Experimental Navajo Ply Variations and Glow-in-the-Dark Yarn

As I doctor I’ve taken so many science based classes that I’ve lost count and that background sometimes overflows into my hobbies as well.  I recently had all the ingredients for a perfect "experiment" fall into my lab... err lap. 

My friend Jennifer gifted me a few ounces of some fun bright green merino blend with multi colored Suri silk roving for my birthday clear back in December.  Cindy from Fibers First had recently come across some glow in the dark thread.  It seems glow-in-the-dark projects had been at all of the last couple spinning events and these two bobbins seemed like the perfect project.

I’ve never done any plying with commercial thread and I really wasn’t sure the best way to go about it.  Sure I could just ply a bobbin of the green with the thread for a typical two-ply but I have a strong preference for Navajo plying technique.  Its nearly always my go-to method of plying.  I tend to spin on the thin side so I love the feel and bulk of a three ply.  It has more of a round shape and feels sturdier.  Especially when I’m working with rovings that change colors, I like the way that Navajo ply fades from color to color rather than blending the multiple colored strings together in the usual barber pole style.

I’ve always called it Navajo plying but in perhaps a more politically correct form it can also be called chain plying.  The origin of the technique is not certain but it was used by the Navajo people on a Navajo spindle and can often be seen in  end fringe on traditional Navajo  blanket weaving.  A Navajo ply is essentially a very long twisted chain stitch like that used in crochet.  It starts with a slip knot with a very large loop and the plying thread is repeatedly pulled through the knot’s loop and spun in the reverse direction on the wheel.  There’s plenty of online tutorials for how to Navajo or Chain ply online  and if you haven’t given it a try I absolutely recommend it.   

 But the challenge for this project was to figure out how to Navajo ply a blend of commercial thread with my handspun green.  I had two ideas for how to adopt the classic Navajo ply to incorporate the commercial thread— I could simply run the thread in parallel with my handspun green and have a six ply yarn which I  would call Double Navajo Plying.  

Or I could try to Navajo ply the handspun green, as I would normally, but run the thread as a fourth strand which would not be pulled through the loop and which I would call 4-ply Navajo.  


I gave them both a try.  The Double Navajo was fairly straight forward although dealing with tension on six strands got a bit tricky at times and untangling a bit of a challenge. 

The 4-ply technique took some work to get a comfortable hand position, but once I got into a rhythm actually worked quite well. I found that it actually worked best to hold the commercial thread over my right pinky (as in the illustration above).  I had less knots and tangles and noticed that the thread that I was plying seemed to lay more on the outside of the yarn as it wasn’t getting pulled through the loop so was generally more visible, although the Double Navajo with three strands of thread still had a good showing of the thread as well. 

 The finished yarns look pretty similar although the “Double Navajo” (on the left) seems to glow a bit better.  I enjoyed spending some time trying something I hadn’t done before and it seems that the experimental techniques both have their pros and cons, I’m not sure I have a strong preference for one or the other.  I love trying new things!   

Now to find some good way to put Glow-in-the-Dark yarn into a finished product.  I’ve seen some pretty cute hat patterns and have a grand total of 3 finished knitting projects under my belt at this point.  Any ideas???

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