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When I first learned to spin, plying seemed like an afterthought. I worked so hard on making a yarn that didn’t overtwist or fall apart, and then a colleague said, “And then you twist it back together,” and that was it. I later took a spinning class where the subject got the attention it deserved, but at first it just seemed like a bothersome necessity that took up time and ate up yarn.

A friend (and very good spinner) recently told me, “Plying is so boring that I need all the help I can get to stay awake.” It seems like the Rodney Dangerfield of spinning—plying gets no respect.

But I’ve changed my tune, and now I love to ply. Here’s why:

1. It makes the yarn look better. The plumpness and energy of yarn comes out when it’s plied and finished. When I reach out to squish a yarn, it’s probably because of the voluptuousness of the ply twist.

2. It goes fast. Singles that took a week to spin up can be plied in a matter of hours.

3. It clears off the bobbins. Singles can languish for ages, making it hard to start a new project. But when I ply them up, they practically jump onto the niddy-noddy and make room for some brand-new spinning.

Happy spinning,

Anne Merrow
Editor

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Recent Issues

  • Spin-Off Winter 2011

    In this issue, we’re looking at fiber close-up—really close-up—by examining crimp and diameter in detail to understand why fiber does what it does. Beth Smith has written a great article about spinning to the crimp—it’s a pretty straightforward concept and a wonderful place to start when you’re deciding how to spin your yarn. Deb Robson has written a really fascinating article about fiber diameter—she sent samples to a lab to look at the diameter of fiber from rare breeds of sheep (in addition to some that are not so rare). She walks us through the scans in a very logical way, explaining what the findings mean for spinners. And Judith MacKenzie examines the difference between hair and fiber with her wonderful ability to ask big questions and then answer them in lyrical ways.

    Our fiber basic focus is on yaks. And our developing your skills department takes a look at purchasing and sorting a fleece. This issue also includes our largest ever special pull out Natural Fiber Directory full of suppliers and mills from across the United States and around the world.

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  • Spin-Off Fall 2011

    All about the spinning wheel! Trace the history of the wheel to its possible origins by learning about Jonathan Bosworth’s reproduction of a Han Dynasty spinning wheel from a Chinese stone carving created 1,200 years before scholars believe the spinning wheel was invented. Visit to the Ashford Handicrafts spinning wheel factory in Ashburton, New Zealand, and learn how this business has thrived through two world wars and fire to provide the world with spinning wheels. Join the discussion with current custom wheels makers and where they see the craft headed.

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  • Spin-Off Summer 2011

    The Summer 2011 issue of Spin-Off has a special focus on felt! Starting with the basics and fifteen fibers meant for felting, we move to needlefelted dolls, felted accents to add to your handspun, and using prefelts for wet felting.

    But this issue isn’t all about felt! We’ve introduced a new department for more experienced spinners, and this edition focuses on what effect ratios really have. There are also tips for making your own stacked spindles without special woodworking equipment, silk spun for a princess, and we guarantee you will be impressed (and potentially inspired) by the included spindle-spun bed-size blanket woven on a rigid-heddle loom.

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  • Spin-Off Spring 2011

    If you’re looking for a bit of color—look no further—the Spring 2011 issue of Spin-Off has some great ideas for how to blend the colors you already have into new and interesting combinations—the possibilities are infinite. Speaking of infinite possibilities, take a look at the Handspun Gallery of Helix Scarves and get your needles ready. Ready to sink your hands into some fleece? Try Wensleydale—their lustrous locks are seductive.

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  • Spin-Off Winter 2010

    The Winter 2010 issue of Spin-Off magazine is so full of fiber that if you snuggled up next to it, it will keep you warm. Open the pages and you'll find (images of) angora, qiviut, alpaca, and sheep's wool tucked into every available space, plus lots of great tips on how to spin these fibers. This year, we've included a six-page Natural Fiber Directory in the issue—this is a special section that you can pull out and take with you for reference when you're shopping for natural fiber. As a bonus, we included enlarged versions of the charts for the Qiviut Shawlette by Sandi Wiseheart on the back of the directory (the charts are also included with the pattern in the magazine). The pattern for the half-gloves shown on the cover is included in the handspun gallery, along with six versions of the half-gloves showing just the tip-of-the-iceberg of what can be done with the pattern if you vary the fiber, color, and/or grist of the yarn you use.

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  • Spin-Off Fall 2010

    The Fall 2010 issue of Spin-Off magazine is chock full of spinning secrets as well as great dyeing techniques. There is page after page and article after article about natural dyeing. Whether you are new to dyeing or are looking for some color inspiration, this issue is perfect for you. Move from dying into some great spinning techniques like self-plying and core spinning. Got your handspun yarn and ready to create? Find several accessories that are sure to be quick projects but lasting garments. Find all of this and more in the Fall 2010 issue of Spin-Off.

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  • Spin-Off Summer 2010

    The Summer 2010 issue of Spin-Off magazine is filled with beautiful yarns, intriguing fibers, and great tips and techniques for spinning the yarn you want to spin. Turn the pages and you’ll find bouclé after bouclé after bouclé, natural fibers and manufactured fibers to spin, cap after cap after cap, long draws and short draws, scarf after scarf after scarf, thin yarns and thick yarns—the stuff of dreams, really. Do you have lots of small bits of yarn that you don’t know what to do with? Try modular knitting. Do you have a tahkli spindle, but think of it only as a tool for spinning cotton? Learn how to use it to spin a host of fibers in addition to cotton. Ready to start teaching spinning? Find some useful tips to get you started in the Summer 2010 issue of Spin-Off.

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  • Spin-Off Spring 2010

    Judith MacKenzie’s scrumptious article on page 62 about spinning a plump silky singles starts with a description of weavers as basically falling into two camps: those who love the structure and order of weaving and those who love weaving for the color and texture.

    Spinners lightbulbs will pop on when they read Abby Franquemont’s article about the difference between bobbin-driven and flyer-driven wheels (page 44) and others whose eyes will glaze over until someone waves a lock of raw wool under their nose to revive them. Some spinners will take Amelia Garripoli’s article (page 40) with them as they purchase a new spindle to reference the finer points of spindle weights, while others will let their instincts guide them in their purchase.

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  • Spin-Off Winter 2009

    Spinning the Wild by Judith MacKenzie McCuin;Fiber Basics: Polwarth by Robin Russo; Swatching and Sampling for the Oatmeal Cardigan by Amy King; Coils: Adding to Your Art Yarn Repertoire by Jacey Boggs.

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  • Spin-Off Fall 2009

    Features

    Behind the Scenes: At Ten Thousand Villages
    by Stefanie Berganini

    Armchair Traveler: New Jersey by Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten

    Your Yarn: Natural Fiber from Scratch Yarns

    Spinning Art: Handspinning as Creative Expression by Tracy Hudson

    Fiber Basics: Scotch Mule by Carol Huebscher Rhoades

    Handspun Gallery: All Wrapped Up in Natural Fibers

    Raising Cain by Liz Gipson

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  • Spin-Off Summer 2009

    Features

    Armchair Traveler: Sweden
    by Ingrid Brundin

    Spinning in Lithuania: The Ties That Bind by Donna Druchunas

    Boimimcry: Humans and Nature Design a New World by Judith MacKenzie McCuin

    Yarns of Love by Chris Spitzer

    Fiber Basics: CVM - Otherwise Known as California Variegated Mutant by Robin Russo

    Hanspun Gallery of Quants

    Book Excerpt: Spin Control by Amy King

    Enchanted by a Spinning Wheel by Judy Ross

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  • Spin-Off Spring 2009

    High Whorl, Low Whorl by Abby Franquemont; The Handpainted Wheels of Monica Lenox by Jackie Deems; Spinning Perfect Sock Yarn by Judith Mackenzie McCuin; Dorothy Reade: Spider Woman from Oregon by Donna Druchunas.

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  • Spin-Off Winter 2008

    Serendipitous Spinning with Batts by Shannon Okey; What to Look For in Handpainted Fiber by Amy King; Spinning for Beginning Weaving by Jane Patrick; Fiber Basics: South America’s Wild Ones, Vicuña and Guanaco by Kaye Collins.

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  • Spin-Off Fall 2008

    The Great Spinning Wheel Roundup; Handspun Gallery of Baby Surprise Jackets; Spinning Basics: Drumcarding by Robin Russo; On Washing Fleece by Judith MacKenzie McCuin; The Cloisters Sweater by Sarah Swett.

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