Tag Archive: plying

Mischievous Old Lady

Why, hello there! It’s so lovely to be back. And look, I have a finished yarn to show you! Here is the first skein of Topsy-Turvy, as dyed by KnittyandColor, and double-chain-plied by me. I don’t mind telling you, I’m very excited to see how this knits. I think the fabric will be very exciting, and I’m toying with different ideas to really show off the spun-in stripes.


The technique went well, on the whole, except that I had difficulty spinning the black Ashland Bay merino with a worsted draw, so ended up doing a mix of semi-worsted and supported long draw throughout, which led inevitably to a considerably finer single than the coloured blue-faced leicester single. This caused me some problems during plying, but leaving aside the dozen or so breaks in the black single that I had to repair at some cost to my spinning serenity, I’m pretty pleased with how it worked out. And how fun is this yarn? It’s quite fine – about an 8-ply weight, I estimate – and ever so bouncy-squooshy.


And yes, that is a technical term.


Spinning for Stripes

So you remember last time we spoke I was about to launch into an adventure in plying? Well, I’ve finished my practise run today, and I’m over the moon with the result! I don’t know that you’ll be able to see the effect as it’s very subtle in the yarn and the swatch, but it does prove the concept (and more importantly, proves that I’m capable of doing a double chain-ply!).


I chose two samples of Ashland Bay for my practise run; one in a charmingly background shade of bleige, and the other in, I believe, the “Daffodil” colourway. I’m not generally a fan of AB top, because I find it to have a “dead” feeling in my hand and it clumps together strongly during spinning and gives the kind of dense yarn that I generally try to avoid. But the AB line fills what I think is an important niche, catering for the batt-making artistes whose work I enjoy so much, and anyway, for the purpose of this exercise it was adequate.

I won’t go into detail on the process – chain-plying (also and erroneously known as Navajo plying) is well-documented on YouTube and the only point of difference here was that I was pulling alternating singles through the loop as I plied, carrying the unlooped single along with the loops. Boring, no? No big pitfalls – have a tensioned Kate, set yourself and your wheel up before you start, and try to keep your loops the same length.

Now to the interesting part – the pictures!! Singles, plied yarn on the bobbin, washed skein and blocked swatch. It’s probably hard for you to see the striping but it is most definitely there, albeit both shorter and more subtle than I intended. The four-ply yarn came out to an 8-10 ply sort of weight, or DK to worsted.






Finally! I got my Octarine yarn plied up, and now it’s washed and dried and ready to show you!

While we’re at it, though (and in case you’re at all interested), here’s a little about my process. Bouclé is a 3-ply yarn, sort of. It’s got three strands, but one of those doesn’t get along with the other two, which makes it loopy. I call them, for the sake of having a point of reference, the loop strand, the core ply and the locking ply.

For the loopy strand, I spun a Z-twist single of Wensleydale with slightly more twist than I would for a singles yarn. The core ply was next – I did an S-twist single in the silk/merino/firestar batt with as little twist as I could manage, slightly finer than the Wensleydale single.

The next bit is the bit that takes practice. You have to get the two strands to ply against one another, and get the loopy strand to … well, loop. So you tie the two strands to your leader yarn, and then slowly begin to ply in the same direction as your core ply was spun. While you’re doing it, you push the loopy strand up, towards the orifice, along the core ply, to get those lovely curls and loops. The difficult part is getting your timing right, and getting a rhythm happening.

Your wheel setup will need tinkering with, you’ll have to get your treadling to the sweet spot, and you have to work close to the orifice so that you don’t crank too much twist into the core ply, so your yarn has to go onto the wheel pretty fast. But it’s important to keep your takeup light, because otherwise the flyer assembly will tug all your loops to one place and ruin your lovely wriggly yarn. I’m so lucky to have my beautiful Majacraft Aura, because being able to balance the speed of the takeup against the strength of the takeup is the only way I could have made this yarn happen. While you’re plying this time, you’ll see the loopy ply untwist and become much softer. This is why it’s important to use a fairly strong, long fibre, such as silk, mohair or a longwool like Wensleydale.

The locking ply is pretty easy. You spin another S-twist single, with approximately as much twist as there is in your core ply after plying with the loopy strand. Then you simply ply the locking ply (in the Z direction) against the core ply plus loop strand, working at getting a nice balance between the core and locking plies. The structure of the yarn is in these two plies, so try not to get hung up on what the loopy strand is doing. It’s really just there for decoration. You might have to wrangle it a bit during this second plying pass to make sure the loops are fairly evenly distributed along the yarn, but that’s it.

I finished my yarn the usual way – a hot bath with a little lavender-scented shampoo, then squeezed in a towel and thwacked on the back patio. It didn’t get too hairy, which is good, but it did fluff up and it’s now really light, airy and springy. While it’s not exactly what I envisioned (I was going for something more delicate, not a super-bulky yarn), it illustrates perfectly what I was trying to do. I could have driven myself mad getting it much smaller, but in the end I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad it’s as fat and delicious as it is. And that’s yet another yarn chalked up!

Shall We Try This Again?

As of my last post here, I was struggling with the Octarine yarn, remember? Well, I found the perfect braid of Wensleydale on Etsy, dyed by the charming Marilla of Moonlight And Laughter.

Wensleydale top from Moonlight And Laughter

It arrived last Wednesday, and I spun it into a single on Thursday. I’d forgotten how fun and easy Wensleydale is to spin – it was such an enjoyable and fast experience.

Then yesterday afternoon I sat down to figure out the other plies of my bouclé yarn. The directions I’m following say to spin your core ply quite loosely, because you’ll tighten the spin when you ply the loops against it. But the batts I’m using, while stunning, aren’t making it easy to spin loosely, so I’m just spinning it and will likely wind it off the bobbin onto a spindle, taking some of the twist out while I’m about it.

I’m spinning extra angelina into the core ply as I go along, and I’m loving the yarn I’m getting (even if its terrifying resemblance to fairy floss is making my teeth hurt) – it reminds me of My Little Ponies and Barbie dolls and all that jazz. The result is going to be a truly unsubtle evocation of the idea of the Colour of Magic, that’s for sure.

Corgi Hill Farm "Aurora" batts with extra angelina

Hopefully this works out. I’m a bit nervous of it, to be honest, but we’ll see. If it does, when I show you all the finished product I shall explain the method of making bouclé that I’m using, but until I get it to work there’s not much point!

It’s just so much larger than life. It’s pretty, it’s ugly, it’s daring and bold and utterly uncaring about what you think. It was such fun to spin something quick and fun and huge! The instant (or almost, anyway) gratification really boosted my optimism after getting a bit bogged down in the other two that are ongoing.

The two batts seemed to dance with one another in a really special drama – the foppish Frog Prince evoking overdressed, bewigged, powdered, gold-braided lords and the ladylike, coquettish Peeps batt, with slashed sleeves revealing hot pink, royal purple and teal underskirts and lots, and lots of cleavage. I spun them with a sexy, stately, decadent waltz in mind, the rhythm of the dance creating thick and thin spots in the yarn that twined around one another, each one showcasing the other at the turns of the dance.

I ended up with just over 50m of 2-5wpi, super super bulky yarn, 250-ish grams in total. And I just love it so much, in case you couldn’t tell. One of these days I’ll figure out how to put in a photo album, rather than subject you to all these shots in the post. But what the hell – the photos are what it’s all about, huh?

I’ve been plying madly and spinning like a demon, to try and get some headway on the Ptarmigan yarn. I’ve done so many miles on my (single drive, single treadle) Traddy over the last few days that my right leg is injured! I’m so close to getting the second plying pass underway, but I’m afraid that I’ll have to wait a day or two until my leg isn’t so damn sore! I can’t even walk properly!

Adventures in Plying

Ladies and gentlemen, I am still here! Really, I promise. I’ve been working on the yarn, but it’s just slow going on this one. I hope the next one is a bit faster and a little less tedious. But this will be pretty, it really will.

The undyed wool I’m using to coordinate with the atomicblue batt is merino that I got as raw fleece. It was my first foray into scouring and it was really good – it came out so fluffy and white after going in all greasy, grey, dull and nasty. I was so encouraged! I then carded it all by hand because I’m strange and love hand-carding. My rolags leave a little to be desired mostly because the fibre was too fine for the cards I have; also, I packed too much onto them and came up with things that resembled German sausages more than fluffy confections of amazingly fine beautiful wool. But it’s still fine to spin and comes up beautifully. I’ve learnt a lot in this process; don’t be afraid to pick the short cuts out because they’ll only fall out when you spin anyway, don’t put too much on the cards, get fine-fibre cards . . . yep, the depths of my ignorance continue to astound even me. But it’s still yarn. Isn’t it great, how forgiving this is as a craft?

I bought a photo collage program today so I can post photos without annoying you all to pieces. Now, I know there’s a whole lotta brown and white here, and I’m sorry for that. I promise, the next yarn will have colour! Promise! But for now – feast your eyes on my first (brown and white) collage – there is one there of one of the plied strands that will go into the cable. See – I am making progress!

Reversed Ptarmigan plying update

It's been a LOT of work, but we're getting there!

First snag

Hedgehogs! See!

Jute Twine "Hedgehog"

I like it but they are a bit bigger and heavier than I wanted. I might have to deconstruct the twine . . . there’s an idea.

So yesterday I sat down to ply. My plan was to put the hedgehogs in during plying, but I sat down at my wheel and was all ready go when . . . I realised that the hedgehogs won’t be fitting through my orifice! Dammit! Plan B. Out came my big Forrester plying spindle and away we went. Not an easy task on a spindle, very difficult to put the hedgehogs in and have them be stable.

Spindle plying from lazy kate

And I just couldn’t resist how wonderful the yarn looked on the spindle when I was done, so here’s a gratuitous eye-candy shot.

Forrester spindle

The phrase that really kicked this off was perhaps that msot elusive of writing achievements – an innocent afterthought of a pairing of words that seemed to be off-the-cuff but could have taken days of agonising . . . or maybe it arrived in a flash of divine inspiration.

Pratchett was speaking, I ?think? in the book “Wyrd Sisters”, of the pros and cons of covenly witch activities performed sans clothes in the open air. He spoke of the danger of “sudden hedgehogs” – and that image anchored itself in my imagination in the most tangible of ways. I laughed out loud, in sheer delight at the thought!

So how does one spin a “Sudden Hedgehog”? I thought of pom poms, as dealt with in Lexi Boeger’s Intertwined – pom poms in rough, spiky jute or hemp twine, that would be a tactile shock in much the same way that a hedgehog would be underfoot! The book’s image seemed to evoke warm summer nights on deeply-grassed hillsides, with hidden grey stones and glinting stars overhead . . . but somehow spinning that didn’t really take my fancy. So instead I played with the idea of snowdrifts, and the play of texture between snow and hedgehog! What if I spun a thick, fat, soft, barely-twisted single and included the jute tufts?

What if . . . !! What if I put two thick/thin singles together, as I’ve done once before, and plied the tufts in at odd intervals just to make a statement? Here’s the one I did before; I made a few mistakes, mostly in the finishing, but overall I loved this yarn and really am keen to try it again.

South African top from Crown Mountain Farms in club colourway "Celtic Glow"

That settled it for technique – now, what fibre? Jute or hemp is going to be hard, rough – and I wanted something really soft and squooshy to counterpoint against that. The stash reveals a choice of merino in carded rolags – not great for thick/thin – targhee top, or polwarth top. Hmm. Being that I will probably muff at least one attempt at this yarn, let’s plan on trying both!