Black Sheep Handspinners Guild

Educational materials, and articles of historical interest

The documents below comprise some useful materials that have been compiled by the Black Sheep Handspinners Guild since its founding in the mid 1970's. If you are a current or former guild member who would like to contribute to this work in progress, please contact Teresa at

* Links marked with an asterisk are particularly recommended.

*Some frequently asked questions about spinning and the BSHG.
*Ithaca Journal article introducing handspinning. Printed Jan. 3rd, 1976, and describing the entire process from sorting a fleece to dyeing finished yarns.
*A spinner's bibliography from 1976. Including brief reviews of 22 books and pamphlets.
Washburn Workshop: Handwritten notes on fleece processing Rambouillet, Southdown, and Merino; handling handspun singles for knitting or weaving; techniques for even plying; spinning for a particular knitting gauge.

*Dyeing notes: Covers many of the basics of natural dyeing, including: a list of recommended mordants and mordanting techniques, pots to use, recommended techniques for using flowers, barks, nut hulls or roots, special ways of handling specific colors, dye materials that are easy to find in the Tompkins County area. It also includes brief essays on indigo and the history of dyes.
*Natural dye essays: Includes a number of short historical essays on woad, madder, weld, quercitron (quercus velutina), logwood, and home dyeing in early colonial New York State.
*A Dyeing Notebook Pt. 1: First part of Kay Ross' natural dyeing notebook. Dye plants include : Apple tree bark (green), Barberry (yellows and grays), Bedstraw (grays), Blackburn (blues), Carrot tops (yellows, greens, browns), Cochineal (red), Eucalyptus (brown), Fake Indigo(?) (yellows), Indigo (blues), Jewelweed (browns), Marigolds (yellows and greens), Madder (reds, pinks, oranges), Mullein (yellows and greens), Onion skin (green), Queen Anne's Lace (light green), Pigweed (gray-green), Sumac (green), Tansy (yellows and browns), Tobacco (gray and yellow), Weld (yellows, greens, browns), Willow (browns), Wild Aster (yellows), Woad (brown).
*A Dyeing Notebook Pt. 2: Second part of Kay Ross' natural dyeing notebook. The natural dyes in this section include: Carrot tops (greens and yellow), elderberry juice (gray-green), false dragon head blossoms (yellow-green), grape leaves (green, yellow), Jewel Weed (greens, yellows, orange, gray), lily-orange blossoms (green), Oriental orange poppy (gray-blue), pansy blossoms (gray-green), Pecan (greens), broad-leaved plantain (greens), Queen Anne’s Lace (yellow-green), smartweed (browns, yellow), Spice Bush (greens and yellow), tomato vine (green and yellow, gray), Wild Artichoke (yellow, brown, green). The mordants and other chemicals used include: Alum, ammonia , chrome, copper sulfate, iron, tin.
*A Dyeing Notebook Pt. 3: Third part of Kay Ross' natural dyeing notebook. Apple bark (green and yellow), black-eyed Susans (green, brown, yellow), crab apple (gray-green and yellow), chamomile (yellow-green), cherry bark (green-gray), coreopsis blossoms (yellow), goldenrod (yellows and green), Indian paintbrush (pink), jewel weed (browns and orange), marigold blossoms (pale yellows), milkweed leaves (greens), onion skins (yellows, browns, and grays), pansy blossoms (gray-green), Queen Anne’s Lace (yellow-green), roses (yellow). The mordants and other chemicals used include: Alum, ammonia, chrome, copper sulfate, cream of tartar, iron, tin.

*Jayne Ritz's notes on sorting and washing a fleece.

Guild History
*Archive of Guild Newsletters. Includes descriptions of newsletters.
*Ithaca Journal Article from 1974 about the newly-formed Black Sheep Handspinners Guild. Describes the founding of the group, their meetings, and some educational activities in which they participated.