by Lori Law
Authors: Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius
Storey Publishing, 2001
When I first received the galley copy of this book, I opened it anticipating great things.
I’ve read Deborah’s blog here and there over many years. Sometimes, she shares her adventures trying new-to-her fleeces and determining various cleaning methods to make the job and the process efficient and also trying to determine the best way to treat a particular type of fleece with utmost respect. Sometimes this involves multiple trips through her kitchen sink, meticulously labelling and documenting every step. Her dedication to fibre, most notably, wool, is unsurpassed.
I know much less about Carol Ekarius, but her website provides some background information.
The two authors met under unrelated circumstances and gradually discovered they had a common project in mind.
I knew, having followed Deb’s adventures and her constant chatter about various things wool-related, her support of the wool community as a publisher and also as a sort of sheep’s advocate, the resulting book would be incredible.
I was not disappointed. Not one bit. I cannot describe the depth of information to be found in this one book. It is incredible; beyond incredible. I understand the book is quite big. And, heavy.
I have said to friends if I truly want to read this book in it’s entirety, as a book, rather than noodling through it as a reference, I might take 50 years to get through it completely.
The book begins by looking at fibre from various points of view: commercial, zoological, synthetic vs. natural. Information is provided about the value of genetic diversity. It moves into a section about the beginnings of yarn, threads and fabrics or garments, and a comparison of animal and cellulose fibres. It explains measuring systems in place for determining fibre counts. It looks at various washing and other wool-preparation techniques (and also includes a more informative glossary for the non-spinner). There is a section listing different types of wools by characteristic (soft, versatile, sturdy, etc.), describing ideal garments using a particular breed of wool.
From there it moves along into more specific information about types and breeds of sheep and the wool they are known for.
Aside from the breadth of information to be found in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook I am also overly impressed by the photos provided. I love the focus on each breed. I appreciate the identifying and informative photos, providing a personal connection for the reader (and also for the sheep). For me, visually-oriented and sometimes overwhelmed by a lot of textual information, I appreciate what there is in this book to look at (if you are a serious fibre connoisseur you will more likely be drooling while you are looking). What makes this all impressive to me is generally you find in your hands an informative book or a picture book. Usually the former is lacking in images and graphic representation and the latter is sometimes lacking in the textual information you might be looking for.
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook marries the concept of picture-book and informational reference very well.
The book is very-well organized and introduces wool as well as the ‘rest of the menagerie’ (goats, camelids and other critters) with an extensive table of contents at the beginning of the book. There are introductions to each section. Wools are sectioned by Family and then sub-divided by breed; however, if you desire, you can whiz right to page 276 to study Karakul characteristics, for example, very easily.
Each breed shows a photo of the sheep (often with a lamb; who can resist a lamb?), along with several spun and knitted samples.
In short, I think this will become (if it hasn’t already) ‘the’ book for animal fibre information. It leaves no stone unturned. At the same time, because it’s not exclusively about the crafts of working with fibres and because of the wonderful photographs along with correlated textual content throughout the book, I am certain it will appeal to just about anyone, even if they have never picked up a ball of wool.
(There is even a quote attributed to Robert Plant which I’m sure will appeal to Led Zeppelin fans).
Very well done, Deborah and Carol!
Photos excerpted from The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook © by Carol Ekarius & Deborah Robson, used with permission from Storey Publishing. Page excerpt: Photography © John Pollack; top photo © FLPA Wayne Hutchinson/agefotostock; middle photo © Holger Burmeister/Alamy; bottom photo © FLPA Wayne Hutchinson/agefotostock