Navajo plying (also called chain plying) is a way to make a
three-ply yarn from only a single strand. Spinners often use
this method when they have spun singles from a multicolored top
and want to avoid creating “barber pole” yarn as
they ply. Navajo plying preserves the color changes of the original
singles, giving you a striped yarn rather than a marled one.
If you can crochet a chain, you already know the main step in
creating a Navajo plied yarn, but I would recommend mastering
a standard two-ply before trying to chain ply.
To begin, spin a bobbin full of medium-twist singles and let
the twist set at least a day or two.
When you are ready to ply, use your slowest
whorl to give your hands plenty of time to get used to this new
technique. Attach your singles to the leader on your plying bobbin,
and make a large slip knot to create the first loop.
Alternately, you can create the
first loop when you tie your singles
to the leader. Remember: if you spun
your singles in the Z-direction (clockwise), you’ll need
to ply in the S-direction (counterclockwise) or you will end
up with a tangled mess.
Start your wheel to
begin plying. Use your front hand to
control the entering twist and your back
hand to reach into the loop, grab the singles strand, and create
The loops can be different sizes if you are working
with space-dyed yarn. You will notice
that little bumps form at these loops
as you ply, but they are less noticeable
when the yarn is used. Continue to repeat
the process, chaining and allowing the
twist to enter, while maintaining even
tension on all three strands.
worry if you need to stop your wheel
to give your hands time to work; you
will be able to speed things up once
you become used to the motions.
Although Navajo plying is not exactly easy, it’s harder
to explain than it is to do! One of the advantages of this method
that I appreciate the most is the ability to create a three-ply
yarn without ending up with slightly different amounts left
on three bobbins.
Amy King’s Spin
Controlhas a great section
on creating chain plied yarns, and a
free article by Dodie Rush on “Plying Chained Singles” can
be found here. You
can also view an excellent Interweave Press video by Sarah
Anderson, a 2009 Spin-Off Autumn Retreat mentor, here.
Sarah demonstrates how to begin the
process and reveals a sneaky pinky move that will help you
keep your Navajo plied yarns smooth and even.
I tend not to spin from space-dyed fibers on a regular basis,
but I still find Navajo plying helpful when I want to work up
a quick three-ply sample of a new fiber and don’t want
to spin three mini bobbins of yarn—or when I end up spinning
a full bobbin of fine cotton singles and run out of steam. Navajo
plying gives me a way to salvage a single bobbin of cotton by
creating a skein in a usable weight for knitting.
Like any other new technique, Navajo plying will feel awkward
at first. Keep it slow and keep practicing, and soon you will
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lee Juvan learned to spin on a walking wheel
when she was twelve in a summer workshop at
Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. She
bought her own wheel in 1990, and she’s
been at it since then. Lee is the designer
of several patterns published in Knitty, including
Shroom and Brighton.