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.

Photobucket

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:

Photobucket

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:

Photobucket

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:

Photobucket

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:

Photobucket

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:

Photobucket

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.

About these ads

10 Comments

Filed under book review

10 responses to “Book Review: A Fine Fleece

  1. You’re kidding, the Halcyon certainly looks to have shaping and very prettily so… (I realize you wouldn’t kid about that sort of thing but… wow!)
    Fantastic review…. it’s going on my wish list!

  2. Completely useless comment, but as a violinist I can only laugh at that really badly posed model there. You’re doing it wrong, oh yes. ;)

  3. I think even if you are vegan, there are places locally all over the World that you can find small farms that will sell fiber from animals that you can go see and touch and know that they have been taken care of and loved. It would take the extra step – but vegans, I am sure, are used to this. (at least the American cutlure doesn’t cater to the vegan diet.) If you are unwilling to use the wool that needs to be removed for the animal’s comfort anyway – if you are willing to deprive yourself for no good reason – you don’t deserve beautiful arans anyway.

  4. Oh wow, now I’ve got book-lust, and must go out and get my hands on this, if ONLY to make the lacy Twilight scarf… er, and the Ravensong sweater, and, maybe (because this is my fantasy world, and I have unlimited time) a matched set of the Halcyon sweaters for me and Hubby. OF course, knitting up those lovely socks is a given, too…
    Agh, my queue is too long. Brain… imploding…

  5. Lin

    Another book to add to my wish list! Thank you for reviewing it.

  6. OMG I just picked this book up yesterday. I love the book. I love the photos and the fact that the patterns start at size 38 instead of stopping at size 38. I also may have picked it up for half price at BMV. How I love that store. Unfortunately it was the only copy they had in stock.

  7. This sounds like a great read. Thanks for the inside scoop and photos.

  8. Thanks for the review, now I’m coveting the book too!
    On a side note: I had a sudden realization in the car yesterday as to why you looked so familiar to me at the Purple Purl: I was recognizing you from your Ivy pattern on Knitty! (Love that sweater, by the way.) Gorgeous blog… I’m a new reader of yours but I’ll definitely be back!

  9. Pingback: Fine Indeed « Knitting to Stay Sane

  10. Karen

    Very beautiful patterns but too many bad photos. Fuzzy, or out of focus and models posing so you can’t see the sweaters. Really dumb.