Book review: The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs

coverOh dear, I have been quiet. Unfortunately there’s an explanation – my hand’s been playing up again, following osteopathy. It has to recover soon, because I cannot wait to try out some of the suggestions in Sarah Anderson’s book…

Now, there’d been quite a bit of fuss about this among the spinners on Ravelry, a flurry of anticipation, people obtaining early copies from the US and whetting everyone else’s appetite, tantalising us with descriptions and occasionally with photos. A friend had one, and I had a quick flick through at the Sunday Market Spinners; it looked OK… And then my own copy arrived, and I was quite prepared to be disappointed, deciding that for once I would be realistic – after all, you build something up, and it’s rarely as good as you hoped.

No need. It’s marvellous. It’s clear, beautifully laid out and mouthwatering. I was initially slightly surprised that I found it so because when it comes to yarn, I’m deeply in love with colour. The samples here are all in white or cream, giving the book a cool, rather Scandinavian appearance.


That’s completely deliberate – ‘colour can be a distraction’ – and it’s not to say that the book is devoid of colour; far from it, but it is used judiciously – and is all the more emphatic for that.

From the descriptions I’d read, and even from my brief flickette, I had formed the impression that The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs was entirely devoted to art yarns. There are a few other books on the subject – for me, they’re mouthwatering but impractical – and I’d expected to find another, but it’s much more than that. Incidentally, I’d never have thought of myself as a ‘yarn designer’ (ho ho – lumps, bumps and strange overspun stretches do not a yarn design make, IMO) but, as Sarah Anderson says, ‘People who make yarn are not only spinners, they are also yarn designers.’ So there. Preen.

Yes, it’s great on ‘art’ yarns (more later) but, completely unexpectedly, it’s fantastic on the basics, too. In fact, and I hesitate to say this, being very loyal to the books which helped me start spinning a couple of years ago, but it’s brilliant on the basics. Better than many of the basic books, with the added advantage that it takes you onwards. The illustrations are so clear:


And it’s not just the illustrations; the text is clear as well. The author uses, for example, a knitting analogy to help explain twist: if you use to small a needle, you get tight fabric; use too large a one, and your knitting is too large, too loose and too floppy – though that depends on what you want to do with it, of course. Too much or too little twist, and the same applies. And even I can follow this book’s instructions, and that’s saying something, and the 64 reference cards provided are amazingly useful. Oops, no I didn’t try anything, I’ve not been fiddling about and anyway I kept my brace on. Officer.


When you start spinning, your main concern is to produce something that you can actually use, and not something that is either so loose that it falls apart or so tight than it looks like your sister-in-law’s dreads (sorry, F, but it did). Then there are the mad spirals, the unfortunate inclusion of thorns from the fleece that create the Yarn of Pain, and the ones where you fail to work with the colour properly and produce yarn the colour of mud from iridescent roving. You can’t quite believe that you will get beyond this stage, and so the beginner books are fine. But pretty soon it all comes together and, unless you’re me and hurt your hand so badly that you need surgery, you are off into another world.


A world full of texture and form and interesting effects, from comparatively straightforward to more demanding ones.


Yes, they are demanding, especially on your coordination, and they’re often challenging, but there’s nothing wrong with that; you’ve got to push yourself. Some are amazingly beautiful, some are intriguing and some are so beautiful in themselves I’d not want to knit them up (I have a definite weakness for cocoons). Short of having an experienced and patient tutor sitting over your shoulder, I cannot imagine a better or more practical way of exploring the possibilities of fibre.


Oh, all right, I admit it. I’ve had a tentative go already, in defiance of sanity. Tentative. Nothing has worsened. OK?

A late photo addition, following a request. These are the cards, before I broke them up for use:


No idea how these could be handled in the Kindle edition, but maybe you wouldn’t need them in the same way? Intriguing – any kindle owners, let us know!




19 thoughts on “Book review: The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs

  1. knitsofacto

    I’m not surprised you couldn’t resist, it looks like a fabulous book! If I ever get that wheel I shall buy myself a copy … if it’s good on the basics and gives one something to aspire to then it’s popularity is ensured I’d think.

    Sorry to read about the hand, fingers crossed it heals soon 🙂

    1. kate Post author

      I’s lovely, quite inspiring – not to mention tempting. My wheel is looking at me, saying ‘get that boring Shetland off me and try some core spinning, maybe with silk’….

      Hands! Grr. Who needs them? (Er, all of us…)

    1. kate Post author

      Once looked at, once hooked. Can you persuade your local library they ought to have it, perhaps? Someone had a go at mine, and they’ve got things like The Intentional Spinner and Respect the Spindle

  2. ohdebs

    Thanks Kate. Now I NEED this book too! I’d not heard of this one but I just devoured Jacey Boggs’ wonderful book/DVD ‘SpinArt’ along the same lines. Like I said, from your description, I NEED this one because it looks seriously wonderful too! *Scurries off to Amazon…*
    I do hope your hand improves. That is just not fair! xo

      1. ohdebs

        Just took a look at the previews on Amazon too. Oh so tempting. You said that there are cards included? I was thinking I might get the Kindle edition since I just got an iPad mini but that would obviously not include the cards. At least not in “card” form unless they are not something that is separate from the book…advice?

  3. Maribeth Casey

    KINDLE QUESTION ANSWERED, A message from Storey Publisihing, the Publisher of The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Design. . . the kindle version is not yet available, it’s in the conversion stage and should take another month or so due to the complexity of how the book was built. In order to provide the reader/user with the best possible experience, it takes a bit longer! You won’t be disappointed with the finished book and may even want both editions.

    Thanks to Woolwinding for the review and everyone who is supporting the book!

  4. ohdebs

    Oh dear. lol. This is like when I bought Jacey’s DVD on sale at Interweave then found out that I could have had the digital book AND DVD for just a tad more but bought the actual paperback (and DVD) anyway because several people said there was a lot more in the book than just the DVD showed. Arrrrghhh! Good thing I love books.

  5. Pingback: More fiber stash bashing | Colour Cottage

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