Sunday, November 3, 2013

Book review: The Field Guide to Fleece

The Field Guide to Fleece: 100 Sheep Breeds & How to Use Their Fibers,  by Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson and published by Storey Publishing offers a bonanza of information on fleeces of 100 sheep breeds. It includes sheep breeds commonly raised in the U.S, but is an excellent reference guide to heritage and lesser known breeds. The book is well laid out with representative photographs of each breed and plenty of information.

The authors have compiled basic information on numerous breeds and distilled it into a standardized format that includes origin of the breed, size and type of each breed’s fiber, and best uses for their fleeces. I loved leafing through the pages to discover breeds I’d never heard of—many of which I am unlikely ever to see.

I read the digital version of the book, but have since seen a print version, which is somewhat larger than most books distributed as field guides. It’s a bit too large to tuck in a back pocket, but since most people carry bags big enough to carry home fleece and yarn, it’s not really much of an issue.

My only other wish was that for ease of use, I would have like to see a table of breed and the fleece characteristics for quick reference at fleece shows and sales.

This is not only a reference book that should find a place on every adventuresome spinner’s bookshelf, but one that is sure to accompany many a spinner to fleece sales—especially those that include fleeces beyond the more common sheep breeds.

So what is it about gender?

Don’t get me wrong: I am impressed with David Babcock—the Kansas man who set a world record for knitting a 12 foot scarf while running marathon. For one, running a marathon is impressive. Knitting a 12 foot scarf, less so. Lots of knitters do it, just not while running. But now I know that running a marathon while knitting is one way to make the record books. And length of the item is very important.

But this record-breaker is a man.

I do not believe that a woman knitter who did the same thing would get as much press as Babcock has.  Oh, there would be a story, but it would have noted the accomplishment and that would have been that. It’s now nearly two weeks after the run and I’m still seeing news stories about Babcock. There is no new information, just recycled news.  

Have you heard of Susie Hewer? I thought not. Known in the UK as  "the extreme knitting redhead," Hewer knits during marathons to support Alzheimer’s research fundraising efforts.  She set a record in London in the spring. Somehow I missed her record-breaking feat and the 6 ft. 9 in. long scarf.

(Just wondering…what happens to the scarves? Do they sit on a shelf? Provide a bed for loved pets? Get donated to charity? Slowly make their way to the dustbin?)