For the past couple of days I’ve been trying various versions of plying to experiment with methods documented briefly by Priscilla Gibson Roberts in her book “Spinning in the Old Way” as well as seen in various videos of spinners in Ladakh by Tracey Hudson and several videos of Qashqai nomads in Iran and a brief article by Connie Delaney. The Qashqai are nomadic descendants of the Oghuz, a Turkic tribe that had a whole lot going on in our SCA time period.
So basically there are two ways to start out..
Method One: you can take your two spindle cops (the singles on the spindle) and wind them together as a single ball without adding twist. They can then be stored this way till you’re ready to take them out.
Second method is to take two balls and ply straight from them.
This week so far I have tried both methods. At this point I believe the first method resulted in a superior product to the second method but I can’t really comment on what method would be period specifically for any one group cause we just don’t know.
Method One…I threaded the yarn through the hole of a flower pot then draped the yarn over my curtain rod and pulled it down to meet my spindle. I found that I could sit on the floor and tension the unspun yarn with my foot but I preferred standing up. Once the yarn is on the spindle pull it down to nearly floor level then give it a spin in the opposite direction that you made your singles in. The twist will travel up to the curtain rod but no farther. A hook on a rope suspended between two tent poles is how the Qashqai do this in one of the videos documenting their rug making.
Method Two..Holding both balls in your left hand take the singles and throw them over the curtain rod. Bring them down and affix to your spindle then start spinning.
When you feel that enough twist has traveled up the yarn to the top then you’re ready to go to the next step. If you are standing then with your left hand take the plied yarn and butterfly it onto your hand from your pinkie to your thumb then wind onto the spindle. At this point you also are holding the unspun side so extend your arm up pushing it up while pulling down with your other hand. You will then wind on until you reach a point where you see that the twist has become less then you desire. That is most likely the point where the yarn was touching the curtain rod or hook.
Pull your spindle down till it almost touches the floor. Give it a good twist to set it in motion. You may or may not choose to pinch the yarn for a few rotations then release to watch the twist run up the yarn. You will be able to see or even feel when the yarn has reached the level of twist you desire. It’s that easy:>.
Overall I liked this technique. It was easy to start and stop. More importantly to me it took strain off my wrists and allowed the spindle and hook (curtain rod in this case) to carry the weight. It did seem to speed up the process. I believe the taller the suspension point the more I’ll get done at one time. I tried two different spindles and weights of yarn and felt that both were successful in this process. I do believe that my preference in starting would be to use a single ball of yarn made of the singles rather then hold two balls or having two balls in a basket. I found that with two balls in hand it was easier to get the tension on one wrong and end up with accidental boucle spots. Also if you have more then one spindle plying project going at a time I suggest you use a different section of curtain rod:>. My two projects go a wee bit tangled at one point.
And because I’m not convinced that I just explained that well here is a short video of the process. I’m really looking forward to trying this with tent poles at an SCA event this spring:>.