We Want Your Tips!

The Tip Jar has been emptied, and it’s time to fill it with your best advice & insights about spinning!

This time we’re collecting information for our Autumn 2023 issue, the Loft issue.

Here’s the question: What is your best recipe for a lofty yarn? It can include fiber, prep, draft, finishing etc. What’s the loftiest yarn you’ve spun?

Click here to leave us a tip! Your response may be featured in the Loft issue, AND our favorite tip always gets a pretty awesome prize from PLY HQ.

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Spotlight on Amy Tyler

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.

Image credit: Amy Tyler

“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.

Image credit: Amy Tyler

“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.

Image credit: Amy Tyler

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.

PLY Magazine believes that Black lives matter, as well as LBGTQI+ lives. Those most vulnerable and persecuted in our communities deserve our love and support. Please be good to each other.

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Contribute to PLY’s Place Issue!

Our theme of Place is big and varied. It can be so many things. Perhaps it’s the space you love to spin in; a fiber-destination you remember or dream of; a fiber that only comes from one place; spinning techniques firmly attached to a region, even if they’ve traveled beyond that locale; how to travel with your spinning . . . we want it in this issue.

What brings to mind a place? With the internet connecting us to everywhere, each place we live or visit is unique, and there are some things that can’t be conveyed in bytes or on computer screens.

Are there things in your favorite spinning places that make it unique and special to you? Teach us about them. Can you, and if so, how do you capture a place in yarn? If you were to design a yarn to evoke a place special to you, how would you do it?

Tell us about place-specific sheep, fiber, dyes, wheels, and spinning styles:

  • Are there sheep or other fiber animals that are specific to a place or area?
  • Plants for dyeing? How the water of a place affects dyeing?
  • Breeds or fiber blends in commercially prepped fiber (Tasmanian Comeback, anyone?)
  • A style of wheel or spindle you’ve discovered that’s unique to a place?

Spinners love to travel and spin while we do it. How do you capture your travels with your spinning? What do you do with yarns you’ve spun while traveling? Spinning in a different place can open us up to new things. How do you use the freedom that a new place offers in your spinning? Does it make you more creative? Do you spin more? Are you able to finally get new techniques that have eluded you? Tell us about your festivals, retreats, workshops, and classes.

Do you have the ultimate spinning travel kit for a wheel or spindles? Do you shop when you travel? How do you find spinning things when you travel? What do you bring home to remind you of a place? Fiber, yarn, a spindle, even a wheel? Do you use something to keep track of your explorations, your spinning? Tell us about your travel spinning journal.

What says place to you?

Project ideas and proposals are due by June 1, 2022. We’ll get back to you in July and final work is due Dec 1, 2022.

Submit your ideas here: https://plymagazine.com/contribute/write-for-ply/

PLY Magazine believes that Black lives matter, as well as LBGTQI+ lives. Those most vulnerable and persecuted in our communities deserve our love and support. Please be good to each other.

Did you know we also have a monthly PLY newsletter? Sign up here!

Head & Hands: Pattern Roundup

The Winter 2021 issue (Head and Hands) was full of patterns, but in case you need some more ideas of projects you can make for your head or hands using your handspun, check out these patterns.

Musselburgh by Ysolda Teague

This hat pattern is a fairly simple design, but it’s set up to include 6 different gauges from laceweight to DK weight, so that gives you a lot of options for handspun. Figure out your gauge and then follow the instructions for that gauge.

Find this pattern on Ravelry or on Ysolda’s website.

Beloved by Tin Can Knits

This hat pattern—a bonnet really—for children and adults is adorable. Grab some of your DK weight handspun and knock this one out in a few hours, especially if you’re making the smaller sizes.

Find this pattern on Ravelry or on the Tin Can Knits website.

Circle & Square by Martina Behm

This hat pattern has a rather unique construction which lends well to playing with color in a handspun yarn. Once you see how the pattern is designed, you could even create some handspun specifically to work with this structure.

Find this pattern on Ravelry or on Martina’s Strickmich! Shop.

Top Down Handspun Hat with a Nice Flat Top by Heidi Nick

The designer says, “This is nothing fancy, just my recipe for a simple top-down hat with a 2×2 rib on the bottom.” And although we can often figure out the math of a pattern for ourselves, sometimes it’s nice to just let someone else do it for you.

Find this pattern on Ravelry.

Handspun Slouch Hat for Toddlers by Brittany Wisneski

This crochet pattern provides a recipe for a slouch hat for toddlers and adults.

Find this pattern on Ravelry.

Easy Handspun Mitts by Vera Brosgol

This mitts pattern is a great background to show off your handspun. (This is the pattern Rebecca Roy used in her Spinning for a Durable Pair of Mitts post.)

Find this pattern on Ravelry.

Wabi-sabi Handspun Mitts by Kristen TenDyke

The pattern for these mitts has you knit both at the same time (using both ends from a center pull ball) so you can use as much of your handspun as possible while also not having to worry about running out of yarn for the second mitt!

Find this pattern on Ravelry or on Kristen’s website.

Sneak Peek: The Spring 2022 Issue

The Spring 2022 issue of PLY hits the shelves early next month, and we are so excited because the topic of this issue is….

GOATS!

This issue has it all: amazing Angora, marvelous Mohair, and cushy Cashmere. We’ll cover processing, dyeing, prepping and spinning these fabulous fibers from our cloven-footed friends. Plus, plenty of pictures of adorable goats to lift your spirits after a long, dreary Winter.

We hope you’re as excited for this issue as we are! Be sure to subscribe (or renew your subscription) by the end of the month to make sure you don’t miss out on this issue!

PLY Magazine believes that Black lives matter, as well as LBGTQI+ lives. Those most vulnerable and persecuted in our communities deserve our love and support. Please be good to each other.

Did you know we also have a monthly PLY newsletter? Sign up here!

The Hat Queen

words & photos by Jane Daniels

Hats are often a first knitting project because they can be finished quickly and involve only knitting if done on circular needles with a rolled edge.

In 2013, I embarked on an adventure to knit 500 hats, as in the Dr. Seuss book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, and decided every hat needed to be unique. Since I had pictures of hats I had made, I figured I had already knit 100 of them, and I understood basic hat construction of several styles.

Since I’ve been knitting since 1963, my stash had many small balls. It could have been considered the Fort Knox of tiny wool treasures, and I wanted to eliminate them. So I took seven different yarns (dark, light, textured, multicolored, and 3 coordinated colors) and created stripes as I knit the hat. The ribbing was a neutral color and it separated 3 different yarns. By changing one or two of the yarns, I could create hats that were different yet similar. I learned how colors would interact with each other. When someone wanted a particular color for their hat, by using several shades of that color, I didn’t have to worry about the hat matching a particular outfit.

Undulation

Some balls didn’t have quite enough yarn for a hat. So as I knit, I added some stripes or intarsia. But those projects didn’t completely solve the problem of too many small balls and sometimes contributed additional ones.

My stash also had yarn that came to my house with a message: “My mother [aunt or neighbor] passed away, and she was a knitter. So here is some yarn.” Another message was “I bought too much yarn for a project, so here are some leftover balls for your hat project.” With multiple balls of the same yarn, I knit different style hats or knit the same style hat but changed the ribbing, size, or how I finished the top or added a rosette to the side.

While I religiously swatch for any knitted garments that follow a pattern, I don’t swatch for hats, scarves, or mittens. Because those items are frequently for charity, I know they will keep someone warm.

As my project progressed, I began knitting series, which were typically done within a short period of time. For the most part, the results were for charity. I gave my series names such White Out, which had different types of stripes on white hats. Another type of series was knitting the same base hat, but adding stripes, using two yarns to make stripes, and then using one of them with another yarn.

To add some variety to my knitting, I took pictures of hats or designs I saw that I liked and asked if I could recreate that design.

Or I created something that coordinated with a snow suit. When I visited Iceland, the landscapes and the wool inspired me.

Honestly, some attempts produced better results than others. One can learn from duds, and that hat will keep someone warm, everyone has different tastes.

I addressed color pooling on hats several ways. Knitting one row of a color that was in the ombre yarn and then two rows of ombre either tricks the eye and decreases the impact or creates a design spiraling up the hat.

Kaleidoscope

Another way was to randomly purl 1–3 stitches in the body of the hat and on the following round, purl another stitch or two offset from the first stitches purled. Again, it tricks the eye. A third way is to knit first one row and then use another ball or the other end of the same ball on alternate rows. But sometimes, I just let the pooling happen and added embroidery to make a picture.

While I am primarily a knitter, I also spin, but I don’t produce consistent results. So my stash of handspun textured yarns had either limited yardage or were not good enough for a project. Often, limited yardage means stripes.

But those textured yarns were ideal for a “picture.” Having knit a landscape on a vest, I decided to try knitting a hat with a landscape. Guessing at a gauge, I cast on and then use intarsia to create the landscape, designing as I knit, adding purl stitches for texture. My landscape hats feature mountains, streams, or even the seashore with vegetation in the foreground and a blue sky with white fluffy clouds. There are lots of ends to sew in, which I do.

What did I do with all the hats? As soon as I had a stack, I primarily gave them as gifts to thank people or to charity. My family and friends benefited as well. My daughters and grandkids always checked the pile of hats when they came to visit to see if they might find one they really liked.

My 500 hats project taught me design, construction, and new techniques, and my knitting friends gave me the moniker “Hat Queen.” Making a hat allows you to experiment with color, use some handspun, try different beginnings and endings, see if you like a new technique, or knit with an expensive yarn. Playing with yarn satisfied my urge to be creative and was like an artist’s sketchbook. I could experiment knowing someone would be able to wear that hat and keep warm.

Basic hat

To knit a medium size hat using either worsted or DK, I cast on 88 stitches with either US size 7 or 8 needles if I wanted k2 p2 ribbing or 90 stitches if I was doing k1 p1 ribbing. The weight of the wool and needle size would determine the size of the hat. I worked the ribbing for about 2 inches and knit until the hat was about 5½ to 6 inches. I chose between 2 styles of decreases: I decreased once every 8 or 9 stiches every other row. Or, when I had used k1 p1 ribbing, I decreased every 10 stitches. At some point, I changed to double pointed needles and decreased stitches until I had 8, 9, or 10 stitches left. I then added one of the finishing touches (see below).

A good beginning

The samples in my photos show a variety of ways to begin a hat.

Ribbing –You never go wrong with k1 p1 or k2 p2 ribbing.

Garter – When knitting in the round, remember to alternate knit and purl rounds.

Rolled edge – The easiest beginning, just keep knitting.

Cables – Cast on a multiple of 6 stitches, k4 p2 for two rounds. On round 3, cable the 4 knit stitches and purl the purls for one round. On rounds 4–6 knit the knit stitches and purl the purls; round 7 repeats round 3; rounds 8 and 9, knit the knits and purl the purls. On round 10, continue to knit the hat.

Lace – Use 8 stitches and an 8-row repeat with 88 stitches in the body.

Finishing touches

My photos show various ways I finished the top of the hat.

Easy Peasy– Cut yarn, leaving 10 inches; thread yarn needle and draw through stitches remaining on needle.

I-cord point –Continue k2tog until 3 stitches remain. Make a short length of I-cord so it is just a little point (about  inches). Cut yarn, leaving 8 inches. Draw through remaining 3 stitches and weave in the end.

I-cord button – Continue k2tog until 3 sts remain. Make enough I-cord so you can form a button or a knot. Cut yarn, leaving about 15 inches and draw through the remaining stitches. Make a knot and sew down with the remaining yarn.

Crocheted Loops – Cut yarn, leaving 24 inches. Crochet a chain, making loops which you fasten down.

Braids – Cut yarn, leaving 8–10 inches. Thread yarn needle and draw through stitches remaining on needle; bring any excess yarn up through gap in the circle of stitches or supplement as needed. Make small braids using the excess yarn. Make a knot at the end, leaving a small tassel.

Pompom – Cut yarn, leaving 8–10 inches. Follow instructions on a pompom maker. Once you have formed the pompom and secured it, thread the end of the yarn mentioned above through the yarn which had drawn in the pompom back through the top of the hat. Repeat and then secure the end.


When Jane Daniels was 10, her mother’s 2 attempts to teach her how to knit failed. But as a college freshman, she tried again and found she loved it. Since then, Jane has designed and knit more sweaters than she can count, including 7 original designed fisherman sweaters. Find her as JDHiker on Ravelry.

PLY Magazine believes that Black lives matter, as well as LBGTQI+ lives. Those most vulnerable and persecuted in our communities deserve our love and support. Please be good to each other.

Did you know we also have a monthly PLY newsletter? Sign up here!

January Vlog with Jacey and Jillian

In this quarter’s vlog, Jillian and Jacey discuss the Winter 2021 Head and Hands issue, starting with the things they love most from this issue. Jacey does some modeling of the gloves and mittens she especially enjoyed. Jillian shares the businesses that contributed to this issue: fiber, tools, and wheels. Which wheel does Jillian really want—and was actually Jacey’s first wheel? Jillian also shows off two new features that started in this issue: Take 5 and PLY Tutes. Jacey—with the caveat that she is not Stephenie Gaustad—demonstrates double drafting using several types of fiber. She also discusses some of the different types of long draw (especially point of contact), and Maggie Casey jumps into the conversation as well. And Jillian shows off the Clemes & Clemes Lock Pop, which she says replaces her flick card and is a really simple and extremely helpful tool.

Next up: Jacey shares some sneak peeks at the next issue—Goats! At the photo shoot with the goats, what did a goat run away with? You’ll also see fiber examples that contributors for this issue sent in for their articles, including the different types of Pygora in lock and roving form. Jillian shares the vendors who will be coming to PLYAway.

And finally, Jacey makes an exciting announcement, which we’re not going to spoil here…

Links to Things Mentioned in the Vlog:

Spinners Phone Stand by Twin Mommy Creations
Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em Sweater Spin with Deb Robson

Thanks to the following companies for providing wonderful fiber and tools for our magazine!
Camaj Fiber Arts
Mielke’s Fiber Arts
Jessie Driscoll
Knitter’s Pride
Ashford
Bricolage Studios
Frabjous Fibers
Rhapsody Fiber Arts
WebspunWares
Yarn Geek Fibers
Peaceful Prairie Ranch
Abstract Fiber & Yarn
Gritty Knits

Wheels used in this issue:
Kromski Sonata
Hansen miniSpinner Pro
Daedalus Starling
Majacraft Aura
Louet S-10

PLY Magazine believes that Black lives matter, as well as LBGTQI+ lives. Those most vulnerable and persecuted in our communities deserve our love and support. Please be good to each other.

Did you know we also have a monthly PLY newsletter? Sign up here!

Spinning for a Durable Pair of Mitts

words and photos by Rebecca Roy

Whenever spinners discuss making yarn that can stand up to a great deal of wear, it is usually in the context of socks. I often feel like making a confession … I have never finished knitting a pair of socks. It’s never interested me. Phew, I feel better now that I’ve got that off my chest. However, this does not mean I haven’t spun yarns with durability as my goal.

I love to wear fingerless mitts, and my mitts get a lot of wear. They are the perfect accessory for me in the damp and chill of Scottish winters (and autumns and springs for that matter). The frequent dampness combined with the friction of active use has meant that many of my mitts begin to full and pill quite badly. The biggest problem spots are where the thumb rubs against the palm and also the cuff where my tough rain jacket is constantly moving against the fabric. My mitts don’t get holes like socks do but most have ended up looking pretty rough after only one winter.

When I purchased some dyed Southdown from Hilltop Cloud back in 2018, I decided to put to the test the durability and resistance to fulling that the Down breeds are known for. I also figured the springy nature of the Southdown fibre could give me some good elasticity so the mitts would keep their shape after months of being yanked on and off. I hate when fingerless mitts get baggy around my fingers, don’t you?

The Southdown top was dyed as a set of 3 complimentary semisolids: navy, sage green, and grey. I decided to spin each colour on its own and use the 3 separate yarns in some kind of colourwork. I wanted a smooth, firm yarn with good elasticity, so I decided on a basic 3-ply with quite firm ply twist.

I spun all the singles and plied the yarn on my spindles during Tour de Fleece in 2018.

When spinning on my spindles, I monitor my twist by checking the plyback frequently as I wind on. My singles were about 28 WPI, and the plyback had a twist angle of about 30 degrees. When it came time to ply, I added extra twist and went past a “balanced” yarn. I could feel the extra energy pushing back against the spindle just a bit during the plying. The finished 3-ply has a twist angle of about 45 degrees, but the extra ply twist settled down in the finishing and the skeins hung open and relaxed. After a warm soak, the finished yarn puffed a bit and ended up as a very round springy yarn at 16 WPI. The yarn was a bit denser than my usual 3-ply as well; I got only 960 YPP, and I can feel the solid nature of the yarn.

This yarn is not soft nor does it drape. The skeins wouldn’t make you want to nuzzle them against your face. But it is perfect for its purpose. It is very springy and has a firm sponginess to it that resists compression. Its very firm roundness caused me to change my initial plans. I swatched a couple of stranded colourwork motifs, but the extra layer of floats at the back of the fabric was a bit uncomfortable. Each strand was so distinct and round that I could feel the floats against my skin, standing proud of the inner surface. I decided to mix the 3 colours with stripes instead. The finished mitts were very smooth, and the stitches looked crisp. They hugged my hands nicely, with no prickly feeling on the inside of my wrists.

So how have these mitts lasted through wear over the past 3 years? From time to time, a few small pills would show up on the edges, but these were easily picked away. I have worn these regularly in rain and shine, working in the garden, driving, playing in our paltry snow. There has been no fulling and no blurring of the stitches. The mitts still hug my wrists and they haven’t become floppy around the edges either. They look pretty much the same as when they came off the needles, and I expect they will for some years to come.

I would give most of the credit for these elastic and unflappable mitts to the Southdown fibre itself. Like all the classic Down breeds, the fibre really does stand up beautifully to friction and dampness without fulling. With a bit of extra twist, the yarn did exactly what I wanted it to do. Even though the knitting was a little uncomfortable due to the firmness of the yarn and the ribbing doesn’t look as neat as I would like, the fabric is just perfect for mittens: springy, hard-wearing, and ready for any weather year after year.


Becca Roy learned to spin on a spindle back in 2010 and was immediately entranced. A spindle is still her favourite fibre tool. She has been a member of the West of Scotland Guild for nearly as long. She lives near Glasgow, Scotland with her family. At the moment, her favourite yarn is anything tweedy but that will probably change any day.

PLY Magazine believes that Black lives matter, as well as LBGTQI+ lives. Those most vulnerable and persecuted in our communities deserve our love and support. Please be good to each other.

Did you know we also have a monthly PLY newsletter? Sign up here!

Recent Textile Discoveries in Archaeology

Archaeologists have made some textile discoveries in the past year that are of interest to spinners and clothmakers.

In Turkey, at a rather large Stone Age settlement known as Çatalhöyük, cloth was found in 1962. It took decades of discussion and new data and discoveries to determine if the cloth was made from wool or linen. Ultimately, researchers determined the cloth was made from bast fiber from oak trees. (from Norwegian SciTechNews)

In Spain, in a cave near Cordoba, archaeologists found a piece of fabric that is “the oldest evident of textiles in the Iberian Penninsula.” This loom-woven fragment is about 5400 years old. (from The Olive Press)

In Wales, in an Iron Age hillfort, one of the artifacts founds was a “stone spindle whorl.” (from The Past)

Two burial mounds in Poland, from the Wielbark culture about 2000 years ago, contained a number of items related to weaving such as spindles and spools. (from Heritage Daily)

In Norway, a number of discoveries have been found along Viking trade routes. One well-preserved piece of clothing has been called the “Lendbreen Tunic” and was made of wool. Also find was a distaff made from birch. (from Artnet News)

PLY Magazine believes that Black lives matter, as well as LBGTQI+ lives. Those most vulnerable and persecuted in our communities deserve our love and support. Please be good to each other.

Did you know we also have a monthly PLY newsletter? Sign up here!