What is Navajo 4-ply?

Camel 4-ply end of skeinA while ago, I ran across a terrific website that discussed, of all things, "Navajo 4-ply". I thought to myself, 'great -- that's something new! not even on the Spinning Inventory! I gotta try it!' And, luckily, there were some great 2-color photographs of the technique that stuck in my head.

Because, as luck would have it, when I tried to point someone else there, all my googling failed to recover the page. This was before SpinTips, so it wasn't on my list of spinning information links, either!

So, in the interest of promoting the idea, here is my description of the technique.

Let's start with Navajo 3-ply. For that, you start with a single strand of yarn. The leader on your bobbin or spindle should have a loop at the end of it. Tie the end of your single onto that loop, holding the single out about 2 feet from the leader. With your other hand, reach through the loop and fold the single in half, bringing some of it through the leader's loop. Now you will have three strands coming away from the leader -- a long loop and the strand connected to your single.

Ply those three strands until you are about an inch away from the end of the loop of your singles. Then, bring a new loop through that loop, for a new three-strand section, and ply those three strands until you are an inch away from the end of this new loop. Keep repeating this chain-ply-chain-ply process as needed.

So, how do we make this a 4-ply? Bring in a second single. You will create a Navajo chain with one single while carrying along the other, for 4 strands in the ply. Once you reach the end of the loop, you can choose which single to chain next -- the one you just did, or the other one. This creates a nice back-and-forth tweed with two single tones, since you will always have 25% of one color and 75% of the other color in the plies.

Camel 4-ply - Close-upIn my Navajo 4-ply, one of the strands is natural camel, and the other is space-dyed camel in a spice-tone colorway.

I made my loops about 2 feet long, and changed the strand doing the looping after three loops -- so my color changes are about every 2 yards, which will create a nice stripe effect in mittens, a scarf or a hat in this light worsted yarn.

So, would I do this again? I seldom use 4-ply at all, but I could see doing it again if I wanted fine singles and worsted final yarn, or if I wanted to play two colors against each other while maintaining a cohesive flow. So it's a new technique for my repertoire even if it hasn't bumped my favorite spinning modes (3-ply sock yarn or 2-ply DK yarn) off of their top tiers.


related articles:
Is Navajo Plying done with long chains or short?
How can I preserve color in my space-dyed roving? (how-to on Navajo plying)
What types of spinning have you done?
Do you ply space-dyed roving?
Do you have any tips for Navajo plying on a spindle?


And for more photos of my 4-ply skein, see them on flickr:

Camel 4-ply all in one

1. Camel 4 ply - strands
2. Camel 4-ply end of skein
3. Camel 4-ply - Close-up
4. Camel 4-ply, all of it (big)
5. Camel 4-ply on bobbin

Picture created with fd's Flickr Toys (a great tool for mosaics!)


Do you have a fun plying technique to share, or a question or comment on Navajo 3-ply or 4-ply? Post a comment to the blog or contact me. Thanks!


Vicki said...

Wow! Thanks for posting this information. I know how to do Navajo 3 ply but had never heard of a 4 ply technique. So now I can make 2 ply, 3 ply, or 4 ply with only 2 singles! Yippee!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Amelia, for posting this information, and the pictures of your yarn. That sounds like a very interesting technique to add to my repertoire, and it gives lovely results!

Elemmaciltur said...

Wow, that's one seriously interesting technique to have up your sleeves!

Anonymous said...

I guess you DO learn something new every day! I had never heard of this - it sounds very cool and something I'm going to need to try out. Thanks!

Janice in GA said...

Holy cow, that's something I've never heard of before (and I thought I'd seen it all.)

Very cool!

Rhonna said...

I'm so glad you posted this, Amelia! I tried it about a month or so ago and had great fun with it once I got a rhytm down, but ended up with the same dilemma--I wasn't sure what to DO with it. :-)

However, I gotta tell ya that while I was playing with it, I turned it into a cabled yarn, and it made a really fun and crisp cabled yarn.

Then I started wondering what it would look like to put in yet another single . . . :-) And nope--haven't tried that one yet. :-)

Vellan said...

Excellent post Amelia, thanks very much! I'll have to give it a try.

Your yarn is very pretty, btw. :-)