From sheep to sweater

It is summer and I have a long and well deserved vacation. My business is in sleep mode so this and a couple of following blog updates will be about recycling old themes. Today I celebrate my first longer video project, Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater.

The video is available in Swedish too, Slow fashion – från får till tröja.

Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater

The video started with an urge to tell the story of the craft – all the hours, skills and knowledge put into one single garment.

A map of what I have learned

I knew a lot less about videography back then. And spinning, for that matter. I could point out a thousand mistakes and aspects to improve on. But I won’t. As I often say to my students – the video is a map of what I have learned. All the mistakes are there to remind me of where I can (and have) improve when it comes both the video making and spinning processes.

So regardless of mistakes or lower quality than the videos I produce today I am still very proud of this production. It has the love for the craft that I want to feature in all my videos and it tells the story I want to tell.

A magical sweater

The sweater itself is magic, at least if you belong to the magical world of spinning. At work nobody gives it much thought – it is just a knitted sweater. Most of them probably haven’t even thought about the spinning wheels on the yoke. The thought of it being made of handspun yarn probably haven’t even crossed their minds. But at fiber festivals, spinning classes and other textile events people stop, feel the structure of the sweater and ask about designer, sheep breed and spinning technique. In that magical world the sweater brings people together. It inspires people to process their wool, spin and treasure their craft. I’m happy to be part of spreading the love that spinning brings me and other spinners. Perhaps I can also inspire non-spinners to learn how to spin.

Happy spinning!

A person shearing a white sheep with hand shearers.
I’m shearing the fine wool sheep Pia-Lotta

You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Spinning from the fold

A hand holding green fiber folded over the index finger. and spinning from the center of the fibers.

The other day I got a fiber sample – a lengthwise striped combed top in different shades of green wool and silk. I decided to spin it from the fold. Spinning from the fold is a great way to get a light and airy yarn. The technique is also perfect for getting crispier colours in a lengthwise striped top.

Spinning from the fold

I mostly spin fiber that I have prepared myself. But sometimes commercially prepared fiber comes my way. This is one of those times – a Granny Smith apple green lengthwise striped top of wool (my guess is BFL or merino) and silk. I saw the perfect opportunity to show you how I spin from the fold.

The superpowers

To spin from the fold you place a staple-length portion of the fiber over your finger. This means that you spin from the middle of the staple length, so that the fibers are folded when they enter the drafting zone. This does two things:

  • Since the fiber comes into the drafting triangle from each side of your finger, the drafting triangle will be wider compared to spinning from the end of the fiber. This will let more air into the yarn.
  • The folded fibers strive towards unfolding. This too will let more air into the yarn.
A hand holding green fiber folded over the index finger., spinning yarn.
The fibers come from both ends of the finger, creating a wider drafting triangle that will result in an airier yarn. The folded fibers want to unfold. This lets even more air in to the yarn.

A yarn spun from the fold will thus be lighter and airier than the same yarn spun with the same grist from the ends of the fibers.

A skein of white yarn.
Jämtland wool, spun with short draw from the fold on a supported spindle.

I spun the yarn above with short draw from flicked staples of Jämtland wool from the fold with a supported spindle. At first I spun from my hand-combed top, but when I tried flicking the staples separately and spinning them from the fold I just knew this was the way this wool wanted to be spun. I love moments like that.

Spinning from the fold is not a drafting technique. Rather, it is simply a different way to hold the fiber. You can spin both woolen and worsted from the fold. You can spin from the fold with any spinning tool.

The how-tos

Spinning from the fold is not difficult. However, there are a few things to think about when you do.

  • Make sure you pull out a staple-length only. If you pull out more than a staple-length some fibers will be spun from the middle and some from the end. This will create a mess.
  • You also need to make sure you tuck the ends into your hand when you spin. If you don’t, there is a risk that they get caught in the yarn. This will create a bigger mess.
  • Still, you need to hold the fiber gently, like a baby bird (still tucking the ends into the hand). If you hold the fibers too tightly they won’t be released into the twist.
  • You can choose to either keep the fiber over your finger or remove your finger and just hold the folded fiber gently in your hand.
  • To join I simply place the spun end over the folded new staple and allow the fiber to get caught in the twist.
A hand holding green fiber folded over the index finger. and spinning from the center of the fibers.
Hold the fiber gently and tuck the ends into your hand.

The context

I spin from the fold when I have a low micron fleece with a long staple length. The fiber needs to be long enough to be folded over your finger and tucked in to your hand. It also needs to be fine enough not to get too bulky in the fold. I flick card each staple separately and spin staple by staple from the fold. A commercially prepped top is also a good candidate for spinning from the fold.

One extra superpower with spinning from the fold is crispier colours in a lengthwise striped top. Spinning from the fold is an excellent way to enhance the colour and/or fiber variations.

Two skeins of blue yarn.
The left skein was spun from the fold and the right from the end. The fiber is the same, a lengthwise striped top. If you look carefully, you can see that the colours in the left skein are a little sharper.

What happens is that one colour stripe at a time enters the drafting zone instead of getting blended should you spin from the end of the fiber. The colour variations stay clear and crisp. This feature is really fun to play with!

A tahkli spindle with light green variegated yarn.
The colours in a lengthwise striped top will get slightly more defined when spun from the fold compared to spinning from the end.

Tools and materials

The little supported spindle in the main video is a rocket speed Tahkli from John Galen. The bowl is actually a singing bowl for meditation (also bought from John Galen), hence the little bell sounds in the video. The fiber is a combed top I got as a sample from Vinterverkstan.

A small turquoise spindle with silver decorations and a small skein of green yarn.
Tahkli spindle from John Galen, fiber from Vinterverkstan.

The spindle in the extra clip is a Portuguese spindle from Saber Fazer. The fiber is a Norwegian NKS (Norsk kvit sau or Norwegian white sheep).

A person spinning outdoors on a spindle.
Spinning NKS (Norsk Kvit Sau, Norwegian white sheep) with a Portuguese spindle from Saber Fazer.

The setting

I shot the clip with the sheep in the background last summer at the cabin we have rented for the past five years.

I shot the main video under the hop arch in our allotment. We assembled the arch this spring to get some shade in the corner. It is a very nice corner for all sorts of fiber related activities! We planted the tansies to attract bees and other pollinators. It worked.

A patch of tansies with bumblebees. A person spinning in the background.
The bees do like their tansies. Here two buff-tailed bumblebees.

The red currant are nearly ripe now.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

A spindle a day

A meadow of flowers with a red building in the background.
Sätergläntan craft education center in its prettiest midsummer dress.

Yesterday I came back from Sätergläntan center for craft education. I have been teaching a five-day course in different spindle techniques. I call the course A spindle a day, referring to both the outline of the course and of the way spinning keeps me healthy – it makes me feel focused, peaceful and and sharp.

A person spinning on a suspended spindle in backlight
The rooms bursts with creativity on A spindle a day. Spindle by Wildcraft.

Sätergläntan bursts of crafting and creativity and it is a very inspirational place to be. This is the second time I teach at Sätergläntan, the last time was last October when I taught a five-day course in supported spindle spinning. I feel so lucky to be able to teach here. Only a couple of weeks ago Hazel Tindall and Nancy Marchant taught classes here.

A spindle a day

In October 2018 I taught a five-day course in supported spindle spinning. The principal of the center asked me if I wanted to come back and teach this summer. I did. From previous courses I knew that many people want to learn how to spin on a supported spindle, but I also know that there are many other spindle types that people want to learn. I sketched up a new course and called it A spindle a day.

I wanted to create a course where people could learn different spindle types, but also to really enjoy the superpowers of the slowness of spindle spinning. Spindle spinning allows you to focus on quality. You get time to listen to the wool and find out how it wants to be treated to be able to spin its best yarn.

Practicing spindle techniques is also a perfect thing to do outdoors – all you need is a spindle and some processed fiber and you are good to go. After all, that’s how people have been spinning for tens of thousands of years.

Day 1: Suspended spindle

The first part of day 1 was dedicated to wool knowledge and processing. After that we were ready to spin!

Wool knowledge

We started the first day with some basic wool knowledge. We looked at some of the Swedish breeds and their characteristics – staple length, crimp, fiber types, fineness etc. Handling wool from the very beginning helps us get to know the wool and understand what the characteristics do in a yarn and how we can enhance certain characteristics in the way we prepare and spin the yarn.

Combing wool

We also needed some wool to spin with, so we spent the next lesson combing. Some had combed before but hadn’t really got the hang of it and some had not combed at all. We used mainly a very dense Swedish Leicester wool that was a challenge to separate.

A person combing wool outdoors.
Don’t rush your combing. It needs your love and attention just as much as the spinning does. Combs from Gammeldags, wool from Värmland sheep.

We also looked at desired characteristics of hand combs – Tine length, sharpness, tine rows and distance between the tines. All these aspects will have an impact of the yarn we spin. As a spinner I need to adapt my combs to the wool I use and the result I want.

Suspended spindle

Most of the students in the class had spun on a suspended spindle before, some for a long time. They took the time to focus and practice. Some of them had never set the spindle in motion by rolling the shaft up the thigh before and were amazed at the speed it induced.

A person spinning on a suspended spindle
A lot of speed is inserted in the spindle when the spinner sets it in motion by rolling the shaft up the thigh. The spindle was made by the student.

The most experienced spinner played the game “how long can I spin before I need to roll the yarn onto the shaft” and set the spindle in motion with her feet.

A person rolling a spindle between the feet to set the spindle in motion.
You don’t need a spinning wheel to use with your feet for spinning! Spindle by Forsnäs Hemman.

Beginner spindler

There was one student who had no prior spinning or wool processing experience. It was my responsibility to meet her at her level and find the right step size for her to make progress and shine. And she did! It was wonderful to see how she worked with the wool with determination and dedication, how she understood the concept of drafting and found the point of twist engagement.

A person drafting yarn from a spindle she is pinching between her knees.
A new spinner is born. With dedication and determination she approached the suspended spindle and made impressive progress. Here she is parking and drafting. Towards the end of the day she started to skip the parking part.

Changing hands

When I teach spindle spinning I encourage, no, I make my students change hands. I want them to be able to use either hand as spinning hand or fiber hand. All hands in my class need to learn and be comfortable with how to control the fiber and how to control the yarn. I am a firm believer that you understand more about the spinning process and spinning mechanics if both hands know both tasks.

All the students did as I told them and they were amazed at how it actually worked after the initial learning process.

Day 2: Floor-supported spindle

On the second day all the students were beginners again, none of them had any previous experience of the floor-supported spindle.

A spindle from above
Navajo spindle by Björn Peck

A floor-supported spindle is, obviously, supported by the floor. It is thus a long spindle, somewhat longer if you sit on a chair than if you sit on the floor. We focused on the Navajo spindle where the spinner spins longdraw from hand-carded rolags.

A spindle with white and brown bulky yarn on it.
Practicing bulky singles on a Navajo spindle. Spindle by Björn Peck.

Carding rolags

With Navajo spindle spinning there are no short cuts – you need to make hand-carded rolags and they need to be even. The quality of the rolag will have consequences for the spinning process and the yarn you are spinning.

A person carding wool
There are no shortcuts – Navajo spindle spinning requires even and consistent hand-carded rolags!

Most of the students had experience in carding, but they all realized what difference dedicated time and thoroughness can do for the result. They learned quickly, though, and were amazed at their own progress – after a few loose and uneven rolags came concentric and even ones that made the teacher very proud.

A grayish-brown skein of singles yarn.
A thick singles yarn spun from hand-carded rolags on a Navajo spindle. The wool comes from the Värmland sheep Viola.

Let your hands listen to the wool

With a Navajo floor-supported spindle your hands need to communicate. Those of you who have watched the beautiful video of Navajo weaver Clara Sherman spinning on a Navajo spindle have heard her talk about the hands knowing and feeling what to do. This is very true when it comes to Navajo spindle spinning. The spindle hand is rolling the spindle shaft up the thigh and the fiber hand is holding the rolag ever so lightly. No hand is on the yarn to control it. The yarn is created in the cooperation between the hands, like a choreographed dance. The hands therefore need to listen to the wool to know when more twist needs to be added and when to add more length to the yarn or to open up the twist.

A person spinning on a floor-rested spindle
Learning to spin on a Navajo floor-supported spindle. Spindle by Björn Peck.

Being a beginner in a known field

The students I teach are generally experienced spinners. But when they come to my classroom they are beginners again. This can cause lots of frustration. As intermediate and experienced spinners they have so much knowledge. They know how wool behaves, how to draft and what they need to do to the yarn to get it where they want. They just don’t know this particular tool. I need to remind them to be patient and have respect for their own learning process.

A person spinning outdoors on a floor-rested spindle
The weather wasn’t always spinning-friendly, but when it was we took the chance to spin outdoors. Navajo spindle by Björn Peck.

Day 3: In-hand spindle with distaff

Mid-week we are tired. The students have been stuffed for two days and their brains need time to process all the things they have learned. And that’s ok. Sometimes we need to stop and listen, take a break or a step back. Still, they managed to take in and flourish in a new spinning technique and a new way to handle the fiber.

In this section of the course we also looked at some historical aspects of spinning. How did they spin in Central European medieval times? How did the Vikings spin? We also looked at French, Portuguese and Balkan spindles, which are all spun with a similar technique and with a distaff.

Twiddling

For the in-hand (or grasped or twiddle) spindle, the spinner holds the upper tip of the spindle between their fingers and turns the spindle in the hand. After some practice you can let go of the spindle and allow it to spin freely for short periods, still in the hand, always ready to grasp again. This was a challenge to the students. They thought they would never be able to control the spindle in the hand, but before lunch they all did!

Handling in-hand spindle and distaff is not a walk in the park.

Managing the distaff

The next step was to add the distaff. That too was a challenge – to hold the distaff while at the same time draft with the fiber hand, twiddle the spindle and keep an eye on the yarn going diagonally over the chest. They managed that too.

A person walking while spinning.
We’re taking our in-hand spindles and distaffs for a walk.

In fact, we even went for a walk with our spindles and distaffs. Now, that’s progress!

Day 4: Supported spindle

A person spinning on a supported spindle from a rolag.
It’s Supported spindle spinning Day! Supported spindle and puck by Björn Peck.

This is my game. I have taught lots of classes in supported spindle spinning. I know what to do, I know my course outline and I know the most common challenges the students face.

This time I was dead wrong.

These students have, step by step and in other contexts, become acquainted with most of the skills needed for supported spindle spinning, and they didn’t need much of my assistance before they were spinning away on their supported spindles. They didn’t have to start with a leader to practice the movements and angles, they had already practiced them the previous days with the other techniques.

People spinning on different kinds of spindles
Learning supported spindle spinning after suspended, floor-rested and in-hand spindle spinning turned out to be a smooth process.

Old skills in a new package

This is the thing about new skills – even if you are totally new to a thing, you always have some older skills you can apply to the new ones, albeit in a new package.

  • They know from the floor-rested and in-hand spindles how to change the angle between spinning and rolling onto the shaft.
  • With the in-hand spindle they have practiced fine-motor skills for twiddling the spinning tip.
  • Early on the first day we talked about opening up the twist to achieve a more even yarn and they have practiced it ever since.
  • Since day one they have practiced wool preparation and know what consequences it has for the quality of the spinning and the yarn.
  • For nearly every question they have asked I have encouraged them to analyze and find the answer themselves. They have started to analyze more themselves now and understand more why things happen the way they do in their spinning.
  • They know how to pack a mean permanent cop.

All I had to do was to coach them in flicking and encourage them to analyze even more.

I’m so proud of them!

A person spinning on a supported spindle from a rolag.
Spinning on a supported spindle from high quality hand-carded rolags. Supported spindle and puck by Björn Peck.

Day 5: Wool tasting

The fifth day was only half a day, so there was no new spindle. Instead the students put their new skills to the test in a wool tasting.

Testing new skills

They got five different wools and a chart. For each wool they were to make an initial assessment of the wool – what was their immediate feeling of the wool?

A person filling in a chart. Yarn samples are attached to the chart.
A lot of dedication was invested in the wool tasting.

They prepared and spun the wool and made a sample, taking notes of preparation method, spinning technique and spindle type. For every wool they got fifteen minutes. The room was quiet and the air thick with concentration. They were all dedicated and knew exactly how they wanted to prepare and spin the different wools and made thorough notes. It was a joy to observe!

A filled-in chart with yarn samples attached to it.
Want to know the wools in the wool tasting? From the left: Norwegian NKS, Dalapäls wool, Svärdsjö wool, Gute wool and Huacaya alpaca.

So much of what they had learned during the week came in use in the wool tasting. They had been provided with lots of tools and in the wool tasting they proved that they knew how to use them.

Spinning meditation

The last thing we did before lunch and journeys homeward was a spinning meditation. I hadn’t planned it, but one of the student had taken one of my previous courses where we had had a spinning meditation and asked if we could do it again. And it was a very suitable finale of a wonderful week.

A woman knitting on a bench. A meadow in the background.
A bench, some yarn and a meadow. The simplest things in life can be the most powerful.

Spinning, especially on spindles, can be truly meditative and is one of the superpowers of the craft. For me, a spindle a day keeps me balanced and focused. Perhaps it also keeps the doctor away.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

A multicoloured fleece

A multicoloured fleece, ranging from white to dark brown.

At the 2018 Swedish fleece championships I bought a bronze medal winning multicoloured fleece. The shepherdess didn’t really want to part with it, but she also knew that no spinning mill would be able to show the beautiful colours as a hand spinner would. In the end she was kind enough to sell me the fleece and now I have the honour and responsibility of making something beautiful of her baby.

A multicoloured fleece, ranging from white to dark brown.
A yummy multicoloured fleece.

Meet Chanel, a multicoloured sheep

The sheep’s name is Chanel (how’s that for a superstar!). She is a 75 % Härjedal and 25 % Åsen sheep. This is her lamb’s fleece. Chanel lives with her flock and shepherdess Birgitta Lindh Andersson.

A sheep with a multicoloured fleece
A multicoloured sheep, Härjedal/Åsen mixbreed Chanel as a lamb. Photo by Birgitta Lindh Andersson.

The fleece has soft undercoat and long, strong outercoat. Do I have to mention the shine? It has it. A deep and golden shine.

The depth of the colours and variations is spectacular. In the picture above she looks mostly brown, but her main colour is actually some sort of latte swirl with dark brown to light golden tips. The colour varies over the fleece. Since the short undercoat and long outercoat have different colours there is also a colour variation over the staples.

Staples of multicoloured wool, from white to dark brown.
The variation in Chanel’s multicoloured fleece is spectacular.

And look at those sweet lamb’s curls! The corkscrew curled tips are a sure sign that you are dealing with a lamb’s fleece.

Curly tips of wool staples.
Lamb’s curls to die for.

Capturing the colours

While the fleece is truly mesmerizing, trying to capture the colours in a yarn is a challenge. Processing them together would just lead to a porridge-coloured result. Even dividing the staples by colour may give a bland result if you card or comb each colour separately. Not only is the fleece in different colours over the body of the sheep, they are also in different shades over the length of the staple. I can use my superpowers as a hand spinner, though, and create a yarn that no spinning mill would be able to achieve.

Shades of coffee

I decided to try and divide the staples according to colour. It was a challenge, since the colour varied over the staples. But I started to make a rough estimation of the different colour themes and finished with some fine-tuning.

Five piles of wool of different colours.
Finding the different colours in the fleece.

I ended up with five different piles of fluff, that after some consideration turned into four.

  • The chocolate. These staples were basically solid in their chocolatey colour and also the softest pile.
  • The dark coffee swirl. Dark rose grey staples with dark brown tips. This was the biggest pile and will be the main colour yarn.
  • The light coffee swirl. Medium rose grey staples with medium to dark tips. The second biggest pile and very close in colour to the dark coffee swirl. I will need to make a design that separates these variations to make each colour shine.
  • The latte swirl. Light rose grey staples with soft honey tips.
  • The white chocolate. This pile looked a bit sad and lonely, so I decided to let the latte swirl pile adopt it.

I don’t even drink coffee.

Letting the colours shine

So, how can I make the most of the colour variations? If I card or comb the colours separately I still won’t be able to show the variation over the staple. My solution is to flick card each staple separately with a dog comb and spin from the cut end.

Technique

By spinning each staple separately I will get as much colour variation as I can. By spinning from the cut end, undercoat and outercoat will enter the twist at the same time, making the yarn both soft and strong. I spun a fleece with a similar colour variation for a pair of twined knitted mittens a while ago. It resulted in a beautifully variegated yarn. To see the processing and spinning technique, you can have a look at my recent video Catch the light or an oldie but goldie With the sheep in the pasture.

Design plans

I’m thinking of some sort of striped design. There is a risk that the colours blend into each other too much and still create a porridge-coloured result. Therefore I’m considering spinning a light yarn to use as a separator between the coloured stripes to make them all shine. Perhaps with a slipped stitch pattern to subtly play with the colours.

Oh, by the way, if I run out of fluff I can’t get any more. Chanel is still very much alive, but she has changed her mind and become more grey. Still beautiful, though, but different.

The back of a sheep with grey staples with brown tips.
Chanel today. A lot more grey. Photo by Birgitta Lindh Andersson.

I haven’t started spinning Chanel’s fleece yet. After all, a multicoloured fleece like this comes with great responsibility. I want to give this fleece my full attention and make it shine. I am in no hurry. But I will keep you posted on how the yarn turns out!


Tomorrow I will leave for Sätergläntan, a nordic center for craft education. I’m teaching a five-day course in different spindle techniques. I call the course A spindle a day. My next post will hopefully be a review of the course. Until then, you can read about the course in supported spindle spinning I taught at Sätergläntan in October 2018.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Catch the light

A person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight

It’s summer solstice here in Sweden. Eventhough Stockholm is 1000 km south of the arctic circle the sun seems to only touch the horizon in the night before it rises again. The light gives me energy and I want to save it for the winter. There is a special spot where the light is almost magic. In this video I have tried to catch the light.

Catch the light

Starring: The solstice light

I have wanted to make this video for a very long time. But to make it happen a lot of things need to be in synch. This year, though, we managed to catch the light. We did catch it once. In the very beginning of For the love of spinning there is a short clip with the magic light. Dan managed to catch it beautifully. But it was only a short clip and for a long time I have wanted to make a longer video just for the sake of the light. But catching the light is tricky business. Everything must be just right.

A person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight.
Catch the light, Monday: A-roll.

Early summer

The set is on a path next to our allotment. There is nothing special about the location really, but it is the timing that makes it special. In late spring and early summer the sun reaches enough above the tree tops in the evenings to cast a brilliant light along the path. The window is open for just a few weeks in late May and early to mid June. In May the grass is crispy green, young and untouched. In June the brightest greens have faded slightly, but the grass is in full blossom, casting a misty tint over the slope. If you look close enough you can see the fairies dancing in the haze.

Magic o’clock

The light is at the path for just a short time in the evening, between 7:15 and 7:30. Before that the trees on the southern edge of the path are blocking the sun and after the sun has gone behind the trees on the northern edge. So things need to move fast – we need to set camera and tripod, find the right angle to catch the light and shoot the right clips to show the spindle. I couldn’t possibly do all this myself in such a short time frame, so Dan was behind the camera this time. He is, after all, the best light catcher in the family.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight.
Catch the light, Tuesday: B-roll.

We needed three evenings to shoot everything– two for the video and a third for photos. There isn’t enough time to make it in one night since the window is open for such a short time.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight.
Catch the light, Thursday: Stills. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sun and the wind

It has to be a sunny day, of course, otherwise there will be no magic light to catch. This was a sunny week, so we were in luck. Wednesday was cloudy, though, and we couldn’t shoot.

For an extra bonus, the wind should come from the right direction not to carry the noise from the surrounding traffic routes. The wind was well behaved on Monday night and I could edit away the low noise and enhance the bird song. To hide the last bit of noise I added the soft piano music.

By the way, can you see the insects swarming in the sunlight? Yeah, most of them bite. But it was all worth it.

Artistic focus

Since the light was the star of the video we chose to shoot the video from angles that would show the light rather than specific spinning angles. To avoid disturbing the scene I decided not to add any titles at all to the video. In that way it is not an instructional video. Luckily, I have other videos that will show the technique better. This video thus has a purely artistic focus.

Supporting role: Supported spinning

Since I chose to omit titles or distractions in the video I will mention a few words here about the tools and technique. How could I not?

Spindle and wool

I am spinning with a spindle and puck from Björn Peck. Björn is a professional wood turner and nowadays my royal supplier of both supported spindles and other spindle models. I got his name from another wood worker and asked if he could make me some supported spindles. It turned out that he could. We have been cooperating for a year now and in that time he has developed his technique to perfectly balanced spindles with an amazingly long spin. They are easy on the eye too.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle.
Perfectly balanced supported spindle in Swedish woods. The puck has a glass inlay and a magnet underneath. Both by Björn Peck. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The wool is from Dalapäls sheep, an endangered Swedish conservation breed (more on the Dalapäls sheep in an upcoming breed study webinar!). It has soft undercoat and long, strong outercoat. And the shine!

A row of white wool locks.
Sweet locks of Dalapäls sheep.

Wool prep and spinning

I chose to comb each lock separately and spin from the cut end. This way I got both undercoat and outercoat in the yarn and at the same time. It is also a nice way to prepare a little every time.

A person combing a staple of wool.
I gently combed each lock separately not to disturb the structure of the fibers. Photo by Dan Waltin.

As you can see in the video I’m spinning the yarn counter-clockwise with my left hand as a spinning hand. The reason why I’m spinning counter-clockwise is that I am planning to use the yarn for twined knitting, which requires a yarn with a Z- or clockwise ply. I’m spinning with my left hand as spinning hand to pull the spindle when I spin. This is easier on the hands. Read more about spinning direction and ergonomics here.

I didn’t want to disturb the structure of the staples or remove too much of the soft undercoat. Therefore I combed it very lightly. The consequence of this is that the wool isn’t fully separated. This makes the drafting a bit of a challenge. I open up the twist a lot to allow the fibers to slide past each other and find their place in the yarn.

A full spindle with plied yarn.
Plied and ready for the world.

The spinning project is actually my bedside spinning. I spin a little every night in bed. It is a nice way to let my thoughts come and go and get ready for sleep.

Savouring the light

The summer nights will still be bright for a while to come. I want to savour the light forever. In late August and early September, the sun will set just around the evening swims of the season and it will get increasingly darker during the coming months. In December it will be pitch black when I leave for work and when I go home. During these days I will find some light and comfort in watching videos like this.

Happy solstice!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Washing fleece

Several people have asked me about how I scour my fleece. The truth is: I don’t. I do soak it, though. In this post of washing fleece I will dive deep into the washtub in search of clean fleece.

Scouring or soaking?

First of all, let’s get the terminology straight. I wash my fleece by soaking it. Usually in cold water from the tap, but preferably from the rain barrel. Scouring is a word that occurs a lot. In Swedish we only use the word for washing, so I was a bit unsure of what scouring actually means in a wool context. I asked in a spinning forum about people’s definition of scouring and it seems like scouring involves thorough cleaning, with a detergent of some sort. Someone also reminded me that the word also exists in Swedish: Skura, which means to thoroughly clean the floor with soap and water. The Encyclopedia of handspinning defines scouring as:

“The removal from fleece, cotton or other textile material of dirt, grease, suint, pectins etc. by thorough washing, to leave in it a clean and grease-free state ready for dyeing or spinning”.

Encyclopedia of handspinning by Mabel Ross

Similarly, The spinner’s encyclopedia states that scouring

” [r]emoves dirt and grease from a fleece by washing.”

The spinner’s encyclopedia by Enid Anderson

To scour thus means to remove all that isn’t the textile or fiber itself. That is not what I usually do.

Washing fleece by soaking

I wash my fleece to get the dirt out, and some lanolin. I want to keep enough lanolin to make the spinning smoother. Wool with no lanolin left is not a pleasure to spin for me.

I don’t use any detergent when I wash fleece from Swedish breeds. Swedish breeds are usually quite low in lanolin and after a cold water soak there is usually just the right amount of lanolin left for a smooth and pleasurable spin.

Cold water soak

I try to wash my fleece as soon as I can after having brought it home. I don’t want to attract moths or other wool–hostile creatures with the raw fleece.

Raw fleece with greasy and almost solidified tips.
Raw fleece with greasy and almost solidified tips. Norwegian NKS fleece.

When it is warm enough outdoors I just soak the fleece in cold water overnight. It can even stay longer than that, it can take care of itself. After that I rinse the fleece in cold water at least three times. Dirt out, lanolin in, just the way I want it.

I use the soak water and the rinsing waters as fertilization in the garden.

A person sinking a watering pot in a tub full of water.
I use the soaking water as fertilization in the garden. These are locks from a Dalapäls sheep.

Some breeds do require a detergent to get enough lanolin out, even for me. Merino is a breed with a lot of lanolin. The newest breed in Sweden, the Jämtland sheep, has some Merino in it and I usually use a detergent when I wash Jämtland. Sometimes also Shetland.

Warm water soak

If I get a fleece in the winter when it is too cold to soak outdoors I soak it in warm water indoors. I still don’t use any detergent. With a warm water soak, I leave the fleece in the water for just 15–20 minutes, not longer. When the temperature changes, which it will when I leave the fleece in the warm water soak for too long, the dirt can go back to the wool and create a waxy surface.

What is suint?

Raw fleece has a lot of dirt in it, plus suint and lanolin. Suint is the sheep’s sweat. It is composed of potassium salts and soapy organic acids that are soluble in cold water. It thus acts as a cleanser of the wool grease, the lanolin. In trying to understand this, the encyclopedia of handspinning comes to my rescue again:

“While the natural grease assists spinning, the suint attracts dirt and interferes with drafting. When fleece is soaked in cold or tepid water the suint dissolves in the bath and acts as a cleansing agent for the wool.”

Encyclopedia of handspinning by Mabel Ross
A tub of really dirty water and wool fleece.
You can see the suint as the soapy bubbles in the water.

This means that a washing method that dissolves the suint cleans the wool. The lanolin stays while the dirt is dissolved in the water. I get just what I want – a clean fleece with the lanolin still in it to assist the spinning process.

The fermented suint method

If I know I am going to wash several fleeces I make a soaking party of it – I use the fermented suint method.

A person pushing wool into a tub full of dirty water.
I soak my dirty Dalapäls fleece in really dirty water to get it wonderfully clean.

This means that I take advantage of the accumulated suint – the natural soap in the fleece – from several fleeces. I do this outdoors in the warm part of the year – this is not something you want to do indoors.

A fleece soaking in dirty water.
It is hard to imagine that this brew cleans the fleece, but it actually does!

This is how I wash fleece with the fermented suint method:

  • I fill a tub with either rain water or water from the hose. After filling the tub I soak the first fleece in the water. Ideally, the first fleece should be a really dirty one to bring as much suint and gunk as possible. I leave it for a week. I make sure I put a lid on the tub. This brew does not smell like raspberry pie.
  • After a week I fill a new tub with rinsing water, same temperature as the greasy water. I pick up the fleece from the suint water, using rubber gloves. This does still not smell like raspberry pie. I leave the fleece in the rinsing water for a while and rinse with another two waters. The third water should be reasonably transparent. I spin cycle the wool and let it dry outdoors on a grid. I use the rinsing waters as fertilizers in the garden.
  • After I have removed the first fleece from the greasy soak, I soak another fleece in it and leave it for a few days. Same rinsing procedure. I keep doing this until I’m out of fleeces. I now have a suint bath that is on its fifth fleece. The water is really gunky and smelly, but it gets the wool magically clean and my precious lanolin stays in the wool, just where I want it.
  • When I have no more fleeces to clean I use the gunky suint water as a fertilizer in the garden. This is a very potent fertilizer, though. I make sure I dilute the liquid to avoid overfeeding my plants.

When the fleece is dry I have a wonderfully clean wool with just enough lanolin for a smooth spin.

Two wool staples. The left white and clean, the right yellow-ish with a greasy tip.
A comparison between a raw staple and a staple washed with the fermented suint method. The right staple is visibly dirtier and has really greasy tips while the left staple is white and clean. The staples are from the same NKS fleece as the raw fleece above.

The NKS fleece that I started the fermented suint bath with had really greasy and somewhat solidified tips. After the washing process the tips were soft and clean.

After I have spun the yarn I wash it with a detergent, usually an organic perfume-free shampoo. That takes most of the lanolin away and makes it ready for whatever textile technique I want to use it for.

White wool.
Fleece washed with the fermented suint method. The wool is clean, including the once solidified tips. This is the same NKS fleece as the raw fleece above.

A word on vegetable matter

After washing – any kind of washing – the wool is clean. However, any vegetable matter that was in the fleece prior to washing will still be there after. A lot of it can fall out of the wool during the preparation of the wool (expecially combing), and some in spinning and plying. But when we look at a fleece we need to consider the amount of vegetable matter before we buy it. If it looks like a lot: Leave it. The will always be another fleece. No cleaning method will get the vegetable matter out. Removing vegetable matter is a purely mechanical process done by you. And my guess is there are other ways you want to spend your time with a fleece than to dissect it looking for twigs, seeds and pines.

I found a chestnut in my very first fleece.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Sisters in craft

Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.

Last weekend the 2019 wool journey with the wool traveling club took place. Four sisters in craft went to a sheep farm and hired a well renowned Swedish spinning teacher for two days.

The wool traveling club

The wool traveling club started in 2014. I felt a need to meet with other spinners and learn new things. I invited two friends to join me and they in turn invited one friend each. The first wool journey went to Shetland wool week in 2015. It was a wonderful adventure, packed with stories of Shetland’s textile heritage.

Since then we try to go somewhere where we don’t need to go by air.

The wool journey starts on the train.
The wool journey starts on the train.

2016 we visited a spinning mill. 2017 we went to Åsebol sheep farm and hired the talented wool classifier and teacher Kia Gabrielsson who had a one-day workshop in wool knowledge and Māori knitting/Uruahipi. Hiring a spinning teacher just for us is one of the superpowers of the club. We can get a course that is adapted to our skill level and get the best out of the course.

The 2019 wool journey

This year we chose to come back to Åsebol cabin at the sheep farm. It is the same cabin I have rented with my family every year since 2014 and one of my favourite places on Earth. It has everything – sheep, creek and silence.

Knitting by the creek.
Knitting by the creek.

You may recognize the scenery – it plays a part in several of my spinning videos.

A sweet lamb by the creek.
A sweet lamb by the creek.

Blending wool for a specific use

We hired Lena Köster, a well renowned Swedish spinning teacher, master spinner and professional weaver. She teaches at both beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Lena held an advanced course for us in how to blend different wools for a specific use.

Boel is deciding on fiber blends.
Boel is deciding on fiber blends.

Lena talked about how to blend wools to achieve a special quality yarn for a specific purpose. Do I want a strong yarn or a warm yarn? What characteristics do I want in my yarn? Do I want to blend for an aesthetic effect or just function? What do fiber type, length, crimp, or shine do for the finished yarn? What percentage of different fibers will give me the yarn qualitiy I’m looking for?

Lena and Ellinor talk about how to best spin for a twined knitting yarn.
Lena and Ellinor talk about how to best spin for a twined knitting yarn.

This is quite the opposite of what I usually do – I find a wool and want to take advantage of its main characteristics to show them off in a garment or design. Lena’s take starts at the opposite end – she wants to make something and needs to adapt the yarn to the purpose. This is really an interesting perspective that I haven’t worked from before and one that I will learn a lot from.

Boel is spinning warp yarn for tablet weaving from her own Gotland sheep.
Boel is spinning warp yarn for tablet weaving from her own Gotland sheep, brows frowned to accomplish enough twist.

Sock yarn assignment

Lena had made different assignments and we were able to choose one that we wanted to make.

At first I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do, but when Lena said that she had some mohair and Anna wanted to make a sock yarn I decided that I wanted to make sock yarn too. I’m not a big sock knitter. Ironically I usually think it takes way too much time. I have always been of the opinion that I need to buy a sock yarn since a handspun wound break. The problem with store bought sock yarn is that it usually contains plastic. But (adult) mohair is the perfect sock yarn strengthener!

Angora (left) and rya (right) make the perfect sock yarn partners!
Mohair (left) and rya (right) make the perfect sock yarn partners!

Mohair and rya

I blended the mohair with rya wool. Rya has a long and strong outer coat and a soft and warm under coat, the perfect partner for mohair. I blended 60 % rya with 40 % mohair.

I'm spinning sock yarn on my Björn Peck supported spindle.
I’m spinning sock yarn on my Björn Peck supported spindle.

I combed the fibers together, spun with short draw on a supported spindle and 3-plied. Both the mohair and the outer coat of the rya have beautiful shine and the blend will dye beautifully.

Anna blended her mohair with some Dalapäls wool and rya. She spun her yarn on a suspended spindle.

Anna is a master suspended spindler.
Anna is a master suspended spindler.

I spun the yarn a little too thin, I think it is a light fingering yarn. I managed to spin it remarkably even, perhaps due to thorough combing and dizzing.

My very own 3-ply sock yarn in a rya/Angora blend.
My very own 3-ply sock yarn in a rya/Angora blend.

Too strong or too soft?

I was concerned that the yarn might be too dense. But, then again, most sock yarns I have come across usually have a large amount of very soft fibers like Merino or BFL, which aren’t very strong. If my yarn was a little thicker it may also become a little softer.

A sock yarn swatch.
A sock yarn swatch.

I knit a tiny swatch and tried to imagine it as socks. When I asked my wooly friends if they would wear my socks they all agreed they would. I wasn’t convinced, so I tried the same blend, only spun with long draw from hand-carded rolags.

Rolags on a rainy day.
Rolags on a rainy day.

Stripes!

The new version was definitely softer and I was concerned that it may not be strong enough. My solution, though, was to spin both the softer and the stronger version, dye them in different colours and knit striped socks. Heels and toes would be knitted in the stronger yarn. Sock yarn prototype mission accomplished!

Boel shows Lena her finished tablet warp.
Boel proudly shows Lena her finished tablet warp.

We were all happy with our yarn prototypes. I was actually quite exhausted after two whole days of trial, error and analysis. I think I will need a lot of time to process everything I have learned.

Sisters in craft

Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.
Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.

Getting away like this for an extended weekend is such a treat. I treasure the memories of our wool journeys for months afterwards. After a while I start longing for our next wooly adventure together.

Walking and crafting in the spring landscape.
Sisters in craft walking and crafting in the Swedish spring landscape.

The power of collected skills

It is such a bliss to be able to get down to the nitty gritty of crafting – we discuss techniques, fiber, tools and projects at our level. Spinning is a rare craft these days and being able to spend a few days with so talented crafters and friends is truly rewarding. Boel with her never-ending curiosity and humility to any craft. Anna with her thoroughness and knowledge about basically everything. And Ellinor with her How hard can it be?-attitude that can move mountains in a breeze. The rush I get from the members’ collected skills and knowledge is truly empowering.

The power of friendship

The course or main event is just a small part of the greatness of our wool journeys. We make time to talk about the big and small things in life, breathing fresh air. We don’t know each other’s friends and neighbours, we don’t share each other’s daily lives and we can focus on each other with an unbiased perspective. All the while we craft, which, in itself, helps in finding a focus and clarity of mind.

Being in the here and now are vital parts of our time together. We take walks, cook, craft, talk and laugh. For the few days we are together we take a break from our daily lives and find focus in the present. We listen to and support each other in a refreshing way.

For a few days we truly are sisters in craft.

Sisters in craft
Sisters in craft – Josefin, Boel, Ellinor and Anna (the fifth sister Kristin couldn’t make it this time)

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Gotland top

The short-rows didn't make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I'm still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin

I have nothing educational to offer you in today’s blog post. Instead I show you my latest finished fluff to stuff project – a Gotland top in my own design and handspun yarn from the Gotland sheep Sounnie.

Sounnie the Gotland top. Photo by Dan Waltin
Sounnie the Gotland top. Photo by Dan Waltin

Background

Those of you who have followed my blog the last few months have seen the wool before. It is the freakishly long locks of the Gotland lamb Sounnie that I wrote about in an article in the spring issue of Spin-off magazine and a blog post on Gotland wool a while ago. Some of you also attended the breed study webinar on Gotland wool where I demonstrated how I prepared, spun and used the wool. Those of you who attended the Gotland wool webinar also saw a glimpse of the yoke on the needles in the webinar.

Sounnie, a Gotland top

Gotland wool in general has a lot of shine, strength and drape, ad so did the fleece I had from the Gotland lamb Sounnie. I wanted to honour these main characteristics in both the yarn and the textile. I played with different preparations, spinning and textile techniques until I found a yarn that would give me the shine, strength and drape the fleece had on the sheep.

Design

Just as I did the yarn and the textile, I wanted my Gotland top to signal shine, strength and drape. I chose to knit a fitted raglan yoke and give the top drape below the bust line. I had a vision of sort of an early 19th century empire look – fitted bust, elbow-length sleeves with some flair and a drapey bodice. At the same time I wanted a sporty look to give it a more modern touch, hence the stripes.

The Sounnie top has a longer back piece and elbow-length sleeves with flair. Photo by Dan Waltin
The Sounnie top has a longer back piece and elbow-length sleeves with flair. Photo by Dan Waltin

The finished top didn’t turn out as drapey as I had envisioned (I am a beginner designer and learning knitting maths by trial and error), but I still like the result. And the longer back-piece adds a little drape. The neckline should have been rounder, I do need to practice my short-row neck shaping. Dan commented that the sweater looked a bit medieval, and I do agree. So a sporty empire medieval top with a square neck it is then!

Construction

The Gotland top has a top-down seamless construction. What may look like side seams are actually just a column of P2 to balance the front and the back and to give the side increases something to lean against.

What may look like a side seam is actually a column of P2 to balance the front and the back. Photo by Dan Waltin
What may look like a side seam is actually a column of P2 to balance the front and the back. Photo by Dan Waltin

Neckline, sleeve ends and hemline are knit in garter stitch. I used short row shaping (I now officially love German short rows!) in the hemline for a longer back piece. I love this detail and I managed to get the maths right from the beginning. Yay!

The little flair in the sleeve ends are just increases in one row. I wanted a flair or trumpet effect and not a frill. I tried two different varieties and I think I got the increase to stay on the right end of the thin frill border.

Flair – not frill. Photo by Dan Waltin
Flair – not frill. Photo by Dan Waltin

Challenges

There are lots of challenges on the winding road of beginner designing. But I learn a lot from every detour and every curve of the ride. All the things I learn are knit into the garment and form a map of what I have learned.

Knitting direction

I wanted to knit it bottom-up as it is – in my opinion – a lot easier to calculate the numbers bottom-up than top-down. But I wasn’t sure there would be enough yarn and I didn’t want to run out of yarn at the bustline. Better to have a garment too short at the bottom than at the top, wouldn’t you agree?

Short rows

As I mentioned above, I didn’t get the neckline the way I had envisioned. I do like the one I ended up with, but it does bother me that I didn’t get it rounder. I’ll have to investigate that for my next design. The yarn isn’t really forgiving. It is a 2-ply yarn and they tend to show holes and irregularities more than 3-ply yarns. The w&t short rows in the back neck show, but I’ll have to live with that. The German short rows on the lower back hem look very nice, though.

The short-rows didn't make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I'm still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin
The short-rows didn’t make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I’m still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin

Dyeing dilemma

Since I was unsure of how much yarn I would need I only dared to dye one skein for the stripes. And of course there was too little dyed yarn left when I got to the bottom hem. So I dyed a bit more, using the same dye lot, but since I’m not an experienced dyer, the colour didn’t exactly match the original colour. The three bottom rounds have a more yellow tone than the top three in the hemline. But I’m the only one who will see it. If nothing else, it is part of the story of a new design.


When you read this I will be away on the 2019 wool journey with my wool traveling club. I will report about the event in an upcoming post!


Happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Record keeping

Record keeping may seem daunting and unappealing. I have always registered my spinning in numbers and tables, but I didn’t see the point of keeping physical record until just a year or two ago. Since I started keeping physical record of my spinning I have learned many things I wouldn’t have learned without sampling and swatching.

Tables, forms and boxes

Actually, I do love record keeping. If there is a form or a table to fill in, I will fill it in, even if I don’t have much to say. On Ravelty I keep track of every fleece I buy and every yarn I spin. All my spindles (lots) and wheels (3) are listed. My organized mind sighs of satisfaction when all the boxes are ticked.

Ravelry is a powerful tool that allows me to register and keep track of pretty much everything about my projects – fiber supplier, fiber content, prep method, spinning method, colour, spinning technique, plies, finishing etc.

Length and weight

Knowing the length and weight of a yarn helps me plan my project. If I am knitting or weaving I can calculate how much yarn I need or how much yarn I have left. With the weight of the fleece and waste I can also make an estimation of how much fiber I will need for a given amount of yarn.

Record keeping on Ravelry.
Record keeping on Ravelry.

Grist

The data I use the most is the grist. Grist is a calculation of length per weight unit – for me that is meters per kilo. I usually spin a whole fleece. Keeping track of the grist of the different skeins helps me achieve an even yarn throughout the whole spinning process. The satisfaction of managing to get the grist even over 10 skeins is unbeatable.

Other tools for consistency

  • The spinning angle is the angle of the spun yarn in relation to the direction of the yarn. Keeping track of the spinning angle helps me make a consistent yarn even if several days pass by between spinning sessions. Usually I also save a spun sample by the wheel to check my spinning against.
  • The ratio of the spinning wheel is a good thing to note. Sometimes it takes a while between spinning sessions and I have forgot which whorl I was using.
  • WPI, wraps per inch is a measurement used in commercial yarns. A given amount of wraps of yarn per inch will lead you to the yarn thickness needed for a specific project. Checking the wpi every now and then will help you keep track of the consistency of the yarn.
Wraps per inch, wpi, is a measurement used in commercial yarn. Knowing the wpi of your yarn will help you decide what pattern fits your yarn.
Wraps per inch, wpi, is a measurement used in commercial yarn. Knowing the wpi of your yarn will help you decide what pattern fits your yarn.

Sampling and swatching

I have kept record on Ravelry since I joined the community back in 2009. The information is useful, but I rarely do anything with the records. It is only recently that I have kept physical records – samples and swatches. This is where the real excitement begins.

Simple stockinette swatch of a handspun yarn from a Norwegian crossbred (NKS) whole-year fleece.
Simple stockinette swatch of a handspun yarn from a Norwegian crossbred (NKS) whole-year fleece.

I wasn’t aware of the superpowers of physical record keeping until just a couple of years ago. Actually, it was when I started writing articles for Spin-off magazine that I realized that I would have to make samples and swatches to be trustworthy as a writer. After my first serious attempt of sampling and swatching (and my first article), a new reality opened before my eyes.

Main characteristics: The superpowers

When I get my hands on a new fleece I feel like I have the world at my feet. I can explore this new acquaintance endlessly, investigating fiber length, strength, consistency, shine, fiber type, loftiness, spring etc. All these characteristics tell me something about the fleece that I can use when I make a yarn. I try to find the essence of the fleece – what are its main characteristics? When I have found these, I envision a yarn with these characteristics as superpowers. I make a plan for the yarn I envision and experiment with preparation and spinning methods.

Gotland wool: Strength, drape and shine

Using my recent Gotland fleece as an example, the main characters were strength, drape and shine. I played with preparation and spinning until I had found the right path to a yarn that signaled these main characteristics. Combing was the method I envisioned to keep the shine in the yarn. After having experimented with a few methods to achieve a smooth combing process that would also give me a sleek and drapey yarn I scaled up the method and prepared and spun the whole fleece that way.

When I keep physical records of a fleece I make samples of a staple, singles, plies, weaving and knitting. Sometimes also a felted woven sample.
When I keep physical records of a fleece I make samples of a staple, singles, plies, weaving and knitting. Sometimes also a felted woven sample.

I needed to try, compare and fail. I needed to see and feel what would work and what wouldn’t. Even if I liked the first or second try I continued to try different methods to be able to tell exactly why it was the winning concept. I carded, combed, flicked and teased. I spun singles, plies, bulky, thin, woolen and worsted. At the swatching stage I wove, knit and felted. By seeing the samples and swatches side by side I was able to distinguish which method that would give me the best of the main characteristics and why.

Gute wool: Strength, lightness and rusticity

With my Gute fleece I saw strength, lightness and rusticity as the main characteristics. I was dealing with a primitive breed and wanted to honour that in the way I presented the finished product. The fleece had three fiber types but I still wanted to keep them together to allow them to boost each other and show the rusticity I was after. I experimented until I had a yarn that gave me the same feeling the fleece had.

Physical record keeping of a Gute fleece.
Physical record keeping of a Gute fleece.

To come to the right path of carding and spinning with long draw I had to take a detour through combing and short forward draw. I needed to see and feel that it wouldn’t give me the yarn I was after and why. By felting a woven swatch – just for fun – I also realized that weaving and felting were the right options for this yarn instead of knitting, which was my original idea.


Trying ideas that I thought would be the right one might prove to be all wrong. Exploring options I wouldn’t think would lead anywhere could be spot on. I need to experiment physically with a fleece, not just theoretically, to find my right way to the superpowers I want to show as the stars of the finished product.

It took me a few swatches to find the right combination for this yarn, but I think this is the one.
It took me a few swatches to find the right cable combination for this yarn, but I think this is the one. It is not blocked, though, it will probably look better after blocking.

Happy spinning!



You can follow me on several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Gute wool

2-ply yarn of Gute wool, spun with longdraw from hand-carded rolags.

In the spring 2019 issue of Spin-off magazine I wrote an article on sorting fleeces of Gute and Gotland wool. A few weeks ago I covered Gotland wool in a blog post and a live webinar. In this post I will look a bit closer at Gute wool.

This is the second part in a breed study series with live webinars. I look at Swedish breeds to start with and from the spinner’s point of view. A bit about the breed, the characteristics of the wool, how I prepare and spin it and what I want to do with the finished yarn.

Next Saturday, May 25th at 5 pm CET I will host a live webinar where I share my thoughts and experiences on Gute wool.

Gute sheep

Gute ewe at the Skansen outdoor museum
Gute ewe at the Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm. I love how Gute sheep look almost like an oil painting in their faces.

History

The Gute sheep is a rustic breed and the oldest sheep breed in Sweden. It derives from the horn sheep or Gotland outdoor sheep in Gotland. In the 1920’s a breeding program started, aiming for a hornless sheep that was adapted to meat and pretty skins. This resulted in the Gotland sheep. Around 10 horned sheep were saved, though, and were used to restore the old horn sheep. Some of these sheep were moved to Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm and their descendants are still at the museum today.

The name was changed to Gute sheep. Gute is an abbreviation of the Gotland outdoor sheep (Gotländskt utegångsfår), and it also refers to a person that has lived in Gotland for at least three generations.

Gute sheep today

A major part of the conservation program for Gute sheep was to keep the genetic variation of the breed. This means that the breed has not been improved. Gut sheep have a big genetic variation. The breeding standards emphasize breeding for all the breed specific characteristics and discourage breeding for or against specific characteristics.

There are around 1500 Gute ewes in Sweden today in 107 flocks (2018).

The Gute sheep is a symbol of the island of Gotland. Gute ram parking barriers are a common sight in the medieval city of Visby in Gotland. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Wool characteristics

Gute wool has a wide variety of qualities, from very fine undercoat to black kemp. There is a wide variation between individuals and also over the body of one individual. This makes Gute sheep ideal for a small household. Go back a hundred years and see yourself as a small farmer with lots of different kinds of wool for lots of purposes from only a small flock of Gute sheep.

Gute wool has a long outer coat of around 40 micron, a very fine undercoat of around 17 micron and kemp. All these fiber types are present all over the fleece, but to varying degrees. The long and strong outer coat protects the sheep from wind and rain and the fine undercoat keeps the sheep warm. Kemp keeps the staple open and perpendicular to the body of the sheep. This protects the sheep even further from wind and rain and lets even more air in to the staple to keep the sheep warm. There is basically no crimp in the wool. The colour can vary over the body and over the staple.

Gute wool from one individual. The sheep has long and strong overcoat, fine undercoat and kemp over the whole body, but to varying degrees.
Gute wool from one individual. The sheep has long and strong overcoat, fine undercoat and kemp over the whole body, but to varying degrees.

Gute sheep have some primitive characteristics left, one of which being rooing. This means that they naturally shed their wool once a year, usually in the spring or early summer. The fiber thins out and eventually breaks to pave the way for a new fiber. The different fiber types are rooed at different times. A shepherd who knows this can choose to shear the sheep at a specific time depending on which fiber type is being rooed.

Processing

I like to find the superpowers of a fleece and take advantage of these when I prepare and spin it. When I wrote the article for Spin-off I played with different preparation and spinning methods to find the best yarn for the Gute fleece I had.

Since the kemp keeps the staples open, Gute wool is light. I wanted to keep this lightness in the yarn that I spun. I could comb the fiber to make a strong yarn, but when I tried that I just enhanced the coarseness of the wool and it felt more like rope. That may have made a wonderfully strong and rustic rug yarn, but that was not what I was after.

Sampling and swatching

Since the three different fiber types are depending on each other for their respective characteristics, I wanted to keep them together. Therefore I wanted to card them and spin a woolen yarn. For extra lightness I wanted to spin with low twist and 2-ply it. This resulted in a very pleasant sample with a rustic feeling. Below are the samples I made for the Spin-off arcticle. The felted swatch comes from a 10×10 cm woven sample. I love how the yarn felted – very evenly and with a nice touch to it.

Samples and swatches of Gute wool.
Samples and swatches of Gute wool.

Flicking tips

To tease the wool before carding I flick carded the tip and cut ends. When I looked at the staples after flick carding I saw something interesting. I found a lot less kemp in the flicked staples, especially at the cut end. A lot of kemp was stuck in the flick card.

After flick carding the staples a lot of the kemp was left in the flick card.
After flick carding the staples a lot of the kemp was left in the flick card.

This means that the kemp alone had been shed. If you look at the picture above with all the staples in length order you can see the shedding point (the rise) at around 2 cm from the cut end.

In a previous blog post I used my combs to tease the locks before carding. I think using combs for teasing would take away too much of the fine undercoat. By using the flick card I only open up the staples and remove some of the kemp.

Rise and yield

So, the cut end of the kemp was now in the flick card. Left in the staple was the rooed end and the tip end, both thinly tapered rather than straight angle cut. This means that my yarn would be less itchy than a Gute yarn with the cut ends in the yarn. How come? Well, a yarn is itchy if it makes the skin yield to the fiber. If instead the fiber yields to the surface of the skin, the yarn doesn’t itch. Since the kemp ends are thinly tapered, the fibers will yield to the skin. By all means, this is still a rustic yarn that is more itchy than, say, a merino yarn, but the yarn I spun is surprisingly comfortable against my skin.

Carding

After having flicked the staples I carded rolags. Gute wool is wonderful to card, It feels light and airy, but still rustic. There is sort of a fudge-like feeling to carding Gute wool – slow but still smooth. I did use the wrong hand cards, though. Since I card mostly fine wools I have a pair of 108 tpi (teeth per square inch) cards. I contacted my supplier, but the 72 tpi cards were out of stock. The 108 tpi cards are not ideal for Gute wool, but they do a decent enough job.

I carded the flicked staples and made rolags. Photo by Isak Waltin.
I carded the flicked staples and made rolags.

There was a lot of kemp waste on the floor after I had carded the flicked staples. The kemp has quite a prominent medulla (the central core of the fiber, consisting of air-filled cells) and therefore breaks easily.

Ok, my 16-year-old just read this post over my shoulder and was convinced I had made half of the words up. He basically rofl-ed.

How I card

To load the stationary card, I just gently pull them onto the teeth of the card. I gently stroke the wool with the active card. I make 6 strokes for each pass, transfer the wool and make another two passes. I roll the carded batt off the stationary card and make a rolag with the help of the back of my hand. One final roll of between the cards and a baby rolag is born.

Newborn Gute rolags.
Newborn Gute rolags.

If you want to dive into carding, here is a video where I card rolags, start at 4:12.

Spinning

Spinning Gute wool in the morning sun. Photo by Isak Waltin.
Spinning Gute wool in the morning sun. Photo by Isak Waltin.

I wanted a yarn that had as much air as possible in it. I also wanted a yarn that would resemble the function of the wool on the sheep as much as possible – strong and durable, yet still light and airy. Therefore I spun the carded rolags with longdraw at a low ratio for a low twist yarn. The longdraw captures a lot of air between the fibers and the low twist makes sure the air isn’t squeezed out in a tight twist.

2-ply yarn of Gute wool, spun with longdraw from hand-carded rolags.
2-ply yarn of Gute wool, spun with longdraw from hand-carded rolags.

I got the result I wanted – a remarkably light and airy yarn that is still strong and has a really rustic feeling.

A quick comparison with Gotland wool

Let’s go back a few steps here. Remember I told you that Gute sheep and Gotland sheep have the same mother, the horn sheep? The breeding of Gotland sheep was aimed at pretty skins with lots of shiny outercoat and very little undercoat. This makes Gotland wool very dense. Aiming to find the superpowers of a wool, I spun the Gotland wool into a shiny, dense and thin yarn and the Gute wool into a light, strong and rustic yarn.

Below are the Gute and Gotland yarns side by side. They are the same length and the same weight. Gute wool has a lot more undercoat than Gotland wool, but still less undercoat than outercoat. The kemp helps keeping the Gute yarn open and airy.

Gute and Gotland yarn. Both are around 100 m and 45 g.
Gute and Gotland yarn. Both are around 100 m and 45 g.

Looking at these two skeins makes me wonder if the breeds have anything to do with each other at all. But they do. And the picture tells me that it is possible to find the superpowers of a fleece and make them truly shine in a yarn.

Use

I used the Gotland wool in a project that would show the shine and the drape of the yarn. With Gute wool I want to enhance the sturdiness, the lightness and the warmth.

Knitted swatch of Gute yarn.
Knitted swatch of Gute yarn.

While the Gute yarn knits up evenly and very appealing, I was really intrigued by its felting abilities.

A woven and felted swatch from Gute wool.
A woven and felted swatch from Gute wool.

The Gute fleece I bought consists of many qualities and lengths. Dividing the fleece to suit different purposes is appealing. But my plan now is to spin it all up like I have with this first skein and weave a simple tabby pattern. I want to take advantage of the splendid felting abilities and full the fabric into a vadmal material, hopefully in a fulling mill. I can’t imagine I will get enough fulled fabric for a jacket, but perhaps a vest! With handsewn buttonholes. Wouldn’t that be something?

Live webinar!

This Saturday, May 25th at 5 pm CET (world clock here) I will host a live breed study webinar about Gute wool from a spinner’s perspective. I will talk briefly about the breed in Sweden, wool characteristics and how I process, spin and use Gute wool. I will use my Gute fleece as a case study and show you glimpses of how I process the wool.

This is a chance for me to meet you (in the chat at least, I won’t be able to see you) and for you to see me live and unedited. The previous live breed study webinar I did was a great success. I can’t wait to see you again in this webinar.

You can register even if you can’t make it to the live event (I’m sorry Australia and New Zealand, I know it is in the middle of the night for you). I will send the replay link to everyone who registers for the webinar. So register now!

The event has passed


Happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!