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Navajo 3-ply Tutorial

The Yarn Wench explains her Navajo 3-ply technique.

View the video to the right or read the detailed instructions below.

Have fun learning to Navajo 3-ply!

How to Navajo 3-ply Yarn Wench style

I’m often asked how I manage to do a balanced Navajo three ply and I decided to put together a tutorial that outlines the basics. I am a self-taught spinner so my technique may not be book perfect but I have almost 25 years of spinning experience and this is what works for me. I think each spinner finds her own way and there are as many techniques as there are spinners!

Bobbin of Navajo 3-plyFor a nice smooth Navajo three ply I first spin a fairly even single. Remember that you need a lot of yardage for three plies. I fill one of my Schacht bobbins with a consistent single (mine usually range in the 12-14 wpi range) and I usually end up with over 100 yards of Navajo three ply yarn in bulky to worsted weight. This of course will vary depending upon the size of your single and your bobbin.

Place your bobbin on your Lazy Kate and position the Lazy Kate on the floor in front of your spinning wheel. I center mine between my feet.

Thread the leaderThread your leader yarn through the orifice of your spinning wheel and tie a slipknot in the end of it.

Thread the single through the slipknotTake the end of the single on your Lazy Kate and thread it through the slipknot.

Pull single through slipknotPull a length of your single through the slipknot and tie it to itself to form a loop that is big enough to put your hand through. Tighten the slipknot of your leader yarn.
Grab single from Lazy KateHold on to the leader yarn with your left hand to keep it taut and reach through the loop you’ve just formed in the single with the thumb and index finger of your right hand (or whatever works best for you – a single crooked finger is fine) and grab onto the single coming up from the Lazy Kate.
Navajo 3-ply
Navajo 3-ply
Navajo 3-ply
Navajo 3-ply
Navajo 3-ply
The next part is the trickiest to describe. Slowly begin to treadle counter-clockwise (or in the opposite direction from how you spun your single). Pull the single through the loop with your right hand and draw through a fair amount of length keeping tension on the yarn. Use your left hand to control the twist, pinching and releasing it to allow the twist to travel into the areas where three ends of single have been aligned. Keep the thumb and index finger of your left hand traveling behind the twist smoothing everything into place. This is especially important when you come to one of the joins as it helps to get everything to lay smooth. Pinch off the twist and reach again into the loop to draw through another length of yarn.

Your left hand needs to let go to allow the twist to move into the areas where three yarns are aligned but your thumb and index finger should follow along just behind the twist and pinch off the areas that aren’t yet ready to be plied. Continue to reach through the loop drawing more length of yarn through as in finger crocheting and once you have pulled through a length again let go of the twist and allow it to move into the three aligned yarns. A rhythm will develop that you can see in my video tutorial of reaching through the loop, pulling the yarn through, allowing the twist to move through the three aligned yarns while smoothing it out between your thumb and index finger of your left hand, and then pinching down on the twist to keep it from moving while you reach through the loop for another length of yarn. I find the key for a nice balanced Navajo three ply is to avoid treadling too quickly. I treadle very slowly and keep my hands moving. This keeps my yarn from being overplied.

The amount of yarn you pull through the loop can vary and you can manipulate the placement of colors by how little or how much you pull through. This can be fun to experiment with. I usually pull a consistent length through each time as I enjoy the color blending that is achieved with Navajo three ply.

Completed Navajo 3-plyHere is the completed yarn.

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