Chain plying, also known as Navajo plying is one of those magical spinning tricks that is a really useful skill to know how to do.
It allows you to take a single bobbin of singles and turn it in to a 3-ply yarn. It's great for keeping colours clean while plying, and when done well it's very hard to tell the difference between the yarn structure and a true 3-ply.
Like so many, I learned how to do this skill from this wonderful Sarah Anderson video.
The main things when trying to ply using this technique it not to rush! What tends to happen when your hands get in a mess is that your feet start to get faster and faster, which only makes the problem worse. If your hands are struggling, stop treadling, fix the mess, then start treadling again. It's worth practising your wheel control, learn where to stop the treadles so you can start again without using your hand on the drive wheel. At a workshop before I even start teaching this technique I tend to get people to sit at their wheels and find the balance point with their treadles, we go one direction, then switch to the other, the go back the other way.
I also tend to get people to start with scrap yarn, just to get a feel for the hand motions. The plyed yarn will of course be unbalanced, but at least you're not wasting precious handspun singles.
I like to use a proper lazy kate for this technique. The bobbin storage built in to many wheels makes plying this way harder because you're pulling yarn up from in front of you, and if you're not careful it interferes with what you're trying to do with your hands. Some people swear by one that tensions the bobbins, but I like one that uses gravity to stop the bobbins over-rotating. This Louet one is my personal favourite, it's pricey, but it works beautifully simply (and seems to fit just about every make, Ashford, Schacht, Majacraft, Hansen, Bliss, Kromski). Ideally place your kate on the same side as the hand you hold at the back when you normally ply, place it ever so slightly behind you and the singles can run off in a straight line, which really helps to avoid tangles.
I also like to rest my singles before plying this way, you can ply them as soon as you've spun them, but the whole process is easier if you leave them for 24 hours.
And of course... if you end up with corkscrews you can always run the yarn back through the wheel to correct your twist.
If you can already Chain Ply then I can't recommend Sarah Andersons book; The Spinners Book of Yarn Design. It's my bible when it comes to spinning different kinds of yarns, and every now and again I like to pick a new yarn to spin, just for the sake of learning something new.
This post is part of my advent calendar 2016. Every day in December we're saying so long to 2016 by embracing learning, knowledge and creativity. Each day there will be a new post with a new skill or craft. You can read all the past posts here.