Concrete shots and free fiber!

It was slow coming to you international folks, I know, but I think just about everyone (minus a few South American subscribers) has their Winter issue of PLY. What did you think? I have to tell you the truth, this one took the most for me to love but it wasn’t the content or articles or samples, it was our photoshoot venue!

We learn as we go, as usual, and what we learned this time was that grand, wide-sweeping locations aren’t for us. They just don’t work as well as the itty bitty gritty shots full of textures and detail. We shot at the gorgeous Longview Mansion in Lee’s Summit, MO. And just like the website implies by it’s own lovely photography — your bride will look stunning as she glides down the grand staircase beneath the crystal chandelier; your fish and/or chicken plated dinners will look delectable as your guest consume them along side copious amounts of champagne from the champagne fountain that’s placed under the twinkling stars; and never will you and your spouse feel so majestic and magical as when you walk down the column-lined promenade punctuated with extravagantly shaped shrubbery. The location was all of that and more.

However, when you’re attempting to capture the tiny felted corner of a Wendsleydale swatch, you tend to shoot a little closer. Heck, you tend to shoot a lot closer. With our specific photo needs, it’s hard to capture the grand staircase, the champagne fountain tower, the topiary shrub that’s skillfully pruned to look like an actual tree, and the imposing stone columns. In fact, when we what you see is mostly the wood on the staircase, a stump of the shrub, and the concrete at the base of the columns.

Bernadette and I worried and woe-ed. We did. We actually woe-ed. It’s a thing.
Woe: a feeling of great sorrow or distress.
to woe: to slightly sway back and forth while consumed with a feeling of great sorrow or distress.
Woe-ed: to do all the stuff I just said but, you know, yesterday, last week, in the past.

We woe-ed. We woe-ed all the while we waited for the issue to go through layout, then to go to print, then to make it through the USPS-mystery-system. And then we got it, cracked it open, and we thought and then texted each other “oh, that’s a pretty good issue.” I mean, it’s no “ruins of a castle” but in the end, it looked cohesive and it told the story it was supposed to tell.

So what do you think of the issue? And I don’t mean the photography in particular (Bernadette always does such a good job with what I give her, right? and she did rock those concrete shots!) but the issue in general. I love hearing and reading what spinners think of each issue! Plus, it helps people on the fence decide if they should give us a chance. So, if you’d be so kind, head over here and leave a review for the Singles issue of PLY!

On feb 15th I’ll pick one reviewer at random (I totally promise it’ll be random) and send him or her some of the fiber we used in the issue. That’s right, you’ll get 4 ounces of the same fiber used to spin and knit the Ondulant sraft by Carol Feller. The fiber is dyed by the wonderful June Pryce Fiber Arts and it’s the same light to dark gradient you see above. You’ll also get 2 Crosspatch Creations fiber blended batts. This is the same fiber Sue Tye and Jill Sanders used in their amazing Saori Tunic. You want this fiber, right? It also just so happens that it all goes together beautifully! Go, leave a review on the issue page (not here) tell us what you think! It makes us smile, keeps us striving to get better, and helps us keep on keeping on!

Castles and Graffiti


By now most of you have received the Autumn 2015 Texture issue of PLY Magazine. This is my favorite issue so far! It is full of unique and inspiring techniques and projects, but I’m here to tell you more about the fantastic location for the shoot and one of the photos in the issue.

The issue was shot in Kansas City’s historic Workhouse Castle. The castle was built in 1897, and was originally designed as a city jail where petty offenders could work off their debt. The women repaid their debts by sewing prison uniforms, and the men labored for the city’s public works department. The prisoners mined limestone onsite and with it constructed the castle walls. The castle also housed the city’s poor and homeless during the cold winter months. Two decades later the castle became a city office building, and in the 1970s it was closed and abandoned. Without maintenance it fell into disrepair, and was subjected to such damage and vandalism over time that it became filled with tons of rubble and trash and was dangerous to enter.

In 2014 an amazing couple chose to put their wedding fund back into the community. Many volunteers cleaned up the castle (62 tons of trash!) and the couple (Daniel & Ebony) used the space as their wedding venue. You can read more about the transformation and continuing efforts here. We knew nothing about the restoration project when we chose the castle as our location, so we were thrilled to see the improvements. Meeting Daniel and hearing the story made it even MORE awesome.

Jacey’s favorite photo in this issue is the image on the back cover. I wish I knew the graffiti artist so we could give credit. The photo was captured through a tiny hole in an interior castle wall, through which the graffiti was perfectly framed. You can see the little hole in the wall in the following photo.


I’m so glad my curiosity led me to drag my stepstool to the wall so I could peek through the hole. When we saw the final shot, we knew it was a perfect fit for the texture issue. We have had a few requests for prints of the photo; we’re working on that and we’ll let you know when they’re available.


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




How to Shoot a Magazine, Prelude



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

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

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