To ply, or not two ply

Aww c’mon, I couldn’t resist! (Yes, I should have resisted, I know, I know.)

Another post about spinning, you’d even think that’s what I’ve been doing the most of lately, and you’d be absolutely correct. I got the messy miserable nubbly fuzzy batch of corriedale spun up and looked at the lumpy thick mess and decided on the spot that it was never going to be good weaving yarn, so I should just suck it up and ply it.

I usually leave my spinning in singles, such that I can then make the choice when I go to use it as to if I want to ply it or not. Knitting and embroidery prefer plied fibre, I think naalbinding agrees. It’s got more strength against abrasion, more resilience against being untwisted, and some of that extra energy has been mitigated. (I also strongly dislike plying, its another argument for leaving it as singles.)

Plying, for those who have only ever considered it in relation to toilet paper.. is much the same notion as TP, really. Singles yarn uses a single strand of spun yarn. It is spun either S or Z (counter clockwise, or clockwise) and everything has the same twist. (Unless your piece makes a deliberate choice to use S spun for part and Z spun for another part, but that’s a different conversation.) Two ply yarn takes 2 singles (spun the same direction) and then spins them together in the other direction. (2 Z singles held together and twisted together S is my usual.). You can do 3 or more plies, skies the limit really, or your sanity.

So singles have extra energy? What extra energy? When you release the tension on freshly spun wool, it doubles back on itself, making little curlicues of yarn with all the extra twist in the yarn, or what most knitters would call extra energy. (And providing you with a sneak peak of what your 2 ply yarn is going to look like.) You can tame it to some degree by leaving the wool wound up in a spool, or lightly weighted and then either steamed and left to dry, or just wait it out. It relaxes, doesn’t curl up on itself anymore. Until you get it wet (or steamy) and ka-sproing! It wants to curl back up again, and depending on what that yarn is doing, it may or may not be able to skew things.

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Ka-sproing! Singles!

Knitting is a series of interconnected loops, and it has a lot of freedom to wriggle within the stitches. Knitting with singles tends to skew fairly dramatically, which can be fine if that’s the look you want, but most people prefer nice evenly straight knit stitches, and therefore use plied yarn. Embroidery tends to be well pinned down, but that abrasion factor is huge going through cloth, and singles tend to unspin just enough to want to disintegrate. There’s also the reality that plying gives another chance for thread that is somewhat uneven to even itself out, where thin patches line up with thicker spots. Sometimes you lose, and thick spots line up with thick spots, but overall, it tends to even out fairly well. Odds are in your favour, and all of that.

Weaving, however, puts the threads into a rather rigid structure, and forces them to stay there. The singles don’t really get to /go/ anywhere, re-energized or not, and so a lot of weaving is done with single ply yarn. It changes little, due to the structure already in place. It might take longer to weave, but less time than a spinner having to do more than twice the work. (For 50 metres of 2 ply, a spinner would need to spin 100 m of yarn, and then twist that 50 metres a /third/ time.. so 150 m of work, for 50 m of yarn. Boooooo. For a 3 ply yarn, they’d have to spin 150 metres, and the ply 50m, so 200 m work for 50m of yarn. You get the idea.)

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Corriedale messy 2 ply

So, because of all of the fuzzy, and the thick and thin, and generally enh of this bat of corriedale, what little I had of the dark brown got plied up into a 2 ply yarn. There’s not much of it, and it’s going to go sit in stash ’til I think of something that wants not terribly soft yarn, but I have faith that something will come up eventually.

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