Types (and groupings) of wools

On Apr 9, 2013, at 12:48 AM, A. N. Mouse wrote:

Subject: Types of wools from Craftsy, and Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook

Hi Deb,

I just watched your Craftsy class last night, thanks so much for doing that, it was excellent for a new spinner! I just have a question regarding a comparison between that and your Sourcebook.


In the Craftsy class, you talked about four general classes of wool and some of the major representative breeds in each class. Do you use the same general division in the Sourcebook, so that I would be able to tell which class various breeds fell into? Or, alternatively, I assume there's enough parallel information that I can bridge from the type description at Craftsy, to any classification you might use in the Sourcebook?

I find I want to spin All The Things, but at the same time I want to have some rationality about what I'm doing while I'm doing it!

Many thanks and best regards
A. N.


Dear A. N.:*

Thanks so much for your note, and I'm delighted that you enjoyed the Craftsy class!

You ask a very interesting question, and it doesn't have a simple answer. However, it does have a workable one.

The Craftsy class was very simplified, and its primary audience is both knitters and spinners, with a slight bias toward knitters (also crocheters, weavers, and so on). The wool-type groupings I used in the Craftsy presentation are aimed at people whose primary contact with the fiber is in touching the yarn (usually by squishing the skein!) and who want to then knit, crochet, or weave something that doesn't disappoint them (too soft or too harsh to function well in what they decide to make).

The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook has not been "distilled" to the same extent, and its groupings are different—they reflect a more comprehensive view of the sheep and their wools, and were developed in large part because I wanted to be able to consider related groups of wools together—and, most importantly, to help myself (and other people) more readily differentiate between sets of breed names and types that get confused. Fleece & Fiber covers a lot more territory, in a lot more depth, and its information is more nuanced.


The key to connecting the types of concepts in the Craftsy class and the information in Fleece & Fiber is on pages 34 and 35 of the book, where you will find "A Starter Guide to Breed-Specific Wools" (it was co-author Carol Ekarius' brilliant idea to include this in the book, and I made up the categories and put the breeds in them).

The categories there are a bit different than the ones from the online class, because when I was developing the Craftsy course I came up with the (more memorable?) catchwords to be used in a video format to describe a smaller number of types of wools, and those groupings don't relate directly to the four lists of breeds in the book. Yet the Fleece & Fiber lists on those pages should give you the rationality in approaching the wools that you're looking for.


The study of wool, like wool itself, is not static. One of the things I like so well about learning more all the time about wool is that there are so many ways to organize and understand it. I hope the systems and terms I'm coming up with continue to help others. They're rough maps, based on my travels, to help guide others' explorations.

I'll have more ideas about how to think of wool groupings to throw into consideration in the future, as my understanding evolves. Don't take any of them as the last word: they're all sketches from a particular perspective, and they can all exist simultaneously. Use what is helpful. Skip over what is not, and instead find a different angle from which to examine what you want to get a grasp on. That's what I do. It's endlessly amusing.

With all best wishes, and happy spinning!

Deborah Robson

* A slightly revised and expanded response. With pictures. I like pictures. And links. Links can be useful.


Congratulations to Joanne Seiff on winning the copy of Ann Kingstone's Born and Bred! I made up slips of paper and folded them and put them on the living room table and my daughter walked by randomly and snatched one out. It had Joanne's message on it. Both my daughter and I said later that we really wanted to pick EVERYBODY. But we couldn't, so thanks to everyone for throwing your names into the circle of chance. It's a wonderful book.


5 thoughts on “Types (and groupings) of wools”

  1. Thanks for this, Deb! Truly useful information (and I like pictures and links, too). Have now bought the Kindle edition and been reading breed descriptions as though I were eating potato chips. Will have to spend some time with the book and some wools and my spindle, and STUDY.


  2. A.N., I love good questions! Especially ones that I can answer. So glad to be able to talk about this more.

    Elaine, the J Visa is a very, very cool thing, and if I were in the UK needing to come here it would work. It’s a US visa type. I’m not entirely sure I can get the UK Border Agency to institute such a thing quickly enough to help me in going in the other direction, from US to UK, but I’m sure I’ll meet people in the UK who will want to know about it for coming to the States!

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