PLY Away 2020
Welcome to our PLY Away 2020 virtual booth! We are so sorry that we won't get to see everyone in person this year, but we'll do our best to bring our booth right into your living room, kitchen, or craft room.
Our physical booth is designed to equip you on your journey from fleece to yarn, and that's how we've laid out our virtual booth as well. We'll begin with fleece and progress to fiber processing, followed by spinning and then the accouterments. Along the way, we'll sprinkle in some recommended books and blog posts and a little bit of spiel. We've tried to keep it brief while also answering the questions we are most frequently asked at shows. If at any point in time you have a question for us, please feel free to drop us a line or join us on Zoom from 10AM to 12PM PST on Thursday, April 16th, Friday April 17th, and Saturday, April 18th. For safety and security, pre-registration is required to join our zoom sessions. We're thrilled to have PLY Away's Keynote Speaker, Stephany Wilkes, join us on Saturday (more info on that below).
One last note: We've enabled free shipping on all orders over $50, with flat $5 shipping for orders under $50. If you also add in the fact that (unless you're in California) there's no sales tax, then the total cost of many purchases will be nearly twenty percent cheaper than purchasing in person at PLY Away and shipping it home.
Ready to begin your fiber journey? Let's get started with some Good Clean Fiber!
Good Clean Fiber
Heirloom quality sweaters, socks that last more than a few washings, and a hat that won’t pill all start with sound fiber. To that end, we created Good Clean Fiber to connect quality fiber producers and fiber artisans around the country. All Good Clean Fiber is sound, washed, 99% free of vegetable matter, and ready to flick, card, comb, dye, or felt. Good Clean Fiber is available one of two ways: through a purchase of the fleece available for sale, and through a quarterly subscription.
If you’re new to spinning and don’t know which fleece to start with, we recommend Romney as it is relatively easy to process and spin. Our favorite in-depth look at the wide variety of breeds and their uses is Deb Robson’s Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook.
Unicorn Fibre Products
If you’ve already purchased a fleece, we recommend washing it before processing. Washing your fleece will decrease the friction when carding or combing, and increase the life of your hand cards, blending board, or drum carder. Our favorite products for cleaning and conditioning fleece, as well as washing finished garments, are made by Unicorn Fibre. If you’ve been intimidated by fleece washing horror stories, read Henry’s Guide to Washing Fleece for easy to follow, step by step instructions.
Flicker and Lock Pop
Now that you’ve got your fleece, you’ll need to prepare it for spinning. The simplest methods for that are a flicker or one of our newest tools, the Lock Pop. A flicker is used on a table top or in your lap. An individual lock of wool is held on your work surface with one hand, and with a flick of the wrist (by the hand holding the flicker), the lock is magically opened for spinning. The Lock Pop works similarly, but in this case the tool is mounted to the work surface and the lock of fiber is flicked. Not only have we found this to be more ergonomic, the Lock Pop is more versatile than a flicker as we have seen it used as a mini blending hackle, for separating fibers on dual-coated or tender fleece, and for removing vegetable matter.
Hand cards are the first tool that comes to mind when most fiber artists think of fiber processing. They come in two styles: wool and cotton. While both can process most fibers, wool cards will be more efficient at relatively long, relatively coarse fibers while cotton cards will be more efficient at relatively short, relatively fine fibers. So which size should you get? Judith Mackenzie will tell you to always get the finest cards available (cotton) while Beth Smith lists a pair of 72 TPI (wool) hand cards as essential in her Spinner's Book of Fleece. The student versions are smaller and lighter and are our recommendation for anyone with wrist, elbow, shoulder, or fatigue issues, or anyone teaching children.
The smaller version of our cotton hand cards feature 120 teeth per inch. This tooth spacing is designed for cotton and other short, fine fibers such as angora rabbit, cashmere, and merino and rambouillet wool. While these are lighter and easier to store than their standard size counterparts, they do make smaller punis since their carding area is half as large.View Options
Our second most popular styles of curved back card feature 120 teeth per inch and curved backs. This tooth spacing is ideal for cotton and other short, fine fibers such as angora rabbit, cashmere, and merino and rambouillet wool. These are the go-to hand cards for anyone taking a fine fiber class, and are the preferred style of Judith MacKenzie.View Options
The smaller version of our most popular style of hand carders feature 72 teeth per inch and curved backs. This tooth spacing is versatile enough to handle most wool breeds and blends. While these are lighter and easier to use and store than their standard size counterparts, they do make smaller rolags since their carding area is one third smaller.View Options
Our most popular style of hand carders feature 72 teeth per inch and curved backs. This tooth spacing is versatile enough to handle most wool breeds and blends. These are the go-to hand cards for most beginning spinners, teachers, and historical demonstrators. Sold as a pair.View Options
Our Blending Boards created a bit of a revolution in fiber preparation when they debuted on the Winter 2012 cover of SpinOff magazine. They create woolen preparations very efficiently, especially with dyed braids or other fiber that has already been processed. Gwen Powell’s Blending Board Basics and Beyond is the definitive work exploring the versatility of these relatively new tools.
We’ve added a few special promotions in response to the cancellation of shows due to the coronavirus pandemic:
- Free Shipping on all drum carders (and all orders over $50)
- 30 minutes of one-on-one Zoom or FaceTime conferencing with the purchase of an Elite Convertible
- One hour of one-on-one Zoom or FaceTime conferencing with the purchase of an Elite Crankless or Elite Crankless Doublewide
- Temporary price reduction from $4,500 to $3,999 for Elite Crankless Doublewide
In addition, we’re tossing in Good Clean Fiber with each Elite Series carder purchased between Tuesday, April 14th, 2020 and Sunday, April 19th, 2020:
- Elite Convertible: 4 ounces
- Elite Crankless: 8 ounces
- Elite Crankless Doublewide: 16 ounces
Our drum carders stand apart from the competition thanks to the mill-style, sharpened carding cloth that we use. The 72 teeth per inch cloth won’t create nepps or noils in sound fiber, and allows for efficient carding of fine and coarse fibers alike. From the Mini Standard (one ounce capacity, $640) to the Elite Crankless Doublewide (eight ounce capacity, $3,999), we have a carder to fit your budget and carding needs. Drum carders are also available via payments plans - either here on our website or by setting up a custom plan via email or over the phone.
We were scheduled to teach seven drum carding classes at PLY Away this year, so we understand if you came here looking for a little drum carding knowledge. We're happy to answer questions via email, over the phone, or during our aforementioned Zoom sessions this week. Roy had drum carding articles in both the Fiber Prep (Winter 2019) and Fur (Spring 2020) Issues of PLY Magazine, in case you missed them.
The name says it all. Since this model went into production over 40 years ago, it has been the standard that all other carders are measured against.The mill style carding cloth allows the user to card any fiber – from cotton to churro and in between – without making any adjustments or creating neps or noils.View Options
Our flagship model, the Elite Convertible is unmatched in its versatility, efficiency, and capacity by any other hand crank carder in the world. It is highly portable, weighing in at only 20 pounds, and converts from hand crank to Electric Drive in under two minutes when paired with the Electric Drive. Thanks to our Elite carding cloth, it has nearly twice the capacity as our Standard carder and the same capacity of the average doublewide drum carder.View Options
Our Electric Drive converts the Elite Convertible from a hand crank to a motorized carder – without the need to send it back to the factory. It takes less than two minutes to switch between either hand crank and electric drive or to switch back to hand crank. When paired with the Electric Drive, the Elite Convertible becomes a motorized work horse for your home or studio.View Options
Our flagship model is the most feature rich drum carder in the world. The Crankless combines the features of our Convertible and Electric Drive into one sleek unit that is as functional as it is good looking. Featuring our mill style carding cloth, the Crankless also comes with a full complement of tools so you can process any fiber without creating neps or noils. The Crankless has nearly twice the capacity of our Standard carder and the same capacity of the average doublewide drum carder.View Options
Drum Carding Tools
We have an assortment of tools to help you get the most of your drum carder - including the Diz Pack, which was featured in the Fiber Prep (Winter 2019) Issue of PLY Magazine.
Now that you’ve got your fiber prepared, you’re ready to spin! The debate of drop spindle versus spinning wheel is as old as the tools themselves but to be completely honest most people end up with a few of each. We recommend starting with a Turkish drop spindle - the cross arms of the Turkish make it easy for a beginner to “park and draft” or separate the actions of creating and inserting twist.
- Double drive
- Single treadle
- Optional Bulky, Quill, and Distaff
- Approximately 4 ounce bobbin
- 5.5 flyer whorl ratio
- Currently backordered until late 2020
- Double drive
- Single treadle
- Optional Bulky, Quill, and Distaff
- Approximately 2.5 ounce bobbin
- 5.5 and 6.75 ratios
- Currently backordered until late 2020
This is a celebration of PLY Magazine after all, so don’t forget a lazy kate!
We’ve mentioned a few of our favorite books so far, but we carry several that we consider required reading.
Gwen Powell has undoubtedly spent more time testing, using, and teaching on a blending board than anyone on the planet. “Blending Board Basics and Beyond” covers basic use, some advanced techniques, working with dozens of different types of fibers, and a review of various makes of Blending Boards.View Options
In Raw Material, Stephany Wilkes tells the story of American wool through her own journey to becoming a certified sheep shearer. What begins as a search for local yarn becomes a dirty, unlikely, and irresistible side gig as the author leaves her high tech job for a way of life considered long dead in the American West. Stephany shears for our family and we are thrilled to help share her story through this book.View Options
If you have visited our booth at a show in the last few years, you’ve seen these reusable shopping bags with playful designs that make great gifts. This is the first time we’ve offered them for sale online!
PLY Away Keynote Speaker
Thanks for stopping by!
You made it all the way down here! As a reward, please enter our drawing to win a four-ounce batt carded by yours truly, eight ounces of Good Clean Fiber, or a Diz Pack. Winners will be randomly selected on Sunday, April 19th. Limit of 1 entry per day per person. No purchase necessary.
Our drawing has closed and winners have been selected. Thank you to everyone who participated, and congratulations to LuAnn M., Barbara L., and Judy K.!