Craftsy loves us: Ply to knit class

Hey Spinners, Craftsy loves us! Have you noticed? Our own Jillian Moreno recently did a craftsy class called PLY to Knit (okay, it’s really just called Ply to Knit but I like writing PLY!) and I’m watching it now. Literally, right now! There’s Jillian with her great hair, dazzling smile, and cat-eyed glasses being just barely over-shadowed by all the smartness coming out of her mouth!

I’m going to try and give this a true and honest review but since I just think Jillian is super brilliant and a wonderfully talented spinner, it might be biased. A bit.


First, Craftsy has gotten really good. The way they put together lessons is super easy and intuitive to follow, which is important to me. I don’t want to have to figure out how to use the platform while I’m trying to figure out my spinning and they’ve done a great job making it easy to use. I also really like that you can interact with the teacher.  Second, Jillian is comfortable and charming during all the lessons. She’s likable and I think that’s a really important piece in the puzzle. Can you imagine if you had to watch a grouchy teacher for 3 hours? Yeesh.

This PLY to knit class has 7 lessons ranging in length but averaging about 30 minutes each. Each lesson is broken up into main ideas that make sense. In Jillian’s case those lessons are:

An Intro to PLY: This is a kind of setting of the stage. We meet Jillian (charming) and she goes over what plying is, what it does for us, and what some of the terminology she’ll use means.

How to PLY: This is a big big lesson. This is where she gets into the meat of plying. How to sit, how to set up, how to actually ply. She talks about resting and rewinding bobbins and plying from your hand too. I found myself nodding along with much of what she said, thinking, yes, I agree with that.

SONY DSCLesson #3 and Lesson #4 cover everything your might want to know about 2-ply and 3-ply yarn, from plying to knitting to balance and unbalance to chainplying. She even compares 3-ply and chainplying. It’s good stuff. I think it’s really important that she shows examples in knitted swatches so we can see exactly how the different plys effect our knitting. Following her lead, because it’s fun to spin along with her, here’s the samples I spun and knit during these 2 lessons.  The one on the left is chain-plied, the one on the right is 3-ply.  Both are from the same fiber.  I was really careful to match up my color on the 3-ply and when I made my loops on the chain-ply, I really tried to have very little color mixing. In the end,  I like the gradual color change of the 3-ply swatch but know that it had more to do with my chain-plying technique than chain-plying in general.  Both are great techniques and Jillian is good at explaining why.

One of my favorite lessons is #5, fixing mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes, almost all the ones she mentions, so I squinched up my face and watched extra hard during this part.

Plus, she says this great line: “the answer to this mistake is a sandwich.”   I really like when the answer to my mistake is a sandwich!

She rounds out the entire class with a lesson on finishing and a lesson on measuring. And if I didn’t love the class already, she uses a WPI tool shaped like a tardis! Sandwiches and tardises! She’s a lady after my own heart.

Altogether, it’s a solid class on plying to knit. While I watched I tried to think if there is stuff that I’d have included that she left out and there isn’t any glaring omissions. Of course, not everything about plying is in here but that be silly to expect. Spinning is a giant and long-standing craft. If everything could be taught in 3 hours, PLY Magazine wouldn’t make it very long, right? And really, what that means, at least what I hope that means, is that craftsy will do lots more spinning classes!  Let them know we want more, okay?

If you want to ply to knit, this class will teach you a lot, no matter how long you’ve been spinning.  Here’s a link (with a little discount).



Swing Step Cardi fiber give-a-way

It’s a gorgeous sweater, no doubt.  I’ve actually worn it.  Twice.  It’s so fitted and comfortable and warm.  Much of that goes to Amy Herzog, no doubt, she’s a fantastic designer, but the fiber had something to do with it too.

Glynda McIver got to spin the fiber for Amy’s Swing Step and while it was nice and the yarn was pretty great, I’m holding the fiber that you’ll get to spin for your own Swing Step and it’s even better!  I’m not sure what Mary changed with her processing but this stuff is like buttah!  So perfectly processed, no vm, no lumps, no bumps, no neps, nothing!  It’s like a homogenized pound of fiber heaven.  I even think it’s softer.

This pound (yes, 16 ounces) Suriland (Shetland and Suri 50/50) from Mary at Fancy Fibers can be yours!  All you have to do is leave a review for this issue of PLY here (not in the comments, but here, on the issue page under reviews).  Be honest, give it a star rating and leave a review and you’ll be entered in the drawing for the fiber.  I’ll announce the winner on October 15th.


Community in a Flower

Because the new issue of PLY is all about community, I’ve had the spinning community on my mind for a little bit.

When Beth , Rita and I held a retreat a couple of weekends ago and I got the opportunity to immerse myself in everything I love about our world of spinning.

The passion we have for our craft, we shout it from the rooftops. The opinions we hold, no one ever has to ask a spinner what they think about a wheel, a fiber, a tool or a method of spinning. The respect we have for each other, for while we are an opinionated lot and may argue a point or two, it’s never nasty or personal. Our openness and generosity, spinners are always willing to try something new or a new way around an old technique. Spinners are always sharing what they know, what they have. The joy we find in our craft, spinners are happy when they are spinning or around other spinners and it’s infectious. We are an amazing community of people and I feel so grateful to be a part of it.

I was full of this feeling of wonder, gratitude and belonging on my daily walk this week and I found a perfect representation of our spinning world in a flower. Tiny flowers clustered in small groups like individual spinners in their local groups and guilds and those groups forming a large beautiful flower, like our world wide community.

community flower

Books, Magazines, Classes

I’ve always been a big reader. Fiction and nonfiction, both. I’ve learned a lit from books and magazines over the years.

I have a giant collection of books. Every room in my house has at least one bookshelf – even some of the hallways. Check out this photo of the shelves where I keep most of my spinning, knitting and weaving books.


This photo is from June. Since then I’ve added at least 10 more books and of course every issue of Ply is there. All of them are important to me. That is all stored knowledge there.

When I first started spinning I bought a spindle and some fiber and a book. I had learned several other crafts from books so why not spinning? Well, a couple of months went by and I just wasn’t getting it. It must have been the tool so I bought a spinning wheel. Heh. A few more months went by and I was making yarn but it wasn’t the yarn I wanted. So finally I took a few lessons and magical things started to happen! My yarn was transforming.

The secret was someone sitting by me who could watch me and help me make tiny changes to my hands and feet and posture. Tiny things that I couldn’t get from a book. These were the days way before Craftsy but I would even say that a live, in person teacher is better than a video.

My point today is this. If you have the opportunity, take a class.

I still take classes when I can and I still buy the books and I have a crazy number of Craftsy classes in my account. But nothing beats sitting next to someone who can give advice to you personally. Sometimes it comes down to a class or more fiber. Well, You always have your knowledge. That’s what my Grammy used to say.

Most of the writers in the Ply issues also teach spinning. If they can make you say aha when you are reading their words on the printed page, imagine what would happen if you were in the same room with them!

Get on the spinners/dyers/photographer list!

I hope that it’s clear that PLY loves indie businesses.  It’s not hard to do, is it?  I can’t think of many fiber businesses that aren’t indie!  It’s the nature of our community, even our big companies are still small companies, you know? Often dyers work in the kitchens. Spinners set up shop in their family rooms. Tool makers park in their driveways so they can use their family garage. Even many of our biggest wheel makers work out of converted garages and make our beloved wheels on a skeleton crew of 5 or less.  Trust me, I’ve seen this in person and it made me love our community even more.

One thing that I really wanted to do when I started PLY was to support these people.  I know how hard it is to make it, to get noticed, to support yourself and your family with craft, but I also know that it can be done and it’s amazing when it works.

It’s what the independent spinner page in each issue of PLY is about.  Notice how it’s always at the beginning of the issue?  That’s no accident!  It’s where we put the indie businesses that supported that issue of the magazine. We’ve worked with several now but I want to diversify!  I want to use and support different spinners and dyers and photographers each issue!

However, I’ve found that organizing that diversification has been a bit beyond what my already taxed brain can handle.  I’ve tried e-mail organization, spreadsheets, and trello boards but none have worked super duper well.  So, here’s my new attempt — a trello board that spinners, dyers, and photographers input and update themselves!

Yep, I couldn’t do it so I’m pushing it off on you.  My life coach (if I had one, boy, I need to get one of those) would be so proud!

Do you know what Trello is?  Trello is awesome.  Leanne of stitchcraft marketing introduced me to it about a year ago and I use it for everything!  Some of my boards are totally private, just I can see them, some I share with Levi, some with Kitten, some with Kitten and Bernadette, some with Kitten, Bernadette, and Levi…you get the idea, yeah? Seriously, I’ve got 12 separate boards and a board for each issue of the magazine!  I’ve got a editorial board, an advertising board, a workshop board, a personal home-to-do board, a kid-stuff board.  I have found it incredibly helpful and intuitive.

I know I sound like a advertisement but it’s all true. It’s free, it’s easy, and I’ve never gotten any e-mails from them (except the activation one). So while you do have to sign up for it to participate, you don’t have to use it and they’ll never contact you, but if you do use it, you won’t be sorry.

So this is what I’m trying.

I’ve created a public trello board called PLY Support.  On it is different lists, some for spinners, some for dyers, and one for photographers.  Under any list (or several) you can create a “card”.  If you want to spin, dye, or photograph for PLY, the front of your card will contain your name/business and on the back of the card you can add additional info (links to your work, photos, favorite kind of cookie, etc). You can add a card to as many lists as you like and be as specific as you like.  You can also edit your cards whenever you like.

And that’s how my job gets easier. You do the work.  Whenever I need a dyer (like right now, I need 2) or a spinner (like right now, I need 3), or a photo of an animal (like right now, I need some wendsleydale sheep), I’ll go to the list instead of putting out a call that you might or might not see.  So, you see, it’s not just better for me, but for you too!

Wanna get on the list ? And I really hope you do! Go here — and sign up!  There’s instructions on the first card called “How to Participate, click on this card to read!) but essentially you do this —

1. Join Trello, this involves verifying your e-mail.

2. Return to (I recommend opening it up in a new window now, it’s easier than trying to find it again before you’ve joined) and leave a comment on the card with the instructions.

3. The comment will let me know to add you as a member of the board which I’ll do super quick!

4. Now make a “card” by taking a look at the lists on the right. Find the list(s) that fit your skill and click “add a card”. Once you do this, you’ll be able to fill the card out, front and back.

The front should be your name/business link (and for photographers, what animals you have). Once you save that, you can click the “edit the description” which will allow you to put more information on the back of the card. Use this area (the back) for any additional info you want to add such as your experience, what you’re really good at, links to photos (yarns, fabrics, fibers, animals) or even actual photos (using the attachment button).



How to Shoot a Magazine, Prelude



When Jacey first told me that she was starting a spinning magazine, I said something like “Awesome! You’ll do great!” I even meant it. Next she said she wanted me to take the photos, to which I replied something like “Are you crazy?” The thing is, and if you know Jacey you will totally understand, when Jacey wants something, she usually gets it. The obvious next step was for me to figure out how to take pictures that would make Jacey happy. I had a million questions about how to face this project and approximately seven answers. I was painfully aware that I had no idea what I was doing.

My first approach was to do a lot of research. I was hoping to find a book in the library called How to be a Really Great Fiber Photographer in Four Easy Lessons. That book was checked out, so I ended up with some self-help books on coping with anxiety. I read way too many photography blogs, books, and magazines, and ultimately decided that beginners luck has to be a real thing. Six issues later, I am so enthusiastic about the future of my work with PLY, in large part because I can now at least identify what I don’t know. Each shoot is a little more relaxed, the editing workflow less frustrating.

In this series, I plan to explore each issue of PLY, its challenges and successes, and delve into what we learned in each shoot. I’ll share some photography techniques I have found helpful in getting more accurate photos of fiber and finished projects. I’ll also address some post processing work to correct common issues like color casts and blown out highlights. Of course I’ll share favorite photos, embarrassing photos, and behind-the-scenes shots of Jacey eating chocolate and Levi being Levi. I look forward to your questions, comments, and insight!

Ideas: What Am I Going to Write About?

I write about spinning. That’s a big part of my job and I feel grateful every day. When I first started getting more writing work I started freaking out about ideas – what am I going to write about?

I think writing about spinning is important, so I wanted to have IDEAS, and write about Big Important Things. When I approached my writing that way it made me feel tired, uninspired and unlikely to get any words on paper. I quickly shifted my thinking and have it down to a more or less 5 step process. I do these in any order and sometimes skip over or merge steps.

1) What am I curious about?

One of the main reasons I write is to learn. If something is knocking on my brain asking me to explore it there’s a good chance that I’m going to find a writing idea there. Especially if this something keeps circling around and kicking me in the shin. It  happens a lot when I’m spinning,  all of the questions start flowing in, what if I did this differently, why do I have so much trouble with this? I grab onto one or two or ten things that flow in and write them down. Then I keep moving through my process.

2) What are other people curious and excited about?

I don’t intentionally go looking for the questions or ideas that have made me curious, instead I listen to the spinners’ ether. I just keep reading the same blogs, magazines, boards, books that I always do, but now part of my attention is tuned to those idea seeds. It’s amazing to me how those threads always pop up. Everyone is curious, lots of times about the same thing, but not in the same way. This week I got curious about blending boards and I found so many words about different aspects of them – better overall blending of fibers, easier to keep color distinct, faster than handcards, easier than a drum carder, etc.

3) Distill

At some point the idea gets too big or confusing in my mind to write about easily or I start only thinking about one part of the idea  and I know it’s time to focus. I distill the idea down like corn into moonshine. Again, it comes down to interest and curiosity, what do I want to know or what sounds fun or interesting? Do I want to do an overview of something or get deep into a single aspect? Thinking about woolen preparation can become an overview of three or four ways to do woolen prep or the difference flat-back or curved-back hand cards make to carding.

4) Visuals

I like to think about how it will all look when it’s done. That helps me focus even more. What pictures do I need? What has to be shown, what would be nice to have if there is space. I don’t just think about pictures for this step, I also think about what could stand alone as a sidebar or box. It could be something to emphasize in the article or the answer to a frequently asked question. For an article on buying hand cards it could be Three Things to Think About When Buying Cards or Cotton Cards for Wool?

5) Be true to me

Back when I was trying to write about IDEAS I wanted to sound important too. But I never felt like more of a fraud than when I didn’t sound like myself, whether it was my approach to an idea or the actual words I used. Every spinning writer has their own unique approach and style. You can give four writers the article prompt Rolags for Woolen Spinning and get four very different articles back. Now I know pretty quickly if I’m veering from Jillian-style into Not-Jilian-Style. This has helped me say no to or reconfigure article pitches that really don’t fit my style. I wouldn’t write an article on Carding a Structurally Sound Rolag, but would love to write Carding Rolags for Beautiful Sweater Yarn.


Back to the wheel for me, I have writing deadlines!

Twist cover

PLY like an eagle


Spinzilla invited me to be part of their 2015 blog tour.  I was assigned the topic of plying and if there’s anything I know, it’s plying.  I’ve plied even, I’ve plied off-tensioned, I’ve plied with a push up and a squiggle, I’ve plied the same yarn this way and that way and over and over.  I used to devote one workday a week to experimental plying. Once I plied a yarn 6 times, just to see what would happen.

Yep, it’s no secret that I’ve made my career off of plying, from the beginning to now and into the foreseeable future.  My first years selling yarn, teaching and writing were based on plying.  Man alive did I love spinning coils.  It’s all I wanted to do for a while.  Did I ever tell you how I learned?  It was way back before etsy and ravelry.  People were still using LJ (live journal) and I happened upon a photo of a yarn by Adrian Bazilia.  I’d been spinning straight and sturdy yarn for 2 years and here was this poppy, fun yarn that sung to my spinning soul.  I e-mailed her and asked her how she accomplished such a feat.  She (gracefully, for I was a complete stranger asking her to write a tutorial for me when she’d rather be spinning, canning, and dying fiber) sent me a quick run down of the steps needed to coil .*

plycoilscover1The first 5 years of my spinning career was all about plying.  I supported a family of 3 and then 4 with what Esther Rodgers now calls “wild-plied yarns” but what I called “textured spinning” in an attempt to escape the moniker “art yarn”.  I spun 6 hours a day 5 days a week and we scraped by. I mean, seriously scraped by. Of course, Sit and Spin came and went and then articles for Spin Off (and my first cover!).  Thank goodness for Spin Off!  I really feel like it was due to that long-running magazine that current-day textured spinning got legitimatized in the eyes of the larger spinning community.  And then Spin Art.  All the while, my adventures with plying stayed the course.

For me, for a long while, plying was about texture and balance.  I was really concerned with balance.  I remember telling the Yarn Harlot once, on a shuttle to Madrona, that I felt like everything I spun must be balanced.  She asked me why I hated singles so much and I replied that it wasn’t that I hated singles, it’s that I felt like the yarns I was spinning, teaching, basing my career on, were assumed by many to be novelty, unbalance-able, unworkable, and to be taken seriously I needed to show everyone that everything that came off my wheel could hang perfectly straight and was never tension-set.  She told me that was silly.  She also told me that wearing a sweater the first hour of class until everyone realized I was nice before I took it off and revealed my tattoo-covered arms, was silly too.

She was right on both accounts.

Just like it took me years to find comfort in spinning longdraw, it took me a long time to understand the subtlety of plying.  Back before the Yarn Harlot took me to task for not giving fiber people enough credit, both as spinners and as people, I  didn’t realize that different yarns required different plying (outside of textured techniques, of course). I was long into spinning before I knew very much.  Here’s a few things I’ve picked up about plying:

Yarn shouldn’t come off bobbin hanging straight and limp. I used to feel such a swell of pride taking my yarn off my bobbin seeing no twist in the skein. Limp and flaccid, bah. That’s not how we want our yarns! Give it some life!  Let that baby have a bit more twist. You want it coming off the bobbin with a twist or 2 in the skein. It’ll balance out in the end but you’ll have a yarn that feels and looks better, a yarn that says “I’m alive!!

Woolen and worsted yarns don’t’ get the same amount of ply twist.  It’s true.  A woolen yarn’s structure is in the PLY, that’s what really holds that light and fluffy thing together.  It’s what gives it strength and the ability to ward off the dreaded pill.  It needs more ply-twist than singles-twist.  For reals.  Worsted yarn, on the other hand, has it’s structure in the single and it wants less ply-twist, relatively speaking.  Truth.

The tighter the ply, the better the wear (not the tighter that single, that way lies rope, my friends).

plysweater1Oh my, this one took seeing my sweet Olive wearing a handspun, handknit sweater to really sink in.  Spun out of the softest merino but with lots of singles-twist for (I thought) better wear and then a balancing amount of ply-twist, it was lovely to look at.  To look at.  When had her put the jacket on, baby, did we both have a surprise!  A surprising amount of strength was necessary to get her arms down by her side. I pushed them down and they popped right back up! Look how she has to hold on to the body of the sweater to keep her arms down! I managed to get a couple of shots off before she shed the thick, stiff sweater complaining of ickiness.

Remember when I said it doesn’t always have to be perfectly balanced? if current-jacey-spinner could talk to past-jacey-spinner this is what I’d say – dude, don’t increase your single- twist, increase your ply-twist or your going to have to store that sweater, unworn for the rest of your life and when you die, it’ll get passed down and down and everyone will wonder how you ever ran a spinning magazine because it’ll be the only example of your spinning left since nobody ever wore or touched the sweater more than once, and that, past-jacey-spinner, is not the example of your spinning you want standing the test of time.  Also, it’s okay to take off your sweater, especially if it’s hot, they don’t mind.


These two yarns, for instance, are the same fiber, the same dye-job, the same ypp!  The only difference is that the one on the right has lots of singles-twist and is plied to balance and the one on the left has smaller amount of singles-twist but the same amount of ply-twist as the other!  That’s right, the ply-twist amounts are the same.  If you could feel these yarns, one would make you swoon while the other would make you avert your eyes and secretly wonder how I manage to fill any class, spinning cord-y yarn like that!

The more plies in a yarn, the less ply-twist it takes to reach balance (I knew this before Patsy Z’s illuminating article, but just barely).  Math is cool, right?


So don’t think I hate singles yarns.  I love singles yarns!  I just love plying too.  Theoretically, you could say that singles yarns are about the individual and Plying is about the team. It’s part of the reason I named the magazine PLY.  PLYing is about texture and balance and strength and bringing different things together so they can lean and benefit and support.  And if, in 10 years time, I wrote another post about plying, I’m sure the things I will have learned since now will be far more than I’ve learned so far.  That’s the way of spinning, the more you learn, the father you have to go, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, right?

Spinzilla is a global event where teams and individuals compete in a friendly challenge to see who can spin the most yarn in a week! Spinzilla team registration is open until September 22. The Ply team is full, but there are plenty of teams that still need you! There will be prizes! Click here to register.  One hundred percent of your registration fee will go to the NeedleArts Mentoring Program.  For more information, see their FAQ page.

* Huh, I’ve never put that together before.  The first time I asked a stranger to share their spinning know-how with me, she did.  Just like that.  I asked, she told.  Must have sunk in on some level I didn’t realize because that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.  Silly me to have never seen that, thanks, Adrian!


Am I Write?


In 2008 I wrote my first article that ever got published. It was for KnittySpin and it was about scouring and spinning Cormo. Not a bad article and I got some good feedback so I decided to carry on. I proposed articles for a couple of other spinning magazines, both in print and electronic. Some of them got accepted which was good for my ego.

Over time I proposed more things to magazines and of course there were a couple of book proposals. Of course, it goes without saying that I love writing for Ply.


I learned some things about proposals over time. The first ones were just a few sentences describing as well as I could. Luckily, a few used words that got my message across. Some of the ones I thought were great ideas were turned down. I suspect that sometimes my idea just didn’t fit or there was someone else who got chosen who proposed the same thing or sometimes I didn’t communicate the idea that was in my brain very well.

So, I’d like to tell you a few things that I now do in just about every proposal to write an article. I’m not saying I get a yes every time but I do get a yes more often than I did even up to 2 years ago.

1. Know the magazine you are proposing to. Think about who their audience is.

2. Make sure you are proposing an article that will fit the particular issue you are proposing for.

3. Use details. talk about what point of view you will be coming from. Be specific about what things you will include in your article.

4. Sometimes it helps to include an outline. When you actually write the article, things may switch around a bit but an outline is a great communicator.

5. Say how many words or pages you think you’ll need to clearly explain what you are writing about.

6. Include a photo or two if you’ve done this technique or made this thing before. They don’t have to be photos of any samples you send for photography in the end but, as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words.

This all may seem like a lot of work before you even get a yes but in the end it is so worth it.