Picture of lady and shawl

Want some Camelot Dyeworks fiber?

I think most readers have gotten the Fine issue of PLY by now, right?  If you haven’t and you feel deep in your heart that you should have, email me and we’ll figure it out together!

Otherwise, what did you think?  I’ll tell you what I think — I think it’s our finest issue to date. By finest, I mean so stinking good that I just look at it and smile.  I love everything about it — he authors, the articles, the photography, the graphics, the more subtle layout, the oh-my-stars cover!

I also love the project by Corrina Ferguson — Bernata shawlette and hat. Almost every project we feature starts with a perfectly timed dance between dyer, spinner, and designer.  First I find the designer and we talk about what the perfect yarn for the project would be. It has to fit within the issue’s theme but outside of that constraint, it’s all up to the designer.  If the designer doesn’t spin (and so often he or she doesn’t), I find a spinner that can take the wishes of the designer and translate it into the perfect yarn. While all that planning and chatting is going on, I find a dyer that can dye a perfect colorway for the project.  I like to try to use a colorway that a dyer has already developed so that if people want the same one, it’s available, but sometimes they do something special for us.

In the case of the Bernata pieces, the spinner and designer came as a package deal and I knew I wanted to use Herman Hills Farm‘s delicious Cormoso so I only had to find a dyer. After a bit of looking and lusting, I decided on Camelot Dyeworks. Herman Hills farm agreed to send Camelot some fiber, she dyed half and sent it all on to the Kimberley to be spun and then Kimberley sent it on to Corrina to be made into something you all would love.

So, like we do each issue, leave a review on the review page of the Fine issue and on July 28th I’ll randomly pick a winner who will get enough of the Herman Hills-grown, Camelot Dyeworks-dyed fiber for the Corrina Ferguson Bernata shawlette and hat.

Remember, don’t leave your review here, go to the review page of the Fine issue.

We are the ones: PLY Away

We are the ones carrying around a wad of fiber that we happily suspend by a piece of colorful string, the ones referring to a 15-lb contraption that doesn’t have a handle or a bag as “portable”, the ones that think it just makes sense to have that many raw fleeces, the ones that don’t give a rodent’s bum how cheap yarn is at Target. We are spinners and for the past few years we’ve been without a retreat of our own.  I loved SOAR and sorely miss it so can you guess what’s coming next?  Yep, the rumors are true! The world is no longer going to be devoid of an all-spinning retreat! For at least 4 days, we’ll be the ones surrounded by other ones just like us.

PLY Magazine is holding its first annual PLY Away retreat April 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2016 in Kansas City, MO at Crown Center’s Westin. I’m giddy with excitement, only sitting out of typing necessity. I want to dance and scream and spin and yell. Seriously, I’m that excited. As excited as I was when the original kickstarter hit it’s goal! I told the cashier at Natural Grocers about PLY Away yesterday. She seemed only moderately impressed. Anyway, the location is perfect. It’s right in the middle of so much stuff but when you’re inside the center, it’ll feel like it’s just us. Just us and all the fiber and fiber tools a spinner could dream of.

Thanks to our wonderful and generous VERY BIG SPONSORS — Lendrum, Kromski, Louet, The Woolery, and Hansen Crafts — for helping bring these spinning stars together while keeping the costs out of the clouds. For those of you that are wondering about the cost, half-day classes are $85, 1-day classes are $145, and 2-day classes are $260. That means that 4 full days of classes will run a spinner $600 (this also includes a free ticket to the banquet/talk of Friday night), 3 full days will be $485, and weekend full will be $340. The special room rate we’re getting is $140/night for up to 4 people. I know it’s not pennies, but we did our very best to keep it to as reasonable as possible. Registration will open November 11th but classes and schedules will go up in August.

It’s an a la carte retreat which means that you pick and choose the classes you want, building your prefect 1, 2, 3, or 4 day retreat. There are four 2-day retreats that span Thursday and Friday, each one with one of these amazing teachers: Deb Robson, Beth Smith, Coleen Nimetz, or Stephenie Gaustad. These 2-day classes are what spinning dreams are made of. Soon I’ll tell you about each one. But if you’ve got something else to do on Thursday and you’d rather stroll in with your bad self on Friday, you can take a 1-day class from the likes of Amy King, Patsy Zawistoski, Jillian Moreno, Michelle Boyd, or Esther Rodgers. Is it wrong that I scheduled classes that I desperately want to take? I want each one of these and don’t know how I’ll manage it. When the weekend rolls you’ve got a choice between all the above teachers plus Amy Tyler, Abby Franquemont, and Christina Pappas. That’s 12 teachers, each teaching two days worth of half-day classes that will blow your mind! I don’t envy you the choices you’ll have to make.

What would a spinning retreat be without a marketplace? We’re going to have one for sure! It won’t be huge and it won’t be tiny. We’re hoping it’s just right. There will also be an open-to-all spin in and both the spin in and the marketplace are free to anyone that wants to join in! If you’d like to be a vendor, check this page out!

Finally, there’s a Friday night banquet and talk.

I am so excited about it. I have such big plans. I want it to be the best retreat, not only for spinners but also for teachers and vendors! I’ll share more of the cool details as the weeks pass. Like the scholarship fund. And how you can win a PLY Away retreat on me (including airfare, classes, and hotel). And how you can be one of 10 people that gets to register early. And how there’s going to be a giant marketplace gift certificate for one lucky attendee. And about each class. And and and and…

For now, check out the website! ! If you’d like to join our illustrious ranks of sponsors, go here!

ps.  if everything goes well, PLY Away 2017 will be bigger and longer!






It’s a Process

Last week Jillian spoke beautifully about rejection. She said it all perfectly. I agree with every feeling.

Today I thought I’d talk about my process of writing an article after the joyous news comes that my article idea has been accepted. This is the way I go about things and I happen to know that Jillian’s process is completely different than mine so ask her to tell you how she works.

OK, so when I submit an article idea for consideration I have an idea about how the yarns will look if I use a certain spinning method and I often want to talk about the technical details about how to get to the final yarn. That’s usually all I know and more often than not, I don’t have samples to back my words up.

When I write I need to have the yarn and swatches sitting right next to me so I can feel them in my hands. If I get stuck I pick up the samples and sniff them, hug them, feel them, rub them, anything that will get a littel spark going.

What that means is that all or most of my samples need to be spun before I start writing. What that also means is that I need to have a pretty good idea of what I want to show. I’m not great at writing detailed outlines. So for articles I usually just have a short paragraph that I’ve written to give me some idea of where I’m heading and then I choose fibers and spinning techniques that will get me there.

For example, the article in the Leicesters issue, I knew that I was limited to the three Leicesters and my article was about spinning for softness. Of course I wanted to choose the most coarse Leicester to demonstrate what I do so English Leicester was the choice (aka Leicester Longwool, or Dishley Leicester)

After I choose the fiber then I choose the wheel that will do what I want most easily. Often that is my Schacht Matchless. I can treadle pretty slowly and count treadles or whatever I have to do to make the yarn exactly what I want on that wheel. My other wheels have much larger drivewheels and I usually choose one of them when I want to get the work done fast and I don’t have to slow down so I can describe the process later.

This was actually the same process I used for writing my book. I had an outline which really was just a list of chapters. I wrote the breeds I wanted to use for each chapter under each heading and started spinning. Spinning for that project took about 6 months with 6 months of writing following the spinning. But having all of the samples right near me for inspiration was the greates thting I could have done for myself.

Right now I’m almost finished writing an article for the Singles Issue of Ply that’s coming up. It’s due in 5 days. I think I can make it because I have my samples.

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Cover of the Fine issue of PLY

Put Some Fiber On It

Hi friends! We recently finished shooting the Autumn 2015 – Texture issue of PLY. Jacey and I often joke about how each new issue is our favorite, but this one is going to BLOW YOU AWAY.

Before I divulge any information about the Autumn issue, let’s chat about Summer, shall we? I think it’s going to be your favorite. Some of you have already found it in your mailbox this week. Hopefully the postal system will be kind to the rest of you.

I’m sure we’ve mentioned this before, but shooting each issue seasonally can be tricky, because we take photos about 4-5 months before the issue is printed and shipped to you. We don’t strive for perfection but we also don’t want snow in the summer issue, you know? (Sorry, folks in the southern hemisphere, nothing is ever on time for you. I apologize for the hemisphere discrimination you face on a frequent basis.)

When the time came for our scheduled shoot, it was bitterly cold, the ground covered in snow. Clearly we couldn’t shoot outside, for reasons both aesthetic and practical. Fortunately Powell Gardens, only 30 miles away, had an exhibit in their natural light conservatory called Desert in Bloom. Because of the weather we even had the whole space to ourselves.

When evaluating a space for shooting, obviously we have some specific needs. Natural light is a must. While we have studio lighting, it adds a lot of time to the process and it simply doesn’t compare to the real thing. We also look at the colors in the environment, the availability of textured, interesting surfaces for backgrounds, and the variety of settings. Every set of photos has different requirements. Spinning shots take up more space and the background has to be interesting but not TOO interesting. Shots with models in garments need great light and good background, and they often set the scene for the magazine – they give the photography in the issue a unifying sense of place. Swatch shots need a flat surface that has texture but doesn’t compete with the texture of the fiber. The conservatory was perfect for our needs, and additionally provided the material for my FAVORITE cover shot so far.

When I spotted the beautiful Queen Victoria agave specimen in a pot beside the conservatory’s central pool, I knew it had to be in the issue. After taking a few shots of it, I employed the PLY equivalent of “put a bird on it,” which is to stick some fiber on the thing I find pretty and hope I get away with it. I think it worked this time.

Cover of the Fine issue of PLY

After the shoot I had to get a Queen Victoria Agave of my own. I ordered some seeds and within a week they were planted in a pot in my kitchen window. It has been 14 weeks and I have three plants. I had read that they are slow-growing…yeah, they’re not kidding. I’ll get back to you in 15-20 years with an update. In the meantime, enjoy the Fine issue! ~ Bernadette




A little Sheepspot

A little Sheepspot

I get rejected a lot. I propose a lot of classes and articles all over the place and most of the time the answer is no. Even when I get asked to propose, frequently I get a no.

I used to wallow in the gross feeling of not getting picked, but now I don’t.

It’s not instantly sunshine and lollypops, I take my moment to relive not getting picked for dodgeball in 5th grade, then move on. It’s part of the process.


Then I’m back at the work of ideas and proposals.  Here’s a not so secret, secret, the stuff that gets rejected will get accepted. It may become a small part of something else, it might get combined with two or three other things, it might get accepted, as is, somewhere else. Any thinking or planning is good work.


A little Fiberstory

A little Fiberstory

This week I got rejected by PLY. I sent in an article proposal awhile back and this week I got a nice form email from Jacey saying basically, thanks, but no thanks.

Guess what? I’m happy about it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had a minute or two of that cruddy rejection feeling, but quickly thought differently. It’s not about my idea’s worth or even my personal worth, it’s about the magazine, and that made me happy.


What quickly pushed any gloomy thoughts out of my brain was the thought of getting that finished magazine in my inbox and seeing how it was built into a great issue. How the articles and projects balance each other and the idea of the theme. I know I’ll see instantly that my idea would have been OK, but wasn’t quite right.

Jacey has proved herself again and again that she knows how to make an excellent issue of our excellent magazine. When I get to be part of the inside I am overjoyed. When I get to participate as a reader I am completely content to roll around in other people’s ideas and learn a bunch about spinning.


And that rejected idea? I’m already using it somewhere else!

Studio Time

Sometimes I call my work room at home my studio. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I was in an actual recording studio with cameras and stuff!

I recorded two vidoes. One called Spin Thin all abut how to spin fine yarns and the other is Getting Even, all about spinning more consistently. It was scary and fun all at the same time.

Plus I had professional makeup with EYELASHES!



I took a lot of stuff.




There were plenty of samples.

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I was really nervous but I pushed through it.

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The camera guys were awesome. And funny.

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And then it was all over.

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The videos are being produced by Interweave and will be out in July and August of this year if all goes according to plan. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when they are ready.


I’ve been spinning a lot lately. Sometimes there are so many deadlines for writing that the spinning kind of gets pushed to the back but other times I need samples and things for articles as well as classes and I also get sad that my personal projects are being neglected and so i spin and spin and spin for hours every day.

This amount of spinning has gotten me thinking about bobbins. 2015-01-29 12.59.52

I started a project on my Norm Hall Wheel. I have 6 bobbins for that wheel but 4 of them are full with the yarn for the personal project. I have been spinning samples on my Matchless. I have about 18 bobbins for that wheel I think but usually only about 4 of them don’t have yarn. There’s another personal project in process on the Schacht Reeves. I only have 4 bobbins for that wheel and 3 are currently full.

As you can see, no matter how many bobbins you have for a particular wheel, it never seems to be enough for me.

Bobbins can be pricey. so what’s a spinner to do? Storage bobbins!

For storage of singles that I have spun for a project but I’m not ready to ply yet I like to use a couple of different types of bobbins for storage. There are 6 inch weaving bobbins that are great for finer yarns. They look small but you will be surprised at how much yardage can fit on one bobbin. Also, I like the cardboard bobbins that weavers use for warping. They are very cheap – less than $2.00 each – and can be reused.





Now using these bobbins for storage may bring up an issue about how best to wind the yarn from the spinning wheel bobbin onto the storage bobbin. If you are a weaver, you probably already have a winding tool for weaving bobbins and this will work just great whether it is electric or hand cranked. Another option is an electric drill with a dowel put in where the bit goes. Then you put the storage bobbin onto the end. If the bobbin opening is too big, just use some wool and jam the bobbin on tightly.

I choose to use other bobbins as storage rather than winding the yarn from the bobbin by hand into a ball because it’s faster and also because I can put my storage bobbin right onto my kate for plying.

If you do choose to wind into a ball, make sure you wind from the side of the bobbin and not over the end as this can change the amount of twist in the yarn and mess up any calculations or work you have put into planning.

What do you do about bobbin storage?

A longwool stole

Leicester Longwool Give-a-way

One of my favorite projects in any PLY is the Pacific Trillium Stole by Melinda VerMeer. I love the drape of the Leicester Longwool, the running lace stitches throughout the length and the gentle lace edgings. I like that it’s so wide and so long. It feels substantial and delicate at the same time. The color is also perfect, a silvery purple dyed to perfection by Solitude Wool. If you don’t know Solitude Wool, check them out. As spinners, any time we can get breed-specific fiber is a good time. Clun forest, Karakul, Jacob, Tunis, Leicesters, Romney…it’s all there. Did I mention they have black Karakul? I want somebody to make something fantastic out of the black Karakul!

I also want somebody to make the Pacific Trillium Stole and I want to give you the fiber to do it! I have the same silvery-purple Leicester Longwool from Solitude Wool that we used in the Leicester issue and I’m giving it away. Leave a review of the Leicester issue of PLY Magazine here (on the Leicester page under the review tab) and on April 17th I’ll randomly pick the winner from everyone that left a review!

*don’t leave your review here in the comments, go here to do it!

Ideas and proposals

I’m in New Mexico. I’m not supposed to be here, but here I am. I had a fantastic weekend with the Las Aranas guild, spinning and braving the snow and ice covered roads (in New Mexico!). While I was here I received the most amazing indigo-dyed gossamer shawl I’ve ever had the luck to fold in half and drape around my shoulders.  Knit by mara bishop statnekov, I can’t take it off.  Ever.  As kind as it is beautiful.

I was supposed to be home early this morning.  I was supposed to leave tomorrow morning for Iceland, with a 3 hour layover in Denver. Instead, and due to the ice here in NM and in TX, I’m meeting Levi and O (my 8-year old daughter) in Denver tomorrow and then off to Iceland.  It’s all going to be fine.  It is.  I know it.

And Iceland is going to be fantastic. I can hardly wait.  I’m teaching for 2 days, giving a talk at the art school, and touring for 5 days. While I’m there, the Leicester issue will be winging it’s way to you.  You’re going to love it, I think.  I love it.  I know I always say that, but I do.

But while I’m captured by ice in New Mexico, I’d like to talk about something.

Years ago, I used to hear a few people grumble with frustration that they’d propose article ideas to Spin Off and then later they’d see their article idea in the magazine but written by somebody else. They would say that it wasn’t fair or nice that the magazine would take their proposal and get somebody else to write it. Of course, I thought that wasn’t fair or nice too. Who wouldn’t? It’s only now that I realize that was probably not at all what was really happening.

I say this because I have some personal experience with this very thing. Every issue I get (thankfully) lots and lots of proposals. Sometimes over 200. It’s wonderful and the reason the magazine is so great. However, out of those 200 proposals, there might be 100 that are actually different. What I mean is that the same general proposal will come in from 5 or 6 people. It won’t be exact, of course, but it’ll be the same in spirit. And so if it’s an article that enriches the issue, that makes it big and round and awesome, I’ll ask one of the authors that proposed it, to write it.

What that means is that several other people will later see the article in the magazine. It will look like the article they proposed, and it is, but it’s also the article the author of the article proposed.

Spinning is an old craft. Spinners are brilliant. It makes sense that several of us come up with the same ideas about a particular topic, right?

So, just in case you were wondering, and because I hate the idea of people going around feeling sad, or thinking that we don’t like them, or even that we’re not nice or fair, let me assure you, we don’t ever take one person’s idea and ask another person to write it. Not ever. I’m pretty sure that Spin Off doesn’t do it either.