With this post I'm looking at plying and a few different characteristics it gives to yarns.

In its simplest forms ply means the number of strands of yarn twisted together and ply can be used to describe the thickness of yarn. For example a 4-ply being thicker than a 2-ply as it has more strands twisted together. This only works however if each strand used across all yarns is of the same thickness and just looking around here I can say that is not true. For example in single ply yarns I can hold a Hélène Magnússon Love Story Einband next to Pickles Tjukk Merino and they are completely different thickness. Also a 2-ply yarn like Hillesvåg Blåne and Hey Mama Wolf Mokosh are also completely different. It's good to be mindful of these terms when choosing your yarn for a particular project and also use weight, needle size and gauge to judge the thickness suitability of the yarn you pick.

The individual strands or plys are different thickness in lots of different yarns. The plying in this sense gives these yarns different characteristics. A single ply being lighter and flowy while a multiple plied yarn is often stronger with more structure. That brings me to look at some of the yarns in the shop that use different types of plying to imbue the yarn with different and more special characteristics. I have broken them down into four different categories: texture, colour, strength and core and I hope it inspires you to look closer at the way the yarn is twisted when you are choosing something for your next project.

Ply for Texture.

Yarns like Woven Beyond Crimp and Pickles Økologisk Bomull use their plies for texture. Both these yarns are created by twisting a thicker strand with a thinner strand. Woven Beyond Crimp uses a thicker strand of Merino and Nettle twisted around a strand of Lotus. Pickles Økologisk Bomull uses two different thickness of cotton. This creates in the yarn a bouclé like quality and gives a bouncy and bumpy finish to the knitted fabric. This can be more extreme as in the Crimp or slightly less so in the Bomull. Projects knit in this type of yarn have a characterful texture and they are idea for all sorts of uses. I think they look great in cuddly looking jumpers where you embrace the cosy look.

Ply for colour

Yarns like Riverknits Chimera use their plies for magic colour effects. Chimera is made by twisting together two differently coloured yarns of the same thickness and fibre content. Created from a 100% hand dyed Bluefaced Leicester. Riverknits first get the single ply from the mill and they dye them up with different colour variations. These are sent back to the mill which then twist them back together resulting in a stunning marled yarn. Marled yarn is great for projects where you want a subtle blend of colours to undulate through. They look great in colourwork paired with a solid.

Ply for Strength

Yarns will use multiple plies for strength. The more strands that are twisted together the more fibres you have overlapping and the stronger the resulting yarn becomes. This is often found in yarns that need to be strong or get a lot of wear like sock yarns. Take Hélène Magnússon's Katla for example, this sturdy yarn is tightly twisted from four strands of Love Story Einband. This creates a dense yarn with a lot of structure two it, it holds its shape and creates a more rigid fabric. It is great for socks or any garment that takes a lot of wear.

Ply for Core

These yarns are similar in construction to the textured ones mentioned above but the plying here has a structural purpose. Light fluffy yarns like these brushed alpaca are often plied with a 'core' that is slightly denser, capturing the fluffier long haired yarns around them. You can see this in Pickles Soft Fuzz and Fyberspates Cumulus. Both these yarns use this method with slightly different fibres. Soft Fuzz has a core of wool whereas Cumulus has a core of silk. Having this core at the centre allows for the lighter fluffier fibre to bloom while still being anchored in place. These yarns are ideal knit on their own on fairly large needles for light airy and flowy fabric.