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Fall 2011

Fiber, needles,
spindle, wheel



The second issue of SpinKnit takes you to places near and far, introduces you to techniques ancient and modern, and explores more
ways to make and use wonderful yarns. Experience the world of
fiber in rich detail.


Traditional Textiles

Spindle Love

Glorious Sheep

Spinning to Knit


In the Pacific Northwest

and Chiapas, Mexico,
people produce fabric the
way their ancestors did.
Join participants in Judith MacKenzies Tribal
Treasures workshop as
they coax fiber from cedar
bark and watch Chamulas
Maya shepherdesses turn
fleece from their sheep into
shaggy woven cloth.

An old tool has a new

following. Veteran spinner Sara Lamb recounts her
recent but fervent conversion to spindles and shares a
pattern for her Copper Cowl.
A visit to Tom Forresters
Woodshaper Studio reveals
the science and skill that the
master craftsman uses to create elegant, quirky tools.

Meet the Gleasons carefully bred flock of Australian

Bond and Corriedale sheep
and knit a Bond Bon-Bon
Bowler adapted from Susan
Z. Douglass pattern. North
Ronaldsay sheep developed
the ability to subsist on a diet
of seaweed, but their charms
dont end there. Learn about
the many uses of this rich
multi-coated fleece.

Cant wait to get your

hands on some delicious
yarns? For a new spin, try
Jacey Boggss tailspinning
technique for lush textured
yarns and knit her Tailspun
Mittens with your own color
combination. To get maximum mileage from handsome handspun sock yarn,
knit Debbie ONeills Pilaster

Going to the Source

How to find these goodies,
visit these places, and find
more to explore

On the cover: Clockwise from left: Forrester Russian spindle photo by Sandi Wiseheart; Tzotzil sheep photo Russell Gordon/Danita Delimont.
com; Bond Bon-Bon Bowler photo by Joe Coca. Credits this page: Left to right: Photo by Amy Clarke Moore, photo by Sandi Wiseheart, photo
by Sarah Wroot, photo by Joe Coca, photo by Anne Merrow.
All contents of this issue of SpinKnit Interweave Press LLC, 2011. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited, except by permission of the

Meet the team that sets the
eMag spinning

. . . and Finally
Leaping Lambs, Bouncing
The Gleasons baby Bonds
say hello to summer.
Sponsored by

Fall 2010, Volume I

Batsi Chij: The

True Sheep
of Chiapas
Linda Ligon

n most sheep-raising cultures

of the world, mutton is at least
map of
as important as fiber. Not so
in Chiapas, the southernmost
state of Mexico. There, sheep
are sacred, neither slaughtered for food
nor sacrificed for religious reasons.
Photo Russell Gordon/Danita

Working with Sacred Fleece

Today, you can walk down the
crowded streets of Chamula near
San Cristbal or any of its outlying
hamlets on market day, and youll
see unique and dramatic wool
fabrics on almost everyone you
pass. You might see fleece being
traded at a premium in market
stalls, and you might see women
spinning and weaving in the streets.
The spinning is done on heavy claywhorled spindles supported in gourd
bowls and the weaving on backstrap

Fleece Becomes Yarn

Spinning is fairly straightforward.

The softer, finer inner fleece is
carded on flat-backed handcards,
and strips of the resulting batts
are lifted directly from the card
for spinning, as you can see in the
video above right. The yarn is spun
tightly to withstand the rigors of the
weaving process; spinners generally
use some version of double drafting
to get a consistent yarn.
The outer fleece, on the other
hand, is spun straight from the
locks and is spun thick and loose
for reasons that will soon become
clear. It might remind you of a bulky
Lopi yarn, but less consistent and
certainly not as soft.
Strip by strip, she spins the carded fiber onto a supported spindle.
Photo by Robert Medlock.

12,000 Spindles
and Counting ...
Sandi Wiseheart

bout an hours drive from the

busy urban life of Toronto,
in a century-old farmhouse,
lives expert spindlemaker Tom
Forrester. If youve been to a
fiber show and picked up an
unusual double-decker spindle
only to find that it spun forever
and a day, then youve touched
some of Toms work.
Tom Foresters studio porch. Photo
by Sandi Wiseheart

After we finished our tea, Tom

drove me a short distance to Gemini
Fibres, a small but mighty yarn and
fiber shop run by Cheryl Jeffery and
Tanis Pottage out of a barn. Gemini
is one of Toms primary distributors,
and there, spread out on Toms own
custom-made racks, were dozens
of his spindles: round, square,
hexagonal; five-petaled like a flower,
winged like a futuristic helicopter ...
or carved to resemble a fat woolly
sheep. They were painted, etched,
burned, carved, and decorated
with everything from paw prints
to goddesses to leopard spots to
dominoes (actual dominoes from
old game sets). Alongside the
spindles are the other wonderful
tools Tom makes: niddy-noddies,
spindle stands, WPI gauges, wrist
distaffs, and nstepinnes.
At first glance, all you see are the
wonderful designs themselves: a
forest of trees burned into a whorl
with more than 1,500 individual
strokes of a vintage Canadian-made
woodburning tool; a double-layered
creation (the Dervish) with

At the lumberyard, Tom

examines a variety of woods
to select the best ones for
making spindles. Photo
courtesy of Tom Forrester.

Using a woodburning tool, Tom
creates designs from bold to
delicate on some spindle whorls.
Photo by Sandi Wiseheart.

Tom arranges his spindles on just one of the racks at Gemini Fibres. Photo
by Sandi Wiseheart.

futuristic holes and cutouts; a gaily

striped disk; another decorated
with a spider on her web. But each
spindle (yes, even the fat sheep!)
is painstakingly crafted to spin as
efficiently as an airplanes propeller.
After I had ogled and fondled
as many spindles as was politely
possible, we returned to Toms
workshop for a little tour behind
the wizards curtain. We spindleusers so rarely get to see the
genesis of our beloved tools, so
I was really looking forward to
actually seeing how they were

Have You
Any Wool?
Anne Merrow

efore the opening of the

Estes Park Wool Market, the
vendors open their booths
for a sneak preview for class
participants. On the shelves
of Gleasons Fine Woolies,
brightly colored batts and
balls of natural colored
roving sit atop a few dozen
freshly shorn fleeces ranging
in color from white to silver,
brown, gray, and black. A few
minutes after the doors open,
a black fleece has already
been claimed by an eager

Standing in the tidy, inviting

booth, Joanna Gleason looks
calm and unhurried. Bringing
great fleeces to handspinners,
though, is a round-the-clock
effort that has taken years
of hard work, breeding, and
international connections.
Read on to learn what it takes
to get great fleeces ready for

The Gleasons
began as breeders of old-style
such as the ones
shown here.
Photo by Joanna

Breeding Bonds

Nimbus and James

were the original
two Bond rams
imported from
Australia. Photo by
Joanna Gleason.

The Bond and Bond-cross sheep come in a rance of natural colors.

Photo by Joanna Gleason.

Bond sheep are uncommon in the

Unites States, and creating their
Bond and Bond-cross flock was
a long international effort for the
Gleasons. After years of breeding
old-style Corriedalessmallframed, with dense fleeces and
long staplesthe Gleasons decided
to bring new genes into their flock.
Bond sheep were developed
in Australia and share some of
the same traits as Corriedales;
they arose from a cross between
Merino and Lincoln sheep, like
Corriedales, and are also considered
a dual-purpose breed. As a
handspinner, Joanna decided that
fine, long-stapled Bonds would
be a welcome addition to the
American sheep repertoire. She
began a correspondence with Cyril
Lieschke of New South Wales,
Australia, a respected breeder of
colored Corriedale, Merino, and
Bond sheep who had bred for fine,
dense fleeces. At the time, there
were no Bond sheep in the United
States, and so the Gleasons set
about importing two ewes and two
rams, all warm chocolate brown in
color. The young sheep spent three

months in quarantine and transit

until they finally reached their new
high-country home. The Bond sheep
currently in the United States are
descended from the four original
Australian transports, and the
Gleasons have established a registry
of Bonds in the United States.
The four original Bonds were all
moorit, or natural brown. Joanna
explains that the brown color is the
least common and most recessive;
besides producing beautiful fleeces,
the moorit coloring is an indication
of the degree to which the Bond
genetics are present in a particular
animal. A majority of the Gleasons
flock is now some shade of moorit.
Despite the huge effort required
to establish Bond genetics, the
Gleasons are pleased with the
flock they have built. Bond brings
fineness to the fleece that can be
comparable to Merino, but Joanna
admits that part of the decision was
a question of personal preference.
When you have to get up at two in
the morning and look at the sheep
to check on lambing progress, she
comments, you have to like how
they look!

Copper Cowl
Sara Lamb


Project Notes

The lower edging, worked sideways after the cowl is completed, gives
an elegant finish. Photo by Joe Coca.