Spin-Off magazine has be the foremost magazine available to spinners who want to be part of a community and learn more about their craft through the experiences of others. As a commercial magazine, available at many craft stores around the world, it has become a popular choice for spinners to read as each issue becomes available. There are other, slightly more academic, peer-reviewed journals which discuss various aspects of spinning, about it's history, but those aren't typically available on the commercial market--to access those, you must pay for a subscription. Occasionally, there is a brief mention about spinning in knitting and crocheting magazines. Herein lies the perfect balance between the content you'd get from a Spin-Off issue, and that of paid subscription to a peer-reviewed journal: Ply magazine. It has a structured overview with well-written, fluff-free articles which teach the reader in a very reproducible, scientific way. I'll explain all what I mean in a later blog post, but I wanted to talk about my first impressions of the magazine.
First, the magazine itself is printed on sturdy paper, with a completely different feel than magazine paper. This attention to detail, whether intended as such or not, makes me feel like the content I'm about to read will be flipped through many times, so heavier paper is needed for durability. The coverart decidedly makes me feel less like I'm reading a magazine. The sleek, unobtrusive cover allows me to see the art for what it is and easily know the contents of the issue (Color, Woven, etc.). After a quick flip and skimming the contents, it becomes apparent that great attention was paid to unifying all of the diverse content together with theme other than white pages.
The advertisements in Ply are well integrated into the pages, and I rarely feel like I need to skip over them. There's a rare page or two of nothing but advertisements, but on the whole, it seems like they are either fewer in number than Spin-Off or placed such that I don't notice that I'm being sold to. I really like having advertisements nearby an article, yet unobtrusive. I realize the importance and necessity of having advertisements in a magazine, however it can make me feel like I'm watching regular cable television--I'm way more likely to skip past pages of advertisements rather than read them.
Overall, it seems like the content is updated. Though it focuses on a specific theme, in this case, Color, I think it reflects many of the questions I get asked about color blending and how to spin batts/roving to achieve various color effects. I find this to be a bit of a surprise, given the fact that this is a printed resource--often, printed sources tend to be behind the times. The salient questions about color are addressed, and since the advertisements are played down, I feel like I'm both getting plenty of content and the pictures they use show me exactly what they're talking about. In some ways, it looks like a teaching manual.
Last, the price. I must admit, I wasn't too sure about the steep price. I bought mine from a store in Japan, Kakara Woolworks, since Yuka was the closest store to me who had copies (and thus the cheapest shipping price). For me it was USD $16 an issue, but a subscription for US addresses is $9 an issue (and probably around $10 an issue if you buy it at a store). That is certainly more for 4 issues than Spin-Off, which is about $6.50 per issue. My cursory look has given me confidence that I paid an appropriate amount for the extras offered to me in each issue, so if you might be on the fence about purchasing a copy (or getting a subscription), I'd say it's worth examining personally.
I'll be working through each page, each article, so I can write up a review which takes a closer look at the actual content. I do this for every Spin-Off magazine too, and with the new issue for Spring arriving soon, I'll soon be able to compare the content of each magazine. And as a side note, I don't dislike Spin-Off. It's a typical magazine in terms of its layout, and I learn many things in every issue I have, which starts in Spring 2010. I've even read the older issues from the late 80s/early 90s that my guild library had. I just think Ply is heading in a new direction and really speaks to me as an avid learner, plus it seems like a strong contender for the market. It's nice to have choices, and I think Ply offers a healthy amount of competition. In all likelihood, I'll subscribe to both, especially since I know that many of you come to me with questions and I like helping out in any way I can. Anyway, stay tuned for more about Ply magazine! <3