English long draw

a hand wound ball of dark grey yarn

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Voilá! A yarn is spun!

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

Happy spinning!

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

Spindle stick and distaff spinning in Romania

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

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

Clara Sherman Navajo spinning

Clara Sherman spinning on a Navajo spindle

Since I’m not making any new videos this time of year, I thought I’d invite you to see other videos that I like, that feature spinners and spinning techniques around the globe.

First up is a video I’m sure many of you have seen already, but it is so beautiful and inspirational when it comes to Navajo spindle spinning. I am talking about Clara Sherman and her wonderful treatment of spindle, wool and spinning. The way she trusts her body to feel when the twist is just right is so liberating. But not only does she trust her body to feel how the wool wants to be spun, she can also verbalize it and explain it to the viewer. That’s skill and knowledge on a deep level. She has a true respect for the wool and animates it when she talks about the wool crying.

The video features all the parts of the process from sheep to the finished rug, and it emphasizes the importance of thoughtful and thorough preparation to make a high quality all the way to the end product.

Clara Sherman died a few years ago, at the age of 96. I’m so happy that someone filmed her and made some of her talent available on YouTube so that  we have the opportunity to learn from her.

New video: Spinning through the seasons

a few skeins of handspun yarn on a tree trunk

I have a new spinning video for you today. It took me a necessary while to finish it.

I wanted to make a video where the seasonal change plays a major part. So I chose to make as few changes as possible, to let the seasons shine in all their glory. I chose to film everything on the same location, a tree trunk in a grove outside our house. While the spot and the spinning are the same, all that changes is the nature around me. I filmed whenever I thought the nature had changed enough to make a difference compared to the last filming. I focused on new flowers, seed capsules and changing colours of leaves. I love the first wood anemone/vitsippa in april and Marathon lily/Krollilja with its delicate flower in July and the seed capsule in August.

The tree was cut down quite recently, and when I chose the spot in early spring I didn’t really know how the ground would look like in high summer. It turned out to be a favourite spot for a nasty and invasive weed (ground elder/kirskål). It grew so high I couldn’t even find the trunk in July, so I had to cheat a little and use the weed wacker. I can highly recommend ground elder soup, though!

People sometimes have favourite seasons. I hope you find yours. Enjoy!

Navajo spindle is from Roosterick

Fiber is my hand carded wool from Shetland wool and Swedish finewool.

Knitting pattern for sweater is the Fileuse pattern by Valerie Miller, yarn is my handspun

Knitting pattern for shawl is the Marin shawl by Ysolda Teague, yarn from Wollmeise

Knitting pattern for hat is the Crofthoose hat by Ella Gordon, yarn is my handspun

Accidental win-win

My son accidentally dropped his cell phone on the ground and the screen broke.

So he is getting mine.

And I get a brand new one.

With a better camera.

So I can make better videos.

Yay!

Close-up of a spinning wheel. A fireplace in the background.
First picture with new phone.

Up close in the microscope

Wool fibers seen through a microscope

The other day I had a spinning date with my friend Anna and her cousin Helena. We had a great time spinning and chatting away. Anna also brought her microscope. I had brought staples from all my current fleeces and I went bananas with the microscope. Here are some examples.

First up is the Swedish finewool, one of my favourite breeds. I think the staple is from the neck, it is very short and fine. You can see the crimp in the microscope and how fine the fiber is. There is a lot of air trapped between the winding fibers. I want to keep this air when I spin it, to make a warm and soft yarn. Therefore I spin it with long draw from hand-carded rolags.

Three staples of white, crimpy wool
Swedish finewool
White wool seen through a microscope
Swedish finewool in the microscope

Next up is white superfine Shetland wool, long staples of fine and crimpy fibers. In this comparison, though, the finewool looks finer than the Shetland wool, and slightly crimpier. And I can see some peat between the Shetland fibers! It is appealing to spin it with long draw to keep the air in. However, these fibers are very long and they work better with the combs to make a strong and shiny yarn with short draw. Any shorter fibers or comb leftovers will be carded and spun with long draw, though.

Two staples of white crimpy wool
White Shetland
White wool seen through a microscope. There are pieces of peat in the wool.
White Shetland in the microscope

For comparison, here is a Leicester staple, with completely different characteristics. The fibers are long and shiny and with waves more than crimp. In the microscope you can see only straight fibers and they seem a bit coarser than the Shetland and finewool samples. It is easy to imagine these fibers organized parallel in a strong yarn. I have spun this yarn with short forward draw from hand- combed tops into a strong and shiny warp yarn.

A staple of wavy wool
Leicester wool
white wool seen through a microscope
Leicester wool in the microscope

This is so much fun!

Planning next video season

A dark picture of two hands knitting in front of a fireplace
Indoor fiber work in November

It’s mid-november and it’s getting cold outside, about 0°C in the mornings. And dark, at the moment the sun is above the horizon between 7:45 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. and getting darker for another month. This makes it hard to make spinning videos. It is too cold for the lanolin (and the camera battery) and too few hours of pale sunlight for the camera. And I only shoot my videos outside. This means that my production of spinning videos will hibernate until about March. I do have a few cards up my sleeve that I may release during the winter, but other than that, I will blog, spin and do fiber stuff indoors and unfilmed.

Also, I will be planning what and how to film next season. And you are welcome to come up with ideas and requests of themes, techniques or other aspects you would like me to make videos about. Or blog about, for that matter. It could include most fiber related stuff such as spinning in different techniques and with different tools, knitting, rigid heddle loom weaving, wool preparation, nalbinding etc. Make your requests in the comments section here or at my Facebook page (in English or Swedish, it could also work in German) and I will see what I can do for the coming outdoor video season.

Happy spinning!

I have a new toy – the pin loom

a small loom and lots of finished woven squares

Spinning and fiber work are material sports, there is no point in denying it.

A couple of days ago, I came across an Interweave post on pin loom weaving for hand spinners. At the same time I had a stash cleaning since my handspun storage was bursting. And I realized that the pin loom would solve my problem.

How to weave on a pin loom

A pin loom is a small 10×10 cm loom that only needs a short piece of yarn for one square. The first three passes are just threaded between the pins – vertical, horizontal and vertical again – and on the fourth you weave horizontally with a long needle. You weave in the ends and the square is finished in under 20 minutes. Since all the squares are made in the same way it is easy to sew them together in the selvedges.

Weaving with my handspans

I bought a Zoom loom from Schacht. The technique is really addictive. I like how different yarns behave in different ways on the loom (and off). I spin a lot of yarn, and there is often a small ball of yarn left when I have finished a project. And I can’t throw away these odd balls, no matter how small they are. I have a hard time throwing away even short lengths that I cut off from weaving in ends. I even save the last piece that is left of the warp after cutting it (effsingar is the Swedish word, is there a name for it in English?). There is so much time and love put into these short peaces of yarn and I can’t just ignore that.

An odyssey of my spinning history

When I weave these scraps of yarn it is like an odyssey of all my previous handspun yarns – I get to see and feel them all over again and they bring back memories of projects past. I can also see the development in my own spinning from the uneven, loosely spun yarns in the beginning six years ago to the more consistent ones I make today.

Planned project

My plan is to do what the author Deborah Held suggests in the Interweave post: I will make squares of all my small balls of leftover handspun yarns, sew them together, felt and make a blanket of perhaps 15 x 20 squares. I have got a lot of handspun leftovers in my stash so I think it is a realistic idea. And so far it looks like the colours will go well together.

A small loom and lots of woven squares
Pin looming my little heart out. The yarn on the loom is a z-spun yarn I made in 2012, way too loosely spun, used for a pair of twined knitted mittens I use almost daily