Category Archives: spinning

Navajo plying

IMG_9028Until now I’ve done simple plying with two strands held together but a couple of weeks ago there was The Stitch Up, an event at my local yarn shop. There were several stands with some of my favourite wooly people. One was Katie from Hilltop Cloud. I get a lot of my spinning fibre from her etsy shop. I love the colours she blends and the resultant yarns. She also specialises in British breeds of sheep which I think is interesting and positive. Katie was scheduled to do a demonstration of Navajo plying at the show and I decided that to get the most out of that, before the event I would find out about this method of plying and have a go at it.IMG_9032

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Navajo plying (or chain plying) involves creating slip knots with one single and then plying the three strands created by the slip knot together making a yarn from a one single rather than two or more. The result is a three ply yarn. It makes sense to make the slip knots as long as possible, reducing the number of knots in the yarn (which should be largely undetectable) and the potential weak points associated with these. It sounds complicated but in practise it’s quite straightforward.

IMG_9022The main advantages of this method are that a three ply yarn is stronger and more robust than a two ply (a threefold cord is not quickly broken…), and that if your fibre is variegated you can keep the colours separate more easily as you ply one bit of single with the next bit of the same single. If you two ply a variegated yarn with two singles unless you are very careful and accurate about how you separate the colours in the fibre up, you are likely to get a barber pole effect which is fine if that’s what you want, but it’s nice to also have the choice to keep a more striped style to your yarn.

IMG_9023This was really good timing for me to learn about this as I have some really lovely variegated fibre (Sweet Georgia) comprised of browns and teal. I’m planning for this to become Scottish Reel and now I’ve learned this method of plying I can create a yarn of about the right weight with nice sections of the different colours.

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A story begins

I mentioned in my last post that I had ordered some roving that I hope to use to make a cardigan or jumper for myself. Today it arrived. I bought it from hilltop cloud

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I think it is completely beautiful. The colours are complex and subtle and the blend is soft and squooshy.

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It’s 70% blue faced leicester and 30% baby camel. I wasn’t too sure what that would be like to spin. I’ve found merino wool slightly more tricky than shetland and I’d say this is probably somewhere in between. I felt I got the hang of it pretty quickly though and I’m finding it really satisfying to spin. I’m going for basically as thin a two ply yarn as I can manage and I reckon it’s coming out fairly fine, and pretty consistent. After all, When a yarn is hand spun you’re not looking for a completely uniform finish. I was thinking about this, how you can buy a £3 ball of acrylic yarn which is completely homogenous and feels like a machine produced it. Untouched by human hands. And to me, kind of cold and impersonal. Then you can get yarns that are hand dyed that feel like they have a bit more life in them. Sometimes you get patches where the dye has taken less and there are some inconsistencies. I don’t mind that. Then you get hand spun yarns. Quite a bit more knobbly bobbly I find. I guess when you add a bit more human you get more lumps and bumps. I feel like there’s something good about that. It feels like there’s some soul in it. Not perfect, but the best we can manage. Maybe it reflects the patience, time and thought that was involved in making the yarn.

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I’m going to need a bit of patience to see this project through from this beginning to the end I’m looking for. A bit like life perhaps. Shouldn’t be too hard though, with something so lovely to work with.

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