More spinning and some thoughts on navajo plying
May 27, 2009
Well, seeing as I’ve managed a whole three posts without using the words ‘spinning’, ‘wool’ or ‘yarn’, I think I can allow myself to indulge in a post purely about spinning today! So, without further ado, here are my recent spinning efforts…
First off we have some 2-ply Bluefaced Leicester in shades of blue and green (I know it looks mostly blue in the pic but there is green there too). The roving had been hand-dyed by a lovely lady I met at the Smallholders Show and I really wish I’d bought more. Before now, my wheel spinning had been quite fine, which is all well and good but I was worried that I was settling into a rut so I made a conscious effort to spin a thicker yarn this time. I haven’t measured the wpi but I’d guess the yarn is roughly 4ply / fingering weight. I’m incredibly pleased with it – I feel it’s the best spinning I’ve done so far and is maybe even of saleable quality, although I don’t plan to start selling quite yet – I still need plenty more practice, as you can see:
This started life as some really beautiful handpainted roving but sadly the spun yarn is disappointing. Aside from some generally poor spinning on my part (I was overtired and should have really given myself a night off), I think the main problem was my plying method. To make 2-ply I usually spin two bobbin-fulls of singles, pop them on my bobbin holder and spin them together anticlockwise onto a third bobbin. Up until now, this method has served me reasonably well as I’ve been spinning solid colours or rovings with very subtle colour shifts (like the BFL above). However, as the colour changes are quite distinct in this yarn I think a different plying method would have been more appropriate so I decided it was time to learn how to navajo ply. Navajo plying has a number of advantages over my usual plying technique as it allows you to make a three ply yarn from one bobbin of singles, meaning you have no leftover singles and it also allows you to keep colour changes distinct. I’m not sure how well I can describe the technique but you’re basically making a chain, similar to a crochet chain, the three parts of which you ply together. For a better description of the technique plus a demo, take a look here. Although all the same shade, I decided to use some alpaca that I’d spun to practice on and here’s how it turned out…
…not bad but not brilliant either! Navajo plying requires a lot more dexterity than my usual plying method and it took me a while to get the hang of it. As a result some of the earlier plying got a bit over-twisted meaning the resulting yarn is not as soft as I’d like. It’s also harder to disguise uneven spinning but hopefully as my spinning improves, this will become less of a problem. The other big drawback is that you can see the chain ‘joins’ in places which appear a bit knobbly. However, as I could only spot a few of these, I’m wondering if it’s again a question of technique and hope that with practice I’ll find a way of disguising these. Despite these issues, I do like the technique – once you establish a steady rhythm it’s really rather relaxing. Although not specific to navajo plying, I also like how 3-ply yarns are smoother than 2-ply, with the different strands seeming to fit around each other but most of all, I love the fact that there are no leftovers. Oh, I’m proud of this yarn for another reason too – it’s my first fully DIY yarn as I carded the alpaca into rolags prior to spinning. I can’t say I love carding but I’m gradually getting better at it and perhaps when I’m quicker it’ll seem less of a chore…. if not I’ll just have to start saving for a drum carder!
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