My Andean Ply Tutorial

Before all else, I was a handspinner. I have been spinning on drop spindles for quite a few years now. My wheel is a very recent acquisition and not fully mastered yet, but it is the drop spindle where I excel.

Plying has always been the thorn in my side. Plying two yarns from two separate drop spindles is maddening. Plying on my wheel is not easy as my wheel is second hand and did not come with even a single extra bobbin, much less a Kate.

The only kind of plying I do well at all is the Andean Ply and I adore this technique. There is a tutorial here but I found it tricky to learn from those diagrams. I thought I might try and give you a tutorial of my own.

You need a decent amount of twist in your single. If it plies back on itself 2-4 inches easily when you loosen the slack on your new yarn, it is probably just fine. I start with the loose end of the yarn on the spindle and wrap it around my left thumb a couple of times. I slide my wedding band over the wraps around my thumb to help keep that end secure. I don’t know any one else who does this though and it isn’t necessary; just don’t lose that end.

Now that it is secured around your thumb, loop the around the back of your middle finger, bringing it back to the palm of your hand:

Left Loop

Carry the yarn across the back of your hand, bringing it from thumbside to pinkie side.

Around the Back

I try to keep the yarn right at my wrist to keep the loop as large as possible. Remember, because of the extra twist in the yarn, the yarn will contract at you work, tightening the loops as you go.

Bringing the yarn up your palm, loop the yarn around your middle finger from left to right and then bring it back down across your palm and around the back of your hand, going from right to left:

Right Loop

Then bring the yarn from around your wrist, looping around the middle finger from left to right, back down your palm, around the wrist, and repeat the second, pinkie side loop.

It is complex to read, but it is simpler than it sounds. Just repeat the loops around your middle finger, coming from the thumb side and pinkie side, until the yarn is all off the spindle.

Depending on how much you spun, that could be quite a bit, and this can get hard to hold after a while.

Tightening Up

Once all the yarn is off the spindle and in loops around your hand, carefully slide the loops off of your middle finger; now the yarn forms a sort of bracelet you can carry around your wrist. Find the end you secured around your thumb and the end that will be at the top of the “bracelet” and tie them together. I hook them into the hook of my spindle, and begin spinning in the opposite direction that the original yarn was spun (I always spin clockwise and ply counter-clockwise).

The advantages of the Andean ply technique include:

  • Not wasting any yarn or going to extreme efforts to spin the exact same amount on two spindles or bobbins.
  • You can ply on the fly! You can do this anywhere you can stretch your arms out. I did this demonstration at the front desk of my office.

Disadvantages include:

  • It can get uncomfortable to loop all of that yarn around your hands. I think I hit the max of what I could take with about 200 yards or so for this demonstration. There are folks who make a wooden “hand” to use as an alternative to your own hand, but that reduces the portability. That being said, I will probably convince my beloved that I need him to make one of those “hands” to ply on myself.
  • I don’t think I would trust myself to stop mid-skein. In fact, I am not sure I would stop once I start looping. I would be terrified of that bracelet forming an over-twisted ball of hell, never to be untangled. So, in my world, once you start, you don’t stop until all the yarn is plied, so you have to do this when you aren’t likely to be seriously interrupted.
  • You just cannot get the quantity out of this that you can by plying from bobbins on a Kate, but as far as drop spinning goes, you can never get the quantity that you could from a wheel and bobbins.

I hope this helps! Happy spinning.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. I like the look of that yarn you’re plying! Beautiful colour too. I’ve plyed this way and had to stop in the middle. I did it by holding the carboard core of a paper towel in my hand with the “Bracelet” on it so that the end is in my palm and the other end points outward like an extension of my arm. Then I eased the yarn over my hand and onto the cardboard core. It was pretty easy to start up again by easing the bracelet back on to my hand in reverse.

    Reply

  2. Thanks to your wonderfully simple tutorial, I have successfully plied my first handspun yarn! Thank you!

    Reply

  3. […] kidding. The Andean ply wrap is really not as complicated as it looks, once you try it […]

    Reply

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