I have to admit that I have never so much as touched a spinning wheel, so it's little surprise that Anne Field's book Spinning Wool Beyond the Basics is a times more than a little over my head.
But even I can see that this book would be a great resource for a spinner looking to expand her skills and achieve a deeper understanding of how to make high-quality yarns that are in tune with the character of the yarn being spun.
About the Book
- Pages: 160
- Format: paperback
- Number of patterns: four patterns for hand knitting, one for machine knitting, one that combines knit and crochet, three weaving patterns and one for fulled yarn
- Illustrations: a mix of color and black and white photographs
- Publication date: revised edition, December 2010
The Mechanics of Wool
Before the book gets to spinning at all, Field spends a lot of time looking at different characteristics that make a particular fleece good for spinning and how you can tell by looking and touching whether you're going to be able to produce good yarn from that wool.
This detailed section is excellent but occasionally feels a little too detailed, as in the section on the genetics involved in sheep coloration.
There's also good information here about washing a fleece and preparing it for spinning, as well as a discussion of whether paying less for a dirty fleece is worth the bother of preparing it yourself.
Field provides suggestions and tips about what to look for in a particular wool sample and offers lots of photographs showing samples from different kinds of sheep. She includes basic information about the breed and details about the specific sample such as staple length and shape, crimp pattern, luster and soundness. She also shares suggestions on how to spin the fiber (she usually suggests the spinner try to maintain the same number of crimps per inch found in the original fiber, which makes a lot of sense) and ideas for how to use the finished yarn in spinning or weaving.
The book goes on to provide a detailed look at various spinning wheels, their parts and how they work. And here's where it gets so technical that my head wants to explode, but I'm sure it's really good information if you actually have a wheel and know what she's talking about. She offers a detailed process for determining the drive ratio of your wheel, which will help you understand how many twists can be put into the yarn per inch and how thick the yarn can be.
She also talks about how much twist to put in each singles when you're planning to ply a yarn and how plying affects the weight of the yarn. She talks more about the importance of spinning to match the crimp of the yarn and explores reasons you might not want to follow that rule. Again she offers sample exercises you can try to practice making yarn that matches the crimp of the fiber.
After that come lessons on yarn design, exploring the difference in how the fibers are prepared and spun between worsted, woolen, semi-worsted and semi-woolen yarns. As usual, she suggests spinning little skeins of each and comparing them so you can see what the differences between the different spinning methods are.
Finally the book finishes up with some patterns, including a knit scarf and vest, knit and felted slippers for kids and knit and felted bags. (There are also weaving projects, a pattern combining knit and crochet and a method for fulling singles yarns so they're a little more stable than they would be otherwise).
Spinning Wool Beyond the Basics is clearly not a book for those who've never used a spinning wheel before; that's pretty clear from the title. But this book is an excellent choice for people who want to get more out of their wheel, to understand it better and use it in the best way possible with the best fleece possible to make exactly the kind of yarn they want and that the fiber wants to be.
This book is pretty technical and it will probably go over the heads even of people with some spinning experience, but if you hang in there and give this book some good study -- and do the exercises Field suggests -- you will learn so much about how to make yarn that you'll probably be able to consider yourself an expert, too.