Furthering My Education

Pure Wool: A Guide to Using Single-Breed Yarns is not a typically beautiful book.

Some books are like girls who are all dressed up for the London season, curled and powdered and full of frills and gorgeous glossy pictures. They sit poised to pounce on any titled gent who attends the ball, and they get their share of the attention.

Sue Blacker’s Pure Wool is like the country lass who stays home, away from the ball, caring for the farm with a strong back and a healthy beauty.

There is nothing glossy about this book, but that is fitting. Wool is not a glittery fiber, it deserves a solid, hearty book.


The images are lovely, but the soul of this book is the rich bounty of information about breeds of yarn – presented in an easily manageable manner – so that even a non-spinner, non-sheep savvy person like myself can feel better educated.

I knit, I design and I write. And I crochet (simmer down..) But I don’t spin. I have serious asthma, and the few times I’ve been around a spinning wheel for an extended period led to a prolonged asthma attack, so I steer clear of flying fibers.

Without the intimate, tactile connection with fleece that my spinning sisters have, I feel as though I’m a piker when talking about different types of sheep. I know the basic facts about different breeds, but I lacked a connection between my knitting and my knowledge.  Pure Wool is a book that I will be using to bridge that gap.

I tend to get overwhelmed with wool “encyclopedias”, or maybe I’m just lazy.  They’re excellent for reference, and I am glad to have all that information at my fingertips, but they don’t speak to me personally as a volume with which to curl up in bed and spend a chilly afternoon.

The information in Pure Wool is presented in a way that makes it clear and complete without being overwhelming.

I especially love the tables in the back of the book allowing a knitter to match a yarn to a pattern, determine which fibers would dye best, and obtaining a better understanding of specific breed’s wool characteristics and yarn qualities.

The patterns are hearty and satisfying, laid out like a kitchen table laden with a huge, delicious country breakfast. I can see the garments in Pure Wool becoming perennial favorites among knitters of all levels, they’re good, basic, beautiful garments.  Nothing flashy, just comfortable.

Like wool.


So would you like a copy of this very useful and very beautiful book?  Leave a comment telling me what your favorite fiber is.  It doesn’t have to be wool – it doesn’t even have to be natural – I’ll make the selection of the winner at random.  If you’ve won lately I’ll pass over your name when drawing the winner, but I’d still love to hear about your favorite fiber!

The images shown on this page are from Sue Blacker’s website.

88 thoughts on “Furthering My Education

  1. I love alpaca but I’m not a spinner. I did take a spindle spinning class and liked spinning merino but I love knitting with alpaca and wish (not really) that I lived in a cold place so I could wear alpaca sweaters.

    That book looks wonderful.

  2. I love alpaca. mixed with wool and/or silk. I just got my first spinning wheel and need this book. I asked my library to purchase it, hopefully they will. Or I hope to win it here. Thanks for the info.

  3. My favorite fiber in any form is silk. I love the shine, drape, the feel… I even don’t mind the smell! I like it in it’s smooth glossy form and in it’s nubby noil form. I like it as fabric and as yarn.
    I don’t love how much it costs… but, oh well! Beauty is sometimes worth it! It’s why I save my pennies to buy art (direct from the artist when I can).

  4. Depends on the item, but wool, for me – haven’t settled on one favorite, both the wearing and the knitting. Merino blended with silk is the fave among my non-knitter family. I just didn’t tell ’em about last year’s opossum, which could be a outright fave for me, when I get around to actually knitting something for “moi”. Reallllly, Annie, just “one favorite” ? 😉

  5. Favorite gotta be wool with cashmere or wool with silk or superwash wool or wool with alpaca or wool with cotton or wool with (uh) wool! Nothing knits up like wool!

  6. Wool is my vote – I’ve tried all the others, spun just about everything from qiviut to dryer lint, but there’s nothing like warm, insulating, springy, easy to work with, wool!

    Now in the wool family … hmmm … I do like a Lincoln or a Border Leicester … or a Shetland … nah, that’s too hard to narrow down.

  7. I think my favorite go-to yarn is a wool blend. I can make anything with it; and know the recipient does not have to worry about washing and drying and wearing.

  8. I love wool of almost every variety, and I’d love to learn enough about different sheep breeds to have a favorite among them.

  9. I love the idea of wool, but it seems I have the same sensitive skin as my mom and most types of wool cause me to break out. Favorite fibre has become Alpaca!

  10. I’m most definitely a wool girl, though I’m always happy to knit with a wool/silk blend. This book looks to be right up my alley and will probably go on my Amazon “to buy” list if my name isn’t drawn.
    — Cate

  11. Wool is my favorite whether it’s in blends like sock yarn (75%/25%) or on its own for cozy warmth. Totally worth the time for careful washing. Sue’s patterns look so knitable! It would be fun to discover the characteristics of the the wool from the breeds available today.
    Thanks for the draw.

  12. I love wool. I especially love yarns that still have a bit of a sheepy smell. My friends and family think I am insane because they seem only to care about softness.

  13. My favorite fiber to spin is Blue Faced Leicester. My favorite fiber to knit is Finnish wool, in the grease. My favorite fiber to find in a thrift store is undoubtedly cashmere – bless those who know not what they donate! 🙂 Even if I don’t win the book, I learned that there are many others who love BFL above all else, and that makes me happy. They’re a happy sort of sheep.

  14. My favorite fiber is wool, in all its many incarnations. The elasticity of it and the warmth of it just satisfy my fingers as they work.

  15. I love wool, whether it’s hardy Icelandic or soft fuzzy merino. Recently I’ve been knitting some cotton dishcloths as gifts and after a week of that I picked up a wool scarf-in-progress and sighed out loud with relief at how nice it felt!

  16. Depends on the project, but usually a blend that is heavy on the wool with a bit of silk, cashmere, and/or alpaca, floats my boat. I love the shine, drape and softness other components can add, but there’s nothing like wool for memory, spring, stitch definition and just joy in knitting. I find myself going back to it when I want an enjoyable knit.

    I’m not a spinner either–have a bit of an asthma problem too–but I still like to understand as much as I can about the different breeds and choices in yarn.

  17. My favorite fiber to knit and crochet with is alpaca . . . but my favorite fiber to spin with is silk! (You might want to try spinning silk hankies, Annie — they’re stickier than other fibers, so there’s far less flying fiber. I spin mine on a drop spindle.)

  18. I love knitting with silk and silk blends. So many of my extended family live in hot locations, so silk is better for gifting! I love spinning with wool, however.

  19. I’m not a spinner either but I have a couple of spindles (I won some gorgeous roving – merino/tencel in a gorgeous sky blue). I mostly knit small things: socks (always), hats, baby things. And I greatly prefer fingering yarn. I LOVE wool blends – bamboo wool is fantastic for year round socks & so is wool tencel. Both are very soft & take color well. The bamboo & tencel both make for less warm socks that can be worn pretty much year round.

  20. Sounds like an amazing book and the pictures are gorgeous. I’m a knitter not a spinner and reading about why you’re not a spinner, I probably will never be one either. But as a knitter I am a huge fan of wool, although my partner and I do have a thing about hunting down alpaca farms and I do have to get a trophy from those successes *g*

  21. Long staple wool. I am a worsted girl who likes it smooth, controlled, and somewhat shiny. Yea, I know, boring… Thanks for the chance to win this book!

  22. I don’t spin yet (though I received two supported spindles last Christmas, so it’s time), but I have a bit of Icelandic wool that I’m eager to try. And as for knitting, I love a nice sild and merino blend. Soft, warm, smooth — just yummy!

  23. I love squishy soft medium weight wools like merino. But also appreciate many different fibers depending on what I am working on (how can you pick just one 🙂 )

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