Disclaimer: I rec’d a pre-publication copy of this book from the publisher, Storey Publishing, for teaching and review purposes. I rec’d no other compensation and the following review is my honest opinion of this work of non-fiction. The final publication version of this book is beautiful — a sewn, hardcover volume that should be on every fiber-artist’s shelf!

The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook from Storey Publishers

Let me just say at the outset that I think The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius is soon going to become one of those books that just about every knitter has on his/her shelf!

Yes, it’s that good.

The Sourcebook is truly an amazing encyclopedia for all fiber artists, but this book is especially applicable for hand-knits designers. This book includes just about all the natural, animal-based fibers including the fibers of the different breeds of sheep (over 100 SHEEP breeds described), goats, “goat crosses”, camelids, and other hair/fur bearing animals (including bison, dog, horse, rabbit and yak).

See what I mean about encyclopedic?

The book starts out with an explanation of why natural fibers are so much better to use for crafting than the synthetics. The authors then go into a very brief history of fiber creation — fiber production dating back at least as far as 3,500 years ago (but plant-based fiber production has been found as far back as 40,000 years ago) based on fossil evidence. Scientists have determined, however, that alpacas were domesticated as far back as 7,000 years ago while domesticated sheep go back at least 9,000 years; scientists have assumed that these animals were not domesticated just for their food value. The authors then discuss the science behind the fibers — why wool is so warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather, why cashmere is even warmer than wool, and just what each animal fiber looks like on the animal. Further, the book discusses how natural fibers are graded/rated, how they are processed to create a usable fiber, and finishes with a wonderful glossary of fiber terms.

Than we get to the meat of the book: each section begins with a general introduction to the “type” of fiber (sheep, goats, etc) and an overview chart sub-dividing the fibers by characteristics (softest, strength, etc). The specific fibers are each given at least a two-page spread that discusses:

  • fleece weight
  • staple length
  • fiber diameter
  • “lock characteristics”
  • natural colors
  • using the fiber: including dyeing, fiber preparation and spinning tips, characteristics when used for knitting/crocheting/weaving, and what it’s best known for

In addition to these wonderful quick facts, there are great, really useful photos that show the raw fiber, processed fiber, fiber spun into a yarn, and knitted and woven samples. The photos, all in color, are clear, up-close pictures where the reader can really see the changes to the fiber.

Throughout the book, there are fascinating “pop out” facts, charts and other information that help to make this book a classic resource for anyone wanting to use natural, animal-based fibers.

I highly recommend this book for all fiber artists and craftsmen– how can you know what you can do if you don’t know what you have?

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