Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: PLY Magazine Summer 2014 Issue

This issue was all about twist. I don't consider twist so much when I set about to make yarn. In principle, I do consider twist, but I don't actively think about twist as a primary aspect of my yarn. I tend to make my yarn organically, meaning that I just let the fiber speak to me and spin it so it feels right. That doesn't translate well to others, so it's important that we can talk about twist objectively. That's exactly what this issue does. Since I can't reprint the whole issue here, or write a summary which does the topic justice, I will say that you ought to buy this issue if you want to make consistent yarns, no matter what fiber you're working with--especially if your fiber preparation contains a whole slew of different fiber lengths and micron count. So, I will be talking about the articles which made me think the most.

First up, we have "Intuiting Twist" by Lexi Boeger. She challenges the reader to blend up (by hand or hackle) a wide variety of fibers. Don't hold back--anything goes, so long as it falls outside of your comfort zone. As you spin, pay attention to how much twist the fiber is willing to take, then allow it to be taken up by the wheel. The uptake won't be at a consistent rate--it's dependent upon the specific lock you're spinning...and it's okay if you can't remember which lock it is! The point is to observe how much that particular length of fiber wants to take and not overdo it.

I tend to do this when I have a carded batt which is made of long sari silk bits and shorter merino bits, but this is clearly an extreme example. I've been spinning fiber hackled from bits and bobs, including bits of yarn. Here's the art roving I made (will be part of a video soon!):

The next article I found most interesting was a collection of tips from Amelia Garripoli, of Ask the Bellwether, There are some incredible little bits which you learn along your path as you dig deeper into the mechanics of spinning. These tips are gold, and are often the kind of things you learn when you talk to master spinners (whether they have a certification or not--experience is the operative idea here) about specific topics. My extra little tip to add: Don't spin a difficult fiber when you're frustrated, angry, or upset. If spinning isn't helping to calm you down and relax you, spinning while you're agitated will only result in bad yarn and many regrets.

The last article I want to touch on is "Tame Your Yarn (by setting the twist)." At some point, we get into a routine: draft, twist, ply, wrap, set, knit. But what purpose does setting have in reference to yarn? Well, this article by Stephanie Gaustad delves into the reasons for setting, as well as pointing out reasons why you might not want to set the yarn. Additionally, she talks about setting the twist for different fiber types, for protein and cellulose fibers.

Setting the twist dramatically impacts the look and feel of the yarn, but it also affects the fabric it produces (as you can see in the incredibly biased swatch above). So, though you might be locked in a routine where you set your yarn before using it, why not look for projects which would look interesting with an unset yarn (Stephanie suggests: collapsed weave scarves, hemp/flax scrubbies, or even lace projects).

I probably won't consider twist much more than I already do, but I'll add it to my process when I spin large quantities of yarn which require consistency. I am tantalized by collapsed weave projects, so now I want to make some gauzy scarves that have a lot of visual interest...this time, the interest comes from the weaving process rather than just using textured yarn.

There you have it, another great reference magazine that ought to be on your shelf. At first, I was a bit skeptical that PLY would take my heart and run away with it, but I am truly smitten with them. I come away from each issue informed and eager to try at least one new thing. If you have been a contributor to PLY, I want to thank you for helping to build such wonderful reference material which is accessible to every spinner!