more securely. This technique is particularly effective when working with delicate or splitty yarns. Experimentation may be necessary to find the perfect needle or hook size for each yarn, so don’t hesitate to test different options until you achieve the desired result.

With these troubleshooting techniques and yarn control strategies in your crafting toolkit, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle any yarn splitting issues that may arise. By paying attention to your tension, selecting appropriate stitch patterns, choosing yarns wisely, and adjusting your needle or hook size when needed, you can overcome this obstacle and achieve seamless, professional-looking projects.

Crochet Quiz Knowledge question

Worsted Weight Yarn That is Z-Twisted

This is ZZ Twist by Lion Brand Yarns and has an incredible texture and softness to it. It’s available only in the worsted weight.

zz twist yarn by Lion Brand Yarns

This is Furls Crochet’s Whimo Merino Yarn which is available in different sizes (DK and worsted) and has an amazing stitch definition and softness when crocheting with it.

Whims Merino Yarn by Furls Crochet

Furls Crochet’s Whims Merino Yarn Review
CLOSE UP and DEMONSTRATION how it works up

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So how does the twist affect Knitters?

Well, if you knit the continental style, you actually want to use S twisted yarn as you knit and move the yarn in the same direction. Z twisted yarn would split using the continental style (picking) of knitting. However, if you use the throwing method use actually want to use Z twisted yarn as the direction of knitting and moving the yarn is the same. In this case, S twisted yarn would split with this method of knitting. Again for lefties, this would be reversed.

If you want to know a little bit more about how yarn twisting affects knitting and crocheting, check out YarnSub’s article.

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Yarn Splitting in Crochet

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  1. 49 yrs experience in crocheting. Always wondered why my yarn split. No one I asked knew why. Now I know. Will definitely check out LB ZZ Twist. Thanks Nicki for another informative article. Goes to show, old dogs can learn [new tricks]. 🙂

  2. Does the hand one uses effect splitting. Such as I have a lot of splitting but I’m a lefty and assumed the yarn was spun for righties. Do we know if that matters? I do yarn over and yarn under depending on what stitch I’m working with. Quite often it’s opposite of what the pattern suggests because it reduces my splitting.

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