How to join yarn without a knot or leaving ends
Spit splicing is a magic way to join a new ball. Elizabeth Bagwell just wishes it worked on all yarns!
Hate weaving in ends? Well, if you’re working with a feltable yarn, you may not have to. Spit splicing is a neat way to join the tail end of one ball of yarn to the start of another.
How spit splicing works
Rather than tie two strands together, use friction, heat and water to felt the fibres creating a near-invisible join. It’s easy to do on the go as all you need is your hands and some water. By rubbing the yarn between your hands, you create friction and heat. You can guess where the water comes from.
Does it have to be real spit?
No. There is nothing magic about spit – tap or bottled water would do just as well. Avoid using tea, cola, beer or anything sticky, tempting though it may be.
What kinds of yarn can be joined this way?
This technique relies on yarn fibres sticking together. It will work well with almost any yarn that can be felted, which usually means a pure animal fibre (wool, alpaca, angora…) or some blends.
Spit splicing usually won’t work with yarns that have been treated to be superwash as these have been designed not to felt. It’s hard with yarns that have lots of very fine plies and easy with single ply woolly yarns.
It also won’t work with slippery yarns, like many plant yarns (cotton, tencel, bamboo…). Mercerised cotton is an extreme example but you can see how the threads slide off each other if you try it.
How to spit splice
Don’t trim the ends of the yarn with scissors – a ragged edge actually works better here. I’ve amped up the contrast on these photos, so you can see the individual fibre strands as these are what you want to stick together.
Untwist the end of your thread and slightly fluff it out. You can draw the fibres out longer, to make the bundle thinner. Do this for both ends.
Next, overlap the two ends by about 3-6 inches. If you’re lucky, the yarn will try to spring back into its twisted state, and the two threads will twine around each other. Wet the join and rub the two threads firmly between your hands. Press quite hard, and do it for a while (between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, I’d say). Take a peek whenever you get bored.
What you’re looking for, ideally, is to not be able to tell where the join was as the fibres from both threads will have firmly meshed. If the two threads are very distinct, untwist again, feather them out and try to overlap them more carefully.
Once the two threads are joined, treat them as one and knit as normal. Be gentle with the join – try to avoid tugging it too hard or separating the two threads as you run them through your fingers.
Won’t the join come apart later on?
It’s very unlikely. If you hold the thread on either side of the join or peel one tail away, you’ll be able to pull it apart, but this can pretty much never happen once it’s knit up. Instead, a tug on any part of the join will catch a strong stitch made of both threads.
I don’t want the yarn to be double thickness
This is easily avoided. Untwist the yarn, and stretch the fibres out (make the yarn longer). This will thin the amount of fibre on each side, so you can twist it back together as a single strand. This pulling out is how spinners (both hand-spinners and machines) turn a wide lump of wool into thin strands of yarn, so it won’t hurt it. If you pull too hard you may lose an inch or two and have to try again.
Last updated: March 1st, 2016.