The Practical Spinners Guide to Cotton, Flax, Hemp


The first yarn I ever tried to spin was cotton, and it was miserable.  I had no idea what I was doing.  All I knew is that I didn't have money for lessons, it was a hot summer day, and cotton is a summer yarn so that's what I should be spinning in summer.  Needless to say, it was a tragedy and I haven't spun cotton since.  When I received this book to review it made me wish I had it in my library when I had first tried teaching myself how to spin yarn 10 years ago.  If you've ever struggled with plant fiber - this book is exactly the guide you need. 

I liked how this book took an entire chapter to focus on each plant fiber: cotton, flax, and hemp.  Learning how the fibers grow and are processed was fun to learn, and the preparation instructions for each fiber type was helpful.  The photos are clean and timeless, and the illustrations are easy to understand.  One of my favorite tips included in the cotton spinning section was a "How to reduce take-up on a single drive wheel" - which I now know was part of my problem 10 years ago when I first tried to spin cotton. 

This book is incredibly detailed and technical.  As I turned each page I learned something new.  It is truly the only book you will need on the topic of spinning of plant fiber.  Stephanie is very talented in understanding the properties of plant fibers and explains her instructions skillfully. 

This book also has several pages on drop spindling, which is perfect if you're a beginner and want to get started without investing in a spinning wheel.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the photo instructions on how to spin flax from a distaff.  This is the only book I've seen that covers that historic skill in depth.  I never knew there were multiple kinds of distaffs, and the author really went into detail into each one with the photos and descriptions.  I felt that after reading that section, I could pick up a distaff and spin flax yarn without a problem.

The amount of information in this book is extremely detailed and, as a beginner in the plant fiber spinning world, I had to read it in small portions to fully absorb it all.  But I learned something on every page and now I feel fully prepared to attempt spinning cotton without getting frustrated.  I've often looked at spinners working with plant fibers and thought they must all be masters - but after reading this book I'm much less intimidated by plant fiber.

Thank you Stephanie for explaining so aptly how to spin the world of plant fiber.  After 10 years of feeling like I never could - I'm excited to try it again!


 The Practical Spinner’s Guide - Cotton, Flax, Hemp by Stephenie Gaustad (Interweave/F+W; $26.99; On Sale Now) offers a detailed overview of each plant, the fiber it produces, and how best to card, prep and spin the fiber, specifically detailing trouble spots like drafting and adding a twist. Furthermore, Stephenie also covers finishing yarns—cleaning, setting, twist and plying—and even touches on what dye processes are best for adding color. Finally, she includes a discussion of spinning for both knitting and weaving, covering fabric properties of each fiber, and what the spinner needs to consider while creating the yarn and using it in a project.

Stephenie Gaustad has been spinning, weaving, dyeing and teaching for more than thirty-five years. She has been featured in Handwoven, Spin-Off, and Shuttle, Spindle, and Dyepot magazines, and she has made a DVD, Spinning Cotton, with Interweave. She and her husband, Alden Amos, live in the foothills of Sierra Nevada, where they build textile equipment