Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Fine Fleece...A Finer Book.

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 6, Number 1

Lisa Lloyd

I've been meaning to talk about Lisa Lloyd's A Fine Fleece ever since I first peeked into it, but have been busy with other things til now.

This book is one of those ones that you pick up skeptically, expecting to find a few interesting things, maybe some pretty pictures, but not much useful, concrete information. In fact, I almost didn't bother reading it. Happily, I changed my mind - it's one of the most beautifully conceived, artfully designed, and downright inspiring knitting books I've read in at least two years.

A Fine Fleece
has a picture of a drop spindle on the front. There's a niddy-noddy, too, and a cup full of locks of some kind of fibre, and a small photo of two girls in sweaters. Judging by the cover, and by the subtitle which is "knitting with handspun yarns", I didn't think I'd get much out of it, not being (at that time) a spinner.

In fact this book is full of gorgeous patterns. GORGEOUS. There are stunning Arans, including a Starmore-inspired Celtic jobbie named "St Patrick". There is a lovely, quiet gansey. There are vests, scarves, hats, socks - there is texture, colour, and quality on every page.

Lisa Lloyd has come up with a great concept - she shows each design in both a handspun yarn and a factory yarn...and with that, a little door in your mind flings open and your inner voice says "HOLD ON. This knitting thing could be so much more." It's really remarkable, the differences between these two sweater samples. (And, interestingly? every single blooming time, the handspun wins, hands down.)

Each sweater includes details on the fiber used for the handspun version. Lloyd tells you what percentage was used of which fibers, and talks a little bit about what made her choose them, as well as characteristics of the finished yarn. She brings life to the sweaters in the book and makes you want to try spinning for yourself...and not just spinning, but KNITTING your handspun.

I have tried to pick a favourite pattern, to no avail. I like the one called Rhinebeck. I like Fylingdales, the oversized, seed-stitch-and-rope-cable cardy. There's a beautiful sweater named Town and Country, with a tiny, four-stitch honeycomb pattern for the hem, and an option for pullover or cardigan. Two Hearts, the last design, is lovely.

If you are a knitter, there is more than plenty here to keep you busy. You could just buy it for the patterns and never trouble your head about all that folderol at the beginning, about sheep breeds and colour blending and micron counts. But if your heart belongs to yarn, I have a feeling that you will be drawn to the backstory - descriptions of the animals, details about their fleece, and methods for preparing it. As a knitter, once I read this book I realised that from yarn shop to needles to blocking board to closet is just the last four chapters of the story - I had Chapters 26 through 30, but was missing 1 through 25. This book makes you want to turn back...if not to the title page, at least to the halfway point. I can't breed sheep in my backyard, but I can definitely learn to spin, and spin intentionally...and this book tells me how to get started. As Lloyd says, "...the path from knitter to spinner is, in many ways, inevitable."

Bring it on - I'm ready.

A Fine Fleece gets

Reread: continuously
Given to Others: Yes. I already have at least two friends who want copies for Christmas.
Bookplate: Yes.



kate said...

Having seen it in the 'flesh' I can only say, this is a STUNNING book. I'm as impressed with the publishing details of it (clean layout, beautiful photography) as I am with the patterns and material it contains. A great addition to any knitter's library for sure!!

Jo said...

I think I need this book. I love the one with the girl with the oranges on the plate.

Ames said...

Oooooohhhh. . .love those sweaters.

Kristine said...

Seconding the I LOVE THIS BOOK statement.

Annalea said...

"...the path from knitter to spinner is, in many ways, inevitable."

Oh my. And I thought I was doing such a job of avoiding it.

This book just jumped to the top of my print queue . . .

Cynthia said...

Oh, Shan, I wish I'd seen this before I sent in my Knitpicks order last night. That Aran cardigan might be just the pattern I'm looking for.

And as for your comment yesterday -- everything comes with time. I can remember when I first started knitting and couldn't see the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch, can't you? And yet now I can tell them apart with my eyes closed. Spinning is like that, too.

lizbon said...

Neato. Looks like it would also make me want to get over my fear of cables.

knititch said...

maybe i should order it. looks like my kind of book. have to dash over to to see if they have it.

great review as ever.