Everyone knows that yarn is made of fibers spun together to stay in the shape of a string, rather than in the shape of a lump. But if you want to make extraordinary garments — or extraordinary mallets — there’s a lot more to it than that.
If you unravel a piece of yarn, you’ll find that it is made up of smaller strands of yarn. Each of these main strands is called a ply. The plies themselves can be formed from smaller plies, or from individual “filaments” of the raw material. The raw material will consist of fibers of short lengths, long lengths, mixed lengths, or “continuous filaments”. Generally speaking, longer fibers mean greater strength and shorter fibers mean softer feel, but there are many other variables.
One of these variables is “twist”. Twist is measured in number of turns per inch. All other things being equal, the greater the twist, the stronger the yarn. Unfortunately, as twist and strength increase, softness and loft usually decrease. There is always a trade-off. The individual plies and the finished yarn can even have different twists. The fibers that make up the strands can be pure, mixed, or blended.
The fibers can also be put through a variety of extra processes like brushing (to make the yarn softer to the touch — referred to as the yarn’s “hand”), lofting (to give the yarn more fluff and size), heat treatment (to give the yarn “memory” of its original shape), taslonizing (to give a normally thin but strong yarn more bulk).
Yarn manufacturers don’t know it, but each yarn also has a particular “pitch”. Depending on the combination of the above factors, the contact sound of a yarn can be high above the note played or right in the same octave.
Generally speaking, if the pitch of the contact noise is high, cutting power is improved; if it is low, contact noise becomes less noticeable to the audience.
With all these factors to consider, how does MALLETECH(tm) design a yarn? We start by asking the question, “What is the most critical performance attribute of this model?” Is it lack of contact noise, maximum cutting power, good dynamic shading, rolling smoothness or durability? The yarn designed for the Friedman and Samuels models has great cutting power and good durability. The Concerto yarn has the greatest durability possible while retaining low contact noise. The yarn spun for Stevens and Soloist mallets is designed strictly for tone, rolling smoothness and lack of slap.
You won’t find MALLETECH(tm) yarns at your local knitting store, because everything we use is custom formulated, spun, processed and dyed especially for us. Many players have said that they could hear the difference between our yarns and those of other brands, but now that you know about plies, loft, hand, filament length and twist, you should be able to count, feel and see the difference as well.
Of course, all of the performance characteristics of a yarn discussed above can be amplified, modified or minimized by the precise type of wrapping and stitching techniques used. The special features of a carefully designed yarn can even be destroyed by inept wrapping or stitching. That, of course, is another subject — the subject of Technical Talk No. 1.