Bluebird tops – chain plied

Whilst at the East Sussex Guild of Spinners and Dyers exhibition in Lewes in the autumn I saw this bag of tops on the Uppingham Yarns stand that I couldn’t resist. It was a humbug type of blend in very pale grey, mid grey, black and bright tourqoise. Sadly there was only a small amount of 100g available, enough to play with but not enough for anything major. Apparently it had been very popular, and I can see why.

Because of this I decided to work towards two different weights of chain plied yarn, to practise my technique and see what they came up like. I thought chain plying would preserve the colours better than standard plying.

First of all I spun Z on my Traveller (Dora) at 1:6 (the large whorl) to produce a soft singles of approximately 20 WPI. Next, and because she is a new acquisition and I wanted to practise more, I used my Louet Victoria S95 (Sweet Pea) to spin a finer singles, still on second, smaller whorl that is 1:8, but to about 30 WPI.

This was only my second attempt at chain plying, and it took me a few metres to get going. Consequently, the thicker singles, with which I started, is not as even as the thinner yarn I plied later on.

I chain plied S, using the Louet for both on the 1:6 largest whorl.

Getting the ratio and tension (scotch tension on a single drive wheel) were the challenges. But then aren’t they always? I found several tips on generous bloggers pages that I adopted. First was to hold the last loop open with thumb and little finger whilst flicking the new loop through with your middle finger(s). This was also great exercise for an arthritic thumb! The other was to keep a toilet roll cardboard centre at hand to pop the last loop onto when to need to take a break of any sort. What a simple bit clever solution to save having to untangle that last loop before being able to start up again.

I’m very pleased with the thinner yarn. There are of course the usual odd blemishes, but overall it’s pretty good. It’s round and still quite soft. My disappointment is that the colours have gone murky.

The thinner chain plied yarn. The colours are a bit pinky in this image, bit the murky mix is obvious.

The thicker yarn has retained it’s colour definition much more clearly. The tourqoise zings out at you, and the black and pale grey make lovely marled sections. However, something is not quite right with the twist. I seem to have managed to over-twist some areas and under-twist others and I’m not sure how I did this! In an attempt to even it out I ran it back through the wheel Z twist fast, on the large whorl. This helped reduce the over-twisted lengths somewhat, but also resulted in the under-twisted sections becoming even more so. It looked a bit of a mess and was twizzelling back on itself significantly. I decided to hank and wash both yarns and see what happened.

The thicker chain plied yarn. The colours are much clearer, but the plying is messy.

Well I’m pleasantly surprised. As we know, you can’t predict a yarn’s outcome straight off the wheel. Both hanks hang straight, no weights added, they just did it themselves! The thinner is coming up at about 10 WPI and the thicker at 7-8 WPI.

Now I have to decide what to do with these yarns!

Both yarns together. The thinner to the left, thicker to the right. This shows the correct colour as well!
The final hanks.