Interesting look at the process of turning fleece into yarn.
Thank you to Abrams Press and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for my honest review.
A love letter to sheep and wool by textile artist and knitter Clara Parkes. She sets out to follow the process of creating wool, from raising the sheep, shearing, baling, and so on to finished fabric. May be too micro to hold the attention of all readers, but for anyone who enjoys visiting knitting shops just to pet the fancy yarn, you'll enjoy her adventures across the US.
I am a spinner and a knitter. I love the way this book takes you through the complete process from sheep to yarn. A great book for anyone who loves wool.
Unless I'm knitting socks or a particular style of lace shawl, I tend to knit with synthetic fibers. That knitterly love of wool, for the most part, escapes me. Despite that, Vanishing Fleece sounded like something I'd enjoy reading. I might not knit exclusively with wool, but I can vicariously enjoy it by reading about knitters who do.
The author purchases a bale of fleece, splits it into four parts, and follows it through the production process by working with four different mills. It was easy to get caught up in her enthusiasm, but my interest didn't hold through the entire book.
I love everything by Clara Parkes so I know this book would be excellent. It doesn’t disappoint! It was a very engaging read by a highly respected fiber master!
I absolutely loved this in-depth look at the effort it takes to turn a sheep's wool into usable yarn. As a knitter, it will be impossible to pick up another skein of yarn without recognizing where it came from. Our dyed yarn is such a far cry from the sheep's fur it was, but I never recognized all the different people who had a hand in that. This is a great book for people who love their yarn.
In Vanishing Fleece Clara Parkes takes us through a journey of wool. She sets out, as she puts it, to get her “Masters” in wool making – from the animal to the human use of this fiber, how is it being made? And who are the people involved in making that happen? The book covers the stages from shearing the sheep, to cleaning and combing the wool, to the handling of that wool into a useful material – either as textile and the like, going in one direction, or as yarn – with several following steps before it lands into the customers (knitters) hands. Not only is this book doing something unprecedented, lifting the curtain of a fairly cloaked industry and history, but it tells the very human and engaging stories of a long history of a craft and of skilful work that is almost dying out in the country – in these changing times of globalisation and the older generation on the brink of retirement having no new generations to take their place to keep the companies going. In part it’s a sad story, of everything that has already been lost – all of the companies that went bankrupt, whose role in a community no longer had purpose or hands to get the job done, to family legacies lost in the fog of the past. But it is also in part, a story of hope – of so many actors within the field who have managed to stay afloat despite the shifting soil underneath their feet, who have adapted to fit better with the new century and who are even growing in demand in recent years with interests for sustainable and high quality materials from the consumers point of view growing. But what this book mainly means, to me as a knitter, is an invaluable overview of the journey from the animal to what I hold in my hands – what I’ve taken for granted in the years I’ve been knitting and all of the work that goes into creating that unassuming bundle. A better understanding and awareness of the process – both in the human, animal, and industry level of involvement – also means that as a consumer of these products, knitters and non-knitters alike, we can make more informed choices about who and how we support people in this industry, to make our money and our support stand with those whose work we want to help staying strong, to make it count.
This book is not just a human story though, I mean – you can’t go very far in any direction of the process without stumbling upon an animal of the four-legged or two-legged kind but it’s also filled with technical marvels and chemistry. From the natural dyeing of fabrics with its own precision required to use natural ingredients of the earth to get a particular hue, one that has likely been in use for hundreds of years – as long as the practice of the dyeing has existed – to the exacting weight of wool into the machines that turn unmanageable bales of fluff into something recognisably wool-y. The use of machines like a spinning wheel you can picture from a fairy tale – to the modern equivalents in a world that doesn’t slow down – this book is as much a history of an industry in its machine parts as it is its living hands (and feet). I’ll admit much of the details of the processes steps went over my head. It’s a bit like being thrown into a world of metaphysics, where everything you thought you knew is not quite what is really there – so it’s overwhelming, fascinating but overwhelming – in the best way. I felt myself a bit blinded by the many new things I got to learn, but I am also aware this is a book I’ll have to return to over the years in order to fully understand how this whole wool thing works.
Ultimately, I cannot recommend this highly enough for anyone who loves the fiber, who knits, who are interested in American industry history, or wants to read a living testament to the generational story of family legacies and secrets, successes and failures, in the pursuit for making wool part of our human fabric.
Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool is a very entertaining and informative narrative by fibre writer Clara Parkes. It chronicles the crowd-funded journey of a bale (676 pounds) of merino wool from the sheep to the dyed finished skeins. Released 1st Oct 2019 by Abrams, it's 192 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats.
I have enjoyed the author's other books and enjoy fibre-arts writing and subjects in general, so I anticipated that I would like this one as well. I did, very much. I like her conversational writing and the addition of the genesis of the project to the narrative added some background and setting.
The bale of yarn duly purchased, it was split into fourths and the story follows each of those fourths through processing and dyeing into skeins of yarn. The author makes a lot of good points in the book about everything from the impermanence and breakneck speed of the fashion knitwear industry, to vanishing manufacturing inside the fibre arts.
This would make a really diverting read for fibrecrafters who like reading books about fibrearts as well as anyone who enjoys 'how it's made' type books. I am a fan of the author and the subject matter, so I really enjoyed it and found it enlightening. It should be noted, however, that the author delineates quite specifically in the book that the American fibre industry is disappearing as the global market forces and aging mill owners retire. For people who really love their wool, it's an alarming time. Additionally, I think the book could've used some photos/illustrations. It's worth noting that I was provided an early eARC of the book and have not compared it to the final release. It's possible that there -are- photos in the final release version of the book which weren't included in the eARC I received.
In VANISHING FLEECE, Clara Parkes' love song to American wool, follow the journey of her "Great White Bale" project. The tale follows her 676 pound bale of Saxon Merino wool from Eugene's sheep farm in Goshen, NY. Parkes' clear and beautiful writing shows us why the domestic yarn industry deserves our support.
It's a book you'll want to linger over and savor, however you may find yourself like Parkes, jumping in and seeing where the bale takes her next. I devoured this book in one sitting on a rainy afternoon.
Do you need to be a knitter to enjoy VANISHING FLEECE? No. Parkes writing is approachable and comfortable. This is a book for those who care about what they put in their bodies, and what they put on them. It is for those skeptical that you can find good, affordable, domestically processed wool, or that one should.
Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Abrams Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I have to admit that I am a huge fan on Clara Parkes work and since I am an Indie yarn dyer, I found this behind the scenes look at the processing of wool fascinating!
This book follows the entire process from the raw wool bale to the finished skein. She sends a quarter of the bale to 4 different mill to be processed in different way and then has the yarn dyed by different methods. By doing this Clara Parkes is able to explore a variety of different methods that are used in the wool industry.
As someone who makes their living in one aspect of the fiber industry, it is wonderful to get a glimpse into the processes that lead up to where my portion of this amazing industry comes in.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the fiber industry, as well as how things are made in general!
I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I was delighted to be chosen to review Clara Parkes new book Vanishing Fleece, Adventures in American Wool because I’ve enjoyed reading her previous books and was curious about the process of how wool goes from the sheep to the skein of wool that I purchase for my knitting.
The story began when Clara was offered a bale of wool from a sheep farmer with whom she was acquainted. This lead her to wonder what could I do do with a bale of wool and so began an exploration of the wool industry in the U.S. I found the tale of how the wool goes from sheep to skein intriguing and it’s given me a new appreciation for the lovely yarns in my stash. Learning about the process and the people involved in keeping the American wool industry alive was fascinating and I highly recommend reading this book. Publishing date October 1, 2019. #VanishingFleece #NetGalley #ClaraParkes #AmericanWool #Bookstagram #KnittingBooks
Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
A delightful memoir and behind-the-scenes look at the processes behind turning a bale of wool into yarn. Parkes' writing is always engaging and finely balances technical writing with recollections of her adventures into the world of wool production.
Having decided to purchase a bale of wool, Parkes decided to follow the processing of the regionally-sourced bale, from scouring to spinning to dyeing. Her "Great White Bale" project spanned the country as each of the quarters of her bale got processed at different mills into different weights of yarns and then dyed using a variety of methods. From one of the smallest mills in the country to a commercial mill (that's mainly known for spinning the yarn that wraps baseball cores) Parkes highlights the struggles of mills to stay afloat in the market and the difficulties finding parts for their ageing equipment, but also highlights the pride of these companies, continuing an American tradition as well they can in a society that doesn't value wool nearly as much as it used. Her yarns also go to different kinds of dyers (natural, hand-dying, and commercial) to highlight their processes and how the different yarn will react with different dyes.
I loved each chapter highlighting a different point in the process, and I thought it was quite kind of all these companies, large and small, to let Parkes shadow them along the way, watching her bale get turned into colorful string. While the book is obviously going to be appealing to knitters and other fiber artists, Parkes also uses language that describes some of the processes and terms for the layperson who might just be curious into the wool processing process--it's definitely accessible to all readers!
My only issue with the book was that there were no pictures at all. I can't say if there won't be any pictures in the final copy, since I read an ARC, but it's a book that's definitely deserving of them. While I understand if Parkes/the publisher couldn't obtain permission to use them from the various companies she worked with, there at least could have been some pictures of the Great White Bale itself, Eugene's farm, and the final yarns before and after dyeing. Pictures of the plants and mills would have been even better. It's about the only thing that kept this from being a full 5 stars in my Goodreads rating.
Highly recommended, and a highly enjoyable read!
Clara Parker’s meets shepherds, dyers and Miller’s of wool. She spent time traveling the country in search of the perfect yarn. Fascinating, well written book.
Clara Parkes is the queen of yarn. She is the ultimate authority and has been for a decade or more. It has been a beautiful experience following along on her journey from an inkling of and idea to receiving the giant bale of fleece and having to figure out the logistics of what to do next.
How this bale became yarn along the journey was a wonder to behold. This books isn't just for fiber enthusiasts, fans of How It's Made or anyone who wonders how the everyday items around us come into being will enjoy this adventure.
I read another book roughly at the same time about the same topic and sadly this made this book so much less enjoyable. The other book hit the spot completely and made the things that are lacking in this book stand out even more. Don't get me wrong, this is a good book, but with this type of book, you always want to have your questions answered and I felt that the things I wanted to know where simply not within this book.
Vanishing Fleece by Clara Parkes is a guided tour through that American wool industry. As a handspinner and knitter, I found this book fascinating. I am accustomed to purchasing my wool in roving form, already processed and dyed by others, ready to spin on a wheel or spindle. I'd been vaguely aware that a lot of work went into moving fiber from sheep to skein, but I hadn't realized how precarious the industry is, with limited numbers of scourers and mills, seemingly all walking a tightrope to stay in business.
Following Parkes journey as she follows a bale (676 pounds!) of wool from scouring, through spinning, and dyeing, was surprisingly fascinating. Each chapter flew by as we traveled through the process, visiting mills with various types of historical and modern machines. It was an eye-opening revelation about the state of the wool industry.
I especially enjoyed the chapter on the Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill in Mt. Horeb, WI. I feel a special affection for that mill. I've knit four shawls from their lovely yarn, including the shawl I wore at my wedding. I'd never visited the site, and reading about the mill felt very personal,
My primary criticism/wish is that I would have liked photographs. I read an advanced copy, so this may change in the published version, but Parkes mentioned taking photographs so many times in the book that I would have loved to have seen some, or had a link to a website where I could see some.
This book ends on a note of hope for the wool industry in the US. Though it's clear that the road is long and bumpy, Parkes describes the folks willing to travel that road and continue to provide avocational spinners and knitters with the wool we love.
As a spinner, knitter, dyed and Weaver I am so pleased with this book.
It’s about knitting through the British Isles, a knitting journey lasting a year. Lot’s of history, myth, and wonderful refers to the countryside and sheep breeds and their history. I discovered that worsted, a tightly spun, smooth yarn, comes from Worstead, a tiny village in Norfolk. That I didn’t know.
Basically if you love wool, knitting, sheep then read it, buy it for knitting friends. It’s a truly lovely read.
Thanks to NetGalley and publishers.
A wonderful journey in the life of a bale of newly shorn wool. Being a fibre artist who has used wool in many works, as well as having my own merino sheep (one) which, we shear and I spin the fleece, this book really intrigued me to follow the journey of this fleece commercially.
It seems that whilst the big companies are dying out, I find here in Australia we have a growing boutique industry that specialise and are producing fabulous wools, just as in America.
A fascinating and interesting book well told.
After being raised by a veterinarian in a rural community, I was excited to learn about the fleece/sheeping industry. Unfortunately I had technical difficulties with the download and was unable to read this title.
Clara Parkes is a well-known figure in the world of knitting and crochet. Her website, <a href="http://www.knittersreview.com/">Knitter's Review</a>, was a source of online information on all things knitty long before Ravelry came into being; she wrote <i>The Knitter's Book of Wool</i>, <I>The Knitter's Book of Yarn</i> and <I>The Knitter's Book of Socks</i>, invaluable resources for crafters seeking to understand more about the ways that fibre content and construction influence the way a yarn will behave and what it will work well for. Her more recent books, <i>The Yarn Whisperer</i>, <i>Knitlandia</i> and <i>A Stash of One's Own</i>, have been collections of personal essays about yarn and her life with it; she's probably one of the few people to have become a big name in the yarn world because of something other than dyeing or designing.
Her new book, <i>Vanishing Fleece</i>, tells the story of what happened when a farming acquaintance offered her a 676-pound bale of superfine fleece from his small flock of Saxon Merino sheep. Parkes accepts the challenge, and embarks on a journey to learn about the stages of processing by which her bale of fleece will become yarn; scouring, carding, spinning, dyeing. It's also a look at the declining American textile industry, tenaciously clinging on despite stiff competition from overseas production, weaving the stories of the people she meets together with descriptions of the processes her fibre goes through. I found it a fascinating read, and a hugely entertaining one as well, thanks to the chatty, humorous tone of the writing. I knit a lot less these days than I used to, but this made me long to have needles and yarn in my hands. If only I could knit and read at the same time! (I sort of can with ebooks, but don't ever quite manage either as well as I'd like.)
Thanks to Netgalley for an advance review copy of this.