Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: PLY Magazine Autumn 2013 Issue

I think I may be in love with these magazines. Seriously. I did an initial impression review a little while ago, and now that I've had time to sit down and read from cover-to-cover, I'm ready to spew forth some thoughts. If you haven't read that initial review, head over and read it now to get some context. I'll be making references to it in this review.

This issue features colorwork as its main topic. I know that other fibery magazines will have a primary theme to each issue, but it never feels like a salient topic in those magazines. I think it has something to do with the ad coverage, thus subduing the importance of the topic slightly. I'm going to hit on this idea when I review the Spring 2014 issue of Spin-Off.

Colorwork is a fantastic topic to delve into, since many beginners ask me the question: How do I spin this dyed combed top/batt? Well, on the one hand, that's easy. On the other, it's complicated. Of course, the easiest way to spin either of those fiber preparations is to pull the fiber into long strips and get spinning. But they don't all really mean to ask me how to spin these fibers; they are asking me how to spin them with color in mind. That's where handspinners set themselves far, far apart from commercial products--you just can't get our kind of creativity mechanically. This is the slump where some beginners find themselves. They want to play around with colors in the way that commercial spinning mills can't, but they are daunted by the incredible meshing of colors masterful spinners can make. Really, there needs to be a teaching aid, some kind of middle ground.

I post on this blog what I can for those spinners who want to challenge themselves with color, but I'm only one person with only my expertise. This Color issue from PLY is the perfect option for those seeking to explore the specific ways to exploit color in yarn. They have a large group of spinners from which to pull various levels of expertise, and everything PLY covers in this issue weaves colorwork into the process. For example, the first article of the magazine covers chain plying to lock in your color changes. It covers the pros/cons of chain plying, how to do it, some tips, and it even has pictures comparing the colorwork of a 2-ply, 3-ply, and chain ply. In fact, there are several pictures in this article which show the reader the various stages of the chain plying process. The combination of (several) pictures and clear text should be enough to take any beginner down the path to chain plying. Better yet, it shows the beginner how you can blend colorwork together with technique--by chain plying, you are in complete control of keeping the colors of a gradient dyed top lined up.

All of the articles in this issue (and in the Winter issue I have as well!) connect with the topic. Some are more prevalent than others, such as color blending and fractal plying, but there is enough connection in order to refer to this entire issue as 'the color issue.' If you're specifically looking for new ways to combine color and preparation and technique, buy this issue. For those who are building a reference shelf, buy this issue. In fact, any spinner who has ever spun anything colorful should have this issue on hand. As a masterful spinner myself, I have learned many things in this issue.

Want to hear a little more? Okay. I'm ready to admit that I fall into spinning traps. You know, the kind of 'home base' traps you revert to when you're tired, trying a thinner/thicker yarn than you feel comfortable with, or when you aren't trying to be too creative with the yarn you're making. My first several yarns were all constructed the same way. Split, draft, spin, repeat. It didn't matter what I spun, either. Early on in my spinning education, I learned how to make drum carded batts. I split, drafted, and spun those in the same way I spun top. This is a classic spinning trap because it was the first way I learned how to spin, and soon it became the only way I thought you could prep fiber for spinning. Many beginners fall into this kind of trap. But it's okay. There's a way out, and you can skip the infinite loop with the PLY article written by Jacey Boggs, Spinning Across the Top: Beyond Stripping.

Keep your hands loose, and your fiber fluffy. As you spin, the fiber will pull off in a left to right/right to left direction. If you've ever bought a gradient dyed braid (where the colors transition from, let's say from green to blue) and wondered how to keep the transitions the same as they are in the braid, spinning across the top makes the perfect technique to use. There are a plethora of pictures showing you the various steps of the back-and-forth technique, as well as plenty of tips and stories to read.

Here's an example of some of the science and research they do for some of their articles.
Here's an example of an advertisement embedded cleverly into a tips/tricks article.
There you have it, the Color issue of PLY in a nutshell. It has been an enlightening experience for me. I'll do more reviews for PLY in the future, and I'll also do reviews for Spin-Off and fibery books I encounter along the way. I still have to read a few books to read before I review those, but they'll make their way here too! :)