Sunday, April 24, 2011

Navajo Plying and Hand Painted Yarn

Finished Skein of Navajo Plied Handpainted Dorset Roving

When I posted about my yarn dyeing day I didn't really elaborate on the handpainting that Lesley and I did. I guess I didn't because I really wasn't enjoying it that much. I was having so much fun with the dyeing in the pot that I just glossed over the handpainting we did as something rather ho hum. Boy was I wrong!!!! When I got home I thought that I might as well spin it up and get it out of the way before I go back to carding and spinning my Maine Island Fleece for my someday sweater. Am I glad I decided to tackle that little "chore." Here's a picture of me waving the roving right after I handpainted it. It was a very windy day and I was putting it outside to dry.
You can see that it is nothing to write home about. I thought it rather boring.

Here is a photo of the roving after I predrafted before spinning:

Here is a photo of the beginning of the yarn as I begun to spin this same roving:
Now understand my pleasant surprise!? I only wish I had handpainted a ton more.

I spent an hour or so navajo plying. It's been years since I've done any plying like this. Navajo plying is good if you have a thin single ply that you want to ply in such a way that the colors stay as vivid and separate as possible. Perfect for handpainting! It was clunky during most of my attempt at this but just as I was getting to the end of it I got the hang of it. Here are two youtube video clips that I used and found helpful.
This first one is with Sarah Anderson and is from Interweave Press. Can't go wrong with Interweave Press! I watched this all the way through several times before I began. Then I paused a lot as I tried to follow along. To be honest I just couldn't get the left hand to guide the yarn. I was using the left hand to pull it through. But figured I'd keep going and maybe I'd see the errors of my ways.
Then I found this clip and this helped me with what to do with my right hand and how to manage that opening loop that I seemed to keep losing: For some reason, not that this video is any better than Sarah's, but this one worked for me. Maybe it was because I had been so keen on watching my loop and trying to figure out how to turn my left hand into a guiding hand that I was ready to really see and feel this technique. Then I got it! Right before I ran out of yarn.
And here's my final Navajo Plied yarn!

So now I think I'm going to grab some cheap cotton yarn and try using that just to practice this technique.

Good luck with Navajo plying if you ever give it a go. I know I'm going do a heck of a lot more handpainting this summer! That's for sure.

May your spinning spin smoothly and your yarn be luscious,
PS - Speaking of smooth spinning and Navajo plying; take a look at these Navajo spindles! Wow! I just may have to try this type of spinning -


  1. Gawd, this is gorgeous, Mary. So nicely explained. We've got to do more of this handpainting. Think summer. And the stranded knitting that you've started has perfect tension. It is beautiful.

  2. Oh my, way too early to think summer but I already am just because I want to play in this stuff all summer long. Thanks for the compliment;coming from my teacher :) I can't wait to post on my new adventures with stranded knitting...coming soon.
    PS - Tried Navajo plying with cotton yarn. Didn't work. The yarn is just too thick.

  3. This is something that you'll have to teach me. Yours is so beautiful, and not at all heavy. I'm your student. I'll hold you to it. I'm spinning up a bit of the handpainting I did this past weekend. I used the superwash wool and diluted the colors, then I used less color. The result is a white and pastel look. Very light for me. I'll see how it plies, then decide if I want to further handpaint the skeins. I believe that I've got enough for a pair of socks. Hey, have you seen the new Sidekick spinning wheel by Schacht?

  4. I did see that Sidekick. Interesting. It's like a sideways LadyBug!
    Bring your yarn in; I want to see it! Enough for a pair of socks? Wonderful. I bet they will feel so good on your feet.