The Gentle Art of Plying


I love plying. For me it is the best part of spinning. Only one thing could make me love plying more – and that is if I owned a Woolee Winder. If Stan came along tomorrow, I would cheerfully flog my soul for a Woolee Winder.

It’s the whole hook thing. Hooks annoy me intensely. Oh, yes. They don’t fit with my impatient nature.

Plying is wonderful for the impatient – it’s so fast! Then again, my plying is probably too fast. I am a chronic under-plyer… or so I have believed.

The Gentle Art of Plying with Judith MacKenzie McCuin was yesterday’s one-woman spinning retreat master class.

Now I know that under- or over-plying do not really exist. It’s only a fault if I intended to do something else. I may want a lesser-plyed yarn or I may want one that is more plyed than usual. So, I’ll just go around implying that, yes, that was the effect that I was seeking. *cough*.

I love spending time with Judith – it is so relaxing and she fills me with self confidence. Most of all, I find her very inspiring. She makes me want to get up from my seat, grab a roving, and just give it a go.

In this video, Judith explains the science of plying in a very accessible and immediately understandable way. She demonstrates the basic technique for simple plying of up to 5 strands and discusses how further strands may be accommodated. The pace is slow, with plenty of demonstration – clearly visible in-shot. She goes on to discuss faults/mistakes in plying, how they arise, how to correct them… and then goes on to show how basic mistakes can be developed into techniques for making textured yarns.

The fundamental approach is that plying is not a secondary activity – no afterthought, but part of a plan, an intention, to deliver a specific yarn for a designed purpose. That said, there’s a wonderful segment on mixing commercial yarns in the ply, or using up leftover singles, that persuades this viewer that much fun can be hand from a creative and exploratory approach to plying too. Judith uses a commercial mousse yarn in a very attractive way and my thoughts immediately travelled to two balls of the same stuff that I obtained from the Judith Glue shop in town, and have since had no idea of how to use…

There is much advice, delivered usually as snippets; anecdotes and asides, the intimate sharing of a lifetime of experience. A lengthy section on rewinding bobbins gives much pause for thought. I particularly like the way that Judith discusses the varying requirements of knitters and weavers.

Overall, this is definitely a video about simple confidence. It delivers that confidence and then encourages the spinner to go on and revel in it. Most useful to me was the section on making joins in strands as you ply. I am also moved to cost bobbin winders…

Run time: 105 minutes

$29.95 in download version
(about £20, so may be worth waiting for one of Interweave’s regular sales)

Verdict: almost certainly worth every penny and I shall return to this one again and again.

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2 Responses to “The Gentle Art of Plying”

  1. Karin 20th July 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I got Judiths “The intentional spinner” shortly after I first started spinning and I think it’s brilliant. I learned about rewinding bobbins then. And then bought a bobbin winder at “Woolfest” last year. They are pricey, but worth every penny spent. Mine is a Swedish make engineered in metal and its meant for weavers. The normal Ashford bobbins fir onto it perfectly with the addition of a rubber band(highly
    technical-that last bit.

    • Beth 20th July 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      Thanks, Karin. I have The Intentional Spinner too but it went clear over my head as a beginner spinner. I have come back to it since viewing Judith’s videos and the whole is coming together nicely now.

      I do believe that a bobbin winder is in my future. The Swedish ones are v nice but I shall have to go for the more affordable Ashford version, I think. Or simply borrow Gill’s…

      Whatever I do, it will come second to a Woolee Winder! I have just worked out that I could save up for one within a year, and am setting that goal today.

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