Knowing how to ply from a center pull ball is a handy trick to know. It’s great for plying those leftover singles on a bobbin or spindle. It’s great for when you don’t want to have any leftover singles/plies at all. You could even ply yarn from 2 separate center pull balls, not just the ends of one ball.
All that said, you have to use the technique carefully because if can affect the original drafting twist of your plies. This post from Jillian Moreno shows why. Still, there might be cases where you want to affect the twist. Maybe your plies have been sitting for months and the original twist isn’t as active. Or you want to add more twist because there wasn’t enough during drafting.
Personally, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in yarns that I’ve plied from a center pull ball vs. yarns that I’ve plied from bobbins. But I’m not spinning lace weight. In fact, some of my favorite yarns that I’ve ever spun have been plied from center pull balls. So here are my favorite tips and tricks for plying from center pull balls that I’ve learned over the years.
Use something as a center support for the ball.
As you work, the ply that formed the center core of the ball is being pulled out and moving onto the bobbin or the spindle. When enough of the center is gone, the ball will collapse on itself which means tangles and knots and aggravation. Putting something into the middle of the ball when it comes off the winder gives the ball a core of support which prevents those frustrating tangles.
And even if the ball does collapse on itself, like mine did in the photo above, the core will keep the ball open enough to work from and help prevent knots. I was able to ply the rest of this yarn instead of calling the whole thing a loss.
The center core doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just make sure that what you use is long enough to stick out from both ends of the ball.
- Rolled up pieces of paper, like shown in this tutorial, work just fine. They’re also a good option if you’re taking a class or don’t have anything else close at hand.
- A simple nostepinne is a great option for larger center pull balls and I'm using one in this example. They even come with a handle which makes holding onto them even easier.
- And don’t forget about chopsticks, long handled spoons, or straight knitting needles. Whatever you’re using as a core doesn’t have to be big around, just smooth so it won’t snag.
Keep your hands farther back from the orifice.
How close you keep you’re hands to the orifice during plying seems to come down to personal preference; however, working farther back makes things a little easier. Keep your front hand about 8 - 12”, or 20 - 30 cm, from the orifice. The extra space gives you more room to properly tension the plies and sort out tangles before there’s a problem.
Working farther back from the orifice also means that you can add twist at a slower rate since the twist will build up over the distance from the orifice to your hands. Then you’ll have a little more time and wiggle room to correct any issues.
One hand controls the plying twist, the other hand tensions the plies.
I’m using my left hand, aka the front hand, to control when the twist enters the plies, and my right hand, aka the back hand, is holding the center pull ball on the nostepinne. Use which ever hand you prefer for each task.
The front hand only has 2 jobs: control when twist moves into the plies and to feed the yarn onto the bobbin.
The back hand holds the center pull ball and does all the work of keeping the plies evenly tensioned. You mainly want to hold the core support and just keep a thumb and a finger or two on the ball to hold it in place. The outer strand will be able to move more freely than if you’re holding it without the center core. Using this hold, I can angle and move my hand back and forth to evenly tension the plies. Think of it a dance you’re doing with the yarn.
The ball can sit farther back on the core so that the center ply wraps and feeds out slower. If the ball is closer to the tip, the center ply feeds out faster. One position isn’t better than the other. So experiment to see which spot works better for you and the yarn.