A spindle a day 3

As I wrote in my previous post I have spent this week at Sätergläntan craft education center, teaching a five-day course where I teach four different spindle types and wool processing by hand. Today I invite you to a sneak peak of the course A spindle a day 3.

Sätergläntan is a place vibrant with crafting hands and crafting hearts. It is such a beautiful environment to be in, where every corner of every room and every mind is sloyd.

80 students were at Sätergläntan this week, learning shrink pots, forging, embroidery on wool, felted images, folk costume dresses, forging and, of course, spindle spinning. All wearing their best visually mended, knit, embroidered and patchworked clothing.

On my way to the train station with four spindle types, wool and tools for twelve students plus my own packing.

There is always some excitement before a course, especially a longer course like this one. What level are the students at? What are their learning styles? How will the group work together? Will I be able to find all the students at their level and their pace?


I knew the course was full – twelve students. I haven’t had such a large group before, but with five days together it’s easier to give individual guidance to the students than on a one- or two-day course. Usually my courses are aimed at intermediate to experienced spinners. This one is too, but I open up for beginners too.

As it turned out, most of the students in this course were beginners and some hadn’t ever held a spinning tool in their hands before. This is a big challenge for me since I am used to my students having basic knowledge about wool and some spinning vocabulary. I’m always a little scared to have beginners in my courses because I fear I won’t have the tools to find them at their level. But then again, it’s by practicing I will find and refine my tools. With a class of twelve with lots of beginners and no intermediates I will hopefully get a lot of practice.

I’m demonstrating how I spin on the floor spindle (screen shot from video).

I want to find the students at their level, I want to speak their individual language of learning, catch them there and guide them to their own discoveries. I want them to have their aha-moments, to find the missing link and see, feel and be proud of what they have learned.

Day 1: Wool preparation and suspended spindles

Day 1 was all about wool preparation and suspended spindle spinning. The students have teased, carded and combed and made lots of progress. There has been lots of frustration but also happy cries when the body has understood in practice what the mind has accepted in theory.

As a teacher I try to emphasize what they have actually learned when they are frustrated about a step they have trouble taking. I always encourage my students to place their rolags and yarns on the floor in front of them so they can see their progress over time even if they don’t always see it in the moment. And they do see that there is a vast difference between the first and the latest rolag or the first and the latest ball of yarn.

The twist model

The first thing I talked about before we started spinning on suspended spindles was the twist model. In short, the twist model is about where between no twist at all and very much twist the spinner can find an amount of twist where there is enough twist for the fibers to slide past each other without coming apart. I call this the point of twist engagement.

Finding the point of twist engagement is to me essential to understanding twist and spinning. With the students’ newborn rolags and the twist model in their mind there were some first precious aha-moments in rolag carding, opening up the twist and finding the point of twist engagement.

Switching hands

Another concept I work with already from the beginning with my students is switching hands. I always encourage them to learn to use both hands as spinning hands and both hands as fiber hands. To prevents strained shoulders and to help them understand both hand roles from the perspective of both hands. And they all do it. Not always enthusiastically, but they do it and see the benefits of it.

Check out my free five-day challenge Hands on where I encourage you to switch hands and get acquainted with the roles of the hands.

Day 2: Floor spindle

On day 2 we dived into floor spindles. Here their rolags are really put to the test – spinning on a floor spindle brutally reveals any uneven rolags and the students get an understanding of what in the wool preparation process – teasing, carding or rolag shaping – that needs adjusting.

Floor spindles by Björn Peck.

With the floor spindle we practice longdraws. The long draw a spinner can make on a floor spindle are longer than on a spinning wheel – the yarn can go from the spindle shaft on one side of the body, across the torso and out in the hand of the outstretched arm on the other side of the body.

Students that on the day before have had a hard time finding and working with the point of twist engagement with the suspended spindle have understood it with a lot of joy today with the floor spindle. And who, when, going back to the suspended spindle, suddenly have come past their struggle. This really warms my wooly teaching heart.

Day 3: In-hand spindle

This is the third time I teach the A spindle a day five-day course. I know that the students usually are very tired and sometimes a bit overwhelmed on day 3, which is also the day of the most complicated spindle type: In-hand spindle with a distaff. That in combination with the large proportion of beginners made me a bit nervous. Would I be able to give them the sense of accomplishment?

I didn’t have to worry. They were working very independently by now. They analyzed, experimented and were dedicated to understanding what went wrong and why. And after just an hour or so all of them were spinning with their in-hand spindles and distaffs. I was amazed at all they had learned so far and at how they used their knowledge to understand new tools and techniques. I didn’t even have to tell them to switch hands, they did that automatically.

Day 4: Supported spindle

When I teach supported spindle spinning isolated I usually do it slowly in a step-by-step fashion. In the A spindle a day course though, the students have successively learned all the components of the technique and already know about changing the angle, opening up the twist and working with upper and lower cop. It’s just a matter of getting to know the tool and transfer the technique to a new context.

Björn Peck’s beautiful supported spindles spin like rockets.

This course was no different. Even if they were intimidated by the small motor movement and the speed of the spindles, they quite quickly got the hang of the tool and the technique and spun away happily.

Narrative spinning

At this stage, on day four, they had got to know each other and we did an exercise I call narrative spinning. This is when they sit in pairs and one students spins and tells the other what is happening in the spinning, why it is happening, what they are doing and why they are doing it. The other student listens and asks constructive questions. By narrating their spinning they put words on what may be difficult to grasp. The one listening gets inspiration from a fellow student. I was given this exercise when I was learning to drive and it always works very well in spinning courses when the students have gotten to know each other a bit.


The students line up their precious yarn balls by one of the floor looms.

When class is dismissed for the day the students stay in the classroom and practice and/or prepare for tomorrow’s class. So much happens in these evening sessions. Hearty conversation and usually lots of progress without the teacher bothering them with questions and ideas. I’m usually still in the classroom (blogging), but I try not to bother them.

Day 5: Wool tasting and spinning meditation

Day 5 is only half a day so I don’t introduce a new spindle type this day. Instead I offer them a chance to understand how much they have actually learned, by hosting a wool tasting. In the wool tasting they get to try wool from five different breeds that they haven’t worked with before. On this A spindle a day 3 they got a brown silver medal winning Helsinge wool, chocolate brown alpaca, black Klövsjö wool with subtle silver sparkle, white silver medal winning finull wool and light grey and unusually soft gute wool.

Their task is to, for fifteen minutes per breed, prepare and spin the wool and reflect over the wool, technique and choices they make during the process. After the fifteen minutes have passed they get the next wool. We do this in silence so that they can focus on their process.

Apart from working with new wools and using what they have learned in the course, they get the chance to, in a short time, make decisions about preparation and technique without over thinking things. The students usually love this exercise and they get to go back home with the form they fill in, showing all they have learned.

The wool tasting is done in silence for 5 x 15 minutes. I love this part of the course, where I can sit and watch the students work – how they make decisions and work with the wool with the tools and techniques they have got acquainted with during the course.

Spinning meditation

The very last thing we did was a spinning meditation. I guide the students through spinning in mindfulness and without prestige. Towards the end of the meditation I encourage them to close their eyes and feel their way in the spinning. And most of them did, surprised at how much they could actually feel in a situation where they usually relied on their vision.

The wool tasting form was their diploma of what they had learned and the spinning meditation an extra treat for them to reflect over and be proud of how much they had learned.

I’m finishing this blog post on the train back home to Stockholm. I’m going home with a lighter suitcase, many insights, and a warm heart, thrilled over what I have learned and of having been able to guide my students down a new rabbit hole. I hope to come back next summer.

Thank you M, L, S, E-B, E, A, C, L, M-L, H and K for letting me guide you through wool, tools and techniques. Thank you for lots of laughs, many insights and sweet conversations. A special thought goes to M who turned ill and couldn’t make it to the course.

Happy spinning!

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7 Replies to “A spindle a day 3”

  1. Thank you for sharing Josefin! As a teacher myself I enjoying hearing others experiences and offerings. I sure do wish I lived closer and could attend one of your retreats, especially this one! Maybe someday I might make it to Sweden! Do you teach in English or do I need to learn Swedish ;-)!

  2. Thank you for this very interesting blog, Josefin – I know all your students must be very pleased with their progress and excited with all the skills they have learned. Also, well done you for sending the newly fledged spinners out into the world! So much to explore, so much fun to be enjoyed!

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