Substack: The fern inkwell

Today I’m at the fulling mill, but I still have a poem for you over on Substack. I call it The fern inkwell. Welcome!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. Do subscribe!
  • I share essay-style writing on Substack. Come and have a look!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • 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.

Substack: I come from between

I have no blog post here today. Instead I have a whole essay on my newly started Substack account. On Substack I will share my writing first and foremost. Sometimes about spinning, sometimes in other topics, but all for the sake of letting my words flow in the direction they take me. I will still write here on the blog, but sometimes my writing mind needs to take me to another special place, and land on my Substack page.

Today I write an essay I call I come from between. Welcome!

New weekend I will be at the fulling mill with my fulling candidates and I can’t promise you a post.

Happy reading!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. Do subscribe!
  • I share essay-style writing on Substack. Come and have a look!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • 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.

Nathalie

Nathalie is the name of the seed variety I use for this year’s experimental flax patch. Today is the day I sow them and think about what I learn from them.

Sweet little flax seeds, shaped like almonds, glistening in the sun. The beds in our community garden allotment are ready, soil nutritious, loose and bursting with life. Today is the day I introduce the seeds to the patch, when the maples are in blossom, birches crispy green.

Flax seeds, brown, shiny and almond shaped.
A sweet harvest of flax seeds.

Karolina or Esbjörn?

Tradition says to plant the flax on a day with a female name, the longer the better. Karolina’s day on May 20th is said to be a good candidate, but I am quite confident with my choice. Apparently I chose the day of Esbjörn and Styrbjörn. I am sure they don’t mind. If I were Esbjörn or Styrbjörn I would be honoured to be the guardian of newly sown flax babies. And the seeds have their own Female name, don’t they; Nathalie, half from last year’s allotment harvest, half from the local flax husbandry society.

A hand pouring seeds from a metal bowl into another bowl. The husks scatter in the wind.
Flax seed threshing.

I don’t have my hair down, I don’t sow with a silver spoon and I do wear underwear, contrary to the folklore, but I am a daredevil. I mix the seeds and divide them into the two beds I have prepared. Sprinkle them gently on top of the sun-warmed soil. My heart smiles at a whiff of sheep that sweeps by from the squash bed I have topped with fleece skirtings from shearing day last month.

All that can go wrong

Being an adoptive mother to a flax patch can be quite adventurous – I never know what to expect. Weather, soil, harvest day, drying and retting are all steps on the way from seed to yarn that can go wrong in a number of ways, and a lot of them by my hand. This is the 11th year I grow flax, and every year I learn something new that can influence the result. Still, every time I do end up with spinnable fiber and seeds for the next year, so I must be doing something right enough.

Skeins of linen yarn hanging from a woven band. Each skein has a label with a year between 2011 and 2022 scribbled on it.
My flax patch yarn from 2011 to 2022.

All is as it should be

This little patch of land, just a couple of square meters, teaches me so much. I learn what to look for in the soil, to spot the miniscule difference between sprouts of flax and chickweed, to harvest the thicker edge plants separately and to use a rolling pin and a pillow case to break the dried seed capsules.

A garden bed with lots of light green plants growing in it. A glimpse of the photographer's shoes at the short end.
Come June…

All that can go wrong will eventually do so, and I embrace all that I learn from it. This is my experimental flax patch for a reason, I keep it to learn, to get a tiny glimpse into the vastness of what there is to learn about flax husbandry. With gratitude and humility I think about all the people who have grown flax before me with so much more at stake than just my flax growing pride.

Flax 2024: Weave

Last year was the first year I dared to spin my homegrown flax. During a couple of weeks I spun up all my stricks, year by year. This is the year I will weave with my own linen yarn. I may also dye it with indigo that I have grown in that same soil. Imagine, a linen towel with the experience from seed to yarn from the past 11 years woven into it, and blue. If that is not priceless, I don’t know what is.

Nathalie, grow well. I will do my best to nurture you and make you shine.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. So subscribe!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • 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.

Fulling candidates

In just a few weeks my wool traveling club and I will go on our 2024 wool journey to a fulling mill. We have all woven fabrics to full and today I’m presenting my fulling candidates.

I love planning our wool journeys. We have planned this one for over two years. On the 2022 wool journey we learned påsöm embroidery by Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg in beautiful Dala-Floda. She also teaches fulling at the nearby fulling mill (one of perhaps five working fulling mills in Sweden), and we decided to spend the upcoming year and the 2023 wool journey weaving projects to full in the 2024 wool journey.

What to full

The fabric to full needs to be woven in a wool that actually will felt. The Scandinavian breeds usually felt very well. The wool needs to be evenly blended, spun and woven, and the sett needs to be loose. It is a good idea to add extra twist to the warp yarn to hold, and let the weft yarn be looser spun to enhance the fulling process.

Fulling mill

The Dala-Floda fulling mill is situated in Kvarna, a 17th century industrial site with several different types of mills. It is operated on courses and workshops, and by people who have the knowledge to use it.

The inside of a fulling mill. Large beams above water troughs, ready to full woven wool fabric.
The Dala-Floda fulling mill, photo by Dan Waltin in 2018.

Fulling candidates

I have woven five fabrics during the past four years, two of which are woven with my handspun yarns. If I’m lucky, a sixth weave (handspun) will be finished in time. All the weaves are different and I hope at least one of them will turn into something I can use. I have woven them all on my 60 cm wide rigid heddle loom.

Rough Gute

When I first learned about fulling fabrics and saw a weekend course in fulling at a fulling mill I started to plan for a weave to full. I had bought a lovely rough gute fleece back in 2018 and made a few woven swatches. It turned out that they fulled beautifully and very evenly. I had just spun a woolen 2-ply yarn that I used as both warp and weft and it was quite a fast weave. The finished weave has been waiting in my yarn closet for the past four years.

A greay weave in a loose sett, a skein of grey yarn on top of it.
Plain Gute wool in warp and weft. Hand-carded woolen spun and 2-plied.

I think this weave might be the most straightforward of the weaves. It has the same fleece and the same yarn in both weft and warp. I’m sure I can make something out of it, perhaps a vest.

Raw weave size: 56 x 275 centimeters.

3 x 3 x 3 pillow cases

Pillow cases are one of my favourite test projects for weaving. They are small enough to finish, large enough to actually become something, and quite swift to sew. Usually I weave with my handspun yarn, but in this case (pun intended) I had lots of skeins of Shetland wool from a clearance sale a few years ago, and I thought I might as well weave something out of them. I used the same three colours in three different checquered patterns in three different weaves.

A woman weaving a checquered fabric on a rigid heddle loom. Sheep outside are grazing.
I wove the first commercial yarn pillow case at the 2023 wool journey at Boel’s house.

The yarns are quite old and brittle, and there is a risk that they will tear in the fulling process. There is also a risk that the colours will full differently, one of the yarns turned out to be finer than the others. If the fulling shrinks the fabrics too much, I can either get smaller pillows or weave bands (from a failed first warping) to join in the sides.

Three weaves in different checquered fabrics in navy, blue and teal.
Three weaves in three colours and three patterns.

Raw weave size

  • Teal main colour: 54 x 128 centimeters
  • Fawn main colour: 55 x 128 centimeters
  • Navy main colour: 54 x 132 centimeters.

Icelandic twill

Mmm… my beauty. I think this is the weave I’m the most excited about. Last year I bought two Icelandic fleeces from Uppspuni mini mill in Iceland, one light and one dark. I separated tog and thel (outercoat and undercoat in Icelandic fleece) and colours. To enhance the characteristics of the fiber types I spun the tog worsted and the thel woolen, both as singles yarns and in different directions. To ease the energy of the warp singles I wound them up on tennis balls a couple of months before I warped. I set my rigid heddle loom up for twill and wove 2.25 meters. This may be my best twill project so far, it’s also my best singles warp project so far.

I expect the weft to full more than the warp, so that the finished fabric will be a lot narrower and just a little bit shorter. The twill construction might also add to the sideways shrinkage. The fabric will have two different sides – the weft facing side will be soft and warm and the warp facing side will be strong and shiny. I have no specific plans for this fabric, the result will point me in the right direction.

Raw weave size: 54 x 209 centimeters.

Gute/Icelandic/sari silk

I finished the twill just a week ago, took a breath and warped for the final project. The warp yarn is a 2-ply woolen spun Gute lamb’s wool with recycled sari silk in it, and the warp is woolen spun Icelandic thel, also with recycled sari silk. I have no idea what will happen here, with one plied yarn and one singles, and with two different breeds. I expect the silk to full a little, but still leave some eye-catching colour specks in the fabric.

The warping went so well, the warp behaved and I managed to roll it onto the warp beam very evenly. Once I had threaded the heddle I realized I had warped backwards, though. I tied the ends on the warp beam, rolled the whole warp out again, fiddled, cut the cloth beam ends and tied them to the apron rod. I was very grateful that this wasn’t a singles warp. As I wove I looked at the thousand sari silk stars that lit underneath my hands and felt the warmth of the lanolin. I also noticed large quantities of Gute yarn kemp all over my top.

If I finish this weave in time I hope to be able to full it just slightly. I swatched a similar weave a few years ago and found that a lightly fulled fabric was just perfect, with both the fulling qualities and some drape.

Things I can’t control

There are endless factors that can go wrong here and that I can’t control. And that’s the beauty of fulling. I have no idea how much the fabrics will shrink. I have no idea if I can ask to stop the fulling for one of the fabrics or if they all need to go the same length of time. Perhaps my dyed commercial yarns will be banned if there is a risk of bleeding. Perhaps my gute fabrics will be banned because their kemp fibers may contaminate the other fabrics. One or more of the fabrics may have been woven in too loose a sett. I will find all this out sooner or later.

The fabrics will probably shrink in different amounts, and I am also quite certain that something will go wrong. I am convinced that I will learn a lot and that I will take another weekend further down the line to full some more.

I am so excited about the fulling mill wool journey and my weaves. My wool traveling club friends have woven a lot too, I’m particularly excited about Boel’s 5 meter twill woven on a grown up floor loom.


Happy spinning!

You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. So subscribe!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • 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.

Silk shawl

Last summer I spun a lot of singles silk yarn on a supported spindle. I used the small skeins as dye samples in my experimental dyeing with fresh Japanese indigo and woad. I started a striped weave in January and this week I finished my silk shawl.

If you are a patron (or want to become one) you can see more from my writing retreat in my January 2024 video postcard.

I must have been in the weaving room every weekend since I warped this weave, and it has just taken forever. I am used to weaving with wool, which is flexible, forgiving and reasonably predictable. Silk however, is not.

It pains me to say it, but this was just not a fun weave. I loved spinning the yarn and dyeing the skeins and I love the resulting shawl. But the weaving, not so much.

Slow and fiddly

In a previous post about weaving this silk shawl I embraced the slowness of the process, but now I take it all back. Compared to wool, weaving with silk is inelastic, slippery and unforgiving. So many threads broke, and joining them once I had passed the break was fiddly and the slippery and fine ends slithered their way out or broke over and over.

The golden muga silk threads I used to separate the blue stripes had shorter fibers and broke more often than the mulberry silk threads, and got quite fuzzy. I do have a history of making insufficient joins as I spin, and it was very obvious here too. How hard can it be to spin proper joins? I don’t mind the joins in the weave, they do add to the character of the fabric, but I could live without the sweat of watching them get gradually thinner and breaking.

Tight sheds

This weave has a sett of 80 picks per 10 centimeters, but the smallest heddle on my loom is 60/10. So to obtain the smaller sett, I used two 40/10 heddles. I have used a double heddle several times before, for double layered weaving and for twill. I know from these experiences that the sheds are tighter compared to a single heddle, and it was true here too. Due to the inelasticity of the silk warp, the opening of the shed was fiddly and took a lot of time. To make it a little easier, I opened up the shed with a weaving sword before I inserted the shuttle.

Deadline

Usually I don’t have a problem with projects that take time. Only, I have an appointment with a fulling mill in late May and two wool weaves waiting to be woven and fulled at the mill, so I needed to get the silk shawl off the loom and warp one of the wool weaves. I managed to weave around 5 centimeters every visit to the weaving room and after thinking ”this will be the last session” for five sessions, I was close to giving up. And I did, actually – when the umpteenth warp thread broke and I had only 30 centimeters left I abandoned my stubbornness and went for the scissors.

Loose sett

When I planned the weave I had a vision of quite a loose sett – I wanted the shawl to be light and sheer and the irregularities of the yarn to add to the character if the weave.

Due to the inflexibility of the yarn, the threads didn’t fill out the empty spaces when I cut it off the loom. I actually managed to create the shawl according to my vision, and I really like the result.

The fringe twister

When I had finally finished the weave I asked myself what kind of fringe I wanted. I was learning towards just tyeing the loose warp, but then I realized the warp was single, and that loose threads would probably warp and tangle. So I decided on a twisted fringe. I do own a fringe twister that I don’t use very often, but when I need it I thank the fringe twisting goddesses for its convenience. Twisting 90 long fringes is not my idea of a good time, only strained fingers.

Close-up of a person fringing the end of a silk weave. Four twisted sections of warp threads are stretched attached to metal clips on a wooden base.
The fringe twister is my friend.

Plant, spin, dye, weave

And so I made it. I spent last summer spinning fine singles of mulberry silk and dyeing it in small batches with my home-grown fresh indigo and woad leaves, and I spent the winter weaving a silk shawl for this summer. In December I harvested my own Japanese Indigo seeds and my sweet indigo plants for this season are thriving in the kitchen window.

A neatly folded silk shawl on a table, fringes hanging down over the edge.
A finished silk shawl, 40 x 210 centimeter (including 20 + 20 centimeter fringe).

The circle is full, and so is the year and I can’t wait to wear my breezy silk shawl.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. So subscribe!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

I shear

I spend a weekend at Lena’s place, helping her shear her Dalapäls sheep while Dan skips around taking photos for my upcoming book Listen to the wool. I shear Parisa, Orkidé and Frida and learn from the wool producers themselves.

Dan and I drive an hour or so south to Lena, an experienced spinner, and her ten Dalapäls ewes. Usually she shears them a lot earlier, perhaps in early March, a few weeks before lambing. This year, though, the sheep are not in gestation, for the first time since she got them 18 years ago. Therefore there is no rush in getting them shorn.

Shearing prep

Since Lena got the sheep she has most of the time shorn them herself twice a year with hand shears. She has never owned a shearing table. Instead, she has simply placed the sheep in her lap and started shearing where she could and in no particular order. This time, though, she has borrowed two home-made shearing tables and is super excited. We place them facing each other in the middle of the narrow shearing pen. They have a remarkable resemblance to sheep.

A pen with two shearing tables, surrounded by baskets, boxes and bowls with apples.
The shearing tables that look like sheep. We’re all set for bringing out the flock.

We bring out the newly sharpened shears, boxes for spinning wool and garden wool respectively, pens to mark the boxes with the sheep’s names, all sorts of bribes, and fence in the narrow shearing pen. All the while Dan sharpens his lenses, ready to portray the flock.

A to Q

When Lena got the sheep she gave them names beginning with the letter A, and every year the names of the lambs begin with the next letter of the alphabet. Usually visiting children get to name them. Her oldest sheep now is Ester and the youngest Quinoa. Before Lena lets the sheep out from the shed I peak inside and meet Quinoa’s curious-cautious eyes.

Portrait of a white sheep peeking out from a loose board in a sheep shed. There is hay and straw in her fleece.
Quinoa peaks out from the sheep shed before we let them out to the shearing pen.

Lena herds the flock from the shed, through the larger pen and into the narrow pen. After a few minutes of sizzling and bleating, the sheep quieten and all we can hear is soft chewing. Lena shears Ester’s fine fleece while I work on the considerably younger Parisa, only 2 years old. The names come from two of Lena’s grandchildren. Since the sheep have had access to silage in a trough indoors during the winter, there is a lot of hay in their locks and we start by brushing the fleeces to remove some of it. The rhythmic motions seem to have a calming effect on the girls.

I shear

I have tried shearing twice before. The first time on a course in small-scale sheep farming back in 2014 (where it took three people three hours to shear one sheep). The second time was with Lena five years later, with her signature lap technique. I started, but after a while the sheep slithered away from my inexperienced grip. Lena caught her and had no trouble shearing two sheep in her lap.

Now, another five years later I am not sure whether I am any help to Lena or actually a burden. But even if my shearing skills need some sharpening, I know I can assist her where she needs an extra pair of hands.

Close-up of two half-mittened hands shearing a white sheep. Ridges across the body where the fleece is already shorn.
After a while I find a technique that works for me. In the upper right corner you can see how the fleece is denser toward the spine. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Parisa ruminates calmly as I place the shears with a trembling hand across her back. The rest of the sheep huddle together and mind their own business. Quinoa gently nibbles at the pull tab on my my leg pocket zipper.

The beginning is tricky; I need to find a spot along the spine where I can insert the tips of the shears in the dense fleece and open sort of a path from back to front. Once I have that it’s easier to follow and broaden. I fiddle, but after a while I find a method that works. Parisa is warm and and calm under my hands, and helps me find my confidence and work on my skills to make both her and the shorn fleece pretty. The lanolin glistens in the spring sun and my skin enjoys the moisturizing.

In the living room

Here I am, belly to belly with the sheep who has produced this magnificent wool as a shield against the elements, and it is my duty and privilege to free her of it. I won’t get any closer to the wool than this. I am in Parisa’s living room, exploring her habits through what I find – what seeds and plants are common in her pasture, what’s on the menu in her silage and what side she likes to sleep on. It’s all there.

Two sets of wool staples, one with around 8 centimeter rectangular shaped fine and crimpy staples. The other cone shaped, over 20 centimeter and straight with a wide base and narrow tips.
Typical staples from Frida (left) and Parisa (right).

What’s more, I get to experience the wool right on her back. I learn how the wool behaves and what wool quality grows where on her body, while she is breathing and chewing right underneath my hands. I go through every fiber with the shears, transforming them from her shield to a product for me. In return for this invaluable gift I have the responsibility to translate it into a shield for me, into the best yarn I can possibly make from the superpowers of this magnificent wool.

A woman spinning white wool straight from the newly shorn fleece, the sheep standing on the shearing table with the shorn fleece hanging down her sides.
I soak in everything I learn from Parisa’s wool as I shear. Photo by Dan Waltin

As I slowly shear my way through the layers of wool I find and remove larger pieces of vegetation matter, poo and my own second cuts. The wool I place in the bag is wonderfully clean and airy, the wool I remove will serve as fertilizer and soil improvement for my garden beds. For every inch I shear I learn something new. I welcome and cherish what Parisa has to teach me through her wool, right there in her living room.

Follow the curves

I do quite well over the back and down across the sides in sort of a saddle shape. But all of a sudden, the belly curves and I find myself shearing further and further from the skin. The thick fleece does nothing to help me understand the shape of the body and I need to change the angle and rethink my path for every layer I shear. Even further down the belly the skin is looser and the risk of breaking it is higher.

A hand reaching out to a newly shorn white sheep amongst in-shorn sheep.
A newly shorn Parisa.

Shearing truly takes concentration. Concave shapes around the leg insertions make me sweat and I shear smaller and smaller amounts with longer and longer pauses to breathe and assess where to go next. Parisa is approaching the height of her fleece denseness age (which I have leaned is around 3–4 years of age), but it turns out that her fleece gets even more challenging to penetrate; towards the belly the wool suddenly becomes considerably thicker and greasier, and I find it hard to even find a spot to insert the shears. Lena comes to my rescue and does the most difficult parts – belly, crotch, udders and neck.

As we finally open the neck holder and Parisa skips down on the ground, her flock sisters curiously sniff the assumed newcomer and start butting her. She is soon followed by Ester and the butting ceases slightly.

Spring and autumn shearing

We have a nourishing soup lunch in the afternoon sun and get back to work with another couple of sheep – Lena shears Nehne (whose autumn fleece I bought a couple of years ago to finish my two-end knitted jacket sleeves) and I Orkidé (Swedish for orchid). Her wool is even longer and a little more tricky to shear than Parisa’s, but I have a better technique now and my confidence is heightened.

Usually spring shorn wool has a lower quality than the autumn shorn wool. This has to do with the cold that results in more lanolin, indoor feeding, which can end up in the fleece, and gestation, where the fetuses can take lots of the nutrients. Since these ladies aren’t in gestation this year, the wool has an even quality over the length of the staples, be it a little greasier and with a little more vegetation matter. Lena reminds herself to buy silage without timothy next winter; we find lots of the miniature cigarrs that, tangled in a fleece, are ticking seed bombs.

Bad time for shearing

Both Parisa and Orkidé have patches of extremely dense wool, especially under the belly and along the spine, that Lena has never experienced before with her sheep. She asks around in social media and understands that April and May are the worst months for shearing sheep – this is peak lanolin time, while June is a month where the greasiest outgrowth has grown past the skin and left less greasy outgrowth underneath, according to some of the replies. Rumour has it that shearing in June works like butter.

A white sheep on a shearing table. She is shorn in a semi-circle shape across her back.
I work faster and more efficient as I shear Orkidé. Still, she has denser fleece and I need Lena’s help towards the belly, crotch and neck.

I give up on Orkidé way sooner than I did with Parisa – the lower side and belly wool is impossible to penetrate and I ask Lena to take over. She is of course way more experienced than I, and I assume the sheep feel safer with her fiddling with scissors at their crotches than a complete stranger and hopeless beginner. This doesn’t mean I can’t help, though – while Lena gives Orkidé a well needed pedicure I drape myself softly over the freshly shorn back like a weighted blanket. She calms down and I can feel her belly rumble against mine.

When Orkidé finally skips down from the table, shorn and trimmed, tiredness hits me in the head with a hammer. I realize I have focused deeply snip by snip for 2 x 2 hours.

Predators

Dalapäls sheep have traditionally grazed in the forest. For this reason they have a strong sense of the flock and are watchful for predators. We are in fact in wolf territory, and since a couple of years Lena brings her flock indoors every night. Her chicken coop next to the sheep pen is empty – all the chickens were taken a couple of years ago by what Lena believes to have been a ferret.

The flock instinct becomes very clear on the second day when we let them out from their shed. The aim is to drive them through the larger pen into the narrower shearing pen. The flock rushes out into the larger pen, but refuses to go into the shearing pen. They circle like a school of fish, constantly huddling fleece to fleece. Lena places me (the assumed preadator) in one corner of the larger pen while she herds them towards the other end and the entrance to the shearing pen.

Mud, grease and manure

After about ten minutes she succeeds and we can close the gate and scooch the next sheep onto the table. We choose Frida, who is old and has quite fine fleece that is considerably easier to shear than the fleeces of the two younger ewes I worked with the day before. We work together from the start this time – Lena with the hardcore spots and I on the breezy back and sides.

I’m tired today, my brain has worked overtime and processed all through the night. The rain makes my lanoliny hands slippery, the photos I take are all blurry through greasy lenses. But Frida’s fine fleece is so much easier to get through, though, and Lena and I have found a way to work together with a mutual understanding of what needs to be done and where. Frida is old and has more concave parts and loose skin. I need to find ways through the hollows and take extra care not to cut through her skin. As Lena does the hoof service with her rose snips, I once again drape myself over the warm sheep back. Lena decides to hold the shearing for the remaining five sheep a few weeks to see if it works better in June.

When Dan and I go back home we have two bags of manure in the trunk, beside a bag of poopy wool and two bags of spinning wool. Not many people would know what a treasure that is. A wave of gratitude rushes through me, for all I have learned from both two- and four-legged friends.

Tack, Lena!

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. So subscribe!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • 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.

Doris and Härvor

Back in October I helped my friend Claudia with the fleeces in the autumn shearing. I brought the fleeces from the Gestrike sheep Doris and Härvor home, and I bet they hadn’t taken the bus before!

Just a few days earlier I had cuddled these two wooly ladies at a pasture photo shoot for my book. Getting to create yarn with fleeces whose sheep I have met and shared breaths with made me realize what a special opportunity that was, and it gave me an extra tingle in my heart.

A bus stop in the countryside. On a blue and yellow bench stand two paper bags with fleece.
Doris and Härvor take the bus to the city.

You can read more about the two visits to Claudia’s farm in the essay style post A breath of wool.

A secret mission

A few weeks ago I talked with A, a wooly artist who will remain secret for a while longer. She is working on a secret project and I suggested a collaboration: that I would send her handspun yarns from the fleeces of Doris and Härvor and she would incorporate them in her project. She loved the idea and we started to plan our different ends of the process. A and I don’t know each other and have never met, it is just one of those sweet Instagram connections that make my heart sing once again.

Typical and not

Neither of the fleeces is typical of Gestrike wool. The most common staple type in a Gestrike fleece would be a dual coat with long and strong outercoat fibers and soft and airy undercoat fibers. But it could just as easily be another dominant staple type. At the same time, Gestrike wool can be very variegated. The white locks from Doris’ fleece are very fine and crimpy and with a soft sheen, almost like a finull fleece.

Härvor’s locks are more mixed, with both straight and crimpy staples, long and shorter, white and grey. A little rougher than Doris’ fleece, but still soft. Since the wool of Gestrike sheep tends to lighten as the sheep grows, chances are that Härvor was born a lot darker, perhaps with white spots.

The yarns

A gave med creative freedom with the yarns. I decided on two fingering-ish weight 2-ply knitting yarns. I wanted to create them so that A would be able to use them for the same project, should she want to, perhaps in a stranded colourwork. With that as my starting point I aimed for two yarns that had the same qualities, even if they came from fleeces that did not.

I had already picked the locks right after the fleeces had dried after washing, so my hands had already made their acquaintance with the wool. In the next step I teased for each fleece around 50 grams of wool with my combing station. I wanted lots of loft in the yarns and decided on woolen spinning in one of my favourite techniques: English longdraw. So I carded my teased wool into the sweetest rolags and took my seat at the wheel.

Treadles and twist

English longdraw means that you gather twist in front of the rolag, make around an arm’s length draw to let the twist travel up the drawn section, and then add the final twist before you allow the spun yarn to roll up on the bobbin. As I do this I like to keep a consistent treadle count – in this case I treadle six to gather twist, make the draw, treadle ten to add twist, and then roll the yarn onto the bobbin. This gives the technique a beautiful rhythm, and also a consistency. Together with a similar counting in the carding, a yarn spun this way has the potential to become very consistent.

I used the same rhythm for both yarns and they turned out quite similar to each other and landed on a grist of 1700 and 1790 meters per kilo. The Doris skein may have a little more elasticity since her wool has more crimp than Härvor’s. I have cuddled these skeins numerous times, or just admired them. Today I sent them to A, so I will have to just cherish the memory of them. And, of course, I have the rest of the bags of fleece left, and I may spin them the same way as these first two skeins.

A new journey

So, Doris and Härvor are going on a new journey. This time in the shape of yarns and probably in a truck, but still, a journey to a new town and to a new home. I wonder how A will give them a new shape. I hope they all get along and that A can make Doris and Härvor shine! I’ll let you know when the secret isn’t a secret anymore.

Resources

Do you want to dive deeper? Here are some resources.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. So subscribe!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • 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.

Writing retreat

One year ago I took Beth Kempton’s Book proposal Masterclass. With the help of the proposal I got an agent in August and a book deal with a U.S. publisher in September. This week I have been on a solo writing retreat, finishing the tenth chapter of my book, Listen to the wool.

If you are a patron (or want to become one) you can see more from my writing retreat in my April 2024 video postcard.

I was thrilled when I found Beth Kempton’s virtual writing retreat Breathe, Write, Repeat, and realized that I could go away on a solo writing retreat. I booked an airbnb tiny house by a lake six months ago and I have been longing for it ever since. And now I am here.

Monday

As I roll my suitcase through the train station in Stockholm, people stand at the escalators handing out discount coupons. I board the train to Falun, a town three hours north west of my home in Stockholm. After an hour and a half I see melting snow on the fields that fly by as I point my wooden needle up-down, back and under the nalbinding loops around my thumb. My suitcase is heavy with laptop, mousetrapper, keyboard, books, yoga stuff, ice bath stuff and, yeah, some clothes tool.

A person nalbinding with a wooden needle on a train. In the background a jacket sleeve with embroidered flowers.
I’m nalbinding my way to Falun.

Falun welcomes me with a sweet afternoon sun as the train arrives at the station. The gravel from the winter’s de-icing is still on the bare ground and I need to drag my suitcase along the streets rather than roll it elegantly.

A booklet featuring a black and white picture of woman writing on a sheet of paper. She is dressed in early 20th century clothing. The title of the book is Selma Lagerlöf and Falun.
Selma Lagerlöf spent a lot of time in Falun writing. She even mentions the lake Varpan (where my airbnb is situated) in her book The wonderful adventures of Nils.

I don’t have access to my airbnb for a couple of hours, so I sit down at a café. On a shelf on the wall beside me is a booklet about the nobel prize laureate Selma Lagerlöf, who apparently wrote some of her most famous books in Falun. I see it as a good sign of what this town has to offer writewise.

Chocolate conundrum

I do some grocery shopping and hesitate at the chocolate stand. Perhaps I should buy myself a bar of 70 per cent chocolate? Nah, I think, I can’t buy more than the essentials or I’ll sink under the weight of my luggage. I pay for my few products and walk even less elegantly to the bus stop.

After a final walk on a puddled gravel road I finally arrive at my lodging. When I open the door, full of excitement, I see a bar of 70 per cent chocolate on the kitchen table. I smile, put the groceries in the fridge and walk down to the lake to check out the hole in the ice for my morning baths.

Tuesday

And so my writing retreat has begun, actually-really-no-kidding. This is the time I have carved out for myself to breathe, write and repeat. I feel giddy and terrified. What if I can’t deliver, then what? What if I can deliver, then what? But I do as I always do, I start, and trust that the words will flow. I doubt, I do, but then I dance. Or look at the lake, get some fresh air, do what I can to dissolve any blockages that sneak up on me.

A woman bathing in a hole in a frozen lake.
A sweet morning dip in lake Varpan.

After my first morning writing session I take a bath in the lake, giddy of excitement over a new tub. The ice is still thick, at least 20 centimeters, but the hosts have maintained the hole through the winter and it is majestic and inviting. Silence cushions me as I sink into the cold and listen to the wind in the trees and my singing heart.

The privilege of getting lost

After a total of four and a half hours of writing with relaxing Japanese music in my ears, I call it a day. The hosts have offered me to borrow a bike, so I roll in to the town center, get lost a couple of times and smile at having the privilege of getting lost in a new town. I imagine I am Helena Bonham Carter’s Lucy Honeychurch in Edwardian dress, lost in streets of Florence, enjoying the view over the Arno, only my Arno is Faluån and I wear hiking pants and I have no poor cousin Charlotte to hold me back.

An old mitten in what looks like salt chrystals.
The born mitten, the oldest find of two-end knitting, carbon dated to between 1490 and 1645.

I walk through the textile department of the Dalarna museum. My heart tingles as I see the Born mitten, the oldest find of two-end knitting, carbon dated to between 1490 and 1645.

A house tour

When I browsed for locations and accommodations I had a few requirements. I wanted a tiny house in two floors with one bedroom. For some reason I imagined that it would feel safe to be in a small space. I wanted a vast view of a lake and large windows where I could work and watch the view. Of course I wanted a bathing ladder close by too. I needed nature around me, but also a reasonably short distance to a town for inspiration and food.

A woman writing on a laptop by a large window. A red barn, a bitch and rocks outside.
A room with a view.

This house is perfect. The living room has large windows over the lake. I sit at the kitchen table and see only nature. On the top floor, which only covers half the floor space, there is a small bedroom. An old iron gate works as a border between the landing and the open ground floor. A small window by the kitchen sink to peak out on the yard, floor heating all over and a large bathroom. I couldn’t ask for more.

Wednesday

A new day of writing, and I feel confident that I will finish this chapter here. It’s an empowering feeling. I write, take a dip, write some more, meditate, write in another spot and dance. Being able to retreat into a space of my own with no one to answer to or consider does wonders for my writing process. Even if I get blocked – and I do – I have tools to shift the block and allow the words to flow again. My mind is focused.

Giraffes and patisseries

I write for five hours today. The two squirrels that live in a tree nearby skip around on the rock in front of the house every now and then as if to remind me to lift my gaze. My optician tells me to look at the giraffes on the savannah. Our eyes were not constructed for screens, he argues, and we need to use them the way they were intended, to look for predators and danger. So I take the bike to town again to look for some giraffes. Not that I would consider them dangerous, I only decided on giraffes. I find my way through town better now, but even if I take the wrong bike lane from time to time, I know I will get to my destination sooner or later.

A person cross stitching letters, forming the words ”Jag skriver”, meaning I write. In the background a teacup and a carrot cake.
Carrot cake, cross stitching and writing. The words Jag skriver mean I write.

I bring my computer to a patisserie in an eighteenth century building and enjoy the sound of rattling teacups and giggling schoolgirls. It feels very grown up to sit with a cup of tea and a carrot cake and edit my chapter. Perhaps Selma Lagerlöf wrote in this patisserie too as she too enjoyed tea and cake.

An oasis among the barns

As I get back to the house I smile at how thoughtfully it has been placed. While it is in a natural garden with the hosts’ house next door and barns and cars all over the yard, the windows are placed in a way that I only see the lake, the trees and the sky when I look out.

A red barn wall with lichen growing on the roof panel.
Lichen and barns. Could you ask for more?

When I do my yoga practice in the morning I see the surrounding nature from different perspectives – sideways, tilted and upside down. It helps me to see different perspectives in my writing as well. In my evening yoga I see nothing but a single light at the other end of the lake, contrary to the bright city I see across my own lake at home.

Thursday

I did it. I finished the tenth chapter of my book, and the manuscript is officially halfway done. The feeling is a sweet mix of accomplishment and horror – I’m over the moon about what I have achieved so far, yet in doubt whether I can really write another ten chapters. But I start the eleventh and keep dancing.

I realize that I have managed to leave my regular life at home. My mind hasn’t bothered with laundry, wool baskets, work or garden planning. I have just been here in my nature cushioned writing bubble, writing myself and my heart into new horizons.

Wild and unrestrained

I break my schedule today, taking more pauses to breathe and move, watching more inspirational videos from the virtual retreat, writing wildly and unrestrained in upcoming chapters that appeal to me in the moment. I want to squeeze out every drop of writerly juices this last day of my writing sanctuary, I want to see what I can make of it and how I can look back on this first one. Because there will be more. Going away like this with my words as my travel companion has expanded my writing mind, and I am grateful. Frankly, also a little proud, that I have put this together on my own, moved through town and worked with dedication and joy.

Friday

It has rained all night and somebody has rolled a foggy blanket over the lake. I pack my things and clean the house while sorting my thoughts and experiences from this writerly bubble. Today I just listen to the rain when I write.

A window with a lit candle, a teacup and two books. Outside a red barn and a snow covered lake.
Closing ceremony in my first ever writing retreat.

There is a closing ceremony in the battery of videos for the virtual writing retreat. I’m reluctant to start it, I don’t want this retreat to end. But I do, and reflect over what these days have given me, and have a sweet moment of tying the retreat ends together. It will require more time to process, though.

A new writer

I am a new writer now. I know what I am capable of and what time in a bubble can do for my writing. During these few days I have explored new ways of letting the words flow and new contexts for them to flow in. I have a writing retreat in my heart now. Whenever I feel lost I can go back in my mind to the lake, the vastness and the trees, to the dancing with my words.

It’s funny, the chapter I finished is called In the bubble. In it I reflect over the process of spinning as an equally important as the produced yarn. And here I am, in a writing bubble, throwing myself fearlessly into the writing process with heart and soul.

Even though I return home with the same things I brought here, my suitcase feels lighter. The weight of the first half of my book has been lifted and I walk towards the train with a spring in my step. When I come back to Stockholm main station, the same people hand out the same discount coupons at the same escalators as four days ago. How come they don’t see that everything has changed now?

The next ten

A couple of days after I came home I did the last editing of my my first ten chapters. With trembling hands and a beating heart I sent my half-baby to my editor and turned my focus to the upcoming ten. I wonder what gifts they will bring me.

A woman writing on a keyboard. A cross-stitch sign on the door says ”Jag skriver”, meaning I write.
Back home I keep writing the remaining ten chapters.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. So subscribe!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • 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.

The anatomy of a chapter

The anatomy of a chapter is complicated, involving sensations and dimensions you may never have heard of before. But they are definitely there and they turn up when you least expect it.

The words on the cross-stitch embroidery in the featured image says Jag skriver (I write).

I was reflecting over this one early morning on my bike ride to work, wind blowing in my hair and speed boosting me with freedom.

A blob

At first glance, I thought as I whooshed past an early dog walker, a chapter is just a large and shapleless monstrosity. When I took Beth Kempton’s Book proposal Masterclass we initially referred to the proposal as a blob that we poked from different angles to shape the proposal. To me, a chapter is also a monstrous blob, an entity with shape and no shape, a mass and no mass, and an inner world that won’t reveal itselves unless I work for it.

The blob structure

I have no idea how to approach the chapter blob, so I do the most obvious, I poke it. Once, to see what happens. Perhaps it responds and leaves a little feedback, and a dimple in the surface. Once again I poke, from another angle, with a new response. I keep poking, and the more I poke the blob, the more dimples linger on the surface. All of a sudden, all the dimples are connected, revealing a web, an outer structure. Some call this a disposition, but what do they know? I’m convinced the technical term is blob structure. It works kind of like a blueprint of a building, but it won’t reveal who lives inside.

The sea weed and tingle rooms

Iit’s time to go beneath the surface and see what the blob is made of. It turns out, it’s everything I never dreamed of, Mary Poppins’ bag, the room of requirement and Alice’s Wonderland all at the same time.

There are rooms in the blob, which I need to find, enter and move between to understand. The thing is, the rooms can be made of just about anything – cushiony moss, seaweed, angry ducklings or that tingle you feel when your feet are asleep. I need to figure out how to get into the rooms and how to move about in them. Perhaps cuddle the ducklings underneath their beaks, make a swing for the moss or paint the seaweed’s toes with sparkling nailpolish. I may need to enter the rooms backwards, sideways or walking on my hands.

The common thread

All the rooms are connected by a common thread. If I don’t find the common thread I will never get out of the blob. Just to make things even more challenging, sometimes I find more doors than I actually need. That’s when it’s time to decide which doors will get me to the next room and which are just dead ends.

When I have discovered and made sense of all the rooms, found the common thread and come out of the blob alive, it’s time to celebrate, I made it! I am most definitely exhausted, wrung out like a dish rag and, frankly, a bit tired of seaweed, but nevertheless a star! My grand prize is another blob to discover, only it has a completely different structure from the last one. I need to get back to poking again. I wonder what the rooms are made of in this one.


When I arrived at the office bike room I realized that I hadn’t felt the cold and I couldn’t remember what I had seen along the way, I had been exploring the anatomy of a chapter and writing this blog post in my mind since I started pedaling. I had literally written myself to work and my body felt utterly relaxed and balanced.

This past week I stayed in a tiny house on my solo writing retreat. I will tell you more about it in an upcoming blog post!

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write weekly posts, mainly about spinning. So subscribe!
  • 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 or to book me for a lecture.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons are an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
  • 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.

Survey results: Keeping records

Two weeks ago I sent out a survey about record keeping in spinning, and today I share some interesting results.

I am currently writing a chapter about keeping records in my upcoming book Listen to the wool. I created the survey to include other perspectives on record keeping than just my own.

263 of you answered the survey and I thank you all very much for contributing to the book with thoughtful reflections about different aspects of record keeping. This was the first ever survey I have made and I have loved reading your replies. They were very valuable for my book, but I will also share some results and thoughts here.

Written and physical documentation

First of all, I was curious about what the respondents document and when. Many of them kept written records of things like tools, techniques, breed, sheep owner, and different calculations like weight and length of the yarn, and fleece to yarn yield.

When it came to physical documentation fewer people documented, but the most common type of physical documentation was by far yarn samples. The most common time for documentation was at wool preparation, spinning and after finishing the yarn. Many sheep owners also kept records at the time of shearing.

A flora of record keeping systems

I also asked the respondents to comment on their written and physical record keeping and whether they document in the same way and the same things. It turned out that there is a wide variety of ways people document and. Some respondents expressed their curiosity about other spinners’ ways of keeping records. One respondent even offered to show me their system for documentation, and I’m meeting them this weekend.

Systematic record keeping

Some seem to document very systematically with samples of staples, yarns and swatches in different techniques in books and binders, transparent plastic pockets or in a card index. Many of these respondents seemed to document the same way and the same things through all their projects. At this point I really regretted not asking for pictures of their documentation, people seemed to have so many interesting systems.

Small scale documentation

Some kept their records to a minimum, perhaps just a sample by the spinning wheel or a label on the finished skein. “I’ll spin and swatch, make a decision and plunge forward”. Some saved swatches with inventive ideas as memory aids:

“I especially love to save swatches knitted at different gauges and in different patterns. This type of documentation is useful to me. I tie knots in the yarn tail to tell me what needle size I used.”

Others developed their record keeping through the years, perhaps starting in a small scale and working up a system as they learned. Or the other way around – starting big, with lots of details documented, and making it smaller as they learned. One respondent expressed their system like this:

I tend to document the things I find interesting and the details that I think will help me make best use of the finished yarn.”

16 per cent of the respondents didn’t do any written documentation at all and 25 per cent didn’t do any physical documentation. However, I know some people said didn’t answer the survey at all because they don’t do any documentation.

Storage issues and solution

Some respondents mentioned storage as an issue, after many years of spinning there simply wasn’t enough space to keep all the records. Some had inventive solutions for keeping and storing records: “Sample cards are great references, I keep in my mom’s old wooden recipe file box. I can easily get out a card with information about spinning a particular breed or using a specific technique to help with a future project.”

What do you use your documentation for?

There were lots of interesting answers to this question. Many respondents kept their records for their own education,

“it isn’t just about keeping a record so I can spin the same yarn at a later date, it is about a growth in my crafting.”

Some keep records to remember what they had done, especially if they knew there would be periods when they wouldn’t spin. Some kept their records for consistency and for matching yarns with other yarns. Yet some did it for nostalgic reasons.

“I always tell myself that it’s a good idea to have records. So far, they haven’t changed my life much—I’ve never really gone back and tried to re-create a yarn I made a long time ago. But it’s nice to have a record.”

I especially love this quote:

“Some times I just like to page through my records for inspiration or to see my own progress, like a photo album but for my yarn children.”

A few respondents kept their records for a combination of reasons. Here is one example:

“I use the documentation to develop my learning of handling of the wool and the creativity, but also to just allow the senses to dominate as I have my hands in the wool or the swatch, letting my thoughts rest, come and go.”

(my translation from Swedish)

“Because I should be doing it”

Some respondents expressed that they were unsure of why they were keeping records and whether they were doing it enough or the “right” way.

“I haven’t started documenting yet. I suppose I should in order to be more consistent in my spinning. Being self taught, I’m not always sure what to document for better spinning”

In this context some seem to feel a pressure to keep records, from both the spinning community and from spinning teachers. Here are a couple of examples:

“Mostly to assuage guilt that I should be doing it! (As in, this is what good spinners do, right??)”

and

“people seem to think you have to, so there’s always conversation about it”.

As a spinning teacher I take this seriously. I need to find ways to talk about why I keep records of my spinning process and encourage my students to play with their wool without feeling obligated to keep records for the sake of keeping records. What can we as a spinning community do to make people feel comfortable documenting just for themselves or not at all?

Spin for pleasure or spin for numbers?

One interesting reflection made by quite a few respondents were about a feeling of a dichotomy between keeping records and spinning for the process – that keeping records somehow stood in the way of the spinning experience and joy.

“The pleasure of spinning is the most important reason I do it. Keeping documentation is not pleasant for me. I keep minimal written information on my ravelry page for handspun.”

One respondent took the dichotomy to a deeper level in their reflections:

”I have a divided feeling towards documentation. I can enjoy pretty labels and love to be organized. But I also struggle against the feeling of what isn’t documented isn’t worth anything. So I can wish that I documented more and that I documented less? I like to document, but perhaps I wish I didn’t? I wish that not everything needed to be a documented experience to fall back on but just something pleasant that I engaged in for a while and that later was allowed to be forgotten.”

(my translation from Swedish)

For me, record keeping is no hindrance for enjoying the spinning process. Record keeping and enjoying the process coexist in my spinning and are mutually beneficial. Can it be that a feeling of record keeping as a must stands in the way of the joy of the process? Perhaps we need to reflect more over why we keep records rather than assume everybody does it because they should.

A white paper with eight different yarn samples attached to it, each with a short hand written explanation of the technique.
Eight different yarn samples from one fleece.

Again, thank you all who participated in the survey. The results really helped me sharpen the structure and content. I have now almost finished the 9th chapter of the book. After the next chapter I’m half way through the manuscript!

Happy spinning!


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