Spinning Books

Andrea asked, "what’s your favorite spinning book out there?"

Oh gosh,  in my opinion, this is such a difficult question to answer.  I’ve looked over almost every one that I could get my hands on and each has good information depending on what you’re looking to learn.

I’m blessed with two wonderful library systems, perhaps you also have a good one in your area so check your library first. Most of the time I check out spinning and knitting books before I buy them. You might also want to check around to see if you have a guild or spinning association in your area that has a library. I’m a member of NWRSA which has a wonderful library.

I do own quite a few spinning books and almost every issue of Spin Off magazine. So with that being said, it’s my opinion that the perfect spinning book hasn’t been written.  I think Rita Buchanan could write the perfect book, but she’s happily retired and isn’t interested.

My favorite spinning book is "High Whorling" by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, but I think many folks wouldn’t peg it as their top pick. I say this because the book is mostly about spindle spinning and thus doesn’t include any wheel specific tips. Besides it’s lack of wheel spinning information, it doesn’t have any photos –  just line drawings done by  the author.  This book  does, however, have a lot of wonder information about fibers, fiber preparation, spinning techniques, explanations about twist, plying and finishing yarn that apply to both spindle and wheel spinning.  I mostly appreciate PGR’s thoughtful and precise descriptions of each step in spinning process. I’d like to add that this was the first spinning book that I purchase, mostly because I love her book "Ethnic Sock & Stockings" and also was only intending on spinning with a spindle.

After I purchased a wheel I picked up "The Spinner’s Companion" by Bobbie Irwin, thinking it might fill in the gaps that High Whorling couldn’t fill. While it’s a decent quick reference, it left me looking at other books. So, I then looked at Alden Amos’ Big Book but thought it had too much information on woodworking. Although it might be a good book, it just didn’t appeal to me – at least not enough to want to add it to my library. One of my local libraries has it, so I can check it out of the library if need be.

The next spinning book that I purchased was "Spinning Wool Beyond the Basics" by Anne Field. The book is split into four parts; Wool, Spinning Wheels, Yarn Design and Projects. While she sufficiently covers all the various aspects of the spinning process, her explanations also includes many excellent photos (even ones of various wool locks).  This is what I especially like about this book and probably the one I would recommend the most – especially to ambitious beginning spinners.

I’ve read  several other books – "Spinning in Color", "Hand Woolcombing and Spinning", "Spinning Designer Yarns" and "Essentials of Yarn Design".  These are all geared toward certain aspects of spinning or are very technical so I wouldn’t recommend them for your first purchase, unless of course you think they might appeal to you more than any others.

Oh, I almost forgot; I don’t have "Hands on Spinning" and didn’t purchase it because I already have "Spin It".


Fiber to Fabric


While browsing through books at a local used bookstore yesterday, I came upon interesting old business education textbook published in 1945.  It describes the entire commercial process of manufacturing textiles from beginning to end and includes a detailed comparison of cotton, wool, linen, silk and rayon.

As I read through the first chapter called “Differential Qualities of Textile Fiber”, I began to understand why I enjoy working with rovings that include silk.  My current spinning project (in the picture) is a roving with a combination of merino wool and tussah silk. Pure merino can be somewhat difficult to spin since the individual fibers can be quite short but when combined with long silk fibers, drafting the roving becomes much easier. This roving has a little too much white so I’m planning to ply it with a deep red pure merino single.

After learning more about the qualities of various fibers, I flipped to the third chapter called “Fiber to Yarn: Spinning”. In this chapter the author give an overview of each stage in spinning cotton  and summarizes them as,

1. Lap to card sliver by the carding process.

2. Card sliver to comb sliver by the combing process (if the fiber is combed).

3. Sliver to roving by the drawing-out process.

4. Roving to yarn by the twisting process.

5. Reeled on bobbins, spools, or cones by the winding process.

So that clears up the difference between sliver and roving. If the book is correct, sliver is what is produced after combing/carding and drafting sliver produces roving.

In the 1940’s roving could be processed into fine yarn on a mule frame or ring frame. The book shows a picture of the mule frame, which I found quite fascinating. Here’s a picture from the library of congress that shows an early version of this machine (click on the photo for a closer view).


The picture in the book has a caption that says, “The mule spinning frame travels forward to draw out the roving, spinning it into yarn of a desired size. As the frame returns to its original position, the yarn is wound on bobbins.”  In this picture it looks like the boys are fiddling with the spindles. Notice the wheels in the lower left corner. These wheels must help in moving the row of spindles to draw out the fiber and then wind it back on. Now if I only had one of these frames, I’m sure my production capabilities would sky rocket.

By the way, did you know that John Edwards has a bachelor’s degree in textile technology?