The more I know about fibers, the more I appreciate working and playing with them. I’m guessing the same is true for you, which is why you’re here! I hope you’ll join me on my newest exploration: my series of Fiber Guidebooks.
When I finished researching and writing The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook and The Field Guide to Fleece, I knew I had only begun to satisfy my curiosity about the fibers and the animals I had been studying. One of the reasons that I teach the Explore 4 retreats in Washington state is to give myself a framework and deadline for preparing additional research—as well as wonderful people to share it with! And time to play with the fibers.
Part of my preparation in the Explore 4 retreat process is to create fiber guidebooks for each of the topics we’ll study during the retreat; I print them on high-quality paper in bound format and bring one for each participant. I know it’s not possible for everyone to attend an Explore 4 retreat with me each year, so I’ve decided to bring a taste of Explore 4 to the rest of the world and offer these guidebooks for sale.
Although I’ve been working with textiles my entire life and spinning, manipulating, and studying fibers for literally decades, this research gives me the opportunity to discover new depths of information and to dig into, and provide background for, common misconceptions. When I write for magazines, my reference lists are most often either abbreviated or eliminated. The publications I offer here include footnotes and resource lists (which I hope I have formatted so that they support, yet don’t interfere with, my presentation of the intriguing facts that I’ve unearthed).
The handouts are heavily illustrated, because I find photos and diagrams extremely helpful to my understanding. For example, I love maps.
What’s included in the Fiber Guidebooks?
The guidebooks range in size from 8 to 16 square pages (now and then one may get longer), and all are double-sided and in full color. You have the option to purchase a print version or a PDF digital version, whichever you prefer.
The current topics include:
Guides to Fiber:
- Sheep breed: Bluefaced Leicester—The most modern of the three Leicester breeds, Bluefaced Leicesters (BFLs) happened as a byproduct of breeding Border Leicesters. They’ve been a real boon to the fiber world, and a marketing success, offering soft fibers that have luster and reasonable durability. (8 pages, $8.)
- Sheep breed: Boreray—This is one of two rare breeds that originated in St Kilda, a small cluster of islands about forty miles west of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and a hundred miles west of the Scottish mainland (the other breed from these islands is the Soay). (8 pages, $8.)
- Sheep breed: California Red—Two rare breeds (American Tunis and Barbados Blackbelly) were bred together in the interest of making a new option that would not need shearing. Surprise! California Reds grow lovely, versatile fleeces, some of which (but not all) contain smatterings of red hair. (8 pages, $8.)
- Sheep breed: Cormo—This modern breed resulted from an original crossing of Merino and Corriedale, followed by strict selection based on production values. The fine fleece is, by breed specifications, extremely consistent. (8 pages, $8.)
- Sheep breed: Dorset Down—Tracking this breed’s history has been a fascinating challenge! The youngest of the six classic Down breeds from England, its origins were the most obscure. I wasn’t able to resolve questions about the Dorset Down when we were working on The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, so I was glad to have an opportunity to spend several months on the puzzle. (16 pages, $10.)
- Sheep breed: Karakul—The mainstays of rug- and felt-making for thousands of years, Karakuls have been unfortunately overlooked by most contemporary fiber workers. It’s an amazing fiber, full of color and possibility and with a deep back story. (8 pages, $8.)
- Sheep breed: North Ronaldsay—These are the rare seaweed-eating sheep from Orkney, a set of islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. Their situation blends history, geography, and questions of human settlement and population patterns. It’s been going for a few thousand years and warrants our attention today. (8 pages, $8.)
- Sheep breed: Targhee —The originators of the Targhee envisioned a sheep suited to the open country of the western United States that would be a dual-purpose breed, yielding both high-quality wool and meat. While looking at these sheep in general, we’ll focus on the subset of information relating to the fleeces. (12 pages, $10.)
- Camelid: Huayaca alpaca—This is the “base” document on alpacas, with a lot of background information on alpacas in general as well as details about huacaya alpacas, which are the most common kind. They grow the puffiest alpaca fiber in a huge range of colors. (12 pages, $10.)
- Camelid: Suri alpaca—Suri alpacas grow long, shiny, almost silk-like locks. The fiber is completely different from huacaya. (8 pages, $8.)
- Camelid: Paco-vicuña—This is the story of the development of the North American paco-vicuña, a specific breed of alpaca. It recounts a way to conscientiously and deliberately shape a new breed, regardless of species. (8 pages, $8.)
- Camelid: Llama — Llamas are one of the least recognized and most delightfully surprising members of the fiber family. One of the sweetest fibers I spun for The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook was grown by a llama. (8 pages, $8.)
Facts for Fiber Geeks:
- Fiber and fabric: Pilling—What a pain pilling is! Yet we know a lot about why and how it occurs. And we could often do things to minimize it, although we rarely put that knowledge to work. There’s no reason not to. Our projects will be more rewarding and will last longer if we do. (16 pages, $12.)
- Fiber and fabric: Felting—Felting is one of the oldest textile crafts, and probably the one about which we know the least. Why do fibers felt, and why—when they don’t—do they resist felting? This publication examines what we do and don’t know about felting. It won’t give solid answers, because in many cases we’re still at the theory stage, but you’ll come away with a better understanding of how to be a more comfortable fiber artisan. (12 pages, $10.)
- General knowledge: Wool Types (electronic version available free with newsletter sign-up)—This is a basic document about how to think about wool types. It’s core information that I think every fiber worker needs. The electronic version can be yours for free. (8 pages.)
- General knowledge: Rare Sheep Breeds (electronic version available free with newsletter sign-up)—Each year when the rare breeds status lists are released by The Livestock Conservancy (U.S.) and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, I update this document. It’s not at the start of the year; they usually make the lists available by about May. Again, you can have the electronic version for free because this is information we all need. (4 pages. Not on Etsy because . . . why pay for the PDF version of a free PDF?—if you want print, it’s on MagCloud.)
- General Knowledge: Acquiring a Fleece — I’ve purchased hundreds of fleeces through the years, and in this guidebook I’ll walk you through the process for yourself. We’ll cover everything from pricing to quality so that you’ll be prepared to find the best fleece for your next project. (16 pages, $12.)
I’ll be regularly updating the selection to include new topics as I have the time to put together the documents. Each document contains a combination of theory and practical knowledge for fiber arts enthusiasts of all skill levels. I’m also an avid believer in documentation, so most of them have extensive reference lists.
Are you ready to explore with me?
The PDF Only option is for folks who either don’t want to have more paper around or would rather not pay postage (for example, internationally); it is managed through Etsy. The Print + PDF version is for folks like me who appreciate having tangible documents; it is managed through MagCloud. Pricing is the same in either case.
Choose an option below:
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