How to Make Bulkier Yarn with Chain-Plying

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting |

Way back when, at least on the internet time-scale, I wrote a tutorial about how to chain-ply commercial yarn to manipulate color which you can read here. The variegated yarn I used flashed and pooled no matter how I knit with it, and chain-plying it created a beautiful marled yarn. Then I used that yarn for an easy (and free) hat pattern. Now I’m chain-plying another commercial yarn because I wanted to make it bulkier. So consider this part 2.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting |

I’ve had the Opal Sock Yarn Bunny by Susan B. Anderson pattern in my Ravelry queue for months. It’s so cute, but I have had the hardest time picking out the right yarn. I wanted something durable and hard-wearing because I like to imagine that this would become THE favorite toy; however, I also wanted the colors to be something whimsical and fun. Turns out durable and whimsical is a hard combination to find.  I eventually found a ball of sock yarn hiding in the deep stash. Seriously, I bought this ball of Zitron Trekking XXL 9 years ago on vacation. I almost turned it into a pair of socks, but didn’t want to knit socks on size 0 needles.

I don’t want to knit this totally adorable bunny on size 0 needles either. Plus, I’d like the bunny to be a little bigger than the 6.5” height stated in the pattern. Chain-plying to the rescue. The first and most important step to chain-plying any commercial yarn is to figure out how the yarn is plied. Commercial yarn is generally plied to the left, AKA with S twist, so you’ll need to chain-ply to the right, AKA with Z twist. If you’re plying a single ply yarn, you’ll probably be plying to the left. You can find the full tutorial for how to chain-ply commercial yarn here.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting |

And a helpful tip: If you’re working on a wheel, and have the option, use a jumbo bobbin. The plied yarn will take up more space than you expect. I plied 459 yards of fingering weight yarn and just barely got it all on to a single regular bobbin.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting |

I finished the newly-plied yarn just like any other handspun yarn because you still have to set the twist. I skeined it and measured the results before dunking it in a bath. I had about 137 yards of worsted weight yarn. Then I soaked it in cool soapy water for 20 minutes, rolled it in a towel to squeeze out extra water, and snapped it out my arms to even out the twist one last time. Then I let it dry over night.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting |

The twist really really relaxed and evened out. There are still a few over twisted and kinked spots, but most of the yarn is well behaved and smooth. I measured the skein again to see if setting the twist changed anything. The yarn was still a worsted weight, but I did “lose” 23 yards to the yarn plumping up. So I’m down to 114 yds, and really hoping I have enough yarn because I love it even more now.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting |

Before you go, here’s a few things to keep in mind before chain plying for bulkier yarn.

  • Even though chain-plying a fingering weight yarn will make a worsted weight yarn, the “new” yarn won’t have the same feel as a commercial or handspun worsted weight skein. Why? It’s much heavier and denser than either.
  • Because of how chain-plying works, expect to reduce your yardage to at most a third of it’s original number. My original 459 yds turned into 114 yds.

  • Sample a small piece of yarn first to see if you like the weight, drape, and density of the chain-plied version. It’d be really frustrating to do all that work and turn out with something you don’t like or wish you could undo. Take it from me, undoing a chain-plied yarn is not quick or easy.

Empty Those Bobbins for Spinzilla

Last week I signed up for Spinzilla, a week long event with the goal to spin as much handspun yardage as possible. This year, just like last year, I’m going Rogue which means I’m not spinning with a team. It was a lot of fun in 2013 since I got to know my new wheel and level up as a spinner. Spinzilla 2014 kicks off next week on October 6th and there’s still time to sign up as a Rogue if you too want to spin all the things. The proceeds go towards TNNA’s Needle Arts Mentoring Program which teaches stitching and fiber crafts to kids and teenagers.

There are only a few days left to prep for the challenge and step one is emptying my bobbins. I only have 4 that I can use on my wheel as well as 4 storage bobbins. Pretty sure that I’m going to need every one of them. 2 of the bobbins have been holding singles since July and that’s way too long. My plan when I started spinning the singles was to make a 2-ply fingering yarn. As I worked I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to match the colors without performing a lot of surgery. The urge to easily preserve the colors won out and I chain-plied instead. My 2 singles turned into 2 matching skeins of yarn. Won’t be sure until after the skeins dry after their bath but I’m pretty sure I made the right decision. 

The only change I’d make next time would be wearing a bandaid during plying. The constant friction and tensioning made the soft single cut into my thumb. I’m keeping lotion (might not have had a problem if my skin was softer) and bandaids in my spinning kit from now on. 

Wander the Web 55

One last photo from the beach. This seagull was being friendly in hopes of getting a snack. Didn't work.

One last photo from the beach. This seagull was being friendly in hopes of getting a snack. Didn't work.

Inspiring, fun, thought-provoking, and crafty links to round out the week and jumpstart your brain.

Battle Dog! Magical girls! Swords! Cute dogs! Necromancers! It’s cute and fun and I read all of it in an afternoon. 

Villa Moerkensheide by architect Dieter De Vos

Mitered Ballband Dishcloth - Came across this novel approach to the ball band washcloth while looking for a new kitchen towel to knit. Should be fun to try. 

The True Cost of a Knitting Pattern - A breakdown of what it really costs to design and release knitting patterns from Wooly Wormhead. 

Opus the Octopus - And my knitting queue grows by one cephalopod.

No Churn Chocolate Ice Cream (Dairy Free + Vegan) What are the chances I make a batch this weekend? 100% 

Ply Like An Eagle

How to Un-Ply Yarn

Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn |

Plying is magic. You can combine 2 or more strands or even just one and turn them into something beautiful and balanced. So, why would you ever want to un-ply yarn? Well, plying doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will. Maybe after plying 2 singles together, you realize that they would look much better chain-plied. Or, the colors barber pole instead of matching up. If you’re working with a commercial yarn, you could split the plies to use for sewing seams, attaching buttons, or embroidery.  I un-plied a skein of handspun because I’m stubborn and and wanted to the colors to match up. 

In order to make un-plying a less tedious process, you’ll need:

  • the yarn to un-ply - a few yards or a few hundred
  •     a spinning wheel or spindle
  •     a lazy kate or a small cardboard box and knitting needle combo to act as a lazy kate
  •     something to wrap freed singles around - small balls or origami stars or a ball winder
Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn |

1. With the spinning wheel or a spindle, remove twist by spinning the yarn in the opposite direction of the plying. For commercial yarn which is generally plied to the left, spin to the right. Remove as much of the ply twist as possible without adding any extra twist to the singles.

Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn |

2. Set up the bobbin or cop on the kate. If you’re using a lazy kate, separate the plies and pull them to opposite sides of a bobbin rod. If you’re using a box, cut slits in the cardboard for each single and pull them all through. In this tutorial, I’m splitting 2 plies but you can also take apart 3 or more plies with the same method.

Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn |

3. Evenly pull on the singles to prevent tangles and start wrapping. One single went to the ball winder the other was wrapped around a turkish single. 

When you’re finished, you’ll have at least 2 tangle free singles to work with. Sew on some buttons, embroider, or ply them together all over again. These singles went under the scissors to match up the colors before a second attempt at plying. Definitely worth the effort and the time. 

Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn |
Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn |

Review: Schacht’s Industrious Collapsable Lazy Kate


Once I started filling up the bobbins from my new spinning wheel, it became abundantly clear that I needed a lazy kate. Or at least something to act as a lazy kate. A chopstick stabbed into a piece of styrofoam was the first thing shoved into service. It mostly worked. My second homemade lazy kate was a slightly too big box with holes poked in the side and, you guessed it, chopsticks holding the bobbins. It worked pretty well except for when the chopsticks fell out of the holes, which was often. Many an innocent single was broken in that foul contraption. I was all too happy to replace it with an actual lazy kate, Schacht’s Industrious Collapsible Lazy Kate.  

Before I clicked the “Buy” button, I thought about what I’d need from a lazy kate to benefit my spinning and fit into my available space. The kate would need to hold at least 3 bobbins, have adjustable tension, and pack small for travel. It also needed to sturdy and reasonably priced. After combing through Etsy and various spinning shops, Schacht’s lazy kate met all of my requirements for $60. Done.


The kate arrived at my door in lightning speed in a very flat envelope. Things were looking good already. After a few glamour shots, I put the kate together without tools and quickly put it to use. Schacht’s lazy kate is a vast improvement over my box and chopstick combo. Bobbins no longer went flying and they spun easily. Tensioning is easy too thanks to a spring and the two center dowels. Just loosen the wing nuts, twist a dowel, and tighten up the nuts. I’ve even managed to adjust the tension while my hands were full with chain-plying singles. 


The Industrious Collapsable Lazy Kate is well built and of great quality. I’m not worried about breaking any of the pieces or repeatedly assembling and disassembling it. Assembled, the kate feels very durable in my hands. The size is nice too since it can easily fit 3 standard Schacht bobbins or 3 bulky bobbins. Even with as much as the kate can hold, it still packs flat and would be very easy to travel with. Just be careful not to lose any of the small pieces like the wing nuts or the rubber rings that secure the bobbin rods. Honestly, the small removable pieces are the only downside to this design. You could get away without the rubber rings but it’d be harder to compensate for missing wing nuts.


As far as looks go, the wood and finishing match Schacht’s Sidekick and Ladybug spinning wheels. Same minimalist style too. It feels like I have a matching set when I use the my Sidekick and kate together.

At just $60, I’m glad I picked Schacht’s Kate over both more expensive kates and those at the same price point. I’m sure I’ll be using it for years to come.

Wander the Web 6: Link Love Edition

Once again joining up with Crafty Pod and Link Love to share goodness from across the web. This week’s theme stays close to home and focuses on the most popular posts from yours truly. When I first read through the schedule several weeks ago, it got me thinking about how I haven’t made many tutorials in the past few months. That had to change so I started brainstorming and writing and photographing and editing. In the past two weeks I’ve managed to post two tutorials, How to Ply Leftover Singles and How to Clean Dye Off Spindles, and have a few more in the works. 

While I’m working on the new stuff, check out my most popular tutorials.


How To Sew On A Button With Yarn - Can’t find matching thread? Use yarn from your knitting or crochet project to sew on buttons without extra bulk. 


Kumihimo Tutorial: Part One and Part Two - A step-by-step tutorial for making a round kumihimo braid complete with clasp.


Origami For Plying - Learn how to fold a simple origami star to help ply yarn off a spindle.


How to Knit Afterthought Heels - A how-to and tips for knitting afterthought heels that won’t suffer from gaps or require picking up stitches. Bring your scissors!

Make A Bow Label.jpg

Make a Bow Gift Tags - Use leftover yarn and bits of cardstock to make care labels and tags for knitted and crocheted gifts. 

How To Ply Leftover Singles


 In a perfect world, we would spin singles with equal yardage and have none left over after plying. I’ve heard tales of this happening to a few lucky individuals but, for the rest of us, there’s going to be extra. Those last few, or not so few, yards sit on bobbins or spindles or straws or chopsticks while we forget about them completely for the next project. That is until we need that spindle or ran out of straws for extra yarn. I know that I have plenty of un-plied singles from when I first started spinning and had no idea what to do with the extra. My last few spinning projects have also left me with leftovers and I’m tired of them taking up space in my spinning box. The remaining yardage can easily be turned into a 2-ply yarn since the hard work of drafting is already done. 

The leftover single can have a lot more yardage than you think. A plied mini-skein can give you a little breathing room on the final rows of a project or be enough to knit a small trinket - like a Christmas ornament or bookmark. Plus, the mini skeins are cute and perfect for petting on a stressful day.


Wind the yarn off the spindle (or bobbin or straw) into a center pull ball. You can use a ball-winder, a nostepinne, or your hand. Just go slowly or risk snapping more delicate singles.


Once wound, pull out the end from the center and the outside. Tie them together in a knot and you’re ready to start plying with a spindle or a wheel.


The ends will pull out smoothly in the beginning but, as more of the singles move to the spindle, the ball will start to collapse. Go slowly and keep an eye out for potential tangles.



Let the fresh yarn rest for 24 hours before picking something small to skein up the yarn before dunking it in a bath. I used two small lamps and a book for a third un-pictured, mini skein.


Finally plied and finished, the yellow skein has 13 yds and the blue has 29 yds. I haven’t quite figured out what I’ll do with these skeins but, in the meantime, they’ll look cute on my desk.

Tour de Fleece Complete


 Tour de Fleece is over and done for another year but I don’t have any finished yarn to show for it; however, I do have some lovely, almost yarn. Half of it is plied on the spindle and the other half is still wrapped up in a plying ball. All of that last minute plying just wasn’t enough. 

Despite my lack of finished yarn, Tour de Fleece 2013 was a big success. Thankfully, I skipped any yardage requirements and stuck with 3 simple things: spin everyday, practice new techniques, and spin in public. I thought spinning everyday would be the easy goal but I didn’t manage it this year. Still, spinning almost everyday got me a lot of proto-yarn. As for practicing new techniques, I just stuck with one and tried out fractal spinning. I’ve never attempted to spin yarn or affect color this way before. We’ll see if I pulled it off once I actually finish the yarn and knit it. I also bought pencil roving which I’ve never spun before. Totally counts towards practicing a new technique.


The one goal I made, that I was 90% sure wouldn’t happen, was spinning in public. I’ve spun at knit night before and at fiber guild meetings but none of that counts. All of those people understand the attraction of yarn. Out in the knitter sparse public, who knew what the reaction would be. Last Friday, I sucked up my potential embarrassment, packed a towel, and headed to the beach with my spindle. I enjoyed the sun and the sound of the waves. I got quite a bit of plying done and got quite a few stares too. Once I found the rhythm of spinning, I was too relaxed to be embarrassed. If anything, people were embarrassed when I noticed them staring at me. Who knew? One man stopped fishing to watch but quickly went back to the fish when I looked in his direction. At least no one came up to me and commented that spinning was a “dying art”.

How did your Tour de Fleece go? Meet all of your challenges are you still plying, like me?


Just Plying Along


There are 3 more days of Tour de Fleece and I’m just started plying. It’s highly improbable that I’ll have a finished skein by Sunday night but I’m going to try anyway. If only the yarn would expertly ply itself while I’m asleep. 

To make the whole plying process run a lot smoother, I’m falling back on my favorite technique, the plying ball. It does take longer to start since you have to wind the singles together around a core but it’s worth it. A plying ball is portable, doesn’t require a Lazy Kate, and makes tensioning the singles during plying so much easier. Plying balls also give you one last chance to fix any breaks or weak spots before they snap during plying. One extra, added bonus is that you get to see how all the colors line up which is great if you’re spinning a fractal yarn, like I am. For more info on how to actually wind a plying ball, check out this tutorial.


All wound and ready to ply! My attempt at dividing the fiber for fractal colors seems to have worked. I was also exceedingly happy to see that one single wasn’t much longer than the other. It’s the small things in life. 

I’m a few yards into plying and seeing the colors change as they move through my fingers is wonderful. When I first picked out this fiber and my lightest spindle, I was aiming for a fingering weight yarn but, so far, it looks more like a lace weight. Maybe a bath and a good thwacking will bulk it up a bit. If not, that’ll teach me not to spin samples first.


The Plying Part


Last Friday, I wrapped 4 oz. worth of Optim singles around origami stars for plying. Saturday, I got a few yards on the spindle. Sunday was a total wash. Monday saw some very early morning progress though it wasn’t until yesterday that I buckled down and finished plying every last yard. Episodes of Cast On, Knit Picks, and Spin Doctor kept me moving and reminded me to stop for a break before pressing play again. I exercised my fingers playing the updated Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 3DS and, so far, my childhood remains unscathed. My night owl self skeined and put the yarn in a bath while my kind of awake in the morning self hung it up to dry. Fans, get to work!


While prepping the plying balls, I couldn’t help but notice that their final gem stone shape which is both entirely fitting - shiny 100% wool for the win - and completely awesome. 

Origami for Plying

Since I started seriously learning to spin, I have been monogamous spinner. Just one bump of fiber on the spindles at a time, thank you. I don’t want to confuse my hands with wildly different fibers and jump between lace and worsted weight all in the same day. So when I pick some fiber to spin, I see it through to the end and don’t start something new until the yarn is drying on the rack. For the past few weeks my default spinning project has been a lovely bunch of lace weight singles which are be chain plied for some self-striping goodness. The time had finally come to ply the first singles a few days ago but I only had one plying ball and two singles. I didn’t want to wrap both singles around the same ball since I wouldn’t know where one ended and another began. One single went on the ball and I wrapped the second around a box of sewing pins. That box kept the singles orderly but it wasn’t quiet about it. “Oh, you need more singles? I shall play you the song of my people.”


Until I get around to knitting up a few more plying balls, origami to rescue. I love making modular origami where a bunch of simple folded pieces combine to create something wonderful and complex. Stars are a particular favorite. In the rare moments of silent plying, I remembered the Gudrun Star over on I’ve made them before and they seemed perfect for holding bits of handspun. The stars are simple to make, easy to memorize, and don't take up much space. I made these units listening to podcasts and watching movies.


I know I could have just cut out a few squares of card board instead of folding stars but there is a method to my madness. The extra points make it easier to wrap and secure the yarn. Plus, I’m going to be using these stars a lot and I’d rather look at them than a drab piece of cardboard or an advertisement on the back of a cereal box.


To make your own stars, you’ll need the Gudrun Star diagram from and a sheet of scrapbook paper cut into 2 x 3” rectangles. Scrapbook paper is thicker than origami paper but still easy to fold and makes a sturdy star too. One sheet is enough to make 3 stars 3.25” across. FYI, the diagram is in German but the illustrations are clear without the words. Don’t forget that Google Translate is your friend if you need it. 


Once you’ve made your stars, they’re ready for yarn. Hold the end in a valley and wrap the yarn around the opposite side of the star 3 or 4 times. Rotate and repeat. When you can’t see the points anymore, you can wrap the yarn just like on any other ball.


Wrapped and ready to go! Time for some plying that won’t outdo the television speakers. 

How To Ply Yarn

...or Process Part 5 of Spinning Yarn on a Spindle. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

| - | - | - | - |

After how much time it took my hands to learn how to draft fiber and flick a spindle, plying yarn seemed like such a simple thing. Put two or more singles together (or one single that’s been doubled or tripled) and spin them together counter-clockwise to make one intertwined strand. That’s it. The only thing I had to think about was how much twist to add. It seemed so much simpler than spinning up the singles but I knew there was more to it. At the same, I wasn’t worried about the details because I knew I’d figure them out eventually.

So, if you’re worried about ruining your singles, just jump in and go for it. As long as you ply opposite the singles and add enough twist, you’re golden.  


A spindle, 2-ply plying ball, and a bowl for wrangling.


Tie the singles together in a knot. If you’re using a top whorl spindle, slip the hook between the plies. For a bottom whorl, tie the singles around the shaft.


Flick the spindle counter-clockwise to add twist since singles are typically spun clockwise.


Once there’s at least an arm’s length of yarn and you’re happy with the amount of twist, wrap the yarn around the shaft. Bring the yarn back around to the hook or tie a slip knot and leave just yarn enough free to get the spindle going again. 


Repeat until you have one very full spindle and all the singles are plied. Woot!

To get your new yarn off the spindle and into a skein, you can wrap the yarn around your arm from palm to wrist or use a niddy noddy. Add a few ties around the skein to keep it from tangling.


Wash the skein to set the twist (I like Eucalan for this part) and hang it up to dry after a few good thwacks.  In this case, a thwack is pulling at both ends of the skein to make the fibers bloom and even out the twist. You don’t have to be about it gentle either. 


Ready to knit.

Now that I’ve gotten a little more practice under my belt, I’m beginning to see more of the nuances of plying. I’m refining my technique and experimenting with different methods (chain plying, anyone?). I’m making yarn that I love and can’t wait to knit with once I find that perfect pattern. This never would have happened I hadn’t thrown caution to the wind, and just tried in the first place. The first skein isn’t perfect but it’s still yarn and a first step.

Diablo Trio


On May 15th, I was one of those people who stayed up to 12:01 AM Pacific Time (3:01 Central) to play Diablo III. I ended up knitting for an hour instead. Error 37, anyone?  After finishing a pair of socks and getting a few inches done on a hat, I went to bed. I spent the next couple of days alternating between trying to log on - AKA knitting a hat - and fighting my way through Sanctuary. My Demon Hunter did eventually level up enough to wear a pair of pants.


Pattern: Pup Tent by Catherine Gamroth

Yarn: Araucania Nature Wool

Needles: US 6 (4mm)

I should call this hat Tristram Cathedral since that’s where I spent my time when I wasn’t knitting. I didn’t modify the pattern since I just wanted to knit. The cable rows where fun and I learned a new way to do work two stitch cables just by working from a k2tog or ssk. Can’t wait to try it out on something else.


Pattern: Waffle Hat by Gail Bable

Yarn: Araucania Nature Wool

Needles: US 6 (4mm)

While Hat #1 served to keep me entertained because I couldn’t log in, Hat #2 exists because I could log on. I cast on while waiting to play with friends and got a few inches of ribbing. I knit on it to keep me from playing 30 mins after I just logged out to cross chores of my to-do list. I knit on it to give my hands a break. I also knit on it to use up the rest of the skein. Cast on 96 sts, knit 24 rows of ribbing, and worked the waffle stitch for 5.5” before decreasing. It’s a big, warm hat and I still had 5g of yarn leftover.


Pattern: Stuffed Ball Cord Pull by Lee Meredith

Those remaining 12 yards turned into palm sized ball that I’m going to use for plying yarn. 

Isn’t it amazing how much is possible with 242 yards of wool? I got 2 hats, a plying ball, stress relief, patience, and hours of entertainment. Wool is awesome.

Anyway, back to killing demons for me. Iskatu is going down. 

How to Wind a Plying Ball

Plying Ball.jpeg

...or Process Part 4 of Spinning Yarn on a Spindle. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

| - | - | - | - |


I have finally finished plying all three singles for my little experiment making a 3-ply yarn. The first single flew off my spindle. The second single ate all my mojo. The third single brought back my mojo with some to spare. I used a smaller spindle that weighs just over an ounce and is just the right size to slide the cop - the mass of single or plied yarn wrapped around the shaft - off to a straw.

It’s really funny how quickly a new tool can change a process. My first favorite spindle weighs 2.2 oz and has a shaft too large to slide a straw over. Every time I finished a single, I’d let it rest overnight and then wind the single onto a small dowel (a ball would work too). It’s more time consuming but worth the effort to get an empty spindle.


Trying to ply three separate singles from three separate straws is just a recipe for disaster but all three plies on a single ball is much more manageable. This method also works well with two singles but I’d hesitate to wrap more than four since it would be harder to keep all the strands evenly tensioned. Also, just wrapping a single around a ball would be a nice way to store it for later since the ball is an easy and tangle free way to start wrapping. 

I’m using a styrofoam ball since I have them on hand but tennis balls and felted beads work too.


Gather up all your ends and start wrapping. A pail or box will keep the singles from running off to the four corners of the world. 


Keep wrapping until you come to the end of a single and cut the rest to match. If you have extra like I do, you can wind them onto another ball to make a cute little mini skein. 

Next up, plying!