Plying a balanced yarn can sometimes be trickier than you might think. Here are a few tips for great plying.
Be kind, rewind!
I may be dating myself with this reference, but one of the secrets to evenly plied yarns is to rewind your singles before you ply. While this might seem tedious, it has a valid purpose. Whether you wind your singles onto new bobbins or into center-pull balls, doesn’t matter. The act of rewinding your singles helps to even out the distribution of twist throughout your singles. We are human, not machines, so when we spin, sometimes we add a little more or a little less twist into our singles. Rewinding helps counteract human error.
When in doubt, sample it out!
Create a sample of your single and a ply-back sample at the beginning of your project. Spin your single, wrap it a few times around a index card and cut it. This is your singles sample, which you can refer back to while spinning and will help you maintain the same thickness of yarn throughout even the longest spin projects. To make a ply-back sample, spin out a length of singles, fold it over, and allow it to ply back on itself. Then wrap this plied yarn around your index card. This gives you an indication of what your finished yarn should look like and can help you determine twists per inch (TPI) as you spin.
Mix it up!
This applies primarily to larger spin projects, but can be used in any spin. Even with a sample card, it can sometimes be difficult to have consistent singles over multiple bobbins and over a longer spin time. It is recommended that you spin all of your singles first, before starting to ply. You’re more likely to have consistent singles this way.
Then, as you ply, switch between bobbins so that you’re not plying the first spun to the first spun and the last spun to the last spun. For example, if your last spun yarn is finer than your first spun yarn, by plying these against each other, you’ll have a more consistent yarn overall.
Equal tension! Consistent Speed!
While plying, hold all your singles with the same tension. If one single is under tension and one is loose, you’ll end up with a coil yarn or a spiral yarn , like the one pictured here. While the one pictured here uses two different-sized singles, you can still get a similar effect from two same-sized singles just by varying the tension of your singles.
Some spinners manage their singles by placing one between each finger on one hand and maintaining the same tension across all. For more than three singles, you can also punch holes in a cardboard or plastic piece, feed your singles through, and use this to maintain tension across all.