Spinners: You need this book

Several years ago, at one yarn show or another, I met a gorgeous redhead named Beth Smith. I didn’t realize it at the time, because she was so funny and humble and warm, but Beth is a goddess of spinning. She’s had her hand on more sheep than James Herriott — taking tangled, grassy, greasy fresh-shorn fleeces and seemingly effortlessly turning them into beautiful yarn. This is as close to magic as it gets these days.


I am absolutely delighted, then, to give you a look at Beth’s brand-new book, The Spinner’s Book of Fleece: A Breed-by-Breed Guide to Choosing and Spinning the Perfect Fiber for Every Purpose (Storey Publishing; MSRP $29.95).

beth book cover

I have long been fascinated with different breeds of sheep. Think about how many breeds of, say, dogs there are: schnauzers, dachsunds, corgis, poodles, German shepherds, cocker spaniels….and think about how drastically different their coats are. It’s the same with sheep. Some have curly hair, some have straight; some have fine hair, some have coarse; fleeces come in different colors and thicknesses; and they are suitable for different kinds of projects. What is so wonderful about this book is that it walks you through the most commonly encountered breeds of sheep (and probably some you’ll never be lucky enough to encounter) and explains all about the individual characteristics of that breed’s fleece.

You will see gorgeous photographs of the breed to help you identify it. You will learn about the background of the breed and its history (did you know that some common sheep breeds were created relatively recently by crossbreeding?). You will learn how to wash its fleece. You will learn techniques for how to spin it so to its best advantage, and the types of projects that the resulting yarn will be suited for. If you’ve thought to yourself, “I’d really love to find a yarn of XXX breed with XX plies that would be perfect for knitting a XXX but I can’t find it anywhere!” despair no more, for Beth Smith will show you how to spin the yarn of your dreams.

Maybe you think I am exaggerating.

Maybe you think this woman cannot tell you all that you need to know about spinning the yarn of your dreams.

beth spins

Here is a look at the table of contents.

First chapter — about raw fleece, including storing it and tools.
Chapter 2 — how to buy a fleece, including info on pests like evil moths.
Chapter 3 — considerations for spinning yarn for knitting vs crochet vs weaving; singles vs. plies; finishing your yarn
Chapter 4 — fine breeds, including merino, polypay (admit it, you’ve never heard of the polypay breed), corriedale and cormo
Chapter 5 — longwools, including romney, wensleydale, lincoln, bluefaced leicester
Chapter 6 — down breeds, including suffolk, southdown, dorset and black welsh mountain; drumcarding and handcarding
Chapter 7 — multicoat breeds, including karakul, shetland, icelandic and scottish blackface
Chapter 8 — other breeds: jacob, tunis, california red

There are lots of tips and tricks sprinkled throughout. There are many clear photos of sheep, fleece, locks, tools, yarn and all the other important things that are discussed in the text. You’ll get ideas for making your spinning technique more comfortable. There are specific methods for how to wash fleeces (hint: don’t throw them in the washing machine with a glug of Tide). Just getting a chance to study the samples that Beth has spun is worth the price of admission for people who are serious about yarn.

beth book page

If you ever dismissed the notion of spinning with a particular breed’s wool because the breed is known as a “meat breed” or you’ve been told that the resulting wool “will only be good for rugs,” Beth will convince you otherwise. And I suspect that whether you’re an accomplished spinner or a brand-new one, you’ll learn many things from this book.

You can purchase a copy from Beth directly (and get her to autograph it) at her website; or use the link above to get hard or kindle copy via Amazon.

Your spinning will never be the same.

Photos used for review purposes with permission, and are copyright 2014 Storey Publishing; I received a free PDF copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes.

2 Thoughts

  1. Marianne says:

    just oh HELLS yes!
    I need.

  2. Bridget says:

    I really really really want to learn to spin.

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