How to ply yarn?

Hi guys,

I bought some cones of yarn this past weekend during a camping trip. We found a little shop that was closing. Anyways, some are rather thin and i would like to ply a few strands together. Anyway i can do that without a wheel or spindle? Would a ball winder work?



The ball winder will only allow two strands to be wound together--not plied---because cones are involved, some twist will occur, but not enough to be really plied well enough to knit.

Bill's picture

I knit with multiple strands of cone yarns a beautifully. I don't recommend winding a ball with several strands...they have a tendency to get "out of sync"...and develop a loop while knitting...easier to knit from several individual balls or cones.
If you really want to ply them...they will each have to be respun to put more twist in them, then plied in the opposite direction.

2manyhobbies's picture

Well, could there be a way to use a ball winder to do this? Hmm.... it spins, so you would need some way to anchor the yarn, but it also wobbles. I guess as long as it spins, the wobble might not hurt anything.

You would need to potentially sacrifice your ball winder to experimentation, but what if you super-glued a plastic hook, to work like an orifice, on the center of the top of the ball winder's cone. Wind a bit of starter yarn on the cone as normal, then secure the cone-end of the yarn on the hook, and then hold the incoming yarn at arms length, while simultaneously turning the crank the desired number of times to add the extra twist, then unhook the yarn still pinching at arm's length to keep the twist, and turn the crank some more to wind it on, hooking it again. Essentially, you would have improvised a Chakra.

After you have your two balls of over-twisted singles, you could tie the ends together, and using the ball-winder in the opposite direction, use the same technique to twist the two singles together into the ply.

An easier technique, however, is to make a friend who has a spinning wheel they'll let you use :).

ronhuber's picture

I have knit with up to 5 strands and just knit them as they come from the cone or ball and it works well. My favourite is using two fingering weight yarns together and a worsted weight with a contrasting colour in fingering weight produces beautiful fabric as well.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

I agree with everyone else on this one...trying to ply multiple yarns with varying twists would be very hard, even with a wheel. Knitting with several strands at once will cause them to twist together slightly [in my experience] even though getting your muscle memory to hold them at even tension may take a bit of practice. [That is my observation, anyhow.] -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Bill's picture

I bought my Hansen minispinner specifically so I could ply the cone yarns I had...(not knowing that I should re-spin them first to add more twist)...and sometimes I do that...
but I've found that many of the commercial cone yarns, once plied and washed, actually bloom and set enough to knit with. They're not technically correct...but they work very well.

Tallguy's picture

There are ways to use the ballwinder to ply yarns, but it's a bit complicated to explain, and takes more time than you may want to spend. I'll leave that for another time.

But the suggestion that just using them directly from the cones is good advice. I've done that many times, and I think it does work the best. If you really wanted to add a bit of twist to the yarns, you can just let your knitting hang and give it a few turns. It's not much but will add a bit of twist. Do this periodically. The good thing is that as you knit, one of the yarns will have to be sitting on top showing that colour, and another stitch it will be another colour. You can get some really interesting colouring happening this way, and it is very hard to control. Have fun with it!

Hey there Dave,

I don't know where you live in Montreal, but I recently went to Espace Tricot on Monkland and they have a basic drop spindle for 15-17 dollars I think.

Though if you're just wanting to ply your your yarn you can always make an improvised drop spindle with anything really. A pencil/dowel and a scratched CD for instance, or anything that can simulate the purpose of a drop spindle in that you can manage to twist your yarn and store it as you twist.

Or you can make a spinning wheel friend as Jon suggests ;) I'm going on an American road trip in a couple of weeks and my objective is to not return to Montreal without my very own brand new wheel :)


davidjames181's picture

Wow thanks for all the advice. The main reason i didn't want to knit from the cones directly is each cone is about 10 lbs, so they aren't all that mobile. I'm thinking i may just use a ball winder to make balls of each individual yarn and just knit with multiple strands.

Bill's picture

Do's much easier than it sounds...LOL