I’m going to start by telling you that it’s foggy and cold outside today. Winter seems to have finally come to my little corner of California and that’s fine – because I have a whack-load of plying to do. In particular, I’m plying this:
That’s the first spindle full of a well-aged batt from AbbysYarns – a blend of merino, silk and firestar (that’s the shiny stuff) called “Elphaba”. I got two of these batts years ago and, when I needed something to work on while running from Calistoga to Santa Cruz a few weekends ago, this was what I grabbed.
I like to use the same spindle to spin up both plies of a yarn, so I wound off the first batt’s worth onto a cardboard storage bobbin. I could have wound off onto a racquetball (my good friend Pat turned me on to that idea) but two ounces is a lot to wind off that way and I’ve got lots of cardboard bobbins lying around. Second batt in progress:
That bobbin in the background is batt number one. And, the second batt was spun up, I wound it off onto another cardboard bobbin because then I’d be ready to ply. Almost. With this yarn, I took one more step – I made a plying bobbin.
Ok, so it’s pretty hard to see – but that’s not a single thread; rather, that’s both singles sitting side-by-side on the bobbin. I’ve not added any plying twist at all – that’s the next step. Now, you might be wondering why I go to all this winding and rewinding. Does it really make a difference? My answer to that is, “yes.”
Briefly, the benefit of rewinding doesn’t have anything to do with balancing or redistributing twist. That first winding off from the spindle takes an unevenly wound cop (back and forth on the shaft, small diameter/large diameter) and rewinds it very evenly onto the cardboard bobbin . Transferring onto the plying bobbin does the same thing but now pairs-up the singles so they’re under the same tension. My electric bobbin winder make quick work of this, but manual (hand-crank) winders also work fine. Making a plying ball can also be done on a nostepinne or onto the aforementioned racquetball for portable plying on a spindle. Toilet paper cores are also great, essentially zero-cost alternative.
So, now that I’m sitting at the wheel, it’s trivial to just add twist.
I’m about half-way through and it’s very fast-going. Another hour or so and I’ll be finished. It’s also very easy for me to stop whenever I want without worrying about the singles getting squirrely or wrapping around each other – I just rewind them onto the plying bobbin. And, my finished yarn is much more evenly plied because I’m not fighting the yarn or pulling unevenly on the singles. All that work is done.
So if you’re in the mood to experiment, try rewinding your singles into a plying ball (or onto a plying bobbin) before you start adding that last bit of twist. I’m willing to bet that not only will plying be more enjoyable but your yarn will be better, too. But now I gotta go – that yarn isn’t going to ply itself.