Plying Yarn

I know. I’ve been gone for 8 months and I start with a title like that. I was asked to show how I plyed some laceweight yarn into thicker yarn so it got me off my butt to post.

I have a cone of Colourmart laceweight cashmere and I wanted to play it into a thicker yarn to knit a hat for my sister’s baby-to-be.  I did math and decided I needed to ply 9 strands together.  I asked for advice on Ravelry and got somewhere, then I did what I always do – I looked around and figured out what I had in my house that I could use RIGHT THEN to ply yarn (at 9:30 at night on a Friday).

So here’s what I did.

First I weighed off balls of laceweight to be about the length I needed (note I forgot to account for the fact that twisted yarn is not straight, so I needed more than 200m of laceweight to end up with 200m of plyed yarn!).  This was easy with my lee valley scale, which is apparently no longer available. This scale is known as the drug balance in our house because it measures to a tenth of a gram with batteries you can buy at the dollar store. I know there are more accurate balances out there, but this works!

There is a thing called a lazy kate. From what I can see, it hold spindles of yarn and lets them spin freely.  Who needs a lazy kate when you have a ball winder, some boxboard from a case of pop and a niddy noddy in a toy basket?

I wound balls of the laceweight, inserted cores made of coiled pieces of boxboard and put three balls of laceweight on the niddy noddy rod. I could have used any rod, The niddy noddy was handy.  I made sure all 3 strands were coming off the ball in the same direction, so if the cores contacted each other there would be less friction. Decide if you are an over or under toilet paper person and use the same convention.  D added the toy basket because he got tired of holding the niddy noddy and wanted to go to bed. It is a convenient way to hold the niddy noddy off the floor so the balls can spin freely. (An aside, I keep typing niddle noddy. What is a niddle?).


Now I had three strands of yarn coming off freely. Someone on Rav suggested using the shaker top from a spice bottle to keep the strands from tangling. Off to the kitchen. Who sprinkles cumin? I’ll sacrifice that shaker top to the cause. I had to hold it in the air, so I found a stiff piece of L shaped cardboard in the basement and cut a notch in it and then used a binder clip to hold it in place. Our heavy atlas held the piece of cardboard in place off the end of the coffee table. I threaded the three strands of laceweight through three holes of the spice lid. Check.


Next is the twisting. I don’t have a spinning wheel (yet – we are in discussions about using an old wheelset of D’s to make one). Nor do I have a spindle. I do however have several drills in the house. I quickly rejected the single speed, high RPM model. No finesse in there. I used the battery powered one that can be slow or fast.

I used a pencil in the chuck, then taped the ends of the three strands of laceweight to the pencil near the chuck. I then made sure that the drill would twist the yarn in the opposite direction of the twist in the laceweight.  This is important according to the ‘net, so I did it. I then walked across the room, pulling the yarn off the balls and through the spice holder while twisting the yarn by pointing the drill/pencil back at the spice lid. When I decided I’d twisted enough, I turned the drill so the yarn would wind onto the pencil and walked back to the spice lid. I then put a half hitch at the end of the pencil so I wouldn’t unwind the yarn I’d just put on the pencil and walked across the room again. I repeated this until I’d spun all the yarn onto the pencil. I then wound it into a ball on the ball winder from the pencil.


Repeating this winding process two more times gave me three balls of three ply yarn. I then plyed the 3 three-ply balls into one nine-ply ball. For this twisting, I had to reverse the direction of the twist on the drill. Again, the ‘net said this was important and I don’t want to go against the ‘net.

I ended up with a lovely skein of 9 ply cashmere yarn. Unfortunately It is WAY too thick to make the hat. My calculations were off. I did have a fever all weekend and I blame that.

Would I do this again? Yes, for small amounts of yarn. The drill got heavy, getting the twist consistent was an issue, and the cats really liked having yarn twirling all over the room.  I’m happy I figured this out and I feel like I’m getting some of my mojo back.