Daily Archives: April 23, 2008

Book Review: A Fine Fleece

I’ve had this book in my possession for a few weeks now and I have not been able to stop looking at it. I’ve showed it around to my local knitting friends here in Hamilton, and took it with me to New York as well at the beginning of the month. Everyone I know who has seen this book has found something to ogle and look at lingeringly…and I know you will too. This, my friends, is the fine knitter’s (and spinner’s) companion, A Fine Fleece.

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This is not the book that I expected to see when I heard it was a book for handspun yarns. How many more wristwarmer and hat patterns do we need? (I thought). Oh, no no no no no. That is not what this book does. This book takes handspun yarns to a whole new level, so much so that I am mentally stepping-up the spinning wheel savings plan just so I can follow my rich fantasy life wherein I handspin enough yarn to make a sweater from this book.

It’s clear that Lisa Lloyd has put a great deal of herself into this book – each design has been carefully planned and executed, and the handspun yarns were likewise specifically chosen for fibre content and behaviour. But here’s the bonus – every project has been knitted (and displayed) in more than one yarn: both handspun and commercial yarns are represented here. So even if you’re not a spinner, you’ll still find this a rich collection of patterns.

In my last post I blogged about my start of the ‘Halcyon’ sweater, which is the first design from this collection to steal my heart:

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While there is no shaping (contrary to the illusion of the picture above), the sweater still drew me in for the pleasing cable combination and the standout centre panel. It’s a comfortable aran with a bit of grace and style. (Both the man and the woman in this picture are wearing the same pattern.) Many of the other sweaters in this book are like that – it strikes me as a sort of ‘Starmore in the City’ sort of collection. Lots of arans and lots of texture (so don’t be scared away if you’re not a big fan of cables – nearly half of the designs don’t use any) abound, and also a variety of colour.

One of the non-cabled pattern sets that I’m loving is the Narraganset Bay, seen here in socks, but also included as a hat and scarf variation:

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Lots of gorgeous texture there, on a small sock-sized canvas. There are several hats and scarves, in fact, all highly covetable. This open, lacy Twilight scarf caught many readers’ eyes, and would be fantastic for a small amount of handspun:

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And this Tilly scarf is also a winner in my eyes. I think it would be perfect for anyone who wants to try the texture of cables but not with an entire sweater’s worth of wool:

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Lest you think all the sweaters in this book are weighty cables and arans, well, think again. Just get a hold of this Ravensong pattern, a light and airy mix of tiny cables and lace columns, with waist shaping to boot:

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In short, there’s a lot to love about this book, and that very much includes the sizing. The finished measurements of most garments includes up to 50″ bust, which goes several inches beyond many books in print right now. Also, Lloyd includes tips on how to adjust the patterns for ‘unisex’ sizing, since many of the arans would be appropriate for either a man or a woman.

If you’re looking for more technical detail on handspinning, you’ll need to consult an additional manual for that sort of information, but there is still a wealth of knowledge in the opening pages about different fibres for spinning. (All yarns in this book are animal fibres, however, so I think that probably puts vegan knitters in just about the only group of knitters who won’t adore this book right off the bat). It’s a decent read, and told me a few things I didn’t already know about the different kinds of sheepswool.

I can’t wait to see all the projects that emerge from these patterns. If I had no other patterns to knit with for a year except for this book, I think I’d be just fine. And how many books can you really say that about? Nicely done, Lisa Lloyd, nicely done.

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