Lisa Lloyd is passionate about handspun yarn. She loves to spin large quantities of yarn (sometimes in mind-bogglingly precise ways) and design sweaters, scarves and other garments to make good use of her beautiful fibers.
Lloyd's book, A Fine Fleece: Knitting with Handspun Yarns, illustrates this love with 26 patterns knit in both handspun and a commercially available yarn to both inspire spinners to make enough of a particular yarn for large projects and perhaps give knitters who haven't delved into spinning the inspiration to do so.
The book opens with a discussion of handspinning, its history and the different animal fibers that are commonly used to make yarn. This section gives a rundown of the basics on common breeds of sheep whose wool is used for spinning, from Blue-Faced Leicester to Corriedale and Icelandic.
It also touches on rarer breeds like Jacob and Black Welsh Mountain, and "exotic fibers" such as mohair, alpaca and llama.
There's also information on blending natural colors, inspiration and methods for dyeing fiber, correctly blending different types of fiber and technical spinning information that will help spinners make the right yarn for the job.
This information is interesting but in places difficult to read because the subsections of the book are designed in a smaller font and with less space between the lines than the main sections, meaning there are sometimes two sizes and styles of text on the same page and sometimes full pages with three columns of rather small and squishy type.
If you're a spinner, however, and can bear the eyestrain, you'll learn a lot about designing yarn, preparing it for knitting and estimating how much raw fleece you'll need for a particular project.
The book contains 26 patterns, mostly for highly textured sweaters, all of which are shown knit in a handspun yarn and a commercially produced yarn. They're often also shown in a male and female version, or in two different colors or even weights of yarn.
There are cardigans, pullovers, vests, socks and scarves, and plenty of roomy jackets you'd want to wear on a crisp fall day picking apples or going to a football game.
Roominess, in fact, seems to be the name of the game with these sweater designs, most of which start at a 38 to 40 inch chest measurement for the smallest size (the smallest sweater of the bunch has a small that's 36 inches, and one vest has a 35-inch measurement).
The patterns have Aran and gansey knitting as their major influences, and most of the sweaters have cables or some other kind of very textured knitting patterns. They're lovely sweaters (and other projects, too) but they are not in any way for new knitters. Some of the scarf and sock patterns could be tackled by intermediate knitters, but many of the patterns are ranked advanced with good reason.
Some of my favorites include Saxony, a cabled sock; Ravensong, a lacy cardigan; and October Frost, a bulky coatlike cabled cardigan that would be perfect for a cool evening.
While there's not a lot of detail about how the handspun yarns were produced, spinners are sure to gain inspiration to try their own fiber combinations with these patterns. And nonspinners will find plenty of patterns to love and knit with their purchased skeins, too.
Publication date: April 2008.