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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! 


8 Comments leave one →
  1. silvercharmster permalink
    May 27, 2009 12:39 pm

    They are all lovely!!! I’m so impressed!

  2. May 27, 2009 12:44 pm

    I love the blue and green colours of you spun yarn and the ‘Navajo’ plying – is that right?? reminds me of Rapunzels plait, beautifully twisted.

    take care,

    Nina x

    • May 27, 2009 3:02 pm

      thanks very much – yep it’s usually called navajo plying but I’ve also seen it referred to as chain plying too…

  3. May 27, 2009 2:12 pm

    Ooh, lovely yarns!

    The blue-green one is stunning and looks very even! I really like your other 2-ply one as well, although I suppose I’m seeing it for what it is in it’s finished state, whereas you’ll be seeing it in relation to how you thought it would look in your head (if that makes sense!).

    I know the feeling of a yarn turning out very differently to how you imagined it in your head, it happens to me a lot!

    You’re very brave for giving navajo plying a go, I’ve been too chicken to try it so far! Your brown Alpaca looks good and I’m sure it’s one of those things that’s much easier with practice.

    Can’t wait to see what else you navajo ply! 🙂

    • May 27, 2009 3:05 pm

      Thanks kate. The second lot of yarn definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for but who knows, maybe I’ll like it more when I start crocheting with it…

      The navajo plying was actually much easier than I expected… I guess as I (used to) crochet a lot I was familiar with making chains. You should give it a go! Once you settle into a rhythm it’s actually quite soothing…

  4. May 27, 2009 4:57 pm

    I really like the brown one!

  5. May 31, 2009 9:37 pm

    Your spinning looks so good! No need to hold off on offering it for sale. Navajo really comes into its own when you want to reinforce colours in a mixed single rather than mixing them up. I love the way it looks and the way the finished yarn looks more consistent in thickness, but I’ve been holding off on using it recently simply because (if my maths is any good) you get fewer yards of plied yarn from your singles. I guess it comes down to what’s more suitable for your project. Glad you’re enjoying it.

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