Friday, 12 August 2011
Review: Spinning Wool: Beyond the Basics
Spinning Wool: Beyond the Basics
by Anne Field, 2010 (Revised edition)
A & C Black Publishers
Spinning Wool: Beyond the Basics presents a clearly laid out guide to all aspects of wool spinning from fleece to finish product, divided into four parts: wool, spinning wheels, yarn design, and projects. The spindle spinner that I am couldn’t help but deplore the absence of the humble spindle, but the wealth of information more than makes up for that oversight.
The first section of the book takes you through the specifics of wool as a fibre, with many close-up photos providing clear visual illustrations. There is invaluable information on how to choose, assess and prep a fleece, with many details on the causes and consequences of different characteristics and on things to watch out for. The amount of information is astounding and everything is explained plainly, making it a very accessible read. It includes a section on different breeds and the particulars of the fibres they produce, once again with close-up pictures of each. This is obviously not as comprehensive as in books dedicated alone to this subject, given that it only represents one part of the Spinning Wool book, but 18 breeds are covered giving a good idea of how different they are and how to use them.
The second part on spinning wheels is similarly very detailed. I especially like the way the mechanics of the wheel and the different types are presented. There are simple explanations on how to figure out the drive ratio on a wheel, and how to then use that knowledge, which I always failed to fully understand before. This section also explores one of the central ideas of the book: spinning to match the crimp. Anne Field indeed explains that to produce the ideal yarn (soft yet strong), the number of twists per inch in the final yarn should match the number of crimps per inch in the original fibres. If those do not match then the yarn is made either weaker or harder. This in turns implies that fibres from different breeds will also be better suited to specific yarn sizes. Not all spinners agree with this, but it is nonetheless a fascinating idea, and Anne Field explains how to go about achieving it on a wheel.
The ‘yarn design’ section, like the first one, will be useful even for exclusively spindle spinners as well as wheel spinners. It focuses on the different techniques available to produce woolen, worsted, semi-woolen and semi-worsted yarn, including the tools to use for the carding/ combing of fibres and the different drafting methods. There again, photos provide very helpful illustrations of how much fibre to load onto the different cards and combs and of the movements involved in the drafting.
I have to admit the last section of the book: the projects, was one I didn’t care much for, but then I hardly ever do. There are nevertheless some interesting considerations such as felting/fulling singles in order to stabilise them, then shown knitted up.
Overall, this is not a book for a beginner spinner, but is a great source of information for anyone already mastering the basics movements of spinning and wishing to understand how to spin wool with specific properties. It will help you make the most of any fleece. This is a book which I’ll definitely keep within hand reach so I can easily refer to it on a regular basis.