Although Deborah Pulliam
contributed articles to many publications, her writing for Spin-Off blends many interests and sheds light on her unique and substantial contributions to the world around her.
As I looked through what she had written for this one magazine (of which I was editor from 1988 to 2000), I began to pull out short quotes from her book reviews. I’ve included a number of them in the reviews list at the end of this post.
If you’d like to watch a fine intelligence applied to the crafts of knitting and spinning—and many peripheral ideas—dig out Deborah’s writing, in the many places where it appeared, and
enjoy. If I had to choose a personal favorite from the Spin-Off group, it would be “Thoughts from Godspeed’s foredeck” (Summer 1990).
“For almost as many years as I’ve been spinning, I’ve been asking myself, why? . . . Somehow spinning (and its corollary for me, knitting) has remained the one constant and satisfying craft in my life. Not necessarily the one I do best, you understand, but the one that does best for me.”
—Deborah Pulliam, “Why Do I Spin? Why Do You?” Spin-Off, Spring 1994, pages 52–65.
Articles in Spin-Off magazine
- “A drying rack anyone can make.” Spring 1993, page 97.
- “A handspun knitted pig.” Winter 2001, pages 28–30.
- “Bookbinding with handspun.” Summer 1999, pages 80, 81.
- “Controlled substances for spinners.” Summer 1995, page 103.
- “Double mittens.” Winter 2003, pages 32–34.
- “Early baby stockings: The eighteenth century.” Winter 1997, pages 30–31.
- “Early mitteyns: Two bags.” Spring 1996, pages 16–18.
- “Elements of demonstrating.” Fall 1991, pages 32, 34.
- “Fiber basics: Cotswold.” Winter 1999, pages 44–50.
- “Fiber basics: Hampshire.” Spring 1998, pages 48–53.
- “Hampshire vest.” Summer 1996, pages 58, 59, 61, 66.
- “Holbrook socks.” Fall 1995, pages 59–62.
- “Knitted stockings in old England.” Winter 1992, pages 92–94.
- “Lamb and Flag: History on the streets.” Spring 1998, pages 62–63.
- “Lucid lucetting: How to make a simple looped cord.” Summer 2004, page 45.
- “Moving from hand cards to industrialization.” Fall 1992, pages 75–77.
- “Natural Cotton Colours and Vreseis: What will prevail?” Fall 1997, pages 26–27.
- “Rockin’ on Rock Day.” Winter 1997, pages 28–29.
- “Royal Highland Show.” Spring 2001, pages 80–81.
- “Seventeenth-century-style mitteyns.” Spring 1996, page 19.
- “Sixteenth-century-style cap.” Spring 1991, page 15.
- “Software review.” Summer 1995, pages 28–29.
- “Spin·Off: The first twenty years.” Winter 1996, pages 16–19.
- “Spinning for a lazy kate.” Summer 1991, pages 14–15.
- “Spinning for slip-stitch crochet.” Summer 2004, pages 42–44.
- “Spinning in costume.” Winter 1991, pages 42–45.
- “Spinning the electronic web.” Winter 1997, pages 102–103.
- “Thoughts from Godspeed’s foredeck.” Summer 1990, page 92.
- “When the mountain of wool gets too big.” Fall 1992, pages 70–74.
- “Why do I spin? Why do you?” Spring 1994, pages 52–65.
Reviews in Spin-Off
- Bryan, Nonabah
G., and Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton. Navajo
and Hopi Dyes. Fall 1996,
pages 97, 99.
“It’s been wonderful in the past few years to see older, valuable
books being made available to a whole new audience. . . . Although Bryan doesn’t mention
indigo, the Hopi used it in a cold vat. Grown in Central
America, it was a valuable trade item. . . .”
Maria. The Knot Handbook. Winter 2002, pages 20–21.
“While it might seem a long way to
woolen yarn, understanding rope construction can enhance your understanding of
spinning in general. . . . The chapter on plaits, sennits, and lashings may be
of particular interest to spinners, because it provides . . . techniques that
can make handsome buttons, handles, and fastenings. . . .”
- Cranley, Maddy. Fulling Around with Felting. Spring 1998, pages 95, 97.
fan of heavily fulled (or felted) knitting, I was pleased to discover a book
devoted to it. . . . There’s valuable material here, which could be
supplemented by a handspinner’s own more intricate knowledge of the behavior of
- Eaton, Jil. Minnow Knits. Fall 1996, page 99.
“These are real
kids, wearing real clothes! And they
look cheerful, comfortable, and rather chic in them.”
- Falick, Melanie. Weekend
Knitting: 50 Unique Projects and Ideas. Winter 2004, page 18.
“[I]t’s wonderful to see so many fresh ideas
and new takes on traditional ideas, all in one very attractive book. . . . I
spent several years supporting myself by weaving chair seats, so it’s
embarrassing to admit that it never occurred to me to knit a seat for a chair, but now I’m going to.”
- Gainford, Veronica. Designs for
Knitting Kilt Hose and Knickerbocker Stockings. Winter 1998, page 32.
“Even if knitters everywhere
weren’t already grateful to the mother/daughter combination of Elizabeth
Zimmermann and Meg Swansen for many years of excellent teaching and innovative
knitting, we should all be thankful that their small Schoolhouse Press . . .
has begun republishing . . . . knitting books that otherwise might not be
Priscilla. Ethnic Socks and Stockings.
Winter 1996, page 9.
take Priscilla Gibson-Roberts a while to get around to publishing her books
(many of us remember the agonizing wait for her Salish Indian sweaters book!),
but when she gets them in print, she really produces.”
- Gullers, Barbara
D. Antique Sewing Tools and Tales. Winter 1993, page 30.
“Who would think
of sewing tools as art objects? Think again.”
- Keeble, Brian. Art for Whom and for What? Winter 1999, pages 14–15.
“Some of us
spin to create superior yarn for projects. Some spin for the rhythmic,
meditative activity. Some just love the feeling of fiber. Most of us spin for a
combination of reasons that we could easily name. But profound questions can be
asked about our common pursuit. Not everyone wants to consider these questions,
and it’s enough to be a spinner, for whatever reason. . . . This book is not
for everyone, but it is important for those who enjoy wrestling with big
- Kolander, Cheryl.
Hemp! For Textile Artists. Summer 1997, page 94.
. . . has stepped into the breach just as hemp has become a popular new/old
fiber for spinners to deal with.”
- Mailand, Harold F., and Dorothy Stites Alig. Preserving Textiles: A Guide for the Nonspecialist. Summer 2000, page 13.
“Sometimes it’s difficult for us to think
that the textiles we make are worth preserving. . . .”
- Messent, Jan. Knitted Historical
Figures. Winter 1995, pages
“Some day I want to meet Jan Messent, because in a world filled with
creative people, she is light-years ahead of most of us in imagination and
execution. She also knows how to research historical clothing and how to
recreate it in an unexpected medium.”
- Nickerson, Signe.
Australian Locker Hooking. Spring 1997, page 30.
“While judging a
fleece show several years ago, I was constantly interrupted by spinners wanting
to know what fleeces were for sale, and shepherds who wanted to know what
they’d won. . . . One interruption I welcomed, because a spinner ended up
giving me an impromptu demonstration of locker hooking. He said he hadn’t been
doing it long, but he seemed quite proficient.”
- Parks, Carol. Terrific
Totes and Carryalls. Summer 1999,
pages 14, 17.
“All spinners (and knitters, and weavers, and sewers) need lots
of bags and satchels. All you have to do to understand the dimensions of this
statement is look around at a guild meeting and see what everyone is lugging
- Pawson, Des. The Handbook of Knots. Winter 1998, page 114.
“You don’t need
to be a sailor or a circus rigger to need knots. Weavers, gardeners, knitters,
anyone who needs (or makes) string or rope will find useful information here.”
- Pence, Katherine.
. . . And a Time to Knit Stockings. Fall 1997, pages 107, 109.
never used anyone else’s pattern to knit socks or stockings, I’m just as drawn
as any knitter to the new sock books on the market, looking for inspiration. .
. . My favorites [here] . . . come from August: watermelon socks, with green
tops and toes, a white line for the inner rind, and bright pink legs with black
seeds knitted into the heels.”
- Pufpaff, Suzanne,
compiler. Nineteenth Century Hat Maker’s
and Felter’s Manuals. Winter 1995,
“To quote Dr. Science: do not try this at home!”
- Rug Hooking Presents Celebration VII: The
Annual Juried Exhibit of Hand-Hooked Rugs. . . . Fall 1998, page 32.
- Smith, Mary, and
Chris Bunyan. A Shetland Knitter’s
Notebook. Fall 1992, page 19.
“Northern knitting has been rediscovered in a big way in recent years, and
that’s fine with me, because it leads to books like this. If you’re looking for
ready-to-knit patterns and bright colors, look somewhere else. This is truly a
notebook of history, styles, folklore, and design components from a knitter’s
paradise. . . . A small, modest-looking book, Notebook is one of the best I’ve seen for covering a wide range of
information on a long and distinguished tradition of exquisite knitting.”
Lesley. The New Knitting Stitch Library.
Fall 1998, pages 16, 22.
rely, as I do, on Barbara Walker’s excellent stitch dictionaries, it’s
difficult not to compare every other stitch compendium to that standard. I’ll
try to take this book on its own merits, which are notable. . . . And just in
case you have a library and a tendency to inadvertently duplicate its holdings:
this is a reprint of a British book published in 1992. . . .”
- Szabo, Janet. The “I Hate to Finish Sweaters” Guide to
Finishing Sweaters. Winter 1998, page 32.
“Even I found interesting and useful information here, and I haven’t sewn up a sweater in ten years (I’d much rather knit around and around, and cut
up, rather than sew up). . . . [I]t is also one of the neatest and cleanest
self-publishing jobs I’ve seen. . . .”
- Weavers’ Guild of Boston, The. Seventeenth Century Knitting Patterns. Summer 1992, page 12.
“For reenactors and reproduction enthusiasts, . . . I offer one warning about authenticity. Most knitting of this and earlier periods was deliberately and heavily fulled. . . . And a suggestion remains from the first edition which I had hoped would vanish in this one: that one spend hours knitting an undershirt from Orlon (for softness, try Merino!). Aside from such academic fine points, this is a nice little project for any knitter who wants something out of the ordinary.”
- Wilson, Diana, ed. Lincoln Longwool: The Versatile Fleece. Winter 1997, page 109.
“Given the Lincoln’s popularity in this country, it came as a shock to discover they’re actually a rare breed in England. They seem to have made a strong comeback, though, from a reported fifteen flocks in all England in 1971. Like many American breeds, they are more sought out by handspinners than industry. . . .”
- Zilboorg, Anna. Fancy Feet: Traditional Knitting Patterns of Turkey. Summer 1995, page 27.
“The historic Turkish knitting technique involves tensioning the yarn around your neck and ‘flicking’ the yarn over the needle with your thumb. Some day I’m going to lock myself in a closet and teach myself to knit this way. . . . There are also many intriguing and unanswered questions in the text. . . . such as when knitting came to Turkey, and where it came from.”
- Zimmermann, Elizabeth. Knitting Around series (videos). Spring 1996, page 36.
“In addition to convincing a lot of knitters that they can think about their craft, Elizabeth Zimmermann and her daughter, Meg Swansen, deserve a lot of credit for showing what can be done with effective video instruction. . . . You can . . . watch two talented designers at work, as they discuss (and sometimes rip out) projects in the making. . . . Delightful pearls of wisdom come from both women, and I kept tossing aside my own knitting to scribble them down.”
- Zimmermann, Elizabeth. Knitting Workshop (video). Winter 1993, pages 30, 33.
“Just about any knitter, experienced or novice, can benefit from watching the incomparable Elizabeth Zimmermann.”
- Zimmermann, Elizabeth. The Opinionated Knitter: Elizabeth Zimmermann Newsletters 1958-1968 (Meg Swansen, ed.). Fall 2005, pages 21–22.
“What more could fanatical knitters want than a new book by Elizabeth Zimmermann, who passed in 1999? . . . Zimmermann’s approach to knitting was, and is, perfect for handspinners because it doesn’t rely on printed patterns, editor’s instructions, or specific yarns. . . . With The Opinionated Knitter, everyone can keep applauding and enjoying Elizabeth Zimmermann’s contributions to knitting.”
Thank you for this, Deb. These articles made an impression on me, when I read them (not that I was able to have read all her work) and I am grateful to get a chance to celebrate Deborah’s spirit.
I’ve missed out on reading your blog for a while and I’m sorry! So much to catch up on and think about. Thank you.