Thirty years ago, Amy Tyler went to an annual handspun yarn sale from a local spinning group in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A member of the spinning group invited Amy to sit down at a wheel, and the spinning community has a lot to be grateful for as a result! Since then, Amy has published over 25 knitting patterns, has taught workshops on spinning and knitting for over 20 years, and has written for 9 different publications.
Amy’s story begins with backgrounds in modern dance, kinesiology, and physiology. She was a professor of physical therapy for 9 years but eventually decided to leave the academic life to pursue a life of fiber arts. “I still have more ideas in my head about spinning and knitting than I can carry out in my lifetime, but that’s very exciting to me. It means my brain is always curious about things and asking questions,” Amy says.
These questions have led Amy to develop workshops on several topics, including the ones she’ll be offering spinners at PLYAway this spring (Blending Board: Basics and Beyond; Prep It: Combs, Cards, and Flicks; and Wheel Mechanics). “I was a bit cut off during the beginning of COVID because I had a couple of surgeries that kind of slowed me down for a while, but now both hand and foot are functioning properly and I’m excited to get back into it,” Amy explains. Her classes focus on tools because she has always been interested in what’s possible if you play around enough with the proper equipment.
“All of the tools have their fabulous advantages and some things that they’re not so good at, so being able to use all of them is really worth it. I think of mechanics a lot from the physics point of view, but I try not to harp on numbers or on those mechanical laws or anything. Understanding a few things about friction or how to take care of your wheel so it works properly and is mechanically happy and how to make yourself mechanically happy, all of those things come into play with [the wheel mechanics] class,” Amy explains.
Amy’s approach to fiber arts is that there is no “right way” to do just about anything, as long as you aren’t being hurt or hurting others. “I don’t think there are very many illegitimate ways of thinking about spinning and how you approach spinning,” she says. For Amy, playing with fiber is an ever-evolving experiment. She describes a time when she first tried hand combs and didn’t enjoy the experience at all; fast forward to today, when she’s preparing to teach a class on how to use them.
“I had to sit down and figure out how to make it comfortable to do, so it’s about the mechanics of how to use them without hurting yourself that’s really important to me, and then realizing how wonderful the result is. When you first spin from hand-combed fiber it’s a mind-blowing experience. As are so many things in the fiber world. One of the things I like about it is that my mind is blown a lot, and frequently,” she remarks.
Amy adds, “I get very excited about the topics I teach, and I keep wanting to add to them and explore them even further, and the teaching opportunities I get really help my brain think about new ways of thinking about these topics. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to blow my own mind.”
Being around other spinners is an absolute bonus for the experience, as well. Amy loves to attend events like PLYAway not just to teach but to learn. As she explains it, “people come from many different perspectives and something I heard years ago is that everyone you meet will know something you don’t. When I’m teaching classes I know that every person in that workshop knows something I don’t know. It’s amazing to hear how different perspectives and life experiences influence how people think about the fiber arts. There’s an amazing diversity of ways of thinking about the delightful craft that is spinning,” she adds.
In one final note about fiber arts, Amy explains, “I have a science background and an arts background and they both influence me when I think about making yarn. It’s like a dance and an amazing mechanical feat at the same time and I get excited to think about it in both ways.”
If you’d like to join Amy in that dance, there are still spots available in her classes at PLYAway this year. Click here to register!
Amy Tyler’s formal training was in modern dance, kinesiology, and physiology. She then spent years teaching physical therapy students about critical inquiry, evidence-based practice, and research design. In 2004, Amy left the academic life to pursue fibers arts. Now she resides in beautiful Benzie county, in the northwest corner of the lower peninsula of Michigan.
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