We interviewed Ann Merrow, the editor of Spin Off Magazine, our Yak Media Sponsor for the third year in a row.
Spinzilla: What is the focus of your business?
Ann: Spin-Off and Spinning Daily are all about teaching and delighting spinners at every level. We produce content in print, digital, video, and educational formats.
Spinzilla: What is your typical day like?
Ann: Like most of us, I bet, it involves a lot of email! Depending where we are in the magazine cycle, it could be editing articles, attending a photo shoot, writing a newsletter, deciding what videos we should make next, or coming up with ideas for all kinds of new projects.
Spinzilla: What about your business would surprise our team hosts and spinners?
Ann: You might be surprised to learn that Spin-Off is Interweave’s oldest magazine! It was “spun off” from Interweave magazine in 1977, so we’re looking forward to our 40th anniversary next year.
Spinzilla: What is your favorite part of your job?
Ann: So many to choose from, but I’d say getting to know the wonderful writers and spinners whose work fills our pages. (A close second: Having excuses to buy fiber and spin yarn!)
Spinzilla: Which of your products specifically help spinners produce more yardage and how?
Ann: In a way, everything we produce (from books to videos to free tutorials) helps spinners produce more yardage by building skills, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say Spinning to Knit Large Projects by Abby Franquemont. She teaches everything from ergonomics to setup to mindset, all in pursuit of making a lot of yarn in less time than you thought.
Spinzilla: Tell us about why you are in the fiber business? How did you get started?
Ann: This is the second or third time I’ve turned my hobby into my career! I loved to read, so I became an editor, and I learned to knit for fun. I started publishing knitting books, so I learned to spin for fun. Now I create spinning products… and, OK, I still spin (and knit) for fun.
Spinzilla: What is your fiber background?
Ann: My parents learned to weave and spin in the 1970s and my Grandmother taught me to knit, but it was working in New York book publishing—in Times Square, helping edit bestselling novels—that set me on this path. My boss taught me to knit and it really stuck with me. At first I didn’t think I’d be a spinner, but the previous editor of Spin-Off offered me a beginning class she’d won and that was all it took.
Spinzilla: Who was the teacher of the beginning spinning class that you took?
Ann: Maggie Casey! I consider myself extremely lucky.
Spinzilla: What do you wish you knew starting out spinning that you know now?
Ann: It’s a marathon, not a sprint! Better to enjoy the process than race through just for the sake of being done. Also, fiber is voluminous, so it will take up more space than you expect.
Spinzilla: What other kinds of crafts or other activities do you enjoy personally?
Ann: I started in the fiber world as a knitter, and I also weave and occasionally crochet.
Spinzilla: What was the first fiber item that ever caught your interest?
Ann: Oh, I have no idea. I was very inspired by hand-dyed sock yarn, but by then I was already a knitter. And I still remember marveling at the plump, squishy handspun yarns that I’d see in the office.
Spinzilla: What is the most fiber fun you have had?
Ann: Aggressively finishing yarn. Depending on what you’re going for, beating the heck out of your yarn can be good for the yarn and the soul.
Spinzilla: How much time to you give yourself to spin?
Ann: Depends! Sometimes it’s days at a time, sometimes it’s 15 minutes stolen somewhere. I tend to go for longer spins so I can get myself settled into a rhythm (and finish a TV show or audio book).
Spinzilla: How many people from your office will personally spin during Spinzilla?
Ann: Hmm… I think 4? Maybe 5 if we can aspinnerate a new person! 🙂
Spinzilla: What is the best advice you can think of for brand new spinners?
Ann: There’s a bunch, but here’s my top 2: Practice for 10-15 minutes every day; your hands will learn as you sleep. And (I believe Rudy Amman said this): If you’re spinning on a wheel and you get into trouble… Stop treadling.
Spinzilla: What have you learned from some of the spinners whose work you feature?
Ann: Oh, I am so lucky in that respect, but here goes…
- There are a whole lot of opinions and different ways to accomplish what you want to in spinning, and as long as you’re getting the results you really want and not hurting yourself (or others!), you’re doing something right. (This comes from a lot of people, but it makes me think of Maggie Casey, who is as good a spinner as you’ll find and also the least judgmental spinner I’ve ever met.)
- If you spin the same thing every time, you’ll only be able to spin that thing. The best spinners practice and experiment and stretch themselves. (This comes from a lot of people, but I think of Sara Lamb and Sarah Anderson, both of whom are fearless about trying new things and find the process itself a pleasure.)
- The rules of physics that are at work in the world are at work in your yarn. (This from Judith MacKenzie.)
Spinzilla: Why are you sponsoring Spinzilla?
Ann: To be part of the fun, of course! It’s a great way to reach out to new spinners or new-to-us spinners and to challenge ourselves to dedicate time to making yarn.
Spinzilla: Is there anything else I forgot to ask you that you would like to highlight?
Ann: One of the joys and challenges of being a company with 40 years of spinning history is that we strive to have something for spinners who are brand-new to us and the craft as well as those who have been spinning for decades. Spinzilla really brings the whole range together. One member of our team is in her 80s and has been spinning for so many years, and others are in their first years. We try to be welcoming to one and all.