Monday, November 20, 2017

Chain or Navajo Plying

Sometimes - OK, for me, rarely - you want to maintain the striping nature of space-dyed roving. The usual technique is then that you use so-called "chain" or "navajo" plying, creating a three-ply yarn that maintains the colour sequence of the single, and produces a variegated yarn rather than  one that is"barber-poled".

Admission: my chain plying sucks. Mostly because I get no practise at it, since I'm not a big fan of self-striping yarns. But also because I suspect my technique simply isn't very good.

I recently came across an excellent video, that features Sarah Anderson showing you how she executes chain plying. It was a revelation to me. I tried doing it her way, and found that the positioning of her hands really helps the process. I used to pull out each loop before plying it, leading to a jerky, and hence uneven, plying job, but her way of doing it is much smoother and makes a better yarn.

One trick is that you need to have the right tension on your single. A tensioned kate is really indispensable here. You need a tension that will feed easily enough so that you don't break your single (it's a pain to deal with broken singles in this technique!) but not so loose that the loop in your chain goes all squirrely. I tried my cheap version of a tension box - weaving the single through the rails of a rail-back chair - but this is hard to make adjustments to once you're set up, so doesn't work as well at all.

In the video, it looks like Sarah is wearing a skirt, and her single comes from her right on the floor somewhere, but I find it easier to wear pants so I can feed the single up between my legs. That way my hands are naturally positioned in front of me, and they stay there.

Another tip is that chain plying does not "average" the thick/thin variations of your single well. On the contrary, it tends to emphasize irregularities! So if you want even yarn, then you need to be able to spin a nice, consistent single first.

The last tip is that I tend to overply using this technique - the hand motions required slow me down considerably - so I find that I need to do this on my slowest whorl, and treadle gently. This is hard for me to do, because I'm so used to speed (I usually spin and ply on my highest whorl, double-drive style). Perhaps if I practise this more, I can get faster...

Anyways, my first try after watching her video resulted in a much improved yarn. Still a bit overplied but clearly I'm getting better!

[slightly overplied, but much improved, chain plied yarn]

[here's what I made from it. You can see the self-striping in action.
pattern: slightly modded Kindness Shawl by Jaala Spiro, free on Ravelry]

This is now a technique that I'm willing to try more often!

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