Jillian’s Spinning: Yardage – Chain Vs. 3 Ply

When I’m spinning I constantly have questioning flying into my brain – why is it that way? How can I make it another way? If I change these things what would happen to my yarn?

I was happily spinning samples this weekend and I thought – How much does chain plying shorten a color run in a variegated yarn? It would shorten it more than 2 ply, but what about 3 ply? It sat there knocking and would not get out of my brain. So I spun to answer the question for myself.

I’m not a technical spinner. I didn’t measure the fiber in grams, I didn’t measure WPI or TPI, grist or count treadles. I am happy with an ish answer almost always.

When I have a spinning question I spin with the exuberance of the perpetually curious. I want my answers fast. If I’m not satisfied, I may do it again.

I lined up the color run in the fiber – it was a ABC-CBA (blue, green, dark fuchsia- dark fuchia, green, blue) repeat. I divided it in half width-wise, rechecked that the color run lined up, then divided each piece length-wise by how I would ply it. Then I spun.

2-ply, 3-ply, chain ply. cjkodesigns BFL, Theresa coloway.
2-ply, 3-ply, chain ply.
cjkodesigns BFL, Romina coloway.

Each of these is 2 ounces of fiber, spun heavy worsted to chunky. I decided, in my Quick and Dirty scientific method™ to just measure the dark fuchsia color in all three, since there was the most of that color in a chunk. See, quick and dirty .

chain vs 3ply pink
Just the pink.

I don’t even have to measure to know that the 2 ply has the most yardage. But the 3 ply and the chain ply looked close. So I measured with a measuring tape. The 3 ply is 5.14 yards, the chain ply is 4.67 yards – the 3 ply is a littler chunkier than the chain ply, so if it were spun with more attention to the technical as opposed to the Q&D method, it would have more yardage. Even more yardage for both the 2 and 3 ply becasue I did some splicing in my plying to keep the colors matched up. The two ply has 8 yards.

This answer satisfies me. I’ve always thought that chain plying eats up yardage, but it’s so easy to keep colors together. Now I know if I want clear color runs and yardage, I’ll be plying to match color instead of chain plying.

 Do you chain ply or match colors in a 2 or 3 ply?

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Jillian is the​ author of the best-selling spinning book Yarnitecture. She is the editor​ of Knittyspin and Developmental Editor for PLY and PLY Books. She kinda loves this spinning thing and wants everyone who spins to love it too, so she teaches and writes a lot. She knits, weaves, and stitches and tries to do as much of it as she can with handspun yarn. She's always cooking up all kinds of exciting and creative things combining fiber arts. She likes her mysteries British, her walks woodsy, and to spend as much time as she can laughing. Spy on her on her website jillianmoreno.com

3 thoughts on “Jillian’s Spinning: Yardage – Chain Vs. 3 Ply

  1. Karrie

    If I want to maintain the colour changes I chain ply. I find it harder to 2/3 ply and get the same effect.

  2. Michelle

    I’m even more of a “quick and dirty spinner” than you are, so the only time I try to maintain color changes rather than willy-nilly barberpole results, I Navajo-ply.

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