Tammy Rizzo's Navajo Ply on the Fly technique


NOTE ADDED SEPTEMBER 2010 - view my new and improved video!  I think you'll like it.

What you are about to see is pure genuis. Tammy Rizzo, a member of the spinning community, invented this spinning and plying technique, and it is so delightfully SMART that I can hardly stand it. It is also very useful - - make no mistake - - this is no parlor trick but a bona fide spinning technique. I've used it enough times now that I can say that yes, it honestly works to make lovely, wonderul yarn, just like other techniques, it's just that this method is smart - really SMART!!!

I've been trying to contact Tammy by email, but no luck. She changed her email address, and I can't find her. Tammy? Are you out there? Can you email me?

See, a few months ago, Tammy posted this method on Spindler's, a yahoo list. Tammy and I exchanged a couple of emails and I asked her if it was OK if I were to teach this technique, and she said, "Why certainly!" because, not only is Tammy a genius, but she's also very nice and very generous. In those emails, I also asked her if I could make a video and post it on my blog, and I asked her if she would be a guest blogger here, to introduce the video, and she said yes to both questions. Then, life got busy for me and I never had a chance to make the video. Now that my busyness has waned, and I'm all finished with the little video, I can't find Tammy!

At any rate, it's a wonderful technique, and you should take a minute to learn it.

I've posted two videos - they are identical - one is on youtube and the other is hosted by blogger. This is a bit of an experiment - tell me which one you like best. The youtube one is larger, but youtube videos aren't all that dependable, imho, and if you are viewing this blog in a public space, such as the library, you might not be able to see it. The blogger one is so small, though. I couldn't decide which one to include, so I put them both, heh heh heh.

In a nutshell, here is the method -

(1) Begin by spinning a nice long length of singles, then with it still on the hook, fold it in thirds, catching one loop on your left hand and one on your right. Put the right hand loop onto the hook, and spin in the plying direction. Check for balance, take it off of the hook, and wind it onto the spindle. The loop which was on your left hand is now placed over the hook of the spindle, or over the shaft, if your spindle has a sticking-up shaft, and the singles is passed under the hook, and now you are ready to spin, spinning the spindle in the spinning direction.

(2) Spin a length of singles.

(3) When you've spun out a length of singles, you wrap it on your left hand, almost all the way up to the spindle. Place the spindle under your arm, to immobilize it. With the fingers of the right hand, pull a new loop through the old loop - standard operating procedure for Navajo plying. Unwind about 3 inches of the *old* plied yarn off of the spindle and hook it under the hook. Holding the new loop and the spindle in the right hand, move the hands apart from one another so as to unwrap the singles off of your left hand. Lift the right hand higher than the left, and let the spindle sort of ride down the length of singles. When the spindle has moved along the length of singles far enough, then you move the loop from the right hand onto the left hand and spin in the plying direction. Check for balance, wind on. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you run out of roving.

Edit - April 30, 2009 - I'm leaving this up here so that folks can try all suggestions and make their own decisions about how they want to spin, but I now use the method as outlined below - see EDIT - July 11, 2009.

I STILL just love this technique! In the past year, I've come up with a few tweaks, which I'd like to share with you.

(A) Spin out an arms-length, just like you always do, but instead of wrapping it onto your hand, leave it on the hook, and then wrap it under the whorl, then bring it back up and under the hook. Spin another length and then wrap this second length around your hand, then wrap the first length around your hand, too. Continue with putting the spindle under your arm and fishing out a loop and so on. In this way, you have a much longer three ply bit.

(AA) continuing with the same idea - if you like, you can spin, say, ten arm's lengths, and then, butterfly them all onto your hand, and Navajo ply a comfortable length, then wind it onto the spindle, leaving a 3 or 4 inch leader (remember, you are holding the loop in your fiber-supply hand), then Navajo ply out another comfortable length, and so on, until you use up all ten arm's lengths of single. I've never done ten arm's lengths before, but I've done 4 or 5, and it can be very useful to work with color changes and so forth. You have to leave the first spun length under the hook, but the subsequent lengths you unhook from the hook, wind under the whorl, then go back under the hook for the next length. You'll see what I mean when you do it.

Give it a try and see if you like this little tweak.

(B) Instead of pulling out one length through the loop, as I show in the video, you can pull out numerous, shorter chains. If you use Tweak A, then you can pull out, say, 4 or 5 shorter lengths. This is the only way I do it, anymore. My "standard working procedure" is to spin two arm's lengths, then pull out chains of 6 to 12 inches, depending on the color shifts, and by doing so, I have one nice, long bit of three ply to spin in the plying direction. It just seems more efficient this way.

(C) If you choose to pull out numerous shorter lengths, then it can be difficult to keep the previous chain still - it can change it's length by the pull of the newest chain, so try this - pull out one chain, then gently, slowly set the spindle turning in the plying direction, and the previous chain-loops will get "consumed" and in this way, will be held still. This is one method you can use to control color shifts and reduce - or increase, as you desire - barberpoling of colors in hand-painted rovings.

(CC) Another way to prevent the previous chain from changing it's length, once you have pulled out enough length in chain loop(s) that the spindle is hanging down, is to grab the spindle between your feet, and hold it still. You can gently pull against the spindle in such a way that it prevents the earlier chains from shifting, but still allows the newest chains to be pulled through. This method works very nicely. I put short lengths of aquarium tubing onto the bottom of my spindle shafts to make it easier to hold - to give me something to grip with my feet. Then, it's quite easy to set the spindle in the plying direction by throwing the right foot forward (or the left foot to the back). This works best in bare-feet, or with shoes which have a hard, rubber sole. It doesn't work very well with sock-feet and it doesn't work at all with bedroom slippers, lol. You can read more about how I make my spindles here - Make your own spindles - and somewhere in there is a photo of the tubing on the shaft. You don't have to set the spindle in motion with your feet, this method still works well with the hand, but give it a try and see how you like it!

(D) If you are especially adventurous, you can pull out one short chain, then set the spindle turning in the plying direction with force, chain like mad, and then when you run out of singles, all of the plying twist which you need has been accomplished, and all you need to do is to wind on. I know in my head that this is possible, and I have even accomplished it, once or twice, but I'll need much more practice before I can depend on it. It makes the job soooooo fast, and more than just a little exciting, heh heh heh.


EDIT - July 11, 2009 -

I have something NEW to share with you! Look at the edit above - scratch all of the above - do it this way -

(i) - begin like (1) in the original post - make a long length of singles, make the beginning of the Navajo Ply, and wind it onto the spindle shaft - but... let the loop just dangle there. It's not going anywhere. The part which I'm suggesting that you skip - I've changed the text color to green. Just skip it. Just hold onto the loop until it winds onto the shaft, and when you get to the shaft, then just - let it go.

You can't let the loop go ahead of its being wound on because the 3 ply is spun in one direction, and the little bit of a leader is spun in the other direction - get it. So, by immobilizing the 3 ply until it's wound onto the shaft will keep these spun parts separated. Get it?

(ii) Run the leader under the hook, and just like in (2) above, spin a length of singles. The only thing under the hook is this single - no loops or anything, just the one strand of the single.

(iib) when you run out of arm-length, wind on this length of singles onto your spindle, just like you always wind on, by taking the singles out from under the hook, and wind onto your spindle. Bring the leader out from under the whorl and back under the hook and spin again, another arm's length.

(iii) wind onto your hand, as in (3) above. When you see that you are about to get to the loop from the previous round of N. plying, wind on closer so that you'll be able to grab the length which has the loop. Once again, if you let this loop "run free" you'll see that you are loosing your plying twist because it was spun in the opposite direction from the single. It's perfectly OK if some twist runs out, just be aware that this length is twisted in the other direction from your single.

Pull out about - oh, about 8 inches of the 3-ply, and go under your hook. You are going to be plying next and I find that in the plying step, it always pays to go around the hook an extra turn or two.

So, now you have a length of 3 ply under your hook, wrapped around it securely, and then approx 4 inches of 3 ply extending above the hook, with your little loop there, and approx 6 feet or so of singles wrapped around your hand, right?

Now, holding the single still with your fiber hand, and pick open the loop with your twist hand, and proceed as in the video - fish the new lengths of singles through the loop, and chain away. You can either make one long loop as in the video, or you can make multiple chains (which is now my preferred method.)

Here's another tip - you've gotten your one chain(s)s pulled through. Your loop is now in your fiber hand, and you are getting ready to spin in the plying direction. First, push down on your spindle, gently - if there is no twist in your chain(s), then this will really help to even out the tension in the three legs of the 3-ply. It doesn't need to be a vigorous or strenuous push, just a nice, gentle, steady, quick pull.

Once you get everything chained, leaving a leader for the next round, then spin the spindle in the plying direction. Wind on and repeat until you run out of fiber.

I hope you like these new tweaks! They just occurred to me last weekend, and I've spun a bunch since then, and I'm sure that these new recommendations will work out well. I like it sooooooo much better this way. Not fiddling around with the loop-over-the-shaft makes a huge difference. Spinning out two arm's length so that you get a decent length in the chain ply stage makes a huge difference. That last little gentle tug to even out the lengths of the chained portion makes a huge difference.

Try all three of the "options" mentioned in this blog post, and see how YOU like to do it! Maybe you will come up with more improvements? If so, PLEASE let me know! I love LOVE this method, and would really like it if you discovered A Better Way.


Like any other spinning, you can put a lot or a little spin into the singles, which in turn determines how much spin you put in the ply. You can make, on purpose, under plied or over plied yarn, just like you can with "regular* Navajo plying. It works exactly the same in that sense.

It feels very awkward at first, just like many other new techniques. Once you get the hang of it, however, you can spin and ply very rapidly, and very well. I just love this technique! Try it!

I hope you enjoy the video(s)! Please, tell me which version you like best - blogger or youtube.



Gale Bulkley said...

I liked the blogger video - it seemed to be clearer than the larger one.

atlaw said...

I love the video. Now i really have to try this! Thanks

Vicki said...

I remember Tammy posting about this technique. It's so cool! Thanks for posting the video. It's a wonderful resource on how to do this. I'll have to try it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for sharing this technique, and for taking the time to make the video! Your written description is great, but everything comes together more clearly when we see it done.
Both versions of the video worked great for me.

Anonymous said...

this is sooo cool, many thanks for posting it. I like the blogger video best, but is there an URL to link it in my own blog?

spinningdownunder said...

Brilliant! Your instructions are very clear and easy to understand, and the video is the icing on the cake! I will have to share this with other spinners!
The blogger video is clearer than the Youtube video.
Thank you for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the vids! I haven't been keeping up with the Spindler's List emails & I'm so glad I didn't miss this time -- it's so exciting! I've managed the nicest Navajo 3 ply ever with this technique =)

Melanie said...

Wowza, that's ingenious! Thanks to you and Tammy for sharing. Has anyone ever told you that you're a natural born teacher?

فرانسيس said...

That is seriously cool, thanks!

WonderMike said...

I'm fascinated but I can't quite get the hang of it. I'll just need to practice I suppose.

Thanks for sharing with us!!!

Knittacia said...

Thank you for sharing. It really was a nice technique. I am so tired of wrapping all that yarn on my hand before I can ply. When the spindle is my only equipment (when I am not at home), this is a nice way of doing it.

TutleyMutley said...

FAbulous! How did you know that I've been pondering how to navajo ply with my spindle? Can't wait to try it -
Couldn't get blogger to work, so only saw you tube version. Will HAVE to watch it again.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this, and making such a great video. I followed the instructions and taught myself how to do this a few nights ago, and now I'm hooked!

I do have one question, though-- what do you do when you get to the end (of your roving, or the spindle gets full, or whatever)? Do you have to do anything special to keep that last loop and single together?

Anonymous said...

I am so excited for this great resource. I saw this done at a fiber festival a few years back, and was wowed. I was so new to spinning, that I did not realize the treasure before me. Since then, I have spent more time spinning, and wanted to add this technique to my skill tool chest, but could not find help. Thank you so much!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the great technique video!

Cady May said...

I did it!! (on the spindolyn) ThankYOU! I have to say, I might not have ever gotten it without the really clear video. Great job, and inspiring, too, now I am back fooling around with Navajo plying again, as one things lead to another, thanks again for the push!

Rosemary said...

Cady May, you're welcome! I'd love to try out a spindolyn, I'm happy to know that it works for you on yours.

Denyse said...

Thank you Rosemary and Tammy for this ingenious technique! Could you please do another video showing the new tweaks? I'm dyslexic and have a hard time understanding written instructions. Thanks and Spin Happy! :-)

kikiglis said...

Thankyou so much for the video - I have tried this technique out and it is amazingly clever! I too would like a video of the new tweaks if possible as I can't really get my head around the text.

WonderMike said...

I had to come back and say how much I LOVE this technique. THANK YOU SO MUCH for giving us all these tools and resources to learn to this very innovative alternative to doing the singles and plying as separate tasks.

I have started teaching this in classes and I always credit you and Tammy. Let me know if you need anything else to be done.

Merci Mille Fois,
Michael aka WonderMike (Ravelry)