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Tutorial: Navajo plying on a spindle

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Navajo plying on a spindle.

This past Easter, Cullen-the-enabler gave me a pound of wool roving dyed in lengths. “You haven’t spun in a long time.”
I was trying to give it up. I don’t need another stash of fiber and tools. “But you enjoy it,” C. said, and it’s true. Last night we watched Lost and I divided each length of color in half – maybe I’ll knit them into matching mittens?
Some colors weren’t very distinct, put next to each other, and I want even stretches of color: so I spun on my spindle the two colors that messed up the scheme.

This morning I researched a new technique – Navajo plying – it involves using a leader yarn and drawing the single-spun yarn into loops, while simultaneously spinning it in the opposite direction.
Supposedly it cannot be accomplished on a spindle. (The spindle requires at least one hand to turn it, and the plying requires two hands.)
“Nonsense,” sez I. I don’t own a spinning wheel. And I don’t use leaders in my spinning because they’re ugly. And I can do whatever I want!

So I sat down on the bed, with both cats on my lap, and …
It turns out it’s not that difficult to Navajo ply, even using a spindle and no leader yarn.


(You need to know how to use a spindle.)
spun single-ply yarn
at least one spindle, preferably two
pair of hands

 If you own only one spindle, the singles must be removed beforehand and wound into a ball. If you own two spindles, me too.

Set up:
Draw a length of single. Create a loop on the end big enough for your hand to pass through easily. Secure the loop with a knot or felting.
Hold the loop open with your left or non-dominant hand. With your right hand, reach and pull through a length of single, creating another loop of about the same size. Hold both loops with your left hand.
With the right or dominant hand, attach the first loop to the hook of the spindle. Add a little bit of twist in the opposite direction from the twist in the single.
Hold the spindle motionless between your knees. Drop the loop attached to the spindle while holding unto the second loop. Secure the yarn to the hook (so it does not untwist along the entire length of yarn.) 

To ply:
Lift the spindle into the air, drop it, and twist (always in the opposite direction from the twist in the single). Continue to ply, reaching through each loop to draw the single through, until you have plied an arm’s length of yarn. Wind it to the spindle, secure the yarn on the hook, and continue to ply.

 See? Easy! Fun!
And you have a lovely three-ply yarn, about 1/3 the yardage and 3x the thickness of your original single-ply. (Mine came in at a lovely worsted, just under 11 yards.) All the colors are kept in the same proportion, same order as the singles. None of that tedious matching and measuring was needed.


Written by jane

April 16, 2009 at 11:17 pm