The yarn is totally without bounce, which isn’t surprising, given the wavy, almost straight character of the staples. It is really silky and strong, which is a combination of the soft and silky undercoat and the long and strong outercoat. As you can see in the pictures, there are some guard hairs that are misbehaving, but I don’t see them as a problem. I really like the way the colour variations came out. I’m painting pictures in my head with the knitted fabric as the canvas in endless variations of grey. I think this will make a great yarn for my twined knitting mittens.
I used the same spindle for both singles, so each single was transfered onto an empty toilet paper roll when finished. That way I could start plying from the same end as I started spinning. I learned somewhere that the yarn will hold together better that way.
When it came to plying, I switched hands so that I plied clockwise with my right hand as the spinning hand, again pulling the spindle. I didn’t experience any pain in any hand. Well, to tell the truth, I did get a bit sore on the skin of the fingertip of my right index finger from two straight hours of plying, but that was just stupidity, don’t tell anyone.
Since I want to knit both mittens at the same time, I can’t start knitting until the second skein is finished. And I’ve already started spinning the third spindle. It’s a really nice project to work with. I comb a few locks, spin them, comb some more and so on.
I stumbled upon a call for submissions for the spring 2018 issue in may last year. The theme was spinning for weaving, which was a perfect match for the Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl video I was making at the time. I sketched down a very rough proposal and after a while I got a positive response from the editor!
I wrote an article that I was very proud of, all the while I was making the last work on the shawl and the video. The shawl was finished in the end of June. I didn’t want to wear it since I was planning to take the article photos at our countryside vacation in the end of July. I wanted the shawl to look its best for the photo shoot. My husband took some beautiful photos that very well represented all the hard work I had put into the shawl and the video.
The value of handmade
In September I sent the shawl and some fiber and yarn samples to the Spin-off office as they wanted to take some photos of their own. It was horrifying to send my baby all alone across the pond. A problem arose when I was supposed to estimate the value of the shawl for shipping insurance. How do you set a price on something hand made? The cost of the material was under 10€, but how much is all the work, skill and experience worth? I remembered the video about the Lendbreen tunic, a 1700 year old garment found in a Norwegian melting glacier. The garment was reconstructed with the tools and techniques available at the Iron age. The worth of the garment was estimated to about 37000 €, counting in the hours it took to reconstruct the garment from start to finish and an hourly rate for a modern day crafter. My shawl didn’t take as long to make, but it really made me think of the value of it, especially in the light of the underestimation of the value of hand crafted items today. Finally I wrote 160€ and mailed it. I wouldn’t sell it for that (or at all), but I imagined someone would be willing to buy a similar item for 160€.
So, for most of the fall I was without my shawl and it was really scary. The postal service in Sweden hasn’t been working very well lately. I dreaded the thought of the shawl getting lost on the way back to me. In December I did get it back, though, safe and sound. Finally I can start wearing my shawl!
I hope you like the article, and the video if you haven’t seen it already. And oh, if you are an Outlander fan, there is a connection to the series in the video. I wrote about it in this blog post.
Earlier, I wrote about my new spinning project. I am spinning a yarn counter-clockwise to be able to knit myself a pair of twined knitted mittens.
One finished, three to go
The current status is that I have finished one spindle of s-spun singles, about 30 grams. According to the pattern book, I need 100–120 grams, so if I make another 3 30 gram singles I will end up with one 60 gram skein for each mitten. With twined knitting it is av very good idea to knit both mittens at the same time. This to make sure that the gauge turns out the same. I did not do this with my first pair.
A challenging spin
I have to say It is not the easiest spinning I have experienced. The fiber is impressingly smooth and silky, but there is a certain amount of tugging. I think it has to do with the preparation – I comb the locks as lightly as possible, just to separate the fibers. I guess they are still a little attached to each other, making the drafting a little challenging. But I get the effect I want, and I really enjoy spinning counter-clockwise with my left hand.
I love how the colour variation turned out. There is a spectrum from almost white, through silver and light grey to medium and even dark grey, and some strokes of golden brown. Spinning the locks one by one, I was hoping to catch as many of the shades in the fleece as possible. I would not have been able to achieve this effect had I combed the wool in the traditional way. Also, a yarn like this is not possible to machine spin. This will truly be a unique yarn, which warms my heart a little extra.
Happy spinning, both clockwise and counter-clockwise!
For quite a while I have been thinking about creating my own Patreon page, and now I am finally on my way! I will launch my Patreon page in March.
What is Patreon?
Patreon is an online membership platform that allows fans to regularly provide financial support to creators. It also enables fans to get to know the creators better and get access to exclusive material. Here is a video that explains how Patreon works.
Why I am launching my Patreon page
I love blogging making videos and I love the response I get from you, which, in turn, helps me make better videos and articles. But I do all of this in my spare time. For one three minute video I have usually spent a whole day filming and another day editing, and, of course, pre and post production. All of my videos are shot outdoors in the summer months. To be able to make videos all year round I will need to invest in studio equipment. I would like to be able to spend more time with my family whilst making better content for you. If I could cut back on my day job, I would have a more balanced living and get food on the table. Above all, I would be able get some mental space to create more and better for you.
Rewards for you
The way Patreon works, is that the patrons – hopefully you – pledge to a monthly payment of their choice. I will in turn create reward tiers depending on how much my patrons pledge. These patron-exclusive rewards could include previews of new videos, behind-the-scenes-material from released videos, patrons’ names in the video credits, Q&As, patron-only polls etc.
Do you have any suggestions for these rewards? If you were a patron, is there anything you would like to receive as a reward? I will not be able to send stuff in the mail, though. The rewards are for you and this is your chance to influence them.
In this series I will write about preparing, spinning and knitting a pair of mittens in the old Swedish technique of twined knitting.
Rediscovering an old technique
Several years ago, long before I started spinning, I stumbled upon twined knitting, also known as two-end knitting (from the Swedish word tvåändsstickning). It is a very old Swedish knitting technique where you knit with two separate strands of yarn and twist them in between the stitches. This makes a very sturdy and windproof textile that will last very long. Because of the twisting, twined knitting takes a lot of time.
The technique was nearly forgotten, but recreated through a textile find in the 1970’s. A mitten was found, thought to originate from the 19th century, but later found to be from the late 17th century. At first there seemed to be nothing special about the mitten, since it looked like regular knitting from the right side. But when the mitten was turned inside out, it was obvious that this was something different. The inside of twined knitting is dense and ridged, due to the twisting of yarns.
The responsibility of saving a textile treasure
In my woolly heart of 2009, I wanted to take responsibility to help saving this technique. Since the technique involves twisting, the best result is given when you knit with a z-plied yarn. I bought a skein of z-plied yarn and knitted myself a pair of twined knitting half-mitts. I loved them dearly, and one sad day I lost them together with a knit beret on the subway.
A few years later, as a beginner spinner, I spun a skein of z-plied yarn and made myself another pair of twined knitting mittens. The yarn – one of my first handspun ones – was way underspun, but I solved that by felting the finished mittens. These are my go-to mittens that I have worn practically every day for the last five winters.
Now there is a hole in the thumb. I have mended the hole, but I still want to make another pair, for several reasons. In a recent episode of the Fruity knitting podcast, there was an interview with Karin Kahnlund, master twined knitter, and I got inspired to twine knit again. Another reason is my analysis of spinning direction, where I have looked closely at the hand movements when spinning in different directions with different hands (for more posts in the series, look here and here). As a leftie, this is a perfect opportunity for me to spin counter-clockwise with my left hand (pulling the spindle). A third reason is about just getting a second chance at spinning a z-plied yarn.
It’s a beautiful, grey lamb fleece with a long staple, soft and almost silky. It is the same fleece I used in my short video of medieval spinning, but in the video I used the shorter staples, carded. For this project I will use the longer staples . This Värmland fleece has a double coat with longer and shorter fibers (the over coat fibers are roughly 22 cm, the under coat fibers about 14 cm).
I am combing each individual staple and spin on a supported spindle from the cut end to catch all the fiber lengths in the yarn (for a closer look at the technique, see my video where I spin with the sheep in the pasture).
I will post every now and then to let you know how the project is going.
So far in the series of spinning direction we have looked at the hand movements and the physiology of spindle spinning. We have also looked at the results of a spinning poll. In this post, we will look back in time at how spun yarn has been used in textiles historically to find a clue to spinning habits today.
When it comes to archaeological finds of spinning there are tons of metal, clay or stone spindle whorls to look at. But when it comes to organic materials like wood and textile fibers, most of them have disintegrated through time. But there are still some finds. With a quick Google search, it seems like most textile finds before medieval times were woven with a z/clockwise spun warp and weft. From the medievals most finds were woven with clockwise warp and counter-clockwise weft (sources here and here). In some of the sources there are also a connection between handedness and spinning direction (here and here). This is also confirmed by Maria Neijman, craft consultant in Stockholm and co-founder of Historical textiles.
Looking at a textile find
Looking a bit closer at the featured photo (by Maria Neijman), we see that it is a twill weave with a z-spun warp and s-spun weft. The warp is quite tightly spun, with an angle at about 60–70°. The weft is looser, around 40–50°. The weft is also more unevenly spun with both thick and thin spots. For the weave to hold in the loom, the warp needs to be strong. The weft, on the other hand, can be more loosely spun.
What can we derive from the textile history?
If spinning direction in the medievals has a connection to handedness, can it be the case that spinners (of whom around 80–90 % were and are righthanded) have spun most of the yarn clockwise (pulling) because it was more ergonomic for the spinner? The quality of the weft is not as important as the warp when it comes to strength. Is it possible that the counter-clockwise spun weft was looser and more unevenly spun because it was less natural for the righthanded spinner to spin counter-clockwise (pushing)?
What about the lefties?
I am a leftie, and I know that many lefties have had to do things awkwardly. In the crafts lessons at school I wasn’t taught how to crochet since the teacher didn’t know how to teach me. Many leftie friends have had the same experience. With this background, one side of me is a bit annoyed at this biased righthanded history of spinning. But another, much bigger side of me is fascinated at how much we can learn about spinning from looking at textile finds. I am also grateful that I know more now about possible reasons for my spinning cramp and the fact that I can change hands or spinning directions.
Is this true?
We do not know if any of this is true, we can only make more or less qualified guesswork. But somehow it seems logical, and it gives me a peace of mind to know that it may be true. Most commercial yarns today are z-spun and s-plied. Can this be a remnant from the spinning habits of medieval spindle spinners? This thought is thrilling and gives me goosebumps.
This was the last post in this first blog post series. I hope you have enjoyed it!
In an earlier post, I started to investigate spinning direction by looking at my own spinning with my left (dominant) and right hand. The thought came up after I had had to switch hands due to a cramp in my left thumb base while learning to spin in-hand style. In this post, we take a look at poll results and the physiology of spindle spinning.
I wanted more than my own experience, so last week I made a spinning poll. I want to thank all of you who answered it. I got 155 answers and quite an interesting result.
I wanted to know with which hand you spin clockwise on any kind of spindle. Here are some spinning poll results:
About 80 % of the spinners are righthanded. That goes roughly hand in hand with handedness in the world.
Of the righthanded, about three quarters spin clockwise with their right hand and one quarter with their left hand.
About 7 % of are lefthanded.
About two thirds of the lefthanded spinners spin clockwise with their left hand and one third with their right hand.
About 15 % answered something else. These answers were mostly about different spinning hands for different kinds of spinning and ambidexterity. Some of the answers were about spinning counter-clockwise. I had asked for spinning hand for clockwise spinning, meaning when you spin clockwise, but I wasn’t clear enough on this. I’ll be more specific next time.
The basics: Pushing and pulling
So far, we have established this:
Spinning clockwise with your right hand means that the fingers pull the spindle into your hand.
Spinning clockwise with your left hand means that the fingers push the spindle out of your hand.
The spinning poll results showed that
three quarters of the righthanded and one third of the lefthanded spinners pull the spindle and
one quarter of the righthanded and two thirds of the lefthanded spinners push the spindle.
I used to spin clockwise with my left (dominant) hand. Lately, I have started to learn to spin with my right hand because I experienced a cramp when pushing the spindle clockwise with my left hand. I wanted to know why I got this pain.
I talked to Åsa, an occupational therapist who is also a spinner. I asked her what it is that gives me a cramp at the base of my thumb when I spin clockwise with my left hand. She explained that we have more muscles governing the movements pulling inward than pushing outward. More muscles means that the strain on each individual muscle is less than if there are fewer muscles. Evolutionarily we need more muscles to grab than to let go. This phenomenon even seems to overcome the fact that I am a leftie and probably stronger in my left hand. Let’s look at it from above:
My left hand thumb seems to move slightly more than my right hand thumb. The first and second fingers also seem to be working more – pushing – with my left hand. It looks more strained, and perhaps the movement is a bit bigger than with my right hand. Spinning with my right hand – pulling – looks easier, despite the fact that it is my weaker hand.
What does this mean for spinning?
62 % of the spinnes who answered the poll seem to be pulling the spindle, which from a physiological perspective seems to be better for the hand than pushing. At the same time, there are different amounts of strain on the hand in different types of spinning, as I have been looking at earlier. When spinning in-hand style there is quite a lot of strain on your hand since the spinner is holding the spindle and twirling it almost all the time. In the other end of the spectrum, there is suspended spindle spinning when you need to wait quite a while between twirls, and oftentimes you roll the spindle shaft up or down your thigh instead of twirling it with your fingers.
If you do experience pain, take a look at how you are spinning. Are you pushing or pulling? Is it time to make a change of hands or spinning direction? Either way, make sure you feel comfortable when you spin.
Does this make sense to you? Have you experienced pain when you spin? If so, have you been pushing or pulling? Have you tried to change spinning hands or spinning direction? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
As I have written in an earlier post, one of my favourite knitting designers is Kate Davies. In her book The book of Haps she has a pattern of a beautiful square Shetland hap, called Moder Dy. When I saw it, I immediately felt that it needed me. After months of knitting and spinning, it is finally finished!
A hap stretcher to match
Knitting a big shawl like a Shetland hap and making it justice requires proper blocking. And the Shetland way fo doing that is with a hap stretcher. These are very hard to come by and difficult to ship since they are quite large. As it turned out, the hap stretcher needed me too. Fortunately, Kate Davies has an excellent hap stretcher tutorial on her blog.
So, this fall I put on my best carpenter’s suit and started drilling.
Lots of holes.
Eventually I was done drilling, did a little sanding and varnishing and became the proud mother of a brand new hap stretcher.
Shetland all the way
Since the Moder Dy is a typical Shetland hap, I wanted to use Shetland wool for the yarn. After getting tired of spinning up my earlier Shetland fleeces as 2-ply fingering weight yarn, I had spun a few skeins as 3-ply sport weight yarn. I had white, Shaela (light gray), Yuglet and Eskit (dark grays), all from the treasure room for hand spinners at Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers. I have combed the fiber and spun with short draw to define the lace pattern. I planned this quality for the lace edge and shell border.
For the garter middle I used a Mooskit (light fawn) fleece that I carded and spun with long draw to make it soft and warm. One of the wonderful benefits of handspinning is that I can customize the yarn for my knitting needs.
Using what I have
I spun some more 3-ply and started knitting the lace edge in light gray. When I had finished half of the lace edging, I realized that I didn’t have enough light gray yarn. I also didn’t have any more light gray fluff. So I simply changed to a dark gray Shetland yarn. I mean, I can’t be the first one to have run out of fluff and I’m sure there are other creative solutions for this problem that have resulted in stunning designs. I read once that having limitations actually forces you to be more creative since you need to find a solution within certain boundaries.
Spinning as I run out of yarn
This Shetland hap is really huge and It ‘s amazing how much yarn is required. I have spun up more as I have run out of yarn. Since the rows of the shell border are about 500 stitches long in the beginning, one 50 g skein may last only for about 5 rows. Every time I have thought I didn’t need any more yarn, I have realized I was wrong. Way wrong.
Big and heavy knitting
Knitting this hap has been an adventure and it’s wonderful to be in the best seat to see the development. Naturally, the project has grown bigger and bigger and when I knit the last part (the garter middle) I was totally covered under a heavy hap monster.
Total weight: 1055 g
Total meterage: 1909 m
The pattern called for a sport weight yarn, but the my yarn is for the most part a bit thicker than that. Which also meant that the hap stretcher was a bit too small – had it been bigger I would have been able to stretch the fabric and define the pattern even more in the blocking.
As always, I have learned a lot from this project. All in all, I’m hap happy!
When I spin, I usually get a yield of around 55 % of the original weight of the fleece. The rest goes away as waste in either sorting or combing/carding. But I never throw any of the waste away. The most obvious use would be for toy stuffing, but I’m not a big toy maker. Instead, I use most of it in the garden. The wool waste has value even if it’s full of dirt, vegetable matter and poo. Or just because of that.
When I sow in pots I put some wool waste in the bottom to let the roots get some space. If I plan to keep the plants indoors in the winter, I also put wool on top of the soil. This has several benefits. First of all, it protects the surface of the soil so that it doesn’t dry so fast. The dirt in the wool will sink down into the soil when watering and will act as a fertilizer. If I use white wool on top of the soil, it also reflects the light, which is beneficial for the plant. Last, but not least, the wool will prevent the fungus gnats from laying their eggs in the soil.
For basically the same reason as the pots, we put wool waste on top of the garden beds at our allotment. It keeps the soil from drying out, it keeps weeds from growing and it fertilizes the soil when it rains. The wee workers in the soil will pull the fibers down into the depth and make the soil earthy and porous. The wool waste may also prevent slugs and roe deers from eating our crop. Not always, though, the bold city roe deers and the despicable Spanish slugs are nasty!
Sometimes the wool doesn’t stay in the garden beds, though. In the early spring I see lots of magpies pulling fibers to use in their nests. I can live with that.
Instant felted soles
I like to put wool waste in my shoes to make instant insulating soles. The more I use the shoes, the more the wool felts and makes excellent personalized soles.
Against visiting ants
Every March equinox, the ants come marching into our house. If we find their way in, we try to stuff the hole with a piece of wool. That usually helps and feels better than any chemical ant control.
Feeding the compost
Small pieces of wool waste from spinning I usually just put in the Bokashi compost. Or, if we have a bigger amount of wool waste that for some reason can’t be used elsewhere, we just put it in the compost. It may take a while to decompose, but eventually it will. And we use all our precious compost in the garden beds.
Wool waste water
Last, but not least, I use the water from wool rinsing. Swedish wool usually has a quite low amount of lanolin in it. I want some lanolin in the wool I spin, so I just rinse the wool in water. This gives me just the right amount of lanolin to spin. I preferably use rain water if the rain barrel is full. The used water has lots and lots of fertilizer and I use it to water the plants outside. It makes the whole garden smell like sheep, and for a little while I pretend I have my own flock.
Do you have more clever ideas for not letting the wool waste go to waste?
Hello spinners, I need your help! I am investigating spinning directions for spindle spinning and I would like you to answer this poll. My question is about which hand is your spinning hand when you spin clockwise on any kind of spindle. The spinning hand is the hand with which you turn/twirl/flick your spindle (as opposed to the fiber hand which holds the fiber). Answer in general, what is your most common way to spin. If you would like to elaborate or comment, please write in the comments section. The poll runs until Sunday February 4th 23:59 CET.
For an analysis of spinning direction and spinning hand, see this post.