Knit (spin) Sweden!

Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!

Sara Wolf has written the lovely book Knit (spin) Sweden and I’m a co-author. The book has been out for a while, but due to Brexit and lockdowns I got my hands on it only last week. Today I give you a sneak peak of the book.

The more I read this book the more I’m fascinated by Sara’s thoroughness and knowledge. She leaves no stone unturned in finding answers to her questions. And even when she has no answer she does her very best to present as complete a picture as she possibly can. I am so glad to know her and proud be part of this book.

Sara Wolf

Sara Wolf has had a long career in museums as a textile conservator. She has a great passion for textiles in general and knitting in particular. Through her many travels, Sara has developed a deep interest in different knitting techniques and traditions around the world. While she teaches knitting she is always open to learning new techniques herself. I may be partly responsible for dragging her into the deep, deep spinning rabbit hole.

Sara has a long experience as a textile conservator, knitter and knitting traveller.
Sara has a long experience as a textile conservator, knitter and knitting traveller.

Knitting history in Sweden

While knitting is a relatively new textile technique it is still old enough to have a blurry origin. There are pieces of the puzzle, but we don’t have the whole picture. As the structured and organized reasearcher Sara is, she provides us with a lot of pieces that lead us not to a clear picture bot a lot closer to one. One example is an Egyptian sock, dated between the 12th and 14th century. The sock is knit with intricate stranded colourwork and has complex toe and heal constructions. This leads Sara to the conviction that knitting started a lot earlier than the dating of the sock. And together with findings of coins from over 20 different nations in the island of Gotland in the 9th century it makes the idea of an early arrival of knitting in Sweden very appealing.

Swedish knitting designers

Sara has chosen to portray five Swedish knitting designers and their work – the two-end knitting patterns of master knitter Karin Kahnlund, Viking inspired cable design by Elsebeth Lavold, floral stranded colourwork by Katarina Segerbrand, everyday cable garments by Ivar Asplund and the work of experimenting designer Kristin Blom.

Swedish fleece and fibers

In the fall of 2018 Sara contacted me via my blog and asked if I could spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds for a book (this book) she was writing. I was a bit reluctant at first, but we really connected and soon I sent handspun yarns from Swedish sheep breeds across the pond to her. She in turn knit swatches of my yarns.

The section in the book about Swedish fleece and fibers is almost entirely focused on Swedish sheep breeds and the wool they produce. This is the part of the book where I come in. While Sara describes the Swedish sheep breeds, I write about my process and what I think of the wool I work with. She has then written about her experience with the yarn in knitting.

I finally have the book Knit (spin) Sweden in my hands!
I finally have the book Knit (spin) Sweden in my hands! My contribution to the book is handspun yarn and some of the sections in the chapter of Swedish fleece and fibers.

My handspun in Sara’s hands

Having someone else knit with my handspun yarns is a new experience to me. Sara has some really interesting points as a knitter that differ from mine as a spinner. Some of the yarns are too scratchy as a knitting yarn, which I was fully aware of when I sent them to her. No matter how much I want a yarn to work as a knitting yarn, Sara with her long experience and skill as a knitter can pinpoint what it is that makes a particular yarn less suitable for next to skin garments. This understanding confirms my decision a few years ago to learn how to weave to be able to use yarns from the whole spectrum of spinning possibilities– from the softest of soft next to skin knitting yarn to the coarsest rug weaving yarn.

Yarn shops, mills and fairs

In three of the chapters in Knit (spin) Sweden Sara goes through places to visit in Sweden – yarn shops, craft shops, museums, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists, wool and knitting fairs and much more. She writes about how to get there, what to expect and where the real treasures are.

Three chapters of the book Knit (spin) Sweden are dedicated to yarn shops, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists and fairs all over Sweden.
Three chapters of the book Knit (spin) Sweden are dedicated to yarn shops, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists and fairs all over Sweden.

Sara has visited many of these places during her travels to Sweden and bought their yarns. Just as with my handspun yarns she has test knitted all the yarns and tells us how they feel when knitting and as a fabric and in what kind of technique and use she thinks they will be best suited.

Knitting patterns

Are you curious about trying some Swedish knitting patterns? In the book Sara offers 11 patterns, featuring traditional patterns from different regions in Sweden and from some of the featured designers in the book. Sara has also adapted some of the historically interesting findings into patterns. I have contributed with a pair of two-end knitted wrist-warmers using traditional crook-stitch patterns.

Glossary

In the back of the book Sara provides a Swedish to English and English to Swedish glossary of knitting and spinning terms.

Find Knit (spin) Sweden here

You can find Knit (spin) Sweden in several online bookstores in North America, Europe and Sweden. Check the publisher Cooperative press in the U.S., Amazon in the U.S., Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Book depository in the E.U., and Adlibris, Akademibokhandeln and Bokus in Sweden. On all the Amazon options you can look inside the book and read the first few pages, including Sara’s and my introductions.

Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!
Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!

Thank you Sara for all the hard work you have put in to this book and for inviting me on your journey.

Have you read the book? Let me know what you think!

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 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. Contributions from those who can afford it will also help keeping the content free for those who can’t. 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.
  • 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.

Dear Blanket

As a knitter of 35 years and a spinner of 8,5 years I have produced a lot of textiles. Some of them have wandered off to new adventures, some are used every now and then. Others are used and loved every day. One of these is a Shetland hap I spun and knit from Shetland fleece three years ago. This is a love letter to a dear blanket.

Dear Blanket,

we have been through a lot you and I. From a bundle of Shetland fleeces through washing, sorting, carding, spinning, plying and knitting to a finished Shetland hap. You had traveled a bit before you came to us. From the soft, green hills of Shetland to me in Stockholm. All four fleeces – white, eskit, shaela and mooskit – and pressed together. In plastic bags! I realize the humiliation of that, dear Blanket, but you did come to a good home in the end, didn’t you?

Once I had liberated you from that horrid plastic prison I gave you a lovely soak. You provided the lather from your soapy suint supply. Thank you for that! I did what I could to make you shine like the star you are. Softly spun with smooth long draw, rolag by rolag into a squishy 3-ply yarn and fashioned through an intricate but subtle lace pattern. The result: A perfectly lovely blanket. I think you rather enjoyed that! A traditional Shetland hap construction in all your Shetlandiness, but here with me in Sweden.

50 of the around 1000 grams of 3-ply handspun Shetland yarn that was made into a dear blanket.

We took the tram together to the craft leadership course, remember? Well, just the edges of you of course, way back when you were little and easy to handle. The tram ride took me 40 minutes. Very handy, I must say, since that is the time it took to knit two reports. As I worked my way in to the border and the middle you got increasingly harder to handle. The size of you! Towards the end of the knitting you covered most of my lap and half the sofa.

When you were finished

I made a hap stretcher for you, dear Blanket, to flaunt all your soft natural colours and lacey exquisiteness. It must have felt good getting de-wrinkled like that and straightened into your true shape, size and manner. Exposed to sun and daylight, just as you had been once on the hoof.

Nowadays

we hang out almost every day during the cold season. You just have that perfect nap size. Did you know that, dear Blanket? Your weight is light enough not to weigh down and heavy enough to feel safe and at ease under. I feel very privileged wrapped in you like a dumpling. You even have the wavy edges to match! Your natural colours and comforting wooly touch make me feel totally safe and at peace as your human-sized filling.

A person standing behind a stretched Shetland Hap
The Moder Dy hap. A dear blanket in a perfect nap size. Photo by Dan Waltin

In the evenings you are the perfect lap warmer for two people to snuggle under. Sometimes a teenager comes and worms themselves underneath your warmth with us. We don’t mind, quite the contrary. We are happy for whatever teenage snuggle we can get these days.

A dear blanket for two.
A dear blanket for two.

You have also joined me for Shavasana in my yoga practice. I bet you like that. No fidgeting, no fussing. Just a flat, relaxed, breathing body to cover.

Do you remember all the indoor huts you have been the floor, walls or roof of? With giggling children, soft toys and cushions making up a whole world for a precious moment. The giggling children are older now, sometimes more grumpy than giggly, and still use you for a hut. But they would never call it that these days.

The past few weeks

have been really cold, around -14°C at night. When I go to bed I steal you from the sofa, dear Blanket, and smuggle you up to the bedroom and drape you on top of my duvet. On occasions like these it’s like you undergo a transformation – from that everyday blanket in muted colours you suddenly stretch yourself into a majestic creation, like the train of an exquisite gown. Shining, suddenly. Beaming. Nights like that I imagine I sleep extra well underneath your wooly warmth.

The comfort of sleeping under a dear blanket in the cold winter.
The comfort of sleeping under a dear blanket in the cold winter.

Even though we enjoy your warmth and safety every day you don’t look a day older than when I unpinned you from the hap stretcher three years ago. I thank you for all the warmth and support you have provided us, dear Blanket. I hope you will continue to keep us safe and at peace.

A dear blanket to give warmth and comfort on cold winter days.
A dear blanket to give warmth and comfort on cold winter days.

All my love,

Josefin

P.S. I do wonder what will become of you when we are no longer with you. Who will treasure you? Who will know where you came from? Perhaps your heritage will be a secret to your future companion. Either way I’m sure you will warm someone else’s heart and become someone else’s dear blanket. And that’s the important thing.

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 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.
  • 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.

Spinning a song

With the information I have about the wool I work with I'm spinning a song. The cues I get as I spin give me the opportunity to also sing my spin.

In previous posts I have compared spinning with dancing – how the hands need to work together to find what the wool needs to become its best yarn. In this post I reflect over the similarities between spinning and singing. Today I feel like spinning a song.

Lead and backup

The other night I was watching an episode of a Netflix series. A talented singer was performing a song on stage. She also had a gutarrist with her. As she came to the chorus he acted as her backup singer. They had a focused eye contact and it looked like he watched her every movement to be able to follow her lead and back her up with every tone, duration and intensity to help bringing harmony to the song.

He had singing skills, experience and the knowledge of where she had been and where she was now. Together with both of their awareness of the present he was able to figure out where she was going and, through that, where he would go. It was a very intense moment where they totally trusted each other’s skills, knowledge and presence in the moment. It reminded me of the relationship between the wool and the spinner.

My hands learn about the wool through handling it and listens mindfully for cues to respond to during spinning.

On stage

When I spin, the wool is my lead singer, I’m the backup and the yarn is the song. I guess, in this analogy, the tools I use are the band. I have spinning skills and experience in general. Each fleece has its own characteristics that I need to keep in mind during the process. Through handling the fleece in all the steps I get a deeper understanding of this particular wool:

  • Through working with the fleece I get a sense of the length of the fibers. I adapt the twist and distance between my hands for a smooth spin and a twist to match the length of the fibers.
  • The quality of the lanolin left in the wool gives the wool a certain viscosity and decides how the fibers move in the spinning. Is it fast or slow? Light or tough? Or is there little to no lanolin left and the yarn slippery and unpredictable? My hands get an understanding of the role the lanolin plays in the way the fibers joins in in the twist.
  • Do the fibers work together as one or are they fighting each other? With stubborn fibers my hands need to make more of an effort whilst an agreeing preparation will allow my hands to work lighter.
  • Is the preparation fresh and airy or a bit old and stubborn? This will decide how much my hands need to work for the fibers to join the twist.
Working with the fleece gives me important information about how the wool is built up and how it behaves.
Working with the fleece gives me important information about how the wool is built up and how it behaves.

These are all cues I use when I spin. My hands remember how the wool behaves and they can adapt to my understanding of it. That is, if you will, the general knowledge of the wool. The wool is the lead singer here and I’m the backup singer. I need to get to know my lead singer but also be open to listening in the moment to be able to follow.

Mindful listening

Through mindful listening during spinning I get cues that tell me what is going on in this very moment. Is there a lump in the preparation that I need to take account for? Are there shorter or longer fibers in a section where I need to change the distance between my hands? I can close my eyes and try to get a sense of the consistency in the yarn. When I draft, my hands will listen for the point of twist engagement, where the yarn is open for adjustments in twist and thickness. My hands remember the quality of the yarn. If I listen mindfully I can follow the wool’s lead and contribute to making the yarn shine.

Focusing on how the fiber behaves gives med cues to respond to when I spin.
Focusing on how the fiber behaves gives med cues to respond to when I spin.

Spinning a song

The wool I’m working with now is a rya/mohair blend for a sock yarn. The mohair is quite dense and the fibers like to stick together. The rya is more airy, so in this combination there are parts that are airy and parts that are denser. I try to tease and card the blend to the best of my ability, but there are still critical spots here and there when I spin. Through the preparation of the wool my hands have gained a basic understanding of how the blend works. It’s not the walk in the park kind of wool, but I am getting to know how it sings. With this knowledge I have a better starting point when I spin. I listen for cues that have become clear to me during processing and I have a pre-understanding of what may turn up.

My hands listen carefully to the information they can get from the fibers in the yarn I'm spinning.
My hands listen carefully to the information they can get from the fibers in the yarn I’m spinning.

Just the other week I realized the difference between freshly carded rolags and rolags that were a week old. The older rolags were stubborn and fighted me while the fresh ones were a lot more cooperative. A freshly made rolag made spinning my song so much easier.

Singing a spin

In this sock yarn song the notes are difficult and the lead singer way ahead of my game. But I do my best to listen mindfully and learn as much as I can from my lead singer. I try hard to learn where my wool has been, where it is in this moment and where I can expect it to be further on and be ready for new cues. By working with what I know about the wool I’m spinning a song. With the knowledge I gain from listening mindfully to the wool while I spin I am also able to think one step ahead and sing my spin.

My hands learn about the wool through handling it and listens mindfully for cues to respond to during spinning.
With the information I have about the wool I work with, I’m spinning a song. The cues I get as I spin give me the opportunity to also sing my spin.

Happy spinning!

Knit (spin) Sweden book is out!

The book Knit (spin) Sweden, written by Sara Wolf with me as a co-author, is out! Some of you have bought it already. I hope you enjoy it! The book is available in online stores. The link is to Amazon U.S. Check it out to read about the book and also look inside it. I’m sure you can find it in other web shops in North America too. I haven’t read it yet, because I haven’t got the book. The European printer is in the U.K. and the books are sadly stuck there in a Brexit innuendo and covid shut down.

Sara has written a history of knitting in Sweden and Swedish knitting traditions. There are also knitting patterns in the book. She visits yarn shops and sheep farms, museums and spinning mills in different parts of Sweden. My contribution to the book is the (spin) part. I have spun yarn from many of the Swedish sheep breeds and sent them to Sara in the U.S. for her to knit swatches with. I have written about my experience with the wool as well as preparing and spinning it. Sara has in turn written about her experience knitting with my yarns.

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 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.
  • 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.

Påsöm embroidery

For a long time I have been fascinated by påsöm. This embroidery technique involves abundant flowery motifs in rich, saturated colours. For my first påsöm embroidery project I decided to make a yoga mat and honour the yoga practice with soft, wooly stitches.

A woolen mat for yummy yoga practise.
A woolen mat for yummy yoga practise.

About påsöm embroidery

Påsöm is a composition of the words På (on top of) and Söm (seam or stitch), so a reasonable translation could with some imagination be surface stitch. The embroidery technique originates from the small village of Dala-Floda in county Dalarna in Sweden. The technique started being used in the mid 1800’s and is especially used in various parts of the traditional folk costume from the village. The yarns were imported and dyed with synthetic dyes. A bride usually made her betrothed mittens or suspenders with the påsöm technique. Many women in the early 20th century earned a living stitching påsöm embroideries on mittens and household textiles to sell.

At the last wool journey I made with my wool traveling club I got to fondle some truly remarkable finds of påsöm embroidered mittens in Karin Kahnlund’s massive collection of knitted items.

Materials

The foundation

Påsöm is embroidered on both two-end knitted items and wadmal or broadcloth. Both two-end knitting and broadcloth are perfect for this embroidery technique. The material is dense and inelastic, which allows for the stitches to be made very close to each other. This creates the rich and abundant, almost 3D texture in the motifs.

The material I had in mind for my embroidery was different, though. The scouring mill Ullkontoret sells a needle punch felt by the meter, made with Swedish wool. I usually make spindle cases from the felt, but someone came up with the idea to use it for a yoga mat, so I wanted to try that. After having cut out the yoga mat shape I needed I made a blanket stitch around the edges for protection. This yarn was my handspun (the only spinning related thing about this post).

The needle punch felt is looser and thicker than two-end knitting and broadcloth. The thickness requires more yarn and the looseness makes it a challenge to get the stitches as close to each other as I want. But I am the boss of my embroidery and I say my way works just fine in this context.

Yarn

The embroidery yarn I used for the motifs is a commercial yarn. To create the rich and billowy texture the yarn needs to be at least 4-ply and loosely plied. I didn’t want to sacrifice the påsöm look so I bought the yarn this time instead of trying to spin it myself. Perhaps I will have a go at spinning my own påsöm yarn one day, who knows. There are few yarns suitable for påsöm embroideries. One of the available yarns is the British Appleton tapestry wool, that worked really well.

Påsöm requires lots of colour and especially lots of green leaves. I went for reds, blues and greens in different shades and some white and yellow for details.

Motifs

Apart from the colours and the soft and airy yarn, the motifs and the composition of the motifs are important in påsöm embroidery. An abundance of flowers, bound together by rich greens is what you will be looking for.

I started with the center rose, added the pink flowers flanking it and then the pansies just below the front corners. After that I simply needed to add as many garlands, leaves and decorative flowers as possible and let them create a mass of flower extravaganza. And I did. For every part I added I took a step back and tried to find what and where my next move would be.

My favourite part to stitch were the little green heart-shaped leaves, especially the double ones just beneath the pansies. And I’m childishly charmed by the pink flowers on both sides of the center rose. And who wouldn’t be?

Templateless

I used the booklet Påsöm by Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg to learn the stitches and motifs. The book suggests using transparent sheets to copy the shapes and a needle and Gellyroll pen to transfer the motif to the cloth. With a material like broadcloth or two-end knitting transferring templates would have been fairly easy. But the needle punch felt was way too fuzzy and the markings wouldn’t stick at all. Instead I tried to the best of my ability to draw the shapes directly onto the felt and accepted the wobbly shapes with an open heart.

For some of the more precise motifs I managed to draw something that resembled a contour with the gellyroll pen on the fuzzy felt surface.
For some of the more precise motifs I managed to draw something that resembled a contour with the gellyroll pen on the fuzzy felt surface.

Therapy stitches

I have chronic migraines and peaceful that usually last for several days. It is what it is. Crafting helps me stay sane during many of these episodes. I get very sound sensitive, especially to kitchen clatter and rustling paper bags. But wool is blissfully gentle and quiet.

This could actually be what migraine looks like from within.
When I turn the yoga mat upside down I realize that this could actually be what migraine looks like from within.

For the last couple of weeks I have turned to my påsöm embroidery numerous times for some soft and quiet migraine therapy. The repetitive motions, the slow process and, of course, the feeling of chunky wool in my hands give me some peace of mind. I didn’t keep track of the time I spent on this embroidery, but I don’t think I would be totally wrong if I estimated it to 20 hours.

Quiet yoga

The yoga mat is now finished with a lovely påsöm flower garland at the top and I’m very pleased with the result. The mat is slippery, though. It slips on the floor (which can be helped with a sticky mat underneath it) and my hands and feet slip on the surface in asana practice. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend the material for a moving practice. I would say this mat is more suitable for meditation, sitting postures, restorative yoga and yoga nidra. After all, these are the types of yoga I can practice when migraine hits me. What wouldn’t be more suitable then than a yoga mat stitched as migraine therapy.

Slow embroidery for slow and mindful practice.
Slow embroidery for slow and mindful practice.

Neither embroidery nor yoga help in migraine episodes. However, they do give me the peace of mind I need and lots of wooly comfort. And that is worth a lot.

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 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.
  • 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.

55 grams of wool

55 grams of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.

I bought a jar of home made shoe wax from a spinner, made of sheep tallow and beeswax from her own backyard. To optimize the cost of the shipping, she added some extra padding – 55 grams of wool from the young Dalapäls ewe Brisa.

Today I dive deep into words of beauty and excess to dress my sensations of Brisa’s wool in linguistic splendour. Feel free to read this story aloud.

Brisa, born 2019. Dalapäls sheep. Shorn fall 2020. Sorted, unwashed. 55 grams of wool.
Brisa, born 2019. Dalapäls sheep. Shorn fall 2020. Sorted, unwashed. 55 grams of wool.

A small ziplock bag

A small ziplock bag of little importance. Brisa, it’s labeled, 55 grams of wool. Inside it a world of wooly wonder. My hands electric with excitement as I open the transparent treasure chamber. Devoutly I free the locks from their plastic prison. Out they come with a sigh of relief – floof – they huff and they puff and they grow their house out.

An airy cloud of promises emerges from the wool cave. Let me tell you what I see:

  • Long outercoat rays, beaming like the sun.
  • Soft, cushioning undercoat, flowing, billowing, a silky, subtle glow like the moon’s reflection in a lake.
  • Breezy greasy lanolin spots, sparkling stars all over.

Sweet vanilla locks, shining like the sun, the moon and the stars together. A universe of ripples in countless dimensions.

The whole family of staples – long and sleek, short and crimpy and a spectrum between.
The whole family of staples – long and sleek, short and crimpy and a spectrum between.

A smell and a smile

As I lean over for a closer look I stop. I smell. A smile starting at my giddy toes reaches the follicles on the top of my head – Swoosh! A burst of joy. Surely you must have heard it, the sound of delight for the smell of a sheep. Of wool in my lap, of drafting with love, of wearing my handspun and bursting with pride. Through all the steps the scent will prevail. Fainter, yes, paler, but still a reminder of a sheep it once knew.

55 grams of Dalapäls wool
55 grams of Dalapäls wool.

The cast and the crew

The whole family of staples is there. Locks of all shapes and fashions. All important, all sincere, holding hands in their dance through the fleece. Protecting their queen from hot, cold and rain. May I present:

  • The tall, bold cones. Silky and strong, slight poof in their feet.
  • Others, tall too, yet buoyant and plush. Like nervous cartoon legs, twirling a sway.
  • A small group of staples are wavier still, unruly, open and airy.
  • Smallest of all are the crimpies, the curlies, the ever so softies, shy and petite.
Sweet locks of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.
Sweet locks of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.

Cutting edge design for optimal sheep comfort. Sharpened through centuries of nature’s own choice. I wonder where you grew, sweet locks? Keeping the neck warm with short, crimpy curls? Long outercoat tips leading the rain drops away? Which ones grew on the sleepy side? Who protected the belly, lightly touching the grass? The map of the sheep a guide for my tools – shawls, socks and mittens from neck, back and legs.

Translate and transform

What can you do, sweet curls? How can I make you shine through my hands? How can I form a strand that is for me what you were for your sheep? Dare I take on these 55 grams? Will I find the soul of this pearl? I dare, I will, I do! I will make mistakes, surely I will. Bumps will appear in the road. I keep them as treasures to learn and to steer my craft in a novel direction.

I find the cut end of a luscious lock, I draft, I twirl and rejoice. Slowly, gently, the fibers give in, finding their place in the draft. My hands listen closely: When to draft? How to twist? The fibers will tell me if I open my mind and welcome the voice of the wool.

Finding the soul of sweet Brisa's locks.
Finding the soul of sweet Brisa’s locks.

I close my eyes and draft, slowly, mindfully. The lanolin, oh, the lanolin oils the journey from cloud to contour. As I draft I see little grains of nature, wandering forward into the twist, playfully skipping off the ride along the way. I wait for that point of twist engagement, when the fibers slide past each other without coming apart. That very window when nothing is decided and possibilities are endless. In this now freedom is mine. Yet I hear the wool and do its bidding. I spin what the locks want to be.

Once upon a staple

Another curl, another now. Pointy top tip, sweet puffy toes. One end in each hand, gently tugging. Resist, resist, resist… and yield. In a viscous blink the once upon a staple is suddenly divided. In the one hand strong and shiny, in the other soft and airy. The tug of togetherness takes new shapes. One sleek, the other abundant. Each with their own treat of traits. New yarns imagined. Another now is here.

Separating outercoat from undercoat.
Separating outercoat from undercoat.

Locks of love

I look at the locks, once again smiling. The cut ends straight, shorn in a whiff. Closing my eyes I can hear the shears squeaking. One clip, another, another still. Soft hand on breathing sheep back. Comforting, close, still one of the flock. Snip by snip with love for sheep and wool. Allowing a new coat to grow, flow and flourish.

I see a seed, a twig, a piece of moss. A nod from grazing the pasture. A token of love from mother nature herself. Signs of a landscape, a meadow or forest. All part of a story that is sheep. This sheep. Sweet Brisa of Nyland.

I want to say this is Brisa, but it is not, she was unavailable at the time of the photo. It is however one of her pasture colleagues Stumpan, born in 2019 as a bottle lamb.
I want to say this is Brisa, but I can’t. She was full of straw when I asked the shepherdess for a photo. It is however an earlier photo of one of her pasture colleagues Stumpan, born in 2019 as a bottle lamb. See the curlies around her neck? Photo by Carina Jakobsson.

With a sigh of lightness I put the locks back in the ziplock bag. I go for a walk in the evening air. The billowing snow flakes land gently on my newly waxed boots.


Recently I bought a book on writing – Steering the craft, a 21st century guide to sailing the sea of story, by Ursula K. Le Guin. The book consists of 10 themes, each theme with an exercise for the reader. Today’s blog post is my contribution to the theme The sound of your writing and the exercise Being gorgeous – write a text that is meant to be read aloud, using onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects and made-up words, just not rhyme. I hope you got some gorgeous out of this piece.

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 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.
  • 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.

Wool type

Pälsull, rya, vadmal and finull type wool frame one Värmland fleece.

There are many ways to describe and categorize wool. Many countries have their own way of describing wool, probably in a way that is suitable for the sheep breeds that are most common in that particular country. The traditional way to describe wool in Sweden is by wool type.

Wool types

The traditional way to describe wool in Sweden is with wool types. These describe the shape and constitution of the staples. Through that it also describes the composition of undercoat and outercoat fibers in the staples.

We use four wool types that cover the most common breeds in Sweden – finull, rya, pälsull and vadmal type wool. The names (which I will explain in the post) are not always logical, but once you know what they mean the types are quite straightforward and easy to use. A wool type can have the same name as a sheep breed. That doesn’t mean that all the fleeces from the breed have that particular wool type. Neither does it mean that only that breed have that wool type. As you will see, there can be several wool types in a breed or indeed in a individual fleece.

The use of wool types is an accessible way to describe wool. Once you have the keys to the types you will understand some of the character of the wool and what you can expect from it. In my experience it is not an exact science, but rather a way to understand and approach the wool with a simple tool.

Soft finull type wool

As I have described in the historical sections of rya wool and finull wool, there was once a Swedish landrace. It had both soft, warm undercoat and strong, shiny outercoat. These different kinds of wool were used for different purposes. The wool type with mostly undercoat fibers was called finull (finewool) type wool. Later the landrace breed finull sheep was established. Not all finull sheep have finull type wool. Sheep of other breeds can also have finull wool type staples in their fleeces.

Balanced Rya type wool

When textile researchers were puzzled about where the long and shiny wool in the old rya textiles came from, they started a search for the rya type wool. The wool that had been used in the pre-industrialization rya textiles had long and shiny outercoat fibers and soft and warm undercoat fibers. They were found in the Dalapäls sheep which was later used to breed rya sheep. Thus, the breed standards for rya sheep aim for rya type wool. Other breeds like Klövsjö sheep can also have rya type wool on all or part of the fleece.

Shiny pälsull type wool

When Gute sheep were saved from extinction about 100 years ago, some sheep were used to start the pälsfår sheep breed, the fur sheep. Sheep skins with locks shining like silver were in high demand. To sell better abroad the breed later changed names to Gotland sheep. The aim for the Gotland fleece is to be strong, shiny and have dense, three dimensional locks to make pretty skins. The term pälsull (fur wool) is still used to describe the wool type.

Another breed that typically has pälsull type wool is Swedish Leicester. The first Leicester longwool sheep were imported in the 18th century so the breed today is indeed a Swedish Leicester sheep adapted to the Swedish climate. During the 1980’s the breed was further bred to be a white pälsull type sister to the Gotland sheep and make pretty skins.

Vadmal type wool

A fourth type is the vadmal (wadmal, or broadcloth) wool. This wool type was thought to be extra fitting for fulling fabric into thick wadmal or broadcloth that would withstand the wind and the cold in the Swedish winters. Many breeds can have vadmal type wool in their fleeces.

The difference between the wool types

So, what distinguishes these wool types? Well, I would say the undercoat to outercoat ratio in the staples, which manifests itself in shape and constitution of the staples. Also to some extent the difference between the undercoat and outercoat fibers. This is not absolute in any way, but it is a way to roughly categorize staples into wool types. In the description below I have pulled the fiber types apart in the staples to find a rough outercoat to undercoat ratio.

Almost only undercoat

Finull type wool consists, as the name suggest, of mostly or only undercoat fibers. The staple is usually short and crimpy with very fine tips. Finull wool usually has finewool type wool, as does Jämtland wool (which is a new Swedish crossbred).

As you can see in the images above the finull type staples are usually quite short and have soft and crimpy staples. They consist of mostly or only undercoat fibers. To the right you see the fluffy undercoat and just a few strands of what I think are outercoat fibers.

Mostly undercoat fibers

Vadmal type wool still has mostly undercoat fibers but also some outercoat fibers. The shape is usually triangular with a very narrow tip of the outercoat fibers. The staple is usually wavy. I would say that the vadmal type wool is quite unusual. I have seen vadmal type wool as one of the wool types in heterogeneous fleeces of several Swedish heritage breeds. So far I have only seen one fleece – of Åsen wool – with predominantly vadmal type wool. I used it in a course I taught and it was by far the most popular wool to work with.

The vadmal type wool has a characteristic look in its triangular shape with the wide undercoat base and the pointy tip of a few strands of outercoat fibers, hugging each other for support. Vadmal wool is soft but will still have some strength due to the outercoat content. It is a very versatile wool and I jump at any opportunity to get my hands on and in a vadmal type fleece. In the right picture above you can see the distribution of fibers in the staple I divided – mostly airy undercoat and some longer outercoat fibers.

50/50

Rya type wool typically has an outercoat to undercoat ratio of 60/40 or 50/50. The staple is long and wavy to straight. The staples are long with a conical shape. Rya sheep typically has rya type wool. Many breeds can have partly or predominantly rya type wool, like Dalapäls sheep, Klövsjö sheep and Värmland sheep.

Rya type wool is quite versatile since you can divide it and use it in so many ways. Use both fiber types together, divide into outercoat and undercoat or make an even larger buffet using lamb’s or ewe’s wool.

Mostly outercoat

Pälsull wool has only outercoat fibers. Or, there can be some undercoat fibers, but all fibers are typically quite coarse. The staple is thin, dense and wavy. A pälsull type staple usually has lots of shine. Gotland sheep is an example of a breed that produces almost only pälsull type wool, as is Swedish Leicester sheep. Sometimes you can find pälsull type wool in finewool sheep.

With a pälsull type wool you are not likely to get a soft yarn. I prefer to use pälsull type wool for project that require strength like socks, warp or embroidery.

All in one

Through this post I have presented examples of the different wool types I have talked about. You have seen that a wool type can exist in different breeds. Now, take another look at the pictures with staples on a waulking board. All the staples on the waulking board come from the same Värmland fleece. Yes. One fleece with all the wool types represented.

A versatile Värmland fleece

The Swedish heritage breeds are rare and some even threatened. The genetic base is too small to breed for specific characteristics and the sheep farmers with gene banks are not allowed to single out characteristics to breed on. Therefore the fleeces can be, and usually are, very heterogenous. Like this Värmland fleece.

A Värmland fleece with all the fiber types represented – pälsull, rya, vadmal and finull type wool in a gradient from strong to soft.

This lamb’s fleece got a bronze medal in the 2019 Swedish fleece championships. I realized its potential when I bought it at the auction that followed the event.

From a quick investigation of the fleece I can tell that the most common wool type in this particular fleece is rya type wool and the least common is the pälsull type wool. With that information I also know that the fleece has lots of soft and warm undercoat and some strong outercoat. I can choose to divide the fleece into wool types, fiber types or keep it all together. The possibilities with a fleece like this are endless.

I am sure a sheep farmer with a fleece like this will know where the wool types will typically be found on the body of the sheep. My guess is that a lot of the finull wool type can be found around the neck and the rya type wool on the sides.

Systems to describe wool

Back to the Swedish landrace. When the textile experts realized that the wool in the pre-industrial rya textiles were different from the wool in the post-industrial rya textiles a search began for the wool type that was used in the earlier rya textiles. Would this have been the first mention of wool types in Sweden? I want to think so. Either case, the use of wool types in Sweden would be based on the wool types that traditionally have been grazing Swedish pastures.

At the time of the industrial revolution lots of breeds were imported to Sweden to provide wool to the spinning mills that the mills could actually work with. Traces of these imported breeds are still in the landrace and heritage breeds in Sweden today. The imported breed that seems to have had the most success is the Swedish Leicester sheep that is used for its own sake and to cross with other breeds.

I am curious of any systems to describe wool in your countries:

  • Are there systems to describe wool where you live?
  • Do you have a system of your own to describe wool?
  • Do you see any pros and cons of using a system to describe wool?

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.
  • 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.

Coming up

Last week I looked back on what happened during 2020. This week I make plans and dreams for this year – teaching, writing and creating. As well as a heads up for you on what I plan to make happen I see this post as sort of a business plan for myself. Once I publish this I can’t go back, right? This is what’s coming up in 2021.

A lot of things are still uncertain when it comes to Covid. Therefore many things are uncertain for me, just as it is everywhere else in the world. But that won’t stop me from dreaming and making plans.

Writing

My plan is to keep the blog as I have so far, with a weekly post. There may be an occasional article coming up in spinning magazines too. Sara Wolf’s book Knit (spin) Sweden (where I am a co-writer) is at the printer’s as we speak but has got stuck there due to, again, Covid. I think that the first copies are being distributed to the people who have signed up for preorders, though. As soon as the printed book is in Sara’s hands the work with the translation to Swedish will begin. Yay!

I also want to explore my writing. I have always loved writing – crafting the sentences, dressing feelings and observations in well chosen words and phrases. finding a balance between lyric-like interpretations and clear, concise descriptions. Giving birth to a new piece that will make its way into the world and become a part of the readers’ lives. But I have never studied writing or taken any writing courses. This is something that I am curious about and a rabbit hole I am eager to fall into. Who knows where it may take me?

Teaching, coaching and lectures

As I told you last week quite a few courses and events got cancelled in 2020. There will be a risk of cancellations this year too. I have a coupe of weekend courses planned in April, one of which is already on my course page. As we speak I am also preparing for a zoom lecture in March.

In the spring of 2020 I taught a zoom course in weaving with rya knots for a guild and I will be teaching a course series on zoom for this guild in the beginning of the year. I’m really looking forward to this series as it is a new course that I will get the chance to explore.

Sätergläntan craft education center.
Coming up: A fleece course at Sätergläntan craft education center.

If all goes well I will teach at Sätergläntan craft education center in the end of June. The five-day course is quite similar to my online course Know your fleece. The students bring their own fleece to the course and we go through different tools to investigate and explore the fleece. I really look forward to this opportunity and hope to learn a lot.

Video coaching sessions are coming up soon.
Coming up: 1:1 video coaching sessions!

Coming up: Coaching

I am also preparing for 1:1 video coaching sessions. This is a totally new field for me and I am very excited to start this adventure. I have no public page for this yet, but if you are interested, just contact me and I will fill you in with the details. The coaching session will only take place if I think I can help you. Therefore you will need to fill in a questionnaire before any money is transferred.

Online course(s) and webinars

I do have several ideas of online courses. Some of them are more technical and others have more of a mindful focus. I hope to make at least one of them happen during 2021.

Coming up with ideas is no problem. Getting started can take a while. Once I have started things can move pretty fast and soaked in a creative flow. The finishing takes a lot longer than I think and is packed with procrastination. Once I have launched I get steam rolled by a heavy attack of imposter syndrome. But it is all part of a process I need to get through to get a course out to you.

Rya wool live webinar.
Anything can happen on a live webinar! It can be scary, but also exciting since everything else I do is so edited. Webinars are live, unedited and refreshing!

I love live streaming webinars for you. In the practical and theoretical research I do to prepare for them I learn so much, as well as from your questions. The next sheep breed for an upcoming breed study webinar is already in my mind. I hope you haven’t gone tired of Swedish sheep breeds. There are lots left to cover!

If you are interested in a zoom lecture or custom made course for your spinning group or guild you are more than welcome to contact me. And of course my online school is always available for you with both paid and free online courses.

Spinning and making

A lot of spinning, weaving and knitting projects are waiting for my attention. I always have a plan to work on the oldest first, but then an idea comes and bothers me until I give that my attention and my structure has been wrecked. A loom warped with Gute yarn is under our bed, a sock yarn is on the spinning wheel, lots of fleeces in the sofa bed and plans and dreams in my mind.

Weaving Gute wool.
I have a queue of spinning, weaving and knitting projects to learn from.

I have no concrete plans for YouTube videos, but they usually come to me in the moment or through your questions. So I have no doubt there will be more videos this year! In the mean time there are lots of older videos on my channel, feel free to check them out.

Balance

To maintain some sort of balance with a full time job, a family, a business and time to breathe I need some sort of structure and tools. I have made lots of changes in my life recently and found routines that give me a lot of energy and peace of mind. Yoga and meditation are vital parts of my morning and evening routines. My daily dip in the lake gives me a rush that stays with me for hours and I can’t wait for my next bath. In fact, I’m going there as soon as I publish this post.

I also look forward to conversations with you, I learn so much from these. Your feedback, dedication and participation makes my work possible. So thank you, stay in touch!

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 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.
  • 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.

2020 condensed

2020 is over and a new year is waiting to be discovered in all its possibilities. To be able to plan my upcoming year I want to look back at what has happened fiber wise in the past year. If you have been following me for a while you can revisit 2020 with me. If you are new here – a warm welcome – you have the chance to catch up on what has happened. This is 2020 condensed.

From all of me to all of you: Happy new spinning year 2021!

“It’s New Year’s Day. 2021 is on. May s he bring us peace, health, light and love. And wool. May she bring us wool. Happy spinning. Happy new year!” It’s 3.5 degrees Celsius in the water and 2.5 in the air and a lovely day for a morning bath.

Stash and grab

In the first month I focused on reducing my handspun stash. I had spun a lot that I hadn’t really found a project for and the handspun cupboard was bursting in its hinges. The burstiness (it’s a word) stressed me and I realized I needed to do something about it. I made lots of projects of these neglected skeins and leftover balls and we use practically all of them daily.

During the autumn of 2019 I had already started a project and I finished it in January. In the stash I had lots of naah yarn and warp thrum. My first stash busting project was seven woven chair pads with rya knots. All in all I used 1 kilo of stashed handspun yarn for warp, weft and rya knots for seven chair pads. The satisfaction! And we use them every day. I also got on a band weaving frenzy and made five handspun bands with a small rigid heddle in a few winter weeks. And suddenly I realized how much you need hand woven bands.

Years ago I started a stash busting blanket project. I had woven 10×10 cm pin loom squares of odd balls of handspun and finally got to a blanket worthy amount. Read about my blanket, and while you are at it, check out Anna’s pin loom blanket project too! She spun her squares on a medieval spindle specifically for the blanket and it looks beautiful.

With lots of skeins of Navajo spindle spun bulky singles I wove a curtain with a loose sett with the singles as weft and commercial flax yarn as warp. I used an old sheet as a background and mended a hole with a flea market lace ribbon.

A follower asked me to write about how my handspun garments have worn and matured and so I wrote a portrait of a sweater I spun and knit in 2014–2015. Later I also made a post about mending a pair of much loved nalbinding socks.

I have mended lots of other things during the year and I always feel very satisfied doing it. The rest of the family also turn to mending now rather than discarding something that is broken or worn.

Breed studies and webinars

During the past year I have written blog posts about the wool from four different Swedish sheep breeds – finull, Jämtland, rya and Klövsjö wool. I have also managed to live stream three of them in live breed study webinars. Making the breed study webinar takes a lot of time – around 10 hours for one webinar. I am nervous all day before a live stream, but once I go live I love being with you and learning through your questions. So thank you for showing up at my webinars. We are doing this together!

Backstrap weaving

In the beginning of the year I took a few courses in backstrap weaving. Since then I have started to explore this beautiful way of weaving where you as the weaver are also a part of the loom. Being so close to the weaving process has made me understand and respect it on a deeper level. During the year I have woven a weaving bag, a camera strap, a belt bag and a stick wrap on my backstrap loom. At the end of the year I also published the video Weaving with the trees where I weave on a backstrap loom in the northernmost corner of Sweden.

Tech tips

I have tried to blog about how I work with different tools and techniques. One of my most important and foundational concepts that I teach in every class is opening up the twist to achieve an easier draft and less strain. In Finding a fleece I walk you through a lots of useful tips to find fleece to work with. Don’t miss these two blog posts!

I am a happy beginner at embroidery, but I did manage to spin a lovely embroidery yarn as my contribution to the 2020 Swedish spinning championships. The skein gave me a gold medal. In this post I walk you through the rules of the championships and how I spun the yarn.

During the fall I have been experimenting with sock yarn and found a way to spin a cable yarn with a rya/mohair mix. I gave my husband a promise of socks from this yarn in a colour and model of his choice for Christmas. Still, I am sure there will be enough yarn for another couple of socks too.

A couple of videos with tech tips have left the editing board as well. In the beginning of the year I released a video where I spin by a lake from the cut end of flicked locks. A bit later a video where I spin on a Portuguese spindle in the forest. In the early fall I finished a lovely video where I spin on a great wheel in costume at the manor hall of Vallby outdoor museum (Swedish version here).

Meditations

As a way of developing my writing and opening up to a more personal way of expressing myself and my fiber journey I have been experimenting with what I call meditations. In these I let my sensations steer my process with both fiber and words and just enjoy the ride. Read about the knowledge of the hand and my relationship to the morning. Find peace with my warping and fleece meditations.

Teaching

As for many other teachers a lot of my planned courses have been cancelled this year due to Covid. I was however one of the lucky ones who was able to teach at Sätergläntan in the course I call A spindle a day.

I did launch a couple of courses in my online school. The free five-day challenge Fleece through the senses became a huge success from the start. So far 444 people have taken the course and contributed with their explorations and experimentation. Later I launched the course Know your fleece – a course about going deep into your fleece to find its soul.

The crisis has opened many people’s eyes to different ways of communicating. In early July I was invited to a zoom meeting with a spinning guild in the east coast of Australia at 6:30 in the morning. In December I was hired as a speaker at a guild meeting in Washington state in the U.S.

Writing

Apart from the 52 blog posts I have written in other contexts too. I love writing articles for spinning magazines since it makes me explore and challenge my writing even more. For Spin-Off I have written about Textile heritage and how I teach at Sätergläntan. I also published the Sweater pattern Selma Margau for Spin-Off. And of course I didn’t miss the PLY Support spindle issue. I wrote an article I simply call the Flick. In the beginning of the year the Swedish craft magazine Hemslöjd featured me and my spindles in an article.

My contribution to Sara Wolf’s book Knit (spin) Sweden has been taking up a lot of time, energy and love this year. The book is at the printer’s as we speak (a bit delayed due to Covid). You can preorder the book if you want to make sure not to miss it. A Swedish translation is in the pipeline as well.


A large part of the work I do is free and my goal is to keep it that way. If you want to support my creative work and make sure it can go on in a sustainable way, do consider becoming a patron at my Patreon page. You can pick a monthly payment of your choice. A new feature is the possibility to pay annually and get two months for free.


Happy spinning in 2021!

You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Weaving with the trees

Photo by dan Waltin

Today, on one of the darkest days in my hemisphere I give you a new video from the other side of the year: Weaving with the trees. I shot the video in the northernmost part of Swedish Lappland in the beginning of July when the sun never set.

This video is my season’s gift to you: Weaving with the trees, with love from me. May it bring you light, space and peace.

Turning the train around

We had plans to take the train to Austria this year. But in March we realized that it wouldn’t be possible. Instead we turned the rails 180 degrees and went 18 hours north, to Abisko, 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Situated by the foot of mount Nuolja it is the perfect starting point for hikers southward on the 400 kilometer Kungsleden trail. We chose to stay at the tourist station and take day trips, though. I packed my backpack with the essentials – emergency snack (Notnüsse, a family tradition of mixed nuts and seeds for energy dips), hat, hiking boots, loom and spindles.

The landscape

Before I dive into the wool and the weaving I need to give you at least the chance to understand the vastness of this landscape. This is so far north from where I live – when the train made a short stop in Boden, at the top of the Bothnian Bay, there were still 5 hours left to go!

You can start your hike straight off the platform at Abisko Tourist station train station. During that whole week we traveled by rail and hiking boots only – we walked from our house to the metro, took the metro to Stockholm Central Station and the train to Abisko.

I'm drinking the water straight from the stream with a Kuksa, hand made by Bengt Waldemarsson and gifted from me to my husband for his birthday. Photo by Dan Waltin
I’m drinking the water straight from the stream with a Kuksa, hand made from a birch burl by Bengt Waldemarsson and gifted from me to my husband for his birthday. The mittens are my handspun and two-end knitted Heartwarming mitts. Photo by Dan Waltin

When you get to Abisko all you see is the vast mountain landscape to the south, lake Torneträsk to the north and more mountains in Sweden and Norway to the northwest. The river Abiskojåkka runs lively from the mountains down to the lake. A bit south-east the U-shaped Lapporten (The Lapponian gate) rises like a queen in the valley.

So, now that you have some idea of the set you may get a feeling of what spinning and weaving with simple tools with endless opportunities this close to nature can feel like. For me, crafting in nature brings me closer to the tools, the craft and the people who craft before, beside and after me.

Rain shadow

The tourist station is situated on the leeway side of mount Nuolja with its rich summer flora. This means that the wind comes from the windward side in the west and the mountain stops the rain from falling on the Abisko side. The phenomenon is called rain shadows and is the reason why Abisko has very few rain days per year (around 300 mm of rain per year while Riksgränsen, 30 km to the west, has roughly 1600).

The trees

In the valleys and up to the tree limit there is basically one kind of tree – the Fjällbjörk, Arctic downy birch. The black and white stems grow in groups of low, gnarly, windswept stems, showcasing their crispy green leaves under the blue sky. The mass effect of these humble fjällbjörk forests is just mesmerizing. There is an enchanted touch to this black-white-green mass and I keep looking for signs of forest beings peeping out from behind one of the stems.

Above the tree limit there are still birches, but not really trees. The mountain is covered in a rich flora, mixed with dwarf birch, dvärgbjörk. The Dwarf birch doesn’t look like a tree or even a bush. Just twigs on the ground, sprinkled with the tiniest green wave-edged leaves. Where the arctic downy birch can’t stand against the arctic winds, the dwarf birch and the flowers can. I love those low, fiercely strong plants that are designed to endure the most extreme elements. I guess you can see their relatives on any mountain.

The wool

I started spinning this yarn a couple of years ago. The wool comes from a Norwegian crossbred, NKS. I have teased the wool by hand and spun it on Andean pushkas straight off the hand teased rovings. To the best of my ability I tried to spin and ply the way Andean spinners spin their yarn. I have watched Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez teach Linda Ligon how to spin the Andean way in the video Andean spinning.

Making. 2-ply yarn from a figure-8 skein by the river Abiskojåkka. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Making. 2-ply yarn from a figure-8 skein by the river Abiskojåkka. Photo by Dan Waltin.

If you want to dive more into how I spun this yarn you can watch my video Learning Andean spinning. You can also read the blog post about the video.

The yarn

I wanted to play with different colours and spinning directions in the yarn. Also, I figured that spinning with both hands would decrease the risk of straining my neck and shoulders. Therefore I alternated between S-plied and Z-plied yarn: I did all clockwise spinning with my right hand and all counter-clockwise spinning with my left hand to always pull the spindle. You can read my thoughts about pushing and pulling the spindle and spinning direction in this blog post. You can also check out my webinar Spindle ergonomics to see what I mean.

So, when I had spun the skeins in two different directions I dyed the yarn and planned the weave. I played with opposing twist directions throughout the striped sequence until I found something I liked. Warping was a challenge, but well worth the time and effort.

Sticking to it

Since I have hand-teased this wool as the only preparation the fibers aren’t as neatly arranged as if I would have processed it with tools. Ends are sticking out here and there. When I weave on a warp-faced weave the warp threads are naturally very close to each other. Using this yarn for such a tight sett led to a very sticky warp. Even if I try to do the process as closely as I can to how I understand Andean spinners do it, some things can’t be the same, especially when I use my local wool. I just had to deal with the sticky warp, spend many hours unsticking warp layers and stick (!) to my plan. To my surprise only one warp thread broke during the entire weaving process.

What yo see in the video are the short sections where I just insert the batten after having manually unstuck the warp threads. I saw no point of showing you the endless fiddling with my shortcomings.

Sources

To get closer to the technique and the textile traditions of the Andes, I bought the beautiful book Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. The book has excellent tutorials of some of the techniques. The eye-pattern tubular bands and borders is one example. As I mentioned I also took the class Andean spinning by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. I took an online course by Kimberly Hamill and later I also bought ebooks on pick-up techniques and the eye-pattern tubular band by Laverne Waddington.

Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez is a beautiful book that explains the traditions of Andean backstrap weaving and has several step-by-step tutorials with pictures.
Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez is a beautiful book that explains the traditions of Andean backstrap weaving and has several step-by-step tutorials with pictures.

Weaving with the trees

Backstrap weaving is practiced in many different cultures across the world. I love the portability of the loom as well as the many traditions and weaving techniques associated with it.

With backstrap weaving the weaver is a part of the loom together with the tree. Many weavers sit while they weave. I prefer standing since I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. My kids, in the background (dressed in mosquito net head covers), found a climate research location. Photo by dan Waltin.
With backstrap weaving the weaver is a part of the loom together with the tree. Many weavers sit while they weave. I prefer standing since I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. My kids, in the background (dressed in mosquito net head covers), found a climate research location. Photo by dan Waltin.

Being a part of the loom

The idea of being a part of the loom together with a tree is truly fascinating. Being a part of the loom makes my body understand the rhythm of the weaving better than when I am detached from the loom. I like to compare it to spindles and spinning wheels: When I spin on a spindle – of any kind – I am a part of the mechanics of the spinning. Therefore I can understand and control the spinning better than if I were spinning on a spinning wheel where those mechanics are built-in in the spinning wheel.

Standing while weaving with the trees has downsides when it comes to dropping loom parts or tools, especially when weaving on a cliff. Photo by Dan Waltin
Standing while weaving with the trees has downsides when it comes to dropping loom parts or tools, especially when weaving on a cliff. Photo by Dan Waltin

I prefer standing when I weave on a backstrap loom. I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. It also feels more flexible than sitting. A downside to weaving standing is that the ground is further away if (when) I drop things. Usually I bring a shoulder bag with the essentials for easy access.

Gratitude

I am, and will keep being, a novice at backstrap weaving. Still, I have learned so much about this craft that is as humble as it is magnificent, as simple as it is complex. And all between just a few hand-carved sticks. And I am truly grateful for the time and space I get to spend with and in the weaving.

I shot the video with my iPhone and a light tripod. Photo by dan Waltin
I shot the video with my iPhone and a lightweight tripod. Photo by dan Waltin

Thank you. sweet followers, for another year of spinning, teaching and learning. Your support, your progress and your spinning stories all give me energy and sparkle to keep creating for you.

Waiting for the train back home to Stockholm. Basswood weaving sword by Verena Soe, Yarnengineer, on Instagram, juniper band lock by Spångmurs.

The week in Abisko ended far too quickly. I am not finished with this place. There are so many things to discover, so many places to craft. I will come back. After all, it’s just an 18 hour train ride from home.

Back home I finished the striped weave and the band. I wove an eye-pattern tubular band around the weave to protect the edges. I sewed the band onto the striped piece and attached D-rings for closure. And voilá, I had myself a wrap for my loom sticks.

I made a wrap to keep all my various sizes of hand carved loom sticks warm and in order. I found the band pattern in Laverne Waddington's book Complementary-warp pick-up. The tubular eye-pattern edging around the wrap has different names in different regions in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
I made a wrap to keep all my various sizes of hand carved loom sticks warm and in order. I used a band pattern from Laverne Waddington’s book Complementary-warp pick-up. The tubular eye-pattern edging around the wrap has different names in different regions in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

Support Andean textile artists

I make a monthly donation to the Center for traditional textiles of Cusco. If you want to support the textile traditions of the Andes you can donate. Andean weavers are facing multiple difficulties due to the consequences of the pandemic. The center also has an online shop where you can buy beautiful hand made items like bags, purses, hats, shawls etc.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Klövsjö wool

Klövsjö sheep is one of Sweden’s ten conservation breeds. In this post I present my experience with the long, strong and shiny Klövsjö wool.

Klövsjö sheep

Klövsjö sheep, is one of the ten conservation breeds in Sweden. Much like the other conservation breeds they were found in the early 1990’s and considered a breed of their own. They were found in the town of Klövsjö in Jämtland in mid-Sweden. Just like the other heritage breeds, the goal is to save the breed with the biggest genetic diversity possible. The breeding aims should not be directed towards a specific characteristics, like the wool.

For a heritage breed Klövsjö sheep are rather large. Rams can weigh 60–80 kg and ewes 45–70 kg. They can get very old, 15 years is not unusual. One of the shepherdesses of the found flocks says her grandmother made porridge for the oldest ewes who had no teeth left so they would make it through the winter.

The statistics from the Swedish sheep breeder’s association state that in 2019 there were 600 breeding ewes in 83 flocks.

Most Klövsjö sheep are white, black or black with white spots in face or on the legs. Klövsjö sheep are affectionate and the ram can usually go with the flock all year round.

Many of the heritage breeds, including Klövsjö sheep, are shorn twice a year. If not, there is a risk that the fleece will felt and be difficult to handle for both shearer and crafter.

Wool characteristics

Klövsjö wool is a dual coat with long, shiny outercoat and soft and fine undercoat. The lock is almost straight with defined staples. The outercoat is coarse and not suitable for next to skin garments. As you can see, the Klövsjö looks a lot like Rya wool. The klövsjö wool I got is a good example of a fleece with mostly staples of rya type.

The shine of Klövsjö wool is exceptional. Especially the outercoat, but there is lots of lovely shine in the undercoat as well.

The Klövsjö ewe Frida's beautiful fleece.
The Klövsjö ewe Frida’s beautiful fleece, unwashed.

The Klövsjö fleece I have is an autumn shearing of a grown sheep. The outercoat is around 18 cm and the undercoat 10.

Prepare

In the 2019 Swedish fleece championships I got my hands on the lovely Klövsjö fleece from the lamb Frida. I decided to plan for a warp yarn with Frida’s outercoat. Therefore I chose to separate outercoat from undercoat and spin them into different yarns. The outercoat makes out the warp yarn and the undercoat may become a soft knitting yarn.

Separating with combs

To separate outercoat from undercoat I use my combing station with two-pitched combs. The two-pitched combs grab hold of the shorter undercoat better than combs with only one row of tines, which makes the separation easier.

I load the stationery comb with the locks, putting the outermost edge of the cut end on the tines so that close to no fiber shows on the handle end of the comb. I comb with the tines perpendicularly to each other in a horizontal circular movements. Since the fibers are so long I need to make bold and dramatic movements. If not, there is a risk that the fibers in the combs aren’t separated and there will be loops which will make a mess.

When as much as possible of the wool is on the active comb I make the circular movement vertical, tines still perpendicular to each other.

I use combs with a combing station to separate the outercoat from the undercoat.

When the staples are separated and the fibers even I pull the outercoat off the stationery comb. I pull just under a staple length at a time, rearranging the grip after each pull so that I get a continuous top out of the comb. When I think there is no more outercoat left I pull the top all the way off the comb and put aside. I then pull the undercoat off and put it in a separate pile.

Second combing

After having made a few rovings I comb them again. This will make the rovings more even and I will be able to separate any residual undercoat from the outercoat. I take a number of combed rovings and recharge them on the stationery comb, usually two or three (of course depending on the capacity of the combs). I comb through the fibers twice and make sure they are fully separated and even.

To make the roving extra even I comb a second time and diz.

When the comb load looks good I pull it off the stationery comb. In this case I want a very even roving so I diz it through a button hole. To start I pull the very tip of the tip end and twist it between my fingers, double it and pull it through the button hole. Then I start dizzing – I push the button forward, pull the fiber bundle and repeat until there is no more outercoat left on the stationery comb. I remove the roving and make a bird’s nest of it. I pull the residual undercoat from the stationery comb and put it on the undercoat pile.

Lovely birds’ nests of combed and dizzed outercoat of Klövsjö wool.

Carding the undercoat

I card rolags from the undercoat that has been separated (and teased) from the outercoat in the combing process:

  1. I pull my teased wool onto the cards. When the wool doesn’t stick anymore I stop. To avoid over loading I remove any excess from the handle side of the card.
  2. I leave an empty frame around the wool. The wool will fluff up when I start carding and it will spread outwards in the next stroke.
  3. I stroke the wool gently between the cards. This pushes the wool just a bit into the teeth – not all the way down. The more silent the carding the better.
  4. After the third pass I use the active card and my free hand to lift the wool off the stationary card and make a rolag with the help of my active card and my free hand. To keep the stationery card steady I push the handle against the inside of my thigh.
  5. When I have reached the handle side of the stationery card and there actually is a rolag, I lift the rolag between my open hand and my active card, move it back to the beginning of the card again and roll the rolag gently between the cards.
Hand carded rolags of Klövsjö undercoat wool.

In the second part (starting at 4:11) of my video Teasing wool with combs you can see my carding technique and how I make the rolags.

Spin

I separated the undercoat from the outercoat to make the most of the two very different fiber types. To enhance the characteristics of each fiber type I spin them differently.

Outercoat

I spent the spring spinning the combed outercoat worsted on a suspended spindle with the aim of a strong warp yarn. The outercoat was very pleasant to work with and drafted like butter.

The length of the outercoat fibers can be a challenge. These fibers were around 20 centimeters. I think it is easier to work with a suspended spindle with this length compared to a spinning wheel. I need to consider the length of the fibers when I draft – the longer the fibers the longer the distance between my hands. If I spin on a spinning wheel the motion will be back and forth, which may be straining for my back. If I spin on a suspended spindle I can draft to the side and won’t have to work with my back in the same way.

The blue dye that turned out green. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The worsted spun outercoat yarn is fiercely strong and incredibly shiny. I dyed it in two shades of blue, which turned out green. I still love the result.

Undercoat

The lovely undercoat rolags had an adventure of their own. I brought them to Vallby outdoor museum and spun them on the great wheel with a smooth long draw into the loveliest woolen yarn. The rolags worked perfectly with the technique. In some cases there was a bit of outercoat left and the draft was a bit more demanding, but for the most part the draft surprisingly smooth.

Spinning the carded undercoat fibers on a great wheel.

The yarn I spun at Vallby is still in singles and I haven’t decided whether I should ply it or not. It is soft and airy and has a silky shine.

You can watch me spin and card the lovely Klövsjö undercoat on my video Spinning on a great wheel (available in Swedish as Spinna på långrock).

Strong and shiny worsted spun outercoat to the left. Soft and airy woolen spun undercoat to the right.

Use

Klövsjö wool with its dual coat is very versatile. You can choose to separate the fiber types like I have above or keep them together and prepare and spin for a woolen or worsted yarn. Considering the range from soft lamb’s wool to the coarser spectrum of a grown ewe the versatility increases even more. Have a look at the blog post about Rya wool I wrote a couple of weeks ago to compare.

Due to this versatility the yarn from Klövsjö wool can be used for a number of different purposes. Use the finest lamb’s undercoat for a next to skin yarn, the strong outercoat for a warp yarn, a combination of undercoat and undercoat for a sweater or play with anything between a fine embroidery yarn to a rough rug yarn.

All I have done so far with the Klövsjö wool I had is a woven belt bag from the spindle spun outercoat. It is combined with the Chanel warp yarn for a lovely green and brown striped pattern.

In my online course Know your fleece there is a 25 minute video where I present Klövsjö wool and demonstrate how I prepare, spin and use Klövsjö wool.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.