Navajo Plying on a Drop Spindle Tutorial

Homemade Lazy Kate for Yarn PlyingWell, here we are – the polworth I showed you in Spinning Polworth to Navajo Ply is all spun and wound on my idea of a bobbin – an empty toilet paper roll that’s skewered on a chopstick and hung in a box. The poor girl’s Lazy Kate. Next time, however, I’ll wind on a paper towel roll rather than a toilet paper roll and cut it to about the size of the box. When the roll is so much smaller, the singles fall off the side and wrap tightly around the chopstick. Then they don’t feed freely. Grrrr.

Navajo Plying is also sometimes called chain plying, which makes sense since it’s nothing more than pulling your singles through a loop to make a new loop, just like making a large crochet chain with your fingers, then plying the loop and the free singles together to make a 3 ply yarn. Here’s how I do it:

Make a loop:

Navajo Ply TutorialAttach the end of the loop (the part shown at the bottom of the above photo), to your spindle by winding it onto the shaft from the whorl down several twists, then wind back up over it to secure in place:

Navajo Ply Tutorial on a Spindle Keeping the loop open with your fingers, secure it through the hook, then take the end of the singles to be plyed and pull it through the loop to create another loop:

Navajo Ply TutorialAgain keeping loop open with fingers and holding free end of singles to be plyed in same hand, spin in the opposite direction you originally spun the singles. (Sorry you can’t see my spindle in this photo – it’s challenging to take pictures of yourself in action!):

Navajo Ply Tutorial Continue to keep loop open while winding plyed yarn onto spindle:

Navajo Ply TutorialNavajo Ply Tutorial on a Spindle

I did have my problems in the beginning. Without some sort of tension on your singles, you are fighting corkscrews while you’re trying to make loops, which can be challenging. Also, I broke my singles several times at first by dragging the singles through the loop too carelessly. Try to avoid the friction of the singles rubbing against one another as they’re looped. It didn’t take long to get the hang of it, though – the usual trial and error.

Repeat the last three steps until plying is complete. If you stop in the middle – be sure to find a way to keep your loop open. I hang mine on my curtain tieback bar.

I call navajo plying a successful technique I’ll use again and again. I’m thrilled with the result.

Chain ply Polworth Yarn Tutorial

So squishy!

Chain Spun Yarn Tutorial

Polworth, 128 yards worsted, 10 wpi




  1. says

    This is a daunting task, for certain.
    My hat is off to you.
    Let me tell you, your yarn is gorgeous.
    Now . . . what will you make with it????

    • Mom says

      Thanks so much, Gerry! I’m not sure what I’ll do with the yarn yet. It’ll speak to me soon, I’m pretty sure. šŸ˜‰

  2. says

    That is so pretty. I’m still having my drop spindle live up to it’s name… oh well, one day it won’t make that awful noise as it hits the floor and I’ll have pretty yarnie things too… one day. I might need to come visit and have you sort me out… lol.

    • Mom says

      Oh, how I wish I was local to you, or at least on the same continent!, so we could get together for some sharing of spindling techniques. That’d be so fun!

  3. Tammie says

    I have tried toilet paper rolls for bobbins and agree that at 4 inches in length, they are a bit on the short. I also found they weren’t strong enough and when I wrapped yarn around them they seemed to implode a bit. I recently ran out of one of my kitchen wraps; I believe it was Saran Wrap. I noticed that the tube the wrap came on was particularly thick and sturdy. I had my husband cut this in half with a hack saw. The result is two bobbins that are strong and 6 inches long. I’m looking forward to trying these when I’m ready to ply my next batch of homespun.

  4. Elizabeth Beattie says

    For someone who has just started to drop spindle, you are amazing!! I just don’t know how you get your singles so thin. I am hoping with some better roving coming my way, that I will be able to get just as thin with my singles. I just watched a video tutorial on how to Navajo Ply, through the drop spindling class on craftsy, and I am fairly certain that this will be the way I will ply. I can’t wait to try it. It seems much more effective than two-plying. Ugh, I hate waiting for supplies…I want to start NOW!



    • Mom says

      Thanks Elizabeth! I have had some really wonderful top to work with. Unwind Yarn Co, Woolgatherings, Into the Whirled. Great stuff. I think the quality of your fiber makes a huge differece. I’m going down the usual path of new spinners, I think. We aspire to thinness, then want to go back to thicker yarns. I’ve heard lots of newer spinners talking about the difficulty of going back once you’ve developed the habit of drafting thinner. So – I’m trying to stay in practice for both ways to be a versatile spinner. I do like my navajo or chain plied yarns, but love two ply also, which is great for fractal spins and also gives alot more yardage, of course. Happy Spinning! Can’t wait to see what you do with it. No doubt you’ll soon be inspiring me! :-)

  5. says

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I have recently started spinning, and really struggle to line up several plies at a time. But I was getting increasingly confused with all the Navajo tutorials out there. After reading yours, I finally feel like I understand!


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