Information, Advice, and Opinions
Opening The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning at random this morning, I came across a charming illustration of a cat with a yarn ball. Drawn by Stephenie Gaustad, the picture comes with the caption, “Plying from surface-fed balls gives rise to madness.” The heading of the text beside it reads, “Digression on yarn packages.”
These are some of the things readers find helpful, charming, and occasionally frustrating about the perennial classic text: the information, advice, and opinions are diverse, well reasoned, and unapologetic in their assertion of a point of view. This is a book with a Voice.
Another page at random: “Yarn is interesting.” (He does elaborate.) The next: a formula reading, “DF x R [divided by] R + I.”
I can actually judge a lot about this book by its cover. Its dark blue glossy hard cover indicates that the book is thick and meant to last for years on a bookshelf. The subtitle, which begins “Being a compendium,” indicates an admittedly eccentric tone with a sense of humor and a nod toward times past. It is indeed, as the subtitle continues, full of “information, advice, and opinions,” and its reverence for the subject comes through in the final “noble art & craft.”
There is a section filled with drawings and directions for equipment, some of which I’ve never heard of: a beetling mallet and log, skirders. A few pages later (after a charming drawing of sheep in a field) I find a recipe for soap.
Alden (with help from friends, colleagues, and especially Stephenie Gaustad) worked on this book for 15 years, during which time it went from the simple but lofty title “Good Spinning” to the longer and yet more modest Big Book of Handspinning. Alden continued writing (and had many opinions) in the 15 years between the book’s completion and his death last year, but the Big Book has held up well in the 30 years since it was begun.
(Whoops—I just turned another page and my eyes landed on the phrase “most of us would be buck nekkid.”)
You may read this from cover to cover; you may use the index and glossary to look something up at the moment you need it; you may occasionally splutter in indignation. However you use it, this is a book every spinner should have.
Two last words: Cheese roving. Admit it—you’re curious.