Plying Workshop

Yesterday I attended a spinning workshop on plying yarns with Marie Clews at the NSW Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild Summer School. I haven’t attended any workshops since the one in which I learnt to weave with the Armidale Spinners and Weavers back in 2004, and never any in spinning (I consider myself an intuitive spinner, not a technical spinner. Do not ask me to count!). Overall it was a good day and I learned a lot that will improve my spinning.

I’ve photographed my little sample cards and am posting this here, mainly to remind myself what I’ve learnt. I arrived at the workshop with two bobbins of spun singles – one of purple merino I spun years ago with the intention of plying it with a silk merino blend, but the colour wasn’t right for it; and one of bright pink that I spun last month to contrast the purple from some fibre of unknown type (other than it being wool) I had in my stash. I used my Sickinger wheel since I really need to get a new drive band for the Wind Wheel.

We started off with a standard two ply:

2 ply yarn

From this I learnt that my singles are a little over spun for a two ply yarn, so I really should sample in future to get the twist right to make a good balanced two ply.

I wound some pink onto a spare bobbin to make a three ply (1 x purple, 2 x pink):

3 ply yarn

The first section of this that I spun (not shown) was over plied. I was still working on getting the right amount of plying twist into this, but it was a more balanced yarn than my 2 ply. I love the roundness of 3 ply yarns, but chain plying makes little “bumps” that this method of plying doesn’t. This is the kind of yarn I’ve been aiming to spin, especially since I bought a new lazy kate when I decided to do this workshop. My old lazy kate only had space for two bobbins, the new one has three.

Next up was a cabled 4 ply yarn. First an over plied 2 ply was spun onto two bobbins, then the two 2 plies plied with each other (try saying that fast!):

4 ply cabled

I hate crepe yarns, and this one was particularly ugly. I also hated the plying – from trying to work out how much over plying of the 2 ply was needed and how much twist to give the two 2 plies back on each other. The two colours in the plies tended to form longitudinal stripes along the yarn that made looking at what was going on during plying just appear like a coloured mess! Yuck, yuck, YUCK!

Next up, I wound some purple singles onto the (last!) spare bobbin, so I had two pink and two purple plies, and did a regular 4 ply yarn:

4 ply yarn

This one surprised me because I really liked it. Well, not the colours… It has that same roundness as the 3 ply yarn, and I didn’t have trouble determining the amount of twist necessary. Like the 3 ply, it was also nicely balanced. It seems I’ve been intuitively spinning my singles for nice balanced 3 or 4 ply yarns. Maybe I will regret having bought a new lazy kate with space for only 3 bobbins…

Next up was a method I have plenty of experience with – the 3 ply chained yarn (often called “navajo plied”). Just one single is needed for this and I went with the pink:

3 ply chained

No trouble with this since this is how I spun the angorino for Gaia (spinning and knitting links) to preserve the long stretches of colour. I also like to use it for small amounts of fibre so I can spin all the singles on one bobbin, then chain ply, leaving no leftovers on one bobbin as splitting the fibre into two lots to put on two bobbins almost always results in one bobbin having more singles on it than the other. As the single doubles back on itself, it makes “bumps”. These, ultimately, are where the fibres are likely to break and weaken the yarn over time. But this method has its place.

I also made a short sample of some machine embroidery thread plied with the pink wool singles. I found it hard to control, and the result was too ugly even to photograph. And most art yarns don’t interest me much. Marie demonstrated a few other methods I didn’t try.

I have two completed lots of yarn I’ve spun recently I still haven’t posted on here (a 3 ply and a 2 ply). I really should photograph them and do so. I’m now keen to continue with the spinning of some natural grey merino I’ve already spun one bobbin of, and tackle some alpaca blend sitting in the stash. Three plys.

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