Link to PLY Away

Fair Fiber Wage, a look from the other side

You can’t pay people what they’ll take, you have to pay them what they’re worth. This simple premise becomes difficult for a myriad of reasons. The first and most confusing for some is that often people don’t know what they’re worth. That not knowing comes from a culture of silence, a lack of transparency, and as usual, the relentless pursuit of the almighty buck by people in power.

This is a huge issue in all areas of creation, and it’s hard for anybody to get a fair shake (or even to know what a fair shake is, what with all the shushing that goes on about money), but where it concerns craft, artists, fiber-work, and women is the one I’m most familiar with and the one I’m specifically talking about here. Those are a lot of areas that historically don’t get a lot of respect, right? Craft. Artists. Fiber-work. Women. Geez, it’s like a stacked deck, and I’m thrilled that Mary Beth and Abby are willing to show their cards, if you will, and get the conversation rolling.

I taught for 10 years before I started PLY Magazine and then PLY Away. I supported a family of 3, then 4, then 5 with teaching and writing, and it wasn’t easy. I could talk about that, but the truth is, I don’t teach very often now, so that’s no longer my reality and there are people with strong voices who can (and are) speaking to that. What I can speak to is the position I’m in now, which is overwhelmingly informed by my previous position as a teacher trying to eke a living out of the thing I was good at and loved doing. Now I run a magazine and put on an annual fiber retreat, and I try to do it fairly and with transparency.

I want to talk about the financials of a retreat, of a big retreat. I want to assure you that anyone who says it’s just not financially viable to pay teachers fairly (they wouldn’t use that word, of course; they’d say “pay teachers more than the industry standard” or something that makes it easier to swallow) is wrong. The key is not expecting a huge profit. Why should that be my (the organizer, underwriter, parent company, corporation) right? I believe that. The first thing you have to be willing to do is pay people what they are worth, and shockingly, that must include yourself (what I mean here is that I should get paid fairly and not expect huge profits and large salaries).

Before I get into the actual nitty-gritty numbers of PLY Away, let me give you the bottom line, in case financials bore you like they bore me (unless they’re my own). With all the outgoing and incoming money, the bottom line is it can be done. When I started this retreat, I told myself that if I could run a first-time retreat the way I wanted it to be run, treat everyone fairly, have it be enjoyable for teachers, vendors, and students alike, and break even, then I’d do it again.

I did and I am. It wasn’t hugely profitable, but that’s okay, I don’t need it to be. I don’t know when we started needing things to bring in huge profits to be worth our while. We don’t need to be rich to be happy, and this industry is not about getting rich, right? It’s about making things with our hands, about community, about who we are and who we want to be. If any aspect of this industry suffers (the farmers, the shepherds, the dyers, the teachers, the designers, the writers), the community is less. What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t need PLY Away to make a million; I just needed it to be sustainable and good. It is both those things.

Here’s our bottom line. If we sell all of our classes ¾ of the way out, there is a profit of $12k. If we sell all of the classes all the way out, there is a profit of $42k. And if we only fill the classes half full, we’ll lose about $17k. The truth is we’ll probably hit around the ¾ mark. That’s the hope anyway. And if we don’t, if we can’t do this, do it well and fairly, we shouldn’t be doing it. That’s that. You don’t sacrifice people and their livelihoods for profit. I won’t ever do that, and that’s not just for them, it’s for me.

So if you’re interested, let’s run through the numbers of what PLY Away’s actual debits and credits are, shall we?

Money Out

First, the venue. And it’s a nice venue. Really nice. You’ve gotta have a nice venue because as much as people say that they’d travel to a shack in the middle of nowhere to take a class with X, you can’t really expect them to, at least not more than once. So you pay for a venue in a nice location with good rooms, well-lit and roomy classes, and lots of food choices that is walkable to interesting things and is generally nice to be in. For me, there’s only one such place within 2 hours and that’s the Westin at Crown Center. Next year a new venue is opening, and that may give me some bargaining room, but for now, this is what I have. I tell you all this so you don’t get it in your head that I must get off cheap and other retreats surely pay more.

Here’s what I pay for the venue: $20,000 (that’s for the classrooms and marketplace for 5 days)

Then there’s food. No venue will rent to you if you don’t sign a food and beverage guarantee. And it’s a lot. I have to agree to use $10,000 worth of food and beverages. At first I thought that’d be easy because it’d include what our attendees use – wrong. It’s just what I order for the event. Things that can and are included in that 10k: the coffee and tea cart open to all in the marketplace, the coffee and tea cart in the spinners’ lobby, the break time snacks in the spinners’ lobby, and the banquet.

And about the banquet, I chose the most inexpensive meal available, which is $50/plate, but because there is a 25% tax on top of it, it’s really about $65, which is what I charged for each banquet ticket. A straight wash, the banquet, but it’s worth it because it adds to the experience, gets everyone together, and is fun!

So that’s the main venue costs. But wait! It’s 20k and 10k, but like I said, there’s a 25% tax on each of those (and annoyingly, the tax doesn’t count towards the 10k food and beverage agreement; it’s added after I reach 10k). So that means the venue’s total cost to me is $37,500. About 50 people bought tickets to the banquet (the other 60 people booked a full schedule of classes, so I paid for their banquet), so that means you can take $3250 off that total. So my new check to the Westin is more like $34,250.

The next major expense is the teachers. Here’s what I pay (and here’s a link if you want to see more about this).

  • $650 per full day of teaching, $325 per half day of teaching, paid before departure for first-time teachers.
  • $700 per full day of teaching, $350 per half day of teaching, paid before departure for returning teachers.
  • $40 per diem for food, personal expenses, etc. (keep in mind we do cover at least 2 dinners too)
  • $25 per day for shipping expenses (no receipts needed)
  • travel (airfare or current IRS rate for car mileage up to price of airfare)
  • single room at PLY Away venue from the night before teaching begins until morning after teaching ends
  • optional teachers’ dinner
  • optional banquet ticket
  • optional last night dinner and teacher wind-down

When I break that down for the teachers we have, it looks like this:

15 teachers (9 new teachers, 6 returning teachers) teaching a total of 5 days (some teach 1, 2, 3, or 4 days; anyone with 3 days or more gets a half or full day break in the middle if they want it) for a total of:

New teachers total: $17,000

Returning teachers total: $15,500

Total teacher salaries: $32,500

But that’s not all it takes to bring a teacher. There’s the per diem, which for 15 at $40 each day they’re here comes out to $2000. There’s shipping at $25 per day for each teaching day, which equals $1300. There’s airfare and travel, which comes out to about $6700. All of those things together come to another 10k even. And of course we have hotel rooms, which come to $15,000 if you include my own room too.

So far that’s

$34,250 for the venue

$32,500 for teacher salary

$10,000 for per diems, shipping, and travel

$15,000 for hotel rooms

$91,750: total

But that’s not really all it costs. There’s the teachers’ dinner: $600.

I like to buy each teacher a pretty good assortment of snacks for their rooms because I know how sick I get of eating out each meal and it’s sometimes hard to find good, healthy stuff. I find out which teachers are GF, Veg, Vegan, etc. and I hit Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and each teacher gets a goodie bag that I hope will last them the entire time they’re at PLY Away: a bunch of bananas, apples, oranges, muffins, trail mix, granola and cereal bars, nuts, chocolate, and a large bag of popcorn or something like it. This doesn’t cost a lot, but I can tell you it’s really appreciated. $300.

I also want the vendors to be happy and taken care of so I hire a couple of people to help unload their goods: $1600.

We also do a big $500 giveaway to one spinner who fills up his/her punch card in the marketplace. In an attempt to support the vendors, we run a contest; anyone who purchases from 10 different vendors in the marketplace is entered and the winner gets $500 to be spent in the marketplace. There’s also a *no purchase option, but to be honest, it’s super annoying and nobody did it last year, but we had over 100 cards in the drawing: $500.

Then there are the little things like banners, shirts, programs, buttons, goodie bags, advertising, website stuff, etc.: $2000.

So the total for those extra things is $5000.

Which brings our grand total outgoing money to $96,750.

 

Money In

Okay, now what about what we bring in? Here’s hoping it’s more than that, right?

I struggled with class fees. I want them to be fair, but they also have to cover that huge number up there, right? I looked at lots of different retreats and festivals, and in the end, what we needed to bring in to make it all work falls just below the the middle of retreat class prices, which I’m okay with. It’s a good chunk of change, for sure, but there’s a range and I feel like each class is worth it.

Here are the classes we offer and the money each brings in if it sells ½, ¾, or 100% out. The number is () is the cost and the other number is how many we’re holding of that type of class.

Class length                       ½ sold              ¾ sold                   sold out

3-day classes ($380): 3        $9,120            $13,680                      $18,240

2-day classes ($275): 6         $13,200          $19,800                      $26,400

1-day classes ($165): 17        $22,440          $33,660                      $44,880

1/2-day  ($90): 26                   $18,720         $28,080                      $37,440

 

Total class intake                   $63,480          $95,220                      $126,960

 

Of course, the event registration company takes a percentage of that so we have to adjust those numbers down a bit.

Total intake after reg fees  $60,306          $90,459               $120,612

But that’s not all we take in. We’d be in trouble if it was, right?

We have sponsors who help immensely and when I say we couldn’t do it without them, I truly mean it (to check out our sponsors, go here), to the tune of about $12,000.

We have vendors, and each booth space is $350 so that brings in about $7,000.

T-shirts are a wash because we sell them at cost, and we give away the goodie bags and the buttons.

So, here’s where we are:

Total intake if we sell all of our classes ¾ out, which I feel is a reasonable goal:

$90,459 class intake after fees

$12,000 from sponsors

$7,000 from marketplace booth sales

$109,459 total income with classes 3/4 filled

And with our output at $96,750, that stands to make PLY Away about $12,000 profit.

If we sell only half out, it’s a total intake of $60,306 plus sponsors and marketplace (total $79,306) and minus the total output for a total loss of  $17,453. Yes, that’s a loss. Scary stuff, but that won’t happen.

Of course, the ideal situation is that every class sells out totally and PLY Away makes a huge profit of 42k! But that’s a little much to ask, isn’t it? All I want is to keep going, make and pay a fair wage, and be and spread happiness. It’s what I got into this to do, and when I can’t do that anymore, either via the magazine or the event, it’ll be time to do something else. I don’t see that time around any corner though.

I want to note here that I could make more. I don’t have to have the extras like the give-a-ways, the vendor help, the teacher snack bags, and the teacher dinner. I could charge more for classes — if you look around at like-retreats, we’re a little below the middle. But I like the choices I’ve made and will keep making them as long as it works for PLY Away. I mostly want to point this out to point out that this type of model is viable even if you need to make more than I do. There’s a higher profit margin possible without paying people unfairly, you just have to want to make it work.

So that’s it. If you made it this far, I applaud your stick-to-it-ness and perhaps you’d like a job. Someday we’ll be hiring. You’re not going to get rich, but you will be treated fairly.

PLY Away: The Student Perspective

Today we are so lucky to be visited by Devin Helmen, who won the scholarship to attend PLY Away 2016! If you weren’t able to attend but you wondered what all the fuss was about, keep reading as Devin shares his experiences from PLY Away!


 

I literally could not believe it for a few moments when I got the notification that I had been awarded the scholarship to the inaugural PLY Away.  I was full of anticipation and eagerness and had no idea what to expect. I am glad I came into the actual experience without solid expectations, because nothing could have prepared me for the amazing time I had. Imagine almost three hundred people all sharing the same passion, all excited, and all ready to enjoy themselves. Sounds awesome, right? The reality was a million times better.

From the moment I came up to the registration tables, everyone was uniformly kind, helpful, and excited! I received my packet of information with helpful name tag, schedule, banquet pass, and booklet along with an amazingly generous swag bag filled with samples from vendors. Spinners had already taken over the lobby and were spinning on wheels and spindles, knitting, chatting, and sipping beverages. Everyone had grins on their faces, and I am sure they matched mine.

I have learned to spin in mostly isolation, and have not been exposed to the wonderful atmosphere that can come about with the concentration of fiber folk in one area. I saw many new techniques, new tools, new patterns, and everyone was happy to talk about them, to show the pattern, to teach the new technique. This was the biggest surprise, and the most exciting thing, for me: the learning continues outside of classes.

The classes I took were wonderful, and I was lucky to have the chance to learn from Deb Robson, Abby Franquemont, and Stephanie Gaustad. I had so much fun discovering the intricacies of Shetlands and Leicesters, how to MacGuyver a sparkly toy baton into a spindle with a paperclip and some ingenuity, and exploring the uses and history of both distaves and flax. As mind-blowing as these classes were, it was equally mind-blowing to see teachers in their element, and to have the example of how to teach.

The spin-in was a tremendous gathering, a large ballroom filled with people spinning and chatting and exchanging knowledge and information. I saw many exchanges of information, many offers to try new tools and fibers. Teaching and transmitting information seems to be innate in a gathering like this. Living immersed in fiber and textiles for days at a time made for a far different experience than taking a class and then going home. The buzz, the conversations, the practicing of new techniques continued well after classes.

It is my goal to become a spinning and textile teacher. It is such an important part of our civilization and such a fundamental skill. I watched closely how teachers responded to questions, demonstrated, and taught and I am glad to have such people to use as models for when I teach. PLY Away brought together a group of passionate and talented people whose excitement and knowledge (and thirst for more knowledge) made it a life-changing experience for me. I came away from it with a complete dedication to doing what I can to continue and expand this community, to preserving and passing down the fiber and textile knowledge which underpins civilization, and to doing what I can to pay back and pay forward the generosity of material, knowledge, and spirit I encountered. I am happy to say that I will be able to make a start this fall, when I will be teaching my first beginning spinning classes.

I want to thank Jacey and Levi, all the wonderful and dedicated people at PLY, the teachers and participants at PLY Away, and all the generous people who donated to the scholarship which made it possible for me to attend.

Devin H headshot

 

Cubicle Monkey by day, Fiber Fanatic by night, Devin Helmen has been feeding his fiber obsession since he taught himself to spin at age 8.  He spins, knits, and is learning to weave in beautiful Minnesota. He has a passion for spindles and everyday textiles and blogs, intermittently, at www.afewgreenfigs.blogspot.com.

 

 

Plyaway Recovery

It’s 10 days since Plyaway ended.

Let me begin this post by saying that Plyaway was awesome. It may be one of the best big spinning gatherings I’ve ever taught at. (I can’t figure out how to make that sentence not end in a prepositions without sounding like a jerk, so there you are.) Everyone I talked to who were there just for fun loved it too.

I’ve always known that Jacey is a great planner and organizer but this was the thing that brought me to the point where I will never ever doubt her. princessbreedssmall

The other thing I want to say is that I loved my classes. As a group. They were lovely and fun and delightful. I forgot to take pictures after the first day. Bad Blogger!

 

But I do have a photo of the beginning handouts for that forst day. It was the Princess Breeds Study. We compared 15 wools to Disney Princesses (plus a couple nonprincesses) 12912635_1545686442394169_1626500529_nover 2 days. So there was a lovely little temporary tattoo and a tiny tiara for each participant. I also wore a tiara during the class.

Jacey wanted to try out the tiaras too.

Aren’t we adorable?

Anyway, there were four full days of classes and a super duper market and activities each evening and it was nonstop fun!

The hotel was great too and it was attached to a little mall that had a pretty good selection of restaurants as well as a phenomenal pen store Pizza guy smallwhich we visited every day. I may have bought a couple of things.

There was a pizza joint called Spin! and Spin has a waiter who is fantastic and he was interested in trying out a tiara too.

I flew home from Kansas City on Monday the 25th. There were a few delays and so I got home several hours later than expected but we did make it home from the airport before the bad weather hit.

And all of this brings me to my point.

It’s been ten days and there is work to be done. I have 14 fleeces to wash for some upcoming classes in New England and Idaho in June. I have several articles due also in mid June.

On the 26th I stayed in bed almost all day. And since then I’ve done almost nothing. No work. I have washed 5 fleeces. But I should have had them all done by now. I should have had the articles outlined by now. I should have had the rest of the yarn for the next skirt spun by now. All the should have’s.

When I started teaching on a regular basis I spoke to Deb Robson about the experiece and she told me that she plans about two days of recovery for each day she is away from home for teaching. I was skeptical when she said it but now that a couple of years have gone by I have learned to not doubt her either. I was away from home for 5 days. I have now been home for 10 days and last night I feel like my brain came back.

Last night I was able to make lists and schedules to get my work done over the next month. Things were clarified and I now know the path I need to take to get all the things done.

I love teaching spinning. Like, I super duper love it. But it’s exhausting. All the smiling and talking and I’m seriously very much of an introvert. All that means is that I need several hours of quiet down time with no talking at the end of each day. It’s amazing how many fiber arts teachers are the same!

Teaching at conferences rarely offers that down time. So it takes time to recover when we get home. I’m certainly not complaining because I love it so much. I just thought I’d tell you why many of us are brain dead for a little while after teaching.

OK! I’m off to get three fleeces washed today. And I look forward to seeing you at Webs and Nutmeg Spinners Guild in three short weeks. and Palouse Fiber Festival in just 5 weeks.

And if not, I’m counting on seeing you next year at Plyaway because if Jacey decides not to ask me back next year, I’m going as a student!

A Spinning Wheel in Good Working Order

I’m leaving today to teach some classes in Iowa this weekend for a guild. I’ve never been to Iowa. But it’s not that far away so I’ll pack the car and drive there. By driving I can stop for as many Starbucks hot chocolates as I want. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today.

The classes I’m teaching are a breeds studay and a class about woolen and worsted. The breeds study requires either a spinning wheel or a spindle and the woolen/worsted class is wheel specific. In the notes for both classes when I list the equipment needed I specify a “spinning wheel in good working order”. Many of my teacher friends use the same language. I wanted to just talk for a short time today about what exactly that means.

Most of the time the wheels people bring to class are fine but there have been several times where the a student’s wheel wasn’t fine and then things get hard for me, the student and the entire class. If a wheel shows up in class that isn;t in good working order I often will spend a bit of time trying to get it to go. Since I am often traveling a far distance to teach I don’t have an extra wheel with me to lend just in case. So the best case scenario is where I get the wheel going with just some minor tweeks. Worst case is that the wheel has bigger issues than I can fix in class and the student doesn’t have a wheel to use. If I have brought a wheel along with me I often lend mine.

I have found that most of the time when the worst happens it’s because the wheel in question was borrowed for the class and the student didn’t try it out before bringing it.

 

Anyway, There are things I check on my wheel before I bring it to class and there are things that should b checked out before trying to use a wheel that you may not be familiar with. So here goes. long draw

  1. The bobbins should all spin freely on the bobbin shaft. Dont just try one bobbin. If the class calls for more than one, try them all out. Spinning freely means that you give it a push and it spins several complete revolutions before you touch it again.
  2. When treadling with no yarn or tension, the wheel spins freely and treadling is almost effortless.
  3. The treadles are actually attached to the footmen and those attachments don’t look like they will fall apart at any moment.
  4. All bolts and screws are tightened and will remain tight oveer the length of the class.
  5. All front feet are present and accounted for. (This pertains to especially Schacht Wheels that have adjustable feet.) I check this before I leave for a class and then again before I put my wheel in the car after a class.
  6. If the drive band hasn’t been changed in the last 6 months and it’s cotton, change it.
  7. If it’s scotch tension, make sure there is a scotch tension brake band attached along with a spring or other bouncy option.

I thnk that’s it. It looks like a lot but it really only will take about 5 to 10 minutes to get it all in order and make sure you’re all set.

Let me know if you have any questions!

While I have your attention, I still have a couple of spots left in one or two of my Plyaway classes so if you can get to Kansas City in April, sign up!

 

PLY Away Sponsor: The Spinning Loft

One of our sponsors for PLY Away is The Spinning Loft – and today, Alison from The Spinning Loft is here to introduce us to her business and give us some sneak peeks of what she’ll be bringing with her to PLY Away! Here’s Alison …

——————————————————————————————————–

Have you heard?  The Spinning Loft is both a sponsor and a vendor at PLY Away!

We were so excited to hear about PLY Away that we had to throw our hat in with Jacey and the PLY Away crew.  With such a great group of teachers and classes, fantastic vendors, and the backing from such an amazing publication, there was no way we could say “No.”  More importantly the conference is a perfect match to our mission: The Spinning Loft exists to help bring shepherds and spinners together through fleece, and in so doing, to help preserve rare breeds.

It’s our pleasure to work with shepherds and to make their wool available to our fellow handspinners. We seek out shepherds everywhere with quality rare and heritage breeds, from Hog Island here in Maryland to Gammelnorsk Sau (the wool that made the Viking ship sails!) from Norway. We have the distinct pleasure of making these fleeces accessible to spinners, explain what characteristics make the breed, and help them explore these breed’s unique qualities.

Alison holding a Hog Island lamb

Alison holding a Hog Island lamb

It is a great partnership that enables us to keep what we both love – the farms and the sheep – alive. The shepherds are compensated fairly for their work and the quality of the fleeces and we are able to introduce spinners to some really wonderful fibers.

That’s a big complicated mission, but it comes from a single starting point – a passion for wool.  I love doing this – I love the wool and I love to expound on its wonders.

I started spinning like so many do, with commercially prepared fiber. Then I learned how to process my own fleece from raw, attended my first breed study class, and began expanding my exposure to different breeds.

Beth Smith, then owner of The Spinning Loft, changed my relationship to wool forever. We attended her breed study class in which we explored 12 different breeds of sheep. We explored fine wools and coarse wools, crimpy wools and dual coated wools.  Wools from sheep I had never seen before. She also told us about the forthcoming book by Deb Robson that was all about the wool from different breeds of sheep.

I was hooked.

By the time The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook came out, I had sampled about 40 breeds – nearly all the sheep commonly available in the United States.  And when Deb did her book signing at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I stood in line for my copy and a signature … bouncing up and down so energetically that Deb declared she had “never seen someone so excited to buy a book about wool.” I simply loved the idea of the book so much – and the sheep – I couldn’t contain my joy and enthusiasm!

I have taken several breed study classes since and I have sampled over a hundred breeds (and counting). With every new breed I sample, I become more and more enamored with wool.  Every time I have the chance to try a new breed, I find myself just as giddy as the day I acquired my copy of The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook.  It is this excitement and fascination in other spinners that I try to foster with The Spinning Loft, and it is particularly exciting when a brand new spinner – or a spinner brand new to breed study, or even a spinner brand new to a different breed – discovers all those breeds of sheep.

It was this passion that led me to buy The Spinning Loft from Beth.  We both wanted the mission to continue and to share the joy of All The Wools.  Sheep have so many different types of wool and so many uses for it, I’m just never bored.  Trying new wools is exciting – discovering their properties, what I can do with them, how they feel in my fingertips, how they spin, what the yarn looks like, what the finished object looks like.  It’s so easy to see why so many breeds have evolved – either through locality or through breeding for characteristics.  And it makes me sad when we face the loss of a breed of sheep – what characteristic of their wool and what features that enrich us will be lost too?

The Wall of Fleece

The Wall of Fleece

We generally have over 50 unique breeds in raw fleece in stock, as well as commercially prepared top, with more fleeces always on the way based on shearing schedules. That’s quite a Wall of Fleece.

We can’t bring the WHOLE wall with us to PLY Away – but we are certainly going to bring as much of it as I can pack into my truck.  Accompanying the Wall will be processing tools, wool scour, wash and rinse, and some of those valuable fleece guides and books about spinning different breeds into the yarn you want.

 

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be bouncing with excitement to share a new breed sample with Deb Robson, Beth Smith, and all of you!

PLY Registration Rocked!

As the clocks clicked over to 10:00, everything went live.

I was nervous that I was throwing a party that nobody would come to (highschool was a tough time for everyone, right?) but at 10:01 we had 2 orders! The guides worked! Those first 2 spinners went through there like the wind! Or like somebody posted on Ravelry, like silk.

By 10:11 we were 48 registrants deep and Stephenie’s 2-dayer was sold out! By 10:20 Deb’s 2-dayer was gone too! Over the next hour over 110 spinners zipped through registration and by the end of the day we topped out at 150 spinners, most with full schedules.

Here’s how it shook out:

All the 2-day classes are sold out except for Coleen Nimetz’s Silk, the temptress unraveled, which is dangerously close to being sold out too! If you want this class, hurry, Coleen is amazing! I had her as my 1st year teacher in the Master Spinning program and she knows lots of secret things about silk!

There’s a bit more space in the 1-day Friday classes. Jillian’s Cheaper by the dozen class is long gone and it’s soon to be followed by Esther’s Wild Fibers class and Amy’s Sock it to me, both of which should be awesome and lots of fun.

The other 2, Illegal yarns and Technically Twisted both promise to be great but very different. Illegal Yarns is taught by the great Patsy Sue Zawistoski and she’s got such a brain in her head that I just want to walk behind her all day and hope some leaks out onto me. It’d be gross but probably worth it. Her class should be super fun and teach you how to break all those rules you want to break but are afraid to. Technically Twisted with Michelle is going to blow your mind! Michelle is the lead teacher for the Master Spinning Program and girlfriend can spin! She’s cutting her teaching down some after this so get in this class if you can! You’ll learn a ton, I can promise you that! If you can’t get in the 1-day, any half day with her would be worth your while!

The half day classes are a mixed bag. Many sold out right away (but some have other time slots available) and lots are on the brink. The totally gone ones are Deb’s and Jillian’s but Beth’s Going Steady which I may sneak into, is almost there as are all of Abby’s spindle classes and most of Amy King’s classes. Amy Tyler’s variations on long and short draw classes are also pretty full.

Ones that should be sold out but are only half full:

Silk Tasting: all the silk! Testing, trying, learning from a silk master! Seriously, I can’t believe there is any space! Did you read her silk articles in the Silk issue? Amazing!

Twist and Twine: If you have space for one more class, take this! Chris is so fantastic, you love her articles, she’s better in person!

Maximize your minis: I’m not as good at fiber prep as I should be so don’t be surprised if I totally crash Michelle’s classes! She knows so much.

Twist for Grist: If you want to know how to adjust the size and feel of your yarn, get in here! Michelle is great with twist and grist and again, she just knows a ton about spinning.

Wild Combing: It’s Esther, come on, the queen of texture!

There are a lot of great classes gone but there are still some gems to be had. I scheduled each of these classes/teachers based on how great I knew they would be, the things that I want to learn, and the people I want to learn them from. It’s going to be amazing no matter what classes you get! If you want to come, here’s the reg page!

And to those spinners that made yesterday such a success, thank you so much! And Jessica, man alive, you were outstanding!

PLY Away Winners and Registration

It’s coming!  Registration for the first annual PLY Away is only a few short days away (Wednesday, Nov 11th at 10 am, CST).  We’ve made a few guides to help you choose and to get you ready for the registration process, they’re here !  I think they’re really helpful so take a look if your plans on Wednesday include constantly reloading to see if it’s live yet.

We have had our first batch of early registration winners through already and except for a couple of small things (that we’ve since fixed) everything went swimmingly!  There’s another batch of 10 registering the day before it opens for real and I think it’ll go off without a hitch.

When it does go live on Wednesday, I’ll also post the registration button on this blog and on facebook, just in case the PLY Away site goes cabloohey (which totally shouldn’t happen) you’ll still be able to get to the actual registration page on EventBrite.

Now on to the fun news!  You know we had the scholarship raffle, right?  Donate to the raffle and get a chance to register early or to win a free trip to PLY Away etc.  Well, we have our winners!

Our actual scholarship is going to Devin Helmen and our big raffle winner is Ruth Blau!  Congratulation to both, I can’t wait to what happens!  

We are the ones: PLY Away

We are the ones carrying around a wad of fiber that we happily suspend by a piece of colorful string, the ones referring to a 15-lb contraption that doesn’t have a handle or a bag as “portable”, the ones that think it just makes sense to have that many raw fleeces, the ones that don’t give a rodent’s bum how cheap yarn is at Target. We are spinners and for the past few years we’ve been without a retreat of our own.  I loved SOAR and sorely miss it so can you guess what’s coming next?  Yep, the rumors are true! The world is no longer going to be devoid of an all-spinning retreat! For at least 4 days, we’ll be the ones surrounded by other ones just like us.

PLY Magazine is holding its first annual PLY Away retreat April 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2016 in Kansas City, MO at Crown Center’s Westin. I’m giddy with excitement, only sitting out of typing necessity. I want to dance and scream and spin and yell. Seriously, I’m that excited. As excited as I was when the original kickstarter hit it’s goal! I told the cashier at Natural Grocers about PLY Away yesterday. She seemed only moderately impressed. Anyway, the location is perfect. It’s right in the middle of so much stuff but when you’re inside the center, it’ll feel like it’s just us. Just us and all the fiber and fiber tools a spinner could dream of.

Thanks to our wonderful and generous VERY BIG SPONSORS — Lendrum, Kromski, Louet, The Woolery, and Hansen Crafts — for helping bring these spinning stars together while keeping the costs out of the clouds. For those of you that are wondering about the cost, half-day classes are $85, 1-day classes are $145, and 2-day classes are $260. That means that 4 full days of classes will run a spinner $600 (this also includes a free ticket to the banquet/talk of Friday night), 3 full days will be $485, and weekend full will be $340. The special room rate we’re getting is $140/night for up to 4 people. I know it’s not pennies, but we did our very best to keep it to as reasonable as possible. Registration will open November 11th but classes and schedules will go up in August.

It’s an a la carte retreat which means that you pick and choose the classes you want, building your prefect 1, 2, 3, or 4 day retreat. There are four 2-day retreats that span Thursday and Friday, each one with one of these amazing teachers: Deb Robson, Beth Smith, Coleen Nimetz, or Stephenie Gaustad. These 2-day classes are what spinning dreams are made of. Soon I’ll tell you about each one. But if you’ve got something else to do on Thursday and you’d rather stroll in with your bad self on Friday, you can take a 1-day class from the likes of Amy King, Patsy Zawistoski, Jillian Moreno, Michelle Boyd, or Esther Rodgers. Is it wrong that I scheduled classes that I desperately want to take? I want each one of these and don’t know how I’ll manage it. When the weekend rolls you’ve got a choice between all the above teachers plus Amy Tyler, Abby Franquemont, and Christina Pappas. That’s 12 teachers, each teaching two days worth of half-day classes that will blow your mind! I don’t envy you the choices you’ll have to make.

What would a spinning retreat be without a marketplace? We’re going to have one for sure! It won’t be huge and it won’t be tiny. We’re hoping it’s just right. There will also be an open-to-all spin in and both the spin in and the marketplace are free to anyone that wants to join in! If you’d like to be a vendor, check this page out!

Finally, there’s a Friday night banquet and talk.

I am so excited about it. I have such big plans. I want it to be the best retreat, not only for spinners but also for teachers and vendors! I’ll share more of the cool details as the weeks pass. Like the scholarship fund. And how you can win a PLY Away retreat on me (including airfare, classes, and hotel). And how you can be one of 10 people that gets to register early. And how there’s going to be a giant marketplace gift certificate for one lucky attendee. And about each class. And and and and…

For now, check out the website! ! If you’d like to join our illustrious ranks of sponsors, go here!

ps.  if everything goes well, PLY Away 2017 will be bigger and longer!