February’s Ask Jacey

This month’s Ask Jacey question comes from Elaine, who asks, “It seems like it’s easy for spinners to spin fine but harder to spin more bulky…any secrets?

Hi there Elaine,

Thanks for asking a question I think half the spinners out there are also asking (because the other half are asking for secrets to spinning fine because spinning bulky is so darned easy for them). What I mean is – you’re not alone.

We all have a spinning spot that’s just easy and comfortable. Our groove. Our default. Our jam. It’s homeostasis, a natural rhythm where nothing special needs to be done to maintain it. I think everything has its own homeostasis. Our bodies have it: it’s the weight our body wants to be and if we want to change that, it takes some work. It’s genetic. Yarn is the same way, I think. We all have a natural spinning style and a natural spinning weight. It’s probably genetic, too (or at least stems from where, when, and from whom we learned to spin). It’s the yarn you spin where you don’t have to count treadles or twists or change your draft or prep. It just is and, boy, does it feel good.

But lots of people want something different than they already have. Often, the road to disappointment is paved with this desire for different. But in yarn, I think it’s perfectly fine and totally achievable! You should be able to spin every single type of yarn you want to spin, and you, Elaine, are in luck because it turns out that I’ve dedicated much of life to helping people get to that point.

Of course, there are all the common tips and tricks you’ve probably heard and that I totally agree with:

  • Use a slow, big pulley (or spindle shaft if you’re on a spindle) so you aren’t putting much twist in the yarn – thinner yarns need more twist and thicker yarns need less. Plus, the more twist you put in your yarn, the thinner it gets as one of the things twist does is bundle yarn down tighter and tighter.
  • Use slower feet and faster hands (or slower twirl and faster hands if you’re on a spindle). This can be tough for spinners. When you first start spinning, you probably had to work pretty hard to introduce your hands to your feet and get the two synced up together. I know I did. The longer you spin, the more difficult it becomes to break this connection. If you speed up your hands (which give the yarn less time to gather twist before it disappears into the orifice), your feet also speed up, which means you’re imparting twist faster than you were and which also means your yarn is relatively the same. So practice treadling and drafting at independent speeds (and yes, I know it’s far harder to do than to say).
  • Strip your fiber out to just a bit bigger than you want your yarn to be. This is something people recommend all the time, and it can totally help, but it can also mess up your fiber prep enough that it does the opposite. Give it a try and see which camp you fall into.

And there are the tips and tricks I totally don’t agree with:

  • Pre-draft your fiber. No. Don’t. That’s the opposite of what you should do for bulky yarn (or almost any yarn, but more on that later). You want more fibers, not fewer!
  • Turn your tension/brake waaaay up. Okay, lemme stop you right there. I disagree with this popular piece of advice. Turning your tension up can create a thicker yarn, it’s true, because the wheel will pull the fiber out of your hands on its own, zipping it into the orifice before you get a chance to thin it out. However, if spinning bulky is something you’re struggling with, you’re probably already a bit on edge, a little nervous, your palms may even be a little, dare I say it, sweaty? The last thing you need is your wheel ripping your fiber from you hands, making you feel that much more like things are out of control and you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t need to feel like that, heck, nobody does! Back up off that tension, friend. Turn it back down to where it just takes the yarn you offer. There are better ways to spin bulky – increase your skill, not your stress!

Outside of that, Elaine, here’s what I think you should do:

Start with a nicely prepared piece of commercial top. It shouldn’t be compacted or felted, stripped or pre-drafted. I know it stinks to practice on good fiber, but if you’re using crummy fiber, you’re not going to get any good out of the practice. Get something in the medium range – such as Corriedale, Shetland, Jacob, not too long or too short. Put your wheel on your biggest pulley (some folks call this a whorl, but Judith MacKenzie told me to call it a pulley, and that’s the hill I’ll die on) and think about treadling slow. Hold your fiber like you do when you spin a worsted style yarn.

Now reach into your fiber supply with your front hand (your wheel hand) to grab the fibers you’re going to draft – but wait, before you do draft, reach into that fiber supply a little deeper and grab a few more fibers. Now when you draft those fibers forward, draft them only about half as far as you normally would. What that means is that your hands will stay closer together than usual. Your yarn should be thicker.

I’m not saying this is the correct drafting length for the fiber you’re using – I’ve got no idea what fiber you’re using – I’m just saying that to teach yourself to spin thicker, don’t pull those little suckers out as far as you normally would. Play with this a bit, changing your draft a bit this way and that, and see what it does to your yarn. Play with how far into your fiber supply you reach to grab fibers and see how your yarn changes. How thick or thin, consistent or lumpy your yarn is, with any given fiber type and preparation, is in part a play of these two things. I promise.

I’ve recorded a video to help further explain the technique.

P.S. If you are having trouble breaking up your hands and feet, try an electric wheel. If you don’t have one, you probably know somebody who does.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Jacey? Fill out the form and maybe your question will be the one Jacey answers next!

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.

Spinners during lockdown

Hiya spinners! We want to hear what you’ve been spinning during this, the strangest of times. If you’re up for sharing, please head over here.

Here are some of the responses we’ve received so far:

“The pandemic allowed me to slow down to embrace and savor the process of spinning, instead of just relying on the end product to bring me joy. Before all the fiber shows canceled, I was so busy working on business stuff and teaching, that I concentrated more on completing a yarn and moving on to the next project. Now it matters less that a yarn is made in a timely manner. I can spin with no deadlines just for the fun of it, getting lost in the process of creating. At first my inner hermit rejoiced at the chance to stay home more. However, as the pandemic drags on, I have been surprised with how much visiting with other spinners is essential to my mental health. Virtual fiber meetups help stave off the feeling of being cut off from the fiber scene. Spinning with friends, even though no one else can see my wheel, helps to bring my brain into order.” ~Sarah H., Keokuk, IA

“During the lockdowns when all my kids were home from school, I was able to seek respite from the wackiness mostly with my spindles, getting away from it all for a minute here or a few minutes there. The past two weeks, though, found me in isolation when I tested positive for Covid-19, which meant 10 days of uninterrupted time for spinning. I feel blessed to have had a mild case, and was able to spin every day. I chose to embark on a huge (for me) spinning project, involving 4 braids of Merino that I intended to spin as 3-ply fingering weight, creating a fade by switching out the plies one at a time as I transitioned from one colorway to the next. I managed to spin around one 40g skein a day. I spun as a wonderfully pleasurable mindfulness practice, and having my hands and feet to come back to again and again made my isolation and period of illness not only tolerable, but enjoyable. I’m so grateful to have spinning in my life!” ~Adi B., Jerusalem, Israel

“I tried spinning opposing ply yarn with Southdown. I space dyed this past summer. Changing up my usual spinning by trying to make the different yarns in Sarah Anderson’s book. First time dyeing – just another fiber related addiction.” ~Lynn M., Denver, CO

“I decided to challenge level 2 of the Master Spinner program from Olds College. I have been working on homework for the program.” ~Gail M., Canada

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.

January Vlog with Jacey and Jillian

On January 24th, Jacey Faulkner and Jillian Moreno hosting the second PLY vlog, with a live virtual chat with spinners from around the world. If you missed it (or want to watch it again), you can catch up with it here. In this vlog, Jacey and Jillian share their favorite parts of the Warmth (Winter 2020) issue and give a sneak peek into the upcoming Double-Coated (Spring 2021) issue. Get behind-the-scenes information about how Jacey decides on the cover images for each issue and her confession that she just couldn’t make a decision on the picture for the Double-Coated issue as there were so many good options (and you get to see those options and which one the live viewers liked best). Great fun abounds as Jillian walks Jacey through setting up and using the Akerworks Super Skeiner (which results in a race as they try to see who can wrap their yarn the fastest). And get to know a little more about PLY’s illustrator, Kayanna Nelson, in an interview with Jillian. Finally, if you’re a PLY print subscriber, you now have digital issues included as part of your subscription; find out how to download your digital issue(s) at the 49:20 mark.

Kayanna Nelson Interview Links

Kayanna’s Instagram @stitchtogetherstudio

Stitch Together Studio

Kayanna’s inspirational Instagram accounts







Kayanna’s favorite books

Dune by Frank Herbert

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jacey’s favorite books

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Ask Jacey

Do you have questions about spinning? Maybe Jacey Boggs Faulkner can help? Anything is possible, after all. We’re starting a new newsletter/blog feature where Jacey will do her best to answer your spinning questions. We’re calling it  Ask Jacey. Wanna ask something? Do it 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: Nini Towok’s Spinning Wheel: Cloth and the Cycle of Life in Kerek, Java

reviewed by Sukrita Mahon

A part of the Fowler Museum’s series on textiles around the world, this book explores the textiles in a small rural community in East Java. The culture and textile tradition in Kerek are extraordinarily vibrant, forming an integral part of this society. Modern-day spinners, weavers, and dyers in the west are likely to find much inspiration in its pages. It doesn’t seem so long ago that we were all cloth-makers – not for pleasure but necessity. The unique imprint of each artisan’s work somehow creates a sense of deeper connection with society, nature, and spirit.

The museum had an accompanying exhibition to this book, and the format is very much the same as an art exhibit, with many pieces of handspun and handwoven textiles featured and explained in detail. Each piece has a cultural context and is worn by certain members of society or used for certain purposes only. They indicate everything from social class, land ownership, age, and marital status to ancestry. Largely made as single lengths of cloth, they are worn by both men and women, but in recent years commercially made clothes have come to dominate the menswear.

Spinning, dyeing, and weaving are all considered mythical and ritual activities, performed mainly by the women. Nini Towok is the mythical figure of a spinner in Kerek’s oral traditions. She is considered to be visible on the surface of the moon, spinning on a wheel. With the cotton fields resembling the night sky and the stars, she feels at once close to earth and ethereal. “Part goddess, part crone, Nini Towok sends her finely spun cotton yarn to earth in the form of moonbeams.” A type of guardian spirit, she is believed to watch over each part of cloth-making, and offerings are made to her at the beginning of a project.

The dyeing process is also steeped in ritual, although the book only mentions it briefly. Natural dyes produce blacks, blues, and reds, and brown cotton is also used. The patterns are formed mainly using batik techniques (wax resist dyeing), and the symbolism is deeply connected to the natural world. Common motifs include centipedes, flowers, birds – all imbued with meaning. Some colours and symbols can be protective, and some denote youth and fertility. Abstract symbols are also used, less commonly, often in the case of men’s clothing.

The life cycle of a woman is a theme that returns again and again in the fabric of this region. From youth and marriage to motherhood, and finally old age, women adorn themselves in different ways and acquire more status with age. Special cloths are used to carry children, and these are very often handspun and handwoven, even when other clothing is not. Funeral rites also feature certain textiles that are placed on the coffin of the deceased and left there until the final moments. Afterwards, they are taken home by the family and preserved as heirlooms.

As can be imagined, environmental degradation has affected the textile practices considerably. Indigo is the only natural dye still used, since other traditional plant dyes are now difficult to come by. Traditional textile worker families are all but gone, with many people no longer interested to take up the vocation. I can’t help feeling that a lot has been left out of this book in terms of the socio-economic context, and the reader is expected to make many assumptions that may be on the idealistic end of the spectrum. For instance, many of the residents are landless labourers, who form a vulnerable demographic, subject to urban migration away from the region. There is no mention at all of how increasing globalisation might affect the future of Kerek textiles.

With such awe-inspiring textiles featured, I was left wanting more from the book. The pages about the mythology and spiritual practices connected with the textiles were too fleeting for my liking – although readers may feel a sense of familiarity in them. Since it’s a small and isolated region, there were many questions I found myself asking, for which the answers aren’t easily obtainable. For this reason, the material feels a little clinical and academic. Personally, I hope for a future in which textiles are alive with intention and meaning in our everyday life in the west – glimpses like Nini Towok make it easier to imagine.

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.

Warm West Coast Wool: Salish style

words and photos by Liz Hammond-Kaarremaa

Cowichan sweaters are famous throughout the world for being thick, light, warm, and cosy. The yarns demonstrate ancient expertise with spinning warm yarns. The Cowichan (now known as Quw’utsun) First Nations of Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada are part of the Coast Salish language family of nations surrounding the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. They, along with their neighbours, have been spinning warm yarns for thousands of years, yet sheep only arrived in the area in the mid-1850s. So how did they learn to spin such warm fibres in a land where animal fibres are rare? And what can they teach us about spinning warm yarns?

From spindle to treadle machine

Evolution of a Coast Salish spindle to an Indian head spinner

Originally the Coast Salish spun dog wool (see my article, “The Coast Salish Woolly Dog,” in the Spring 2020 issue of PLY) and mountain goat wool, sometimes mixed, sometimes alone. First, they slightly twisted fibres on their thigh into a rough roving which they then wound into balls in preparation for spinning on a spindle. The unique spindle is long at 36 inches, similar to a Navajo spindle but with a very large whorl (6–10 inches), and is spun by rolling the spindle down the thigh or lifting it in the air above the laps to twirl it. This provided a lofty thick yarn which traditionally was plied and woven into blankets. The Coast Salish adapted their unique spindle to spin sheep wool once sheep arrived in the mid 1800s.

An Indian head mounted on a Singer treadle sewing machine

Along with sheep, settlers brought treadle sewing machines. The Coast Salish, knowing their large spindles made thick warm wool, cleverly attached their spindle to where a sewing machine would sit, added a groove on the whorl to hold the drive band and a fork to hold the other end of the spindle, and spun using the treadle machine. This became known as the Indian Head Spinner or what Ashford called the Country Spinner.

Farming their own flocks

The imported sheep were mostly Merino and cross-breed Cheviot-Leicester with some purebred Southdown, Cheviot, and Leicester. By the 1880s the Cowichan Coast Salish were farming their own flocks. These were the perfect breeds for creating Cowichan sweaters. The high crimp in these fleeces create a bulky yet lightweight and bouncy yarn. The air pockets between the fibres provide warmth. If wool fibres have a lot of crimp, the fibres will push against each other, causing the yarn to puff out and creating many air pockets to capture and keep air, creating a warm yarn. If the fibres are mixed in a jumble (woolen) rather than lying parallel (worsted), the puffier the yarn will be.

Most sheep produce lanolin which provides the animal with waterproofing. The finer the fibre, the more lanolin on the sheep. Most of the sheep imported were fine or medium breeds which produce good quantities of lanolin. On the west coast where rainfall is plentiful, having sheep with good lanolin to protect them is an advantage. If the fleece is washed with lukewarm water rather than hot, some lanolin is left in, and when spun, the yarn will retain some waterproofing qualities. Fishermen not only wore Cowichan sweaters for warmth but also wore Cowichan long johns!

The fleece qualities of high crimp and lanolin are why the Cowichan sweaters were made famous – a lightweight, warm, and waterproof sweater. The sweaters were so famous that the Coast Salish have had to fight battles with fashion houses that appropriated the Coast Salish designs for company profits and no benefit to the Coast Salish.

Making Cowichan-like yarn

A lightweight bulky vest made from descendants of the original BC coastal sheep

While you can never make a true Cowichan yarn unless you are Coast Salish and integrate your culture into the process, you can make a Cowichan-like yarn using modern equipment. But remember to respect and acknowledge the Coast Salish tradition of spinning and knitting Cowichan or Salish sweaters. Be creative, and design a yarn to provide the same good qualities of Coast Salish yarn. Colour it bold or colour it subtle, but make it yours.

If you want to make a Cowichan-like yarn, start with a good crimpy fibre and spin it in the grease or gently wash it in warm, not hot, water to remove the dirt and leave some lanolin in it. You can also start with scoured wool and add lanolin before you spin or once the garment is finished by adding lanolin to a bath as you full or finish the garment. Paradise Fibers has a great instructional tutorial on how to do this.

You need to create a woolen yarn, so prepare the wool by creating rolags. Some spinning wheels are designed for spinning bulky yarns, e.g., the Ashford Country Spinner, wheels made for art yarns (Louet), those with jumbo or bulky-head attachments (Lendrum), and those with bobbin-led flyers with large bobbin capacity. But even if you don’t have one of these types of wheels, you can make do with a wheel designed for medium yarns. The Scottish-style and double-drive wheels are designed for lace yarns; hence, they have small bobbins and might give you an airy, warm, but much much thinner yarn.

An Ashford Country spinner

Choose your largest whorl; it should have a low ratio such as 4:1 or 6:1. Wheels with a large orifice and large flyer hooks are best as you are trying to spin thick yarns. However, thick does not mean dense. You are aiming for light, lofty, big bouncy yarns. Keep the air pockets in the yarn. A thick yarn can squeeze down and fit through a smaller orifice if necessary, but it should bounce back to bulky and not impede your spinning.

Bulky yarns need little twist, especially if you are starting with good crimpy, grabby fleece. If you have a bobbin-led wheel (the drive band turns the bobbin), put a lot of tension on the drive belt. Higher tension will practically grab the fibres out of your hand and onto the bobbin quickly. If you have a flyer-led wheel (the drive band turns the flyer), loosen the brake on the bobbin. Twist will build up quickly, so let it onto the bobbin even before you think it has enough twist. By the time it gets wound on, it will have enough twist. (Check out Michelle Boyd’s article “The Truth about Take-up” in the Summer 2016 issue of PLY for more information.)

Spin, as Paula Simmons describes in her classic book Spinning for Softness and Speed, using an unsupported long-draw technique. This is often a zen-like one-handed technique. Hold the rolag in one hand. Pinch off about an inch and pull the hand away from the orifice after allowing the twist to build up a little, grabbing and twisting the loose fibres to the thickness you are looking for. Keep tension on the fibres and let the twist chase your hand steadily, gobbling up the wool as you pull back to your side. Treadle slowly and then gracefully return your hand to the orifice and repeat. Relax, breath slowly, treadle slowly, and enjoy the Zen of it.

Some people suggest you pre-draft a roving to the thickness you want and let it run onto the bobbin with barely any twist. This will get you a bulky yarn but not a lightweight one. It will instead be heavy and dense, full of fibres but not air. Remember, for this yarn you want to let the air into the yarn.

If you do not have a low ratio whorl or end up with too much twist, one of our spinning saints, Judith MacKenzie, has a trick: spin a thick yarn and do not worry about putting in too much twist. Once you have filled the bobbin, take it off your spinner, put it on the floor, and run it through your spinner very quickly in the opposite direction to take out some of the extra twist.

You can use the yarn as a singles yarn or ply it. Traditionally, the Coast Salish plied the yarn for their blankets but made Cowichan sweaters from a singles yarn. If it is a singles yarn you are looking for, avoid weighting the yarn to set the twist as you are really stretching it and losing the lofty bulk you want to keep. Instead, finish them boldly in hot soapy water, agitating before plunging the yarn into cold water. You are trying to bloom or full the yarn, not felt it, but full it enough that it creates a slightly protective web around it to prevent easy pilling. Alternatively, you can full the finished product. Whichever you do, think about trying to maintain or add some lanolin to the final soaking to give the end product some weatherproofing if wanted.

Further reading

Gibson-Roberts, Priscilla A. Salish Indian Sweaters: A Pacific Northwest Tradition. Saint Paul, MN: Dos Tejedoras Fiber Arts Publications, 1989.

Gustafson, Paula. Salish Weaving. Seattle: Douglas & McIntyre, 1980.

Simmons, Paula. Spinning for Softness and Speed. Madrona Pub, 1982.

Every time Liz Hammond-Kaarremaa, a Master Spinner, sees a Coast Salish blanket or sweater, the world stands still for just a moment, but packed into that moment are many women’s lives: the spinner, her children teasing and carding, the carvers of her spindles and looms, and the ceremonies where the blanket or sweater was worn. These objects radiate those moments. Visit her website for more resources.

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.

Send Us Your Tips

What are your best tips and hacks for traveling with, and setting up, your e-spinner? What’s the easiest way to get them to spin-ins and classes and what are the slickest ways to use them once you’re there?!

Share your tip by going to our Tip Jar submission page. 

We share tips in every issue of PLY, these tips will be for the Electric Summer 2021 issue.

The person who submits our favorite tip will get a prize from us! It’s our way of saying thanks for sharing your wisdom with the PLY readers.

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.

PLY Spring 2022 The Goat Mood Board

Goats Goats Goats! Their fiber has been spun for centuries, creating a continuum of yarn that spans super strong to downright luxurious. Come celebrate these glorious creatures with us!

Tell us what you know about the difference between goat fiber and sheep’s wool.

What are some excellent blends that combine the two, and why are they so good?

What is the difference between kid, yearling, and adult mohair, and what are each good for? Do they require different prep, spinning, finishing techniques? Do you have a favorite way to work with these fibers?

Do you have a favorite yarn that uses goat fibers, even, textured, or art? Can you show us how to tail spin? Lock spin? Can you reproduce the very popular mohair and silk commercial yarns? What about yarns for strength and reinforcing? What about socks? Tell us what you know about mohair vs nylon in sock yarns. Do you know the history of mohair or cashmere? Have a good goat story?

How do you spin mohair for shine and drape? For fuzz? Do you have tips on finishing for maximum fuzz? What is cashmere? Is it a particular goat or a particular fiber? How fine is it really? How do you choose and prep cashmere? What is the best way to spin and finish cashmere? Does it felt? How do you blend cashmere with other fibers? How much cashmere do you need in a blend to notice it in a yarn?

What is dehairing and how do you do it? What is faux cashmere, and is it worth using?

What about color? How do you keep the shine when dyeing mohair? How do you dye locks? What are tips for dyeing over a natural cream or brown cashmere?

What about other goats? What can you tell us about Cashgora, Pygora, Pycazz, and Nigora? Why would you choose these fibers instead of mohair or cashmere?

What luscious things do you make with goat fibers? Are they warm? Do they have extra drape? Or are they just amazingly luxurious?

If you can help answer any of these questions or have a good idea for an article, please let us know! If you’ve got an idea for a fantastic project, let us know that too! Whether it’s your first time proposing an article or your 100th, we want to hear from you!

Submit your ideas here

Proposals of articles and projects are due by March 1, 2021. We’ll get back to you in April, and final pieces are due Sept 1, 2021.

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: Ruth Venables

words and photos by Ruth Venables

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started spinning. My mother and grandmother always encouraged me to be creative, and I really enjoyed visiting craft shows with them growing up. I was lucky that my primary school had some great volunteers who came in each week to teach us art and craft, and this is where I discovered weaving and then spinning, which was demonstrated for us to learn where yarn came from. My mum made me a drop spindle, and one of the school volunteers agreed to give me a few lessons on her wheel, and that’s where my love of spinning really began. I joined a local group and got my first wheel (an Ashford Traveller) soon after.

Rainbow through the clouds fibre club yarn, wheel spun and chain plied

Do you have a favorite type of yarn to spin? At the moment, my standard yarn seems to be a sport weight 2 ply; I’ve been really focusing on creating smooth and consistent yarns to knit a sweater, but I’ve also been spinning lace and thread weight on my Turkish spindle. I’d like to have a go at creating art yarns next.

Wheel spun yarn for a fade sweater

What do you like to make with your handspun yarn? I love a good scarf or shawl knitted in handspun yarn; now the weather is cooler I really look forward to choosing one to wear because it makes me so happy to be wearing something I’ve made! I’ve also been using my handspun yarns for weaving on my knitter’s loom to create scarves and cloth I can cut for jackets.

How long have you been reading PLY? I’ve been reading PLY since the very first issue. I was so pleased to find a spinning magazine that was colourful and relevant for the modern spinner. Before I read PLY, I had been led to believe that handspun yarn had to be woollen, 2-ply, and never, ever forward drafted. Imagine how my eyes were opened!

What do you look forward to most when you get an issue? I love to find a quiet moment and sit down with a cup of tea when I open my issue of PLY. My favourite articles are about techniques as I always find there’s something new to learn and I also love reading the reviews of wheels, spindles, and equipment. Although I sometimes find the articles quite technical, it really deepens my understanding and I’m a better spinner because of it.

Turkish spindle in yarn bowl

Tell us about a project you worked on that was inspired by an article, project, or issue of PLY. I was really excited to read the support spindle issue as this is a new technique I’ve learned this year. I have used a drop spindle since I learned to spin, and last year I bought a Turkish spindle to add to my flock. This was soon joined by a support spindle, and I figured that if I could spin on a drop spindle it would be easy to transition. I watched a couple of videos and read an e-book and could spin quite smoothly, but I was finding it hard work; I could control the spindle, but the fibre and yarn was unruly – maybe it wasn’t for me?

My first batt and singles on my support spindle

When I swapped to a support spindle, I presumed that I would use my normal fibres, straight from the braid like I would for spinning at my wheel, but after reading PLY I could see where I was making mistakes, and I realised I needed to make some changes and start over. I changed my fibre straight away and reached for 100% alpaca; I would never consider using this with my wheel as it’s so fine, but it seemed it was made for the gentle art of support spindling.

I also read with amusement that I had been holding my fibre supply incorrectly and needed a lighter, more lady-like hold, so I carded an airy rolag and followed the photos and directions – suddenly I could spin on my support spindle without a death grip on either the fibre or the spindle and the yarn was flowing beautifully! My support spindle is now my friend, and we spend many happy evenings together spinning superfine fibres into yarn.

Support spindle singles Andean plied on my Turkish spindle
Support spindle woollen-spun alpaca (pink) and Jacob wool (orange)

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the PLY blog readers? Try different fibres. In general, I’m a wool or wool blend spinner, but I’ve spun some wonderful yarns on my support spindle by using finer fibres that I wouldn’t normally consider. I’ve become a better spinner by adventuring outside my comfort zone!

You can find Ruth on Ravelry as Ruthietoothie.

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.

Winter SCENE

Counting Sheep: Reflections and Observations of a Swedish Shepherd by Axel Lindén. “Norwegian Wood meets The Tao of Pooh in this philosophical, witty, and heartwarming collection of daily observations from a Swedish academic-turned-sheep farmer who finds peace and meaning outside the hustle and bustle of modern, urban life.”

Color Matching Dye Formulas: Alanna Wilcox has developed a service where a dyer can select a color from a photograph or a Pantone U color and I will send them a formula designed to help them match that color. The formula includes the brand of dyes to use, the specific colors of dyes, the amount of dyes, and the amount of acid needed to dye a particular weight of fiber. Her system isn’t endorsed or affiliated with Pantone, but rather the culmination of hours of experiments and testing.

New Zealand Gamekeepers Possum Fiber: A startup business in New Zealand is selling A-grade possum fibre (with yarn and roving to come). A booklet on “How to work with possum fibre for fibre artists” is coming. You can also find them on Facebook as a page and a group.