Write for our Drape issue!

Calling all spinners! We need a few good article ideas! Would you like to contribute to the Autumn 2023 “Drape” issue?

Autumn 2023 is all about that magical shimmery dance of drape. We want to know everything that everyone knows about this alluring quality. Some yarns and projects have it and some don’t – are you the spinner to tell us why? How do you make a yarn that has swing and sway? What has the biggest impact on how much drape you get in a yarn/project? Do you know the drapiest breed of sheep? Or the drapiest cellulose or science-made fiber? What can you do to remove the drape from these naturally drapey fibers and why would you?

How about blending? What can you blend with a reluctant fiber to relax it into something that moves? And how much do you need to convince it to do so?

Of course, a worsted draft is the obvious choice for flowing fabric, but how much difference in drape is there between woolen and worsted? Can you make a woolen draft drape? Can you make a yarn that drapes without it being heavy? Share, share! How do you create a woolen preparation with a blending board, drum carder, or hand cards that encourages drape?

What role does ply and finishing have in getting a yarn to drape? Is there an optimum twist angle for a fluid yarn? Can plying help a yarn drape less? How does a yarn’s finish affect the movement of handspun fabric?

Are you a dyer who thinks about drape? A fabric that ripples has many more shadows than a fabric that doesn’t. Do you change your process (thought or dye) to emphasize or dimmish that?

We’re also eager for projects, and this is no exception. Do drapes need to drape? Tell us (and show us) the amount of drape you suggest for different types of projects from shawls, cowls, and sweaters to cushions and, well, drapes. We need the drapiest projects, so channel your inner Stevie Nicks and show us your skirts and shawls (knit, crochet, woven)!

Project ideas and proposals are due by September 1, 2022. We’ll get back to you in October and final work is due March 1, 2023. Submit your ideas here: https://plymagazine.com/contribute/write-for-ply

Mix Tape for the Modern Urban Spinner

by Andrea Deck

In 2020, we mixed up the fiber festival to become more accessible, more community driven, and more modern than we’d ever been before. Working with social media in new ways, shepherds, dyers, vendors, and spinners alike had to create a new mix of a truly ancient craft and a modern, uber-connected world. Many of us hunkered down from our in-person fiber festivals and started to think about what it would look like to connect digitally.

Come Together (The Beatles)
While the social nature of fiber farming and making beautiful fiber creations is deftly woven into the story, so many of those relationships are based on proximity.

Welcome to the Internet (Bo Burnham)
This transition to the online space was far from new, but many of the most adept at Ravelry and social media were far removed from the production side of the fiber experience. Many small businesses, shepherdesses, and farmers operated entirely in person, selling at small fiber festivals in their area. As you may know, this missing link in the supply chain led to quality wool producers around the world converting beautiful fleeces to fertilizer or trash throughout the pandemic. When Maryland Sheep and Wool, PLYAway and other big national festivals shuttered their physical doors in 2020 to weather the storm, business owners and fiber artists alike flocked to social media. Facebook groups and Ravelry threads were lighting up in new ways to combat isolation and fear but also to ask the very real question “what now?”

Empire State of Mind (Jay-Z)
Living as a City Mouse in a postage stamp of an apartment has a few major drawbacks: price, space, and all my local supplies of yarn or goodies are either very corporate or very expensive. If I was looking for a full fleece or anything that still smelled like a barn, I was headed out to fiber festivals hours from my home. I already had experience scouring the internet for economical resources and shops I’d heard of or seen on festival websites. I was adept at buying hand-dyed yarn from websites older than I was with terrible color photos and worse descriptions, then waiting weeks or months for my squishy mail to arrive.

So by the time the pandemic hit, I was in the right place (already working remotely and adept at finding fiber online) at the right time (my city and work changed dramatically and quickly) to be a part of reimagining the festivals online. I went from the fringe of the fiber community, with no space for sheep or capacity to design new things, to building documents and best practices for transitioning that community online. What lighting were we using for professional social media videos? What network capabilities were needed to live stream? How do you deal with taxes and shipping around the country?

The communal aspect of the craft came to the fore early: join an online festival as a vendor and be welcomed into a league of small businesses learning to survive online. Places like VirtuWool and Wool and Fiber Arts groups offered mentors, weekly check-ins, and volunteers to help run live sales, as well as feedback on your web platform and performance. Need a few hours of professional help? Head to the group to find a contractor who also happens to love wool. Community groups developed codes of conduct, new folks were welcomed by moderators, and excitement buzzed long before and after any individual sale.

As webinars on ad words and stabilizing rural Wi-Fi popped up alongside new online fiber festivals, sales, classes, and more, a whole new audience also emerged. As accessibility into these spaces grew, so did the diversity of both the buyers and sellers. Folks continued to show up: new and older generations of crafters, people facing isolation for a wide variety of reasons, the “fiber curious” who had only bought a ball of yarn at Target. If there is one big takeaway from this crazy time, it’s this: the lowering of all sorts of barriers has made our fiber festivals, and our community, stronger, more creative, and more diverse.

Re-emergence: As we re-emerge, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned and how we’ve connected to create a new mix tape of our favorite tunes. For my personal jams, I’m trying new songs to use my distance from the sheep in the field to develop new tools to engage with the fiber community and using my personal, introverted hobby to connect more broadly across the world.

See You Again (Carrie Underwood)
Return to in person festivals can’t mean an abandonment of the online groups and communities we’ve found so much value in over the past two years. These novel ways to engage in the things we’ve done for centuries is part and parcel of the future and history of fiber craft. My biggest fear is after building infrastructure and community in new online spaces for over two years they (and we) will be abandoned for the in-person meet ups again.

Meet Me Halfway (Kenny Loggins)
How to hybrid? For me, I’m about to embark on a shlep back to my favorite festival, and while I’m so excited to be back in person, I’m also feeling very alone. This is the first festival where not one of my Ravelry or online groups is getting together. The stitch marker swap that has happened for years has fallen apart. It is up to us as artists, community members, festival organizers and attendees, and voices across our fiber community to take the best songs we learned during COVID and keep playing them. The in-person event space has long asked questions about what it means to feel welcomed or to feel like we belong, and there’s a ton we learned as strangers online that we can bring with us! There’s room for all of us and more at these festivals and in our community, because it’s an awesome place to be.

Andrea Deck (@craftondeck) is a spinner, weaver, knitter, and lover of fiber living in the heart of DC with her husband and huge yarn stash. Professionally, she is a community builder specializing in engagement of young adults, couples, and you.

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!

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

A Knitter’s Tour of British Breeds

words by Karen Robinson | photos by Karen Robinson unless otherwise credited

I have been on the most wonderful adventure – a tour through the southwest of England focused on various sheep breeds in the area. The tour was hosted through Rowan Tree Travel, and for over 10 days, a group of 16 travelers plus 2 tour guides and 1 bus driver explored many delightful paths and sites.

Almost all of our group arrived a day early, which we spent in Bath at a hotel near Bath Abbey. We were on our own this day, so I walked around the city and explored some of the historical sites as well as the shops (including several bookshops).

The next day we were on our way bright and early to our next destination, Pickwell Manor Farm, where we were going to stay for three nights as we explored that area in Devon. Along the way, we had a brief stop at Hestercombe House & Gardens to stretch our legs through the gorgeous grounds.

Once we reached Pickwell Manor, we jumped right into our first workshop on British breeds and learned how to felt. Our project: a sheep of course! And we got to use some of those breeds we had been talking about. It was a lot of fun to see all of our creations come to life and to get to know one another through the course of the workshop.

photo credit Anna-Lisa Miller

The next day included a morning talk about various sheep breeds as well as a walk along the beach near Woolacombe and stops in a couple of small seaside villages. That evening, we had a special treat: a sheep dog demonstration and headland walk with David Kennard and his Border Collies. First, he had one of his dogs work the sheep in an enclosed area, and then we walked out and up (it was quite a climb!) and watched two of his dogs work the sheep down below us. I was amazed at how well the dogs could hear the whistle and commands even though they were so far away.

photo credit Anna-Lisa Miller

We spent the next morning driving to the towns of Lynmouth and Lynton, stopping along the way for a lovely walk through the woods in search of bluebells (which we found only a few but found wild garlic aplenty!). We got to take a railway car up the cliff and at the top had cream tea and scones (delicious!).

That afternoon contained a truly wonderful experience. We got to go to the John Arbon Textiles Mill and meet John Arbon and his team, take a tour through the mill to see the whole process they go through in making fiber and yarn, and do some shopping! The fiber content available was so different from what I’ve experienced before so I, of course, had to take some yarn home (I won’t admit how much!). For example, the Devonia yarn contains Exmoor Blueface, Devon Bluefaced Leicester, and Devon Wensleydale. Or the Exmoor Sock Yarn, which is a blend of Exmoor Blueface, Corriedale, Devon Zwartbles, and nylon. Although it was a great experience to see the mill and yarn, even better was the true enthusiasm from John and his staff for using local British wool and creating gorgeous yarn and fiber.

The following day was one of my personal favorites as I got to check off a bucket list item: visiting the ruins of Tintagel Castle. (My background is in Arthurian literature, and it’s the place in the stories where Arthur was conceived.) We got to climb through the ruins with a breathtaking view of the sea all around, an experience I will never forget.

That afternoon took us to Saint Michael’s Mount, which is on a stretch of land that becomes an island at high tide (so we had to walk back across the causeway before the tide changed!). Once again, it was quite a climb to get to the castle, but it was worth it. And my room in the hotel (where we stayed two nights) had a perfect view of the castle and I enjoyed listening to the sea as I fell asleep both nights.

Another workshop on the next day, this one on the history of gansey knitting as well as a trunk show of Frangipani yarns and naturally dyed yarns from Caroline Bawn (daughter of the owners of Frangipani).

That afternoon we went to the seaside town of St. Ives where I had a delicious Cornish pasty and did some shopping. We even found a small yarn shop! We did some more sightseeing on the way to our evening destination, stopping at the ruins of a Romano-British village called Carn Euny and a stone circle called the Merry Maidens.

That evening, we went to the Minack Theatre, which is on the edge of the sea and features stone benches and grass terraces, to hear a women’s choir perform.

photo credit Heather Radl

Off to the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the country home of Agatha Christie the following day. The gardens were incredible. They had been forgotten after World War II and went undiscovered for about 80 years before they were cared for again. The plants and trees, including tropical varieties which thrive in that particular climate, were huge.

Along with the gardens, Heligan also is home to several heritage breed animals. In particular, they raise and care for the rare Devon & Cornwall Longwool (which are gorgeous sheep!) and also have Ryeland, Jacobs, and Kerry Hill.

We were back to Bath for another day, making a quick stop in Glastonbury along with way. In Bath, we spent time relaxing and doing more sightseeing and shopping. I took to opportunity to visit the Jane Austen Center and even did a little dressing up! Also, if you’re even in Bath, make sure to have tea and a Sally Lunn bun (at Sally Lunn’s). Delicious!

Our final three days were spent in the Cotswolds at Daylesford Organic Farm (which was an absolutely incredible place!). Along the way we went to Alderbrook Farm, where Grace showed us her Cotswold sheep as well as several fleeces (which one of our travelers decided to buy).

photo credit Anna-Lisa Miller

We also visited Sudeley Castle, where we were given a talk and tour by the castle’s textile conservator. The chapel at this castle is the resting place of Henry VIII’s final wife, Catherine Parr.

Our second-to-last full day was full of workshops for spinning and for cooking. Wendy McNamee brought fiber from various breeds along with a flock of Ashford wheels and we were able to spent several hours with her spinning those breeds (and learning to spin for those who didn’t yet know how). The cooking lesson was incredible—all ingredients came from right there at the farm and we made a tasty soup and a salmon dish.

And our final day brought us to Armscote Manor, a private home with extensive grounds and sheep. We got a tour of the garden and got to meet the sheep, which included Portland and Black Welsh Mountain. After that, we visited Broadway Tower, with incredible views at the top.

We capped off our final evening by a visit to the circus! Gifford’s Circus features performers both humorous and extremely talented (the two women who did acrobatics that involved hanging by their hair was both slightly terrifying and absolutely amazing). And we had dinner at Circus Sauce, a farm to table pop up that travels with the circus.

We got to do and see so many things on this trip, both sheep and fiber related as well as historical. But honestly, one of the best parts of the trip was getting to know the others on the tour, especially with our common interest in fiber arts. I was originally a little worried since I was going without knowing anyone else on the tour, but any fears were quickly put to rest with the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the group and of the trip leaders, Heather and Suzie. I can truly say that I made several new friends on this adventure of a lifetime.

photo credit Anna-Lisa Miller

Rowan Tree Travel is a small tour company that offers tours specifically designed for the crafting community. In fact, there’s a “companion” tour to the one I went on coming up in the fall that covers northern England. That one is called A Wool Lover’s Visit to the North of England. Want to go? There are spots available. I’d love to see you there (that’s right, I’ve signed up for that one too!). Otherwise, there are/will be tours in other part of England, Wales, and Scotland, as well as Ireland, Iceland, Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands, Greece, and Canada.

Karen Robinson has been knitting for almost twenty years and spinning for fifteen. She loves exploring the characteristics of various sheep breeds. She’s a voracious reader and has a full household with a husband, 10-year-old son, two Boston Terriers, and two cats. And she’s also the Managing Editor of PLY Magazine.

Let’s Talk About Sparkle Fluff

words by Jacqueline Harp | photos by Susan Schroeder

Have you ever heard of Sparkle Fluff? Oh, my! Envision a handful of fiber goodness that features a colorful mixture of mohair locks and glitz, and it is known to make handspinners smile when they get their hands on it. Sparkle Fluff is a fiber preparation composed of a color-coordinated mix of mohair locks, sheep wool locks, and loose Angelina fibers. It is ready-to-spin and full of texture and sparkle. You can spin it into a wide variety of chunky, fantastical art yarns or sprinkle it into carded preparations to add some extra pizzazz.

Let’s meet the innovative mind behind Sparkle Fluff, Susan Schroeder of Rusty Spur Ranch and Creations, located in Rathdrum, Idaho. Be prepared to be inspired to use mohair in ways that bring the most joy to your spin projects.

Meet the fiber creative

I came across Susan a few years ago, at a fiber arts festival in the Pacific Northwest, and was impressed with her creativity, hard work, and effervescent personality. Susan is an expert indie dyer, fiber artist, and Angora goat shepherdess to a well-cared for flock that provides high quality mohair for her fiber projects.

Susan’s fiber arts journey started with knitting as a way to pass the time during family road trips. She bought a handspun skein from Symeon North, author of the book, Get Spun (2010), and this beautiful yarn inspired Susan to learn handspinning. She started with a drop spindle and eventually learned to use a wheel. She then taught herself the art of dyeing fiber to bring unique colors to her own spinning fibers. A few years later, four Angora goats made their way into Susan’s life to provide mohair fleeces and natural weed control for her farm. Inspired by the growing flock of Angora goats on her farm, she started a fiber arts studio and named it the Rusty Spur Ranch and Creations.

Susan strives to use the whole mohair fleece in a productive manner. The prime locks are used for Sparkle Fluff, while clean belly fleece goes into cat toys. Remaining parts of the fleece go into the garden as mulch or into the bottom of plant pots to improve water retention.

Gathering the elements

Raw fleece selection is step one. Within a batch of Sparkle Fluff, there may be two or three different textures of mohair depending on what Susan has available. She knows the fleece of each goat in her flock, as it varies from goat to goat. Some fleeces are Navajo-style, with long, straight locks, while others have tiny curls.

Along with the mohair locks, each batch of Sparkle Fluff may have wool locks from up to five different breeds of sheep. While the mohair comes from her own flock, the sheep wool is sourced from different farms. For both fiber types, Susan looks for well-separated, open locks that are not felted and that contain the least amount of hay.

Secondly, she uses gentle washing methods so the locks don’t stick together. Once the locks from all fleeces are clean, she will dye bulk batches of locks in different colors.

Susan: I don’t have a Sparkle Fluff color idea in mind when I start dyeing fleeces. I will dye up to five fleeces at once. Each fleece is dyed a different color. After the fleeces are dyed, I start playing with the colors I created. The key is to take a few handfuls of various proportions and start mixing them together. If I like what I have, I will pull large amounts of dyed fleece and weigh it into about 10 ounce batches before I start mixing.

Mixing it up!

Once she has selected the color and fiber mix, she makes a pile and starts handpicking the locks and placing them into a large bin. She uses her hands to carefully pick and separate the locks because a fiber picker would rip the locks apart. After filling the bin, she gently tosses the fibers like a salad to ensure the Angelina is well distributed and the locks are evenly mixed to her satisfaction. She wants the locks and Angelina mix to be loose and flowing, not clumpy.

When mohair is mixed with wool and Angelina, the mohair pops! All fibers in Sparkle Fluff support the pop and shine of mohair.

If Susan had to select three words to describe her Sparkle Fluff, she would choose:

Sparkle – because the Angelina throughout the fluff looks dazzling in the sunlight.

Shine – since mohair has a mirror-like shine.

Texture – the feel of so many different locks, wools, and fibers to be enjoyed however one wishes.

Spinning Sparkle Fluff

Chunky. Fine. Direct to wheel. Carding and blending.

Sparkle Fluff has no limits to its creative use. Susan’s favorite way to spin Sparkle Fluff is to take handfuls and let it flow through her wheel for a highly textured, bulky art yarn. She notes that Sparkle Fluff can also be lightly blended on a blending board for those who want more control over the texture and weight of their handspun.

Susan: I have seen other handspinners run a batch through a drum carder and spin it fine, with amazing results. As a person with curly hair, I appreciate the different textures of wool and mohair, and I like that my Sparkle Fluff preserves and highlights the texture of the locks.

Other surprising ways to use Sparkle Fluff: Fill little glass bottles with it and place those bottles around your studio to liven things up. Felt it into a gnome’s beard for some spice and color. Weave it into a wall hanging with some driftwood you picked up from the beach. The possibilities are endless!

As a parting thought to handspinners looking to start their next mohair spinning projects:

Susan: Don’t be afraid to try something new. A lot of spinners stick with wool because it’s a fiber they know. It takes courage to branch out and try something new. Especially when spinning with locks – you have to let go and let the locks flow. It is not precise. You are not looking for a specific twist direction or the perfect spinning ratio. Sometimes it takes a new spinner a long time to feel comfortable enough to be able to flow. But give it a try. Maybe you will get it right away, maybe you won’t, but just keep playing with it and practicing. I promise the Angora goats will keep growing fiber, so we won’t run out!

Jacqueline Harp is a freelance writer and multimedia fiber artist who spins, felts, weaves, crochets, and knits in every spare moment possible. She is also a certified Master Sorter of Wool Fibers through the State Univ. of N.Y. (Cobleskill) Sorter-Grader-Classer (SGC) Program. Her Instagram handle is @foreverfiber

Wool at the Met Gala

The 2022 Met Gala was, as ever, a parade of fashion. And for the third year in a row, there was a hand knit gown in the mix!

The dress, worn by Sandra Weiss, was designed and knit from naturally dyed wool and lurex from A Wing and a Prayer Farm. You can see more images and a description on their Facebook page.

PLYAway 2022: Together Again!

After a couple of long years, PLYAway returned April 19-23, and it was wonderful to see faces both familiar and new.

Classes were taught by Maggie Casey, Clemes and Clemes, Meagan Condon, Peggy Doney, Jacey Boggs Faulker, Michael Kelson, Judith MacKenzie, Amy Manko, Jillian Moreno, James Perry, Joan Ruane, Amy Tyler, Emily Wohlscheid.

On Friday evening, James Perry gave a talk and presentation on his journey with wool. Jacey (wearing a snazzy red jumpsuit) gave out some fabulous door prizes.

Karen Robinson and Christie Brown were once again at the registration desk checking spinners in, answering questions, and selling t-shirts and back issues.

And the Pen Place was very happy to have us back! (We’re one of their top shopping weeks of the year.)

The marketplace (vendor hall) opened on Thursday at noon. Spinners lined up early to get into the hall. (The first person in line had been waiting for an hour and was able to get the Daedalus Sparrow she was hoping for.)

Shoppers in the marketplace had a card and got a stamp for each vendor they purchased from. Stamps from 10 different vendors allowed them to enter into the giveaway for $500 to spend in the marketplace. There were 72 entries in the drawing. On Saturday afternoon, by random drawing, a surprised and happy Courtney Rivers won the giveaway. Although she considered getting a drum carder from Clemes & Clemes, she ultimately decided to get a Lendrum wheel from Yarn Barn.

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!

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

Dehairing Cashmere by Hand

Words & Photos by Meagan Condon

If there is one thing I can say about librarians, it’s that they’re in the business of enabling people. Do you need the latest James Patterson novel? They’ve got you. How about an article from the July 24, 1972, issue of Time magazine? A librarian has your back. My colleagues at the library know of my passion for fiber arts and are often eager to provide me with any “reference material” they come across, as was the case when I found a ziplock bag full of hair stashed in my staff mailbox. The name “Blackie” was sharpied across the top. Blackie was a goat – and not a special type of goat – just your generic, crossbred farm goat used for clearing brush. My teammate, who lived on a farm outside of town, had brushed out his winter coat and figured I might want it. Well, why not?

This particular fiber from Blackie was cashmere. While there are specific breeds of goats generally associated with cashmere production, almost all goats produce a soft, downy undercoat. For most breeds, there is less usable fiber and more guard hair, which can make it a nightmare to prepare by hand. Many would choose not to use the term cashmere here, as there are strict industry guidelines for classifying commercial cashmere. Ultimately, we’re talking about the same fiber, though. Let’s talk about preparing this “inferior” cashmere for spinning.

The first task at hand is to dehair the cashmere. This means to remove all guard hairs in the fiber. Guard hair is usually longer, is coarser, lacks crimp, and will be black or white in color. It is nothing like the soft fluff we’re looking for, and it is pretty easy to spot. If I were to spin it into my yarn, it would make the yarn prickly, cause all kinds of neps, and be generally unpleasant. Some mills offer a dehairing service, but it can cost an additional $10–20 per pound, and there is usually a minimum quantity of fiber they will accept, often in the 2–10 pound range. If you’re like me and only have a few ounces, this isn’t an option.

Instead, we have the herculean task of removing the guard hair by hand. How does one go about removing all those tiny hairs? While there are several tricks you can try to make the process easier, I’ve found that the quickest way to process cashmere is to skip the tricks, grab a pair of tweezers, and get to work. Fingers work just as well, in a pinch.

Pinch off a small amount of fiber. You’ll be able to see the guard hairs poking out in all directions. Start removing them. Then, when you don’t see any more guard hairs, turn your fiber over, fold the fiber in half, and look again. As you fold the fiber, the less-flexible guard hairs aren’t as willing to fold and will poke out. When you don’t see any more guard hairs, stretch the fiber open into a thin web and look at it with a light behind it. This should reveal any remaining unsavory bits.

After a session of dehairing, my fingers are almost completely black with dirt. Remember, these animals roll around in the dirt and who-knows-what to cool down and keep bugs away. Even so, I find it easiest to dehair the fiber before washing and spinning it. Every time I’ve tried to wash the fiber first, it has been impossible to dehair and work with later. The fiber is prone to pilling or felting in the wash.

Once the hair has been removed, what is left is a beautiful cloud of spinnable joy. Sometimes I spin straight from the cloud. Sometimes I card the fiber into rolags using a fine carding cloth or cotton carders. For Blackie’s special fiber, I blended it 50/50 with muga silk. The delicate, gold silk matched the warm undertones in Blackie’s fiber perfectly. What’s not to love about a cashmere/silk blend, anyway? While carding, I was careful not to overwork the fiber by passing it over my carders too many times. As I mentioned before, cashmere is prone to pilling and I didn’t want to lose the luxury of the fiber through my own careless preparation. One or two passes with the carders is enough.

I then spun the rolags using an American longdraw technique on my Ashford Joy II at a ratio of 11:1 with low brake band tension. I think cashmere craves being spun with a woolen preparation and technique. The short, fine fibers are ideal for the technique. This is the point in the process I wash the yarn, soaking it in warm water multiple times, until the water runs clear. I also treat it to some rough handling and snapping to cause the halo to bloom.

The resulting yarn has a fine halo and matte appearance. When paired with the shine of the muga silk, which lies just beneath the halo, the yarn ends up having a depth of texture and color which the cashmere just doesn’t have on its own.

Dehairing fiber by hand will never be my favorite task, but the value in this fiber has less to do with the fact that it boasts the title cashmere and everything to do with where it came from. Sometimes we spin for the joy of working with a particular type of fiber or a specific style or technique. Sometimes the history \ matters to us. No matter why we choose to spin, it always has to do with connection: connection with nature, with our past, with ourselves. In this case, the connection was Blackie, a sometimes-ornery goat who was a vital part of my colleague’s family . . . a goat who had been raised in the kitchen and who had grown up alongside my colleague’s daughter. That emotional connection made it some of the most valuable fiber I have ever spun.

Video with tips on dehairing cashmere: https://youtu.be/GTgOOoqjfhk

Meagan Condon is a librarian and fiber artist with more than a decade of spinning experience. She focuses on digital connection and teaches fiber arts across the midwest and online. You can follow her at luthvarian.com.

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!

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

The World’s Oldest Pants

(Bet you didn’t see that headline coming …)

A pair of 3000-year-old pants was found in western China’s Tarim Basin. The wool trousers were most likely worn by horse riders. Along with studying how they were made, a modern reproduction of these pants has also been created. Find out more about this archaeological find at https://www.sciencenews.org/article/pants-oldest-ancient-horseman-asia-culture-origin and https://www.sciencenews.org/article/first-pants-worn-horse-riders-3000-years-ago

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!

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

Blending for Texture & Spinning Textured Batts

Words & Photos by Emily Wohlscheid

I have been relegated to offering workshops primarily through virtual means over the past two years and have missed having a classroom full of equipment and students. I’m really looking forward to this year’s PLYAway Retreat where I will get to share my love of the drum carder and spinning with students in Blending for Texture and Spinning Textured Batts, respectively.

What has always drawn me to textiles is all of the different colors and textures. The introduction of batt making in my work has always been an extension of that. I love creating batts and sharing what types of cloth on the drum carder are best suited to individual results. Blending for Texture focuses on using your drum carder in a way that achieves the textural results you are seeking while also keeping your equipment in tip top shape. Students will leave with at least three completed batts from finely textured tweeds to loosely carded and lock-filled variegated batts.

Many people love the look of textured batts but are uncertain how they should approach spinning them. Batts tend to be smaller quantities, and because they are made more slowly and by hand, they tend to feel more precious. My default with them was often to create a chunky single, typically corespun, that showed off the textures and stretched my material for more yardage. As I began to sell my batts, spinners would often share their yarns and finished objects. Surprisingly, I found many of them were spinning very fine, sometimes plying, but always embracing the texture so that all the curls, crimps, and flecking created subtle effects. It made me realize my favorite prep for spinning was far more versatile than I had originally thought.

You can learn a lot about the variations in drafting that a textured batt requires by familiarizing yourself through sampling. Spinning various gauges with a plyback test is a great exercise to help you decide your preference visually and where the most ease in spinning lies for you. The simple challenge to spin a batt in at least three distinctly different gauges is one I present to my students but is also an accessible experiment to try next time you are having difficulty determining how you might like to spin a batt.

This workshop may sound familiar to previous attendees at the retreat as I offered it back in 2019 as a half day. Overwhelming feedback and more opportunities to teach these techniques have expanded it to a full day workshop with more techniques offered including plying, corespinning, autowrapping, and suggestions for using the yarns. You can choose either Wednesday or Saturday to take this relaxed workshop and sample away. I can’t wait to see all the attendees in just a few short weeks!

Emily has loved fiber, jewelry, and sparkly things as long as she can remember. After receiving her BFA from Adrian College where she studied metalsmithing and textile techniques, she learned to spin as a way to get back in the classroom. Now she creates handcrafted jewelry and hand dyed fiber goods for her business, Bricolage Studios, and teaches classes and workshops throughout the United States on spinning, fiber preparation, and jewelry/metalsmithing. Emily works from a cooperative fiber studio in Kalamazoo, MI.

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!

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