Spinning thicker yarn

This post is going to be a bit of a filing cabinet for webpages I want to consult in my quest to spin something I can knit hats and mitts out of rather than lacey things. Those people interested in thinner yarn are probably eagerly awaiting Ted’s next missive on the subject. But some of us want yarn thick enough to knit practical outwear.

So I have tried to work out how to do that by doing the opposite of what Ted recommends for fine yarn (and consulting him by e-mail). Apparently, once you get the hang of spinning, it is quite easy to spin fine yarn (though not the VERY fine yarn he is helping you with). And the key to spinning thicker yarn is a combination of an appropriate weight spindle and practicing drafting more fibre evenly. So I’ve been practicing. I’ve switched to the heavier spindle (about 50g) that I bought at Rhinebeck and am trying to draft evenly for a thicker yarn. I’m doing not too badly. More practice needed and what I’m spinning so far is not unusable.

But then I was reading this (scroll down to the bit about the wool for Joe’s gansey) and I thought, “3 ply. Maybe I need 3 ply.” It had never occured to me. But once it did, I then recalled that Stephanie had posted about navajo plying a while ago. So I googled. Top tip. You get interesting links if you google ‘navaho ply’ but a very frustrating nothing if you do a site specific search for ‘navaho’ on yarnharlot.ca. This is because Stephanie, quite correctly, spells it ‘navajo’. Believe it or not, I took Spanish for 3 years in University.

Here are some of the sites I found. There are even little video clips.

With a spindle (useful because that is what I have; I like the tip about the andean bracelet on the wine bottle because I have those, too. I’m assuming full but not open for weight without danger of wine on the carpet.)

with useful audio (useful because a nice bossy voice often helps)

no video but lots of photos

The last 2 were linked from Stephanie’s post and, like her post, are done on a wheel. I’m going to have to try this to see how it works with a spindle. I’m thinking perhaps off the lighter spindle and onto the heavier one will work. Must go dig out a shoe-box and put some holes in it to turn the spindle into a lazy kate (or have I completely misunderstood what a lazy kate does?).

The film is with the photo guy. Photos should be coming mid-week.


2 thoughts on “Spinning thicker yarn

  1. The lazy kate is for holding the spindle (or bobbin, etc) while you wind the yarn off in some fashion – and yes, plying it off counts for that, too.

    An excellent kate can be made from a round container (like a Ben & Jerry’s container, or the plastic outer shell from a stack of CD-Rs or DVD-Rs). The container then needs a small “holder” in the center if it doesn’t already have one – like a water bottle cap – to hold the spindle hook. Then cut a slit in the side of the container for the unwinding yarn.

    These directions are given in Barbara C-V’s “Spindles Around the World” (see http://www.thebellwether.com/spinarwor.html – no affiliation, excellent video) Email if you need more help.


  2. Navaho (or Navajo) plying is a breeze with spindles. This method of plying, as you know, is just like making a crochet chain and adding twist to it. With a wheel, you’re adding twist *while* making the chain — which you do by pulling loops through loops. Some people find that their fingers end up getting caught in the loops while the twist is going in, or they get snarls and snags in their loops because the twist went in before the loops were all smoothed out. So it does take some practise.

    With spindle spinning you can make the chain *and then* add twist. In many ways, having the 2 steps separated like that makes it much easier to do.

    Multiple ply yarns (ie 3+ plies)will be thicker than 2-ply yarns (maybe; depends on the thickness of the singles) but there is a factor which spinners will eventually take into account: you have to spin a whole lot more to make them. 1000 yards of 2-ply yarn is 2000 yards of singles. 1000 yards of 3-ply yarn is 3000 yards of singles. (Actually, it’s a little bit more than that, because there is some loss of length in the plying process.) Plus, there’s the extra time in spinning that extra 1000 yards of singles. Since you can make a 2-ply yarn that will knit up to the same gauge as a 3-ply yarn, you have to decide whether the properties added by the extra ply make the effort worthwhile. If so, great. If not, maybe it’s easier and faster –in the long run– to learn to spin thicker yarn.


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