Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: PLY Magazine Autumn 2014 Issue

This particular issue of PLY magazine was interesting. The theme was Community, and what that term has meant through time. When I first bought this issue, I wondered how the theme would teach me both about fibers and the fiber arts community. I mean, on the face of it, I know what community means as it relates to the spinning community or the weaving community. PLY magazines so far have been based around spinning techniques, preparation methods, and breeds, so this issue seems a bit anachronistic. But let's see how it fits into the other PLY themes thus far.

In other issues of PLY, there is usually an article some historical (or even prehistorical) connection with fiber arts. Within a community of herders, crafters, bakers, mothers, fathers, and so on; you'll have weavers, spinners, and dyers. Specifically, we want to know more about the spinning community among these ancient peoples. Spinning was a more integral and critical part of their lives than it is for us today, but their spinning circles were probably very similar to ours today. We gather, spin, chat, and help each other. We welcome and inspire new spinners. We help older spinners who may not have the strength to card their own wool anymore. In that respect, the spinning community is an ancient one, and though we may spin soy fiber and dog hair, we are very much the same community we always used to be. The article about Mesoamerican and South American spinning communities (written by Christina Pappas) delves more specifically into this idea of community.

Then there's the idea of subcommunities, living within the general category of spinning community. Shetland wool was presented because it a challenging wool to categorize, based on the terminology used, variability of the fleece itself, and the confusion of labeling in commercial products. My own personal experience with Shetland has been full of frustration (annoyance, maybe?) because I couldn't understand what Shetland was. Every time I got an explanation from one person and moved onto the next, it was like I was hearing about a different animal. Deb Robson, author of the article Shetland Wool, concisely describes the plethora of characteristics you'll encounter when you step into Shetland territory--it is very much its own community, full of those who are familiar with the language, textures, and capabilities of the wool. But the language they do speak is the same all spinners speak: if you want to know more about Shetland, their eyes will light up and they will be pleased tell you everything you need to know about Shetland wool.

One article in particular struck me personally, since the project fits within my own mission. I want to increase public awareness for spinning, dyeing, knitting, fiber arts, and wools. If anyone is willing to give me 10 minutes of their time, I will teach them how to spin. Robyn Love wrote about her project, Spindle 7, where she rode a New York train (the #7) and spun on her drop spindle. If anyone expressed interest, she would teach them to spin, and if they wanted to keep going, she would send them off with wool and spindle. There is a great diversity of languages and cultures who ride that train, and she talked about how those experiences effected her. You don't need to speak the same verbal language to teach someone to spin, since the language being spoken is that of: draft, twist, yarn.

And then there are modern communities, those of us who digitize our stashes on Ravelry, who blog our experiences in lengthy posts, who drag our friends to fiber festivals, and who drive an hour to spin with guild members in the next big city. We come together and spin for charities (like Spinzilla), we share our sports spirit when we challenge ourselves with our favorite cyclists (like during Tour de France/Fleece), or when fellow spinners are going through financial/emotional/medical hardships. Our community spans across socioeconomic barriers, gender barriers, and language barriers, With the Internet, we can have a thriving global community and share in traditional styles and techniques of other places in the world. You aren't alone. We're here, and this issue really shows that.

As far as colorwork, techniques, and patterns goes, this issue is also packed full of those things which will boost your knowledge about fibers and some ways you can use them. But if you're wondering about what our spinning community is, where it is, and how to be in it, this issue is definitely for you. My original skepticism vanished as I continued to read this issue. Sometimes we need to sit back and see what our spinning community is, how it has grown/diminished/morphed/shifted/changed, so we can be comforted by it when things don't go well, with whatever life throws at us.

If you need a community, we're here on Ravelry.