Friday, February 26, 2016

4-ply Chain

Fellow spinners, have you heard the chatter this past season about 4-ply chain-plied yarn? I did, and I thought I would try it out on the thin singles of alpaca-corn fibre (ingeo) I had spun up on the wheel.  It seemed like an interesting way to try and balance the evenness of the final yarn when my singles were not consistent (and I blame the fibre/roving/blend for some of that).
Spinning singles in progress

The basic process is straightforward if you've chain plied before. The only difference is that you work from two singles and alternate which single is chained.
In theory this could be done at the wheel. I've chain plied at the wheel (and on the fly with my spindles) many times using long chains.  However, I wasn't up to the task of trying to alternate chained singles as I plied.  I chose to work a plying ball in advance, and even then I wish I'd done things a little differently to keep the two bobbins separate. For example, I should have used two shoe boxes spread apart to make sure the two plies wouldn't start wrapping around each other.  I also wish I hadn't tried this with a yarn that already had a lot of twist in it. I was reminded that I should really find a way to keep tension on my bobbins (a brake band of sorts) when plying.  In short, I only prepared several meters of chained 4-plies before I decided I should take my sample to the wheel and test if I even liked the plied result before I continued with the full bobbins.

I did like the result of a nice fingering weight yarn. A multi-ply yarn certainly helps in balancing out uneven singles. However, I really did not enjoy the process of preparing the plying ball.  I decided to keep things simple for the rest of this yarn and whip up a couple bobbins of 2-ply instead so I could move on to other projects.  Other than making a more consistent finished yarn, there wasn't a lot of interesting benefit to using the technique with this yarn and it wasn't as simple as a 3-ply chained yarn.

Knit sample of the chained 4-ply, ball of 4-ply, and 2 full bobbins of 2-ply lace.
I'm quite happy with the lace yarn.

I'm still thinking of the chained 4-ply opportunities with colour work. The effort could certainly be worth it to play with colour, like a type of fractal yarn. I'd need to get more colours in my stash to try it out, although for a fractal I'm imagining you wouldn't want to alternate which thread is chained. I'd be interested, for example, in keeping one thread different and single while chaining the other.  Hmm, thoughts. I have some playing to do, even if it's with different fibres. Next time, however, I won't work with high-twist singles and I will keep my bobbins separated.

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