Reader Feature: Ilona Vitti

Although disappointed at having PLYAway canceled this year, Ilona didn’t let that stop her from expanding her spinning knowledge and experience.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started spinning.

My alter ego is a cat, so curiosity must be satisfied. Every year at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, I stop at the spinners and weavers area, watching as they commit acts of magic. Turning fluff into string, string into yarn, yarn into shawls – magic. One year, I was fascinated with the continuous strand weaving, the next, spinning. The week after I interrogated the poor spinning demonstrator, I found a small shop in downtown Kansas City where I acquired a spindle made of an old CD on a stick and some wool dyed by the proprietress. She showed me the basics, and I left to return to my loft studio apartment in the River Market to practice, much to the amusement of my two cats. I watched You Tube videos to see what in blue blazes I was doing wrong since my spinning didn’t look anything like what I had seen at the Ren Fest. I took classes at the Yarn Barn in Lawrence and vvveeerrryyy slowly started to produce something that looked like string if you squinted your eyes just right. Queue the training montage as the years pass, tweaking my spinning technique with a lot of practice, until one day I actually made yarn. On that day, I added “Spinner” to my self-description list of attributes.

Do you have a favorite type of yarn to spin?

Most of what I have produced has been a basic DK two-ply, but chain plying has become my latest fascination.

What do you like to make with your handspun yarn?

I’m supposed to actually make something with my handspun yarn?? I like it as the art installation it currently is – a pile of woolly satisfaction.

How long have you been reading PLY?

When was the first PlyAway? Right after that, I started reading PLY. I didn’t know it existed until I heard of a new spinning conference taking place in downtown Kansas City. Of course I learned about the conference too late to be able to take any classes, but I made a point to shop at the marketplace. I may have purchased a bump of a Merino silk blend specifically to keep on my desk at work just so I could pet it.

What do you look forward to most when you get an issue?

Learning a new skill!

Tell us about a project you worked on that was inspired by an article, project, or issue of PLY (or in your case, not being able to have PLYAway).

So, this answer requires a longer story. On October 12, 2019, I was at my desk, refreshing the PLYAway website until registration became active. Quick like a bunny, I signed up for Exploring the Drum Carder; Adventures in Drumcarding; Blending Boards: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly; and a couple of other classes. You see, I had attended a Nerd Girl Yarns Retreat earlier, and they had a drum carder we could play with, ummm, I mean, that we could try out, blending our own batts. I was hooked and wanted to learn more. Queue stalking the PLYAway website for blending classes.

On the day I signed up for my classes, I was triumphant. On the day PLYAway 5 (2020) was cancelled, I was despondent. Okay, now what? I still wanted to learn how to card my own batts, so I took the refund from the classes and bought a drum carder. The week approached when we should have been attending PLYAway, learning new things, and even though it was cancelled, I still had the week off from work. I still wanted to learn new skills. I decided to create my own set of classes to learn about carding, dyeing, and spinning across the top. Flipping through my stack of PLY magazines, I found articles I could use to set up my own classes. I created a schedule for my Craft Camp: Monday morning was for blending, Thursday afternoon was for dyeing, etc.

Monday morning rolled around. After a traditional PLYAway breakfast of a Panera bagel & schmear, I fired up the laptop. Spending time perusing YouTube, I watched various videos on how to use the drum carder. Pulling out the Woolen issue of PLY from Winter 2013, I studied Lacy Ziemkiewicz’s article on “How to Card Striped Batts” and read Jillian Moreno’s article on “9 Ways to Spin a Batt.” Okay, if I make a striped batt, I could actually spin it into something cool…

I broke out the roving I had ordered from Bartlett Yarns after reading “Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool.” It was a very toothy, woolly wool that would be great spun up woolen-style.

Following the article step by step, I finally pulled a beautiful striped batt from the carder.

I’ve created several striped batts since then, and they lie proudly on the shelf, basking in the admiration of those who visit with fingers itching to pet the softness.

Have I actually spun anything from them? Oh no, not yet. That may happen the next time I declare a Craft Camp week off from work. If it’s going to be a staycation, I might as well still have fun learning, right? After all, I still haven’t tried out Jacey Bogg Faulkner’s article on “Lying About Longdraw: Helping spinners get from worsted to woolen”…

You can find out more about Ilona on Ravelry as Crafti.

If you’d like to participate in an upcoming reader feature, fill out the reader feature form and Karen will contact you.

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