Plying with Beads

When you hear the words "art yarn," what comes to mind? I'd guess that most people imagine crazy, wild yarns with large foreign objects sticking out willy-nilly. And yes, while art yarn often features fun experimental textures and objects, it can also be quite sophisticated. 

This week we'll explore plying with beads, an easy art yarn technique that can add a bit of chic sparkle to your next project. The easiest and most obvious way to add beads to handspun yarn is to thread them directly onto high-twist singles or commercial thread and then secure them by plying with another singles.

What you'll need: handspun singles, beads (or buttons or other elements with holes), and very even handspun binder or decorative thread

– If you decide to use commercial thread to hold your beads, keep in mind that the thread will show in your finished yarn—choose a thread color similar to your plying singles if you'd like it to blend in, or go with something fun like metallic thread if you want to add a bit of razzle-dazzle.
– If you choose a handspun singles to hold the beads, make sure it is even and durable, and keep in mind that beads may have sharp edges that could abrade your yarn.

The steps:
1. Thread all of the beads you plan to use on your thread or singles before you begin plying.
2. Place the plain singles and beaded singles/thread on a lazy kate and begin plying normally.
3. When you reach a spot where you would like to place a bead, simply slide one up toward the orifice and into the point of twist (A).
4. Continue to ply, allowing the twist to run over the bead and secure it. As you continue plying, the twist between the two plies will help encapsulate the bead and hold it in place—if you have threaded your beads on handspun (B), then the fiber may fill the hole in the bead a bit and keep it more snug than if you are using thread (C).

These instructions, tips and photos are from the upcoming Interweave book Get Spun by Symeon North. Here's a quick preview from the book's editor, Anne Merrow.

Anne: There are probably as many opinions about art yarns as there are spinners. My favorite thing about Symeon North is the way she welcomes all of them to the party. In her book, Get Spun, Symeon teaches skills that begin with fundamental spinning principles: how to spin thick-and-thin yarns that don't fall apart, how to dye different kinds of fiber in just the colors you want, how to use a drumcarder to create beautiful color and texture effects. But even though she emphasizes understanding how and why fiber turns into a particular kind of yarn, her true goal is to help you spin the yarn that you want. The close-up, detailed photographs show a range of different techniques to mix and match for yarns that are simply elegant or riotously fun. Use these ideas to create your own work of art in yarn!


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