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Happy New Year!

So the new sock yarn issue is out, and boy is it out. The kids haven’t stopped packing orders since it was released! Clearly socks are very popular. You may have noticed that it’s also thicker than past issues. We recently decided to increase our regular page count from 112 to 120, but we still couldn’t fit it all. So we upped it to 124 pages for the Sock Yarn issue, but we still had to cut some great pieces. One such piece by Joanne Seiff is at the end of this newsletter, so make sure you take a listen as she talks about breaking out of a spinning rut and finding your sock yarn groove.
The sock yarn issue should have winged its way to all the subscribers in the U.S. by now, but if you’re international, don’t be too concerned if you haven’t seen it yet; holiday mail is a bear (as is the Canadian border for some reason). But if it’s not there by mid-month, email Beth ( and she’ll get it figured out.
If you’re not a subscriber (gasp), you can pick one up here!
Goodbye Digital Passwords!

That’s right, PLY digital issues will no longer have passwords on them! They’re still attached to your profile and your email address, but you don’t have to enter a password each time you want to read an issue. If you’d like to get rid of the passwords on your back issues, just use your links to re-download the non-password enabled versions. Your personal link is the same, just no password on the PDF! If you don’t have your emailed links any longer, let Beth ( know and she can look them up for you!

PLY Away Wants (and Needs) You!
There are still great classes available. Check them out here!
And if you’re a small business that makes something fiber lovers would love, consider donating to PLY Away’s goodie bag, silent auction, or door prizes! It’s almost time to wow and tempt the devoted 500 fiber aficionados that attend PLY Away, but we’d love to have you join and your goods represented. If you’re interested, email me ( and I’ll hook you up! Here are the deets:
Goodie bags: Every single person registered for a class gets a goodie bag, and trust me, they have always been stellar! We want this year to be the same. You can send 100, 150, or 300 items and we’ll stuff those sacks full! We’ll also give you a thank you in our 2019 program and a shout out on social media (FB and IG along with a photo). We’ve had everything from a single lock from a shepherd for each bag to artisan teabags to tiny samples of balms to mini-batts, colorful rolags, tape measures sporting business names, small batch chocolates, printed patterns, 1 oz mini braids, and on and on. We’d love to include you and for us to support each other.

Send everything here:
Whether you’re in for the goodie bags, the door prizes, or the silent auction, let me know so I can make sure your info gets into the 2019 program. February 15th is the due date (so we have time to pack all those bags) to PLY Magazine, PO Box 3329, Kansas City, KS 66103.

Door Prizes
If you don’t have the time or energy (or if your product isn’t suited for goodie bag parsing), a door prize or a silent auction item might be just the thing! We like to punctuate our nightly spin ins and/or banquets with loud, squeal-inducing giveaways and we’d love to give away your stuff. Please include details about your item so we can make sure and holler them out to the crowd!

Silent Auction
Finally, the silent auction is one of the ways we help spinners come to PLY Away, and we’d like to build our scholarship fund even more so we can continue to bring talented spinners who couldn’t otherwise attend PLY Away. We hope to bring 2 at a time, even 3! ALL the proceeds from the silent auction go to the scholarship fund. The silent auction items and signage will be set up in public for several days (secured at night), and towards the end of the event, we’ll see who won. We think a range of items is ideal, some small and some large, so people of several budgets can participate.
 Breaking out of a Rut: Getting a new sock yarn groove
by Joanne Seiff

Every spinner has a habit yarn, or maybe even a habit category. Lately, I’ve been stuck in a rut. I consistently make 2-ply, DK to bulky weight yarn. Sometimes I break out and do a singles yarn, or maybe end up with a 3 ply, but honestly, I am not by habit a thin spinner when it comes to making yarn. So what’s a person to do if they aren’t a thin spinner naturally but want to spin sock yarn? Here are some ways to get out of your yarn rut and into a new yarn groove.

Slow Down
Sample and examine things on a spindle first. Even though sock yarn requires high-twist, skinny (lots of drafting) yarn, it helps to break down the yarn you’re making and slowly see how to change it. For me, the first step is to choose a lightweight spindle with a long spin. It needs to be lightweight because a heavier spindle can put stress on a very thin yarn, and a longer spin time will introduce the high twist you’ll need for sock yarn. Even though I mostly spin on wheels, I like to do this spindle step as it allows me to begin examining the basic elements of spinning.
I’ve definitely encountered spinners who say, “I can’t spin that on a spindle.” I’d suggest that now is the time to work on that! If you get rid of the complexities of spinning wheel adjustments and the fine tuning that it may take to change your habitual yarn, it can help you focus on what you’re aiming to make. It can be good to switch to a new tool; it takes you off auto-pilot spinning.
Consider that the ancient Egyptians spun their finest threads to wrap mummies on a spindle. Fine spinning was born – long ago – on a spindle.
The right fiber for the job
A great spinner can make nearly any fiber become any type of yarn. However, most of us do best when we choose a fiber well-suited to the task at hand. When it comes to socks, many spinners choose a softer wool with a finer micron count because it’s easier to spin fine and soft to wear.
However, picking a superfine fiber may not give you your desired end result. Consider what kind of socks you want and how you’ll get there. For instance, if you live in a cold place and work outdoors, you may want thicker boot socks that can withstand a lot of wear and make it through the cycle of the washing machine. In this case, you might want a Down breed, which is hard to felt and springy and can be somewhat coarse. It can also be a bit harder to spin super fine.
If you plan to make a pair of fancy bed socks that will never go farther than from the bed to the bathroom, you might choose a superfine Merino or a luxury cashmere or yak blend. This might be inclined to spin into a much finer yarn, but it won’t wear well. The wool may felt or start pilling quickly if you walk too far.
Prepare your fiber first
A key part of spinning fine yarn is having good fiber preparation. Think about what and how you’re spinning and process accordingly. If you start with raw wool, get rid of neps and vegetable matter by hand teasing or using a picker on your fleece. Scour thoroughly and create a carded batt or roving or combed top that is easy to draft. If your roving (homemade or commercial) is thick and compacted, pre-draft it – open it up, more than once if need be.
Adjust your tools
Once you’ve done some sampling on a spindle and your fiber is ready, you might choose to transition to your spinning wheel. If you have more than one wheel to choose from, look for one that offers a chance at making a fine yarn (don’t use a bulky spinner).
There are lots of tricks to adjusting your wheel for fine spinning. Oil everything frequently. You need a high twist, so aim for a high ratio (smaller pulley). Reduce tension, either by adjusting your drive band (double drive) or your Scotch tension. Consider lacing the leader back and forth across your bobbin to reduce uptake tension further (especially on a bobbin-led wheel).
Zen calm
In order to break your habit and make skinny sock yarn, you need the right attitude for the task. At first, try to approach the task with calm and focus. Don’t pressure yourself with a tight deadline. Give it time so you can coordinate your hands, feet, and mind to make the yarn you’re envisioning. Some people like to listen to music that matches their treadling speed or watch only TV shows that have the right pace. (Thrillers or period drama, your choice!) My first (and best) skinny yarn experience involved a lightweight spindle, well-processed, well-drafted wool, and a very long car trip. As a passenger, I had nowhere to be and nothing to do but spin. Sitting on the beach also works, or if that’s not possible, imagining the beach helps, too.

Finish your samples
At every step in this process, from spindling onwards, don’t forget to see what you’ve made. Stop to ply your skinny singles. Wash the plied yarn and let it dry. Knit swatches of each experimental yarn. Wash and label each swatch. This sampling is the only way to measure if you are getting what you aimed to get. If you can’t stand taking the time to do this, consider knitting socks for kids out of each set of samples. Every experiment will then have the potential to keep someone’s feet warm.
I like to leave my samples out in my house to examine as I walk by. Don’t forget the wear test here, too. Pop a swatch into the cuff of the sock you’re wearing and see if it’s too itchy to wear. Avoid spinning up a lot of a sock weight yarn if you find you can’t tolerate wearing it on a small scale.
A little at a time
Finally, remember that learning to make a new kind of yarn should be fun. Part of mastering this is in your muscle memory. To make this stick, you need to work on it in small increments. There is no such thing as cramming when it comes to spinning fine yarns! You can’t do it in a rush. If you’re working on a special sock project, start planning ahead and give yourself the time to learn and enjoy this process. Anybody can buy sock yarn at the local yarn store. Only a special spinner starts from scratch.
Joanne Seiff is the author of Fiber Gathering and Knit Green. She writes, spins, knits, and designs for her family, including twin boys, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Check out her blog ( or her work on Ravelry – her designs might sing in your handspun!
Do you have or know of something that PLY readers should hear about? We are looking for cool stuff to put on our SCENE page. It could be a new fiber tool that you've created or seen, new fiber blends, special events, interesting projects, books, blogs, videos, just about anything that isn't getting the attention it deserves, we'd love to hear about it. Let us know here: 
SCENE wants you!
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