How to Ply Your Hand Spun Yarn

by Ragtimelil

Once you’ve spun your yarn, you must decide whether to leave it as is or whether to ply it. Here's some ways to make two or three-ply yarns.

Single spun yarns are by nature over-twisted. They kink and try to twist back on themselves and can be difficult to work with. Weavers sometimes use singles but if you knit or crochet with it the twist will skew your article unless you use both right and left twists alternatively.

Here's a sweet little pouch I knitted out of Sheltie hair. I used a single spun yarn and no amount of blocking will make it lay straight.

Skewed pouch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plying is twisting two or more yarns the opposite direction from the way they were spun. This will make the yarn stronger yet cause it to "relax."

Single spun yarn and two ply yarn
Single spun yarn and two ply yarn

Getting Your Yarn

Spinners usually spin clockwise, called a Z twist. Spinning the other way produces a S twist. The Z and S represent the lines in the yarn. If you look at the yarn, you can see which way it twists. If you use two yarns to ply, generally you will use two spun in the same direction and ply it in the opposite direction.

Twists of yarn

Plying from Two Balls or Bobbins

Lazy Kake

To make 2 ply yarn you need your two yarns either on separate bobbins, or wound onto two balls. The balls can be placed in two bowls to keep them from rolling across the floor. The bobbins are generally placed on a lazy kate. My spinning wheel has a lazy kate built into it. They are easy enough to make if you don't have one.

I've made them out of two knitting needles and a cardboard box. I poked the needle through one side of the box, threaded on my bobbin, and then poked it out the other side of the box.

 

 

Plying

Take the two ends of the yarn and tie it to your leader. Then simply spin the opposite way from the way the singles were spun. Some people keep one yarn in each hand and allow them to twist together. I like to keep both in one hand and keep a finger between them.

When I am done plying I wash the yarn and hang it with a weight to set the twist. I generally use the damp towel I squeezed it with to get the water out.

Center Pull Balls

You can also ply from a center pull ball. My Royal ball winder makes really nice center-pull balls of yarn. The critical thing is to keep your thumb in the hole in the center. Otherwise you will end up with a snarl that will be unbelievable.

 Ball Winderplying from a center pull ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can make a center pull ball by winding on a nostepinne or just by hand. I'm not very good at this so I won't try to explain it.

Andean Ply

If you have a small amount of yarn to ply, you can use the Andean ply method. It’s more of a method of holding the yarn rather than an actual method of plying. It is used most often on a drop spindle, but it can be used on a wheel as well.

The yard is wrapped around your hand and middle finger. When done, slip the middle finger out so that the yarn is around your wrist. Take both ends and ply.

Andean Ply

 

 

 

 

 

In the following video, they’re wrapping on a plying tool.. When they’re done wrapping, the just pull the dowel out and ply from the two ends.

 

Andean Plying Tool

Navajo 3-Ply

To make a nice 3-ply yarn that is even stronger and makes a good sock yarn, I use the Navajo ply. It’s rather like crocheting by hand and works from a single strand of yarn.

Holding the yarn in your less dominant hand, make a loop with the yarn. Put your other hand through the loop and grasp the yarn and, as you spin, pull enough through to put your hand through again. Repeat this process until you’re done.

In this video, she’s just using her fingers to pull the yarn through. That works too.

 

 

Navajo Plying

Final Product

Plying goes much faster than the spinning. I enjoy plying and seeing the finished product. There are all sorts of ways to do fancy art yarns too by mixing yarns and using special techniques.

Knitted Shawl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictured is a shawl started out of 2-ply llama hair.

Updated: 09/19/2012, Ragtimelil
 
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Comments, Questions and Other Words of Wisdom


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Ragtimelil on 07/24/2012

Oh I'm so glad. You'll have to tell me all about it. What are you spinning on and what fibers...

AudreyHowitt on 07/24/2012

I am just starting to spin and so I loved this article! Great work! I will have to check out your pieces on spinning!

Ragtimelil on 07/23/2012

Thank you. Yes, there are some skills that will disappear if we don't keep them alive. I love learning about how things were made "back in the day."

katiem2 on 07/23/2012

This is amazing, thank you for sharing your knowledge with the world. I have a feeling this may otherwise have been a lost art. My youngest daughter knits, I will share this with her. :)K

Ragtimelil on 07/23/2012

I've been told, just write about what you know. I do love to spin, but it's starting to strain my eyes.

2uesday on 07/23/2012

Together the articles you have on Wizzley, about spinning and weaving will form a 'master class' for anyone wanting to learn how to produce their own yarn and fabrics.

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