Spinning Tuesday: Inspired by Deborah Robson

I have been inspired by Deborah Robson.

First, I took a Rare Breeds class from her at The Spinning Loft.

Then, I watched her DVD set Handspinning Rare Wools.


38 rare and endangered sheep

Then, I read an advance of her soon to be published book with Carol Ekarius, The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn.

Official publication date is June 1, 2011

With every encounter, in person or virtually, I was uplifted and nearly overwhelmed by her expertise and passion for her subject, particularly rare and endangered sheep.

I became inspired, obsessed really, with the idea of spinning a wider variety of fiber. Exposing my spinning and brain to breeds beyond BFL and Merino.

Then I tried not to freak out.

There was so much I didn’t know, where should I start- the book has 200 fibers to spin, the DVD set 38 rare and endangered breeds of sheep? What was I really going to spin? And where would I find the fiber?

So I did what any 21st century fan girl would do – I emailed Deb. I asked the expert how to narrow down the enormous list of fibers to a manageable list. She helped me out. I have lists. I’ll share them in a second.

Then I had to find the fiber. There are two women I know, both owners of spinning shops who feel as strongly about the survival and variety of sheep breeds and animals fibers as Deb. Beth Smith of The Spinning Loft and Jennifer Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks. I contacted them about fiber. For each fiber listed below I am getting raw and prepped fiber too, when it’s available.

I asked Deb to give me a  list, up to ten fibers that every spinner should try to spin. She asked, “just animal fiber or rare breed wools?” I said yes. She graciously sent two lists. Here’s what she sent, and what I’m going to spin over the next 10 weeks:

Deborah Robson’s Must-Spin Lists 2011

Animal fibers that every spinner should know and try:

  1. wool, one of the following: Cotswold, Lincoln, Leicester Longwool
  2. wool, one of the following: Shropshire, Southdown, Oxford
  3. wool, Merino
  4. mohair, adult
  5. mohair, kid
  6. alpaca, huacaya (most is huacaya)
  7. angora rabbit
  8. cashmere
  9. qiviut

Rare and endangered wools

  1. Black Welsh
  2. Clun Forest
  3. Navajo Churro
  4. American Tunis
  5. American Jacob
  6. Southdown
  7. Romeldale/CVM
  8. Cotswold
  9. Lincoln or Leicester Longwool*
  10. Wensleydale or Teeswater*

*These are not totally interchangeable, but giving alternatives means that it’ll be more possible to locate supplies.

I’m ready to spin outside of my comfort zone, and to learn about new fibers. I have my fiber and I have my lists. I have Deb’s book and DVDs to keep me from getting lost.

Who wants to spin along on my fiber adventure?

(542 Posts)

Jillian is the​ author of the best-selling spinning book Yarnitecture. She is the editor​ of Knittyspin and Developmental Editor for PLY and PLY Books. She kinda loves this spinning thing and wants everyone who spins to love it too, so she teaches and writes a lot. She knits, weaves, and stitches and tries to do as much of it as she can with handspun yarn. She's always cooking up all kinds of exciting and creative things combining fiber arts. She likes her mysteries British, her walks woodsy, and to spend as much time as she can laughing. Spy on her on her website jillianmoreno.com

19 thoughts on “Spinning Tuesday: Inspired by Deborah Robson

  1. Leslie

    Also, I found the following site listed in the back of the most recent Spin-Off: fleecestudy.com. Might be a good way of getting a nice range of rare wools.

  2. Susan

    sounds like fun…I have already started accumulating different fibres…just to see which ones I really like….do my best to keep up but gardening season is upon us

  3. Anna

    Yes, I’ve totally spun with Clun Forest and Wensleydale! Both were a lot of fun. Wensleydale had a lot of crimp, and Clun Forest felt really springy. It was easy to spin fine. I have a harder time handling merino.

  4. Aimee

    I love the idea! I’ve spun the standard BFL, merino (I had beautiful cuticles afterward!), alpaca, Leicester, Romeldale, a number of pre-blended alpaca/silk batts & am now prepping a merino/American Jacob fleece for spinning.

    This is seriously addicting!

  5. Brandi

    I’ve been blogging about different spinning fibers every week. How they feel, the handle, the history, how they dye etc. I love trying new fibers and work at getting my hands on any that I can.

  6. Erin

    I’m game for this adventure. Ravelry might be a good forum on which to start a SAL. I get a bit overwhelmed with some of the other groups that do a fiber per month, but this sounds manageable.
    Too, I know a couple farms in my area that raise Tunis and sell the fleeces, so let me know if that is of interest.

  7. Joanne

    I love the new Knitty pattern archives with thumbnail pictures in place of the written description!

  8. Sherry in Idaho

    As a fan of Liz Lovick, I am surprised that the North Ronaldsay did not make either list.

    1. Deborah Robson

      I love North Ronaldsay. A LOT. It didn’t make this list because Jillian said “ten,” and because if you have ONE North Ron fleece, you know nothing at all about North Ron. If you have a half-dozen North Ronaldsay samples, you may *start* to get the idea of the breed.

      Shetland can be equally complicated, but not to the same degree as North Ronaldsay. It didn’t make this list, either, because it’s got so much variety. I wanted to set a series of baselines, from which people could then approach other breeds.

      (By the way, Liz Lovick is one of my favorite folks . . . I got to meet her last year.)

  9. Trish

    I love how Knittyspin has grown. I especially like this month’s book reviews. So many wonderful spinning books!

  10. Rowena Philbeck

    I love to spin different fibers. I go to our local fiber shop and she always has new spinning fibers to try out. We have a Spin-in coming up the end of this month and I’m anxious to spin new things. I love Knittyblog and how more people are learning to spin. Such fun and rewarding at the same time.

  11. Amy

    Thanks for this list and the rare wools references. I’m a beginning spinner, so don’t have any clue about how difficult it would be to get most of these…although my local shop has wensleydale. I’ll try that for sure.

  12. obsidiankitten

    So exciting that I was able to try some of these fibers at The Spinning Loft, too! It’s amazing how different fibers are…I had no idea until I began spinning. I’m also a fan of llama, although finding good-quality llama can be difficult. And I also love Icelandic sheep!

  13. Seanna Lea

    This is awesome. I am taking my second spinning class in June, so I am hoping to someday join along in something like this. I’ll follow along avidly!

  14. Deborah Robson

    Inspired, obsessed, trying not to freak out: the story of the making of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook in three phases. I spiraled through the three continuously. Fortunately, “inspired” predominated, “obsessed” hung in there for the long haul, and “freak out” was only occasional, when I looked at the whole thing at once instead of just the one piece in front of me.

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