My Hero – Mabel Ross

I’ve been thinking lately about my spinning heros. The people who have pushed me and educated me and made me a better spinner

Of course some of them are alive and I actually get to talk to a few of them. Some of them are no longer living, but I have their books and videos. mabelross

One in particular has been on my mind a lot. Her name is Mabel Ross. Maybe you have never heard of her. If you haven’t, please look up her work. Her methods may not be for everyone but I love the way she speaks and teaches. The reason I’ve been thinking about her is because when I was at the Palouse Fiber Fest in Idaho in June, one of my other spinning heros, Sarah Swett, gave me a Mabel Ross lap cloth that was signed by Mabel herself! I don’t think that Sarah had any idea how much that little gift would mean to me when she gave it to me.

Mabel’s style can be a little rigid but she has a lot to teach you. She’s very precise. As you can see from the markings on the lap cloth, those lines are there to help you have each draft be a precise length. Mabel loved the math of spinning and she didn’t mind telling you.

There are several books written by Mabel Ross as well as a video which is the first thing I bought of her’s (my first copy was VHS). The video is called Handspinning; Advanced Techniques. This one you can still find at some retailers. The books, as far as I know, are all out of print. But let me give you the titles in case you want to go searching for them.

The Encyclopedia of Handspinning

The Essentials of Handspinning

The Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners (this is the most expensive one)

Handspinner’s Workbook: Fancy Yarns (This one is also usually pretty expensive.)

Just keep your eyes open. Sometimes you come accross these books at a bargain. But i feel like they are worth every penny.

10 replies
  1. Katie Weston
    Katie Weston says:

    Mabel’s daughter, Win (who did the illustrations for the books) came to our guild recently, and donated her mother’s inkle loom to us.
    She also bought along copies of the books to show us (all signed of course), and had no idea her mothers books were still so in demand. The copyright passed on to her brother, and not to her, but she’s currently investigating wether it’s possible to get any of the books re-printed.
    There are photos here

  2. Coleen Nimetz
    Coleen Nimetz says:

    Mabel has had a huge impact on many of us. I see her voice in the writings of many modern day spinners. Thank you, Beth, for reminding us of her as a hero.

  3. Maureen Burns
    Maureen Burns says:

    Mabel’s VHS video was one of the first things I rented from an online source. Years later I wanted to see if I could get an actual copy and was so happy to find they had made a DVD. I love listening to her and watching her hands work. I’m not nearly as mathematical in my spinning approach, but there is still a lot to learn from watching her spin.

  4. Dave Cameron
    Dave Cameron says:

    You may be interested to hear that Mabel Ross was also a weaver. I’m told she was the original owner of my first loom, a slightly modified 36″, 4-shaft Lillstina, which I still have in the house. One of the first projects was a blanket for my new baby daughter… 11-years later, she is weaving on it herself!

  5. Isabella Hodge
    Isabella Hodge says:

    I bought a second hand Traditional a couple of years ago, it came with an assortment of bobbins and on one of them was a name and address sticker saying Mabel Ross and her address. I was thrilled, I started spinning too late to have been taught by Mabel but many folk I know have been, her legacy is very strong here in Scotland. Anyway that bobbin now lives on my mantelpiece as a trophy and an inspiration. If I’m working on a recalcitrant Traddy (I teach, I have a flock of Traddys and I’m also the Guild mechanic) and I want to persuade it to behave I put that bobbin on the wheel. If a bobbin that used to be used by Mabel Ross doesn’t know how to spin well, nothing does. And you know what? It always seems to help. Definitely my lucky bobbin. 🙂

  6. michelle
    michelle says:

    I am sorting through my nans things and found a signed copy Of the essentials of handspinning was signed in 1987 then again in 1992.

  7. Alastair Ross
    Alastair Ross says:

    I am Mabel’s youngest son, Alastair, and I am happy to tell you that Mum’s first book, Essentials of Handspinning is back in print. I recently retired, and decided to spend some time on her publications. The book is available through Wingham Wool Work in Yorkshire in the UK, and other titles may follow. I am putting together a small web-site about Mabel at this time 24th May 2017

  8. Alastair Ross
    Alastair Ross says:

    I am pleased to announce that the second book, The Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners will be re-printed very soon now (November 2017) and will be available from Wingham Wool Work. The price will be £10.95 each (I’ve seen second hand copies going for £60! on the internet). The Essentials of Handspinning, the first book sells for £6.25. As you can see I have done everything possible to make sure that the RSPs are ‘affordable’, just as Mum did.
    The books are brand new, but due to smaller production numbers it has meant that there are some technical issues connected with electronic reproduction, so can not be regarded as ‘pristine’ in the same way a normal fully type-set book direct from a printer is. The content is perfect in every way, and a true replica of the original printed books, and that is the most important issue.


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