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‘The BIG Book of Fibery Rainbows: Creating and Working with Multi Colored Fibers and Palettes’ by Suzy Brown and Arlene Thayer of Fiberygooness was always going to be one of those books that someone would have to actively dissuade me from buying after reading the title. Fibre, colours and books, what was there going to be not to love?
Suzy Brown, otherwise known as ‘WoolWench’, is an all-things-fibre educator with a colour palette taste that I can definitely get behind. Over at Fiberygoodness, she runs a series of online courses for all aspects of spinning (and now also some weaving courses for using your handspun) from fibre prep with different tools, to different spinning techniques and on yarn design and creation. There’s also an awesome fibre photography course that I must get around to reviewing one day… She has now, as part of tinyStudio, created a ‘creative life’ e-magazine, aimed at ‘keeping your inspiration levels high’ with part interesting articles part eye candy. Needless to say, I was very excited about the idea of a book from this team, but does ‘The Big Book of Fibery Rainbows’ live up to its tantalising name?
There are many great spinning and fibre preparations books out there but the one I would say all spinners should own is Alden Amos’s ‘Big Book of Handspinning’. This is an absolute classic and goldmine of information, wrapped in a witty, acerbic tone that will have you laughing out loud occasionally. In this case though, it is just as well the prose is magnificent as it’s a book that is relatively light on images – there are nice, hand drawn technical drawings where necessary but it would never make it as a ‘coffee table’ book.
‘The Big Book of Fibery Rainbows’ is the opposite end of the spectrum. Every page is crammed with gorgeous photographs of what can really only be described as ‘fibre porn’. The photographs are huge, fantastic and plentiful. They tend to occupy at least 50 % of any given page and, where they are designed to be instructional rather than inspirational, are very clear at breaking down any processing steps.
The photography is enjoyable for two reasons in the book. One, the subjects, there are some great, highly creative fibres and yarns in this book, with sparkles, colours and all the bling you could want. Two, its incredibly obvious great care has been taken in staging the shots to really bring them vividly to life. There’s as much creativity in how the photographs have been taken as in the creation of the subjects which is something unfortunately unusual for a craft book. If you’re a blogger or fibre-seller looking to add some spice to your website, there are lots of great examples of staging to be learnt from here.
The book is split into seven chapters, with forward, introduction and conclusion. The first chapters are an absolutely untraditional introduction to colour theory. Most texts would sit you down at this point with colour wheels and discussion of hues, primaries and secondaries. Here, Brown and Thayer throw the rulebook out the window and say, experiment, experiment, experiment, and think about how the colours make you feel.
Now if the idea of sitting down and getting all introspective with your feelings as you stare at colour palettes make you feel a bit queasy, don’t worry, it all gets much more sensible in the following section, where they go through a series of historical paintings and discuss the depiction of rainbows in art. In these few pages of text there are some complete gems to read as they discuss their potential design process for recreating with fibre the depicted rainbow, things like what fibres might capture the textures of the paint, what kind of colour ranges etc.
I did roll my eyes at the section titled ‘Science Wiency’ but, despite the title, it’s actually a good and enlightening read. There’s a nice description of why we see rainbows the way we do, and why all rainbows are essentially unique. They also include some information of where else in nature we see rainbow-type phenomena which I think was an incredibly cool addition and I learnt a few new things from. Not what I expected in a fibre book!
Then, Brown and Thayer provide some sample rainbow palettes for different types of rainbow, the traditional seven colour species and a pastel version. What I like about this as well as giving you the colour breakdown, they give you good ideas of how to blend up suitable fibres from staple colours you’re likely to have in your stash.
I enjoyed this part so much that I decided to have a go at a combination of the standard and jewel toned rainbow with a bit of Angelina thrown in. There’s lots of nice hints on what kind of fibre types you could think about incorporating into batts/rolags to achieve effects that go well with this and some great advice on making replicable gradients too.
I sadly don’t have a drum carder but there’s a really nice 20 pages on how to set up certain colour combinations, textures, some troubleshooting and lots of helpful advice. The same is true for both hand combs and the hackle. The picture giant snake rolag was done on a blending board but the hackle is one of my favourite devices for fibre prep (I’m a silk/worsted person so no surprises there) and it’s to see texts with a bit of advice on how to load the hackle as well as dizzing off it. I found when starting out with the hackle, there wasn’t much advice beyond the very basics of how to use it so this part of the book I think is a really great addition.
What’s nice as well is that all the carding/combing parts come with a lot of photographs, so you can see how the hackle is loaded and the then the resulting slivers as well as some numbers for how long your colour repeats would be. I’m not always a super methodical crafter, especially when it comes to taking note of all these things (part of the motivation for this blog) so it’s great when someone else has done the hard work for me.
For the blending board fans, there’s a section for you too which again, has all these titbits of wisdom from an experienced fibre artist to save you some hassle and frustration. I did ignore some of this useful advice when making my own ‘rainbow’ and pulled off the entire board as a single rolag rather than breaking this down into manageable pieces but there’s something faintly amusing about my giant snake rolag monster with an obscene amount of Angelina content.
Spinning it Up
I was very impressed with the section on fibre prep and after that is plenty on what to do with your newfound fibrey rainbow friends. At all stages there is advice on how to set up your wheel for spinning the particular yarn. This might be a bit tough for complete beginners as you’ll need to be familiar enough with wheel terminology to translate this to your own wheel but shouldn’t be a problem for more seasoned spinners. There are a few places the authors make reference to specific wheels e.g. the Majacraft series, which unfortunately can compound this issue further.
The types of techniques covered include flame yarns, colour management, no-ply singles, corespinning, coil plying and couple of whacky art yarn techniques that are all fantastically bonkers and a great way to improve your spinning control if you fancy a challenge. I wish there was a bit more advice on setting singles and finishing yarns – there’s quite a bit in there but it feels a little rushed over in comparison to the fibre preparation.
Finally, there’s a gallery of projects to give you some inspiration for what you can do with your strange and eclectic rainbow creations!
‘The Big Book of Fibery Rainbows’ is an unusual book. There’s not so many other texts out there that really cover much of fibre preparation and art yarn spinning in such a colourful way and it is definitely an excellent text for making you aware for the kind of techniques for preparation/spinning there are. Maybe ‘The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs’ covers more on the type of yarns you can create, but then lacks all the lovely fibre preparation aspects.
Alden Amos has a great section on using a hackle but with no photographs for the more visually-guided people out there so that’s another great aspect of ‘The Big Book of Fibery Rainbows’. I’m not really aware of any texts that cover using a blending board/drum carder/hackle in quite the same level of detail that this book does, maybe some of the Spin Off series? Readers, any recommendations to add?
The other key topic that such a visual-heavy book covers very well in colour control in spinning. There is the Deb Menz book ‘Color in Spinning’ or ‘A New Spin on Color’ (I haven’t read this one so please let me know in the comments if it is worth a look!) but, again, there’s not a huge body of literature out there to compete with this. I think with spinning there is a disproportionate amount of information available online compared to other crafts but it’s nice to have quality-filtered information all in one place at your fingertips.
There’s unfortunately a few little things that let the book down. It’s a petty complaint but the paperback cover feels a little flimsy and doesn’t survive very well and while the text size will be great for those of you hard of eyesight, when you combine it with the number of photographs, 176 pages doesn’t make for the most densely packed content.
Another gripe is that there numerous sloppy bits of typesetting – including some images having pointless captions (that in one case overlap the main text…), typos and some sections that I guess the editor might have had a nap through. I don’t really like the matte paper its printed on either. While I can understand that this is probably to keep costs down with the huge amount of colour printing, the paper does ‘eat’ some of the beautiful photographs.
While I think the book has great breadth of topics, and touches on some that aren’t really covered elsewhere, I would have like just a bit more ‘depth’ in places. The book is like having a conversation with a very experience fibre artist, you get hundreds of titbits of inspiring and useful sentences but it’s not quite the same as them writing down their full process and going through it methodically.
Despite my few grumbles, these are minor points on what is a unique and incredibly fun book. The artists passion shines off of every page and for the intermediate fibre artist looking to expand their horizons, those photographs will keep you coming back for more time and time again. Beginners intimidated by their new preparation equipment might get some good mileage for getting started and, while it’s probably not the definitive book to teach you how to spin it up, Alden Amos is the book for that, it’ll give you a great awareness of some of the possibilities out there. ‘The Big Book of Fibery Rainbows’ is more inspiration than strict tuition, but has enough good information in there that I think it’s a must-have for spinners who like colour and are looking to go bold.
Author: Suzy Brown and Arlene Thayer
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Size: 23 x 30.5 x 2.5 cm
Weight: 575 g