Why Spin Off Matters

I just turned 40. Spin Off magazine is turning 40, too; we’ll observe it officially with the Fall 2017 issue, but at this age, you should never wait to celebrate.

At 40, you look back at what you’ve done so far while gearing up for what you can do in the future. The first four decades are just a warm-up.

Spinning Finally Gets Respect

Judith MacKenzie once told me that it’s easy to forget what it was like 40 years ago, when spinning was treated as an afterthought, a little sister to weaving.

In the Spin Off quarterly newsletter in 1981, Lee Raven wrote, “Historically, spinners have been left in the backwaters of the textile crafts. The construction of cloth has received a good deal of attention, while the construction of yarn has been largely passed over by comparison.”

A brief history: Linda Ligon started Interweave in 1975. As she explained in the 1986 issue of Interweave magazine, Linda did photography in the laundry room and paste-up on the dining room table, and her three children licked the stamps. By 1977, she had decided to “spin off” an annual spinning magazine (making Spin Off the oldest currently published Interweave magazine).

In the first issue, editor Anne Bliss wrote, “This is what Spin·off is all about—to help us as handspinners look at where we have been, where we are now, and at areas in which we can make future improvements and contributions.”

Spin Off

Spin Off 1977

Forward from Forty

That’s a good place to begin the next 40 years (and more). We’ll begin by diving deep into the details of spinning technique and materials, celebrating the gifts of community, and inviting new spinners to our ranks. It’s an exciting time to be a spinner.

Working on our Fall 2017 issue, I’m reading about contemporary handspun updates of the centuries-old tradition of boro; the astonishing transformations of bamboo, sea silk, and spider silk over the past century; how a young Portuguese spinner is preserving heritage breeds in her country; and how any spinner can improve long-draw technique.

Lee Raven’s first editor’s letter closed with, “We have a vast legacy to preserve; it falls to us at a time when the cumulative experience of those before us is fading from existence. Together, we can preserve, enhance and pass on this venerable craft to those that follow.”


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