Plying Ball Tutorial

How to empty a drop spindle by winding a singles into a ball for plying?

Step by Step Photo Guide
How to empty a drop spindle by winding a singles into a ball for plying? You also will see how to fix a slub (overly thick section of single) and get a deconstructed view of how the cop (spun yarn) was wrapped on the spindle shaft.

Here you see two spindles, the lower one already partly emptied into a plying ball. They contain roughly equal amount of singles. I plan on making this a two ply so will wind both into plying balls.

The beginning: I always wind over some sort of ‘core’ for easy handling. This can be a tennis ball, a felted dryer ball, or in this case a small ball felted from scraps. First you take the end of the single out of the hook and wind it around the ball a few times overlapping the loose end. In the background you see the other spindle empty and the finished ball.

Keep wrapping around whatever you are using as a core. I find it easiest to hold the spindle loosely by the shaft and let it spin in my hand as I wind.

Continue to wind changing direction to cover more of the core. In this picture I had extra single between the spindle and ball so it pigtailed. I had finished spinning that portion the night before so the twist was still somewhat active. If you have pigtails just stretch them out until they straighten before winding into the ball.

More progress changing direction as I wrap covering more of the core. You are aiming at a firm ball to keep the singles from being loose and getting tangled later.

Core fully covered. Just continue winding changing directions to keep it round.

As the spindle empties you can see better the cop shaping.

About half way.

One benefit of winding a plying ball is the twist can even out along the single. I actually hold the spindle further from the ball as I work allowing that to happen.

By looking over my singles I can make decisions on trouble spots such as this thick slub area. While it is fine to leave it I am going to show how I improve the consistency since this is about four times thicker than the rest.

I bring the single on the spindle back along the notch and into the hook. My leader portion includes the problem area. The plying ball will act as my fiber supply. Since I cannot draft it thinner due to the twist I will let the spindle back spin releasing twist from the yarn. My goal is to park and draft the slub thinner before spinning the spindle to return the normal amount of twist.

I succeeded at releasing the twist but drafted too much. So I will have to rejoin the single.

Just like any other join, I make sure each end is about half as thick as I want. I overlap being sure to pinch right at the tips of the part coming from the ball. Then I spun the spindle building up some twist and parked. I carefully released the twist into the break sliding my fingers along it as I did. This reattached it and kept from having wispy bits of fiber from the ends.

Then I inspected it and made sure I had a consistent amount of twist to the rest of the spinning, so the singles matched. This looks much better than the before.

I removed the single from the hook and resumed winding the plying ball.

Getting closer.

You can see how I build the cop shape now that the spindle is almost empty.

All wound into the plying ball.
About the pictures: this idea came to me while I was recovering from a cold so I apologize for the casual photography. The blanket for the backdrop is purple and the singles are yellow, red, and black. I corrected the color as best as possible but focused on making sure you could see what was happening.
About the drop spindles: both are top whorl of my own creation, branch size, and part of my personal collection. The one on the bottom in the final picture has a Walnut whorl on a Sycamore shaft and weighs about 1 oz. The other one has a Sycamore whorl, with less common reddish coloring, on a Maple shaft and weighs 1 oz.
About the singles: I bought the fiber at Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair 2017 from Jehovah Jireh Woolmill the color is called Lava and is a blend of 40% Alpaca (from MI and KY), 30% Tunis wool (from PA), and 30% Corriedale (from MI) all from small flock shepherds. I spun most of it demoing in public starting the last day of that festival. The rich fall colors showed how the roving twisted into a single.

The roving and some of the spun singles yarn.