Spinning cotton on an Akha spindle

A spindle with fiber

I have a new spinning video for you today! This time I discover the beauty of spinning cotton on an Akha spindle. The Akha spindle is by far my favorite tool for spinning cotton.

This is the fifth and last post in my cotton blog series. Previous posts have been about my opinion of the cotton industrycotton processing, spinning cotton on a Tahkli spindle and spinning cotton on a Navajo spindle.

The Akha spindle

The Akha spindle is used by the Akha people who live in the region between Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Chinese Yunnan. It is a spindle primarily used for spinning cotton. I think it would work for other short fibers as well, but I haven’t tried that. The whorl is placed in the middle of the shaft and you spin it with a two-step technique in two dimensions. The end of the upper part of the shaft has either a hook or a notch. Mine comes from NiddyNoddyUK and has a notch and I make a half-hitch to secure the yarn.

Spinning cotton on an Akha spindle

Cotton drafts very easily but has very short fibers. This means that you can draft the fiber as long as you don’t apply any pressure on the yarn.

It also means that you can’t spin cotton with a suspended spindle. Or, at least it would be very difficult. Yet, you use the Akha spindle suspended in the second step of the spinning technique. How does this work? Well, you need to make sure the drafting is all done in the first step. This is how I do it:

First step: Horizontal and supported

Setup: I hold the spindle horizontally in my spindle hand (my right hand for clockwise spinning). I hold the bottom part of the spindle shaft. The fiber is in my fiber hand, I hold it very lightly. I use hand-carded rolags. You can see how I card cotton here. No hand is on the yarn.

A person spinning horizontally on a spindle
Drafting away on my Akha spindle
  • I draft the fiber by increasing the distance between my hands. My fiber hand just supports the rolag and keeps it from falling down. No holding or pinching.
  • At the same time I roll the bottom of the spindle shaft. It is a very light movement – I use my index finger and thumb for rolling and the other three fingers for support. I pull my index finger toward the palm of my hand – clockwise with my right or counter-clockwise with my left (for a discussion on spinning direction and ergonomics, see this post).
  • I make a loose draft until I reach a length of the yarn that allows for a second draft.
  • When I have enough length between my hands I can allow myself to pinch the yarn in front of the rolag to avoid more fiber to enter the draft.
  • Now I can keep drafting and rolling. I make sure I do very small adjustments – I draft a little, roll a little, always checking that there is enough twist to hold the fibers together and enough draft to give the fibers mobility.
  • I draft until I can’t see or feel any more mobility or uneven parts in the fiber. When there are no more lumps and when there is no more give in the yarn, I stop the drafting.
A spindle hanging in its yarn
The second part of the two-step spinning sequence.

Second step: Vertical and suspended

  • I hold the yarn right in front of the rolag and let the spindle hang in its now-drafted yarn. If the fiber hasn’t been sufficiently drafted, the yarn will break.
  • I roll the bottom part of the shaft along my thigh in the spinning direction to add twist. A lot of twist. The bottom tip of the shaft is a bit tapered, so the spindle spins very fast.
  • When I’m happy with the amount of twist, I roll the yarn onto the cop, make a half-hitch and start the first step again.

The real spinners

I found a YouTube clip of a woman spinning on an Akha spindle. She does It a bit differently. She combines the first and second parts by having an arm’s length of long draw and then another arm’s length where the spindle hangs suspended. Also, she seems to spin counter-clockwise and she manipulates the yarn with her spindle hand to keep the spindle in motion.

Here is another clip of women spinning cotton on Akha spindles. They seem to be using both methods. The person behind the camera doesn’t seem to fully understand how to shoot spinning, though.

The setting

I shot the video when I was teaching spinning at Sätergläntan in early October. Before I came I knew it would be a beautiful place so I had planned to shoot a video there. I just needed to find a suitable spot. And it didn’t take long for me to find the perfect location. There are lots of beautiful old wooden houses where the students live. But the prettiest ones were the storage houses (härbre) that are used as simple lodging in the summer. You can compare it to an Alaskan or Canadian bear cache. I am truly fascinated by the old wood. I just want to hold my hands against the log walls on a sunny day and feel the warmth and the kindness of the wood.

A row of wooden store houses
Old wooden store houses, used for light lodging at Sätergläntan craft institute.

All the store houses had different doors. I just picked the one with the prettiest door. A student in the course I was teaching was kind enough to help me with the shooting of the video.

A favourite tool

In the cotton blog series I have prepared my cotton bolls and spun with three different spindle types – the Tahkli, Navajo and now Akha spindles. They are quite different but they all make the most of the superpowers of the cotton fiber.

  • The Takhli spindle with its speed catches the short fibers in the twist and I can manipulate the yarn while the spindle spins.
  • With the Navajo spindle I can  take my time making a double draft and use the length between my hands to even out the twist.
  • The Akha spindle allows me to separate the different parts of the spinning process and finish one at a time.

I have to say that my favourite of all these cotton spinning tools is the Akha spindle. It fits the characteristics of the cotton so perfectly and really makes the most of the properties of the cotton fiber. I can choose to sit or stand when I spin with it. The supported part does not require me to sit and the length of the yarn is short enough not to dangle in the floor for the suspended part if I sit down.

The Akha spindle I’m spinning on in the video (from NiddyNoddyUK ) is so very light and sweet to work with. It weighs only 14 grams but is not too delicate. It is very comfortable to spin with. I love the light feeling when I roll the shaft in my hand, feeling the structure of the wood and the subtle turning details. It is really fast when I set it in motion against my thigh and spins beautifully centered. She’s a keeper!

A spindle hanging in its own yarn
A favourite cotton spinning tool

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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!
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Online course

I have no spinning video for you today. Instead I have

my very first online course!

I can finally come closer to you all and be a part of your spinning process.

Free course!

The first online course I offer is a course in how to pick a supported spindle and bowl. Here is a link to the course,

How to pick a supported spindle and bowl – a quick guide to finding your best supported spindle and bowl in three steps

This course is free and always will be. I have taught lots of in-person classes in supported spindle spinning and I know it is difficult to find a supported spindle that is right for an individual spinner’s personal spinning preferences and context. Want to see the promo?

How to pick a supported spindle and bowl

So, I chose to make the free course about picking a supported spindle and bowl. Many students have come to me with their own supported spindles and many times these haven’t been very good spinning tools. But how are they supposed to know a good supported spindle from a not-so-good one? In the course I have put together my experience as a teacher of supported spindle spinning to help you find your best supported spindle and bowl. This is also a good course even if you are an experienced supported spindle spinner. Take the course and see if your spindle(s) and bowl(s) are the best for you.

In the course I will take you through the process of finding your best supported spindle and bowl in three steps:

  • What to look for in a supported spindle and bowl – important features for good spinning quality and considerations based on your own spinning context
  • Where to find supported spindles and bowls – on- or offline
  • How to make a decision – which one to buy once you have found a few you like.
A spindle and bowl
How to find your best supported spindle and bowl!

The course creation process

There are lots of things to think about when creating an online course. I have made several mistakes along the way and learned a lot from them.

I have the curriculum from my in-person courses, but not everything is translatable to an online setting. With online students I can’t do any hands-on guidance or live interaction, but I can use the medium to my advantage with slow motion clips, close-ups, guiding titles and lots of editing.

I chose to make as much of the content both auditive, visual and text-based to accommodate as many learning processes as possible. Obviously I talk through the course and show your what I do, but I have also added key words in text. There is a pdf version of the course if you like that better.

Captions

The most time-consuming part of the video-making is the captioning. You can pay someone else to do the captions for you, but I can’t afford that yet (but it will definitely be the first thing I’ll outsource when I can). First I need to transcribe everything I say, which takes a lot of time and focus. Then I obsess over seeing my colloquial language in writing – it looks horrible. After that I need to create all the caption segments, add the captions and match them to the timeline. Lots of fidgeting with milliseconds, but it is all worth it. English is not my first language, just as it is not for many of my followers, so I think it will make the course more inclusive. And I really like the result!

I had some trouble making the captions closed (so that the viewer can choose whether to have the captions on or off), so to spare myself some grief, I finally decided to burn them in. If there is a demand for closed captions, I’ll see what I can do for future courses.

The setting

The course was shot in my childhood home, where my parents still live. The kitchen bench I’m sitting on used to be my mother’s bed when she was a child. My parents were out of town when I shot the video, so I borrowed their dining room and made some interior decorating adjustments. The room has lots of windows in three directions, so there was a beautiful flow of daylight in the room. Also, there was no annoying airplane noise (which there is at our home). I really like this setting and I hope I can borrow it again on another online course shooting day.

Josefin Waltin sitting oh a kitchen bench with spindles in her hands.
Video, audio, key words and captions to match as many learning styles as possible.

Spread the word

So go ahead and take the course! Even if you are not planning on buying any supported spindles for a while – it gives you a chance to see what my courses are like. And if you know someone that might be interested in the course, spread the word. Since my work from now on most likely will be considered self promotion I doubt that I can link to my channels on Facebook forums with rules against “soft sell”.  Subscribe to this blog, my YouTube channel, facebook page and Instagram and share these channels to make sure you or your spinning friends don’t miss anything.

Enroll in the course and let me know what you think!

Josefin Waltin sitting on a kitchen bench.
Come and enroll in the course!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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!
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Spinning cotton on a Navajo spindle

In today’s new video: Spinning cotton on a Navajo spindle. It is difficult, but I learned a lot about spinning long draw and how to feel what the fiber wants.

This is the fourth post in my cotton blog series. Previous posts have been about my opinion of the cotton industrycotton processing and spinning cotton on a Tahkli spindle. So, here is my video about spinning cotton on a Navajo spindle.

Spinning cotton on a Navajo spindle

I love spinning on my Navajo spindles. I love the whole-body approach to it. Especially when you compare it to the more fine-tuning supported spindle spinning where you mostly use your fingers. When I spin on my Navajo spindles I can use big movements and involve my whole body.

So far, I have only spun wool on my Navajo spindles. But when I read Connie Delaney’s book Spindle spinning from novice to expert I learned that Native Americans spun cotton on ground-resting spindles in pre-columbian times. Of course I needed to try that too!

The Navajo spindle is a perfect tool for spinning cotton. Since it is supported by the ground there is no weight on the yarn or fiber. When spun with a lot of twist cotton is strong, but before that happens you can’t put any weight on it.

Long draw

Spinning cotton is done best with a long draw from hand-carded rolags. And the only way to spin on a Navajo spindle is to spin long draw, preferably from hand-carded rolags. Isn’t that the perfect match! Here is my take on carding cotton.

As I covered in the post on spinning cotton on aTahkli spindle, cotton is very sensitive to compression, so it is vital to hold the rolag very lightly. Hold it as if it were a newly hatched chicken.

How I spin cotton on a Navajo spindle

While some spinners spin the fiber twice or even three times, I prefer to use a double draft. This means that I draft the fiber two times in the same take. The first time is to get the twist evenly into an amount of fiber. The second draft is to even out the twist and to reach the final thickness of the yarn.

Close-up of a person spinning on a Navajo spindle
Spinning cotton on a Navajo spindle., the first draft. Like magic, the twist enters the fibers and yarn happens.

This is how I do it

  • With a very light hand I roll the shaft to build up the twist in the yarn. I let the fiber hand follow the motions of the rolling. I let the rolling rest in the angle at the base between my thumb and index finger.
  • After a given amount of rolls, I move my fiber hand outwards, letting the twist enter the fiber. This first draft gives me a roving. After a certain length I can’t stretch my fiber arm any more and I wind the roving onto my fiber hand so that the yarn never slacks.
  • Now I make the second draft in comfortable arm-length sections. I roll and draft, always making sure that there is enough twist to hold the yarn together, and enough mobility to allow the fibers rearrange themselves more evenly. If there are lumps, I open up the twist by untwisting slightly between my hands. For this both of my hands are on the yarn, controlling the piece between them.
  • A final add of extra twist. Cotton needs a lot of twist to hold together and make a strong yarn. I realized that this yarn didn’t have enough twist, so after the video was made I went through the yarn again and added extra twist.
  • When I have spun for a while I transfer the spun yarn down to the permanent cop, using my fiber hand as a middle station.
Josefin Waltin spinning on a Navajo spindle.
Transferring the yarn to the permanent cop, using my fiber hand as a middle station.

Doing the Navajo dance

Spinning on a Navajo spindle is almost like dancing. The hands are constantly leading and following each other and working together in a given choreography. The fiber is their master and the hands need to listen to the fiber to be able to make the right moves. When the spindle hand rolls the shaft to gather up the twist the fiber hand follows in a gentle motion. The fiber hand takes over the control in the first draft and the spindle hand allows for a matching resistance. In the second draft both hands work together.

Allow your hands to really listen to the fiber. Cotton is a picky master, but the fiber usually tells you what it wants. I can literally feel when the twist enters the fiber in the second draft. Be sure to pay attention to what the fiber tells you.

The scenery

I shot this video outside our common laundry room. A sweet white building under a big oak. A century ago it used to be a stable for the horses that worked in the factories that were here before our house was built.

It was a really windy day in the end of September and I had a hard time keeping control over fiber, yarn and hair.

The Navajo spindle (and bowl that is outside of the picture) is from Roosterick.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a long-shafted spindle.
It was a windy day!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

A meditation

I have a new video for you today! This time it is about spinning on a supported spindle. Or, rather, what spinning in general and supported spindle spinning in particular does for me. I give you Spinning on a supported spindle: A meditation.

A new video

The very first instructional type videos I released were about spinning on a supported spindle. I have learned a lot since then, both about spinning technique and about videography and editing. For example, nearly all of my previous supported spinning videos were shot before I had figure out spinning ergonomics and spinning direction.

The scenery

So, I figured it was time to make a new video on supported spindle spinning, with better spinning, photo quality, and editing. The weekend we spent at the Swedish spinning and fleece championships was the perfect opportunity. My husband brought his fancy camera and we found a beautiful location by a mill in the forest.

We shot the video on a beautiful September afternoon, with magic autumn light and the mesmerizing sound of the creek. I decided that the number one priority this time would be the scenery – spinning angles and techniques would have to come second. We skipped between the rocks in the creek like fairies, hunting for the prettiest spots and lighting. I can imagine that the mill would have been quite a dangerous place back in the days and our skipping around would soon have ended badly.

We didn’t bring a tripod for our weekend away, so some of the shots are a bit unstable. I hope you can live with that.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a supported spindle by a mill.
Spinning by the mill. Photo by Dan Waltin

Editing

Back home, I started to edit the clips. When I had finished, I started to add the titles. And I didn’t know what to write. In my more recent videos I have found a way to approach the titles on a level that I think works. It is informative but not too busy. But I couldn’t really think of titles that would match that level in this video. When I teach supported spindle spinning the course usually takes three hours, which actually is way too little. How could I fit informative titles in a three minute video when I need more than three hours to teach it?

After a while I gave it a go and added titles that I thought would be on a suitable level. I was still unsure of the result, though. The titles didn’t match the theme of the shots. I asked Dan what he thought. He said “Why don’t you adapt the titles to the scenery and make them more… mindful?” That was it! This wasn’t an instructional video at all, it was a mindful video. I deleted all the titles and started over with a fresh perspective. I edited the video into an inspiration for meditation. The new titles made the scenery and Dan’s beautiful shots justice.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a supported spindle. An old wooden door behind her.
A mindful spinner. Photo by dan Waltin

A meditation

When I spin, especially on a supported spindle, I relax. I feel that I allow my mind to be light and free. Just like the fibers go through my hands, I allow my thoughts to come and go, without expectations or forcing. If I feel tense or stressed, I like to grab my spindle and take a moment to myself and spin. This allows my mind to relax and I feel more balanced. Spinning also unlocks my creative thinking and I get access to fresh ideas and inspiration. It is like I have entered a door in my mind that has been hidden behind other thoughts before, like a meditation. I meditate twice a day and the sensation of spinning and meditation are quite similar. Sometimes I get the same feeling after a bike ride. There is something about the motion that also helps my mind to move forward and untie any mind knots.

I tried to convey this feeling in the new titles. I hope you get a sense of what I mean, or even recognize the feeling.

The spindle

The spindle and bowl I am using in the shots was made by Björn Peck. He is a professional wood turner based in Stockholm. I contacted him this June and asked if he could make me some supported spindles. When I teach I have a whole array of spindles from different makers, mostly from the U.S. but also from Australia and the U.K. It takes time to ship them to Sweden and the shipping and customs fees make the spindle quite costly. Also, if my students want to buy a spindle after the course, they have to wait several weeks for the spindle to arrive, and by then they will have forgotten the technique.

Björn agreed to give it a go and came to our house. I showed him how the spindle works and what features I think are important. After another two meetings, he had managed to make a beautiful spindle that spins like a dream and has all the details I want. He also made a spinning puck in matching wood.

I don’t sell Björn’s spindles and bowls, other than to the students in my courses in Sweden. But if people – by that I mean you – are interested, I can ask Björn to set up an online shop. Just let me know.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle
Spindle and bowl by Björn Peck. Photo by Dan Waltin

And, oh, the sweater I’m wearing is the one I made in my first documentary video Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

 

Shopping trolley makeover

A person pulling a shopping trolley

I have a shopping trolley that I pack all my gear in when I teach spinning. It is lightweight and easy to bring on the metro or train. It can easily swallow three shoe boxes on top of each other, filled with spindles, cards, combs and other tools. This is the story of a shopping trolley makeover.

A shopping trolley makeover

Lately my shopping trolley bag has started to come apart and I decided it was time for it to retire. My husband suggested I look for a new one in wool. That was an excellent idea. The one I had was in some synthetic canvas which wasn’t climate friendly at all. When I browsed for a shopping trolley in wool, though, I couldn’t find one.

Creativity by bike

On an early bike ride to work I got an idea.  My 10 K morning bike ride to work is one of my most creative moments during the day and I usually get so much sorted out in my head on these rides. I direct and edit videos, brainstorm for new videos, outline articles and blog posts etc. When I get to work I just write all of it down and e-mail it to myself. This was one of those ideas. I was going to make a new trolley bag myself – I would just copy all the parts and measurements from the existing trolley bag and stitch them together.

I had seen a made-over shopping trolley before and fallen in love with the idea. A while ago, I took a wood-carving class, and the teacher had upcycled her shopping trolley. Instead of the regular canvas bag she had made one in woven birch bark. The handle was made of carefully carved wood with an ergonomical grip. It was really beautiful and personal. The idea of making one in my own crafting material made my heart jump with joy.

Wool needle punched felt

On a recent fiber event I passed by a vendor who sold needle punched felt in 100 percent wool from Swedish sheep. They sold it by the meter in large rolls. That would be a perfect material for my shopping trolley!

I bought a meter of medium felted needle punched felt. The material is about 6 mm thick and quite sturdy. However, it works excellent to hand sew in.

Cozy sewing

I measured the original shopping trolley bag and copied it right off (I did leave the cane compartment, though, I figured I wouldn’t need it for a while yet). Then I just used a simple backstitch to sew all the pieces together.

The sewing was actually really comfortable. I loved holding the thick wool in my hands and the needle went through the thick material with ease. I used glue clamps to pin the pieces together. And of course I used my handspun yarn for the seams, a 2-ply worsted spun yarn from the black parts of a Shetland flecked fleece.

A woolen shopping trolley in a beech forest.
A personalized shopping trolley, ready for teaching adventures. Photo by Dan Waltin

The compartment was made of a front and a back, two sides, a bottom and a top flap. The top flap closed with velcro. There were steel reinforcement frames in the front and back pieces. I made extra pockets on the tops of the front and back pieces for the frames to fit in. A shorter handle on the back of the bag and a longer on the front. A closing mechanism for the handles, secured with velcro. Two horizontal straps on the back piece held the bag securely on the trolley. After the pictures were taken I got rid of the ugly foam handle on the trolley and replaced it with a cozier one in the same material as the rest of the bag.

All that was left of the original trolley bag was a sad and hollow bundle of polyester canvas.

Embellishments

Needle felted logo

Before I sewed the bag, though, I had some decorations to make. First of all I needle felted my logo to the front of the bag. I tried to pre-trace the logo onto the felted material first, but it was way to fuzzy, so I had to needle felt it all off the cuff. I used a handspun rya yarn I had used earlier for a logo embroidery on my spinning apron.

A needle felted sheep logo
A needle felted logo. Photo by Dan Waltin

A spinner’s quote

After having finished the logo I thought it would be a shame to waste such a blank and lovely canvas. So I embroidered a quote on the closing flap. I used the same handspun yarn I had used for the seams.

I chose a spinning quote from Mahatma Gandhi. He was a spinner and wanted to liberate India from the British by non-violent civil disobedience and spinning. I found it quite fitting.

A quote embroidered on a felted material
‘Every revolution of the wheel spins peace, goodwill and love’. Photo by Dan Waltin

I couldn’t pre-trace on the lid either, so I had to embroider all the writing off the cuff as well. I used a simple backstitch. Embroidering handwriting by improvisation was really a challenge, but when the quote was all finished I was really happy with the result. Despite the rather uneven ‘handwriting’ I am quite fond of it. It has sort of an animated touch to it.

A shopping trolley makeover success

When the shopping trolley bag was finished I just slid it over the trolley handle. I fit like a glove and I was happy as a clam of my beautiful and personal trolley bag. The walls of the bag are really sturdy and it actually looks professional. I can’t wait to board the next train with my new traveling companion!

A person pulling a shopping trolley.
Off to new spinning adventures. Photo by Dan Waltin

A spindle case

I also got another idea. It may have come to me on another bike ride. I had fallen in love with the felted material and I didn’t want to stop sewing in it. So I came up with an idea to make a spindle case. Just a tube with a bottom, a lid and a loop strap for hanging or holding in your hand or sliding onto your belt.

A woolen tube with an embroidered flower
My pretty spindle house, ready for a house-warming party. Or, rather, a spindle warming party. The house is already warm and cozy. Photo by Dan Waltin

In afterthought, the rim of the lid was a bit too short. It is 3 cm and I should have made it around 5 cm. The top of the lid is a bit too small, which makes the rim point outwards a bit and result in an unsmooth fit. I’ll make some changes for my next spindle case!

More embroidery

I have not embroidered much, but a spindle case is a perfect opportunity to practice. And I did love sewing in the material, so there was no hesitation. This time, however, I didn’t use my handspun yarn for the embroidery. Instead, I used thrift shop embroidery flax yarn I found in the back of a cupboard. This case needed colour and most of my handspun is undyed. The silky linen yarn was a perfect match to the matte and sturdy feted wool.

As in my previous embroidery adventures with the needle punched felt I couldn’t pre-trace anything, so I just started with the center ring of a flower and improvised from there. The beauty of being a beginner at something is that you don’t know the rules and I could just make everything up as I went along. And I’m quite happy with the result.

A woolen tube with an embroidered flower
Photo by Dan Waltin

The flower reminds me of a pansy. The dangling tentacles are inspired by an anglerfish. You know, the deep-water fish that has sort of an antennae on the top of its head with a flashlight on it to lure its bait.

Decadent lining

I also chose to line the spindle case, for two reasons. First of all, the spindle would get stuck in the entangled mess at the back of the embroidery without a cover. Second of all, If I would keep some spinning fiber in the case (which I most definitely would), it would stick to the felted surface if I didn’t line it. Of course I didn’t want a synthetic lining material, so I bought a decadently pink silk lining and hand-stitched it to the inside of the tube before I assembled the case.

A woolen tube with silk lining.
Decadently pink silk lining in the spindle case. Photo by Dan Waltin

As a final touch, I cut out a circle of wool to put in the case as protection. This way I can put a small spinning bowl or puck/disk in the bottom of the case. If I put the wool circle on top of the bowl and then slide in the spindle I don’t have  to worry about any damage on the spindle tip.

Josefin Waltin sitting on a log in a forest. A shopping trolley and a tube case beside her.
Wool, spinning and a beech forest in autumnal colours. Couldn’t ask for more. Photo by Dan Waltin

I’m ready for my next spinning teaching adventure!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Spinning cotton on a Tahkli spindle

I have a new video for you! In this video I spin cotton on a Tahkli spindle. I shot the video on a windy September day at our allotment. Handling the cotton rolags was really challenging and I had to twist and turn to avoid the rolags getting caught in the twist in the wrong place.

This is the third post in my cotton blog series. Previous posts have been about my opinion of the cotton industry, and about cotton processing. So, here is my video about spinning cotton on a Tahkli spindle.

There are different spellings of the word, both Takhli and Tahkli are common., Tahkli seems to be the most common spelling and I will use this throughout the post. However, I didn’t know this when I made the video, so I refer to it as the Takhli spindle there.

The Tahkli spindle

The Tahkli spindle is a small Indian supported spindle. It spins very fast and is a good choice when you want to spin a short stapled fiber like cotton. The whorl has a smaller circumference than your average Tibetan supported spindle and the shaft (or the whole spindle) is usually made in metal. A metal shaft is easier to make thin than a wooden one.

A spindle with cotton yarn
Tahkli spindle by Malcolm Fielding

The thin shaft and the small whorl circumference are both very helpful in making the spindle very fast. The Tahkli spindle I’m using in the video however, is made of wood, but it has a metal tip.

Cotton behaviour

The properties of cotton

The properties of cotton are very different from the properties of wool. This means that spinning cotton is a very different experience from that of spinning wool.

Since cotton fibers are very short, the ideal preparation for cotton is hand-carding, either as rolags or punis (which are a lot denser than rolags).

Like other plant-based fibers, cotton fibers have no crimp. This means that cotton yarn has no elasticity. This is important to have in mind when you make a project with cotton yarn.

Cotton has no memory. If you compress cotton fiber it will stay compressed. If you wear a heavy cotton sweater, it will eventually sag.

Cotton fibers have a very strong will to catch on to neighboring fibers. This makes cotton very easy to draft. You hardly need any twist at all for cotton to draft.

Spinning cotton

When spinning cotton you need to have these properties in mind. To be able to spin the short cotton fibers you need to get the short fibers into the twist. This means that you need high speed on your spinning tool and you also need a lot of twist for the fibers to stay in the yarn.

Since cotton has no memory and no crimp, it is not nearly as forgiving as wool. Therefore, cotton needs to be spun with a lot of focus. You need to make sure the yarn is strong and durable in every inch. Spinning cotton on a spindle is a good idea, since you have a lot of control of the quality of the yarn. You also have the yarn right in front of you and the chance to check the quality inch by inch.

With no memory in the fibers you need to be very gentle when you handle the rolags. Through trial and error I have learned that prepared fiber is best fresh – an old rolag or hand-combed top will eventually get tangled and slightly compressed. This is especially true for cotton. When you have carded your cotton the best thing is to spin it right away. If you store it, make sure it doesn’t get compressed. The same goes for when you hold the rolag – pretend you have a newly hatched chicken in your hand – don’t compress your rolag.

A person spinning on a small spindle
Hold your rolag very gently.

Spinning cotton on a Tahkli spindle

The technique of spinning cotton on a Tahkli spindle is basically the same as spinning on a Tibetan supported spindle. There are Tahkli spindles with a little hook at the end of the shaft which makes it possible to use the spindle suspended to add extra twist. As with other very short fibers you need to spin cotton with a long draw.

I spin my cotton with a double draft. This means that

  • I flick the spindle and pull the fiber back to make a first draft. This is kind of a preliminary draft to make sure the twist goes all along the drafted part. At this stage the yarn is probably bumpy and uneven.
  • Then I make a second draft to even out the yarn. To do this I untwist the yarn slightly. This allow the fibers to become mobile for a short while and rearrange themselves into a more even yarn.
  • When the yarn is even all along the spun length I add more twist to make sure the yarn is strong. Twist is crucial in yarn with such short fibers and you need to get used to adding a lot more twist than you would on your regular wool yarn.
Close-up of a person spinning cotton.
Bumps in the yarn in the first part of the double draft.

Feeling the spinning

When you spin cotton you need to listen to the yarn and hear what it tells you. Spinning cotton on a spindle helps you to do that. When you spin cotton on a supported style spindle you have both your hands on the yarn and fiber. Your hands are in sole control of the quality and the tension of the yarn. This is a superpower you need to take advantage of.

  • When you work with drafting, untwisting and keeping the tension, you will feel how the fibers work their way into the yarn.
  • On the second part of the double draft you will literally feel which bump that lets go and rearranges itself into the twist. This is truly fascinating.
  • When you see no more bumps to even out, you tug lightly on the yarn. When you feel no give there are also no more uneven parts to even out. All fibers are engaged in the twist and you can say that the twist is balanced.

Learning and improving

Spinning cotton is very good for learning and improving your spinning superpowers. You need to be active all the time and watch, listen and adjust to the whims of your cotton master. By this, I don’t for a second imply that spinning wool is a walk in the park. However, the properties of wool and cotton are so vastly different that you can’t not learn new skills when you spin cotton. Even if you are not a cotton spinner, go ahead and try it! I dare you not to learn from it.

A spindle in a piece of hollow wood
I found the perfect spindle holder in the wood shed!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Sätergläntan study collection

A row of hand distaffs

When I was teaching a course in supported spindle spinning at Sätergläntan earlier this fall, I also visited the library at Sätergläntan. It is a unique library with books on crafting and local cultural history. It also contains the Sätergläntan study collection.

The Sätergläntan study collection

At first I visited the library with the group I was teaching. It was interesting and lots to look at. But it was late afternoon and I wanted to catch the last daylight, so I went for a walk. When I got back it was dark outside and I went back to the library. I found myself blissfully alone in a room full of beautiful crafting books. My heart skipped a beat and I savoured the moment. This is when the librarian asked me if I wanted to look at the study collection. I did.

The study collection was basically a small storage room filled from floor to roof with  boxes and old crafting tools and supplies. I knew exactly what I was looking for.

Twined knitted jacket sleeves

In the study collection I found it – a box with four jackets with twined knitted sleeves, probably from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. I was in twined knitting heaven.

Two jackets with twined knitted sleeves in red.
Twined knitted treasures in a box.

The county of Dalarna is famous for a rich textile heritage with beautiful folklore costumes and local textile techniques. Dalarna is part of the region where twined knitting (or two-end knitting) was born. In twined knitting you use two threads. You alternate the two threads and twist them at the back of the work. Here is a short clip from an earlier post where I show the basic technique.

The wrong side of a knitted sleeve.
The wrong side of the fabric reveals the ridges created by the twining of the two yarn ends.

This results in a sturdy material with very little ease and it behaves more like weaving than knitting. The material also becomes very warm and wind-proof.

A jacket with a woven green bodice and sewn on twined knitted sleeves in red.
A traditional jacket with a vadmal bodice and sewn on twined knitted sleeves. The decorations on the bodice are machine sewn. The jacket is probably from the late 19th or early 20th century.

The method was called knitting back then, because that is how everybody knitted at the time in Dalarna. When knitting with only one thread became popular, that technique was simply called one-end knitting. Later, when the one-ended method had taken over the knitting market, the modern names were used – knitting for one end and twined knitting for two ends.

The yarn was spun with local wool, usually from the Dala-päls sheep. To accommodate for the twisting of yarns, you spin it S and ply it Z. Here is a post where I make a Z-plied yarn.

Twined knitting is a very old technique. The first found item, a mitten, was first dated to the 19th century, then to the late 17th century and recently as far as to the 16th century. The technique has been used mostly for socks and mittens. However, many everyday folklore jackets in the county of Dalarna have been made in the technique, for both men and women. Previously, I had only seen pictures of these truly exquisite jackets. When I heard about the study collection at Sätergläntan I knew there was a chance I would find one of these jackets. And indeed I did.

Distaffs

After I had Aaah-ed and ooohhh-ed over the twined knitted jackets I didn’t feel finished with the study collection. So I looked around to see if I could find any textile tools. And I stumbled upon a heap of beautiful distaffs.

Eight distaffs of different shapes and models
A buffet of distaffs. When I was standing on a chair to take this picture, my daughter called me on Face Time. The librarian heard me talking and came in and saw me standing on the chair FaceTiming. I wonder what she thought I was doing.

I asked Marie, the weaving teacher at Sätergläntan about the distaffs and she knew a bit about them. They had all been donated to Sätergläntan and had probably been rescued from thrift shops in the area. Most of them had probably been used for flax, particularly the ones with combs. The two on the left are belt distaffs for spindle spinning, the rests were made to assemble on a spinning wheel. Fourth from the left (with a London theme) was made quite recently by someone at the school. Third from the left was probably also made recently.

A distaff with a mirror.
A newly made distaff with interesting details. Shelves of crafting and crafted tools in the Sätergläntan study collection in the background.

The rich ornamentation and the hearts on some of the distaffs suggest that they may have been bridal gifts. A few of them even had little mirrors.

A richly ornamented distaff with a heart-shaped mirror.
A paddle distaff. Probably a bridal gift from Russia.

More treasures

Marie also showed me a flax brush. It was a very local tradition in the county of Ångermanland to brush the flax after the final hackling and before the flax was dressed on the distaff. I’ll try brushing my flax next time I dress my distaff.

A brush
A flax brush, local to the county of Ångermanland. Probably made with hog’s hair and leather or birch bark.

The final treasure Marie showed me was a book charkha from the -70’s. After a lot of head scratching we finally managed to assemble it, but some parts were broken and we couldn’t take her for a test spin.

A book charkha
A book charkha. On the left is a bundle of cotton punis, carefully wrapped in an Indian newspaper.

But she sure was pretty!

The quiet night at the library really paid off. And I can only imagine all the treasures I didn’t get to see this time. If I’m lucky, I will come back to explore more in the Sätergläntan study collection and library.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Teaching spinning at Sätergläntan

A wooden sign with the text Sätergläntan

This past week I have been teaching spinning at Sätergläntan – a five-day course in supported spindle spinning. Seven spinners have learned basic and intermediate techniques and developed new skills and perspectives on spinning.

Sätergläntan – a nordic center for craft education

Sätergläntan is a crafting institute that offers courses in different crafting techniques. The center is situated in the beautiful county of Dalarna, which has a very rich cultural and crafting heritage. Students at Sätergläntan can take one, two or three year courses in weaving, sewing, woodwork or forging. Sätergläntan also offers five-day courses in different crafting techniques.

A red house and a green field
Sätergläntan main building

Every corner of Sätergläntan is bursting with craft and creativity. From the creative minds of students and teachers to the littlest things like beautifully carved door knobs or embroidered flowers on armchairs. Inspiration is everywhere.

Teaching supported spindle spinning: Basics

We started the course in supported spindle spinning with getting to know the spindle and used yarn to learn the motions step by step. We also talked about the super powers of supported spindle spinning, spindle anatomy and differences in models and design. On day two we used the park and draft method and finally the students started spinning continuously.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle.
This student was basically a beginner spinner and the yarn on the spindle is her very first yarn on a supported spindle. A very smooth and well-spun first yarn! Spindle from Malcolm Fielding, spindle in the background from Texas Jeans,

Almost all of the students were experienced spinners, but most of them had never touched a supported spindle before. There was so much experience in the room and we had lots of very rewarding discussions about technique, wool preparation and the anatomy of the spindles.

Swedish spindles from Björn Peck

In earlier courses, I have had spindles for the students to borrow for the duration of the course. When the courses were over, I could only recommend them to buy their own spindles  from spindle makers from the U.S. or Australia or in some cases the U.K. That meant that they would need to wait for at least a couple of weeks before they could practice what they had learned on the course. By that time they would probably have forgotten a lot of what they had learned. And it bothered me a lot.

This time, I brought Swedish spindles for sale! I have a cooperation with wood turner Björn Peck from Stockholm. He has made beautiful and very well functioning supported spindles and bowls in local Swedish woods after my instructions. I am very happy and immensely proud of this cooperation.

When I teach, I am very strict and force my students to try all of the spindles from different makers. I don’t tell them who made what spindle until they have knowledge about what to look for in a spindle. Before I reveal the makers I ask the students which spindle they liked the most. Since I have had Björn’s spindles in my stash, a vast majority of the students have opted for his spindles over all the other brands.

I don’t sell the spindles outside of my spinning courses and Björn doesn’t have them on his web site. Yet.  If you are interested in buying them, he can open up a web shop. Just let me know.

Spindles and spinning bowls.
Eager students comparing spindles and bowls before making a decision on what to buy. Spindles and bowls in maple, apple, walnut, bird cherry and laburnum from Björn Peck Woodworking.

Intermediate

Day three we started the intermediate section with plying on our supported spindles. We looked at different methods of getting the singles off the spindles and arranging them for plying. Also, we made lazy kates from paper bags and shoe boxes, plied from toilet rolls, center-pull balls and tennis balls. We 2-plied, Andean plied and plied on the fly. Several of the students had been looking forward to learning how to ply on the fly on the supported spindle, and they all learned the technique and seemed to enjoy it very much.

Close-up of a person spinning outdoors on a supported spindle.
Students are making progress! Spindle and bowl from Björn Peck woodworking. China bowl is an Asian rice bowl.

We also pretended we were spinning seated on a rock in the forest (just like I like to do in my videos) and made skeins with arms and legs and yarn balls with our thumbs as nostepinnes. There is not much room to bring niddy-noddies or other tools to the rock in the forest, so learning how to use your body to take care of the yarn is very convenient.

Analysis

On day four we started digging deeper in analysis. So far, the students had applied their previous spinning knowledge and skills to this new tool and technique. Now we turned it all around and looked at what supported spindle spinning can do for our spinning with other tools.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle.
Deep concentration and lots of interesting theories in the analysis section

Spinning on a supported spindle gives us the opportunity to control the yarn in a way I don’t see in other spinning tools. This makes it possible to spin with a very high quality.

When you spin on a supported spindle you have control with your hands on both fiber end and yarn end. You hold the fiber with the thumb and index finger of the fiber hand and the yarn with the same fingers of your spindle hand.

Supported spindle spinning gives you the opportunity to have control of both the fiber end and the yarn end with your hands. Spindle and lap bowl from Forsnäs Hemman (private).

With most other spinning tools you have control of only the fiber end. Even if you can have both your hands on the yarn and fiber on a wheel, your hands never control the tension. In supported spindle spinning your hands have total control of the tension of the yarn in both ends. This is a super power we need to take advantage of! By having this amount of control we can fine tune the yarn and master it in more detail than with other spinning tools. For this reason, I usually experiment and try out fibers and yarn on a supported spindle before I scale the production up on a wheel. Now, that’s a super power! You can see an example of this in my video Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl.

Mindfulness

Another super power of spinning in general, and supported spindle spinning in particular, is the mindfulness it brings to the spinner (and to the people around them). Spinning on a supported spindle gives me the same sense of calm and peace that I get from meditation. I use the creative parts of my brain when I spin, but spinning also opens up my creative thinking. If I feel I’m in a jam, I take a break, spin for a while and  – voilá – my creative thinking is back on track. We talked about this in one of the last sessions of the course. We also did sort of a spinning meditation. I had never tried it before, but I think the students enjoyed it. In fact, one of them solved a problem during the spinning meditation that she had been struggling with all week.

Wool tasting

Finally, on day five we did some wool tasting! I came up with the idea earlier this year. Compare a wool tasting to a wine or chocolate tasting where you get to try different brands or products and compare them. In the wool tasting the students got five different fibers to prepare, spin and compare.

The fiber samples and charts for the wool tasting

They each got a chart where they noted characteristics of the fiber, what they wanted to do with it, how they prepared and spun it and how the result came out.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle.
Lots of activity in the wool tasting. Spindle and bowl from Björn Peck Woodworking.

They got ten minutes with each fiber. The spinners quickly entered the crafting bubble and the spinning energy was intense in the room. Everybody was deeply concentrated on the making.

Close-up of a person carding brown wool
Carding long Rya lamb locks

They got the opportunity to use all the new skills they had learned during the week and filled in their wool tasting charts with great enthusiasm.

A filled-in chart
A finished wool tasting chart

And the fibers in the wool tasting? Well, it was actually not just wool. We kicked off with Gute wool, turned sharply to heavenly soft alpaca, went straight ahead to mulberry silk, surprised with Leicester longwool with nepps and finished off with long lamb locks of Rya.

Yarn samples
The wool tasting results from one of the wool tasters. From above: Gute wool, alpaca, mulberry silk, Leicester wool with lost nepps and rya wool.

All in all it was a successful course where the students made great progress. I learned at least as much as they did and I got lots of new pedagogical tools for my teaching tool box.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Processing cotton

As I wrote in an earlier post, I was given newly harvested cotton from a fellow spinner in Stockholm. I have never handled cotton for spinning before. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to investigate a fiber that is new to me and that I have avoided for environmental reasons.

This is part 2 of my cotton blog series. The first post was about my thoughts of the fashion industry in general and cotton in particular.

Ginning

After the blossom has withered, the seed develops in the cotton capsule (boll). Fibers are attached to the seeds to make it possible for the seeds to be swept away by the wind and start a new plant. Compare it to  dandelion seeds. They wait for a gust of wind to catch them and transport them to a new home where they can start a new plant.

Each cotton boll has from 10 to a gazillion seeds, cozily wrapped in soft cotton fibers. Deseeding, or ginning the cotton is a time consuming process when you do it by hand. On the plus side, ginning by hand yields more clean cotton fiber than ginning mechanically. The fiber (lint) is also less compressed with hand ginning than with mechanical ginning.

When I researched cotton processing I stumbled upon this beautiful and very smart and efficient way of ginning cotton with a flat stone and a metal rod. I tried to do it with what I had at home – a wooden rolling pin and an equally wooden cutting board. I realized quite quickly that it wouldn’t work at all and I was frankly quite embarrassed by my naïveté. Instead I stuck to my original plan and ginned by hand.

The lint is quite strongly attached to the seeds and ginning by hand is a challenge. It took me quite a while to finish the whole 150 grams of cotton. 75 g of it ended up as seeds and the remaining 55 g was spinnable cotton lint.

A bowl of cotton
Cotton!

Willowing

When I read up on willowing wool for a previous video and blog post, I learned that cotton also has a willowing tradition. So naturally I wanted to try willowing cotton as well.

Willowing means to open up the fiber by whipping it with willow sticks. Cotton is prone to compress itself if you handle it manually. There is another way to open up cotton bolls that I haven’t tried yet. You can open up your cotton with a bow-like tool. You place the bow close to a pile of cotton and strike the bow repeatedly. The string snaps the cotton, which opens up. Quite neat if you happen to have a proper bow. I have yet to try this.

I must say I wasn’t as impressed by willowing cotton as I was by willowing wool. Perhaps I did it wrong. I did willow on quite a soft surface. Or perhaps cotton don’t need as much willowing as wool. Either way, the cotton opened up in the beginning, but after a while nothing really happened. I have seen videos where people willow cotton with a lot smaller sticks, more like twigs, and keeping two twigs in one hand for willowing. Another thing to try.

Walter, the neighbor’s cat watched and hung around. After so many videos where I have looked for a cat to make an appearance on my set, I finally got a cat extra! I think he did well and he is welcome back.

The sweet thing about the cat appearance is that spinning and purring is the same word in Swedish: Jag spinner (I spin). Katten spinner (the cat spins).

Josefin Waltin sitting on the ground, looking at a big and furry cat
A dear moment between two spinners.

Carding

I used my regular cards. They are quite fine and work well for cotton. I have read that you need cotton cards for carding cotton, and I am sure the result will bet better with cotton cards. But wool cards are still better than no cards at all.

I use short and very light strokes for the short cotton fibers. Basically, I use the same technique as for wool carding, and finish by rolling the carded fiber into a rolag. I could of course make a pretty cotton puni as well, but I honestly didn’t think about it at the time.

Make sure you don’t make lots of rolags and then store them compressed. Cotton is not elastic and won’t spring back into shape after being compressed. Any kind of fiber preparation is best fresh, and that certainly applies to cotton.

Josefin Waltin carding
Cotton carding in the September sun

The vest I am wearing in the video is the Ivy League vest by Eunny Jang. The yarn is my own handspun (the ones that are not naturally colored are my own hand dyed), mostly of rare and endangered Norwegian sheep breeds.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Cotton blog series

A hand holding a boll of cotton

I’m starting a cotton blog series. There will be upcoming posts with cotton preparation and spinning, but in this first post I want to air my thoughts about this fiber.

Fast fashion

I try not to buy cotton clothes. If you have seen my videos Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater and Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl you probably realize that I try to live a sustainable life. I have also tried to show this in my latest documentary video I choose to stay on the ground.

Cotton farming is to a large extent governed by the fashion industry. Anyone who has been in a fashion store realizes that the range of clothes is changed at least four times every year. A large part of these clothes are made of cotton. Therefore, cotton takes up an enormous part of the farmland in the world, land that could have been used for food production. Cotton farming also uses vast amounts of water and pesticides. This in turn affects the nearby flora and fauna and, of course, the people working on the farm. Even if there is organic cotton available, it is still grown as a monoculture which will have consequences for the biodiversity in the area.

Spinning cotton

I have never spun cotton before. Cotton farming depends on a warm climate and I doubt that any of the cotton that is sold to spinners has been farmed in Europe, let alone here in Sweden. Buying cotton from another continent and having it flown back to Sweden just for my pleasure has not appealed to me.

Last year I tried growing my own cotton plants. It all went very well at the beginning. I cultivated five plants indoors and placed them outdoors by midsummer when there was no more risk of night frost. I was delighted to see the pretty flowers and I waited eagerly for the magic to happen in the bolls. However, last summer was a cold and wet one. All the bolls fell off, and one by one the plants died. I didn’t try again this year.

A white and pink cotton flower
A cotton flower from my own plant in 2017

This blog series could have ended here.

Instead, this is where it starts.

Just a couple of weeks ago I received a bag of cotton from a fellow spinner. The cotton had been cultivated right here in Stockholm! She told me that I could share the cotton with fellow spinners. I didn’t. Instead I will share my thoughts and reflections of preparing and spinning locally cultivated cotton.

A pile of cotton bolls
Locally cultivated cotton.

So, with all this said, let the cotton blog series begin! In upcoming posts I will publish videos and show you how I prepare cotton for spinning and three different ways to spin cotton.

Spoiler alert: One of the videos will contain a guest starring cat!

Happy spinning!


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