Ply and Finish Your Yarn on a Drop Spindle

In my previous blog post, Drop Spindle Spinning for Complete Beginners, I showed you how I spin yarn on a drop spindle. Go check it out if you haven’t read it so you can get all caught up! It covers starting your spin, drafting, and winding on to the spindle. It is now time to ply and finish your yarn on a drop spindle so it will be ready for a project. 

If you would like to watch the video demonstrating how to spin on a spindle, you can do that here. The video will start at the point that I am plying and finishing the yarn.

Center Pull Ball

For this yarn, since I’m using one spindle for this project, I will need to take the yarn off the spindle. I am going to use a ball winder for this to create a center pull ball. 

My favorite ball winder is the *U-nit ML702 Jumbo ball winder. It can wind yarn for days and it keeps it under a strong enough tension that the center pull ball doesn’t fall apart while I’m plying.

There are a couple of things that are worth mentioning when you create your center pull ball. 

1. When you wind a single into a ball, it has energy in it which means it has a lot of twist. Make sure that you hold the tension on the single as you're putting it on to the ball winder. If you release that tension and it gets floppy, the yarn can start to get curly pigtails. It can create a tangled mess! 
2. When you take the yarn off of the ball winder, match up the ends. When I have found both ends of the yarn cake, before I remove it from the winder, I lay the ends next to each other and let the twists begin to wrap around each other. This prevents them from unraveling or untwisting. This start to the twist is what I will attach to the leader on the drop spindle. 
I'm holding the ends of the yarn cake together so they don't unravel when I take the yarn off the ball winder.
Keep the ends of the ball together before removing it from the winder so they don’t untwist.

3. Because of how the yarn comes off a center pull ball while you ply, the twist in the yarn can be affected. One strand of the yarn will have more twist and the other strand will have less twist. This is not inherently bad per se, but you should be aware when planning for projects. There is no denying that plying from a center pull ball is extremely convenient if you only have one spindle or bobbin. You can read more about the effects of plying from a center pull ball on Jillian Moreno’s blog post here.

Attach to the Leader

I’ll put the two ends of the yarn through the loop at the end of the leader and fold it over. That gives it enough hold to get it started without it unraveling. 

Fold the yarn back on itself to attach it to the leader.
Fold the yarn back on itself to attach it to the leader.

Spinning Direction

When I spun the single of this yarn, I was twisting the spindle in a clockwise (Z) twist direction. To ply the yarn, I want to go in the opposite direction or it will fall apart. I need to ply the yarn in a counter-clockwise (S) twist direction. 

Use Z twist for spinning singles, and use S twist for plying.
Which way should you spin your yarn?

Add Twist

When the direction of plying is figured out, you can add twist to the spindle, park it as you did to spin the single of the yarn, and let the twist come up into the two strands of yarn as they wind off the center pull ball. When the twist has come up into the yarn, you can add more twist to the spindle until you can no longer reach the length of your yarn. Wind it onto the spindle, and repeat this process until all the yarn has been plied from the yarn cake.

Tip: If you are a new spinner, plying is a great time to practice letting the spindle drop and dangle while it spins around. There is less chance that you will break your single or have it fall apart and drop the spindle. Plying is a safe time to practice letting the spindle swing free.

Keep the yarn under tension as the twist comes up into it. The weight of the spindle (if it is hanging freely) will help give it some tension. If you let the yarn ply willy-nillly you can get those curly pigtails stuck in your finished yarn. 

You will also want to create a cop that has a tapered shape to it if you are using a top whorl drop spindle. Keeping the center of gravity near the whorl helps the spindle to spin straight without becoming too wobbly. 

Wind the yarn close to the whorl to keep a good balanced spin.
Wind the yarn close to the whorl to keep a good balanced spin.

Once you’ve finished plying and you have your yarn ready to take off of your spindle I highly recommend investing or making a small niddy noddy. I have a one yard niddy noddy that is perfect for taking projects off my spindles and samples off my bobbins. Check it out *here!

When I have removed the yarn from the spindle, I will tie it into a skein. It is bath time!

Wash the Yarn

I will fill a bowl full of warm water and press the fibre down into the warm water so it can become fully saturated. Sometimes, I’ll add some *Soak to the water. It helps give the yarn a perfect finish. I’ll let it rest for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Don’t agitate or wring the yarn because you can cause it to felt!

Washing your yarn after plying is always a good idea! My water turned green because a little more dye washed out of my yarn.
Washing your yarn after plying is always a good idea!

Thwack and Dry

Finally, I’ll take the fiber out of the bath, and squeeze out the excess water gently. A *salad spinner is a wonderful tool to cut down your drying time. I will give the yarn a thwack or a snap to allow the fibers to bloom. Finally I hang the yarn up on a hook or a hanger until it’s dry.

The yarn is finished and ready for a project!
The yarn is finished and ready for a project!

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10 thoughts on “Ply and Finish Your Yarn on a Drop Spindle

  1. Drop Spindle Spinning for Complete Beginners - Jillian Eve

    […] Ply and Finish Your Yarn on a Drop Spindle […]

  2. Julia Joy

    Hi Evie
    Thank you for your Drop Spindle Spinning, and sharing your spinning over the 100 day spin, it is very encouraging. Please, do you know why my yarn makes curls along the length of new yarn at short intervals – is this bad? Kind regards, Julia

    1. JillianEve

      Hi Julia, I’m so glad you have enjoyed the 100 day journey! 🙂 You have a great question about the curls! Sometimes those curls can be evened out a little when you ply, and they aren’t bad unless you don’t want them. For a standard knitting yarn used for making garments like a sweater, I try to avoid the curls because they can look wonkey in the finished fabric. What is happening to cause this is that you are putting a too much twist into your yarn. Try decreasing your amount of twist by drafting more fiber before flicking your spindle again (or on a wheel slow down your treadle foot/feet and also change the drive band to a larger whorl size). Twist tends to accumulate in the thinner spots of your yarn. The more you practice drafting and the more consistent your singles become, the less thin spots you will have and the twist will even out. I hope this helps! Happy spinning!

  3. Elizabeth Kandror

    Hello, when using a spindle the plied yarn is not as long as on a spinning wheel. Do you connect several plied yarns together to make a long skein for washing? Do you just keep whatever is on the spindle and turn into a skein to wash or do you connect several plied yarns together to create one long skein? If so, how do you connect the plied yarn together?

    1. JillianEve

      I don’t connect the skeins, I just work with them however long they are. I have a small niddy noddy that is a 1 yard length for each wrap and it is perfect for the shorter spindle yarns. If you really want to make the skeins longer, you could try doing a spit join, a Russian join, or just tying them together depending on what project you want them to end up in.

  4. How Much Does Thwacking Change Handspun Yarn? - Jillian Eve

    […] If you would like to know how I finish my yarn after spinning on a drop spindle, you can read all about it in this blog post! […]

  5. Hargun Kaur

    hey, I have had the problem where when I try to make thick yarn, and ply it, not only does the yarn come undone but the ply twists don’t stay in either and I end up having broken pieces of roving, I am still a beginner but any tips on how to keep the yarn together and spun would be helpful! Thank you soo much!!

    1. JillianEve

      Hmm… it sounds like you might not have enough twist in the yarn to begin with, or possibly you are not plying in the opposite direction you spun?

  6. Nancy

    I think it’s the direction. Even though I’ve been spinning and plying for some time, I still for get and have to go back. Getting into the habit of thinking direction before you flick, helps!

    1. JillianEve

      It does! Happy spinning!

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