I am a fiber geek. It began with crochet, which I learned from my grandmother while I was in elementary school. In the 1970s I taught myself macramé. In the 1980s and 1990s, I moved on to sewing, embroidery, and cross-stitch. Most of these I learned with the help of books from the library. Several years ago, I was given several fleeces, and my world opened up to the fiber arts that never get quite as much attention—spinning, weaving, and braiding.
Spinning is taking the fiber and adding twist, so that it stays together and becomes yarn. Weaving is interlacing yarn to create fabric, and braiding is interlacing yarn to create various types of cords and ties. Many library collections have very few materials in these areas, and most of those are fairly old.
Having been a collection development librarian in a public library, I have seen the volume of new publishing that supports the knitting trend and the proliferation of knitting guilds and circles meeting in libraries. Interest in, and the popularity of, spinning, weaving, and braiding tends to cycle a bit behind the more popular fiber arts such as knitting, crocheting, and sewing because many knitters who want more control of their materials will eventually learn to spin. Those looking to expand the possibilities of their craft may also learn to weave. Braiding is a great craft for younger people who are not quite up to handling even the single hook of crochet.
Choosing your threads
Fiber arts is a huge subject—far too large for a single article. So, for the purposes of this compilation, we’ll be looking at new and classic materials in the areas of beginning spinning, weaving, and braiding, attempting to strike a balance between “how-to” books and “project” books but leaning a bit toward the “how-tos.” The list is directed more toward the beginner than the experienced artisan and avoids materials geared toward the use of a specific brand of equipment, weaving materials for more than four shafts, and project books that don’t include solid coverage of basic techniques. There are some really wonderful books for higher numbers of shafts (i.e., 8-, 16-, and up) but usually by the time artisans are using that many shafts, they are investing in their own library and have moved far beyond basic materials.
As with any specialized field, a few niche publishers will appear again and again in any bibliography. You will find these publishers, especially Interweave, well represented here. Self-published titles are included if they are readily available and have been reviewed against the same criteria as those from mainstream publishers. If any of these books are not available through your usual sources, be sure to search the web, as they are accessible from various online stores such as Nordic Needle (www.nordicneedle.com), The Woolery (www.woolery.com), or Braider’s Hand (www.braidershand.com), among others.
Sorting your stash
When evaluating you current collection, first weed based on general guidelines regarding condition. How-to books are especially susceptible to wear and tear. Project and design materials should be evaluated according to the current appeal of the projects presented; although the basic techniques haven’t changed, materials showcasing out-of-fashion designs should be replaced. Lastly, if you have copies of classic works in these areas and they are in good condition, there is no need to duplicate them.
While some fiber artists don’t consider spinning, weaving, and braiding of interest, for many they are fascinating and challenging extensions of their love of fiber. Titles below marked with a star () are essential for any core collection.
Amos, Alden. The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning. Interweave. 2001. 480p. illus. index. ISBN 9781883010881. $39.95.
This spinner’s bible is a compendium of the teaching, stories, and experiences Amos has had with various other spinners and builders during the course of his decades-long career. Enjoy as a straight through read, or use as an encyclopedia to find just the information you need.
Anderson, Sarah. The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs: Techniques for Creating 80 Yarns. Storey. 2013. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781603427388. $27.50.
According to Anderson, “This book isn’t meant to teach you how to spin.” Instead, it is a well-illustrated introduction to the basics of fiber preparation, spinning, and finishing of new spun yarns. Her examples are primarily based on spinning wheel techniques, but she does not ignore drop spindles. A great resource of inspiration. (LJ 11/15/12)
Casey, Maggie. Start Spinning: Everything You Need To Know To Make Great Yarn. Interweave. 2008. 120p. illus. ISBN 9781596680654. pap. $21.95.
Casey, Maggie with Eunny Jang. Start Spinning: The Video. 2 discs. color. 144 min. Interweave. 2009. DVD ISBN 9781596682078. $34.95.
Casey’s step-by-step guide for the beginning spinner reviews both drop spindles and spinning wheels, focusing primarily on the spinning wheel. The author provides many helpful hints and covers basic information and offers greater detail. The DVDs present visual instruction on the same information. (LJ4/15/08; DVD LJ 9/15/10)
Fournier, Nola & Jane Fournier. In Sheep’s Clothing: A Handspinner’s Guide to Wool. Interweave. 2003. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781931499385. pap. $24.95.
Wool is the gateway fiber for spinners–easily accessible, it is a forgiving fiber to spin. This book guide to wool specifically for the handspinner evaluates the characteristics of wool in general and of the wool of specific breeds. It includes what to look for in a fleece and how to process it, store it, blend it, and spin it.
Franquemont, Abby. Respect the Spindle: Spin Infinite Yarns with One Amazing Tool. Interweave. 2009. 136p. photogs. ISBN 9781596681552. pap. $22.95.
Franquemont, Abby. Respect the Spindle: The Video. color. 72 min. Interweave. 2009. DVD ISBN 9781596682573. $19.95.
This book takes the novice spinner from drop spindle to spinning wheel through clear photographs and instructions. It also features a wealth of information on a variety of spinning lore that ensures its usefulness to experienced spinners. In the companion DVD, Franquemont demonstrates the book’s techniques while also going into more depth about the antecedents to drop spindles, how to make a spindle out of almost anything, and how to ply the easy way.
Gibson, Brenda. The Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn: Techniques, Projects, and Recipes. Griffin: St. Martin’s. 2012. 144p. illus. ISBN 9780312591380. $22.99.
Gibson covers all the basics well and clearly leads the new spinner through choosing fibers; preparing them; and spinning, plying, and finishing the yarn. She provides “recipes” for how to create more advanced designs, as well as how to turn spinning into a business.
McCuin, Judith MacKenzie. Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning. Wiley. (Teach Yourself Visually Consumer).2007. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780470098455. pap. $21.99.
Spinning guru McCuin has organized her book into a series of two-page lessons, with each lesson offering definitions and descriptions, photographs of the technique, step-by-step instructions, and helpful hints and tricks. The illustrations shift back and forth between featuring drop spindles and spinning wheels, emphasizing that these techniques can be used with whichever set of tools the spinner chooses. (LJ 8/07)
Okey, Shannon. Spin To Knit: The Knitter’s Guide to Making Yarn. Interweave. 2006. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781596680074. pap. $21.95.
Okey’s spinning book is aimed directly at the knitting community and is intended not to convert them to spinning but to show the advantages of spinning yarns specifically designed for knitting projects. With clear instructions and steps for using the new yarn. (LJ 12/06)
Walsh, Penny. Spinning, Dyeing, & Weaving: Self-Sufficiency. Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. (Self-Sufficiency).2010. 128p. illus. index. ISBN 9781616080020. $12.95.
This compact book introduces various types of natural fibers, how to choose and scour or wash them, and continues through to turning the raw fiber into useful woven materials. There is also a section on multiple types of looms, from cardboard weaving cards and various frame looms to rigid heddle and multishaft looms. Walsh includes finishing instructions and ends with projects using different techniques.
Brack-Kaiser, Carol Leigh. Continuous Strand Weaving Method: Techniques and Projects for Triangle, Square, and Rectangle Frame Looms; A Truly Magical Way of Weaving Where the Looms Dress Themselves.Hillcreek Fiber Studio. 2010. 468p. photogs. ISBN 9780983272809. $74; pap. ISBN 9780983272816. $64.
Continuous strand weaving, also known as triloom weaving, is designed for people who like to jump right in, without needing to take the time to dress a loom. In one of the few books on the subject, Brack-Kaiser covers the basics of continuous strand weaving, finishing, and joining and the more advanced techniques of striping and multistrand weaving, throwing in tips for designing for this style. A truly beautiful and useful book.
Chandler, Deborah. Learning To Weave. rev. ed. Interweave. 1995. 232p. illus. index. ISBN 9781883010034. $32.
This is one of the best single book introductions to weaving available. The first section is for the true beginner, the second for those who already know the basics, and the third for those who have some experience and know what they are doing. “Other Useful Things To Know” is a wealth of information the author has learned over her years as a weaver and teacher.
Dixon, Anne. Handweaver’s Pattern Directory: Over 600 Weaves for 4-Shaft Looms. A & C Black. 2007. 256p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780713684117. spiral $34.95.
Dixon, Anne. The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory: 400 Warp Faced Weaves. Interweave. 2012. 176p. illus. index. ISBN 9781596686472. spiral $29.95.
Handweaver’s Pattern Directory offers details on how to thread and weave more than 600 designs on four-shaft looms. Each design is shown as a weaving draft and is accompanied by a color photograph of the weave structure. A new classic tool for the four-shaft weaver. Inkle weaving is a warp-faced weave most commonly seen in woven straps, such as for cameras or guitars. In the follow-up volume, Dixon shows the variety of patterns available on the inkle loom, how to weave them, and possible uses.
Gipson, Liz. Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom. Interweave. 2008. 128p. illus. index.ISBN 9781596680753. pap. $24.95.
The simple loom in question is the rigid heddle loom, which is much less complicated and cheaper than a multishaft loom and is the entry-level tool for many weavers. Though focusing primarily on her 17 projects, Gipson also includes the basics of rigid heddle loom use. (LJ 4/15/09)
James, Carol. Sprang Unsprung: An Illustrated Guide to Interlinking, Interlacing, and Intertwining.Sashweaver. 2011. 80p. illus. ISBN 9780978469528. pap. $24.95.
Sprang is an odd transitional craft that falls somewhere between weaving and braiding. While written primarily for the beginner, this guide also includes advanced techniques and projects. Sprang requires a minimum of special equipment; the clear step-by-step instructions and illustrations make this an excellent primer.
Monaghan, Kathleen & Hermon Joyner. You Can Weave! Projects for Young Weavers. Davis Pub. 2001. 104p. illus. ISBN 9780871924933. $21.95.
This rare weaving book for teaching weaving to children addresses five different methods, including both off-loom and basic loom techniques. The projects will appeal to elementary school students and feature vocabulary words for each one. Techniques are shown with a weaving that illustrates the level of what the technique can achieve.
Ostercamp, Peggy. Weaving for Beginners: An Illustrated Guide. Lease Sticks. (Peggy Ostercamp’s New Guide to Weaving). 2010. 406p. illus. index. ISBN 9780976885511. spiral $49.95.
Ostercamp, one of the deans of American handweaving, says this is the book she wishes she had as a beginning weaver, an experienced weaver, and a weaving teacher. While it begins as a simple, if encyclopedic, how-to book, it presents information on drafting, computers and weaving, sett (the number of warp threads per inch), project planning, and all those areas that allow a beginning weaver to take it to the next level.
Patrick, Jane. Time To Weave: Simply Elegant Projects To Make in Almost No Time. Interweave. 2006. 128p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781931499590. $21.95.
Patrick presents 16 projects designed for either off-loom or very basic loom techniques. Each project shows the adaptability of the techniques. From mats to lamp shades, necklaces to collars, the projects are attractive, and the instructions are easy to follow. For weavers of all levels. (LJ 12/06)
Todd-Hooker, Kathe. Tapestry 101. Fine Fiber. 2007. 108p. illus. index. ISBN 9780975369852. spiral $29.
This accomplished tapestry artist has written one of the finest introductions to tapestry. It covers the critical information new weavers need to build their own loom, as well as tool nomenclature and uses. Intended for self-study guide, with each lesson building on the one before.
Walker, Mary & others. ‘Atł’óhí Binaaltsoos (The Weaver’s Book): How To Weave the Navajo Way. Weaving in Beauty. 2010. 110p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780615377445. spiral $35.
Two rug appraisers and restorers have joined forces with a master Navajo weaver to produce this book, the text of which they use in their weaving “boot camps.” It introduces Navajo frame looms and how to build them, how to spin your own yarn, and all the steps from planning your warp to finishing your weaving. Photographs include examples from many of the greatest living rug weavers.
Carey, Jacqui. 200 Braids To Loop, Knot, Weave & Twist. Interweave. 2011. 256p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781844486526. spiral $27.95.
Originally published as The Braider’s Bible (2007), this rerelease features more than 200 braids made using a variety of techniques and equipment and representing a dazzling array of possibilities for the crafter.
Hedges, Julie. Ply-Split Braiding: An Introduction to Designs in Single Course Twining. Julie Hedges Bks.2006. 48p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9780955418709. $32.
Hedges, Julie. Ply-Split Braiding: Further Techniques. Julie Hedges Bks. 2011. 80p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780955418716. spiral $42.
Hedges covers some of the history and uses of ply-split braiding, introduces the tools, and offers practical step-by-step instruction to provide a clear introduction to the art also known as single-course twining. The second volume addresses ply-split darning, single-course oblique twining, plain oblique twining, and ply-split hexagons. Amply illustrated with completed projects.
James, Carol. Fingerweaving Untangled: An Illustrated Beginner’s Guide Including Detailed Patterns and Common Mistakes. Fiber Arts Pubns. 2008. 64p. illus. ISBN 9780978469504. pap. $19.95.
This excellent introduction to one of the most complicated styles of braiding currently practiced is well illustrated, with step-by-step instructions. Available from several online stores, it is one of the few books currently available on fingerweaving.
Owen, Rodrick. Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru, & Beyond. Unicorn Bks. 2004. 159p. illus. ISBN 9781893063082. pap. $19.95.
One of the best known braiders in the world has provided a clear, well-illustrated guide to the basics of Japanese braiding (kumihimo), several traditions of South American braiding, and related forms from other parts of the world. In addition to the 250 patterns, Owen includes instructions for how to make various looms and a host of ways to finish braids. Considered a bible for braiders.
Sakai, Akio & Makiko Tada. Kumihimo: The Essence of Japanese Braiding. Lacis. 2004. 130p. illus. ISBN 9781891656521. pap. $39.95.
Tada is one of the modern masters of kumihimo in Japan; this is the only volume of her work to be translated. Although it focuses on more intermediate-level techniques, it is the only book in English to present a strong introduction to kakudai and ayatakadai looms.
Card Weaving. color. 97 min. Yarn Barn of Kansas, www.yarnbarn-ks.com. 2007. DVD $19.95.
Candace Crockett demonstrates the basics of card weaving as she guides the viewer through two projects. She performs basic troubleshooting by making some of the more common mistakes part of the instruction. A good introduction.
Kumihimo: Japanese Braiding. color. 115 min. Yarn Barn of Kansas, www.yarnbarn-ks.com. 2006. DVD $19.95.
Rodrick Owen, a master braider, presents an introduction to kumihimo braiding on the marudai loom. He reviews the history of technique’s history and equipment, how different types of yarn braid, how to measure and wind multiple end warps, and the ergonomics of using a marudai. He walks the viewer through four projects. The final section on finishing braids covers a critical step that frustrates many beginners.
Warping Your Loom. 2 discs. color. 108 min. Interweave, www.interweave.com. 2010. DVD ISBN 9781596683648. $34.95.
Warping a loom is the first step in weaving. It is also one of the hardest to master and the one that will scare most new weavers away from the craft. Madelyn Van der Hoogt reviews the basics from winding (measuring) your warp to getting it on the loom, either through front-to-back or back-to-front methods. Even experienced weavers can learn from watching this video.
Handwoven. 5/yr. $30. Interweave, www.interweave.com. ISSN 0198-8212.
Each high-quality issue features multiple projects for beginning through experienced weavers, ways to make the weaving life easier, tips for maximizing weaving space, and information for study groups. The weaving spotlight segment features an in-depth look at the weaving culture.
Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot. q. $62. Handweavers Guild of America, www.weavespindye.org. ISSN 0049-0423.
Every issue features a variety of articles ranging from how-to pieces at several levels to news of the organization, overviews of various weaving displays and shows around the country, and extensive advertising and resource sharing.
Spin-Off. q. $31. Interweave, www.interweave.com. ISSN 0198-8239.
One of the few magazines published specifically for handspinners, Spin-Off provides information and projects geared for spinners of all levels.
Weaver’s Craft. q. $38. Plain Tabby, www.weaverscraft.com. ISSN 1529-6962.
Founded and run by Jean Scorgi, a past editor of Hand Woven magazine, Weaver’s Craft accepts no advertising. Each issue is devoted to a single topic, which can range from the very basic to quite advanced, and includes multiple, clearly illustrated projects.
On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics
While no longer being updated, this digital archive sponsored by the University of Arizona has a wealth of articles, books, ephemera, illustrations, and much more, available in PDF format. Its Topics in Weaving page indexes available materials by topic.
An online resource and social network for fiber artists. While the emphasis is on knitting and crochet, there are forums for other fiber arts, including weaving, spinning, and braiding.
This free membership website is handweaving’s answer to Ravelry. It has sections for projects, drafts, looms, yarns, people, groups and forums, resources, shopping, and classes. A nice feature is the ability to maintain a personal weaving notebook and the records for all projects online for easy access and to share.
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To submit titles (new and/or backlist), contact Cynthia Orr four to six months before issue dates listed above (email: email@example.com).
John Sandstrom is Acquisitions Librarian, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, and the West Texas Representative to the Handweaver’s Guild of America Board. He has been working with fiber far longer than he has been a librarian, having begun when his grandmother taught him to crochet at age seven.