Get to know the PLY team: Beth Vincelette

Beth provides PLY’s customer service, so when you write to the contact us email address or call the PLY phone number, Beth is who you’ll reach!

Tell us a little bit about yourself, what fiber craft(s) you do, and how you got started in the fiber world.

Knitting is my “main” fiber art, but I also love quilting, spinning (obviously), needlepoint, and sewing. I also dabble in weaving. Oh, and photography. And drawing and watercolor painting have recently been added in to the mix. It all got started in the Girl Scouts when I earned the Knitting badge. Other than that, I was a pretty terrible scout! I’m not one to blindly follow along with whatever the rest of the crowd is doing, so that was a mismatch from the get-go.

Tell us about how you got started with your role at PLY and what you do for PLY.

My best friend told me about the opening at PLY after she saw it on Facebook, and I still don’t know why she didn’t keep it for herself! She would have been an excellent choice. She’s also the one I blame for getting me into spinning because she raises Finns and I think she just wanted to off-load some of her fleeces! Anyway, I sent in a totally non-traditional email as an application, didn’t include a resumé, and was completely shocked when I made the cut to have an online interview with Jacey, and even more so when she offered me the job!

This photo is from a
class with Franklin Habit on photographing your knitting. The man is genius personified, I tell you; take any class with him that you can!

And I must say that I absolutely love this job! I have had so many customer service and retail jobs where the clients were just so consistently unpleasant, but that has not been the case at all with PLY! Most of my work comes in by email, but I absolutely love it when our readers call. One customer even called from Australia! There are a few readers who keep in touch with an email every now and then, and it absolutely makes my day to know that someone on the other side of the country is thinking about me when we have never met face-to-face. What an honor!

What do you do with your free time?

Free time? Hah! What free time? Have you seen the list of hobbies? My beloved and I also moved to a new home at the end of May. It had been empty for some time and needs a lot of work, so that is currently taking up a bunch of our time. It has been a lot of fun putting our creative energy into faux painting techniques, using stencils for wall decorations, and choosing paint colors. He is orignally from South Korea, so finding a mutually-pleasing aesthetic is proving to be a challenge: he favors a more Zen approach, while I am left drooling over all the super colorful renovations Lucy Neatby has been posting on Instagram!

What else would you like to share about yourself?

We live in Conneticut with my two boys and two frisky kitties (Jacey and I are cat twins!). I fully intend to milk the “my house is a mess because we’re not done unpacking” excuse to avoid housework as long as possible. And I love the fact that I can do my job in pajamas and nobody knows the difference.

I used to be a bad ass. This was the test for my Third Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo. Before I hit them, those bricks were on fire. The man on the left, in the two-tone uniform, is my teacher and my beloved. I met him in class.

Am I a Consistent Spinner and Other Lies I Tell Myself

Consistency is tough. It has been something I have strived for in so many aspects of my life, my spinning being only one small example. As PLY’s customer service representative, I try so hard to provide a consistently high level of assistance to all of our wonderful readers. I try to make my spaghetti sauce taste pretty much the same every time I make it. But my yarn? Oh. My. That is another story.

I try, I really do. Thankfully, being a world-class spinner was not a job requirement. (Thank you, Jacey!) Please bear in mind that I have ADHD, and sometimes I forget to take my meds. For those of you who don’t know what it’s like to live with this type of brain, I refer you to the movie Up. If “Squirrel!” means anything to you, now you get it. If you don’t know the movie, it’s fabulous on so many levels, so you should watch it. Really. Without meds, I see a lot of squirrels on an hourly basis.

For example, I may start out with the intention of spinning a lovely laceweight in an amazing blue fiber that’s a blend of silk and Merino and other lovelies, and I’m fine until “Squirrel!” And my fully focused, mostly even worsted yarn becomes a mostly even-ish woolen yarn a few (hah! several!!) less WPI than what I started with. This is the sad but true story of my spinning life. I console myself by saying that nobody will ever notice once the shawl is knitted up after the singles have been plied. I mean, plying hides a multitude of sins, doesn’t it?

I consistently tell myself that if I concentrate really, really hard, I can make sure the rest of the spinning is 100% worsted so the plying will make up for my encounters with grey rodents. That my whimsy merely shows the “hand” in handmade. Maybe I tell myself that only expert eyes will examine my knitting that closely, and if they do, maybe they need to relax a bit and back off.

At the end of the day, the one consistent thing about my spinning is that I try. Sometimes I actually succeed. For very brief periods of time. The trick is to not let that stop you. You just have to find the “convincing arguments” (some would say “lies”; po-tay-to, po-tah-to) that keep you going. Find them. Use them. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. My personal motto is “It will be fine.” The “it” changes all the time. Sometimes it’s my spinning, sometimes the spaghetti sauce. Either way, I end up with something worth the effort.

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.

October Vlog with Jacey and Jillian

On October 18, Jacey Faulkner and Jillian Moreno kicked off the PLY vlog with a live virtual chat with spinners from around the world. If you missed the vlog (or just want to hear it again), you can catch up with it here. Listen as Jacey and Jillian each share their favorite parts of the recent Basics issue. Watch with glee as Jacey shares one of the mystery boxes she receives from Judith MacKenzie, filled with surprises for each issue. Need a visual on joins for both worsted and woolen spinning? Jacey shows you how she does each. Jillian shares the wonderful fiber and tools from indie artists featured in the Basics issue. You’ll also get a sneak peek at the upcoming Winter issue on Warmth and learn some behind the scenes secrets of PLY. Don’t miss the great Q&A as they answer questions from spinners like you! (And watch for announcements for future live vlogs from PLY.)

Links mentioned in the video:

Ply Basics

A Spinner’s Dozen

Rachel Smith Wool n’ Spinning

Katie Weston – Hilltop cloud



Cat and Sparrow


Akerworks Bobbins

Into the Whirled

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.

Reader Feature: Leslie Ann Bestor

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started spinning.

Basically, I tricked myself into learning to spin. My first fiber love was knitting, and I followed that bliss and focused on learning, making, and teaching for years. Then I picked up weaving, which was like coming home to me, and I became devoted to learning and exploring it deeply. I resisted the siren’s call of spinning for a long time, convinced it would take away from my weaving and add a second learning curve when I really just wanted a singular focus on my weaving.

And then Spinzilla happened. I had just become Weaving Manager at WEBS yarn store and ignored the call for a team captain until it became apparent the spinners were too busy to take it on. I didn’t spin, but I recognize a fun competition when I see it and volunteered, thinking my organizing and cheerleading skills could lead the day. Then, as the event came closer, I realized it would feel weird to be exhorting my teammates to “spin more!” and “faster!” when I wasn’t adding to the team total. So a weaving guildmate taught me to spin, and I made lumpy yarn with much encouragement from my teammates and fell in love both with spinning and the community of spinners.

Of course, spinning lives up to my worst fears: it competes with weaving for my time and money, adds another type of fiber stash to an already packed house, needs more tools – and it soothes my soul and, ironically, has opened a whole new style of weaving to me.

Do you have a favorite type of yarn to spin?

I have a fondness for the sheepy things; I love the sproing and bounce. But then I took a silk spinning workshop last August (2019) and became entranced. I declared 2020 to be the Year of Silk and decided to focus on learning and experimenting and trying new things with silks and silk blends. It feels so indulgent and luxurious to work with, yet it is strong and has that wonderfully long staple.

What do you like to make with your handspun yarn?

For a long time I was definitely a process spinner – my joy was in the time spinning and the finished yarn was an afterthought waiting for a suitable project to show up. In the past couple of years, I’ve come into making intentional yarn, creating the yarn I envision for a project, usually weaving. I’ve been weaving a series of wide scarves on my rigid heddle loom, mixing my handspun with a commercial weaving yarn to create warp-dominant pieces that showcase the handspun. This has been a lot of fun, especially with the silks and silk blends.

My other favorite reason to spin is for gift giving. Many of my friends and family create things from yarn, and I love to surprise them with something special – a luxe blend or amazing colorway. And then I get to indulge myself, too, in the spinning process.

How long have you been reading PLY?

Since I started spinning in 2014. Spinning friends who mentored me raved about it, and I could see why. I fell in love with the simple beauty, the eye candy, and as I learned to spin, I learned more and more from the articles. I have many issues in my bookcase, they are my reference library and resource guides, and a couple that I bought digitally (the Silk issue is pretty much open on my laptop all the time these days).

What do you look forward to most when you get an issue?

An afternoon/evening of relaxation, inspiration, and education! I get myself a beverage and settle into a cozy corner to pore through it. Admire the front cover and see what Jacey has to say, scan the contents and see if anything jumps out, and then begin a long perusal. Sometimes it’s a brief once-through with an eye to coming back to certain things. Other times, when I have the time, I devour the articles as I go. After it lolls around the house for a few weeks, it goes on the shelf with the others, ready to refer to for guidance or inspiration. They feel pretty timeless to me.

Tell us about a project you worked on that was inspired by an article, project, or issue of PLY.

Since I have been raving about silk, you can guess that my favorite issue of PLY is the Silk one. Once I took the silk spinning class, I bought the issue digitally and consumed it, rereading articles several times. I wanted to learn more about different kinds of silk, and 2 of the articles got my interest. The first was an experiment with multiple types of silk comparing luster and direction of spin/ply which seemed like a great way to try the different types of silk. The second was a project to make what the author called a deconstructed cowl. It was colorful and playful and involved an assortment of fiber preps, so here was another great way to learn about the varieties of silk. When I declared 2020 the Year of Silk, I got ready for it by seeking out and buying all the soft and shiny bits for these 2 projects.

When the pandemic came along I thought spinning would be my salvation, relaxing and calming me as usual. But when I tried my default yarn, the mindless kind I thought would be soothing with its regularity, my mind just raced with anxious thoughts. I realized I needed something to help me focus my mind, which learning some new will do, but I didn’t want to add stress; I needed something fun. Immediately I thought of the deconstructed cowl, and here is how it went:

I had some of the supplies already and then bought the rest to go (nominally) colorwise with them. I looked for the brightest, most cheerful colors I could find. I filled my basket with bombyx brick, hand painted bombyx combed top, hankies, cocoons, sari waste, and more random bombyx top. I set the basket next to me while I was spinning the single and chose randomly what to spin next.

This part of the project was so delightful! I put no pressure on myself to make perfect yarn, and since the project was a bit wacky, it was all going to look crazy anyway. At the same time, I was focused on learning to work with the fibers, so my mind was occupied with what was in my hands rather than what was in the world. This spinning was definitely my happy place: the colors were fun, I got to keep changing it up, there was no wrong way, and – the shiny!

I spun the top and the brick over the fold with a short forward draw and the sari silk with a short forward draw; the hankies I drafted out and just added twist at the wheel (Lendrum double treadle with jumbo plyer).

The second step involved coiling the single around a core (I used 10/2 cotton, a weaving yarn). I had never done coils before and certainly never saw myself spinning an art yarn (how did I get here?), but the pictures in the article were so clear and precise that it was easy to pick up. To be honest, I’m not sure I got it right, but the end result works; it looks like success to me. The coiling was fun, too, kind of like holding the reins on a cantering horse. Of course, that would be a carousel horse because it was so brightly colored, and then there were these cocoons dangling like little bobbles! I posted pictures to my spinning group, and a friend dubbed it Seuss-like, a comparison I love.

I did change things up when I had a break in my coiled yarn which allowed me to do the plying from 2 separate bobbins rather than trying to wind a plying ball, which sounded tricky. Of course the bobbins weren’t even, but I realized the leftover coiled yarn makes a perfect necklace.

The last step was to crochet this twisted and plied colorful cord. I wound the plied yarn onto my swift and worked from the swift to crochet what I now call the Seussian Silk Garland. It is heavy and shiny and has these dangly colorful cocoons. I wish I were living in my parents’ house with their big bay window because that would be the perfect place to hang this garland, as a swag that would sparkle and shine in the sun. For now, I have my garland draped around the walls of my bedroom, very renaissance in a Seussian way. It will be my goofy garland of the pandemic, a symbol of joy and learning shining through.

Epilogue: I have started my second PLY pandemic project, the study of spin/ply twist direction on luster. I am proceeding slowly, as I apparently need breaks for wild color, but I’m learning a lot as I work through the different varieties of silk.

Leslie Ann Bestor can be found on Ravlery as carpeyarnum and Instagram @leslieannbestor.

If you’d like to participate in an upcoming reader feature, fill out the reader feature form and Karen will contact 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.

My Garden Coat

words and photos by Sally Hands

As a committed spindle spinner for over 10 years, I thought the time had come to spin a really big project.

I usually use local fleece as I’m lucky enough to live in Wales where we have more sheep than people. I’m also a big fan of the Fibreshed movement and of saving the planet. I won’t use fibre with air miles on it; I buy local and grow my own dyes – woad and madder for blue and brick red and onion skins from the kitchen for yellow.

A couple of summers ago, I came back from a nearby farm (Cwmchwefru Wool) with a big Corriedale/ Shetland fleece, soaked it overnight, washed it in the morning with dish soap in very hot water, and then spun it in the machine in sections inside a pillowcase.

Over a period of weeks, I dyed it with the plant dyes from the garden. I had to source some woad from a supplier as I didn’t have enough fresh stuff. I ended up with a big pile of multicoloured fluff in different shades. The dyeing didn’t have to be consistent since I was going to blend and mix it.

It’s nice sometimes to make projects with minimal equipment in a small space. With a spindle, rigid heddle loom, and something to card or comb with, this was one of those projects. Even a relative beginner could make this, and if you weren’t a confident spindle spinner when you started, you would be when you finished! For a beginner, I’d recommend you prepare a smooth lump-free length of fibre; I comb mine and then blend it a bit, either by using a blending board or just by breaking off small pieces of coloured fluff and spinning them randomly. And it helps to pre-draft.

My favourite spindle is a Turkish spindle from Ian Tait at IST Craft on the Isle of Wight, and this spindle was great for all the singles. To make a 2 ply, I put 2 cops into 2 old teapots and plied from the spouts. This puts a useful tension on the yarn as you ply. I plied on the heavy low-whorl spindle I learned to spin on. I was using the same yarn for warp and weft and spun both the same way, but I did put a bit of extra twist in. You don’t want your yarn fraying in the beater as it’s woven. The singles were a lively multicoloured thread in blues, reds, and yellows, and I plied randomly.

This way of spinning is slow. With the Turkish spindle I have to watch my hands for the over-two under-one wind on. It could be quicker to use a light high whorl spindle with a faster spin and an easier wind on where you don’t have to look at your hands. But my Turkish spindle is a favourite, and this was a big project; I’d be spinning a little bit every day for nearly a year, so I used the spindle I loved. I work as an artist and musician and have come to realise it’s the process that is a joy more than the finished piece.

I almost always spin my default yarn. It’s quite fine: the singles are 32 WPI, and the 2 ply is 18 WPI. I spin a small cop as twirling a heavy spindle hurts due to an old shoulder injury. My 2-ply skein weighed about 32 grams when it was washed and measured around 90 yards. I looked at the first skein in these colours and thought it looked lovely. Only another 25 skeins to go!

When the pile of skeins grew to about 20, I just had to wind the warp. I couldn’t wait to see the colour effect. I wound a warp on the rigid heddle loom that was 28 inches wide. Since I was going to weave 120 inches, I added on top of that about 18 inches to the warp for waste. The warp in the random spun yarn looked yummy!

I quickly went on to spin the rest of the yarn and wove the weft to 120 inches. After cutting the fabric off the loom and admiring it, I zig-zagged with the sewing machine across the middle halfway up and cut across, giving me 2 rectangles measuring 28 inches x 60 inches. After being washed, it was a little smaller. I pressed it damp after again spinning it in the washing machine in a pillowcase to protect it and stitched it by hand into a loose cocoon coat.

I’ve been so pleased with this simple coat. I’ve been asked where I bought it, and I’ve worn it to the opera. My yarn wove nicely in a 10-dent reed, but you can spin the yarn to any thickness; just warp it in a fatter reed if it’s thicker. I’ve seen loads of cocoon jackets and coats on Pinterest this year, and if you want to be environmentally friendly you can wear it over basic leggings and a t-shirt and look dressed up. You don’t have to shop for new clothes.

I’m considering my next big project and may buy black, fawn, and grey fleece from the farm and make a multicoloured yarn in natural sheep shades next time. Just don’t worry about quick projects; enjoy the spinning. It’s the process that satisfies the soul!

Sally Hands is an artist and musician working in  Wales. She spends all day making and teaching art and music; at night  she has acquired the bad habit of spindle  spinning lying across an armchair with her feet in her husband’s lap demanding a foot massage. You can find her @sallyhands on Instagram.

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.

Spring 2021 ads on sale

Ads are officially on sale for the next issue on Double coated and primitive (Spring 2021).

We are dedicated to keeping this magazine content heavy and ad light (ads are only 12–15% of our content). Hopefully you’ve noticed this, and hopefully you’ve noticed the ads. We love our advertisers – without them, we couldn’t bring you this magazine. So if you’ve got a spinning-related business, consider advertising! We’ve got a limited number of spaces available at a variety of sizes/aspects and affordable prices.

Art due December 1, with the issue shipped March 10, 2021.

Check out all the details about ads here.

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.

Book Review: Fleegle Spins Supported by Susan Glinert Stevens

reviewed by Sukrita Mahon

Perhaps because of the rise of the internet and social media, spinning is enjoying a revival – possibly its second one in the post-industrial era, the first having taken place in the 1960s–70s or so. In a lot of ways, though, it remains a niche interest, with quirks that even those within the community struggle to explain. One such quirk is demonstrated in the highly unusual format of this “book”: it’s a USB drive shipped manually, containing an interactive PDF and videos. I’m just as baffled as you probably are. Why not make the files available for download?

This “book” was published in 2012, and I wonder if this was an attempt on the author’s part to bypass both conventional publishing routes as well as the personal expense of self-publishing. I do wish they had an alternative method of distribution and still hold out hope of an upgrade one day.

The buy-the-USB format means the book is highly inconvenient and expensive to purchase outside the U.S. or Americas. I had purchased my copy in Australia through the spindle maker Malcolm Fielding, as part of a “learn to spin on supported spindles” set. This offering is no longer available since the maker has retired and passed on the business to their successor. If I had to purchase it from the U.S. today, the price combined with shipping would be a serious deterrent.

That said, if you can get over the feeling of confusion of buying a “USB book,” the material it contains is excellent. Trying to learn support spindle spinning can be a very frustrating experience. There seems to be almost no literature on the subject (barring a few magazine issues), videos online feel incomplete and lacking enough description, and local guilds may or may not have the required knowledge. Fleegle, aka Susan, provides all the technical information for the beginner to start spinning supported.

There are many reasons to learn support spindle spinning: it’s the only way I find it possible to spin cotton, for instance. It can be a much more accessible way of learning to spin long draw, as it feels a lot more intuitive than on a wheel. I often hear that support spinning may be more comfortable for long stretches of time compared to using a drop spindle, but I’m awkward enough that either can result in pinched nerves. For those who prefer spinning seated, or who have mobility issues, it may be worth looking into as an option.

The book contains an interactive PDF and a printable PDF, along with 25-odd videos. It is photo-heavy and humorously written, briefly referencing the Ravelry forums, where the idea for the book originated – Fleegle is the author’s Ravelry name. This may or may not be appealing to readers, depending on how they relate to the “forum era” of the internet. I have to admit that there’s a portion about a hairy frog that I’m still puzzled about but don’t care enough to try to understand.

The section on fiber is very extensive: it covers dog and cat hair, possum, cow and horse hair, deer hair, pig fur… the list is endless and fascinating. I learned a lot from it, despite the fact that almost every spinning book has a fiber chapter. The author takes full advantage of the fact that we have unprecedented access to novel fibers today, and the idea that we are only limited by our imaginations is very freeing. The experimental portions, such as spinning straw, are interspersed with practical information, such as how to handle various preparations of silk.

For those looking to use plant-based fibers, there is a section on flax, ramie, nettle, milkweed, fireweed, pineapple, and even kozo or mulberry paper. The author correctly calls out the polluting processing methods of increasingly popular fibers, such as bamboo, soy, banana, and milk, that are promoted as plant-based despite being unsustainable. There is even a section on spinning with feathers.

Fleegle goes on to explore color and working with different fiber preparations for support spindles: from processing and working with raw fleece to using dyed tops and blended batts. It is quite in-depth but still interesting for intermediate-level spinners. The ever-relevant question of how to avoid colors blending into “mud” as they are spun is addressed. There are tutorials on making fauxlags and pseudo-rolags, which are very useful for long draw.

There’s a chapter called Support Spindles Around the World, which explores the various spindle styles and traditions that exist worldwide. The diversity in form and spinning style in each tradition is very intriguing. This chapter ends with a portion on bead style spindles, which I have yet to use. However, there is an instructional chapter on how to make your own bead spindle, with photographs. The book mentions another spindle I have yet to see in the wild – a lap spindle with built-in support. These are available online from makers such as Spindolyn.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to decide on a spindle to buy, although it gets easier with practice. The section on the anatomy of a support spindle and what to look for is extremely useful. Many of their favorite makers are listed here, which is helpful despite the fact that such a list could never be conclusive. The author has gone above and beyond in giving us readers all the information we may need: even to the extent of showing step-by-step photos of how support spindles are made.

The spinning how-tos are meticulously presented, with every technique both written out and demonstrated on video. Special care is taken to show both left- and right-handed technique. Among the tutorials are park and draft, long draw, and semi-continuous spinning. Fleegle spins with an ease that is so graceful and enviable; it makes you want to be that good, too. They go on to explain how to make a cop, whether to choose to make a temporary cop or a permanent one, and what the difference is. Despite the detail, the reader is encouraged to try everything and break the rules.

Plying on a support spindle is examined in some depth, even though it’s a little impractical. We are walked through troubleshooting steps while winding off onto plying balls, which is much appreciated. In case you were looking for a real challenge, there is a how-to on chain plying on a support spindle. Personally, I don’t think I’m going to try that anytime soon, but it’s good to know it’s possible.

The book ends with a section on spinning bowls, which is amusing since the novice support spinner may not yet know that bowl collecting is about to be a significant part of their new interest.

All in all, Fleegle Spins Supported is a fantastic resource for the beginning support spindler, particularly one who feels disheartened with most available tutorials. It’s just a shame about the USB format.

Rating: 3.5/5

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.

Call for Proposals: Winter 2021 issue on Head and Hands

The end of the year in the Northern hemisphere means winter and lots of accessories to keep warm. Projects that keep your head and hands warm are some of the most satisfying projects to spin. They are reasonably sized, and the sky is the limit as far as the yarn you spin.

What are your favorite yarns for hats, mittens, and gloves to keep you cozy from the first snap of cool through seriously cold and why? How do you spin a durable yarn for mittens or gloves that will last a season or more of dog walking in the cold mornings? Do you ski or sled? What fibers, yarns, and garments deal best with cold and wet?

Head, hands, and heart, what do you keep in mind when spinning and knitting to keep your family warm? Show us how you recreate historic mittens or gloves. Do you have any traditional knitting in your family tree? Tell us the story.

Small projects are a great way to sample brand-new-to-you yarns; tell us how you do it. Or maybe you use a small project like a hat as the sample and swatch for a bigger project? Share your process! Small accessories are wonderful for special yarns, yarns that might be too fragile (or expensive) for a whole sweater. What is the most luxurious yarn you would make a hat out of?

Not all hats, mitts, and gloves are about keeping warm; there are plenty of times you wear them for style – they are great for showing off yarns. What yarns are great to show off color, color, color? Have you even knit gloves in a wild color combo that you’d never use anywhere else? What is the best yarn structure for different types of colorwork? Fair Isle, intarsia, multi-color brioche, or slip stitch?

Quick but never boring, what’s your favorite yarn for heads and hands? Accessories beg to be embellished; how do you spin to embroider on your handspun projects?

Submit your ideas here

Proposals of articles and projects are due by December 1, 2020. We’ll get back to you in January, and final pieces are due June 1, 2021.

How to Choose a Second Spindle

words and photos by Amelia Garripoli

Great! You got your hands on a starter spindle and have been impressing friends with your new-found skills. But you know there’s more. You see lots of other spindles online and among your spindle-spinning friends. How do you choose what to get next?


For me, the answer was easy – my son, a toddler at the time, sat on my first spindle, a homemade CD spindle. So I went to the only local fiber store at the time and bought the only spindle they offered, a top-whorl Mongold spindle. I got lucky as the Mongold was one of the best spindles available at the time. I didn’t mind the price as I was adoring this new skill and knew I would be doing it a lot. And it was worth it!

So, one approach to take is to choose an “upgrade” from your starter spindle, toddler-damaged or not. Given you have put in time on that spindle already, the most straightforward upgrade is a well-made spindle of the same type so you can continue applying the skills you are developing.

Try a different type

But perhaps you are more adventurous than that; if so, you might want to choose a different type of spindle as your second spindle. If you started with a top-whorl, perhaps try a Turkish spindle. If you started with a tahkli, perhaps try a Navajo spindle. If you started with a bottom-whorl, perhaps try a Tibetan spindle. You will find you have a lot more to learn, as each type of spindle has its own techniques to master. But having 2 different types of spindles also means you can put one down when you get overwhelmed by it and try the other.

My third spindle helped me – after the Mongold, I got a Navajo spindle. Having the chance to put one down and try the other, I could apply skills common to all spindles such as drafting, while moving between suspended and supported spindle skill development. This let me persevere. When the Navajo spindle frustrated me, I would return to the Mongold spindle.

Match your skills

Your current skills may also be pointing you to a second spindle. If you are spinning super-fine and fighting your spindle to do so, try a featherweight – Bosworth makes excellent ones, or look for an Ahka spindle, which are typically also light. Or if you are loving chunky yarn, you may want to try a Navajo spindle or a Portuguese spindle. These supported spindles are good for spinning thicker yarns, as are heavier suspended spindles. Focus your choice to focus your spinning, choosing the spindle appropriate for the yarn you want to spin.

Choose lightweight spindles for finer yarns, heavier spindles for thicker yarns. Or look to the historical spindle used for the yarn you want to produce – spinning is such an ancient skill that historically appropriate spindles often are the best tool for the job.

Watch a friend

A fourth way to make the choice is to see what your spindle-spinning friends spin. Find out what spindle type they like, and get one of those. Your friend may happily help you learn its techniques and provide you with ample demonstrations of how to spin on it. In fact, learning by mimicking those who already have the skills is a time-tested way of developing spinning skills.

I have a friend whose favorite spindle is the tahkli. The tahkli is not a common beginner spindle, but she gravitated toward it due to her love of cotton. Her demonstrations, calm technique, and results convinced me I could master this spindle’s needs and kept me going when I struggled to become a supported spindle spinner.

Make one spindle work for you

I have run across people who have only one spindle and do not desire to own more. I applaud their minimalism, and with persistence you can make one basic spindle spin a wide variety of yarn, despite everything written to encourage you to own more than one spindle, including this article! That one spindle could be a simple homemade spindle; it could be a suspended spindle or a supported spindle. My go-to “solitary” spindle would be a Turkish spindle just under an ounce with a long enough stem below the arms that I could use it supported or suspended. This would let me spin fine spindles, and it would also spin thicker yarns and ply, albeit a little slowly at first until the weight of the yarn on it helped speed it up. 

Now, these 4 sensible options – upgrade, adventure, focus, or friend – may all fly out the window if you get the opportunity to go to a wool festival vendor hall, in person or virtually. If you see a spindle that appeals to you, it may become your second spindle. Like choosing fiber that appeals to you, having a tool you like will help you persist as you learn.

Happy spindling!

Amelia Read Garripoli spins, weaves, and dyes near her parents in Colorado, having recently relocated her stash, spindles, and lots more from Washington. She’s spinning and weaving her way through the pandemic at home but can’t wait to attend and teach at Colorado guilds and festivals!

The tahklis and a leather strip to spin them on. With the strip on my leg, I can spin in a small space.

I was interested to try out some of the beads I have; the conic ones are African and the round one is South American – or so I was told at the point of purchase. The one on the double-pointed knitting needle spun the best, nicely balanced. A little fimo bowl travels with these in a pencil case for use while spinning. I still like my tahklis better but was pleased with the bead that spun well.

Ahkas! These are my favorite support spindle, though you wouldn’t know that from their nakedness.

Spindles can be special just because someone cared; the red ladybug style was made by my BFF Debbie, and the black polka-dotted one was made by my daughter Natalie when Debbie gifted her the paints and parts. They are sweet spinners, at just about an ounce in weight, and the dots on the shaft give them a nice grippability for flicking. Even toy wheel spindles rock!


A flight of spindles! Lovely Turkish/cross-arm spindles, along with a metal bowl and dimpled wooden saucer to try out support spindling. As you can tell, I got mesmerized winding the mandala on the Snyder weighted-arm spindle.

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.

Antique Wheel Resources

gathered by Danielle Bombard

Danielle’s article on Antique Wheels is in the Basics (Autumn 2020) issue of PLY. She’s collected these resources as a companion piece to her article.

It can be very confusing and daunting when starting with antiques, such as where to find the maintenance kit items, parts, and even knowledgeable people. This is my top list of references and supplies to help you amass a herd and to maintain it.


A Pictorial Guide to American Spinning Wheels by David A. Pennington and Michael B. Taylor (ISBN-13: 978-0915836017)
This book is essential to finding the history, missing parts, and the dating your wheel and can help you figure out how to price your antiques for sale. Although I won’t be parting with my wheels anytime soon, it is great to know the value of them.

Spinning Wheels and Accessories (Schiffer Book for Collectors) by Michael B Taylor and David A. Pennington (ISBN-13: 978-0764319730)

This is the book that helped me find a definitive answer to the mystery of my wheels. It has colored pictures and pricing of wheels. However, keep in mind that the prices listed are at least 10 years of age.

The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning: Being A Compendium of Information, Advice, and Opinions On the Noble Art & Craft by Alden Amos (ISBN-13: 978-1883010881)
While this book has no identifications of older wheels, it does provide key terms and the history of the spinning wheel.


Forums are great for quick and more in-depth information. (I also list my wheels in the handspun section of Ravelry. It is easier to keep track of parts and when they were serviced by Skip. Plus, I am always perpetually losing paperwork in regards to my fiber arts.) These forums are the first places to start. 

Antique Spinning Wheels

This Ravelry group is great for initial identification and for even purchasing old wheels on the Wheel Railroad. This is where I was able to identify my J.Jacobs wheel and to find out about some missing parts. 

Spindle Wheels

This Ravelry group strictly deals with Great Walking Wheels, pendulum wheels, and wheels with spindles on them.

CPW Lovers

The Ravlery CPW Lovers strictly deals with Canadian Production Wheels. The hallmarks of a CPW are metal treadles, a metal sliding tensioner, and sometimes a metal footman. The wheels are sometimes marked with a maker’s mark. Most CPWs come from the late 1800s to early 1900s.

The Spinning Wheel Sleuth

Great all around information on wheels and, in particular, antiques. They also cover antique looms. It is worth purchasing a subscription.

Antique Spinning Wheels, Looms and Fiber Equipment

This Facebook group is the largest and most knowledgeable group. You will get answers within 8 hours. Some members of this group do Wheel Railroad transporting. 


I’m sure there are more wheelwrights out there, but these are the 2 I know of. Skip Watt of Watt Heritage Fiber Tools is my go-to guy because he is local and is good at what he does. Note: Most antique wheels are not recommended for shipping via postal systems of any kind. More than heartache will come to you if shipping. I have seen pictures of nearly 300-year-old wheels in splinters because of careless shipping, no matter how well packaged they were.

Watt Heritage Fiber Tools, Greenville, NY. Once on this website you will need to click on Products and then scroll down to the Fiber Tools section (note: website automatically plays music upon visit). Skip also has a Facebook page.

Bobbin Boy, North Carolina


I have a wicker basket full of my supplies for keeping my wheels going. It’s helpful to keep extra parts nearby since help may not be anywhere close to hand.

Howard’s Feed and Wax

Howard’s Feed and Wax is my go to for reconditioning old wood and making it glow like new. I can find this at True Value or at Lowe’s for under 10 dollars in the paint department. 

Cloth Baby Diapers
These make fantastic rags for cleaning. The featured cloth diaper was my own as a baby, and my parents and I reused them for all the wood polishing we have.

Tandy Leather Company

Tandy Leather is great for those bearings and other leather parts. Depending on where you live, you might also look for local Amish makers that have leather goods and are willing to work with you.

Cotton Kitchen or Butcher’s Twine

Good old cotton kitchen twine on the cone has saved me on more than one occasion. I try to precut a few drive bands and put them into a kit if I go traveling. I even keep a few drive bands in my car just in case I pull over to stop at an antique store for that special wheel to try out. I can find butcher’s twine at my local kitchen/restaurant supply store. There are a variety of weights of twine. For the Saxony and table styled wheels, the thinnest ones possible without being thread are best, in my opinion.

Hoppe’s Gun Oil or Grease

I use Hoppe’s Gun Oil or Grease as an alternative to regular spinning wheel oil since I live in the middle of nowhere without the benefit of a local yarn shop. My wheelwright approved of the notion. Plus, it is half of the price tag of regular spinning oil. More money for fleeces!

Some people use Danish Oil to seal in the final cleaning.


Beeswax bars are great for waxing down drive bands so they do not slip when in use. You can also melt down the beeswax and use it in a homemade recipe for polishing old wood. Better Bee is a local company to me that has excellent customer service and can answer the most far-out questions.

For the Great Wheels and their maiden bearings

Most of the Great Wheels use corn husks for bearings and to hold the spindle in place. You can pick some up from a Mexican grocery store or even many other grocery stores.

Happy antique shopping, spinning, and finding another deep rabbit hole!

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.