Tales of a Beginning Spinner: Learning to Ply

After I spun two bobbins of colored yarn, it was time to tackle plying. Right away, the whole spinning apparatus expanded. I needed not only to understand the wheel itself, but also to become familiar with the lazy kate that held bobbins of singles. Elizabeth set up the lazy kate as we began our lesson, and she explained how to tie the singles onto the leader. Then, she spoke words that struck fear into my heart: “You have to spin the wheel the other way.” For me, keeping the wheel spinning clockwise felt like a great accomplishment; now, I had to make it go the other way?! I thought we were spinning, not doing rocket science!

It’s easy to see with my first plied skein where the diameter of my singles fluctuates.

Before learning to ply, I spun two bobbins of colored yarn.

The Process

I needed a whole new skill set for plying: spinning the wheel counterclockwise, managing the singles, and simultaneously adding twist to ply the yarn. My back hand kept the singles apart, while my front hand controlled twist and fed the plied yarn onto the bobbin. Even with these new tasks, I found plying to be more relaxing than spinning. In plying, if I let too much twist build up, I just let it travel farther up the singles. I did find it challenging to control the singles equally: small parts would get too much twist and poke out from the plied strand like little branches of a tree. I also noticed that although my singles had become more consistent with time, there were still sections of fiber that were too bulky or too thin—these spots became especially noticeable once plied with the other color.

Working out the Kinks

After plying for a bit, I realized that the wheel was going the wrong way. I didn’t even notice when it switched! It was back to square one, as I had to rethink what happened. I had to undo some of the plying I had accomplished and start again. But eventually, I found a comfortable rhythm of allowing twist to build up, then feeding the plied yarn onto the bobbin.

Before learning to ply, I spun two bobbins of colored yarn.

It’s easy to see with my first plied skein where the diameter of my singles fluctuates.

Once I had a decent amount of yarn on the bobbin, Elizabeth showed me how to wind it onto the niddy noddy, tie the skein, and set the twist. Because we were in the Interweave office’s break room, we had to compress a longer, more complex process into a limited time frame. The yarn soaked in a large mug filled with warm water for about fifteen minutes. Then I took it out and applied a gentle squeeze—never a wring—to release the water. Next, we snapped the yarn around in the air to even out the twist. Before washing, there was a buildup of twist that relaxed after a bath.

Looking Back and What Comes Next

My first plied skein is imperfect, but there are sections that look pretty good. If I can make sections, I have hope that someday I will be able to make a whole skein of proper-looking yarn!

In my next lesson, I will be learning to use a drop spindle. I’m not sure how it will go, but I’m always excited for another spinning adventure!

—Jenna

Featured Image: My third spinning lesson was in plying singles.


Spin like a Pro!

 

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