Jillian’s Spinning: Spiral Ply

I like textured yarns. Some textured yarns take a lot of thinking and are fiddly, or more fiddly than I sometimes have the brain power on a particular day to spin.

That’s why I love spiral plying. At it’s most basic, a spiral ply is plying a 2-ply yarn with one ply held straight from the orifice under a bit of tension with the second ply held at a 30-45 degree angle with almost no tension. Magically, the angled ply wraps around the vertical ply in a lovely spiral.

Like this:

Spiral ply
Spiral ply

I usually hold my vertical ply taunt , but not pulling against the uptake and the angled ply so loose it almost just runs through my hands. The combination of the difference in angle and the difference in tension makes the angled ply spiral around the vertical ply.

Spiraling works best if the two plys are of a different size, with the spiraling ply being bigger. I like to spin my thinner ply worsted and my spiraling ply woolen for extra contrast. I also like to use different fibers and different colors for even more visual contrast. I spun and knit a few samples this weekend.

I used silk brick from Briar Rose Fibers for the thin ply and Shetland top from Into the Whirled for the puffy ply.

Briar Rose and Into the Whirled
Briar Rose and Into the Whirled

I spun all of my silk at once, I didn’t want to vary that yarn. I spun it worsted at about 26 WPI. I spun the Shetland three different ways: a fingering weight, a thick and thin  and a bulky super puffy. The photos below show (L to R) the front of a stockinette swatch, a bit of the yarn and the reverse of the stockinette swatch.

Fingering weight Shetland and silk.
Fingering weight Shetland and thin silk.

With these samples I think the  yarns were too close in size and I wasn’t getting enough angle on the spiral. It looks like an interesting-ish marled yarn.

Thick and thin Shetland and thin silk.
Thick and thin Shetland and thin silk.

I love this, especially the reverse side of the knitted fabric, all randomly bumpy with shots of the silk. For choosing knitting needles, I split the difference between the thick and the thin, but more toward the thick end. The knitted fabric is really lightweight.

Thick Shetland and thin silk.
Thick Shetland and thin silk.

I like this one too, but not as much as the thick and thin. With this one I like the reverse side of the knitted swatch too. The silk on the front side looks random in a way that’s not pleasant to me – kind of clumpy, but on the reverse side it looks organically random, which I like.

I also did a thick and thin sample with both yarns from the same fiber.

Tonal spiral ply
Tonal spiral ply

Again I am in love with the texture of the reverse side of the knitted swatch, and really like the tone on tone.

I wonder what a sweater out of spiral plied yarn would be like?



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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: Spiral Ply

  1. Anonymous, too

    Depending on what gauge you achieved, I’d bet that tonal spiral ply would look great in a long, tunic-length (or even knee-length) vest or cardigan. Something that looks seriously chunky and warm, something that could serve as outerwear even in late fall or during a mild winter.

  2. Karrie

    Keep the spinning Tuesdays coming! Really love seeing your samples. I’ve done a small amount of spiral plying & cocoons. Have to say I love cocoons. Have you tried super-coils??

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