The 4-ply yarn is done at last. I started it toward the end of October and plowed through this past week to finish it. You saw the preview of my one big bobbin of 4-ply the other day:


I know it doesn’t look like much, just one bobbin, but that really is a BIG bobbin. Next to the regular bobbin it is enormous. It holds the contents of 4 normal bobbins:


This was a long process. Spinning went on hiatus for a while during the colder months because it was really too cold to spin in the apartment. I couldn’t keep my hands warm enough, plus it’s hard to wrap up in a blanket up to the shoulders when you’re at the wheel.

I ended up with 421 yards. Lest you think that doesn’t sound like much for a 6-month span of spinning, remember it’s 4 plies. That’s 4 x 421 yards = 1684 yards, enough to cover the length of 16.84 football fields. There are also two smaller hanks, detailed below.

I am very pleased with how this yarn turned out:


Fiber: 70% merino wool, 30% Tussah silk
Colorway: Red
Supplier: Carolina Homespun
Quantity: 8 ounces
Finished yarn: 1 skein, 4-ply, 421 yards, 10.5 wpi (= worsted weight)
Spun at 15:1 and plied at 3:1

Penny included for scale:


Despite the long periods of time between bouts of spinning, the plies were relatively consistent. I held the 4 strands separately between the fingers on my left hand while plying. The one traveling between my thumb and forefinger was a little looser and thicker than the other three. I didn’t mark my bobbins so I don’t know if this was the first one, when I was still figuring out what I wanted to make, or my last one, when I was sick of the project and wanting it to end. However, having inconsistencies spread over 4 plies made for a more consistent yarn than when spread over 2 plies. You’re less likely to have two too-thick (or too-thin) bits line up with each other.

Plying was easy. Call me crazy, but it seemed I needed to treadle much, much less to twist the 4 singles around each other than I do when I ply 2 singles. Treadling speed when I went from 4 bobbins down to 3, then down to 2, was markedly different. I had to treadle much faster once I got down to 2 plies. Perhaps this is a spinning phenomenon I’m unaware of?

The bit of inconsistency between the 4 bobbins showed when I was finishing plying. After one bobbin ran out, I spun the remaining 3 bobbins as 3-ply and when another ran out, 2-ply. I have 33 yards of 3-ply at 15 wpi (= sport weight) and 25 yards of 2-ply at 18 wpi (= also sport weight):


Apparently I don’t have a photo of this as fiber. It had great streaks of red and dark blue, lots of silvery grey, and big slubs of white silk that I left in as I spun. You can see the color streaks here and there in the finished yarn although it’s mostly well-blended.

By my reckoning, this project puts me in the ranks of intermediate spinners. I set out to make a 4-ply worsted weight and got it. When I was a beginner, I made lumpy, bumpy yarn with lots of character but no goal; I took what I got. I say an advanced spinner can make what she wants, be it smooth and thin or thick and slubby. I’m not at that point yet where I can make a character-filled yarn with purpose, so I consider myself intermediate.

In organizing things for Ravelry, I found the first stuff I ever spun, back in September 2000. It’s really coarse and the little bit of fiber I have left is nearly impossible to draft. I’m surprised I was able to spin it at all and even more surprised the instructor and shop owner sold it to me as perfect-for-a-beginner supplies. But here it is, my first yarn. It’s a lumpy 2-ply spun on a Louet drop spindle and wound between thumb and elbow (no niddy-noddy yet):


The insructor had small quantities of various types of fiber to play with, so I picked out two colors of mohair and spun up a bit of that, too:


Ah, the memories.