Fleece, Fiber, and Good Stories Too


Natural fibers are part of our culture, our heritage. They have a living breathing animal (or a growing plant) behind them. They often have small-scale farmers or indigenous communities behind them, too — people and cultures whose livelihoods and historic identities can be supported by their continuing work with these fibers.” — from The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook

OK, it’s official — we love this book! The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers from Animal to Spun Yarn, by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius, is a wonderful blend of history, craft and science. Robson & Ekarius span the globe in their quest for natural fibers — and the stories behind them. Among the more than 200 animals described are sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, vicunas, camels, bison, musk oxen, yaks, and more. Each featured breed is accompanied by up-close photos of their fleece, fiber & yarn, along with helpful tips on dyeing, fiber preparation, and spinning and weaving particulars.

Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius had this to say about their uniquely valuable book: “…our goal is to look at animal fibers in a way that hasn’t been done before. We are looking in more depth…at the animals that have provided handspinners, knitters and weavers with the foundation of their craft and artistry for thousands of years. You won’t find patterns in this book, but we hope you will learn a great deal about the wool and hair fibers that have clothed and served us for generation upon generation, back to the first person who picked a fluff of wild sheep fibers out of a bush and twisted them together.

You’ll learn so much, with each page you turn!

musk oxen
A Winter Transformed: “Musk oxen grow several types of fiber, one of which is the animal’s famous underdown, also known as qiviut of qiviuq (as well as a few other spellings). Qiviut deserves its legendary status. This rare fiber has not been readily available for spinning or in yarn form until recently, but now qiviut is making its way into our consciousness (ooh!) and then, if we’re lucky, into our hands (aaah!)….Qiviut’s exceptional combination of fineness, softness, lightness, and warmth make it a delight to work with and wear….About half an ounce of qiviut in the form of a neck warmer — a tiny amount! — transformed our experience of winter.” — from The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook

As many of you know, the future home of the Land Library will be at a historic ranch, set in the high mountain grasslands of South Park, Colorado. Buffalo Peaks Ranch has a rich history, including a tradition of sheep ranching. Recently, the Land Library received an extremely thoughtful donation of a fully-equipped weaving studio, which will allow us to hold workshops on a craft strongly in tune with the heritage of South Park. And, of course, we’ll have lots of books to call on for inspiration and advice — books such as these!

The Natural Knitter: How to Choose, Use, and Knit Natural Fibers from Alpaca to Yak by Barbara Albright, and Sheer Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn by Joan Tapper, with fun & perceptive profiles of farms & ranches from Maine to Oregon.

And, here’s one of our all-time favorite volumes among our books on sheep!

mooresheep sketch
Henry Moore’s Sheep Sketchbook: In 1972, when the packing and crating for a major exhibition made it impossible for Henry Moore to work in his sculpture studio, he retreated to a small shed that looked out on a sheep meadow. Over the course of several months, Moore captured the scene out his window, and upon completion of his Sheep Sketchbook, it was presented as a gift to the artist’s daughter, Mary.


For more on sheep, natural fibers, and a very fun film clip of sheepdogs in action, be sure to check out our earlier posts!

Wild Fibers Stitching Us Together

So Focused, So Intent (The Meeker Sheepdog Trials!)


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