Plying can be a real pain in the patootie. With a few preparations and simplifications, plying on a spindle can be very easy. At Spindle And Wheel, we try to find ways to learn to spin quickly, cheaply, and easily. That is our main focus, and our CD spindles are one way we try to bring more people into the wonderful world of spinning. It would be a good idea to read How to Ply a Balanced Yarn It covers much of the same concepts, and had more pictures of balanced yarns.
When you spin your singles, you can spin them clockwise, then ply counter clockwise, or you may spin singles counter clockwise and ply clockwise. Traditionally they are spun clockwise and plied counter clockwise, so we will show you how to do that here. If you ply clockwise, the under or over plied twist will be reversed, so under plied will twist to the left, and over plied will twist to the right.
To learn to ply, I strongly encourage you to buy a small skein of singles spun yarn at your local shop. Then add some twist to it on the spindle, just like your going to spin it. Then you may wind it onto two center pull balls, or use a lazy Kate if you have one. This is the easiest way to learn to ply, with store yarn, because it is easy to keep it consistent, but you must add more twist so it can ply back on itself.
Once you have some hand spun or respun yarn, put it in two center pull balls, using a toilet paper tube or ball winder. I count the turns of the crank of the ball winder, and wine all my yarn into one ball, then I rewind half the total number of cranks from the center into a second ball, then break the yarn. A note on plying off of balls, mohair and silk or other sticky type fibers do not ply off of balls well, so avoid this method if you are using any kind of fiber that wants to stick to itself.
Now you need to tie both ends of the center pull yarn to the leader. For plying it is wise to use a plied leader at first. Tie the two singles onto the leader, and thread your spindle as normal. Hold the two balls in one hand (best to start with small balls) and give your spindle a spin counter clockwise. As the twist builds, you can just let the yarn feed out of the balls, and your spindle will drop down to the ground. Easy huh?
Now you need to check for balance in your ply. Your plying twist per inch should match your singles twist per inch closely. If it does your yarn will be balanced when you hold a loop of it next to itself. You will need to add a little more ply twist so that the yarn twists just a bit to the left, this will balance out unwinding the yarn from the spindle and winding on a niddy noddy or even a ball winder. These things will remover a little twist from plying, so you will need to add more depending how much you will be winding and unwinding.
See how it hangs in a loop with no twisting? Over plied yarn will twist back on itself to the left, because the counter clockwise spin added to ply was more than the clockwise spin added to spin the intital singles. Each spinner has a perfect amount of ply to add for thier process, try different amounts of over plying until you find what works for you. This example is right for me, and if a little extra ply is still there, it will relax out if you wash the skein.
Under plied yarn will twist back onto itself to the right, because there was not enough counter clockwise spin added to balance the clockwise twist. It makes sense when you think about it, see how it has started to twist over to the right? It's only a tiny bit under plied.
Once you get a feel for how long to allow the spindle to spin, you can spin out a length as long as you are tall, but start with short lengths at first.
Now you can admire the beautiful yarn you have plied, all ready to skein up and use! If by chance after you skein, your yarn isn't balanced, don't worry, just run a sink of hot water, and let it soak without agitating. Then gently lift it out, squeeze the excess out gently. You can roll it in a towel and step on it to remove even more water, or spin it in the washer, using JUST the spin cycle with no agitation or water added, or you will have the biggest mess you ever imagined! All done!
Just keep spinning...