Old blog post: Fleece happens

Last week I indicated that I might not be able to write a blog post this week. I have been a good girl and not bent over backwards to squeeze a blog post in. But I did pick out an old blog post to give you something to read if you want to.

On November 20th 2021, one year ago, I wrote about what I do when fleece happens. You know, when a fleece just comes to you, without you knowing what really happened. The fall shearing is usually the highlight of the year for many spinners in Sweden, fleece happens a lot this time of year. This autumn, for example, fleece has happened thrice for me.

In the post I write about what I do with a fleece when it comes to me, in terms of washing, how I prepare it for storing and what documentation I do, how and where.

I will spend the weekend on a gym instructor course for the gym chain where I am an instructor. It will be tough, and I’m really excited about it.

P.S. A week ago I was interviewed by Daniel Howell of Folk Craft revival about spinning. Listen to the podcast episode here!

Happy reading!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Connection

Through learning, sharing and making I often feel a strong connection to the spinning students in my classroom as well as to past and present spinners around me.

Just recently I taught a two-day course in floor spindle spinning. There were seven students in the classroom, with varying degrees of spinning experience. Through wool, wool preparation, spinning and learning we all felt a strong connection to each other as spinners.

Knitting in my hands and teaching on my schedule. The Gandhi quote on my trolley reads “Every revolution of the wheel spins peace, goodwill and love”.

Connection through sheep

My very generous friend Lena was one of the students. She lives near the church school where I taught the class and had brought a soup for us to share at lunch break. She had also brought beautiful raw fleece from her gene bank flock of the Swedish conservation breed dalapäls sheep that we prepared and spun in the course.

Lena’s dalapäls sheep. Screenshot from video shot in 2019.

Lena told us tales about the sheep and the shearing. Usually she shears the sheep herself with hand sheers, which tends to take around an hour for one sheep, but this year she had booked a professional shearer to do the job.

Seed pods with nasty barbs.

Just a few days before the shearing the sheep had walked through a patch of some sort of plant that spread its seed pods with the help of barbs. Suddenly all sheep were covered in nasty little seed pods that had caught the fleece with the barbs. Lena had to brush every sheep for an hour each to get rid of as many seeds as possible. Even if there were still some seeds left, the brushing left the shorn fleeces very clean.

The light room is ready for day two of the spinning course, with Lena’s dalapäls wool in the middle of the circle.

Through Lena’s stories we connected to the wool in the basket in the middle of our spinning circle, as well as to the sheep that had given us their fleeces. We all carded and the same rolags, with the oh, so soft undercoat fluffing up the shape and the shiny outercoat armouring and adding strength.

You can read more about dalapäls wool here.

Reflection

At the end of each day and/or course I always encourage my students to reflect over the day in quietude. We sit there in a silent room while they make notes of what has happened during the day, catching and developing all the thoughts, questions, aha-moments and frustrations that are still vividly floating around in the room. I watch them as they write, stop, think and write again. I can see their minds settling as their thoughts take a written form.

When all notebooks have closed and the students sighed in the calming silence I ask if anyone has something they want to share: What have you learned? What was difficult? What are you proud of? The students are generous, sharing personal insights, struggles and successes: “I finally carded an even rolag!”, “The joins were so difficult to get right.” or “When I learned how to open up the twist everything became much easier.”.

Connection through learning

On this course one of the students, a total beginner, said she so enjoyed the connection we shared in the course. Learning together, connecting to each other, back to spinners before us and out to spinners beside us. She was proud of having given herself the time to learn something new.

I too experience a deep connection in the courses. Just like this student said, to each other, to the spinners before and beside us, but also to the wool, to the sheep, to the making and to our learning process. The students in the classroom all have different spinning backgrounds, skill levels, learning styles and learning pace. Still, we all take part in each other’s joys, frustrations and vulnerabilities with kindness and compassion.

We’re in this together

After all, we are all there, in that same room, with the same wool and the same tools. In that room we take that wool and those tools and make our connected, collective, but still individual journeys. As soon as the first chafing of being in a new context has settled, we find trust and a connection to the group. We are in this together. During the course we are making, learning, frustrating, progressing and exploring together. We may be vulnerable in the new learning context, but by having an open, generous and curious mind we can disclose our fears and struggles, explore together and learn through both our own and each other’s experiences.

In my classroom I want to make the learning a connected experience. As I see or hear struggle or success, I encourage exploration, articulation and reflection of what happened. How can we all learn more from this? There is such a power in learning in and through a warm and safe connection. We give ourselves time to learn.

As the day settles

When we had finished the first day I went home with Lena to her house. We talked for hours over a sweet dinner she had prepared for us while the fire mumbled quietly in the background. I picked up a two-end knitting project with spindle-spun dalapäls yarn. The yarn reminded me of that connection we shared to spinners before, beside and after us.

Raw fleece from Lena’s dalapäls sheep Nehne.

When I went home the following afternoon I had an extra paper bag with me, with the soft and shiny fleece from Lena’s dalapäls sheep Nehne, reminding me of all the connections we shared during the course. The connections will be spun into the yarn, passing the sweet memories on to the touch of my two-end knitted sleeves.

The fleece from the dalapäls sheep Nehne has been washed in water and is drying in front of our fireplace.

The following day I washed Nehne’s fleece that I got from Lena. It has been drying in front of the fireplace, smelling faintly of sheep. She reminds me of the course and the connection we all shared in the classroom. I even enjoy picking out the last remaining seed pods.

Next weekend I will attend a gym instructor course and can’t promise a blog post.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Picking fleece

The first step I take with a fleece after I have washed it is to pick it. Staple by staple I pull the tip ends out of the fleece until I have picked myself through the whole fleece. Today I discuss the advantages of picking fleece and why I don’t skip this step.

When I first learned to spin and process my wool I was taught to pick it. Somewhere along the way I omitted this step, for some odd reason. Recently, perhaps a year ago or so, I started picking my new fleeces again. There are so many advantages of picking fleece and I don’t want to omit this step.

Here is a short summary of the steps I take when I pick a fleece:

  • When the fleece has dried after washing I lay a newspaper on the floor and prepare a paper bag where I write the breed of the fleece and when it was shorn.
  • I take a bundle of fleece in one hand and search out the tip ends with the other. With the holding hand as resistance I pull the tips straight out.
  • If I see any vegetable matter I remove this. Some will probably fall to the ground as you pick through the fleece.
  • I also remove felted parts, solidified tips, heavily dirty sections and poo.
  • I take notes of characteristics of the fleece and any ideas I get for handling it in preparation and spinning.
  • When I have picked through the whole fleece I put it in the paper bag and either store it or go on with processing the fleece.
  • All that I have removed will be used. I generally put it in the compost or in my Bokashi bucket.

Model: A Tabacktorp fleece

The model I use in this post about picking fleece is a Swedish Tabacktorp fleece. It’s one of the rarest breeds in Sweden. The official statistics say that in 2021 there were a total of 25 breeding ewes in seven flocks in Sweden.

My friend Sandy of Swedish Fibre was kind enough to let me buy 1 kilo of her Tabacktorp treasure. The content of the kilo I bought could be from one individual or from several.

Picked locks of Tabacktorp wool in my ullkränku (wool basket). Two saigkorgar (baskets for carded wool) in the background. Both basket models are traditional from Gotland.

I will make a breed study blog post and webinar about this fleece later on. For the sake of this blog post the Tabacktorp fleece is just modeling for my picking demonstration.

Air in

When I pick a fleece I hold a bundle of the washed fleece gently in one hand and pick out staple by staple from the tip end. The staples are usually slightly interlaced at the cut end and picking the staples will open up the cut ends and invite air in between the fibers.

10 grams each of unpicked (left) and picked (right) tabacktorp wool.

Getting air into the fibers makes the upcoming preparation steps easier – if the cut ends are detangled there will be less strain on my body and on the fibers. Picking the fleece will thus reduce the amount of waste compared to an unpicked fleece.

The staples in the Tabacktorp fleece are quite defined and untangled already. Some fleeces are held together to different degrees at the cut end throughout the whole fleeces, but this one almost falls to pieces when I pick it up.

Stuff out

Picking the fleece also gives me the opportunity to remove any stuff I don’t want in it. This could be vegetable matter, short fibers, seconds cuts, felted parts and poo. A lot of stuff will fall out just by the air coming in when I pick the fleece. Other stuff will be easy to remove manually as I pick my way from staple to staple.

The most obvious vegetable matter is easy to remove in the picking stage if it doesn’t fall out on its own as I pick staple by staple.

When I have finished picking the whole fleece the stuff I don’t want is gone (resting cozily on my garden beds) and I’m left with clean and open full-length staples only. The fleece is ready to be used.

This fleece didn’t have very much vegetable matter in it, some juniper needles. No felted parts and almost no poo or dirty parts. It could be due to a very clean fleece overall or to a thorough skirting and rough sorting by the sheep owner.

Establishing a relationship

As I pick my way through the fleece I establish my relationship to it. To me it is important to learn as much as I can about not only the fleece, but also the sheep. In the newly shorn format that I get the fleece in it’s as close to its on the hoof-version as possible. In the unprocessed fleece I get the chance to explore what the fleece did for the sheep. Picking out leaves, needles and grass gives me an image of where the sheep has grazed, what kind of plants that have been in her living room. I get to tread in the hooves of the sheep.

As I pick my wool I establish a relationship with it.

Years ago when I had a thing for Shetland wool I got beautiful fleeces from Shetland Woolbrokers. The stuff I found in those fleeces made my heart tingle, it felt so special to be able to go back to Shetland in my mind. I didn’t find much vegetable matter in the fleeces, but some peat fell out of them occasionally. Especially on the sheep’s sleeping side.

That kind of information is not necessary for me from a strict spinning perspective, but it gives me an image, a feeling for the sheep’s life and surroundings. And with that important connection to the sheep I feel a closeness to the sheep and a deeper responsibility to make her justice. She has grown a beautiful fleece and made it available to me. It’s my responsibility to treat it with the humility and respect it deserves and spin its most beautiful yarn.

A first glimpse

Looking at the wool off the hoof in its on-the-hoof state as staples I get the chance to get to know its characteristics.

Visual

Visual aspects can be

  • colour
  • staple length
  • staple type. To me the staple type is connected with the outercoat to undercoat ratio. Is there mainly outercoat in the staples, equal amounts of outercoat and undercoat or mainly undercoat?
  • crimp – are the staples straight, wavy, curly or crimpy?
  • openness – are the fibers bundled together in the staples or more open?
  • evenness – are the staples more or less similar over the fleece or variegated?
  • an approximate relationship between outercoat and undercoat, if applicable.

What I find when I look at the list above are not good or bad, just information I get from looking at the fleece. Information that I take into account in further processing.

Tactile

I can see a lot from just looking at the fleece, but it’s with my hands in it that I experience its more subtle characteristics. When I dig my hands into the fleece, I can get more tactile information like

  • How the staples detach from the cut ends. Is it easy or do I need to struggle to pull the staples out of the staple bundle? Sometimes there is a resistance or even sort of a felted carpet right at the cut ends. Whether it is from the shearing itself or from when in the growth period the sheep was shorn or something else I couldn’t tell. But if I do have to struggle it tells me that I need to take measures to ease that struggle as I prepare the fleece. A struggle indicates risk of strain, in both my muscles and the fibers.
  • What is the bounce like in the fleece? If I take a bundle of staples and squeeze them, how do they bounce back? This can be an indication of how the yarn will behave as I spin it and how it blooms after I have finished it.
  • How do the fibers relate to one another? If I draft from the cut end of a staple, how is the give in the draft? Does it come easily or do I need to struggle?

I can get lots of visual, more quantitative information from the fleece, but with the more qualitative feedback in my hands I get to know it on a more subtle level.

Sort?

With the information – quantitative and qualitative – I get from the staples as I pick my way through them I get an overview of how it is composed. With that information I can make decisions on whether to sort it into different categories or not, and which categories.

I can choose to sort by

  • Colour. There can be difference in colour over the body of the sheep or between undercoat and outercoat. Sometimes over the stretch of a fiber. This is an interesting way to sort a fleece. A multicolour fleece can give you lots of ways to play.
  • Staple length. For certain projects I may want evenness in the staple length. I can sort a fleece on that basis.
  • Staple type: In dual coats there can be different undercoat to outercoat ratios which can be a parameter to sort by.
  • Coarseness/fineness: Differences in fineness is not uncommon.
  • Crimp: Some fleeces with lots of variegation can have different degrees of crimp on different parts of the body.
  • Fiber type: Do I want to separate undercoat from outercoat?

My Tabacktorp fleece has lots of different staple types that I could easily sort and use for different purposes. Still, they are quite even in length and my plan at the moment is to card it all together, taking advantage of their collected characteristics in one yarn rather than go for individual characteristics in several smaller sections.

Store

When I have picked my fleece it’s ready for storage. My fleece queue is long, my oldest fleeces are from the autumn 2021 shearing. All the fleeces in my storage are picked. When I invite the oldest one to dance it’s all dressed up and ready – with far less vegetable matter, clean, easy to work with and perhaps even sorted into categories. It may be a bit flatter than the last time I saw it, but it will puff up again.

One bag of picked Tabacktorp wool shorn autumn 2022, ready for my wool storage to wait its turn in my fleece queue.

Before I store the picked fleece I make a few notes on my Ravelry page about the wool. Discoveries I have made through the picking such as how it drafts, if I have struggled with it, Perhaps any thoughts I have of spinning or what to make of the spun yarn.

My Tabacktorp wool now sleeps cozily with equally picked Åland, gute, dalapäls and other fleeces in my sofa bed. And when it’s Tabacktorp’s turn in line I will thank myself for having taken the time – and joy – to pick it, get to know it and make notes about it characteristics.

Your wool has a lot to teach you. Listen to it.

If you are a patron (or want to become one) I have just released my November video postcard where I demonstrate how I pick my Tabacktorp fleece.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Rehackling flax

It’s been a while, but today I release a new video! This time I show you how I rehackle flax that has been stored for a while. In this case flax from the Berta’s flax project that has been stored since the 1940’s, but I would rehackle any flax that doesn’t come fresh off the hackles.

I actually shot a version of this video in the summer of 2021. But as the time went by, I realized that I had changed my methods here and there. The footage wasn’t the best either.

A video project within a process

I procrastinated for a year. Then I tried again this summer, 2022. I updated my methods and my phone, so I got better footage too. The summer went by and I changed some more methods. I procrastinated a little more. Then I realized that the changes were due to my process, and a process is always changing.

I spun flax all summer and learned a lot along the way. I changed techniques, tools and my understanding of the process, while developing and refining my methods. Here are some changes I have made since I shot the video:

  • I divide the stricks into even smaller bundles for more control and better quality in the hackling
  • I have a different way of dressing the distaff with the fanned fibers (see archive video below)
  • Even if I put my hand very gently on the hackle spikes to keep the flax on them, there is a risk of getting hurt if I’m not careful. I now place my index finger on top of the fibers just in front of the spikes to force the fibers to stay in the hackle without risking getting my hand hurt.
  • I now use a different spinning wheel, my Kromski Mazurka Henrietta (see image below)

So what I give you is a still image of my methods as they presented themselves in the process then and there, in the shape of a video. I have learned a lot since then and a video produced now would look different. I hope my learning process is to the benefit of yours.

Rehackling flax

In the video I rehackle flax that is around 80 years old. The flax comes from the Austrian Berta’s flax project and the flax stricks have been stored in a chest until just recently. While the flax was in amazing condition it was compressed and needed a little love. In fact, I would rehackle any flax that I didn’t get straight off the hackles.

You can read more about rehackling flax in this blog post and more about the Berta’s flax project here.

Time and air

Preparing fibers invites air in between the fibers. In some preparations a lot of air with the fibers willy-nilly, but still evenly distributed, like a carded preparation. In other preparations a little less air and the fibers parallel, but still evenly distributed, like a combed preparation. Fiber preparation thus evens out the space between the fibers by of course untangling them, but also by bringing air into the fiber mass.

Regardless of whether 80 years or one summer has passed since the original preparation took place, time has gone by. Time causes the fibers to compress, whether it’s protein or cellulose fibers, carded or combed preparation. The air that the preparation brought into the fibers has escaped, making the fiber mass more compact and possibly retangled, depending on how it has been stored.

Spot the difference

Spinning from an old preparation would thus possibly be more straining on both the spinner and the fibers and leave a yarn of lesser quality. If you compare an old and a new preparation you would probably feel a struggle while spinning the old preparation and a lightness while spinning the new.

Newly rehackled and brushed flax is just dreamy to work with.

The old preparation would probably pull out more fibers from the preparation than a new preparation would, making it more difficult to spin an even and/or fine yarn. The drafted fibers would probably also be bundled. More fibers would break, there would be more waste, shorter fibers and more strain in the body.

Listening to the flax

As I prepare the flax and spin it I get the chance to know it. If I just listen close enough the flax will tell me how it works and what I need to do to spin it into its most beautiful yarn. As I prepare the flax I get the chance to see the length of the fibers, the fineness and the condition of the retting and, when applicable, the quality of the first preparation.

Enormously long flax fibers from 80 year old Swedish flax. It has been industrially prepared, and stored in untwisted stricks, leaving lots of tangles.

The video I shot in 2021 (and never published) was with flax I had got from a friend. It was the same age as Berta’s flax, but grown and harvested in Sweden. The length of the flax was impressive. The flax had been prepared in flax mill the 1940’s and stored in untwisted stricks. The unorganized storing resulted in many tangles, a struggle in the rehackling, a lot of waste and a lower quality in the yarn.

If the flax is underretted (like my 2021 flax sadly was) there will be more boon in it, the little pieces of cellulose that haven’t been properly removed because of the underretting, there will be more breakage and therefore more waste.

All is as it should be

I believe we learn from all experiences, even if they at the moment may seem wasted. From my 2021 underretted flax I learned to pay extra attention to the retting process. From rehackling the Swedish 80 year old flax last summer I learned how important the storing is. And from spinning the flax from the Berta’s flax project this year I learned what high quality flax and preparation feels and spins like and what I need to look out for. All my mistakes are opportunities to explore and learn. All is as it should be.

Flax experience and depth

I don’t have nearly as much experience spinning flax as I have spinning wool. But this and last summer have been flax summers and I have spun commercially prepared modern (Hungarian? Belgian?) flax, commercially prepared 80 year old Swedish flax and hand prepared 80 year old Austrian flax. During this brief time I have encountered several challenges and learned what they do in the yarn. I know now that rehackling is vital for the quality and yield of the yarn and for my physical health. I know I need to spend time on the distaff dressing, pulling out very thin layers in my fan (the only distaff dressing method I have explored so far) to distribute the fibers as evenly as I can.

An evenly prepared fan gives high hopes for a high quality yarn.

When I rehackle the yarn I get a feeling of what I need to do when I get to the distaff dressing and spinning stage. Every time the fibers go through my hands in the process I get information that I can use to create the best yarn I can.

Flower and root ends

One thing I got a little caught up in while editing the video was the flower end and the root end. In the video I tie the flower end to my waist as I create the fan. In a previous video I tied the root end to my waist. Tyeing the root end to the waist is what I had learned from a couple of books on flax preparation and spinning. I thought I was doing it the same way this year as I did in the older video, but apparently I wasn’t.

A freshly dressed distaff with what I believe to be mainly flower ends at the top.

I discussed this with a couple of flax friends, and it turns out that in most cases it doesn’t really matter what end you start with when you spin the yarn. It is important to keep track of the root ends and keep them even as you harvest, dry, rehackle the flax. This is to get as little waste as possible through the different steps of the process. But for the spinning it doesn’t really matter. I like to be consistent through in my yarn, aiming towards keeping all the root ends in the same direction throughout the yarn, but it doesn’t seem necessary at all. And unless I haven’t processed it all myself there is no way of making sure which end is where.

A distaff in a thousand dresses

I dress my distaff with a fan as in the video. This is the only way I have explored. But in Sweden there are several other methods that other flax spinners are way better at than me, and in other parts of Europe still more. This is a very interesting topic that I would love to explore more. Marie Ekstedt Bjersing shows a couple of methods she uses in this video (in Swedish).

Since I shot the video I have started dressing my distaff a little tighter. In my experience this keeps the fibers better organized.

Here is an interesting method that Christiane Seufferlein, the head of the Berta’s flax, showed me. And in this video the spinner prepares a fan in the most beautiful way. She also dresses the distaff with the flax tighter, a method that I have been exploring since after I shot my video.

In the summertime

There is still so much to learn and explore. Next summer my sweet wheel Henrietta and I will be out on the terrace again, diving deeper into flax preparation, rehackling and spinning. I still have lots of flax from the Berta’s flax project, but I also plan to spin my own flax for the very first time. I expect to learn a lot from that too.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Swim cap

I made me a swim cap! Perhaps not the kind you would expect when you read the words swim cap. This swim cap is made from my spindle spun yarn, nalbound, waulked and embroidered, all to keep me warm during my daily baths through the winter.

When my wool traveling club and I decided to take a course in the påsöm embroidery technique for our 2022 wool journey I started planning projects on which I could play with påsöm. I wanted to try the embroidery on different wool structures. At the same time I longed for another nalbinding project and knew a nalbinding hat would be the perfect candidate. I decided to make the hat a swim cap for my daily cold baths.

I made me the loveliest swim cap for cold baths. It’s not that cold yet, though, 11°C in both air and water this week when I took the picture.

Back and forth

I used wool from Elsa the Gestrike sheep for this yarn. While I wanted to make the hat I also wanted the process to be sweet and grounding. I decided to card, spin and ply one spindleful at a time and nalbind that little ball of yarn until I had to spin another ball. It became sort of an explorative process where I also got the chance to test the quality of the spun yarn in my nalbinding and get instant feedback that I could loop back into the spinning of the next ball of yarn. The approach thus became a dynamic dance back and forth in the steps of the process, an empirical exploration of a new course of action and an evaluation of the yarn. The method was quite satisfying!

Sweet rolags make the foundation of my woolen spun yarn.

You can read more about this method in a previous post about the making of the hat and a pair of mittens, and also in a blog post about the making of my Moroccan snow shoveling pants that were made with the same approach.

Safety hat

During the spring we slowly went back to working at the office after the pandemic. I thrived when working full time from home and was quite stressed about having to go back, even if I would still be able to work fifty percent from home. When going back to the office I knew I needed a coffee break project to breathe myself through the noise and crowdedness at the office.

Nalbinding was the perfect safety blanket project, or rather safety hat. With nalbinding I always feel very safe – I think it has something to do with the grip of the project. I spun a ball at home and nalbound at work through late winter and spring.

The nalbinding has also been with me on the train to Austria and in the car to my aunt’s funeral. I have bound lots of memories and experiences into this hat.

A hat guide

I tried a new to me stitch for this project, the Oulu stitch. It’s a stitch in the Russian stitch family and quite like the Dalby stitch which I have used for several projects. They both create a structure with yarn in different directions, making the fabric dense and warm.

As I have never nalbound a hat before I used the hat guide Mervi Pasanen’s lovely book With one needle to help me with the shape and size.

From the book I also learned a new way to end a project. Nalbinding is usually done in a spiral. I started at the tip of the hat and increased in a certain pattern until I reached the finished size. Usually I try to make the stitches smaller and smaller, thus creating an even-ish edge. But the suggestion in the book was to continue the spiral on the back of the project, creating the tiniest wrap. I am really pleased with this neat solution.

Waulking

While nalbinding in its criss-cross nature is very hard-wearing and wind proof, these characteristics will get a boost from waulking. The material gets denser, warmer and more protecting against the wind and the cold.

Also, any management of a yarn with kemp in it will little by little push the quirky fibers out, making the resulting yarn or fabric warmer (since the escaped kemp fibers leave air pockets) and softer. I saved the kemp fibers that worked their way out of the hat in the waulking and got quite an impressive little ball of kemp. In the before and after pictures above there is a difference in the shade of the grey, which may partly have to do with the difference in kemp.

Waulking a project is always an adventure. I know by now that nalbinding shrinks mainly widthwise and very little lengthwise. So whenever I nalbind I make the proportions to fit that rule of thumb – a pair of mittens will be a lot wider than my hands but not very much longer. Still, waulking a project takes lots of testing and fine-tuning. I had imagined a steeper tapering of the tip, but I still like the resulting shape of it.

Påsöm embroidery

I planned the flower composition on my påsöm embroidery wool journey earlier this autumn. The most important thing really was to find a way to transfer the flower pattern to the very fuzzy waulked surface. I found a pen that worked okay, but still way better than anything I had tried before.

It was quite interesting to work the pattern in the three dimensional canvas that a hat is. I have always been biased to bias in hats – a biased brim, pattern or shape, just because why not. I decided to go for that with the hat too, in both the placement of the pattern, the direction of the stem and the asymmetry of the hat (or rather the tip hanging to one side).

The flower arrangement starts with a center dahlia (with the center on the right side of my head) from which one stem winds out to either side, ending on the left side with a green leaf. Another stem winds upwards and spirals around the tip of the hat with smaller flowers.

A sweet swim cap

Even if it’s not particularly cold in either air or water yet, I have of course tried using my sweet swim cap in my dips in the lake. The hat is very warm and cozy and the tassel keeps dangling just above the water surface. I am really looking forward to colder days with some ice. I think the hat will do an excellent work even at -18°C like we had a couple of times last winter.

A hat may be finished, but as always it’s so much more than a hat. It’s a part of a sweet dance, a safety blanket, an explo(ra)tion in colour and design and the result of many hours of just hanging out with wool.

Resources

As I posted a sneak preview of today’s post yesterday a couple of people mentioned having started to learn to nalbind bot never got much further. While this post doesn’t give you much of guidance to nalbinding I have put together a list of nalbinding resources for you.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Tweed pocket

I think it’s time for another tie-on pocket, don’t you? This time I let a men’s jacket in Harris tweed share his abundance of pockets for my tweed pocket visions.

I use the term tie-on pocket in this post to refer to the pocket I’m sewing, not to confuse it with the jacket pockets I’m using for it. Usually I just call the tie-on pocket a pocket, but that would be a bit challenging in this case.

My tweed pocket, made from a tweed pocket.

Diving deeper into the history and traditions of tie-on pockets I’m increasingly fascinated by how much we can learn from them. They can tell us a lot about gender inequality of history and present, but also about women’s empowerment in how they have used tie-on pockets.

Men’s pockets

I read The Pocket – a hidden history of women’s lives by Birgit Burman and Ariane Fennetaux that during the period on which the book focuses (1660–1900) men’s clothing was always equipped with several pockets for items that were considered important and significant to men – pockets for bottles, sandwiches, watches, coins and bank notes. Women’s clothing had no pockets at all, instead they had tie-on pockets. These could contain various objects – needles, herbs, handkerchiefs, coins, bread etc, and could be tied off, unloaded and changed several times a day should the bearer wish to.

A 1940’s army jacket with ten pockets. For men.

I came to think about the brilliant HBO series Gentleman Jack and the series adaptation of the life of Anne Lister, a 19th century lesbian woman who kept a journal in code. The diaries were eventually found but kept hidden to save them from destruction. Anne Lister was also an estate owner and colliery owner. She dressed entirely in black, which was normal for gentlemen at the time. In the series, all the dresses, jackets and waistcoats the character Anne Lister (played by Suranne Jones) wears have visible pockets, and lots of them.

While women’s garments do have pockets these days, it still doesn’t seem to be obvious. I usually mutter about skirts and pants with too small, too flimsy or too few pockets or no pockets at all. Count to that the increasing size and weight of smart phones, that can easily tilt trousers or tear ladies’ trouser pockets. I own a men’s wadmal jacket from the Swedish army, made in the 1940’s. It has ten very sturdy pockets.

A vision in tweed

Ever since I started making my first pocket I have been playing with the idea of a pocket in tweed, perfect for the autumn. I decided I wanted my pocket in Harris tweed. For a while I tried to find online stores in Sweden that would sell Harris tweed, but I couldn’t find any. I started looking at web shops in the U.K, but with shipping and import tax it would be quite pricy.

Some shops had fabric samples. Since I had abandoned the import idea I decided to go to the Scottish House in Stockholm, a shop specializing in Scottish clothes and fabrics. I asked for samples, but they didn’t have any. The shop keeper suggested I look for a tweed garment in thrift shops, which was a brilliant idea. That would give me the opportunity to use both the tweed fabric and details in the garment while at the same time upcycling a used item.

Meet Bernie

For a few months I monitored Swedish eBay for tweed vests and jackets, and in August I found what I was looking for – a large brown vintage herringbone men’s jacket in Harris tweed, with side, chest and inner pockets, for $21. I call him Bernie.

Looking at Bernie I count to five pockets, while my own women’s Harris Tweed jacket (also a find from Swedish eBay) has three. Two side pockets and one tiny and ridiculous pocket, way too small for a hand to put something in it, let alone fetch something out of it.

Meet Bernie, a generous jacket with pockets to spare and share.

The pattern seems to repeat itself – while Bernie has been equipped with generous pockets in large amounts, my own tweed jacket pockets are small and fragile. But Bernie is a generous jacket. He knows he has pockets to spare. He also knows that sharing some of his many pockets doesn’t make him less of a jacket. Quite the contrary – by sharing his pocket wealth he will contribute to making the world a better place since more people get access to pockets, people who are just as deserving of pockets as he is.*

And don’t worry, I will use every last piece of fabric from Bernie, so he still has the chance to contribute to lots of other projects.

* I didn’t come up with this myself. I borrowed it from Heather McGhee’s brilliant book The sum of us: What racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together. Read it.

Swedish or British?

So, back to my tie-on pocket project. I needed to make a decision about the model. I wanted to use one of Bernie’s pockets as an opening to my tie-on pocket. Most Swedish tie-on pockets have a horizontal opening (see my embroidered linen pocket and my påsöm pocket). I like them because it is easy to find my way into them. British tie-on pockets, on the other hand, usually have a vertical opening (see my upcycled linen pocket), keeping the shape neat and sturdy. I like that too.

A biased opning for my tweed pocket.

So what would I go for – a swift access to the pocket belly or a sturdy opening? Bernie’s side pockets were horizontal, but made for a large man’s hand. Therefore I feared a horizontal opening might be a little too wide. I could of course flip the jacket sideways and make the opening vertical. But with the tweed fabric being quite bulky in several layers with the welt pocket and the flap, a vertical opening might work against me. So I decided on a compromise – a biased opening. That would limit the wearability to one hip, but I always wear my tie-on pocket on my right hip anyway. Should I need one for my left I still have one of Bernie’s side pocket left.

Swenglish

I cut the pocket from Bernie with the template in Hamblemouse’s pocket pattern. Since Bernie’s pocket opening led to a pocket pouch sandwiched between the tweed and the jacket lining I cut an opening in the lining and sew the edges of the cut onto the edges of the welts so the opening of my tie-on pocket would actually go inside its lined belly.

I took advantage of Bernie’s inner pocket and used it for the lining for the back of my tie-on pocket to give it a secret inner pocket. It also harboured the Harris Tweed label, which I kept there as a sweet detail.

Sewing the tie-on pocket together was a little bulky, but I still like the rusticity of it. This pocket will not fold in the autumn storms!

The band

I wove a band for my new tie-on pocket with stashed suspended spindle spun yarn from rya outercoat fibers. I tried to stay as close to the two colours in the herringbone tweed as I could – one brown and one light beige, from the rya flock friends Bertil and Beppelina.

After having warped and made the heddles for the band I realized that I had made errors in the warping. There was nothing else I could do than unravel the whole warp and start anew.

A backstrap woven band for my tweed pocket. Stashed suspendle spindle spun yarn from outercoat of rya wool.

After the rewarping the weaving was such a joy. I really love weaving little bands. They are so portable and sweet and a perfect opportunity to learn something new on a small surface.

Dan and I treated ourself to a weekend away a couple of weeks ago, to Varberg on the Swedish west coat. I wove on the train there, connecting the far end of the band onto the coat hanger on the back of the seat in front of me. I also wove in the medieval Varberg fortress. It felt very special to weave in atmosphere where women most certainly would have both woven bands and worn tie-on pockets.

If you are a patron (or want to become one), I treat you to a bit of our journey to Varberg in my October video postcard.

Flaunting my tweed pocket

I wore the pocket at the office this week. I hadn’t finished the tassel lanyards yet, but wearing the tie-on pocket at work gave me the perfect little crafting project for the coffee breaks.

The pocket fits very well. I equipped it with my mobile phone and a banana and they got along just fine in the belly of the pocket. The pocket works well with most fabrics and styles, like tweed tends to do.

I have the feeling this tie-on pocket can become an everyday favourite. The biased opening is very comfortable and I like that I can wear the flap in or out. The inner pocket isn’t ideal for my mobile phone, though. Even if the phone fits fits in the inner pocket, it’s placed too high for the phone to get into the inner pocket from the main opening. But there are other things I can hide in my secret inner pocket.

Oh, I recently bought a bikini. The bottom piece has pockets.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

I write

I write every single day. For myself, in my day job and in my business. I also write for you. I can’t not write, just as I can’t not craft. It’s like I need to shape my thoughts into words and craft them into a deeper understanding.

I have been writing since I learned how to read and write. Actually even before that. My mother kept a notepad by the telephone. I had no idea what the notes said, but I knew the words and numbers were hers and that they were somehow keys to information. She wrote only the important things, no scribbling or doodling. I used to fill in all the words, following the curls that were unique to her. I knew the exact shape of her letters by heart and the connections between them.

Later, when I could write myself I had numerous penpals (does anyone have that these days?), practicing the shapes of my own words with them. I can quite easily identify handwriting by country – at least British, American, German and Austrian. I love the way many Austrians write numbers, especially the ones, with a strong and confident kickstand, reaching all the way from or even from beneath the baseline.

Dear Aunt Harriet

When I was around ten or twelve one of my favourite pen pals was my aunt Harriet. She worked as a teacher in Swedish, German and French through her entire adult life and had the most exquisite handwriting. Graceful but not extravagant. Just as was appropriate for a woman of her time and social class. She was born in 1930 and schooled in the art of cursive. She was my handwriting role model. I could sit for hours practicing a single letter or connection to make it just like hers, filling out every corner of the paper with J-s, P-s and O-s, not to mention my own signature. Very few people in my generation can read my handwriting, it’s way too old-fashioned for most people.

One of numerous sweet birthday cards from my aunt Harriet.

But it wasn’t just her handwriting. She wrote the sweetest letters and and cards. Personal, curious and kind. Up until her death this summer hers were the Christmas and birthday cards I looked forward to the most. One of the first things I did when she had died was to read the cards she had sent me in the last couple of years. My heart sang a silent song of joy for her life.

Freewriting

I used to keep a diary when I grew up and off and on since then. For the last couple of years, though, I have kept a beautiful leather notebook with handmade paper for my morning reflections. I’m actually on my sixth now. Every morning, after yoga and some reading, I write two pages. About anything that strikes my fancy really – the shape of the waves on the lake, the way the moon reflects in the water, the feeling of starting the day with yoga asana, how wool going through my hands makes my heart sing. Sometimes about something I have just read, sometimes as a practice before a blog post topic.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

I start writing without a plan and go where my mind and hand lead me. On my morning reflections I do not judge, I just breathe the words that come. I need to write, I need to shape my thoughts with words, play with them and dress my reflections and experiences with the beauty they deserve. Writing is to me like any other craft – with my hands and my mind I craft the text and make words and paragraphs beautiful to the reader.

Handwriting

Even if handwriting takes time it can give me a closer relationship to the words. I literally (!) shape the words with my hands, giving them the same dedication, love and attention I did when I filled in my mother’s telephone notes or copied my aunt’s graceful letters. Handwriting gives me depth and quality while writing on a computer gives me time to catch up with a quick train of thought. Much like the difference between spinning with a spindle or with a spinning wheel. Together they provide qualities that none of them can give me on their own.

I write for me

When I write I create my own feedback loop. I dress my thoughts with words, read the words and understand my thoughts on a deeper level. I dress my newly found understanding with words and can understand on yet deeper levels. By writing I create my own understanding and development of a thought process.

My morning reflections are just for me. On another level they are for you too. Writing is much like any other skill – you need to practice to be good at it. Writing my morning pages helps me develop and sharpen my writing on this blog.

I write for work

In my day job I work as an administrative officer at a Swedish government authority. Every day I make and write decisions for teachers applying for a teacher license and authorization to teach in a specific subject, grade and form. One of my most important tasks is to make the decisions understandable to the receiver. I am imposed by law to inform all applicants about why they have or have not been granted an authorization. They have the legal right to know what we grant, what we reject and why.

The space where I write at work.

As a government official I also need to follow the Swedish language act that states that the language in the public sector should be cultivated, simple and comprehensible (vårdat, enkelt och begripligt). I need to not only inform the applicants why they are granted or denied authority, but to also make sure they understand the decision I make. For that I need to craft my decision document in a cultivated, simple and comprehensible way. They need to know whether an appeal can make us change our decision or not. Every time a teacher appeals I need to review my decision with focus on both my assessment of the matter and how I have crafted the motivation in my decision. Every time I write a decision I have an impact on the trust the applicants have in the government authority I work for.

I write for you

A dear friend of mine linked to an article on Lithub. Ryan Lee Wong writes in the Intersection of Writing, Meditating, and Community about how living in a monastery taught him to shift from writing for himself to writing for others. He concludes:

All my usual neuroses about whether the novel is good or not, how it will be received, what it says about me—in short, the greater share of what I worried about when I began writing it—are beside the point. The novel is simply an offering, a chant recited for others. May it be of benefit.

I know I am a decent writer, spinner and spinning teacher. It is my responsibility – and joy – to share my gifts with others. Therefore I write for you. Every week in this blog, in my videos and in occasional articles. I share what I learn so that you may benefit from it. Just as I benefit every time I write.

I write for you.

I am no where near the deep insights in the quote above, but I know I am a part of a weave of reciprocity. From your support, your questions and your knowledge I receive more than you know. Writing about my own experiences and wool adventures is one way for me to give back to you. For every word I write I learn something new for myself, deepen my understanding and find new aspects and layers to write about.

Writing for you is writing for me. And back to you. Thank you for reading. You make me a better spinner, teacher and writer.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Little bands

I have several little bands in my project basket that are only half-finished. The other week I decided to actually finish six little bands, in four different techniques.

My problem is that inspiration jumps me from behind and craves all my attention and I jump from one unfinished object to another. On the one hand I like having parallel projects. If I get tired of one I can always work on another and then get the mojo back for the first one. Working in different techniques is also a good way to stay our of strain. But I can also get very stressed knowing I have several unfinished projects in my basket, not to mention all my ideas for unstarted projects. It feels very good to finish some sweet little bands.

Little bands

Once you start weaving bands you realize there is always a need for one. Even if you don’t necessarily know the practical purpose of the band as you create it there will come a time when that very band is the perfect candidate for a job.

Six little bands have been the loveliest companions on inner and outer journeys this summer.

The more obvious purpose of the band is of course the making of it – spending time with a small, often handspun, project, watching it grow into an actual something and enjoying the weaving process without having to drag a loom around. All I need is a couple of sticks and I’m ready to dive into the process.

One of the sweet things about little bands is the portability. I weave all my bands with a backstrap loom – just a couple of sticks, a belt of some sort around my waist and something to hook the back end of the warp with and I’m ready to weave. I have spent time weaving in cars, trains, parks and office coffee breaks on both inner and outer journeys.

Recently I have also learned to appreciate my feet as part of my backstrap loom – I simply loop the end over my foot propped on top of my other knee and I weave until the foot falls asleep. Then I just change feet.

Three braids

First up in my collection of finished bands are three braided bands from odd balls of handspun wool yarn. Making braided bands is a technique I wanted to learn, so I tried different amounts of ends, different colours and different patterns.

Three 16-strand braids made of leftover balls of handspun wool yarn.

The first one was a simple grey band, I think I like that one the best. I also did one in blue with white patterning and one green with pink and white patterning. The pattern bands revealed my beginner’s mistakes, though, and they look quite sad. But it was a sweet technique to explore and I’m still happy with all of them.

You can see a lovely video where Sally Pointer braids a twelve-strand braid in linen yarn here. A twelve strand linen belt like Sally’s is on my to-craft list.

Nettle band

In July of last year and February this year I harvested nettles that I processed. There was a lot of waste, but I did manage to spindle spin two balls of nettle yarn, one tiny with the dew retted July nettles and one less tiny with the root retted February nettles. You can read more about the process in this blog post.

Throughout the processing and spinning the two retting techniques showed different colours. Once I had scoured them, though, the colour difference was smaller. Still, I used the dew retted yarn as a stripe down the middle of the warp. You can see it very subtly on the picture above.

Weaving the nettle band was lovely, it felt so good to make a little something out of material most people would frown upon. Weaving from weeds makes me feel rich, it’s sort of empowering to know that I can make something useful with my hands should I need to. And I do need, not of some material necessity but for the sake of making, to feel the making in the hands and the connection between hands and brain.

Scrap nettle yarn lucet cord

When I had finished the nettle band I had one tiny little ball left. I wanted to use as much of it as I could, so I decided upon a lucet cord. This is a very old technique that can be described as a 2-stitch I-cord. You use a fork-like tool called a lucet to hold the stitches. With this technique you can take advantage of all the length of the yarn except for the beginning and end.

A lucet cord made with the last little ball of handspun nettle yarn.

I have made a few lucet cords before, but only with wool yarn, which has some bounce, even in the worsted spun outercoat fiber yarns I have tried. Making it with plant fiber is a totally different story. Pulling the loop over the new yarn is more of a struggle and the yarn is less forgiving when it comes to uneven settling of the loop into the cord, but it was still very interesting. As always, spending some time with a material allows you to get to know it and how to work with its characteristics and its own mind.

Pick-up technique backstrap weaving band

I have a secret project going and for that I needed a band. I realized that it needed some extra sparkle, so I decided to make it with a pick-up technique. This takes a lot of time and is quite fiddly, so it’s not ideal for train rides or coffee breaks at work. But I did that anyway. I wove most of it at home, though, with full focus on the 16-row pattern.

One of the big perks of working with a pick-up technique is all the time you get to spend with the yarn. The technique is time-consuming, but that doesn’t bother me. Quite the contrary, I relish the moments when I get to dig my hands into the warp and pick the pattern up into the weave with a naturally curved wooden stick (or, I think I used a shawl pin made out of a twig). The natural materials in my hands make my skin sparkle with joy.

I spun the yarn from hand-teased Norwegian NKS wool on an Andean Pushka. You can see the process of spinning the yarn for this band in this video and the pick-up technique (for a different band) in this.

Little band in progress

When you read this I’m on a weekend getaway with Dan. Naturally, I needed a band to weave on the train. I warped, failed and rewarped, but all went well in the end. I used two colours of worsted spun outercoat wool from Swedish rya sheep from the same flock. The dark brown yarn is from the ram Bertil. The light fawn may be from the ewe Beppelina.

Band in progress: A wool band for an upcoming tie-on pocket project.

I will use the band for an upcoming tie-on pocket project I’m working on. I like playing with stripes in bands. There are so many possibilities and no right or wrong.

Weaving bands with handspun

Most of my handspun yarns are spun from Swedish breeds, and most of these breeds are prone to felting. This can make the yarns sticky, even the smoothest worsted spun outercoat yarns. A project that would be almost impossible to weave wide (like my Frida Chanel bag and loom stick wrap) is far less fiddly as a band. I do have to uncling the warp threads one by one for every new shuttling, but it doesn’t bother me at all when there are only 20–30 warp pairs. I’m just happy to see a brand new band take shape, ready to take its band space in the world.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Pretty påsöm pocket

On my recent wool journey I started three påsöm projects. Since then I have been working for many hours on the first project, a pretty påsöm pocket. None of this is my handspun.

If you have read my blog posts during the past year you may have seen my growing interest in tie-on pockets. A very old accessory – necessity – to give women the freedom of bringing things with them just like men have, only men’s clothes have been equipped with built-in pockets for specific items. A tie-on pocket can be placed hidden or visible and contain anything the wearer’s heart desires. My previous pockets were made of two kitchen towels and an evening purse.

Pattern outline

On my wool traveling club’s recent påsöm embroidery wool journey we first learned how to sketch the bouquet of påsöm flowers on the surface (broad cloth in this case), play with templates and stencils and transferring the shapes onto the sketch. When we were happy with the design we filled in both inner and outer borders with a permanent marker.

Once I’m happy with the design, I fill in all outer and inner borders with a permanent marker.

I chose a dahlia (at least I think that’s what it is) for the main attraction, flanked with roses and rose buds. All surrounded with greenery. I’m actually not a very flowery person, but the abundance of this technique and tradition appeals to me.

Colours

The colour palette is usually very bright, with especially reds and pinks among shades of green for the leaves. An occasional spectrum of blues or oranges can make a visit every now and then, with accent details in white and yellow.

Planning the bouquet

Just like planning a regular bouquet, you need to plan for the påsöm bouquet too. What is the centerpiece and where do the stalks go. I started with the giant dahlia and went on with the smaller flowers and the three flowers on top of the back piece of the pocket. Then I added the greenery, just according to my sketch.

Filling and blinging

Once the main pattern is in place it’s time to fill out the empty spaces with some more greenery and an occasional bud or smaller flower. The key word is abundance. I really enjoyed this part. I needed to watch every angle, see where the stalks went and fill in the gaps in a way that seemed logical in relation to the bouquet.

Once there was no more room to fill out I started the blinging process – extra sparkle to fill out the smallest spaces.

To fill out and add bling I watched the photos from the course carefully, as well as the book I had bought earlier, Påsöm, by Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg (who was the teacher of our wool journey påsöm course). In the book as well as in the course there were lots of examples of old påsöm items to get inspiration from, as well as Anna-Karin’s new ones. From extra greenery incorporated in the flowers to bright stamens, pistils and unidentified leafy things to create depth and abundance.

Making a pocket

Once I felt finished with the filling and blinging it was time to make a pocket out of the embroidered broadcloth. I used a wild strawberry vintage cotton fabric for lining and inner pocket. A mora band (common in the traditional costume from the town of Mora) made a lovely edge of the pocket opening.

I joined the front plus lining with the back piece by hand with a backstitch, using a waxed linen thread. I like having the inner pocket for my mobile phone in the pocket. It keeps it steady and away from any accidents involving too close encounters with keys.

After I had finished the lining I steam pressed the embroidery. The result was quite astonishing, the stitches landed sweetly together in the flowers and leaves.

Close to the tradition

With the front and back neatly joined and the Mora band for the pocket opening I was getting closer to a finished pocket. But I wasn’t sure how to do the edging and the band. Anna-Karin’s påsöm pockets from Dala-Floda and the examples from the digital museum all had a buckle at the top to fasten in a belt or apron tie. The pockets were most commonly edged with velvet. I didn’t want either buckle or velvet, but I still wanted to stay within some reasonable closeness to the tradition.

I asked Anna-Karin for advice and she showed me pockets where mora bands had been sewn onto reindeer leather for the ties. She also showed me other items where reindeer leather had been used as edging and outer back piece.

I really liked the idea with soft reindeer leather for both edging, outer back piece and ties. So I ordered some reindeer leather while I finished the filling and blinging.

Reindeers and tongs

While the reindeer leather was indeed soft and flexible, it was still hard to work through with the needle. My solution was to use tongs to pull the needle through for a sweet waxed linen thread running stitch seam. Using the tongs worked very well, but it also took a lot of time to grab and let go of the tongs for every stitch. Still, in the end very much worth the effort.

It took a while to sew the 180 cm band back and forth. Edging the pocket was less complicated than I thought. The friction between the broad cloth and the suede side of the reindeer leather prevented the materials to slide from their position.

Even if the pocket is a mix between traditions from different villages in and around Dala-Floda it still looks reasonably traditional. At least in my beginner’s eyes.

Parting

As with any finished project, I felt a little sad when our journey together was over. Perhaps that is why I am such a project hoarder – I can’t seem to want to let them go. The process is such a sweet time to learn and dig deeper, to be in my hands and in the material. Even if the end product turns out beautifully and shows me a map of what I have learned, I do cherish the time I have spent together with the material, the crafting choreography and the mental process. Lucky me I have more pocket ideas in store.

A pretty påsöm pocket, ready to house sweet treasures.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Days of flax retting

This week I finished the retting of my 2022 flax. I decided to pay extra attention to the retting process this year. The aim of my experimental flax patch has always been to learn, and I keep learning every year. Walk with me through this year’s days of flax retting.

The 2021 flax harvest was quite large and of high quality. I was very pleased with it when I harvested it, but unfortunately I managed to underret it. The quality of the finished flax was not very impressive, full of boon and bits of bark. There was also a lot of waste and I ended up with two sad little stricks of hackled flax. For that reason I have been quite anxious about retting this year’s harvest.

Retting attention

With the painful experience of preparing my 2021 underretted flax I decided to pay extra attention to the retting this year and make the most of the harvest I got.

As I harvested the flax I divided it into sizes – the coarse outer plants in one bundle, then medium coarse, medium fine and fine. I dried the flax in bundles according to coarseness and kept this system even in the retting process. I figured the fine plants would ret faster than the coarse ones.

We live in a four family townhouse with no private space outdoors other than a patio on the front and a terrace at the back. The lawn outside our house, where I ret my flax, may be closest to us, but is by no means our property. People stroll by and lots of things can happen with unsupervised retting flax.

A kitchen conundrum

Mid-retting one of our neighbours announced that they would be renovating their kitchen. “A huge lorry will come and unload the kitchen furniture. You may want to move your flax”. Well I certainly wanted to move it, but I had no other lawn to move it to. The flax was retting on two patches of lawn and I did manage to move the flax that was in most danger from the unloading lorry, to the other patch. A bike rack had been placed on top of some of the flax when I got home on the first day, but no harm seemed to have been done to the flax. On the following days I peeked outside at the builders, keeping an eye on where they put things. They were very well behaved.

Days of retting

When I (dew) ret my starting point is 20 days, give or take a few depending on the weather. In my calendar I mark 10 days for turning and 17 days for starting the daily control of the retting to end the process at the right time.

Day 20 and the flax has that characteristic spottet pattern from the retting process.

To check the retting status I pick a stem between my pinched thumb and index fingers. I wiggle the stem a bit back and forth to allow the fibers to let go of the boon. I pull the fibers off the boon and make an assessment. The fibers should let go of the boon in its entire length and smoothly. If it is reluctant to let go it will need a few extra days of retting.

Day 17

As I had suspected there was a difference in retting status between the different qualities of flax I had sorted my harvest into. The finest flax were nearly ready while the coarsest seemed to need more time.

I started testing my different categories on day 17. The fibers did let go of the boon on both the fine and medium plants along all the length of the fibers, but quite reluctantly. With the memory of preparing last year’s flax harvest fresh in my mind I figured that this reluctancy would probably result in quite a lot of waste and low quality flax.

Day 19

On day 19 the fibers were still a bit reluctant to let go of the boon on the medium plants. The fine flax seemed ready to be harvested, but I decided to wait just another day. We were expecting some rain and I figured it would do the trick.

Day 20

On day 20 I did end the retting of the fine flax. The fibers let go of the boon very smoothly and it felt like a good decision.

I ended the retting process for the finest flax on day 20 when the fibers let go of the boon along the whole length of the fibers in a smooth way.

Day 22

Since the medium and coarse plants hadn’t been ready on day 20 I didn’t check on day 21. Day 22, though, was the day for the medium flax and I ended the retting process for the largest part of the harvest. I expected the coarse edge flax to need an extra day or two, but it seemed ready enough so I took it up to dry too.

I ended the retting process for the medium flax on day 22 when the fibers let go of the boon along the whole length of the fibers in a smooth way. in the end I decided to take the coarse flax too on the same day.

Drying

Drying retted flax is always an adventure. While I want some rain for the retting I certainly don’t want it for drying. There was some rain which wasn’t ideal, but there was also wind, turning my little flax tents over like dominoes and I retented them several times a day.

The days of retting have ended. My pretty tents of retted flax look out over the neighborhood. One morning I found around 15 small Burgundy snails in the tip of the tents, seeing the sights.

When the retted flax was dry enough to have some sort of integrity I brought it to the terrace to finish the drying there where it could stand openly but still protected from falling.

We are not expecting any rain this weekend, so I will let it dry some more. I’m note sure the weather and my schedule will give me an opportunity to process the flax before the winter, but I will at least hackle it for easier storing indoors.

The number of days of retting is just that, a number. This is what worked for me this year (I hope, the real result will reveal itself in the processing), in my part of the world, in the humidity of my corner of the world and the rainfall that happened to be. Your retting process may be quite different. For some pointers of the flax year, check out this flax timeline post that I wrote by a request. It covers some points based on signs for the different stages of flax husbandry rather than on dates.

Dreams of water retting

Next year I would like to try water retting. We do have a stream nearby, but it only runs (or rather crawls) in early spring with melt water. My hope is that a kiddie pool will do the trick. Not as romantic as sinking bundles of flax into the stream (I see Anne Shirley and Diana Barry before me), but I will have to live with that.

Happy spinning!


You can find 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 missanything!
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 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.
You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
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.
I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.