By now many of you have heard about this outstanding new book by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius, but for those of you who might have missed it, here’s why you will want to put it on your Christmas wish list. The F&FS is simply the most fact-packed, comprehensive, fun, and just plain beautiful book available anywhere right now, and not only for fiber artists, but for all sheep enthusiasts and anyone who appreciates elegant writing and elegantly-produced books.
Hyperbole, you say? Overstatement? Not so. Let’s start with the heart of the book – information about fleece and fibers. The F&FS is chock full of important data in a consistent set of categories for every conceivable breed or landrace of sheep and other fleece-producing mammals: fleece weight, staple length, fiber diameters, lock characteristics, natural colors, dyeing, fiber preparation and spinning tips, tips for knitting and crocheting and weaving, and my personal favorite, what the fleece is best known for. Merely writing that last sentence reminds me of how thorough this book is. Note: If you only have time to read two sheep descriptions, make it Soay and Leicester Longwool.
And then there are the samples and illustrations. Want to know what the fleece of a particular sheep (or dog, or goat, or alpaca) looks like – raw, clean, spun into 2-ply carded or singles, and knitted up? You’ll find illustrations for virtually all the animals covered in the book. The photography is so good you want to touch the pictures of fleece samples to appreciate the animal’s fleece texture. The authors cleverly used a consistent background and placement for their fleece displays – weathered wood, always the same color and texture, and a variety of colored felt pieces to contrast with the fleece itself. You have to see these illustrations to believe them.
Many shepherds and fleece artists contributed to the book by sending fleece samples and pictures of their breeds, and the pictures of the animals in their native settings are a bonus for anyone interested in sheep generally, even if you don’t spin or weave or knit. If you own sheep, you’ll naturally gravitate to the section for your breed. I’m pretty sure from reading other reviews that Deborah and Carol maintained a high level of accuracy throughout the book, but I know for certain they got it exactly right in their write-up of Soay sheep and their fleece. It is the best, most nuanced, and (thankfully) non-politicized summary history of the breed in both Great Britain and North America available in either book or online form.
Here are a few examples of what else you can find in the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, just in case the encyclopedic treatment of fleece and fiber characteristics isn’t enough for you: references to sheep in movies and TV shows, which breeds are especially good for border collie training, a breed that went from only 10 flocks in the 1960s to not even being a conservation breed today (wow!), a call for help in finding additional information for truly rare and inaccessible breeds, breeds that have “litters” of up to 8 or 9 lambs (and we think it’s more complicated when twins arrive!), and my personal favorite in this category – a description of the man who both coined the term “statistics” and founded the North Country Cheviot breed in Scotland. Who knew? And in the same vein, where else can you learn that an economically-important national motorcycle event was cancelled in order to protect moving sheep?
A word about the publisher: we must all commend (and patronize) Storey Publishing for allowing the authors to take the time to make such an exhaustive compendium of fleece and fiber information, and even more so for investing in such high standards of production, yummy-feeling paper (I am not making this up), and all the details that set this book apart as an exemplar of “fine art” quality book publishing.
Speaking of which, you can order your own copy by going to the Storey Publishing website. Here’s the link. When you have a minute, be sure to let Storey and Carol and Deborah know how much you appreciate their commitment to this monumental project.