Product Review: Ply Magazine
Oh boy. I may not have much time to spin, but I've been grabbing time to read about spinning every time I get a new issue of Ply. Have you subscribed yet? If not, run, do not walk, over to their website and do so. Really.
Full disclosure: two of my favorite people in the world, Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno, constitute the editorial board of Ply. And you know that I'm a huge fan of Jacey Boggs, the magazine's editor, as well as of her teaching, her writing and her fantastic if short-lived podcast, Insubordiknit. But really, the folks at Ply are bringing it. Ply is wonderful. Here are three reasons why:
- Focus on intermediate and advanced spinners. Each issue looks at a single topic, like woolen spinning, or spinning for color, or silk, or plying in real depth, and each starts by assuming a reader who has some spinning experience. So the woolen issue assumes that its readers know what "woolen" means, what "worsted" means, and what the difference is. From that starting point, it looks at "woolen" a zillion different ways: Jacey, in an article called "Lying About Longdraw" shares how she "tricks" students in her classes into spinning long draw. Beth explores the elements of "true" woolen spinning—short fiber carded into rolags, spun long draw—but also talks a bit about her own journey from diehard worsted spinner to woolen aficionado. Amy Tyler writes about spinning lopi-style woolen yarns, Amelia Garripoli explains woolen spindle spinning, and Stephanie Gaustad describes double drafting. Also in this issue: James Perry on unsupported longdraw and Abby Franquemont on spinning from the fold. There are also articles by Esther Rodgers and Lacy Ziemkiewicz on preparing fiber for woolen spinning, and one by Jillian on nine ways to spin a batt. See what I mean? Real depth.
- New and diverse voices. Ply is doing a fantastic job bringing new voices into the conversation. I'm particularly delighted to see a regular column by ergonomist and spinner Carson Demers on the ergonomics of spinning; the "Tip Jar" feature, with quick tips from spinners on some aspect of the topic at hand; and archaelogist Christina Pappas' articles on spinning history. Two of the highlights of the color issue for me were articles by David Schultz of Southern Cross Fibre on choosing a color palette and Felicia Lo on combining colorways. As I recall none of these authors has yet been tapped by Spin-Off, and it's wonderful to hear from them.
- Debate, not orthodoxy. Because every issue of Ply is organized around a topic, with articles that approach that topic from many different angles, it masterfully avoids erecting or reinforcing spinning orthodoxies. As the list of articles in the woolen issue suggests, Ply is built on the notion that there are many different routes to making beautiful yarn. One of my favorite elements of Ply is "Hot Button," in which spinners debate something like predrafting. With opinions ranging from Michelle Boyd's "Predrafting is the devil," to Deb Menz's "I do what I need to do," the magazine manages to undo even the most doctrinaire positions by putting them into the context of a debate. Similarly, the magazine's "Stealth Reviews" section features three anonymous reviews of a single product. I suspect that anonymity makes it easier for them to say what they really think (ask me how I know), and, again, no one voice gets the last word.
I could list more reasons I love Ply: the lovely glossy paper, the highly illustrative photography, the diverse models that grace every issue, the truly lovely and inspiring projects. But the point is you just need to subscribe and join the conversation. As I said: run, do not walk.
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