Dancing the Navajo spindle

I have a new video for you today! In the video I’m dancing the Navajo spindle. The technique and cooperation between the hands remind me of a choreographed dance.

The weft yarn for the shawl I’m wearing in the video was spun on a Navajo spindle. You can see how I made the shawl here.

In the beech forest

The video was shot on a May day in a beech forest just in time for the spring flushing. The light was magical with the fresh newborn green on a background of the smooth, almost bewitching warm grey trunks. This is a small beech forest near Dan’s childhood home and less than an hour away from our house. We like to visit it on festive times like early May for the spring flushing and mid-October for the peak of the sparkling autumn leaves fireworks. It is the perfect location for photo and video shoots and for letting your shoulders relax and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature.

A woman sitting on a tree trunk and spinning on a ground-supported spindle. A basket of carded wool on the ground beside her. She is wearing a T-shirt with a sheep on it and a woven plaid shawl.
Dancing the Navajo spindle. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Dan was behind the camera (his fancy one) for the shooting of this video, hence the beautiful quality. He can’t shoot all my videos for me, so it is an extra treat for me when he does have time to help me. He has the right eye for the motif, composition, the sense of the perfect light and colour scheme and the artistic and technical experience for a beautiful shot. We have a lot of fun on these occasions and I like to think the interplay between us shows in the video. Moreover, I can flirt shamelessly with the camera man!

Words or no words?

At first I had planned to add keywords to the video describing my technique. But when I saw the beautiful shots I was afraid that a tutorial style would ruin the artistic perspective in the video. So for a while I planned to skip text altogether. Then one night when I had trouble sleeping I knew exactly what to do – I wanted to match the artistic perspective in the video with sort of poetic style reflections on the spinning technique.

Dancing

When Dan and I first met in our late teens we took dancing classes together. First jive, then on to ballroom dancing and later Argentine tango. To me, spinning on a Navajo spindle has many similarities with dancing as it includes leading and following, technical and artistic aspects and choreographed and improvised sequences.

Dancing the Navajo spindle

The moves are alternately bold and subtle, following each other in a balanced wave. Both hands lead and follow through different parts of the dance in a power balance between two equal partners.

Both hands so light on spindle and fiber, still controlled and ready for the instructions from their choreography master – the wool. The spindle hand sets the spindle in motion and a never-ending series of pirouettes. Meanwhile, the fiber hand mindfully follows the movements, waiting for the moment to gently take over the lead. When the twist is right the spindle hand surrenders the control in favour of the fiber hand that magically drafts the fiber into a smooth and even yarn.

The union between spun and unspun in the drafting zone is the heart of the dance, the spot where all the energy is created and transmitted to the hands. Fiber is transformed from cloudy mist to organized yarn in a cyclic motion lovingly shared between mindful and experienced hands. All the hands need to do is listen and dance the wool away.

A woman sitting on a tree trunk and spinning on a ground-supported spindle. A basket of carded wool on the trunk beside her. She is wearing a T-shirt with a sheep on it and a woven plaid shawl.
The hands just need to listen to the wool and dance the wool away. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The technical steps

I do like to animate spinning. Spinning is such a large part of my life and I see so much beauty and art in the craft. Animating the spinning becomes sort of a celebration of the beauty of it and a nod in recognition from my soul to the soul of spinning. But I realize dancing the Navajo spindle may not be everyone’s cup of tea. So here is a more technical description of the steps.

Since none of the hands really is on the yarn the hands need to communicate through the yarn, pretty much like a tin can telephone. The energy of the twist and the drafting is transmitted to the hands and you can actually feel it. If you allow your hands to listen carefully they will understand how to react to the different signals. The yarn thus acts like the coreographer – through both planned (the general cycle from fluff to stuff) and improvised signals (stuff happen on the way) the yarn, or rather the energy in the yarn, tells the hands what to do when. The hands follow the guidance from the yarn.

A woman sitting on a tree trunk and spinning on a ground-supported spindle. A basket of carded wool on the trunk beside her. She is wearing a T-shirt with a sheep on it and a woven plaid shawl.
The spun yarn works like a tin can phone and transmits the signals from the yarn to the hands that in turn take action. Photo by Dan Waltin.

This is how I spin on a Navajo spindle:

Both hands are very light – the spindle hand on the shaft and the fiber hand holding the rolag very lightly, like a baby bird. In fact, I tell my students to name their baby bird to be aware of the grip and not strangle sweet Kajsa (a rolag name borrowed from my most recent spinning class). You don’t want to strain your wrists and you don’t want to squish the rolag.

  1. The spindle hand sets the spindle in motion while the fiber hand follows the movements of the spindle.
  2. Now, here comes the first step of the double draft: When there is enough twist in the fiber, the fiber hand drafts the fiber while the spindle hand acts as the antagonist. I draft an arm’s length.
  3. When my arm doesn’t reach any longer but the yarn isn’t drafted enough I store the excess yarn between the pinkie and thumb of my fiber hand, always keeping the yarn taut.
  4. In the second step of the double draft I insert more twist when I need to. To even out the yarn I open up the twist by drafting some more. I can also pin-point uneven parts by rolling the yarn against the twist with my spindle hand thumb to allow the fibers to pass each other smoothly. You can read more about opening up the twist in my post about the Twist model (including examples from Navajo spindle spinning).
  5. I store the spun yarn in a temoporary upper cop.
  6. Repeat steps 1–5 until the rolag is all spun up.
  7. Then I transfer the yarn to the permanent lower cop. I use my fiber hand as a middle station. I butterfly the yarn between my thumb and pinkie. When all the yarn is on the fiber hand I roll it onto the lower cop, supporting the spindle either on the ground or on my hip.
  8. To join in a new rolag I simply place the end of the yarn on top of the rolag and insert twist.

I watch the yarn at all times. This is the beauty of spindle spinning – it is slow enough for the spinner to watch the yarn in the making at all times. You have the opportunity to control the quality up close. Use it.

A woman sitting on a tree trunk and holding a floor-supported spindle. She is reaching down into a basket of white carded rolags.
Well prepared rolags are essential in Navajo spindle spinning. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The prep of the fiber is essential in all spinning, and perhaps especially in the (English) long draw. Read my post and watch my video about teasing wool and carding rolags if you need an update on hand-carding.

A woman spinning on a ground-supported spindle. Large castle gates in the foreground.
The gates to the castle the beech forest belongs to. Photo by Dan Waltin

Dan and I had a wonderful time in the spring beech forest. We went back in early November for the majestic autumn colours. We may have brought the camera too. You may see the results of that photo shoot soon.

Happy spinning!


There is still time to register for the free live breed study webinar on Värmland wool this afternoon! Register here and read more about Värmland wool here. There may be Navajo spindle spinning in the webinar.


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Värmland wool

Staples of wool

One of my favourite breeds to spin is Värmland wool – a versatile and lightweight wool in many colours. This is the fourth part of my breed study of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective. Previous posts have been about Gotland wool, Gute wool and Dalapäls wool.

Next Saturday, December 14th at 5 pm CET I will host a free live breed study webinar on Värmland wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

Register for the webinar here!

About Värmland sheep

Värmland sheep is a Swedish conservation breed. Many of the Swedish domestic breeds were extinguished in the 18th and 19th centuries due to import of foreign breeds that were more meaty and had other wool qualities. When the domestic breeds were rediscovered around 30 years ago, Värmland sheep (or forest sheep) was the first breed to be rediscovered. They all came from the same flock in the county of Värmland, close to the Norwegian border. Due to an extensive conservation effort the 100 rediscovered sheep are now around 4000. In 2018 there were 1544 breeding Värmland ewes in 170 flocks in Sweden, making Värmland sheep our largest conservation breed regarding both individuals and flocks.

A conservation breed means that the breed is protected. If the sheep farmer has a gene bank they are also committed to preserving the breed. This means that they are not allowed to cross the breed with other breeds. They also commit to strive for genetic diversity – breeding for specific characteristics (like wool or hornedness) is not allowed.

Värmland sheep are quite small – a ewe weighs around 40–60 kg. They are good at keeping the landscape open and eat both shrubberies, flowers and herbs.

Wool characteristics

Staples of wool
Staples of Värmland wool from the left: Two white staples from the same lamb of more of a traditional line. Silky and soft. The brown in the middle is open and airy and just a little coarser. The white silver grey with the honey-dipped tips is divinely silky. To the far right a brown staple with long outercoat and also lots of soft undercoat. All but the middle are from lambs.

Värmland wool is very versatile. A lot of different wool types can occur in one individual, from long dual coated staples to both predominantly outercoat or predominantly undercoat. The fiber is quite fine and sometimes even silky. The staples can be crimpy, wavy or straight. Colours vary between white, grey, brown, beige and black. The staples are usually open and very easy to spin.

Three piles of wool: Brown, grey and white.
Three different Värmland fleeces on the Swedish fleece championships of 2019

There are two main lines of Värmland sheep – the traditional line and the modern line.

Traditional Värmland

A white fleece with wavy staples
A yummy white Värmland fleece with many possibilities. This is more of a traditional Värmland fleece.

The traditional line of Värmland sheep has a lot of undercoat and a few strands of outercoat. The staples are triangular in their shape and the staples are open and airy. These are lovely to spin and make a soft, silky and strong yarn.

Modern Värmland

A lock of Värmland wool
A prize winning Värmland lamb fleece of the modern line – lots of undercoat, long outercoat and some kemp.

When the Värmland sheep was rediscovered some of them were crossed with Old Norwegian spæl rams and possibly also Swedish Rya sheep. This gave the breed more outercoat and in some cases also more kemp.

Versatile and lightweight wool of many colours

If I were to pick out three main characteristics of Värmland wool it would be versatility, lightweight and the large spectrum of colours:

  • Since the staples come in many different forms the Värmland wool is very versatile. I can use different preparation methods and spin a wide variety of yarns from silky soft lace yarn to robust sock yarn and even rug yarn.
  • In my experience Värmland wool is very lightweight. When you look at the staples you see a broad base with lots of air. This also makes Värmland wool very easy to spin.
  • The array of colours make me want to spin them all. The shades of grey are just beautiful and the browns, beige, whites and blacks make the colour possibilities endless.

Preparing and spinning

With a big variety of staple and fiber types I can process and spin Värmland wool in many different ways – fiber types separated, together and with different tools and spinning techniques.

Prepared fiber in a mushroom tray. Above and below: Outer coat hand-combed bird's nests. Middle: Under coat hand-carded rolags.
All the fiber prep in a mushroom tray. Above and below: Outer coat hand-combed bird’s nests. Middle: Under coat hand-carded rolags.

Combing

Longer staples of Värmland wool are lovely to comb, either with both fiber types together or by separating undercoat from outercoat. I would spin a combed top with short draw into a strong and shiny yarn.

A skein of white, brown and grey yarn.
This yarn is spun with short draw from hand-combed top where I have used the outercoat only.

Carding

A Värmland wool with lots of undercoat is lovely to card and spin with long draw. The skein above is spun with the long outercoat only. I carded the separated undercoat and spun with a long draw on a Navajo spindle into a lightweight and airy singles yarn (see image below).

A skein of singles yarn.
A light and airy singles yarn, spun with long draw from hand-carded rolags on a Navajo spindle.

In another fleece I had different staple types. I separated the fleece into two piles – one for long and wavy staples and another for the shorter and crimpier staples. I carded the latter – outercoat and undercoat together – and spun with a medieval spindle and distaff into a very airy and light yarn.

Crimpy staples of a Värmland fleece spun into a light and airy 2-ply yarn on a mediaval spindle and distaff.

Flick carding

The other pile of the grey fleece was in a lovely colour of light silvery grey in the cut end and honey-dipped tips. To save as much of the colour variation as possible I flick carded the staples and spun them individually from the cut end.

A ball of yarn in shades of grey.
Värmland wool spun from the cut end of flicked locks to preserve the natural colour variation over the length of the staple.

Use

Since the variation in fiber and staple type Värmland wool can be spun and used in a wide variety of textiles. My first Värmland fleece has become two pairs of twined/two-end knitted mittens – one whole and one half-mitt.

A grey mitten with a venus symbol
A venus symbol. The perfect mitten chart. Värmland wool in spun from the cut end of flicked staples. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The yarn used in the whole mitts was spun on a supported spindle from the cut-end of flicked locks. You can read more about these mittens here.

The half-mitts are available as a pattern from the Spin-off Fall 2019 issue. The mitts will also be part of a mitt-along! I spun the yarn for these on a spinning wheel, from flick-carded staples. You can also read about how I rescued this yarn from disaster here.

Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.
Finished Heartwarming mitts knit with mended handspun Värmland yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin

At the moment I am using a sturdier dark brown Värmland yarn as weft in a weaving project.

Rpws of blue Gordian knots in a brown weave
One row of knots and three regular shuttlings. Warp in Shetland wool, weft in Värmland wool and knots in Swedish Leicester wool.

Värmland is also very well suited for fulling. I can also see lace knitting, socks and outerwear in Värmland yarn.

Live webinar!

This Saturday, December 14th at 5 pm CET (world clock here) I will host a live breed study webinar about Värmland wool from a spinner’s perspective. In the webinar I will talk briefly about the breed in Sweden, wool characteristics and how I process, spin and use Värmland wool. I will use Värmland wool during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I process the wool.

Even if you think you will never come across Värmland wool this is still an opportunity to learn more about wool in general. The breed study will give you tools to understand different wool types and apply your knowledge to breeds and wool types closer to you.

This is a wonderful chance for me to meet you (in the chat window at least, I won’t be able to see you) and for you to see me live and unedited. The previous live breed study webinars I have dome have been great successes. I really look forward to seeing you again in this webinar.

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

Register for the webinar here

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Learning by teaching

Two persons spinning on supported spindles.

At the moment I am teaching a course series in supported spindle spinning. I get so proud when I see the progress my students are making – from the initial wobbliness, through understanding what is going to happen to actually managing to control the spindle and in a relaxed motion. It is a journey I have the privilege of being a part of and I feel so lucky to be able to be learning by teaching and seeing their development first hand.

If you are curious about my spinning courses, have a look at my course page where I have both online courses and face-to-face courses (in Sweden).

A table with spindles, spindle bowls and wool processing tools.
All is set for spinning class. I want the students to feel like they are in a candy store for spinners. The spindles and bowls in the front are made by Björn Peck.

Learning by teaching

The thing is, I learn as much as they do. I learn about different learning styles, how to get a message through and how to live up to the students’ expectations. Most of all I learn through the communication with my students.

Learning styles

Every time I interact with a student I need to understand how this individual learns things best. This is a bit difficult in shorter courses, but when I teach the same people for a longer time, like I am in the current course, I get the chance to really understand how to structure my content in a way that makes the most sense to each and every one of them.

Their progress is my reward. When I see improvement from start to present I know that the message has gone through and that I have been able to coach them into finding a way that works for them.

Two persons spinning on supported spindles.
Students making progress!

For every wobbling spindle, uneven rolag or breaking yarn I see I try to understand where the missing link is and how this particular student can understand why something is happening and how they can get past the problem.

Teaching spinning direction

I teach about spinning direction. I make my students learn how to spin with both hands as spindle hand and fiber hand. If you have followed my blog for a while you know I am an advocate of pulling the spindle towards the hand rather than pushing it (if you haven’t, you can read this post about spinning direction and ergonomics or watch this webinar). So for my students to be able to both spin and ply or spin in both directions they need to learn how to do it with both hands, pulling the spindle.

A person spinning on a supported spindle. The spindle is in the left hand and the fiber in the right. Spindles and wool processing tools in the background.
I make all my students learn how to use both hands as spindle hand and fiber hand. Their reward is a better sense of both tasks for both hands. Mine is their understanding and progress.

Not only do they learn how to flick the spindle with both hands, they also learn how to handle the fiber with both hands. Today one of the students was amazed at how much more sensitive her right hand was when handling the fiber. Epiphanies like this make my heart sing – moments when my students understand something and can make progress.

New tool for skilled spinners

Most of the spinners I teach have been spinning for a while. I never direct my courses to beginners (that takes more teaching skills than I have). Occasionally, though, new spinners take my courses. I love the level I can discuss fibers and spinning techniques with my students. It is so rewarding to talk spinning with people who are really good at it. They know how to spin, just not with this particular tool.

However, being a beginner in a field you are normally skilled in can be very frustrating. I need to remind my students to be kind to themselves. Sometimes I need to tell them not to expect to succeed after having tried a new technique for a few minutes.

A person spinning on a supported spindle
This student was a very skilled suspended spindle spinner before my course and is now just as skilled at supported spindle spinning.

Sometimes they get so focused on this new technique that they forget that they know other skills like drafting and holding the fiber. We have talked about the baby bird: how to hold the fiber as if it were a baby bird – firmly enough not to let it escape and loosely enough not to crush it. To emphasize the importance of the light grip of the fiber I even asked them to name their bird. Am I being cruel?

You’ve prepared your wool now spin it

I believe in preparing your own fiber. It may take longer to prepare your fiber in the classroom and you may get less meterage spun but the reward is a deeper understanding of the fiber and how it behaves in the drafting.

Clowe-up of a person carding wool. A counter-clockwise arrow is drawn on the left hand and a clockwise arrow on the right hand.
In the spinning class we prepare our own fiber. Note the arrows on this student’s hands – counter-clockwise on the left hand and clockwise on the right for ergonomic supported spindle spinning.

I know how much fiber processing has helped me understand how fiber behaves. How could I not teach wool processing with this knowledge? It also helps the students understand the importance of wool processing when they spin. An uneven top or rolag will make a difference in the yarn.

In the beginning I taught supported spindle spinning with combed top or carded batts. Since I have started teaching carding and combing and letting the students process their own fiber in the classroom I see a deeper understanding of the processing itself and the importance of good processing for a good spinning result. All of them could show me a row of rolags with the first one uneven and loose and the last even and well defined. And they could make a clear connection between the quality of the processing, the spinning experience and the resulting yarn.

Piles of raw fleece
There’s fleece in the candy store!

Common challenges

Every time I understand the reason for a problem in the classroom I make a new deposit to my experience bank that I can use in future classes. I get to understand common problems, why they occur and how I can change my teaching to make the learning smoother. Problems will occur and to a large extent the same ones. But if I understand what is causing them and how I can coach different students in how to get past them I will become a better teacher. For every time I understand a common challenge I can add it to my curriculum to the benefit of future students in face-to-face and online courses.

Questions help me understand

Whenever a student asks a question I need to find their perspective in my reply. Knowing is one thing, explaining to someone requires you to structure and verbalize that knowledge. This helps me explain something from my own perspective – I have acquired skills from my experience and I explain and show these to my students. But when they ask questions it isn’t my perspective anymore and I need to restructure my knowledge. It is like I look at a vase on a glass table. I can describe the vase from when I stand. However, to describe the vase to someone standing on the other side of the table I may need to move or even crawl under the table to understand how they see the vase – and how they don’t see it. Even if crawling under the table may seem uncomfortable I realize that I learn so much more about the vase when I have seen it from another person’s perspective.


Thank you C, N, N and P. You and all my past and future students make me a better teacher.

Homework this week is to spin singles, both clockwise and counter-clockwise and of course with both hands.

Gotta go. Today I’m teaching how to ply on the fly.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Wool conference

A fleece with long and shiny locks with almost no crimp

A while ago I attended a two-day wool conference for wool entrepreneurs. The conference was very popular and I was flattered just to be invited. All kinds of businesses were represented, from one-woman companies like mine to world-wide selling brands like Fjällräven. In today’s blog post I summarize some of the lectures.

Swedish wool for a sustainable future

The theme of the conference was Swedish wool for a sustainable future. I/5 of Swedish wool is used while the rest (around 1400 tons) is burnt, destroyed or otherwise wasted. At the same time we import 300 tons of wool, preferably from New Zealand.

The wool conference was crowded with wool enthusiasts on the edges of their seats to take part of the scrumptious program. There were lots of lecturers, all of which we greeted with a Jyväskylä applause. In a Jyväslylä applause the audience gives the new speaker a standing ovation when they go on stage. All the lecturers felt very welcomed!

You can see the slides from most of the presentations here. Some of them are in English.

The conference also included workshops about how to improve the value chain of Swedish wool. We also workshopped around the possibility of a national wool event. Many ideas were outlined and I look forward to the proceedings of these ideas.

Let’s stop wasting Swedish wool

The Innovation manager at Fjällräven (who make the popular Kånken backpack) talked under the headline “Let’s stop wasting Swedish wool now” about how they had started to use Swedish wool in their products. It turned out that many customers are afraid of itching material if the label says anything else than merino. So they started using Swedish wool for purposes not next-to-skin, like filling in down-like jackets and pressed together to form the back plate of backpacks.

Fjällräven also started a cooperation with Swedish sheep farms with Jämtland sheep. The Jämtland sheep is our newest breed, a cross between Swedish meat breeds and merino which gives a very fine wool with elasticity and shine. The compant made a small-scale edition of sweaters and showed that it really works to produce garments in Swedish wool.

Long locks of very fine wool and lots of crimp.
Jämtland wool has the crimpiest crimp.

The innovation manager at Fjällräven saw my embroidery on my Fjällräven wool backpack. He snapped a picture of it and sent it to the designer who loved my embroidered pimping!

A dark grey woolen backpack with a flower embroidery on the flap.
My Fjällräven backpack is made of wool. The embroidery is my own.

Circular wool clothes

The Swedish sheep breeders’ association talked about the project Circular wool clothes. In the project they network, invent and collects knowledge about the whole circular value chain from shearing, through use and recycling and eventually composting. The goal is to economize all the parts of the chain and find use in every fiber including residue and bi-products. The project is a cooperation between The Swedish Sheep breeders’ association, the Swedish farmers’ association, the University of Borås and the Swedish brands Filippa K and Röjk.

Alice Lund handwoven textiles

Alice Lund textiles is a handweaving company specializing in textiles for both private public spaces. Many of their textiles can be seen in churches in the county of Dalarna or in lobbies around the U.S. and Japan. Through their products but also through research and lectures they spread knowledge about handweaving as well as the immaterial cultural heritage.

Functional products from Swedish wool

CC wool has found a way to use crossbred wool of uneven quality, wool that many sheep farmers have had trouble finding use for. They collect wool from local sheep farmers, educate them on wool quality and shearing conditions to make sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives for animal owners. The company makes non woven horse and dog blankets from the wool they collect.

A basket with rolled-up wool blankets.
CC wool makes dog and horse blankets out of uneven crossbred wool

Scouring wool

Ullkontoret is a Swedish scouring mill for wool. They started to investigate how to use the vast amounts of Swedish wool that was wasted. Regardless of the ideas they came up with, there was always the same obstacle: The wool needed to be washed. So they bought a wool laundry from Spain and started Sweden’s first wool laundry in a larger scale. They use rain-water only and very little detergent. The waste water is used on their own fields.

Ullkontoret make needle punched felt products of some of the wool they wash.

A lot of the washed wool is used to make needle punched felt. I buy it regularly and use it to maka spindle cases for my spinning courses.

Three tubes made in felted wool.
I make spindle cases from needle punched felt from Ullkontoret. Photo by Dan Waltin

Norway and wool

One problem for the Swedish wool industry is that there is no classification system of Swedish wool. Norway has a long and strong tradition of sheep farming and wool use. Two representatives from the Norwegian company Norilia talked at the wool conference about Norwegian wool and how it is being taken care of. Norwegian sheep farmers receive subsidies to make sure the goals for sheep industries are reached and to improve the quality of Norwegian wool.

Wool from Norwegian pelssau

No waste

Norway produces over 4000 tons of wool every year. 75% of this wool is being exported. The remaining 25 % goes to Norwegian woolen mills. Nothing is wasted. Even the thigh and belly wool is saved and made into rugs. This can be compared to Swedish wool – we burn (oh, the irony), destroy or otherwise waste 80 % of our wool. This figure used to be a lot higher, though and the larger interest in taking care of Swedish wool is a proof that we are better at using this wonderful resource. It is also the reason I started spinning. I wanted to do what I could to use Swedish wool to its best potential.

A classifying system

Norway also has a system of classifying wool, something that Sweden lacks. There are 16 categories of wool in the Norwegian classifying system, sorting after when the wool was shorn (whole-year, spring shearing or autumn shearing), breed type and if the wool is very coarse, has vegetable matter or has otherwise a lower quality. 3800 tons of raw Norwegian wool is classified at one of the eight wool stations every year.

The Swedish wool agency

One initiative that has been taken lately is the Swedish wool agency – a digital marketplace for Swedish wool. It has been born out of the fact that so much Swedish wool goes to waste. Fia Söderberg has developed the digital marketplace where buyers can find the wool they are interested in and sheep owners can find use for their wool and get paid. The wool agency also strives to increase the general knowledge about Swedish wool and to make it more easily available to buyers.

When you visit the wool agency you will see ads that can contain information of sheep breed, when the wool was shorn, if the sheep was sheared by a professional shearer, staple length, degree of vegetable matter and other useful information. The agency also provides guides for buyers and sellers that list important things to think about when shearing and what potential buyers may be interested in.

A happy sheep

Shepherdess, agronomist and lamb advisor Titti Strömne has been around sheep for the past 41 years. She calls her business Glada Fåret, the happy sheep. Through this time she has experienced 16 generations of Swedish finewool sheep. At the conference she talked about wool quality. Swedish finewool sheep is one of three Swedish sheep breeds that is bred for the wool quality, alongside Jämtland sheep and Rya sheep.

Wool quality can come from both genetic and environmental factors.

Genetics

To be able to breed for wool quality the wool needs to be measured and registered. Aspects that are measured are staple length, homogeneity, shine, density and quality. The results are transformed to breeding values to help the sheep farmer decide which animals to use for breeding.

A fleece with short and crimpy staples
I always come back to Swedish finewool.

In Sweden around 3 % of all sheep are measured and registered for wool quality. This can be compared to 30% being measured and inspected for fur quality (to make pretty skins).

Environmental factors

Nutrition and stress can influence the quality of the wool. The summer of 2018 was a very dry one. Many sheep farmers had trouble finding pastures and some had to slaughter their animals. The sheep farmer’s care for the animals will have an impact on the quality of the wool through the whole length of the staple. A happy sheep will produce higher quality wool.

Happy is the new black

One of the most interesting lectures for me was about trends. A Swedish trend scout started by saying that consumption is so old and out. In 2020 people won’t want to consume stuff anymore – lots of stores run out of business. The customers want to live more sustainable lives. He said that in 2020 people will be interested in products that

  • have a story
  • are genuine
  • are locally produced
  • are made in sustainable materials.

His conclusion was that people don’t want more stuff. Instead they want experiences that give them joy – Happy is the new black.

With these words I feel that the services I provide – blog posts, videos, webinars and courses in spinning and wool – are right on track. I have said it before and I will say it again. And again:

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Finished

A few weeks ago I took you on a tour of some of my unfinished projects. I have actually finished a few things lately. One of them is a sweater in my own design from my handspun yarn. I call it Bianka.

A woman wearing a knitted sweater in shades of grey, from natural white at the neck to dark grey by the hips.
The finished Bianka sweater. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Bianka

Staples of wool in shades of grey.
Bianka’s fleece in shades of grey.

A while ago I bought a fleece in shades of grey. The wool was from the Swedish finewool and East Frisean cross Bianka. She was old and is on other pastures now. The Shepherdess was happy that I gave some love and care to the last of her fleece. This was a day I had decided not to buy any fleece. I failed.

Colour sorting

Five skeins of handspun yarn from natural white through medium greys to dark grey. Three of the shades have specks of colour in them.
Shades of grey. From the left: Selma, three shades of Bianka in the middle and on the far right the nameless sheep number 12004. Selma, the lightest shade of Bianka and the dark grey has sari silk carded into it.

I decided to divide the fleece into three shades to show their beauty and spin them separately. I carded rolags and spun a 3-ply yarn with English long draw. The skeins turned out beautifully, but they weren’t enough for a sweater. I did have two other spinning projects going on that would suit my three greys perfectly – one natural white from the finewool/rya cross Selma (coming up in a later post) and one dark grey from the Margau Beta sweater. Luckily there was yarn left from the knitting project they had been involved in.

A plain design

I wanted to design a sweater that would let the colour gradient be the star. I also wanted it to be an everyday sweater. Since I wasn’t sure I had enough yarn I wanted it to be as plain as possible with a fitted design.

Top-down

A knitted sweater in shades of grey.
The sweater is knit top-down in the round to take advantage of the colour gradient. Please note the snowflakes. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I am new to designing and I have found bottom-up designs much easier to calculate than top-down. However, for this design I needed to start at the top. I wanted the shades to go from light to dark and I had much more of the darker shades than the lighter ones. I figured the distribution of the colours would be more in balance if the smaller amounts were at the yoke where the circumference was smaller. Hence, I needed to pull myself together and design a top-down sweater. After the third frogging it worked!

Subtle details

I wanted some small and subtle design element, though, and I wanted it to be present in different parts of the sweater. I found a very simple cable ribbing that I used for the collar, cuffs and bottom hem. The yoke shaping got the same kind of cable. I also added a faux seam in the sides and sleeves. The whole sweater is knit in the round, though.

Close-up of a knitted yoke in shades of grey. The neckband and raglan shaping is cabled.
Cabled neck ribbing that continues in the raglan shaping. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I decided not to make any short rows to for the neck. It would disturb the raglan cables and I wanted the design to be as simple as possible. I could have placed short rows below the raglan cables, but then the colour segments would look wrong.

Colour challenge

Since I was determined to keep the colour changes in the same place for sleeves and body and I didn’t have endless amounts of yarn I needed to knit the body and sleeves at the same time. There were lots of needles and cables to get tangled in, I can tell you! But I think there is a beauty in the limitation – if I have a finite amount of material I need to be more creative than if I had all the material I could wish for. I see the limitation as a positive thing that I need to account for in my design and that gives it an extra dimension.

Two hands touching a tree. You can see the cuffs of a knitted sweater. The ribbing of the cuffs is cabled.
The cuffs have the same cabled ribbing as the neck and raglan shaping. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I was a bit worried that I would run out of yarn before I was finished and I was aware that I may have had to keep the sleeves shorter than I wished them to be. In the end I did end up with one skein left of the darkest shade and part of a skein of the second darkest. I didn’t have to make the sleeves shorter. I love that the uncabled part of the cuff spreads out like a little skirt over my hands.

Close-up of the bottom hem of a knitted sweater. The hem has cabled ribbing.
A faux side seam and cabled ribbing at the bottom hem. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The hem ribbing has the same pattern as the cuffs. I like the fairly high ribbing, especially in combination with the few centimeters of dark grey above the ribbing, before the lighter grey takes over.


All in all I’m very happy with the result. I am learning more and more about garment design and what I can do with the yarn I have. All the way from feeling a fleece for the first time and through the steps of the process to a finished yarn a design takes shape in my mind. I feel so empowered by the realization that I can mold my fleece into a finished garment that celebrates the wool that made it possible.

Perhaps I will knit myself a matching hat with the leftover yarn.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Oldies

A woman spinning on a supported spindle.

I have nothing new for you today due to a heavy workload (most of which is still unfinished). Instead I bring you some oldies that I cherish and that inspire me. Perhaps you have seen them before and can see them again in a new light. Perhaps you are a new follower and see them for the first time. In any case: Welcome to a November binge watch!

Willowing wool

Warning: Willowing wool can be hugely entertaining. Do try this at home.

Let’s start with something light – willowing wool. This is how people opened up wool in European medieval times. The technique was also used to blend different qualities of wool and/or colours. It was an actual and important occupation – Wollschläger in German (wool beater).

I didn’t plan to make this video. The idea just came to me one morning and I quickly set the stage on our terrace and started playing. As it turned out, many people watched the video and were inspired by the technique. Many people say it’s my best video. Perhaps because I’m clearly having a lot of fun!

Do try this at home! It is hugely entertaining, especially if you can find a willowing partner.

Spinning in the 14th century

Spinning in the 14th century. Imagine the force and creativity of the collective thoughts of spinning women at the time!

Let’s stay in the historical context for a moment and look at spinning in the 14th century with a simple spindle stick and whorl and a distaff.

The best videos I make are the ones where I interact with someone. There is a connection and a true exchange of ideas, emotions and solutions that move the process forward. In this video where I spin on a medieval style spindle and distaff I got to interact on camera, which gave the video credibility. Not to mention the fun we had making it! My partner in craft is Maria Neijman, weaver, reenactor and authority on historical textiles. She made all the costumes we are wearing in the video and – perhaps most importantly – helped me get dressed for the occasion!

Sitting on that tree trunk, crafting and talking with Maria was a precious moment. Spinning helps me gather my thoughts and think more clearly. Trying my thoughts and reflections out on a friend makes them sharper. Imagine the force and creativity of the collective thoughts of spinning women at the time!

Watch this video to remind yourself – or anyone else for that matter – about the importance spinning, and thereby women’s unpaid work, has had through history. What would have become of us if someone hadn’t realized they could roll plant fibers between their hands to make it stronger? What would the industrial revolution have looked like if it weren’t for Spinning Jenny?

Ply on the fly on a Turkish spindle

Let’s move on – in time and space. We are now in Austria, a couple of summers ago. I went out one morning in July and placed my tripod (well, a garden chair, really) and myself in the middle of a meadow. I dedicated my spinning to the morning air, the mountains and my Austrian heritage.

One evening when there was a concert in the town I brought my Turkish spindle and plied it on the fly by the lake where all the people had gathered. One lady approached me, smiling, and told me how her mother used to spin. She thanked me for bringing out this sweet memory. Crafting in public can generate lots of smiles, memories or just peace of mind.

Plying on the fly is a fun and effective technique. Since it takes up a minimum of space it is a perfect method for spinning on the go – commuting or traveling. It can also be a way to reduce the risk of strain on your body since you alter between spinning and plying.

If you haven’t tried plying on the fly before, why not try now! You can do it on other suspended spindles as well as on a supported spindle. If not, just enjoy the scenery and think of bringing your spindle to see the world. How do you craft in public?

Spinning cotton on an Akha spindle

How do you dance your spindle?

For this video we change location, technique and fiber. Spinning cotton is for me a true art of trust and patience. I need to trust the short fibers enough to cling on to each other and be patient enough to wait for them to do so before I make the draft. Spinning on an Akha spindle also gives the spinning sort of a choreographic dimension – the changing of techniques and direction of the spinning turns the process into a dance between spindle, hands and gaze. The fibers act as the artistic director and the spindle is the choreographer. I’m just the dancer, following the instructions the fiber and spindle give me.

I shot this video at Sätergläntan craft education center when I taught a five-day course in supported spindle spinning. The place bursts with creativity, craft and true inspiration.

Watch this video to find a flow of the movements in your spinning. Just spin for the dance of it without concerning about the resulting yarn. How do you dance your spindle?

For the love of spinning

Watch this video to find your spinning spirit.

The last two videos I want to show you are more about mindset and process than specific spinning tools or techniques.

The first of these is about the essence of my love for spinning. There are so many emotions connected to this simple and foundational craft that give me such joy and peace. In the video I also bring out my inner spinning poet to capture these emotions to the best of my ability. The places we filmed are places that are very dear to me – at home, in a log cabin in Tiveden and in Salzkammergut, Austria.

Watch this video and reflect over why you spin. What is it that makes you want to spin for more than the resulting yarn?

A meditation

Meditate along or just find your spinning mindset.

A video that is sprung out of the previous video is A meditation. I wanted to capture the mental state that spinning gives me and portray how spinning can be – and is for me – similar to meditation. How my thoughts come and go along with the fibers that pass through my fingers. Touching, representing the moment but not lingering.

The video was shot by a 17th century industrial estate with a few gristmills and a working fulling mill.

You can use this video to think about what part spinning plays in your mind. Or, you can meditate to the video. Go to your meditation space – literally or mentally – and spin along with me. How do you meditate your spinning?


These are some of my favourite oldies among my spinning videos. I hope you enjoyed them and my reflections about them. Which one is yours? And why?

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Unfinished

I have a lot of things going on at the moment and I can’t seem to finish any of them. I get inspired by so many things. Even if I am a very structured person I sometimes find it hard to focus on finishing one idea.

Last week I took you along on a rescue operation of a capsized spinning project. Today I will give you a glimpse of my pile of unfinisheds. Perhaps it will give me some perspective and actually finish some of them.

A creative wave

I’m in the middle of a creative wave. I want to craft and design, but when I need to structure my thoughts in numbers and charts that I don´t master yet the wave dies off. I start another project. It’s like the wave flushes over me and then leaves me with the mess it has caused.

Creativity works exponentially for me at the moment. Ideas pop up in my head like little stars, poking me and winking for my attention. I feel bad when I don’t listen to them, they are all my babies. But when there are many ideas my head gets blurry and nothing comes out of it.

But all the while I have lots of unfinished projects I am convinced that good will come out of it. For me and for you. I like to see it as a step in a learning process that I need to take. It is a large and demanding step, but I need to take it in order to be able to move forward.

Here are some of my unfinished projects and ideas.

The sleeve pile

Miscellaneous unfinished sleeves. Well, two of them are actually finished by now, but still. Why is it so hard to finish sleeves? All the yarn in the picture is my handspun with the exception of the turquoise.

Can we talk about sleeves? What’s their problem? Really, I mean they are practical and all that, but they are so uninteresting to both knit and design. It’s like they place themselves on top of a creative wave like a damp cloth and smothers it.

To prevent the project from collapsing completely I usually knit both sleeves at the same time. But since I have so many projects going on I don’t have enough knitting needles! How’s that for an irony?

The never-ending chair pads

A loom with a Gordian knots weaving project
My rya chair pads are coming along slowly. Perhaps we can sit on them for the holidays?

A few weeks ago I showed you the rya chair pads I’m making from handspun stashed yarns and thrums. I was thrilled in the beginning, seeing my stashed-away thrums get new life between the warp threads. The process of making the knots is meditative. But there are a lot of knots. I’m on my third pad (I warped for eight) and I’m so looking forward to sitting on them. But they are still very much unfinished.

Yoke ripping

A new yoke is sprouting. Started three four times, still unfinished.

I started a new sweater design (after actually having finished one). Once I have a project envisioned in my head my hands itch to start. It’s like I can’t wait to shape my new idea between my hands. But when creativity moves faster than reason things can go awry. I’m not sure I have enough yarn to start with. The sleeves may have to suffer. The design is still unfinished. I started it three four times, though!

All the numbers

A woman sitting by a computer. A knitting pattern book on a book stand is on the table. An autumn tree is reflecting in the computer screen.
Pattern making is a long, but rewarding process. Frustrating at times, but I learn a lot.

I’m learning pattern making. It is so exciting and I’m getting to know the process a little more every day. For every new piece of the puzzle I get acquainted with my understanding of knitting design deepens. But it is so difficult! So many things to think about, so many calculations to make and so frustrating when I miss one tiny step and I have to go back two. Still, somehow it is moving forward. Slowly but steadily.

Unfinished online business

I am also working on course material, videos and webinars for you. These things do take their time, especially since my boss (me) is very demanding. They will be finished one day, and they will be good. Just not yet.


I’m not sure this post is properly finished

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Rescue operation

Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.

Last week I released a video where I tried to learn Andean spinning. Towards the end of the video I showed some clips of how the yarn got all tangled and we needed to shoot the scene again. Several followers commented on this and said that they especially liked this part. So, for this week’s post I will take you along on a rescue operation of a spinning project gone south. I did manage to take pictures during the operation. They are of poor quality, but they do their job in showing you what happened.

A pattern request

In February I was asked to write an article and pattern description for Spin-Off magazine. The deadline was short and I needed to spin a yarn, knit a pair of mittens, analyze and write the article and the pattern description. The pattern was in twined knitting, which is quite time consuming.

An open magazine showing an article with pictures of a Pinner and a pair of mittens.
Article and pattern in Spin-Off magazine.

Spinning gone south

I was quite stressed out by this and started spinning immediately. I asked a spinning friend who has made several twined knitting project how she prefered her Z-plied yarn. She said that she liked it with a high twist so that the yarn would be nice and round. A higher twist makes the patterns in twined knitting stand out more, she added. So I started spinning with a lot more twist than I usually do.

But for some reason, my fiber didn’t want to be spun with high twist. Perhaps the fibers were too long, combined with the low (or non-existing) crimp. Perhaps I didn’t understand how to adjust tension and intake. The yarn turned into phone cord with curls all over.

I was a bit bothered by this, but hoped that my problem would solve itself when I plied the yarn.

It didn’t.

Yarn with uneven and curly parts.
This is not publication worthy yarn. The twist is too high and has started to build up phone cord curls all over. It needs a rescue operation.

My assignment for the magazine hovered in my head and I realized that I needed to take some serious action. I decided to implement a rescue operation and respin the yarn.

Rescue operation

The problem was in the singles, but I had already plied the yarn. Therefore I needed to unply the yarn, ease the twist in the singles and reply.

Unply, ease and reply.

This is how I did it:

Unply

I put the bobbin with the plied yarn on the flyer and treadled the same amount of treadles as in the plying process, only against the plying direction. After having unplied a section of yarn I rolled each singles section onto a separate bobbin. If there was still ply left, I shifted the bobbins to undo the rest of the plies.

Close-up of a person spinning on a spinning wheel. She is holding two bobbins of singles in her lap. The singles are attached to a plied yarn on the flyer.
To unply the yarn I turn the wheel against the plying direction and store the singles on separate bobbins in my lap.

This process took around an hour and a half for each skein. I had two. It also took some blood, sweat and tears. I had lots. When the yarn was fully unplied I wound the singles onto my niddy-noddy to make skeins.

Overtwisted singles.
Back to the over twisted singles.

I then soaked the skeins of singles overnight.

A soaking skein of singles yarn. The yarn is heavily over twisted and plies back on itself.
Poor little over twisted single needs a bath.

Ease

To ease some of the twist I rolled the singles onto bobbins again and ran them through the spinning wheel against the spinning direction until the curls had let go.

A bobbin of singles yarn. The yarn looks mangled.
Singles with eased twist.

The singles looked a bit tousled and shocked, but who can blame them? They had been through a gruesome ordeal.

Reply

The final step of the rescue operation was to reply the singles into a balanced 2-ply yarn. This went quite smoothly. I made a skein and soaked overnight. The operation was successful and the patient recovered.

There were a few curls left after the operation. I see them as a reminder not to spin under pressure. The yarn had less twist than I had wished for in the beginning, but it was free of phone cord curls and well behaved, which was more important.

Patient released, lesson learned

I got it all done on schedule. I made my analysis, knit the mittens, wrote the pattern and article and submitted the night before deadline.

The name of the article was Twist analysis.

The irony.

Lesson learned:

  • Listen to your friends.
  • Listen to the wool.
  • If friends and wool contradict each other: Think. And listen to your gut feeling.
  • Don’t spin under pressure.
  • If spinning under pressure, you are less likely to think or pay attention to any gut feeling.
  • Don’t spin under pressure. Really.
Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.
Finished Heartwarming mitts knit with mended handspun yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin

You can buy the Spin-off issue with the article and pattern here. You can also check out the pattern on Ravelry.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Learning Andean spinning

A woman walking on a country road while spinning

I have a new video for you today where I’m learning Andean spinning. While I do spin on an Andean Pushka in the video I wouldn’t say the video is about Andean spinning. Rather, it is about coming closer to understand the many dimensions of spinning. If you want to learn more about Andean spinning I have linked to lots of resources at the end of this blog post.

Spinning as a way of living

For many people of the Andes, spinning is a way of life. For me it is a hobby. But it is also more than that. I need to spin. My hands need to feel the structure of the wool and the motion of the spindle. My mind needs the moments of peace and tranquility spinning brings me.

The textile tradition of the Andes is long and strong. Techniques and tools have been handed down in an outdoor life for centuries and are still practiced in the open and on the move. Hands are never idle, spindles are always in motion in caring and experienced hands. I am very humbled by a community where textile arts is such a big part of people’s history, traditions and everyday life. In my part of the world textiles are pretty much seen seen as disposable products, often made far away in poor quality by people who work for less than minimun wages in lousy conditions. But in a textile community the textiles and textile crafts are respected and cherished.

Abby Franquemont has spent a lot of her childhood in the Andes, living in a textile community. She has recently moved there and runs a retreat in the area. Right now, this very second, it dawned on me what the title of her bestselling book Respect the spindle is really about.

I am new to Andean spinning. I have practiced for only a few months. During that time I have learned a bit about the technique. More importantly, I have learned a lot about spinning as a craft and art form. I feel the presence of the talented people who have spun before me. I am grateful for their gifts and that there is still so much to learn.

Crafting needs

Many crafts have been lost or forgotten after the industrial revolution. Why make when you can buy, right? The need to craft decreased. But I think in today’s society we need to craft more than ever, but for different reasons. To me, crafting gives me a deeper sense of presence, a feeling that is much needed in a world where we are flooded by information. I need to spin to find balance and to sort out what’s important to me. I think most of you understand what I mean when I speak of the crafting bubble – when you craft and forget time and space and are just in the moment.

Learning Andean spinning

A skein of white handspun yarn
A finished skein of light fingering weight yarn, hand teased and spun on a Pushka spindle 47 g, 124 m, 2629 m/kg

I have written down some basics of how I understand Andean spinning. I am very new to this I’m still learning Andean spinning. There are so many people who are living this technique and who know this so much better than me. Go to them if you want to learn more about Andean spinning.

Preparation

A woman standing by a field, teasing wool.
Teasing the wool by hand gives me a deeper understanding of the wool.

Spinners of the Andes don’t use any tools to prepare the wool. Instead they tease the wool by hand, usually alpaca or sheep’s wool. I use a Norwegian crossbred. Different fiber types will naturally be different to tease.

The chunk of fleece I teased for the teasing clip took around 35 minutes to prepare. This may seem like a very time consuming activity. And yes, you could argue that. But to me it is also an opportunity to get to know the fiber. When it goes through my hands again and again I get to know its structure, how it drafts and how it behaves. My hands store the information and use it in upcoming steps of the process. No time spent with the fiber or spindle is time wasted.

The spindle and the spinning

A woman spinning on a bottom-whorl spindle
The Pushka is a simple tool consisting of a carved stick and a turned balsa whorl

To go from shorn fleece to a finished skein the Andean way you only need one tool: A Pushka. The Pushka is a simple and lightweight spindle with a straight hand-carved stick and a turned balsa whorl. This tool is easy to bring when you are out and about.

The Pushka has no hook, groove or notch. Two to three half-hitches secure the yarn onto the shaft. You can use the spindle suspended, supported or grasped, depending on the context.

Transferring and skeining

Close-up of a person winding a yarn ball on the beach.
Transferring the singles to pebbles is a slow technique. It gives me time to reflect over the yarn I have spun.

In a life on the move there is no place for unnecessary tools. Usually the finished singles are wound around a pebble with the ground soil as a spindle stand. It is simple – not necessarily easy, though – and it works. I found out – the hard way – that it is a good idea to store the singles on the pebbles for a while before skeining. A newly spun single will tangle and make a big mess in the skeining step.

A woman making a skein between her hands.
Making a figure 8 skein is a good exercise!

Spinners of the Andes usually make a figure 8 skein of the two strands of yarn between the arms. Again: It’s simple and it works.

Plying

A person standing by a lake, plying on a spindle.
I ply the yarn by rolling the spindle between the palms of my hands. Sometimes I succeed.

With a figure 8 skein the spinner can easily ply the yarn straight from the skein hanging from the arm. You can either roll the spindle against your thigh or set it in motion between the palms of your hand. The latter technique takes a bit of practice. I’m lucky if I succeed one time out of ten.

Location

A phone camera on a tripod. A woman walking on a country road in the background
Dan always finds the right light, angle and composition. Photo by Dan Waltin

We shot the video during a week this summer when we rented a cottage at a sheep farm. Dan did most of the camera work. He has an eye for the right light, compositions and angles and I’m always happy when he takes the time to help me with my videos. Even if I’m the only one on camera, the interplay between us makes the video so much better and gives it a feeling of a deeper presence.

Learn from the professionals

Indigenous people have been spinning in the Andes for thousands of years. The textile tradition is long and strong, tracing back to the Incas and earlier. But it wasn’t always like that. During the colonial era the Spanish did their best to stop the making and wearing of traditional textiles. The industrialization made hand-made textiles less popular and new fibers were invented. You can read more about the textile traditions in the Andes here.

In the seventies more modern methods and tools spread and the younger generation didn’t learn the craft from their older relatives. A group of weavers did take matters in their own hands, though. Together with Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez they started a group whose mission was to save the old traditions and techniques and sell their textiles. The goal was also to empower indigenous weavers, especially women.

Resources

If you want to know more about Andean spinning there are several things you can do. There are Youtube videos where talented Andean spinners show the technique. Here is one that I like. There is also an online course you can download, where Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez goes through the technique in more detail. You can watch the YouTube trailer and then buy the course at Long thread media.

I recently bought a beautiful book about Andean spinning and weaving – Secrets of Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting in the Peruvian Highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. It takes you through all the steps from fleece to embellished textile in beautiful photos and hands-on instructions.

A book on a tree trunk. Secrets of Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting in the Peruvian Highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvare
Secrets of Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting in the Peruvian Highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. A good resource for learning Andean spinning.

Support Andean textile artists

I just donated $25 to the Center for traditional textiles of Cusco. If you want to support the textile traditions of the Andes you can donateeither to the center as a whole or to a specific program or project. The center also has an online shop where you can buy beautiful hand made bags, purses, hats, ponchos etc. If you donate, please let me know in the comments how much. It would be nice to see how much we have donated in total.

Happy spinning!

A woman walking on a country road while spinning
Walking and spinning deepens the senses of both the walking and the spinning. Photo by Dan Waltin

Swedish fleece championships 2019

Last week I wrote about the Swedish spinning championships 2019. In this blog post I will take you with me to the Swedish fleece championships.

Fleece highlight of the year

The Swedish fleece championships is one of my favourite events of the year. This is when I meet talented shepherdesses who know what spinners want. It is also the time when I buy my best fleeces. I take notes of the winners and put them in my list of shepherdesses to contact when I need a specific breed or quality.

A long table full of wool.
Over 50 fleeces competed in the 2019 fleece championships!

Eight categories

There were 54 competing fleeces, which, as I understand it, was a record. The fleeces are sorted into categories depending on the breeds that are competing. This year there were eight categories:

Gotland

Heaps of silvery grey and wavy fleeces
Some of the silvery Gotland fleeces in the championships. The leftmost got a bronze medal.

Seven fleeces competed from the most common breed in Sweden, the Gotland sheep. Strong, silky and drapey are words that I think best describe this breed. Not a next to skin material, but prefect for socks and sturdier garments.

Rya

Fleeces with white wool at the bottom and colored at the tips.
Spectacular Rya fleeces with unusual color changes in the staples. The rightmost got a silver medal.

Six stunning fleeces competed in this category and I could have eaten all of them. From pitch black, through caramel ripple to beaming white. Rya wool can be described as long, strong and shiny with strong outercoat and soft undercoat and very little crimp. The fleece has traditionally been used in Rya rugs. It works wonderfully as a sock yarn or for embroidery.

Swedish Finewool

Heaps of white wool. The staples are short with lots of crimp.
Sweet Swedish fine wool locks with lots of crimp. The middle fleece got a gold medal.

My first fleece was a finewool fleece and since then it has been the wool I feel most familiar with. Soft, crimpy and and warm are words that come to mind. A very good candidate for next to skin garments such as mittens, sweaters and shawls. This is my go-to wool for woolen spun yarn from hand-carded rolags. Six fleeces competed in this category.

Swedish Leicester

Heaps of white wool with long, curly and shiny staples.
Swedish Leicester. Long, curly and shiny.

The Swedish Leicester come from Leicester longwool sheep that were brought to Sweden in the 16th to 18th centuries. Just like Gotland wool the fibers are long, strong and drapey. The two breeds have been co-bred in Sweden to make pretty skins. Not next to skin material, but it makes an excellent warp or as a strong component in a blend with something softer. Seven fleeces competed in this category.

Värmland

Heaps of brown, grey and white wool.
The Värmlands. So many variations in colour and character. The white fleece to the right got a bronze medal.

Six fleeces competed in our biggest conservation breed, the Värmland sheep. They were all lovely and represented the colour variation very well. The fleece is a dual cote with lots of fine undercoat and long outercoat. The breed is quite versatile and you can get anything from strong and rustic warp yarn to silky soft locks I have made mittens and half-mitts from a Värmland fleece and medalist in the fleece championships of 2017.

Crossbred Jämtland

Heaps of wool with a very fine crimp.
Crimp, anyone? There were lots of Jämtland fleeces in the championships.

Jämtland sheep are our newest breed. Officially it has been a breed for less than ten years. It is a crossbred between a meet crossbred Svea sheep and merino. Seven fleeces competed in this category.

General domestic breeds

Fleeces of different colors
Two Helsinge fleeces competing in the general domestic breeds category. The darkest one got a bronze medal.

This was a category for domestic breeds that were to few to make their own category. Nine domestic breeds and domestic breed crosses competed – Helsinge, Klövsjö, Jämtland/Härjedal/Åsen, Gotland/finewool, Gotland/Rya and Gotland/finewool/Rya.

Crossbreds

Fleeces of different colours
General crossbreds. From the left: Finewool/Dorset, Finewool/Leicester and Gotland/Texel. The dark to the left got a silver medal and the white to the right got a gold medal.

Six exciting crossbreds competed in this category – Finewool/Leicester, East Frisean, Finewool/Dorset, Finewool/Leicester, Gotland/Texel and Jämtland/Leicester.

Championship harvest

I had a allowed myself to buy three fleeces from the auction of the competing fleeces following the prize ceremony. That is about the amount of wool I can manage to bring home on the train. I also wanted to buy some smaller quantities of wool for, say, upcoming breed study webinars.

Long and silky Rya

A fleece with long and shiny locks with almost no crimp
Long and silky Rya lamb’s locks. The fleece got a gold medal in the fleece championships.

On this year’s wool journey I experimented with making a sock yarn blend with Rya and mohair. On the championship auction I managed to get the gold medalist – a shiny white lamb’s fleece from the Shepherdess Kari Lewin. She won an obscene amount of medals for her fleeces of several breeds – Swedish Leicester, Rya, Gotland and Swedish finull.

Versatile Värmland

A white fleece with wavy staples
A yummy white Värmland fleece with many possibilities.

The second fleece I bought was also a medalist – a bronze winning white Värmland lamb’s fleece. It was unusually shiny and with lots of variations in fiber length and fiber type. I have spun some Värmland of very different character and colour and this was my first white Värmland fleece.

Shiny Klövsjö

A white fleece with long and shiny staples.
The most shiny fleece was a Klövsjö fleece. No medal, but it wanted to come home with me.

The last fleece I bought was not a medalist, but still such a beauty. It was a shiny white Klövsjö fleece with long and Rya-like locks. Klövsjö sheep is another conservation breed. I wasn’t alone in having fallen in love with this fleece. I bid against another spinner (and, as it turned out, a follower) for a while until I won. Then I offered her to share it with me and she happily accepted my offer.

Miscellaneous yum

There was also a raw fleece market where shepherdesses sold their fleece. There wasn’t very much space and therefore not many vendors. Still, I got what I wanted.

First of all, I got some mohair for my sock yarn project (see Rya paragraph above). I haven’t really worked with mohair before so this will be exciting.

Shiny locks of mohair.
Mohair for my socks!

Next up was a small bag of Swedish finewool. This is my favourite breed and the one I started out with eight years ago, but since I don’t have a project planned at the moment I didn’t get a whole fleece. Instead I will use the wool for teaching purposes.

A fleece with short and crimpy staples
I always come back to Swedish finewool.

Another smaller batch for teaching purposes was some Jämtland wool. My favourite Jämtland wool supplier covers her sheep and shears them once a year, so her fleeces are remarkably clean and has very long staples.

Long locks of very fine wool and lots of crimp.
Jämtland wool has the crimpiest crimp.

I’m always keeping my eyes open for conservation breeds, and I found one that I hadn’t planned to buy. I stumbled upon a stall full of Åsen wool as if it was meant to be.

A heap of white wool.
Åsen wool, another conservation breed.

Going back home

We had a couple of days to ourselves and then we had to go back home. I had bought seven batches of wool (two whole fleeces and five smaller batches). I had also received a bag of Norwegian pelssau from a friend, so there was a lot of wool to take home.

Seven bags of wool.
There is always room for more wool!

Luckily I had brought vacuum bags for the transport. I could press my eight bags of wool into three practical bags and fit them in our luggage and get home on the train.

Wool in vacuum bags.
Always come prepared for the fleece market! My 4 kg of fleece fit nicely into three vacuum bags.

If you are looking for me in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be washing fleece.

Happy spinning!


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