Opposing ply yarn

I was my FIRST TIME ever attempting a 3 ply. I weighed and divided up the braid of dyed wool. I spun one bobbin full and another. By the time I got to the 3rd bobbin, I spun for a while and realized that I had spun the 2nd bobbin the wrong way! I sought advice on Ravelry to unwinding and re-winding the singles. It seemed like an impossible task. Perhaps I’d just chain ply it, and forget the jumbled colour effect I was going for.

I went to my guild meeting, and told them my sad story. Immediately several people said: “Go ahead and ply it!” Apparently, sometimes people do this *on purpose*.

Yes, and it’s called Opposing Ply yarn. The singles twist in yarns generally relax when you ply them. If you have an opposing ply, then it gets added twist when you ply it. I’ve made a diagram to illustrate.

Opposing Ply Yarn Diagram - the ply twist adds energy to the opposing ply. Cool!

When I plied it, I could see indeed, the opposing ply was pulled tighter, and the two others sort of popped out.

Shows the opposing ply


Benefits of opposing ply yarn

In “The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs“, Sarah Anderson devoted a whole chapter to the technique. In her tests, the opposing ply added strength to sock yarn. The opposing ply added strength and durability and the two relaxed plies ensured the sock fabric was still soft and cushy. WOW! You can also use the technique to add elasticity to yarn because this opposing ply get “buried” in the finished yarn. This ply added energy into the yarn. She goes into way more detail of other ways you can use this technique. Pure genius.

The results

Before washing, I don’t think I could tell what the difference was.

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As soon as I added it to water it SPROING up into wee little curls.

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I didn’t add weight to it when I dried it.

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But it settled into a nice soft yarn with an interesting texture. I ended up using it in a garter stitch project, so I don’t think I really showed the yarn off to its potential. However, it’s always amazing to learn that something you thought was a mistake actually is a practiced and well known technique. 🙂

Nubbly yarn

Also for more Sarah Anderson awesomeness, I recommend the video Building Blocks of Spinning on Interweave.


6 thoughts on “Opposing ply yarn”

  1. I think The Fat Squirrel Speaks talked about this on her last episode — she planned to knit socks to see if it would make a difference in durability as Sarah claims in her book. It’ll be interesting to see what she says over time if she follows up!

    1. Oh cool! I haven’t listened to Fat Squirrel before. Sarah Anderson mentioned finding a commercial cotton yarn made this way, and it was surprisingly elastic. I think if I were to do it again, I’d use a different fibre for the opposing ply, in a different colour so it stand out better.

      1. That’s a really interesting idea – it would give the yarn so much interest, too. Amy Beth (the fat squirrel) spun Tunis which is a really great fibre for socks apparently — it’ll be really interesting to see what you guys think over time. It would be neat to do a spin-along/knit-along on this topic to see what we think of the finished socks and their wearability!

      2. OH! That would mean I have to actually KNIT socks. I actually took a class and I was all hung ho, happily toed-up and reached the heel and choked on my first sock. Need to get over that!

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