In With the New

…But not out with the old.

I love lace and it’s not a secret to anyone who knows me. When I was a kid, my mom made custom wedding dresses and we lived near Philadelphia so I would travel with her to the fabric district in Philly whenever she neede to by fabric for the next wedding. I would get sucked into the room with all of the laces. From all over the world. Some hand embroidered, some beaded, some that cost hundreds of dollars per yard. I had a hard time not toouching them and I got in trouble a lot.

When I learned to knit, one of the first things I tried was lace after I had the basics down. But bobbin lace has been calling my name for years. I love the pillows and the bobbins and the very fine thread and oh how I wanted to try it. But I was a little afraid that it would be too much for me. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough.

Well, last fall Jillian – you all know her, right? – told me to just go for it. And she bugged me until I found a teacher. I was able to find someone a little less than an hour away. I got myself a pillow (not the fancy one I really want) and a few bobbins and I’ve been going for it.

This is the last project I worked on.






It’s not perfect butI can’t believe I can do it!

I have big plans for spinning for bobbin lace next. A fine, smooth, tightly plied thread. And because I am me, I will try it with a soft Romney and Blue Faced Leicester and maybe Polwarth and see how the laces differ from each other.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Breaking down the Math: the price of PLY

Do you know how much I knew about making a magazine before I actually started making a magazine? Almost exactly zero. And I believe in the truth.  I mean, I believe in telling the truth, in being as transparent as possible, even when it comes to business and money so I’m going to talk to you about why PLY is the price that it is, a price that is higher than many other magazines, especially magazines in our own genre.

PLY is $36 for a year’s US subscription.  We don’t give discounts and we don’t go on sale. I recently got a “please come back to us for only $12” email from another craft magazine and it worked, I came back to them!  However, PLY will never do that. We just can’t afford it.

Here’s why.

Most magazines don’t actually rely on the revenue from subscriptions. Surprising, right? I had no idea of that little fact. I figured that’s what supported a magazine, but it’s not. It’s why they can sell subscriptions for so cheap, $12 a year and buy one get one free and all that. The serious revenue for magazines comes from advertisements. Did you know that most magazines (and everyone that I subscribe to except Taproot, which has no ads) has between 55% and 75% advertising? That means that if I take one of the several craft magazines on my coffee table right now and thumb through all the pages counting up the space taken by ads and adding it together, there is 62 pages of ads and 38 pages of actual non-ad content. Really, I just checked.

Since each ad page in our type of magazines (because while fashion magazines have the same ratios, they charge far more for advertising) brings in anywhere between $1200 and $3000, average advertising revenue per issue is $75,000 – $190,000. It’s the advertising that pays a magazine’s way in this world and it’s that advertising that keeps subscriber prices so low. Subscriptions are what the magazine needs to get the advertisers. If a magazine can show a potential advertiser that they have a boatload of subscribers, the advertiser is far more likely to happily hand over the green that keeps the lights on.

So you see, it’s in the best interest of the magazine to get as many subscribers as they can, any way they can, even if it’s for $12 a year. It’s not for the direct revenue; it’s for indirect revenue. It’s for showing the advertisers how many eyeballs will be looking at the ads.

That’s how magazines work.

It is, however, not how PLY works.

We have between 12%-15% advertising in each issue of PLY. Never more. We think it’s better for our readers and better for the advertisers we do have. Plus, there’s just too much content to include in every issue, I can barely fit it all in! Also, our smaller ads (quarter and 1/12 page ads) are priced relatively low so that small, independent companies can afford to advertise. Each issue of PLY clears just under $14,000 in advertising revenue. That’s the number (it’s also the number, by the way, that we pay out each issue to contributors/writers/designers).  So our fantastic advertisers pay for our fantastic contributors.  It’s a wash.

Let me jump in here and say that I’m not discounting our advertisers. I adore them. Love them. Am completely grateful to them. I think they make the magazine better and I’m thankful that they choose to work with us. But I’m happy that we keep the ad to content ratio right where it is.

So you see, since we keep our advertising so low, we need our subscribers in a different way than most magazines need their subscribers. The subscription money is what pays the bills around here, directly. That’s not the regular magazine model but its what we’re doing. Before our first issue, everybody I know in the industry said that it couldn’t work, that people were used to very cheap subscription prices and wouldn’t pay the higher price. They all said we’d have to incorporate far more advertising.

However, so far it is working.

But the lack of advertising revenue coming in is just part of the equation in what makes our subscription price higher. The other part is the money going out.

Fiber is beautiful. We want to capture that beauty. The smooth silk, the crimp in a lock, the result of a slight difference in draft, our pages come alive with these things. However, if our pages are thin and transparent, it won’t matter how great the photography is because images and text will bleed through and muddy everything.

So PLY has good, thick, archival paper, both the cover and the inside pages. It raises the price from 0.30 – 0.45 an issue to $3.00-$4.00 an issue but it’s worth it. Not only does it mean the magazine is going to look and feel wonderful but it’s also going to (mostly) be able to stand up to the postal service (and that’s saying something, right?) and it’s going to last for the readers.

But because our paper is thick, our magazine is heavy. I just weighed 3 other craft magazines on my kitchen scale and they all fall between 6 ounces and 8 ounces. PLY weighs 14 ounces. What this means is that instead of costing 0.30 – 0.45 to mail inside the US via periodical postage, it’s over a dollar. And if I want to mail it from home (where I can’t use our periodical postage status) because a subscriber issue got lost, damaged, or the subscriber without telling me, it’s a whopping $6.00 to ship! So thick paper is great and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but I does have some drawbacks.

There are other bills too, of course: a $2 ,000 monthly IRS bill, monthly subscription management and ad-management fees, studio rental space, and little things here and there. Oh yeah, the 4 people that work for PLY, 2 of which (kitten and me) call it a full-time job.

All of this, in fact, everything except the contributors (which is what the advertiser revenue covers) is paid for by our subscription revenue and every dollar of each subscription goes somewhere it’s needed! I’ve tried to figure out how to make it cheaper but the math just doesn’t work. It’s why we can’t offer discounts or sales. It’s why it’s $36.

Low advertising, quality paper, great and in-depth writing, beautiful photography.

That’s why PLY costs more.





And the winner is…

Christine Long Derks!  A brand new LeClerc Cendrel Inkle floor loom is all yours!  Email me and we’ll talk delivery!

LeClerc Cendrel Give-a-way!

It’s that time of issue again, the time when I have something fantastic to give away.  Are you ready?  This is a big one.  A super cool one.  One I really want to keep.  REALLY WANT TO KEEP!

You’ve read the smart and sassy Amy Tyler’s article and project in the worsted issue — holiday inkle band,  right?  Well I’ve never woven on an inkle loom but her project was so cute and she made the loom — the LeClerc Cendrel floor inkle loom — sound pretty darn nice.  I thought you might think the same thing.  The people at LeClerc thought you might think so too.  So we’ve got a brand new one just for you!  Well, just for one of you.  Want it?  All you’ve got to do is leave a review of the worsted issue  on the worsted issue page!  Don’t leave your review here (unless you want to copy and paste it here, make sure you leave it on the worsted issue page!

On Feb 4th I’ll post the randomly chosen winner from all the reviews!


Buying Things

In the Ply Ravelry group in the thread about what people would like to see in Ply, there has a been a bit of discussion going on about the stealth reviews. Some people are happy with them, and some people would like to see more about the downsides of the products being reviewed. It’s a fine line and I think Jacey did a good job of answering concerns and explaining that’s going on. You can check it out here:

It got me to thinking more than usual about buying fiber tools and how to go about it. Since I owned a fiber shop I have thought about this question a lot but in the last year or so I’ve not been so invested in it for other people. But here I am, back again to thinking hard about the whole topic.

Here’s what I see happening. Somebody wants to buy a new thing. There are several makers of this thing and so it’s hard to decide which one to invest in. Fiber tools seem expensive and so this somebody doesn’t want to get it wrong. So they go to Ravelry/Facebook/Twitter/G+ and say, “I’m looking to buy a thing. Which thing do you recommend?” Then the spinner gets 1 million replies with all of the people saying that the thing that they own is the very best and all the other things are poorly made/don’t work/are stupid. Now the spinner is even more confused. What to do?!



Here’s my advice, since not everybody has a spinning shop within a couple of hours of their home where they can try things.

First, if you have a guild, take advantage of it. Ask people there if you can touch the tools they are using to see if they feel comfortable to you. If it’s a spinning wheel, it is not difficult to try the wheel with your own fiber and then take off the length that you spun even if they are in the middle of a bobbin. Most spinners are very happy to help.

If you don’t have a guild and you feel like you are out there on your own, chances are you aren’t – you just haven’t found the people yet, go with your gut. Don’t buy the cheapest thing but buy the best you can afford.

Here’s how this discussion goes in almost every class I teach.

Student: “Really? $75 for hand cards!?”

Me: “yep, that’s what they cost.”

Student: “Can’t I just use a dog brush?”

Me: “yes you can. But the tines aren’t as strong and you will be replacing them often and they cost $10 so once you replace them seven times over 7  years you will have paid the price for hand cards which will last more than 20 years at least. $70 over 20 years works out to $3.50 per year which is way cheaper than dog brushes over time.”

That’s how I feel about almost every spinning tool. Yes, the initial expense feels high but buying the right tool for the job will work better and the tool will last for almost your whole fiber life.

So, now, what if you buy a tool that’s not working for you? Well, there is a giant market for second hand tools. you won’t get what you paid for it but it will be close. Chalk this up to a learning experience. it’s like paying for a class. Now you know. Sell the thing and get a different one. There is somebody out there that will love it.

Also, when you are asking for opinions, be sure to talk to people who have tried more than one kind of thing. So many people will tell you that they just love their xbrand thingamajig and you should ahve one too when they’ve never even touched a different brand. And when people have a negative opinion about a thing, ask them why. It may be because the handle didn’t fit their small hand and you have a bigger hand so it won’t be an issue.

See? Easy.

Or you could just ask me. I have lots of opinions and they are all right.


Those New Year’s Resolutions

Moreno Big Yarn 1

Holy moly, I hate New Year’s Resolutions, but I’ve kept making them for  years. I’ve made huge ones, tiny ones that should be easy to keep, lists of 100 things, on and on. I almost never keep them, even the fun ones. I run out time, I run out of fire, I run out of headspace.

For example, every turn of the year I get all excited about weaving tapestry, every year, why in January, is tapestry so appealing? Over the years I’ve bought the books, biggish looms, I have yarn, I have an idea or two. I have fiery determination to make this my next thing, my next fibery craft.  Every January I get out the books, pet the looms, find new tapestry blogs to read, but I can never fit it in with everything else, it just feels too big and it gets lost again.

Resolutions in general made me feel bad, so I quit. But I also feel like the turn of the year needs to marked in some way, welcomed in some way.

This year I made intentions, just a few that are as broad as Lake Michigan. They can be rationalized, shaped and generally messed with to fit any mood or instance. I’m hoping they help on those days come when I wake up feeling a little lost. Do I take the left path or the right?

Two of my intentions fit my crafting life perfectly: Connect and Make. See? Broad, but they feel great. They are reminders to do things I love and talk to people about it, to ask questions and to just fiddle with tapestry or what new interest pops up, making not conquering.


Do you make resolutions? What can you tell me about spinning yarn for tapestry?

The Winter Issue

The Winter issue is on the way!  A few people will be getting it this week but with the holiday mail, it may be stalled.  I know I say this every time but this may be my favorite issue so far.  It’s definitely one of my favorite covers! Golding spindle with Greenwood  Fiberworks fiber!

PLY - Worsted Issue

You may have noticed that I don’t write for every issue (I mean actual articles, I always write copy). Sometimes I just find so many people that have so much to say and I’d rather give them a platform to say it, and sometimes, I just don’t have as many smart things to say as the people that propose articles.  I did, however, write for the worsted issue.  I wrote twice!

Books Are My Thing

pile of books-1I have a thing about books. I was the kid who had Christmas lists that were 80% books. If I don’t read every day something is very wrong. I married a book person; we have book children; I’ve worked in books for 25 years. I like books, I think they are important to us as humans.

I use books to learn about spinning, sure I talk to other spinners and take every class I can afford, but my first stop is always books.  I have a special spot in my heart and on my shelves for older, out of print books. There is a lot of deep knowledge in that pile up there. The folks that wrote those books didn’t have all of the resources at their fingertips like we do now. No internet, not a lot of commercially processed fiber. They had other nearby spinners, shepherds, and they learned by lots of trial and error. They also read books. It didn’t hurt that there was a spinning boom in the 1970s into the early 1980s and lots of books were published.

Craft publishing used to be different too, not everything had to be quick and easy and appeal to the widest variety of crafters. Most of the out of print spinning books I have are more technical, or at least the ones I refer to frequently are more technical. I like to learn the technical when I’m researching something, then I simplify it for my spinning, writing, and teaching.

Here are 3 of my favorites. These are the ones I have a little panic over if I can’t find them.

kill you books-1Mabel Ross and Allen Fannin, don’t ask me to lend them to you. In fact they have a special hiding place. If you want technical spinning information read Mabel Ross, you will learn to count and measure and control your yarn to a very specific degree. I struggle with Mabel, her teaching and writing are hard for my brain to wrap around, but I won’t give up. There is too much to learn there.  Allen Fannin’s was one of the first books that showed super close up photos of yarn and fiber and he has a succinct way of explaining spinning. He is just one of those authors that speak to me.

Here are 2 books that make me smile

2 fav books-1I didn’t know either of these books existed until I ran across them. I will buy and read anything by Paula Simmons, she has an excellent and straight forward way of explaining things. The other was put out by Straw into Gold, a legendary spinning store in the 1970s. It is, as the title suggests, 101 questions for spinners, but they don’t mention on the cover who the spinners answering the questions. Just Susan Druding, Bette Hochberg, and Alden Amos, plus a few more.

I have more than 100 books on spinning and I’m stopping reading and learning any time soon



I love Thanksgiving. I love that it’s the beginning of the Holiday season. So many people celebrate so many things during this part of the year and it’s all great fun. I love that my family gets together most years – except for my one very far away sister who we always miss. I love all the food and I love that I can pretend that I am not constantly concerned about what I’m eating. I love that I can start decorating for Christmas and I love that my mom has taught me how to do it right. (She has 12 trees in her house this year) Here are the three I could see while standing in one spot.


Anyway, just like many of you, I start to think about all the things I’m thankful for and this year I am thankful for my job. I’m thankful that I’m in a position that I can pursue this crazy life. I mean, for what other career could I dress up and go pet a sheep?


And I’m thankful for the friends that I’ve made while working. I’ll just name 2 here but there are so many others.

meandjacey Jacey Boggs! Fantastic teacher, wonderful writer and owner of this magazine that I love so much.



And Jillian Moreno who is also an extraordinary teacher, the kind of writer that makes you laugh and learn at the same time and a person who always is pushing me to be better.

Aren’t they pretty?

Ask me about all the other ones too. I could go on and on. But right now I need to go eat some pie.