Spinning Library: The Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook

Spinning Library: The Fleece & Fiber Workbook

So you have fallen head over heels for spinning and are ready to expand your animal fibre knowledge? At the top of my spinning library is The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook.

You may ask yourself, “Why would I spend the equivalent of two or three braids of hand-dyed fibre in a book?” I was considering if that was going to be my next spinning expense when I had the good fortune of my sister getting it for me from my wishlist.

What Is It About?

As soon as the book arrived, I started swooning over it and all the potential in its pages. Not only is it a completely gorgeous hardcover edition, chock full of photos of the different fleece and hair animals and their fibre (raw and clean), but it also has ply back samples and knit and woven swatches (over 200 of them). It’s an easy-to-read guide with animal stats for whenever you are lured into the deep dive that is working from fleece (fleece weight, staple length, fibre diameter, lock characteristic, and natural colours) with fibre preparation and spinning tips, useful both when approaching a sheep breed for the first time or when working with a breed again. I have found it helpful, too, for fleeces from breed crosses, where some characteristics may be more evident than others, like my first raw fleece, a Romney Dorset cross.

The Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook was written by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius and published by Storey Publishing. It is 438 pages long and contains “more than 200 fibres from animal to spun yarn” as the book subtitle states. This is the best kind of encyclopedia for the fibre artist. About 75 percent of the book is focused on different types of sheep.

Just looking at the table of contents of the book and choosing one breed from each family could become a project to expand your spinning knowledge tenfold. Rachel Smith approaches a few of them in the Spinning Sheep Breeds course in the School.

The other 25 percent of the book explores other species: goats, goat crosses, camelids, and other critters. It is a really nice addition, as it includes many of the fibres we have access to nowadays. We even had a lovely introduction to them in the School of SweetGeorgia with Rachel Smith’s Spinning Luxury Fibres: Camelids course.

But how do I use The Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook?

No less than six classes in the School include this book as a resource: Spinning Luxury Fibres: Camelids, Working from Fleece, Nuances to Spinning Better Yarns, Spinning Sheep Breeds, Spinning Up a Level, Spin to Knit a Sweater. So you can see the ways this book can improve your spinning career are varied.

As my husband well knows, I like to read through the book before falling asleep, giving a whole new meaning to counting sheep. I will find the breeds of the fibres I am planning to work with, or currently working on, and read the fibre descriptions. Of course, sampling the actual fibre is the most important next step, but the book gives me a sounding board for different fibre preparations or drafts I may want to try.

Once I have read it through, I will start sampling. Usually two to five grams of fibre is plenty to get me started. That was the case for a spin I am working on now.

When SweetGeorgia brought Corriedale as a hand-dyed fibre option, I was intrigued, as I had spun Corriedale as a newer spinner. As I learnt from the book, Corriedale has a mix of Lincoln, Leicester, and Merino. Most of the fibre’s length on my braid is about 4”/ 10 cm long, making it a candidate for preparing it either woollen or worsted. The braid of fibre takes the colour quite vibrantly. I wanted to add about 20 percent silk to it to enhance the shine and work on spinning it for a softer hand yarn.

And here comes the “s” word: sampling time. One afternoon and less than five grams of fibre gave me enough information to know I wanted to spin the rolags of fibre with a long draw. Finishing the two-gram sample let me know more twist while plying would be needed.

In another similar spin, being able to research a Targhee hand-dyed braid before starting sampling really jumped started my exploration time.

Spinning Library: The Fleece & Fiber Workbook
Targhee control card, sampling for a project

Now, if the Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook seems a bit intimidating as a new spinner, you may want to thread the waters first with The Field Guide to Fleece, a portable reference book from the same authors. You may even want to bring it to your next wool festival or fleece auction, ready to score your next fleece!

I am curious to know if you have the Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook and if you use it in your spinning planning as much as I do. Do you find it as helpful as I do? Please, do share with us in the forums.

Spinning Library: The Fleece & Fiber Workbook
Spinning Library: The Fleece & Fiber Workbook

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