Episode 23 – Fleece and Fiber with Deb Robson

Episode 23 of the Fruity Knitting Podcast features Deb Robson, co-author of the Fiber and Fleece Sourcebook.  Concerned about the loss of rare sheep breeds, Deborah spent over four years researching and documenting over 200 different fleeces and fibers from sheep and other animals.  Our guest on Knitters of the World is Alix Pearson from Northumberland, UK.  Andrea shows us her very first Alice Starmore project, and Andrew shows us another sock.  It’s all happening.

Fruity Knitting Podcast – Episode 23 – Fleece and Fiber with Deb Robson

Interview with Deb Robson

Deb Robson – North Ronaldsay (Photo by Elizabeth Lovick)

Deb Robson was shocked to hear that some of the sheep breeds that she loved for their yarns were threatened with extinction.  Her response has been to dive into researching fleeces and fibers, and the result of many years work is the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, which Deborah co-authored with animal expert Carol Ekarius.  In the book Deb looks at over 200 fibers, mainly sheep fleeces, but also other animals.  She takes each type of fiber from its raw fleece state, through cleaning and spinning, and finally preparing a swatch, examining the characteristics at each stage.  There is also background on the sheep breeds themselves, with plenty of photos, some history and a statement on their conservation status.  It is a substantial volume and a beautiful reference for spinners, dyers, knitters and weavers.

Deb’s Field Guide to Fleece, also written in collaboration with Carol Ekarius, is a portable reference, perfectly suited to taking along to sheep, fleece and wool shows, to quickly look up the characteristics of a particular fleece.

Deb is particularly passionate about wool, and considers it from many different angles.  As a spinner and knitter herself, she looks at what types of wool are suitable for different articles of clothing – a soft shawl or a more sturdy sweater.  In her book she has recorded fiber diameter, staple length, crimp and luster, with photographs of samples at various stages of processing.  But at a time when much wool is disposed of as a worthless byproduct of the meat industry, Deb draws our attention to the benefits of wool in applications such as house insulation, carpets and mattress construction.  She mentioned a dog lead that she made out of a stronger wool, and encourages us to be creative in our own projects.

Deb Robson – Spinning up samples

In addition to her books, Deb has a free Craftsy class called Know your Wool.

She also holds retreats particularly for spinners, where participants investigate the properties of different samples hands-on.  The Explore 4 Fiber Retreats are held in Friday Harbor, Washington, in Spring and Fall.  It sounds like they book up early, so get in!

Deb Robson – Wool Processing

Find Deb

You can find Deb and all her current news at:

Photo Credits

We gratefully acknowledge photos provided by the following people:

  • Mary Macgregor
  • Judy Fort Brenneman
  • Elizabeth Lovick
  • Kris Paige
  • Robin Morse
  • Storey Publishing

Alix Pearson – Knitters of the World

Our guest on Knitters of the World is Alix Pearson, from Northumberland, UK.  Northumberland is the northernmost county in England, putting it right up by the border with Scotland.  We imagine this is a pretty beautiful spot.

Alix Pearson

Andrea has her eye on Alix’s wardrobe.  Andrea is taken by Alix’s style and dress sense, together with her dedication and skill at knitting.

Alix with Kate Winslet – this is so cool…

You can find all of Alix’s creations on Ravelry:

KAL News

Fair Isle Accessory KAL Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Fair Isle Accessory KAL.  It’s particularly exciting to hear that lots of people took the opportunity to try their very first stranded colorwork project.


Ruth – Winner of the Über den Traum pack

Our two winners are:

  • Ruth, from Seattle, Washington, who will receive the special pack kindly donated by Über den Traum.
  • Rachel (AchtungKitten), who will win a copy of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, by Felicity Ford
Rachel – aka Achtung Kitten, winner of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, by Felicity Ford

If you haven’t yet seen our interview with Felicity Ford, a.k.a KNITSONIK, you really should check it out.  She is wonderful, and, as it happens, just married!

Cable Garment KAL

The Cable Garment KAL is open until the end of February.  We are thrilled to see so many great garments coming in to the finished objects thread, and we encourage you to submit your little videos for our KAL Collage.  Full details are available in the Finished Objects thread on Ravelry, and you can also check out our previous collages in Episode 18.

From the Archives – Elizabeth I by Alice Starmore

Andrea was wearing her Elizabeth I by Alice Starmore.  This was the first Alice Starmore pattern that Andrea ever did, and I think it set her on to her path of more extravagant knitting.  I remember it was, at the time, a lot of knitting.

Elizabeth I, by Alice Starmore

(In the program, Andrea says that it’s made from Norwegian baby wool.  To me that sounded just a bit ambiguous, and I am tempted to look up Norwegian Baby in Deb’s Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook.)

Andrea’s Sewing

Andrea’s Skirt – McCall’s M7022, with material from the Trefriw Woolsen Mills in North Wales

Andrea has finally got around to sewing up some material that she introduced way back in Episode 2.  In that Episode we took a tour of the Trefriw Woollen Mills in North Wales, which we visited during our Christmas vacation.  Andrea has turned to sewing to keep her distracted as she recovers from an injury to her arm, but she remains loyal to her knitting.

On the inside

Andrea is now making a blouse to go with the skirt – pattern is NewLook 6471.

We (very much) hope to be back to our regular service next episode.

Andrew’s Works

1.875 Socks

What a fine almost pair of socks – Lang Wool, not sure exactly which…

My next project is the Drachenfels shawl by Melanie Berg.  Andrea helped me pick some Rosy Green Wool yarns – I think they’re great colours, and I’m really looking forward to making this for mum.

Rosy Green Wool, in Wild Mallow, Sand and Arctic Sea

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11 thoughts on “Episode 23 – Fleece and Fiber with Deb Robson”

  1. Christine Wamberchies

    Hello Andrea and Andrew,
    It’s always a pleasure to watch your videos. And I have noticed how Andrew is so proud of the skills of Andrea. It’s really lovely to see him listening and stopping his knitting.
    Thank you for those pleasant moments you share with us.

  2. I enjoy your podcasts and was so happy to see Deb Robson’s interview. The felted slipper that she held up, was there a pattern link to that?

    Thank you!

  3. Catching up with podcasts as I only discovered them a month ago – thank you for such brilliant and fascinating interviews, each time, but a particulary thanks for the amazing information from Deb Robson, I shall watch it all over again to make sure I remember every thing she talked about, and I have just ordered her book.
    Your podcasts are totally changing my way of approaching yarn and knitting (and I’ve been a knitting addict for a while!)
    I feel very priviledged to be able to contribute to a tiny extent by being a modest patron.

    1. Hi Isabelle. Thanks for getting in touch. Deb Robson has done a great job of documenting the different fibres and it is a fascinating area. And thank you for becoming a Patron. Any contribution helps us keep the show going. A + A.

  4. I just watched this episode! Fantastic interview, I learned loads and will buy Debs book! Is amazing to listen to someone as passionate as she is! It made me rethink what I’m doing with my live!
    Fantastic job Andrew and Andrea! I’m hooked to your podcast!

  5. Your interview of Deb Robson is more inspiring than the Easter sermon I listened to yesterday! Only recently learned of your podcasts. They go down very well with breakfast in South Lake Tahoe, California! What Deb said about wool being warm when it’s wet is absolutely true! For several years I made and sold old-timey mittens from black sheep color (soft dark brown) worsted weight Bartlettyarns yarn. This is a very old mill in Harmony, Maine. The pattern makes a huge mitten which the adult male end user felts down to fit. My mittens were for fishermen but similar ones were used by mountaineers. Reenactors were some of my customers. I just finished sewing a gorgeous polar fleece jacket, but if you’ve ever shoveled snow wearing gloves made from the recycled drink bottle stuff, you know how it feels to wish for good warm — even if wet — wool. I also knitted and sent 5 pair of huge boot socks to North Dakota to help the Water Protectors avoid frostbite. Many thanks for your good cheer, inspiration and eye candy!

  6. Ik looked up pattern New look 6471, but that gives me a blouse. Is the nummer correct OR do is search in the wrong direction?

  7. Alexzandra Broyles

    Hello to both Andrew and Andrea as well as everyone else on the blog.

    I discovered the podcast several months ago if not a year ago. It is taking me a long time to watch them all as I don’t have much time to do so. However, when I watch the show I always knit until I see something to look up. Books, designers, tips, blogs and other podcasts. Thank you for all the tips and the wonderful variety on your podcast. You both have inspired me to be a more adventurous knitter. I don’t finish many projects unless they can hold my attention. I like learning new things but I am not usually a repeat project knitter unless it was something particularly interesting for me.

    I really love this podcast as it is a good length and I feel that it is so well done. Good job to you both. Thank you for all that you do.

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