Sunday Stitch – How to Chain Ply Yarn

Today I’m chain plying some of my handspun yarn. If all you have done so far is the traditional plying from two or more bobbins then you will love this. With chain ply, you can to turn a spun single, from just one bobbin, into a three ply yarn.

chain ply yarn - a free tutorial

Jump right to the video

Chain Ply Versus Navajo Ply

Chain plying gets its name from the way its made, the way the single is manipulated as its plied. As the single is fed onto the bobbin (or drop spindle) the spinner makes chain stitches, as in crochet chain stitches, using their hands. Its just like finger crochet but the stitches are long and stretched out. In the video below I do a quickie demo of finger crocheting chain stitches before jumping into the spinning.

Sometimes this technique is called Navajo Ply (or N ply). The results are similar but real Navajo plying is done on a Navajo spindle. The Navajo spindle is a supported spindle, about 30 inches long with the whorl in the center of the spindle and you spin against your thigh.  If you’re interested in Navajo style spinning (and why wouldn’t you be???) here is a nice photo tutorial to get you started.

Why Chain Ply At All

Back to chain plying. Its has some benefits over traditional multi-bobbin plying.

  1. A three ply yarn, as opposed to a two-ply, is nice and round. Its a stronger yarn that will hold up to harder wearing conditions and won’t pill as readily.
  2. The spinner never ends up with left-over yardage in singles like they do with multiple bobbins. With singles on two or more bobbins, you always have a little bit more on one than on the other. But in chain plying, all the single is used up. No waste. 
  3. Chain plying preserves the color repeats. That’s the biggest benefit. If you’ve spun a multi-color single and want to keep the colors together in the finished yarn, you chain ply.

I wanted to preserve my solid colors and that’s why I chain plied this single. I started with this mix of fiber from a grab bag at a fiber show. I got a great deal on it. The fiber quality is… not the best. There are actually two shades of red in there. Its only 2 ounces of fiber all together.

Mixed wool from a grab bag purchased at a fiber show

There was only one thing to do with it really; spin it all up into one eye-popping colorful yarn!

How to Chain Ply with a Spinning Wheel

As I mention in the video, I add quite a lot of twist when I chain ply. I like a tightly plied yarn. I hate the uneven look of loose ply and I hate splitting yarn with my knitting needles even more. So I over-ply and it does come off the bobbin a bit twisty. But after finishing with steam, its fine. It hangs nice a straight.

the finished chain plied yarn

Here is a close-up to show how this plying technique keeps the individual colors together. In the bottom left corner, you’ll see one of the “joins”, which is a start of a new chain stitch. Its only obvious because that’s right where the color changed from red to yellow. Otherwise the joins are pretty invisible.

close up of a chain plied yarn

Hope you enjoyed this free tutorial for handspiners. I have more and also some for knitters and crocheters. If there is a technique you’d like to see that I haven’t covered yet, let me know in the comments!


12 thoughts on “Sunday Stitch – How to Chain Ply Yarn

    1. It is easy! But if you don’t crochet, then maybe a few minutes are chaining with your fingers will help. Many crocheters will speak fondly of how they took a ball of yarn and made it into one humongous chain and that’s how they got their start in learning crochet. Lol.

      I’m not saying that you should finger crochet up an whole ball. That might get a bit dull. But doing up fifty yards or so might be all the practice you need!


      1. Ohhhh! There’s an idea! I wonder if she would….or if I could go over to her farm and play with fiber for awhile. We are going to work on dying Red Coat red at some point. (I want to say its called Turkey red, but I’m not sure.)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I occasionally spin on a drop spindle, and I love chain plying my singles to keep the color runs separate. And for me, it’s easier to chain ply than to ply from two balls after drop spindling.

    My current spinning project may end up being used just as a singles, though. Pretty enough as it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent point and I wish I had included that. Chain ply is perfect for the drop spindle spinner who wants to simple pull off the ball of spun single and get right to plying!


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