Spinning and Weaving

Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, life took a left turn when I wasn’t paying attention.  But I come bearing crafties!  I’ve discovered and am working furiously to perfect my Navajo ply, a three-ply style that plies the thread with itself as you go (rather than needing two other threads to ply with or trying to roll the spun thread into a ball and plying the ends together.)

I can’t explain it so I’ll show you a video I found.  Thing is, watching the video, I was convinced I would need four hands to pull this off because she’s using a spinning wheel and I only have spindles and you need two hands to work the thread and then one to work the plying spindle and another to keep the source spindle from getting tangled.

Well, I figured out how to do it using two spindles and yet only two hands!  And… I am utterly failing at trying to explain how so I’ve drawn really bad diagrams to help:A: start by making a small loop or slipknot in the end of your thread to anchor it to the plying spindle.  Draw a length of thread from your source spindle and pull it through the loop.

B: hook the length of thread you pulled through the loop back over the shaft of your first spindle, holding the original loop open with your fingers (keep the yarn from plying that loop closed or you’ll be fighting it the whole way.)  This will keep all your thread under enough tension so it won’t knot on itself.  As you turn your source spindle, the set up will act like a pulley system, as you unwind the thread it will run through the loop, around the shaft and to the second spindle.

C: when you’ve drawn out as much as you want, use the hand holding  your first spindle to pinch the three portions of thread about an inch or two out from your first spindle and then use the second spindle to ply the lengths.  Wind the yarn onto your plying spindle, then carefully unhook the loop from around your first spindle shaft.  This becomes the new loop in figure A, draw a new length of thread through and start all over.

This is so simple and quick and such a beautiful result!  Wanna see?

Navajo plied wools

Navajo plied alpaca

Navajo plied silk


Navajo plied cotton

Oh yeah… I spun cotton!  IT WAS HARD!  The staple length is so terribly short you have to be *really* careful how you draft it or you’ll lose it.  But I have my first ever tiny little batch of cotton yarn now!  And so fluffy white and ready to play with vegetable dying 🙂  I have some beet root that I think will make an excellent first try.

So now that I’m just blowing through the spinning and plying, I have lots of fiber to use for (drum roll, please) WEAVING!  I don’t have a full loom set up, yet, but I’ve started making bookmarks on my bead loom.

These were my trial runs, so I didn’t want to use my ‘valuable’ handspun yarns yet, but I did use some for the purple accent on the top one. The bottom has beaded accent rows.

The upper was entirely hand-spun. The lower used hand-spun warp and ribbon weft.

Purchased yarn warp with hand-spun weft

Purchased cotton. This was produced on a makeshift 12″ loom to get a longer bookmark, so again I went back to store-bought to make my first practice piece.

And then I decided to do a little longer piece and made it a choker:

Woven choker necklace with beads

Celtic knot button closure

Final result

I’ll be making bracelets for my sister and brother-in-law as well.  Oh, there’s another story.  Okay, so my sister took me out to lunch/dinner the other day to this place she raves about but I’d never had the opportunity to try, Boundary Bay up in Bellingham.  It was quite good!

My sister had steamers (clams) and I got a to-go box and took home her shells.  They scrubbed up beautifully and then I used my uncle’s drill to put a couple of holes in them.  Voila!  I now have pretty clam-shell bead, pendant, button, whatever!  So I picked out what I felt was the prettiest shell and the two halves will go on their bracelets as a matching pair.

So this is what I’ve been up to, lately.  I’m laughably behind on NaNoWriMo.  Ah well, there’s always the whole rest of the year. 😉


5 thoughts on “Spinning and Weaving

  1. I missed hearing from you! 🙂
    Envy is what I feel right now, LOL! I want to learn to spin that gorgeous yarn! What a luxury to weave with your own handspun yarn! And the bookmarks are beautiful! I already made plans for my “after weaving a thousand scarves” time, to weave (amongst a million other things) bookmarks with insanely thin yarn. Just because. 🙂
    Also, your story about taking home shells from a restaurant made me laugh because that’s exactly what I would do! 🙂 Reuse and recycle! Great idea there for pendants!

    • I’m quite sure the waiter thought I was insane. LOL He came by and asked if he could clear away the dishes and I said “no. Thanks.” And he just gave me this look that said “… okay, no one has ever said no, I couldn’t take away the empty shells before, what on earth is wrong with you!?” And then the other waitress came with my box and I put all the shells in and we left, and I’m sure the waiter was even more confused when he came back to dishes with no shells!

      But yes, it’s exciting to a degree only people like us understand, to have carded, spun, plied and woven everything by my very own hand! So magical, almost, to look at a finished product 🙂

      Can’t wait to see what other delightful treats will come off of your looms!

  2. You’re diagram of N-plying with spindles makes me smile. I’ve been spinning for close to 4 years and N-ply is one of my favorite ways to ply. I use a plying ball though. I take a walnut sized felted ball and wind my chain onto it. It seems like it’s adding yet another step but it really can save time. You only have one spindle to manage at a time; your singles are already ‘chained’; you just have to add twist. I keep a plying ball in my coat pocket or my purse and will ply while waiting in line at the store, or at one of the kids’ activities, while watching tv, at the park with the kids, it takes a really boring plying session and makes it go quicker.

    • 🙂 It’s such a nice hobby, isn’t it? I only have to really deal with one spindle at a time, the wind-on is usually propped between my feet (depending on how I’m sitting) so I fuss with the chain side for a while, then pinch it off and spin and wind it on the other, then it goes back to propped out of the way.

      I was spinning and plying in the car the other day while my uncle and I drove all over Whidbey Island. I was laughing about how nice it is to have such a portable hobby. I spin/ply watching TV, sitting at my computer… I used to spin on the bus (my last job was on a bus route, so nice!).

  3. I don’t know a thing about spinning except that I like the output. I admire your passion and there is a very strong school of thought that says that handwork builds seratonin in the brain. That sounds like a good future blog post!

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