Crafting leadership course

A sheep made of wire

Since september I have been taking a craft leadership course at Slöjd Stockholm. The overall focus of the course is all kinds of crafting for kids, although my personal focus is spinning courses for intermediate to experienced adults. Each class runs a whole day and during the class we mix theory with practice and discussions. We have crafted with recycled textiles, wire, wool (of course), paper and wood and with techniques such as felting, braiding, bending, printing and carving.

Hopefully the course will help me become a better spinning teacher and give me ideas of new and exciting spinning classes.

A felted sheep head
Of course I had to needle felt a sheep!

Our common love of crafting

The participants have very different backgrounds, everything from DIY-ers to museum educators and archaeologists. But we have our love for crafting in common. And this has turned out to be a very strong trait. We understand each other. We know what it means to give in to the material and the process of making and we respect each other’s artistry and creativity. And most importantly: We all know the power of being in the making.

A cloth bird with colourful embroidery
Homework over the holidays: Make an embroidered cloth bird!

Five minutes after we have started crafting the room is totally quiet, but at the same time full of activity. Everyone is deeply focused on the making. Nobody knows what the others are doing, but we all know that our minds are deeply and joyfully engaged in the crafting process. It is such a bliss to realize that we all share this deep love and respect for the materials and the making.

The beauty of the materials

Today was carving day. We worked with axe, knife and shaving horse. The smell of the fresh wood and the cool feeling against my hands gave me goosebumps. The satisfaction of making a raw piece of wood flat and smooth with the draw knife in the shaving horse really surprised me. And who knew carving with an axe could be so much fun!

A carved insect
We made (sp)insects with the help of knives, drawknives and axes.

The crafting mind

After the course I needed to get some fruit, so I went in to the mall nearby. And I had a massive culture shock. From the crafting room filled with creativity, flow and concentrated joy to bright lights, commercialism and plastic. From sweet music that makes my heart tingle to white noise that gets in the way of my thoughts. I made a mental note about what crafting does for me. Perhaps more people should try it.

I enter the space of making
where the making makes me

(from my spinning video For the love of spinning)

Plying in Mongolia

Next in our journey around the spinning world is Mongolia. I found this wonderful clip of a woman singing and plying in a Mongolian yurt.

The spindle and the technique looks similar to the ones in Nepal I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. The spindle is quite long with a top whorl and she starts the spinning by rolling it against her thigh. She looks quite happy and, frankly, so would I, spinning in the coziness of a yurt.

Ancient spinning technique in Ecuador

First of all: Happy St Distaff’s day! I’m celebrating with some distaff spinning of my own and watching spinning videos.

I found a couple of inspiring clips of some beautiful and very old distaff spinning technique in Ecuador. The spindle is held almost horizontally in the outer end and the thread goes over the spindle tip closest to the distaff. In the first video the spinner is using wool and has a belt distaff.

In the second video the spinner is using cotton and a separate floor distaff. She is also rolling the yarn onto a temporary cop, just like I do when I spin supported. Now and then she dips her spinning hand in what looks like water, perhaps to get a better grip on the spindle.

Spinning playlists on YouTube

I have tried to organize my YouTube channel by making playlists. This way, it will hopefully be easier for you to find what you are looking for. For example, I have made playlists of how-to videos on support spindle spinning, Navajo spindle spinning and plying. I also made a separate playlist of documentary style spinning, including my Slow fashion 1 and 2, Spinning through the seasons and my latest video For the love of spinning. Finally, I made two playlists of videos that are not my own: One on spinning with distaff and/or in-hand spinning (I will write more about this technique in upcoming posts) and one of spinning around the world (with some of the videos I have written about lately).

Spinning in Nepal

I found a few videos of people spinning in Nepal. First off is a woman spinning suspended on a bottom whorl spindle. I think there is a notch at the top of the shaft. She spins wool from a ball of what I think is pre-drafted roving. She pulls out a length first and butterflies it on her spinning hand and starts the spindle between the palm of her hands.

In the second video two women are spinning on similar spindles with the same technique and the balls of roving attached to their belts. They also lead the thread over the top of their heads. As a bonus, the third woman is carrying her child in a sling on her back, something that brings back sweet memories from when we carried our youngest in all sorts of slings.

In the third video, a man is spinning on a spindle that looks the same as in the first two videos. He has arranged his roving (yak?) around his wrist and spins in-hand style.

Eventhough all the spinners are standing, the videos show spinning arranged for mobility. The tools and techniques are adapted to a moving life. Staying in the same place doesn’t seem to be relevant.

In a fourth video, a man is spinning nettle with an in-hand spinning style. The spindle looks completely different from the three above. The strick of hemp is arranged somehow, either on a distaff or over the spinner’s shoulder, it is hard to tell from the video.

That’s all for today!

Support spinning and walking

This lady in northern India is spinning on a support spindle. However, she doesn’t have the time to just sit and spin, so she has arranged a spoon-like tool to act as a bowl, fastened in her apron. This way she can spin while she is walking. The man interviewing her says she is spinning wool, but it does look more like cotton to me.

I was really inspired when I saw this video and a little over a year ago I tried to do the same. I shot a silly little video with support spinning with a spoon while walking. Enjoy!

New spinning video: For the love of spinning

Josefin Waltin spinning on a support spindle. Mountains in the background

I have finished another spinning video!

This time I haven’t done the filming myself, so the quality is much better. My husband was behind the camera, which means I had a great photographer and a great camera. And my fourteen year old made the sweet yarnimations. Locations are at home in Stockholm, in the Sazkammergut area in Austria and in Tiveden, Sweden, which are all my favourite places.

I had an idea of a spinning video with just beautiful spinning in beautiful scenery, to illustrate sort of a poem, an ode to spinning. So, during the summer we scouted locations wherever we went, and tripod, camera and spindle was set up where the spot was spot on. I saved all the clips for winter, so that I could make a beautiful spinning video at a time when I would miss light and summer the most.

I got the music from the Free music archive.

Spinning tools from Malcolm Fielding, Kromski, Jenkins yarn tools, Roosterick and Neal Brand.

Enjoy!

For the love of spinning

When I spin
I feel the wool in my hands
each fiber
through its journey
from sheep to yarn
I hear the quiet hum of the spindle tip
I see the wheel turning
chasing its own shadow
in the sunlight

When I spin
I absorb the rhythm
the treadling of my feet
the flicking of the spindle
the movement of my hands
between spun and unspun
a motion with no beginning
and no end

When I spin
time stops
I receive the gift of weightlessness
and enter another dimension
I allow my thoughts to come and go
focused
without holding back
without forcing
in the gentle flow
of meditation
finding the space between my thoughts
I enter the space of making
where the making makes me

When I spin
the memories
of sound, vision and rhythm
are captured in the yarn
as if they were fibers
Mistakes are spun into the thread
the stories they tell
All the choices I have made along the way
make a map of what I have learned
like an echo

The more I spin, the deeper it goes
From the sensation
through the rhythm
into my mind
fueling my experience
going back into my fingers
round and round
like the spinning itself

When I spin
the air around me smiles
the sunlight dusts my yarn with golden sparkle
and I thank all sheep for the gift of wool
I become a better me
because of the love
of spinning.

English long draw

a hand wound ball of dark grey yarn

A while ago I came across the term English long draw. I saw a video by Longdrawjames where he showed and explained the English long draw and the importance of good carding. With this technique you build up the twist in an unspun piece of rolag while pinching the yarn with your spinning hand, pull the rolag back and unpinch the spinning hand, build up twist and then the yarn roll onto the bobbin in one smooth motion. Ruth McGregor has made a beautiful and relaxing video where it all looks really easy. She also shows how to hand card. Amanda Hannaford of mandacraft also made a great videos that shows and explains the technique.

As with all spinning, the preparation is crucial. You need to be able to make even rolags with your hand carders. If you leave uneven parts in the rolags, the spinning will be more difficult and the yarn will be equally uneven. And with uneven yarn, the twist will be uneven, making it more difficult to ply and risking lots of unintentional pigtails in the thinnest sections.

I have spun with this technique for a while now, but rather on a Navajo spindle than on a spinning wheel. If you look closely at Navajo spinning (at least the way I do it), you can see that it is the same technique. In this video I show the technique, especially in the slow motion section. I do tend to build up my twist in slightly bigger chunks of the rolag. Then I add twist in arm length sections, but otherwise it is practically the same.

A few days ago I decided to finally try it on my spinning wheel. It was a bit tricky at first, but after a while I got the hang of it!

I have not made a video about this. Yet. I need to practice a bit more first and wait for the spring so that I can shoot the video outside. And I will use white wool. In the meantime, look at the videos I mentioned and repeat this mantra:

  1. Build up the twist in a few inches of rolag
  2. Draw out the fiber hand until your reach your desired yarn thickness
  3. Add more twist for a stronger yarn
  4. Let the yarn roll onto the bobbin in one smooth motion

And Voilá! A yarn is spun!

In my experience, the English long draw leaves a more even yarn than with what to me is a traditional long draw (or does it have another name in comparison to the English?). The draw is longer and you have more control of the process. I also believe that I can get a more controlled rhythm with the English long draw.

Happy spinning!

A 3-ply sport weight yarn spun with English long draw from hand-carded rolags. The wool is combing leftovers from Shetland sheep (Eskit).

Spindle stick and distaff spinning in Romania

A short clip of a Romanian woman spinning with a spindle stick and distaff. She is holding the spindle stick horizontally and spins it into a bulky and low-twist yarn by tossing and turning the spindle in her hand. She has arranged the fiber beautifully on the distaff, there must be over 200 grams of wool on it!

Norman Kennedy also demonstrates this technique in his video From wool to walking: Spinning wool and creating cloth with Norman Kennedy (preview of the video), available on Interweave.