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Troubleshooting Plying Yarn

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Plying involves taking two or more threads that you have spun and twisting them together in the opposite direction from which they were originally spun. Plied yarns have an even texture, are stronger, last longer, and resist tangling. Here are some common questions and problems that you may encounter as you ply, along with their solutions.

  • What should I do if one of my singles breaks, or if I am at the end of my single and need to start another? Sooner or later, you are bound to break one of the singles that you are plying. Do not be tempted to tie a knot. Knots always leave a weak spot in the yarn, as well as an unsightly bump. Instead, make a splice by doing the following: Spread the two singles apart; place the new thread between them; start the wheel; and let the twist glue the singles in place.

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    If you come to the end of the single on one bobbin and have another one to add in, then you can use the same method. It does leave a small area where it has three singles together, but this should not be noticeable.

  • I am not sure how much ply twist I need. One reason to ply singles is to produce a balanced yarn. A balanced yarn hangs straight and lies evenly in the fabric when it is knit or woven.

    Check the twist in your single before you start to ply. Use a hook to see what a balanced ply would look and feel like. Run your fingers over the twist. If you like how it looks and feels, then you should try to create a similar twist when you ply. You should count how many twists it has per inch and measure your plied yarn to ensure that they are similar.

    Sometimes the yarn is not quite what you want. You can change it by either adding more twist to the single (spin it again to the right) or removing some of the twist (run it through the wheel to the left). It is the single that controls the balance in a plied yarn.

  • I am plying on a wheel; which whorl do I use? Most spinning wheels come with whorls with two grooves. Traditional spinners use the big groove to spin woolen, and the smaller one to ply woolen. They do the opposite for worsted, spinning on the small groove and plying on the bigger one.

  • My plying is uneven. If your skein seems to have many areas of uneven plying, try counting your foot beats as you spin. This traditional spinning method ensures that you have the same amount of ply twist in each length that you draw out. Count each time that you treadle as you start entering the ply twist. If you get to the fiber hand before you have the same number of twists as the last draw, you should just keep treadling. Feed the yarn into the wheel quickly, using half the number of treadles that you used to draw the yarn out.

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    This also solves the problem of a skein that is loosely plied at one end—the beginning—and tightly plied at the other end. This problem occurs because the empty bobbin pulls the yarn forward faster than it does when it is full. Counting ensures that the twist is evenly in the yarn before it is wound on the bobbin.

  • The woolen that I am plying keeps breaking. If the woolen that you are plying is constantly breaking, especially if you are using very fine, short fibers such as cashmere or yak, then let it sit on the bobbin for a day or two before you start to ply. It should hold together a lot better.

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  • My plied yarn is textured with loops and curled edges. Sometimes the plied yarn can look like it has a curled edge, and even small loops. (This is the way that you would start a bouclé yarn.) This happens when the tension on the singles is not even; if one single is looser, then it wraps around the tighter one. To fix this problem, determine which single is loose and adjust your fingers to put a little more pressure on it.

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