plying is a fairly recent development for me. for a large chunk of my spinning career, i really didn’t want to ply. i’m not sure what the issue was, outside of pure laziness. i didn’t want to deal with it, i didn’t think that it mattered much, and frankly i just was too impatient to really want to mess with around with multiple plies.
i managed to get through a wool peddler’s shawl last summer with singles and decided that it was time to move on to plying. there’s a lot of advantages to plying singles- it makes for a stronger, more stable yarn with less pilling (though there are a lot of factors involved in pilling, admittedly).
i’ve been doing a ‘normal’ ply for about a year now. i’d spin two or three plies, store them on tennis balls, then wind a ply ball onto another tennis ball and ply the singles together. i had heard about chain plying as a method to ply yarn together to achieve a three ply yarn with one single, as well as maintain color seperation in the project.
i don’t care so much for the color seperation issues. i’m not all that concerned with barber poling. push comes to shove i can trade yarn i don’t like or over dye it, but my love of the fug is legendary so there’s rarely a yarn so ugly that i can’t use it for something. i try not to buy so little fiber that i can’t accomplish something with it, even if it’s just fingerless mitts (i like mitts).
the 3 ply with one single thing though intrigued me, because it would let me spin a thinner ply and theoretically achieve more yardage. the downside is that you have to make sure that you spin thinner since you can’t control the ply length through pre-seperating the fiber the way that you can with a more straightforward three ply (at least that’s what i’ve found). but it’s also faster and cuts a lot of steps.
chain plying on a spindle is a lot more straightforward than what i thought it would be. it’s a fairly simple process- you start out by making a slip knot and pulling a loop through the knot like you’re starting a crochet chain. pulling the loop out as far as desired in a 90 degree angle, place the initial loop on the hook (don’t pull the first loop tight). holding the top of the loop in line with the active single, place the loop over the thumb of the non-dominant hand and add twist. when the twist has run the length of the three plies, wrap around the shaft and pull more of the active single through the loop to create the additional two singles. essentially, you are creating a massive crochet chain but you’re not tightening the loop down, you’re just laying the loop against the active single to create three threads and then twisting those three threads together.
i guess (in the sense that i’ve heard of it being done) to spin and ply in one process- you chain ply as you spin so that there is never just one single at any given time. however, i’ve been winding it onto a tennis ball and plying from there. i find it easier that way and seems to work just fine. chain plying also seems to work best with rested singles, so the ball method helps for storage as well.