Practical Spinner’s Compendium Review

“Nothing is created alone!” says Sara Lamb in The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Silk. In the Practical Spinner’s Guide series, four extraordinary mentors share their advice on all the ways to spin plant and animal fibers. The books in the series work together to give you a deep, inspiring and—yes—practical exploration of fibers and their uses.

Let us begin our journey with wool . . . sheep’s fleece. After all, it is what most new handspinners begin with and seasoned spinners reach for first. In The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Wool, Kate Larson is your escort. “Spinners should learn to spin wool because the sheer variety of sheep found around the globe allows you to develop the skills needed to spin long, silky fibers to short, crimpy fibers, and everything in between!” says Kate. She breaks down her process in clear prose with logical photos , each technique building on the other. I especially enjoyed a glimpse into her spinning notebook, notebookcomplete with not only samples of locks and yarn but also small watercolor paintings and fabric swatches as well. Kate inspires me not only to keep better records, but to show the creative evolution of ideas from concept to finished product.

Bison, yak, guanaco . . . Oh my! These are but a few of the cast of characters that Judith MacKenzie introduces in The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Rare Luxury Fibers. These fibers are “gems of the handspinner’s world,” says Judith. She leads you through gathering these exquisite fibers and special techniques for preparing them so that their magnificent qualities shine through. Yet these precious fibers need not only be used solo; Judith gives tips for blending to highlight their virtues and expand your creative range.

Silk is a long-prized luxury fiber, and in this realm our chaperon is Sara Lamb. “It’s like soothing liquid running through your fingers, as fiber, as yarn, and as a finished piece,” says Sara of silk. In The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Silk, she takes us on a voyage whose origins begin in the East. Sara explains the many varieties of silk, their preparations, and how to manage them at the wheel or on a spindle. From laps, hankies, bells, and caps to silk waste, Sara demystifies this ancient fiber.  The section on dyeing silk is especially prone to get your creative juices flowing.


“Spinning cotton, flax, and hemp shakes out ‘old’ habits and provides the opportunity to learn new, often better ways to use our hands and tools,” says Stephenie Gaustad. In her contribution to this compendium of expert knowledge, The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Cotton, Flax, Hemp, Stephenie entices spinners to move out of their comfy fluffy protein fibered haze and embrace the cellulose. She not only explains their origins, cultivation, and preparation for spinning, but introduces you to the unique tools that transform these plant fibers into yarns that flaunt their unique un-wooly characteristics. Stephenie emboldens spinners as they expand their repertoire and creativity.

Join Kate, Judith, Sara, and Stephenie on their fiber adventures in the The Practical Spinner’s Compendium. These four master spinners are sure to inspire you through a creative evolution in your handspinning journey.

Assistant Editor, Spin-Off

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