Monday, 23 September 2013

Books about Sheep and Wool

Today is a proper murky day, stuck in a cloud with lots of rain, so I'm inside sorting through my books.

The ducks are enjoying the rain on the lawn, the sheep are getting on with grazing despite it.

I've put all my books about breeds of sheep and using wool from different breeds together on one shelf.  I thought it might be helpful for anyone new to the joy of knitting, spinning and crafting with wool from different breeds if I had a quick run through of my 'breeds library'.

I'll start with the books that I took around the country for Woolsack stuffing events, where we also had a display about British sheep and their wool.

I've written before about the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deb Robson and Carol Ekarius - there are now lots of reviews of it, some of which are here.

British Sheep & Wool is a British Wool Marketing Board publication (ISBN 9780904969108).  The National Sheep Association describes it here (scroll down).  I can't find any reviews so I'll do a brief description here.  It's a book of over 70 of the breeds of sheep farmed in the UK with some great photographs of the sheep and a lock of fleece from each breed.  It's divided into sections according to the classification of the fleece and/or the sheep.  So sections include 'Fine', 'Mountain', 'Naturally Coloured' and a useful section titled 'Cross' that has some of the common mules farmed in the UK.  The essential alphabetical index of breeds is on p178 at the back.

It's a great book to have on a display table because of the size and quality of the photographs and the small amount of written information for each breed.

 For certain information, such as when the breed and the breed society were established it's the easiest place to quickly get the dates, and it's very good on the cross breeds or mules as they're usually called.  If you're sheep spotting out in the British countryside then you're more likely to see mules and crosses than pure breeds, so this book will help you with breed-spotting.

Next a little pair of books by Jack Byard: Know Your Sheep and Know More Sheep.  Postcard sized and with a photograph and brief description of over 80 breeds of sheep found on British farms between them.  I've managed to track down some reviews of the books here:  Know Your Sheep and Know More Sheep.  The information is mostly about the sheep with brief mention of the fleece.

Next two books that include patterns for knitters and one full of inspiration for knitters, spinners & weavers.    The Knitter's Book of Wool has been comprehensively reviewed since it's publication in 2009 - here are details of the book and reviews.                    A more recent publication by a British author with vast experience of working with wool from British breeds of sheep is Pure Wool by Sue Blacker.  There is a really detailed review of the book here.  I must confess that now Pure Wool has been published, I tend to refer to that when choosing which breed's wool to use for a specific project.  I've learnt a lot about how to swap breeds for particular patterns from this book, which I can highly recommend.

The third book may need to be ordered from America, but it's a wonderful read and very inspiring.  Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools, ISBN 1883010845.  This is a description of the Save The Sheep Project which lies behind the book.  The description of the book says:  "Bringing together the art of spinning and wools from rare breeds of sheep, Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools catalogs the 29 touring pieces from the Save the Sheep Exhibit.  It also includes photos and information on endangered breeds, plus photos of several dozen other pieces that illustrate points about the rare-breed fibers and what makes them indispensable for contemporary handspinning.
I've just spotted while googling that there is an e-book of Selections from Handspun Treasures.

In Sheep's Clothing, below, is information about spinning with wool from different breeds of sheep. and reviews of the book can be read here.  (ISBN 9781931499385)

I'm also including two books that I've really enjoyed reading, Ryder's Sheep and Man and Alan Butler's Sheep.  The latter being the much more approachable way to learn about the influence of sheep on the development of civilisation over 1000s of years.  And no, I've not read every page of Ryder and I'm hoping it comes out an an e-version one day so I can read it away from home and when travelling.  It's heavy!

Next a book and a little treasure of a booklet.

 Real Shetland Yarns is about Shetland and its sheep - it is what it says on the cover:  a collection of woolly tales and memories.  There is a review of the book by Kate Davies here.

If you're curious about the seaweed eating sheep living on North Ronaldsay, then the booklet by Liz Lovick is a must-have read.  Liz has thoroughly researched the island and its sheep and combined this with her knowledge and love of working with North Ronaldsay wool.  The result is a delightful and fascinating read that will leave you wanting to visit the island yourself as you share Liz's enthusiasm for these little sheep and their wool.  The booklet can be purchased as a booklet or pdf download from the Northern Lace website.

Next a look at some European sheep - most of which cannot be found in the UK, but through the Blacker & Beyond with FFSB group on Ravelry, my interest in sheep breeds doesn't stop with British sheep.

Schafrassen der Alpen, or Sheep Breeds of the Alps, is in English and German and can be ordered here. It is just as it describes - detailed information with photographs about breeds of sheep found in the Alps.  The discussion about it on Ravelry is here.

Wools of Europe is the multilingual catalogue of a travelling exhibition in 2010 that highlighted one hundred European sheep breeds.  For each breed there is a photo of the sheep, part of a fleece and an article made from its wool.  It can be ordered here
There is a discussion about how to get hold of it from around the world here

Finally, the newest addition to my library - The Field Guide to Fleece by Deb Robson and Carol Ekarius.
As you can see, rather easier to carry around than the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook (FFSB).

A great little pocket book at a price that makes it a definite as-well-as rather than instead-of the FFSB.  The photographs of the sheep and a lock of their fleece are superb and the information is just what you need if planning a project with fleece, fibre or yarn from a breed, when out fleece buying at a fibre-fest or even when deciding what breed(s) of sheep to keep with a consideration of their fleece in mind.

I would also like to draw people's attention to the entry for Brecknock Hill Cheviot.  That was the one British breed that Deb didn't have a sample of.  It is entirely due to the chain of farmers who passed around my request for a sample of fleece last winter, long after all the Brecknock's wool had gone to BWMB, that a few locks were found in time.  I was thrilled when an envelope containing the locks arrived for me to wash and send on to Deb in time for the photography.

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