Hot Tip: Turn one strand into three

Hot Tip: Turn one strand into three

While we were at the trade show last spring, debating other points of the army-green test vest one night, Bristol Ivy taught me something so simple and so wildly valuable.  It’s a spinning trick called Navajo Ply or Chain Ply, and it may come in handy if, as one example, you’re swatching for the knitalong and have chosen the DK held-triple option.

Any time you’re knitting with three strands held together, yarn management can get tricky. You can wind three balls and pull a strand from each. Or you can wind three skeins together into one mega-cake. But what if you only need a little bit of yarn? Like for a swatch or a just a wee bit of colorwork? Winding three tiny balls is tedious — and either way, how much do you wind? With this trick you can turn a single piece of yarn into three strands, just like magic!

Step 1: Make a slipknot and pull out a big loop. (It can be much bigger than the one I’ve made here — I was trying to fit this all in the frame.)

Step 2: Reach into the loop, grab the working yarn, and pull out another big loop. Repeat step 2 as often as needed.

What you’ve basically made is the arm-knitting equivalent of a crochet chain, and when you put tension on that chain to work with it, you’ve got three strands of yarn. The little spots where each loop is bending back on itself are completely undetectable in the knitting. I’ve used this trick a few times since learning it, and I pull out BIG loops — like 10 or 12 inches each — so three loops are enough for me to knit across one row of the knitalong vest. I’m telling you, magic.

It’s a little hard to photograph, but if you pull out a ball of yarn and give it a go, you’ll see what I mean. Thanks, Bristol!

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14 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Turn one strand into three

  1. Wow. As a beginning spinner, I’ve never understood how to do Navajo plying. With your clear explanation using already-spun yarn and still photos, I totally get it now! Bet you didn’t imagine this post would be a tutorial for spinning. :)

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  2. Lucy Neatby demonstrated how to do this with long colour change yarns like Kauni to knit at a different gauge and maintain the colours. Check her blog or her projects on Ravelry.

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  3. AWESOME! Thank you Karen.

    I have been looking at bulky yarn to make a poncho my husband asked for. Cannot find a color he likes. I have been considering tripling other lighter weight yarns and dreading ‘making’ the new weight yarn. Two is enough to handle, since I do not like winding them as one ball… something always goes wrong. Thanks to you and Bristol Ivy, I am saved. WHY DID I NOT THINK OF THIS?!?!?

    Thank you again.
    MJ, the SKEINdinavian

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  4. I should have thought of this -when I spin I use this method all the time. I was about to start winding my yarn into three different balls to knit with three strands -I saw this just in time! This works so much better.

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    • I must have, because I only ordered one skein of each color until after I’d swatched and decided. If I had wound off mini-skeins, they’d still be floating around, and there’s no such thing.

      I hadn’t planned to do the actual sweater this way, but have done both the black and white bits so far, and it’s lovely. Only the MC grey is wound into a big triple-cake.

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