Swedish fleece and spinning championships

This weekend I attended the Swedish fleece and spinning championships at Wålstedts textilverkstad in Dala-Floda. I was there as a visitor, but also as an instructor and a contestant.

Fleece championships

For the fleece championships, sheep owners sent in their best fleeces for judgment. The fleeces were judged by factors as evenness, crimp, fiber thickness, staple length, elasticity’s softness, silkiness etc. There were two basic categories, heritage breeds and crossbred.

Lots of fleeces of different breeds and colours on a big table
Fleeces competing in the Swedish wool championships 2017

Since there were so many fleeces, the jury had made more sub-categories so that the same kind of fleeces competed against each other – Rya, Finweool, Värmland, Crossbred, Gotland/Leicester etc. This competition is a very important part of Swedish wool production. It helps the sheep owners make good choices in breeding when it comes to fleece quality. There was a very high quality in the fleeces and I wanted to dive into all of them.

Wool auction

There were many proud winners and after the prize ceremony the winning fleeces were auctioned. I got my hands on two of my favourite fleeces.

A dark grey fleece
Cuddly Finewool/Rya gold medalist.

The first fleece I bought was a gold medalist in the heritage breed category. It is a beautiful Finewool/Rya ewe mix breed in a beautiful dark grey colour from Boda backe sheep farm. The overall quality the fleece is mainly soft and crimpy Finewool. The softness is very unusual for a ewe, that on top of that was shorn in the spring. The jury’s verdict was: “A very clean, soft and likable spring fleece. Easy to card, airy staple with mostly undercoat. An all-round fleece which is easy to manage and can be used for many purposes.”

A light grey fleece
Yummy Värmland bronze medalist

My second purchase was a bronze medalist in the heritage Värmland category. A wonderfully soft Värmland lamb fleece from Sussanne Sörensen’s flock in Löberöd. The jury’s verdict was “A beautiful fleece with an interesting colour, long undercoat and soft overcoat and a medieval touch”. The undercoat is 14 cm and the overcoat 22 cm.

The event also hosted the Swedish hand spinning championship, in which I got a bronze medal! More about that in an earlier post.

A row of skeins of yarn, all in the same colour combination of blue and dusty rose
Some of the competing yarns in the handspinning championships

I also taught a class in supported spindle spinning, which, as always, was a great experience and I got lots of inspiration from it.

On top of it all, my husband and I got a chance to see some beautiful autumn scenery.

Josefin Waltin sitting on a bench knitting. A river in the background.
Knitting away where Österdal river meets Västerdal river and form the Dal river. Yarn is my handspun from a Grey Trönder fleece.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.

A Bronze medal in the Swedish hand spinning championships 2017!

Josefin Waltin smiling with a bronze medal and a skein of yarn around her neck
The proud bronze medalist in the Swedish hand spinning championships 2017

I just won the bronze medal in the Swedish hand spinning championships 2017!

It is a competition where the prize is really valuable feedback on all the contestants’ spinning and an opportunity to give yourself a spinning challenge. The Swedish championships have been running for three years now and I have participated in all of them. Every year there have been two different categories – one regular and one advanced – and contestants are welcome to enter one or both of them.

This year I participated in both categories. All the contestants got the same fluff sent home together with instructions and the finished yarn was sent to a jury and the winners were announced at the Swedish spinning and wool championships festival at Wålstedts spinning mill in Dala-Floda. More about the event in a later post.

The rules of the game

The regular category was a 3-ply yarn. We received batts of two different colours with which we were allowed to play with as we liked. Originally I had planned to spin a gradient yarn, but when I got the batts I realized that the colours were too similar to each other to make a good gradient. Yet, they were too different to work with singles spun in the different colours without looking too speckled. So I simply pre-drafted from both of the batts similarly to get both of the colours in each singles.

A support spindle filled with yarn, Carded batts in the background.
Batts and singles for 3-ply competition yarn. Supported spindle and spinning bowl from Malcolm Fielding.

Spinning for the championships

The different batts had slightly different feelings to them, I think one of them was undyed. I don’t spin from batts very often and I’m not very used to spinning fluff without lanolin. I spun the singles with long draw on a supported spindle to get as much air in the yarn as possible, and plied it on my wheel. And it turned out nicely. But not the best yarn I have spun and not my favourite spinning either.

I did not get any prize for this yarn. However, I got some very constructive feedback from the jury. They said that it was evenly spun, but a bit overplied in some areas.

A skein of 3-ply yarn
Finished 3-ply yarn, spun woolen from batts on a supported spindle, plied on a spinning wheel

The advanced category was a cabled yarn, spun with two different colours of fluff from batts. I really like these colours, both individually and together.

Two carded batts, a blue and a dusty rose
Coloured batts for advanced category.

This time I chose to spin three of the singles in one colour and the fourth in the other colour. I dizzed the fiber through my needle gauge to get an even pre-draft. I spun the singles woolen in hope of a soft and airy result.

two hands dizzying fiber through a sheep shaped needle gauge
Dizzing with needle gauge

The spinning required lots of focus, again because the lack of lanolin and my not being used to it.

a cabled yarn in blue and dusty rose
Cabled yarn spun woolen from dizzed batts on a spinning wheel. It got me a bronze medal in the advanced category.

The jury’s verdict was “An attractive combination of the colours in the cabling that gives an exciting speckledness to the knitting.” It was a real challenge spinning it and I’m very proud of my work.

There is a story in every item

Close-up of a striped shawl draped over stone steps
Lamina wrap by Ambah O’Brien, knit in my handspun.

There is a story in every part of the process and in every item I make.

When I knit something it is always in a certain context. Perhaps I am talking to someone, listening to a podcast or thinking of something. Next time I pick up the needles, my mind brings that context to life again in the feeling of the structure and the muscular memory of the motion. It’s like the context gets caught in the thread and woven into the garment. A parallel process of the time, space and events of that moment is created and recreated.

I may be thinking about when I prepared and spun the yarn or remembering what the fleece felt like. Perhaps I am thinking of how the dye didn’t turn out the way I had planned but how I still loved the result.

I may remember the last time I was knitting at a coffee break at work, letting my co-workers choose the next colour.

Perhaps I remember a heartwarming conversation with a curious subway passenger asking me about my project. I may smile at the memory of seeing other passengers watching the repetitive movements of my hands, and getting helplessly enraptured in the motion. I imagine they are positively affected by my serenity.

I may definitely remember all the mistakes I have made in the process, how I have dealt with them and what I have learned from them.

When the garment is finished and all the ends woven in, I wrap myself in it, like a story book. And I walk on, a little richer in memories.

A striped shawl draped over stone steps
So many new stories in one single item.

Sides and stripes

Josefin Waltin walking on a country road, wearing a striped sweater in blue and orange
Sides and stripes sweater by Veera Välimäki. Photo by Dan Waltin

I have finished a sweater! It is the Sides and stripes sweater by Veera Välimäki I mentioned in a previous post about the designer.

The design

The sweater is knit seamlessly in the round. The yoke is quite fitted but the body has lots of positive ease. There are short rows at the bottom of the back body to make the sweater a bit longer at the back. The sides are purled to make a reverse stockinette stitch. The hem of the body and sleeves are in garter stitch.

The back of a striped sweater in blue and orange
Short rows at the back of the neck and at the bottom of the hem. Reverse stockinette stitch side panels. Photo by Dan Waltin

The yarn

The main colour yarn is the 3-ply finewool yarn I have been spinning during august. It’s spun woolen from hand-carded rolags on my spinning wheel. I’m really happy with the result. I spin lots of 2-ply and like the result, but 3-ply is just so round and beautiful!

I dyed it in a jeansy colour. As usual, I’m way too cheap when I dye, so I try to press too much yarn into a pot that is too small, resulting in an uneven dye. But I do love the result, it gives the yarn a variegated finish.

A basket of skeins of blue handspun yarn
Dyed finewool yarn

For the constrast colour I used a 2-ply yarn spun woolen from the fold on a supported spindle. I dyed it in a warm, dark orangy shade.

Two skeins of handspun orange yarn
2-ply Jämtland yarn spun woolen from the fold on a supported spindle.

The orange yarn is thinner than the blue, but since the sweater is striped it doesn’t really matter, the difference just adds texture to the striped section.

The knitting

Knitting was just a pleasure. There is a lot of stockinette, but the stripes and the reverse stockinette sides make the knitting more interesting. When I got to the sleeves I feared that there wouldn’t be enough blue yarn. I decided to knit both sleeves at the same time to avoid ending up with different length sleeves. When the sleeves were not at all finished, I ran out of yarn. I did have one undyed skein left though, and the dye. I figured, that if I managed to dye the last skein in a similar colour, I could get away with it. If I didn’t, I had to solve the problem somehow.

The setback

I dyed the last skein, and it ended up a clear moss green colour. I have had some problems with this dye, I had added some yellow to it earlier to make a turquoise shade, but somehow the yellow didn’t show. But now I found it, in the last skein. There was no way I could use it for the hem of the sleeves. So I knit 9 of the 12 garter stitch rows for the hem in the final meters of the blue yarn. Then I made a turned hem. I knit a purl row of orange and continued in stockinette stitch for 8 rows and cast off while at the same time fastening the bind-off to the wrong side of the sweater. To do this, I used a smaller needle to pick up the purl bumps on the inside of the garment, just at the height of the fold. From that I made a 3-needle bind-off. This way I used as much as possible of the blue yarn (and there were only inches left of it after the garter stitch hem) and still got a nice finish of the sleeves.

A detail of the sleeve of a knitted sweater
My panic solution to running out of blue yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Happy happy!

New video: Ply on the fly on a supported spindle

 

My friend Anna is a master drop spindle spinner and she often plies on the fly. Ply on the fly is a technique to spin a yarn on a spindle and ply alternately. You spin a bit, secure the end of the single, and chain-ply the part you just spun. I have never practised it, but it is a smart way to finish a yarn without having the trouble of unwinding the spindle in between. I have seen a few videos on this technique, but only on drop spindles. So today I made a search on plying on the fly on a supported spindle. And I found Ioana’s video. She has a good technique and explains it very well.

The basics are: you spin clockwise and wind onto the temporary cop and butterfly the single onto your fiber hand, just as you would normally do. For plying, you pick up a loop from the bottom of the shaft and chain-ply counter-clockwise. When almost all the butterflied single is plied, you secure the loop at the bottom again and go back to spinning.

I wanted to make my own video, soI went to the allotment with my garden chair/camera stand and started spinning! I put in explaining in text and slow motion sections to show the technique as clearly as possible. However, there are many steps in a short segment of time and you might want to watch it more than once to get the technique. Also, look at Ioana’s video for additional explanation of the method.

Close-up of a person chain-plying on a supported spindle
Ply on the fly on a supported spindle

The spindle is from Malcolm Fielding, bowl is an egg bowl from Gmundner Keramik and fiber is hand-combed from the Swedish finewool sheep Engla at Överjärva gård. Sweater pattern is my own (unpublished) and yarn is from Östergötlands ullspinneri.

Happy spinning!

 

Oh, Kieran

In my series of favourite designers the turn has come to Kieran Foley. He makes extremely complicated designs, mostly shawls, in lots of vibrant colours, using several intricate techniques such as intarsia, lace knitting and stranding, preferably all at the same time. All the designs make you breathless, both by looking at and by knitting, like the Kurdish shawl and the Oceania pattern. I have made a few of his not so exhaustingly complicated designs. Well, one of them really was quite complicated, the Daisy crescent shawl. A regular crescent shawl, but with flowers knit in intarsia. Using 69 mini skeins.

A person squatting on a rock, putting her hands on a crescent-shaped shawls with flowers
The Daisy Crescent. MC is my handspun, Daisies are scraps of handspun and commercial yarns. Photo by Dan Waltin

My first Kieran was less difficult, though, the Shetland crescent. He was inspired by the colour range of Shetland sheep when he designed it. I was at the time equally fascinated by the same in alpaca, so I knit in in my handspun alpaca yarn.

A hand holding hanger with a natural-coloured lace shawl
Shetland Crescent, by Kieran Foley. Yarn is my handspun alpaca. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I also made the Echo beach shawl with very interesting ladder patterns. So simple an idea, yet so exquisitely designed.

Oh, Veera

In a recent post I told you about one of my favourite knitting designers, Kate Davies. Another favourite designer is Veera Välimäki. She has designed a lot of sweaters with brilliantly smart and yet simple yoke constructions, preferably using short rows. Many of the designs are in garter stitch which gives handspun yarns an extra opportunity to show their perfect non-perfectness.

My first Veera was a shawl, though, the Color affection. You can read more about it here. I knit it in my handspun  alpaca yarn in natural colours and I love the result, it has a wonderful drape.

The back of a person wearing a striped shawl
Color affection, by Veera Välimäki. Yarn is my handspun alpaca. Photo by Dan Waltin

When I changed jobs a few years ago, my colleagues gave me a gift voucher at a local yarn store (boy, did they know me well!) and I bought the yarn for and knit the Still light tunic, a garment I could live in.

One of my favourite Veera designs is the Shift of focus sweater, which I altered a bit. Instead of a buttoned front, I made it closed and I really loved the result. The yarn was a different matter, though. I wasn’t very used to making consistent grist, so the skeins were quite different in thickness. Also, I had spun too little yarn, so I had to make some more from another fleece. Fortunately I had the same dye bath left, so nobody knows the difference.

The torso of a person wearing a teal knitted top
Shift of focus, by Veera Välimäki. Yarn is my hand dyed and handspun from Jämtland sheep, Swedish finewool sheep and some silk. Photo by Dan Waltin

Right now I’m working on the Sides and stripes sweater. The yarn is my handspun from Swedish finewool sheep (blue) and Jämtland sheep (orange) and hand dyed with Greener shades.

Orange and blue hand spun skeins of yarn on a wash line
Yarn for Sides and stripes sweater by Veera Välimäki

I’ll show you when it’s finished!

The Gryffindor wand spindle

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a lottery at the Woodland woodworking forum at Ravelry. The turner Carl had made four beautiful one of a kind wand supported spindles in the colours of the Hogwarts houses – Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. All you had to do was to post which spindle you were interested in and Carl would draw the winners. Each winner would be able to buy their chosen spindle. I really wanted the Ravenclaw spindle, but it was already spoken for by the person who had originally suggested the idea of the house colour wands. Instead I chose the Gryffindor spindle. I didn’t really believe in winning, since most of the posts were on Gryffindor. But – like magic – I did!

So, a couple of days ago an owl landed at my doorstep with the wand in its beak. And I made a short video. Don’t forget the sound!

Spinning on a supported spindle – close-ups

I made a new video today!

I wanted to make a video on supported spindle spinning with all the segments of the spinning and with good close-ups and slow motion pieces. Hope you like it!

The spindle is from Malcolm Fielding and the bowl from the Skansen pottery. Fiber is merino/Tussah silk from Vinterverkstan and the sweater is Fileuse by Valérie Miller, knit in my handspun yarn.

Happy spinning!

Oh, Kate

One of my all-time favourite knitting designers is Kate Davies. She is from Scotland and many of her designs are influenced by the landscape and history of Scotland and Shetland. She has written several books, where she often combines and integrates stories of the area, history, tradition and beautiful photography with the patterns. Like the Moder Dy hap, where she tells the story of how these giant shawls were constructed and why, the origin and purpose of the different parts of the shawl and how she has adapted it to modern techniques and yarns. You can read more about the Moder Dy pattern in Kate’s blog. This hap is on my waiting list. I just have to spin a little more yarn before I can begin.

In the textile department of my book shelf I have three of her books, Colours of Shetland, The book of haps and Inspired by Islay, and I can recommend them all.

I don’t know what it is about her patterns that is so appealing. Perhaps it it the foundation in traditional techniques that she has adapted to a contemporary context. One example is the Paper dolls sweater pattern, a traditional sweater with a Fair Isle construction but with a more contemporary motif. I knit it a couple of years ago for my daughter. She complained that she always got hand-me-downs. But this one was only for her. Knit in my handspun, of course. Another such example is the Oa sweater. Also a Fair isle pattern, but knit as a modern hoody. It is also on my list and also in need of yarn being spun.

Connecting a pattern to a story is also something that gives a design an extra meaning. Like the Stevenson sweater and Stevenson gauntlets that origin from the story of a famous light house engineer. I knit it in my handspun yarn, but obviously I didn’t check the gauge properly and I had to make lots of adjustments to get a good fit.

Josefin Waltin standing by a tree, wearing knitted gauntlets and a short sleeve sweater
Stevenson sweater and Stevenson gauntlets, by Kate Davies. Yarn is my handspun. White and blue is Jämtland wool, fawn is Shetland wool. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Or perhaps it is just because her designs look so darn good and are so ingeniously smart constructed. The Northmavine hoody is one such design. The clever striping that looks just like blue stripes, but actually contains four different shades of blue and turquoise (you find the same stripes in the Northmavine hap as well). The clever hood construction that is so obvious when you think about it. And the super smart edgings  and finishings that don’t have one single seam. That is an ingenious pattern.

Josefin Waltin wearing a knitted hoody, scarf and hat
Northmavine Hoody, by Kate Davies. Yarn from Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers. Photo by Dan Waltin.

And as you may have seen on several of my videos I wear my Northmavine hoody a lot. I bought the pattern and the yarn in Shetland at Shetland wool week 2015 and I’m longing to go back. Perhaps the hoody takes me a little closer.