Saturday, 21 July 2007

Today's reading: The Yarn Handbook

It's a wet weekend, so while trying to persuade myself that I'd enjoy doing some gardening in spite of the weather, and well aware that if I wait for a sunny day it might be next year before I get some serious gardening done, I've been reading.

My local county library service has recently got a new computer system and I am able to sit at home and search a revised online catalogue. This I have dived into, as the old catalogue was badly out of date and I had developed the art of requesting books that were still listed but "missing". This was particularly frustrating because many of these missing books were classics on weaving, spinning and dyeing subjects from the 1970s and 1980s and difficult to get hold of without the library. Out of county requests are rather more expensive, so I either tracked down 2nd hand copies or just gave up on some titles.

The latest bundle of books that really do exist, and turned up promptly in response to my requests, includes the one I've been reading today: The Yarn Handbook by Penny Walsh, published by A & C Black, 2006, ISBN-10: 0-7136-6995-1, ISBN-13: 978-07136-6955-8 (£14.99).

I've enjoyed reading this book, it's well written, well illustrated and I learnt a few new things. It's only a small format book though, with 128 pages including many photos (and a good bibliography) and I got to the end of it sooner than anticipated.

It starts with "What is a yarn?" leading into a brief and concise history of spinning, from ancient cultures to use of modern machinery. It is full of interesting details such as a useful little comparison of the characteristics of woolen and worsted yarns, and the fact that when the English started spinning cotton they could not produce good enough yarn for warp, so they wove a cloth called "Fustian" that had a worsted warp.

With an analytical approach, the book moves on to chapters on "The Materials" (i.e. fibres), "Yarn Spinning Mechanisms", "Spinning Techniques" (not a how-to-do-it chapter, but a useful, well illustrated explanation of different yarn construction), finishing up with "Yarn in Fabric" and "Contemporary Yarns".

So do I want a copy in my own book collection? No, it's a lovely, informative book but I already have more detailed books on the things that really interest me, such as constructing hand spun yarns, working with different types of fibre and how different yarns behave when woven.

This little book absolutely fulfills the brief given on the back cover:
"The Textile Handbook series was conceived as an introduction to various topics and techniques relating to textiles. The books are aimed at the student or the practised artist who is experimenting in a new area".

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