A cabled yarn is one that is comprised of more than two plies, and is plied in more than one step. Cabled yarns can be employed as design elements, or as added strength to a wear area of a garment.
To create a basic cabled yarn, first spin two bobbins clockwise (Z twist), and ply them counterclockwise (S twist). Instead of checking for a balanced twist while plying, over twist it a bit. To monitor the amount of twist in the plying, simply draw a yard or so back from the orifice of the wheel and allow it to go slack. It should twist a bit in the counterclockwise direction. Once you have created this 2 ply yarn, leave it on the bobbin and create another one in the same manner.
The two ply yarns are then plied to one another using a clockwise, or Z twist. This time, you do want to have a balanced twist, use the same method described above to check for balance, but be sure the yarn drapes without twisting in either direction. Congratulations, you have made cabled yarn!
Now what, you ask? This method can open up numerous possibilities for a spinner. Once you have learned the “rules” find every way you can to bend them to achieve your desired results. For example, spin a single, ply it with a metallic sewing thread, then ply it again with a pencil roving and viola, you have some very funky yarn that would cost upward of twenty dollars to buy in a knitting shop!
A definite advantage to cabled yarn is that you can build bulk pretty easily. As a spinner becomes more experienced, we try to spin thinner and thinner yarns to showcase our skill. After awhile it becomes increasingly more difficult to spin a thick yarn. This can be overcome by using a cabled yarn to allow the plies to determine the thickness of the finished yarn.
The increased strength is another advantage to a cabled yarn. Consider using it on the toes and heels of socks both for design contrast as well as reinforcement. A cabled yarn can also be overstitched onto the elbows of children’s sweaters either to cover a worn patch, or to prevent tearing in the first place.
There are no hard and fast rules to what elements can be included in a cabled yarn. You can use very thin strips of fabric that have been cut on the bias to create a chenille-like yarn. This makes a great accent for the brim of a hat, or other item that just needs an embellishment.