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PLY Magazine
General adult
Jacey Boggs Intergalactic Corporation
Reviewed by: Christine Oka, Research & Instruction, Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA

PLY: The Magazine for Handspinners publishes thematic, or “single topic issues” quarterly. The magazine’s stated mission is to serve “as a primary source for spinning knowledge, technique, and opinion” and to “support, reflect and respond to the worldwide handspinning community” while at the same time to “inspire new spinners.” Past issues have concentrated on the intricacies of specific spinning techniques, such as plying, twist, or on types of yarns (boucle, bulky or fine), or fibers (silk or cotton) or working with wool from specific sheep, such as Leicester, or for this issue, Down and Down-type sheep.

The Down breeds, known as “meat sheep” were developed during the 1800’s in southeastern England in an area known as the Down, or “hills.” One interesting note about sheep—breeding for meat affects the desirable qualities of the wool. Some of the characteristics of the Down wool include lots of crimp, or frequency of waves in the fiber, short to medium-length fibers and what is described as “reluctant to felt.” In fact, some breeders and shepherds feel the wool quality is poor and not a profitable, or break-even proposition, and would burn it, use it as mulch, or simply store it rather than sell it This issue of PLY Magazine promises to “convince handspinners everywhere that these sheep are for more than meat—they can make darn good yarn!” To make good on that promise, there are Breed Study articles, looking in detail at specific breeds, such as Clun Forest, Oxford and the Down-like Dorsets. Step by step techniques on working with Down wool include details on prepping (washing and dyeing), processing and spinning the handcarded fibers.  To further stimulate the interest in Down wool yarns, there are knit and crochet projects: a sweater, socks and a cowl hood. Regular Features in every issue include “Ergo Neo,” a column written by a physical therapist about how to work with fiber without risking a repetitive stress injury. For tool-happy fiber crafters, “Independent Spinner” acknowledges the businesses that provided all fibers and tools used the issue, and “PLY World Bazaar” promotes more fiber and tools.

PLY Magazine was initially funded in 2013 by the spinning community via a very successful campaign. In fact, with PLY’s very limited advertising (less than 15% instead of the normal 40-50%), PLY is still funded by the community -- without subscribers and writers, it doesn’t exist.” In the latest issue, the Editor, Jacey Boggs, writes about her least favorite part of the job --- getting fiber companies to advertise in the magazine. She describes a conversation with a spinning wheel maker who said he would advertise with them but didn’t expect a direct payback from the advertisement. He felt “the job of the magazine should not be to sell his product or his business to spinners; the job of the magazine was to get and keep spinners excited about the craft, the community, the fiber, the tools . . . . He didn’t expect direct sales from his advertising; he expected a robust community which would drive sales eventually.” That “robust community” visits the magazine blog and communicates on other social media, such as twitter, facebook, instagram, and Ravelry, where the members of a PLY Magazine group offer encouragement, questions and advice. PLY Magazine also supports this community with a monthly email newsletter. While the content is rather specialized, the articles are accessible. The magazine offers something for everyone with an interest in fiber, not just handspinners. Recommended for libraries supporting communities with an interest in fiber arts and crafts.
31 Jul 2017
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