Old blog post: A fleece meditation

I’m still enjoying my summer holidays. New blog posts are therefore scarce. Today I give you an old blog post: A fleece meditation. Join me in this tribute to the soft and airy fleece of the Gestrike sheep Elin.

Happy spinning!

You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Old blog post: Twist model

One of the most foundational techniques I use and teach in spinning is opening up the twist. To understand this myself I gave birth to what I call the Twist model a couple of years ago. This is one of the first things I teach students on my courses and I believe it helps them understand what it does for the spinning quality as well as for the comfort of the spinner. In this old post of the Twist model I give you lots of examples of how and when I use it.

Happy spinning!

You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Old sheets

My parents still have monogrammed sheets, table cloths and towels from when they got married in 1965. When I moved to my own apartment as a 20-year-old I got some of them with me. They have started to look a bit worn now, but they have served us well during all these years. Today I celebrate old sheets.

We spent last week in a rented cabin in Tiveden, between the two largest lakes in Sweden. As a city woman I obsess over flea markets and second hand stores whenever I get to the countryside or smaller cities. Stockholm doesn’t have what I’m after: Old textiles, especially bed linen.

Flea markets

There is a large flea market a 45 minute drive from the cabin. Last year it was closed due to the covid restrictions, so I was extra jazzed about going this year. During the past years there has been a giant table with textiles at the flea market. A woman traveling the countryside collecting old textiles from forgotten linen cabinets runs the table and has a trained eye for the good stuff. Previous summers I have bought sheets and pillowcases of remarkable quality, some hand woven. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were over 100 years old.

The textile table at the flea market the first time I saw it a few years ago.

A dream of the future

The material of the old sheets is thick and dense and filled with the promise of a good night’s sleep. Most of the sheets have monograms and some lace edgings and embellishments. Some are hand sewn, some even hand woven. You can barely see the mid seam that joins the left and right side of the weaves of a narrow hand loom.

A hand woven monogrammed and laced sheet. Can you see the vertical center seam?

Who made those monograms and laces? What was going through her mind as she stitched them? How late at night did she work with the needle? What were her dreams of the future? Did she sleep happily on her sheets? Did it occur to her that some of her sheets would be forgotten and some cherished by new generations?

Hand woven cotton/linen towels. Since there are pieces of cellulose in the linen threads my guess is that the linen yarn was hand spun from someone’s hand processed flax.

The sheets my parents got back in 1965 were store bought. My father designed the monogram and they had them machine sewn at a monogram service before the wedding. It took me many years to realize that the mysterious stitch formation was actually my parents initial letters. As a child they were just there on all sheets, as natural as the sheets themselves.

When I asked my mother about her and my father’s monogram I also asked of she could look for older family monograms in their linen cabinet. She found some from the late 19th and early 20th century from all sorts of great-great aunts.

Berta’s flax

Many of you may have heard of Berta’s flax. This is a project started by Christiane Seufferlein who got an old dowry chest from a relative to Berta, a woman who got married in Austria in the 1940’s. The chest was filled with processed flax, which worked as a security for a woman. Christiane decided to share the flax with the world and spends her free time shipping flax all over the world. Berta’s flax is long gone, but after came Maria’s, Rosa’s and other women’s flax chests.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s many of these chests were burnt since nobody was interested in their contents. Much like the old sheets I find on flea markets. But these are true treasures. Made with love, hopes and dreams and remarkable skills.

Top and bottom

Through the years on the flea market visits we have bought mainly bottom sheets – machine woven, hand woven, with or without monograms or lace. The important thing is that they are old. A lot of top sheets have been displayed on the textile table too. A top sheet is a longer sheet placed on top of the sleeper, directly under a blanket or patchwork quilt. The top of the top sheet – traditionally embellished with some sort of lace and, of course, a monogram – is folded over the top edge of the blanket.

We haven’t bothered with the top sheets for sale since we use duvets and duvet covers (I don’t even think top sheets are made anymore). But after thinking just a tiny step outside the box I realized that we could use the top sheets as bottom sheets too. Even if the pretty lace would be tucked underneath the mattress they would still be high quality old sheets.

Bad and good fortune

When we got to the flea market this year I went straight to the textile table. Only to find it empty. Empty as in she was not there at all. Not even a thread in sight. We really didn’t need more sheets, but I still love going through her textiles, imagining the lives behind all the monogrammed treasures. And she was such a textile heroine, collecting treasures and saluting women’s skills.

This year's textile harvest included four top sheets and two pillowcases, all monogrammed and laced.
This year’s textile harvest included four top sheets and two pillowcases, all monogrammed and laced.

As we came back to the cabin we went for another ride. This time to a hembygdsgård, sort of a homestead or folk museum. At the gate was a tiny table with old monogrammed sheets. Another textile heroine had saved treasures from the past. I fondled them and saw in my mind our cramped linen cabinet. The sheet section is abundant. However, the duvet covers are not enough and those we have are thinning out.

Old new duvet covers

The oldest duvet covers I have seen are from the 1960’s. Not with the bad quality of today, but still not near the quality of the older textiles. Therefore I don’t bother looking for them on flea markets. So my problem was how to get hold of high quality duvet covers without buying new ones. With another step outside the box I realized that I could make duvet covers with the top sheets! I found two reasonably matching pairs of top sheets (these were made long before standardized sheet measurements) and sewed them together into two smashing duvet covers. A little too narrow for our duvets, and with the four different monograms upside down, but still, heavenly to sleep under.

Our new old duvet covers made of old top sheets of remarkable quality.

Fast fashion

So why is the quality in old sheets so much higher than in modern sheets? Well, this is connected to the fashion industry. The pressure to buy more and new clothes every turn of the season has led to a pressure on the cotton industry. The cotton fibers are shorter to make way for more harvests. The yarn is more loosely spun and the fabrics are woven at a wider sett to save fiber.

Pillowcases

For the past 20 years or so I have slept on an Austrian giant pillow of 80×90 cm. For this reason none of the Swedish pillowcases, old or new, match my pillow. But now, as we have these dreamy pillowcases I have decided to retire my Austrian pillow and buy two Swedish size pillows instead. Filled with wool from Swedish sheep, of course. Soon I will dream sweet dreams on pillowcases thick as cardboard, tied together with sweet bowed ribbons.

A new generation

When Dan and I got married in 1998 we didn’t have monogrammed sheets. We did however get new linen sheets as a wedding present. They thinned out many years ago. We still use one of them, though, as a back curtain to a wool/linen curtain I wove a few years ago for our front door.

Our children won’t have the same memories I did of parents’ monogrammed sheet. For the past years, though they have got used to sleeping on high quality old flea market sheets. They are 16 and 18 now and will move out sooner or later. When they do I won’t get them new sheets for their new homes. I will get them old sheets.

So if you haven’t already, next time you go to a flea market, look for old sheets and bed linen. Get all you can and save these sweet treasures from oblivion.

Sleep tight!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Old blog post: The power of slowness

In the summer time I spend a lot of my spinning time with spindles. They are easy to pack, easy to bring and just a joy to use. The slowness of spindle spinning is a superpower in itself as it offers a unique opportunity to deepen your understanding of spinning mechanics and techniques. Today I invite you to an old blog post where I dive into the power of slowness and offer you some of my favourite superpowers of different kinds of spindles.

Happy spinning!

You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Old blog post: Webinars

I am enjoying my vacation and have no new blog post for you today. Instead I give you a replay of a previous blog post where I take you behind the scenes of my live webinars. You see me for one hour or so on the screen, but there is a lot more going on before and after. In case you haven’t attended any before, a webinar is a seminar or other presentation that takes place on the Internet, allowing participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter, ask questions and comment. They are powerful tools to meet and share information and skills.

Here are two previously live streamed webinars you can watch:

About four times a year I livestream webinars, usually in a breed study series of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective. I have no new webinar coming up at the moment. If you registered for the webinars when they were live-streamed you have them. If not, you are more than welcome to read about the breeds I have covered so far:

Finull sheep. Photo by Dan Waltin
Finull sheep. Photo by Dan Waltin

Happy spinning!

You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Explore

Tabacktorp wool, from the rarest breed in Sweden. The fleece was a gift from a friend. The yarn will be a gift to another friend.

A new fleece invites me to open my mind and explore the fleece in all its possibilities, challenges and opportunities. It gives me a chance to learn something new. I treasure these experiences and keep exploring.

Smooth and pleasant

Today I encourage you to see possibilities and opportunities to learn from the fleece you have. I have talked about this several times because it is an important perspective to me. We may have perfectly consistent fleeces and prepare and spin just the yarn we have imagined. That is all fine and we get to practice spinning consistently and effortlessly.

A consistent and heavenly soft Jämtland fleece that will become a beautifully soft yarn. But it may not give me the challenges from which I learn the most.

Unruly and defiant

Sometimes, though, we don’t. I live in a country where most of the sheep breeds are very heterogenous within a breed, a flock and even over the body of an individual sheep. You can read more about some of the Swedish breeds and how I approach them here. These are often my favourite fleeces. The ones that challenge me with their sea of staple lengths, types and colours, the ones that resist my draft, tease me back when I tease and play with my mind as I try to figure them out. These are the fleeces I learn the most from and the ones I look forward to the most to explore. I let the wool be my teacher and enjoy the ride.

Explore and find the path

Every new fleece is an opportunity for me to explore. I can look at a fleece and see it as a lost cause and move on to the next (which I sometimes do). However, I can also embrace it and try to get to know it. I try to find out how it wants to be spun to become its best yarn. It may actually turn out to be the loveliest fleece to work with. Sometimes a fleece may seem easy to work with but it turns out to be unruly and defiant. I try to see every new fleece with new and open eyes, to find its soul and explore from there. The unruliness and defiance are obstacles in the way, but with a humble mind they can also become part of the path I take in this exploration.

Tabacktorp wool, from the rarest breed in Sweden. The fleece was a gift from a friend. The yarn will be a gift to another friend.
Tabacktorp wool, from the rarest breed in Sweden. The fleece was a gift from a friend. The yarn will be a gift to another friend.

So be bold. Explore the fleece you have in front of you. Embrace all its diversity, the challenges it brings you and the mistakes you make. See them as opportunities to practice and learn. Eventually they will become part of the journey to this individual fleece’s best yarn.

Here are some resources:

  • Fleece through the senses challenge. Free challenge with one assignment every day for five days. This challenge has become very popular! 550 people have already accepted the challenge. Many students have shared their experiences with their fleeces in the comments. This is a huge asset to the course!
  • Know your fleece. An online course where we go a bit deeper into a fleece. I show lots of examples and inspiring videos and you get lots of tools to investigate and explore your fleece.
  • The hand spinner’s advantage. Free webinar where I reflect over my opportunity as a hand spinner to get the most out of a fleece.
  • You are welcome to contact me for a zoom workshop for your spinning group or guild.
  • I also offer personal coaching sessions.

Happy exploring!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

A week of creativity

This blog post could have been about a five-day course in wool knowledge at Sätergläntan craft education center. However, the course was canceled. I was very sad about this, but I did keep the days off from my day job. Suddenly I found myself in a week of creativity.

A whole week to myself in the brightest and most thriving part of the year. I had some things planned but also lots of time to explore and create unplanned.

A park bench

Dan’s birthday was coming up and I had planned to build him a park bench. Recently Erik Eje Almqvist published a book called Hammare och spik (Hammer and nail) that builds on Enzo Mari’s idea of functional furniture with right angles that anyone can build. The book contains descriptions of stools, chairs, benches, tables, shelves and more that are based on standard Swedish timber measurements. I got the timber sawed up on Monday at the timber store and help from my father bringing the stuff home.

I spent a large part of Tuesday building the bench. It was a very hot day, but nice and cool in the basement where we have our storage room. The construction was simple, functional and very sturdy. It could even endure the wonkiness of a beginner’s mistakes.

Wednesday I created what I call crafting graffiti – an embroidered message of love for Dan. I drew the motif on the bench and drilled holes along the drawn lines and sanded down the roughness from the drilling. I wanted to make a root stitch, but the root (or in this case a split ivy stem) kept breaking so I abandoned that idea. Instead I went closer to home – I embroidered with a chain stitch along the holes with my handspun yarn.

Stools

Along with the timber for the bench I bought timber for two stools. Our teenagers spent Thursday building one stool each and by evening we had a whole set of furniture for Dan’s birthday on Friday. We prepared breakfast in the morning on the balcony. As the rain poured down on the sunshade above us we had the loveliest breakfast together all four of us (which is unusual these days since we get up at very different times).

Summer of flax

As I mentioned in a previous post I ended my very long flax spinning procrastination phase and started spinning some of my flax. I don’t have much practice spinning flax, so I was enjoying experimenting, listening to the flax and learning from my mistakes. To practice for my homegrown flax I used store-bought from Växbo lin.

As I preach with wool, the preparation is key. I learned how to best arrange the flax for dressing the distaff and how to move the distaff as the spinning progressed. You can see more of how I dress my distaff in this blog post and video. I built a MacGyver style distaff stand with the help of a parasol stand and some willow sticks. It works surprisingly well.

I have spent quite a few afternoons on the balcony with my flax. This is the time of day when there is shade on the balcony and I thrive away from the sun as it has been around 30 °C this week.

Spindle and shorter lengths

Before I have dressed my distaff I have brushed the flax with my flax brush. It has removed the shorter bits. Still, as I have reached the end of the flax bundle on the distaff only short bits have been left. Through my spinning I have saved both the brushed away lengths and the inner shorter lengths on the distaff and dressed them on a hand distaff for spindle spinning. I have an in-hand style spindle with a counter-clockwise spiral groove that works wonderfully for this.

Grass crowns

The last craft of this week of creativity is making grass crowns. It is a lovely craft you can do a large part of the year depending on what plants you have nearby. I have used grass of course, but also lavender, onions (!) and field flowers. Eventhough grass crown making is a perishable craft, most of the crowns age with dignity.

I have had a lovely week of creativity. On Monday I get back to work again, but only for a week and a half. After that I have six weeks of vacation with lots of room for more creativity. But first I will make another grass crown as a gift to my parents.

First grass crown of many this summer.

My week of creativity has not ended yet. More grass is waiting to become crowns, more flax is waiting to be explored. How was your week?

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Nalbinding Åsen mittens

The waulked and embroidered nalbinding mittens are finished!

For the past few months I have been on an Åsen wool journey. It started with my wanting to make a breed study on Åsen wool. I contacted an Åsen shepherdess who provided me with lovely fleeces. When I started to investigate the fleeces in preparation for the study I sank deep into one of them in the search for its soul. I may have found it in a pair of nalbinding Åsen mittens.

I like to investigate a fleece to find out how it wants to be treated to become its best yarn. In fact, that is my aim in all the fleeces I meet. Every fleece has a purpose and I think I owe it to the sheep who gave me the fleece to find its soul.

A nalbinding friendly fleece

This particular Åsen fleece had mostly vadmal type staples – mostly warm and airy undercoat fibers and just a few strands of long and strong outercoat fibers. It was not particularly soft and I saw a big nalbinding yarn potential. The airy undercoat fibers would provide lightness and warmth while the few outercoat fibers would bind the fibers together and add strength and integrity to the yarn.

Nalbinding straight off the spindle, breaking the rules of soaking and finishing.
Nalbinding straight off the spindle, breaking the rules of soaking and finishing.

To keep as much of the softness in the yarn I carded rolags and spun with a long draw on a suspended spindle. To make the yarn strong I chose the suspended spindle. The tension from the weight of the spindle brings integrity to the yarn. This was the first time I have spun this way. It was truly a lovely treat to explore this technique.

I gave the yarn lots of twist to make sure it would stand the abrasion of going up and down in the nalbinding. The resulting yarn was round, strong and kind. A few strands of black kemp here and there added to the rusticity of the yarn, which went well together with the ancient nalbinding technique.

Nalbinding Åsen mittens

I loved nalbinding these Åsen mittens. Well, I love nalbinding full stop. The technique is slow and I get to hold warm and kind yarn in one hand and a hand carved wooden needle in the other. The slow path of the needle up and down between the strands in my work and the working yarn gently hugging my thumb. Nalbinding doesn’t take up much space and I can do it anywhere. What’s not to love?

The comfort of nalbinding.
The comfort of nalbinding.

Waulking

I was almost sad when I had finished. Now what? Well, a nalbinding project is seldom finished just because the nalbinding itself is over. A nalbinding structure is strong and warm. The sewing of the yarn in all directions of the project makes it impossible to unravel. But my nalbinding projects aren’t finished until it has been properly waulked. The waulking makes the fabric even stronger and warmer. It also makes it windproof.

Nalbinding spirals

Nalbinding is done in a spiral. So for a pair of mittens I make the spiral from the tip of the fingers, round and round and finish at the wrist. I have learned – the hard way – that a nalbinding project made like this shrinks horizontally. Therefore I design the shape a bit off the end proportions – I make them a lot wider than my hands but not necessarily longer.

Nalbinding is generally done in a spiral, which makes the shrinkage happen horizontally. I designed the mittens to be a lot wider than my hands but not much longer.
Nalbinding is generally done in a spiral, which makes the shrinkage happen horizontally. I designed the mittens to be a lot wider than my hands but not much longer.

A few years ago I got a waulking board from Swedish eBay which I used with these mittens to waulk them to a size that would fit my hands. With soap and hot water I started working the mittens against the waulking board. The felting process didn’t take long to start. When I first got to know this fleece I noticed its excellent felting properties.

Woven square, 2-ply yarn and fulled square (from a woven square same as to the left) from Åsen sheep 16010. The fulled square took me less than five minutes to full to size.
Woven square, 2-ply yarn and fulled square (from a woven square same as to the left) from Åsen sheep 16010. The fulled square took me less than five minutes to full to size.

The spiral of the seasons

I was very happy with the end result of the waulking process. The mittens fit perfectly and the shape is very appealing. They are warm, snug and ready for the cold and the wind in the winter. I look forward to wearing them in an authentic setting (and not just for photo purposes in the middle of the summer).

The waulking is finished! The main shrinkage has happened sideways and the mittens have better proportions than pre-waulking.
The waulking is finished! The main shrinkage has happened sideways and the mittens have better proportions than pre-waulking.

I have been making these mittens during a few weeks in June, thinking of winter as the needle has been pushing through the fabric. When I wear them this coming winter I will think of early summer when I made them. It is a lovely cycle, kind of like the nalbound spiral in the fabric.

Finishing

When the mittens had dried after the waulking I brushed the surface lightly to give them a bit of a halo. But they didn’t feel finished, there was something missing. A spinning friend, Elaine, makes the loveliest embroidered mittens, often with just a simple heart on the back of the hand. They look somehow even more inviting with that embroidery.

A tone-in-tone embroidered heart on my waulked nalbinidng mittens.
A tone-in-tone embroidered heart on my waulked nalbinidng mittens.

I felt my mittens needed an embroidery too. Just a simple shape in the natural white nalbinding yarn. I decided on a heart, the kind of careless heart of a phone scribble. Unorganized but still clearly and undoubtedly a heart.

The waulked and embroidered nalbinding mittens are finished!
The waulked and embroidered nalbinding mittens are finished!

I love how the embroidery turned out. Tone-in-tone, but very clearly an embroidery. The round and free shape of the unwaulked yarn against the subtle but structured stripes of the waulked nalbinding. A bit of shine in the embroidery against the matte waulked background. A little shadow from the height of the stem stitch. I can’t wait to wear my nalbinding Åsen mittens this winter!

Nalbinding resources:

  • Excellent written (Finnish, Swedish and English) and video tutorials to a range of nalbinding stitches at Neulakintaat.
  • A new book on Nalbinding by Mervi Pasanen, With one needle. Available in Finnish and English.
  • My own tutorial of the Dalby stitch with the left hand.
  • You can also search for nalbinding on my blog for some more posts with nalbinding projects.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Wild basketry

Rabbit holes. Round, inviting, enticing. What’s down there really? I’ll just have a peak. Ooh, this looks interesting, I’ll go just a tiny bit longer. Ooh, this looks even more interesting, i’ll just… Well, I guess you know how this continues. I have found myself a new rabbit hole in wild basketry. Spoiler alert: This post contains no spinning whatsoever.

Lately I have been slightly obsessed with baskets. There are so many and they are so beautiful. I don’t see them much here in Stockholm, so I become the child in a candy store when I see them on Swedish eBay.

One of my recent basket purchases, an antique root basket filled with willow birch, cordage and future basket and cordage material.
One of my recent basket purchases, an antique birch root basket filled with willow birch, cordage and future basket and cordage material.

I have also found a very special niche of basket making, using foraged materials. Instagram profiles like Jeanette Gray and Suzie Grieve are truly inspiring, as is Sally Pointer with her excellent YouTube videos where she goes “hedge bothering”, looking for suitable fiber plants. They all make the most exquisite baskets of materials I have never heard of before in a basketry context – cattail/reed mace, dandelion stalks, daffodil leaves, ivy, hops and honeysuckle just to name a few. Just the thought of using weeds and garden plants for weaving makes my heart sing (again).

Cordage

Since I have no basket making skills whatsoever I have been foraging some of these plants and practiced making cordage. It is a good start for getting to know the fibers and how they behave. So far I have played with dandelion stalks, rhubarb skin, spider plant and crocus leaves. Making the cordage is magical. They spiral down from my hands in all shades of brown and green, changing as they dry. All the materials feel and behave differently and it is such a joy to be a beginner in this beautiful world.

Making cordage is fun, easy and doesn’t take up much space. It is also a lovely way to get to know a fiber and its characteristics as basket and cordage material. I loved making the rhubarb cordage. It was so flexible when rehydrated, but as it dried again it got all loose. I learned that I need to give it more twist or thickness, or mix it with another fiber. Note the colour timeline of the rhubarb – the leftmost was from our very first rhubarb harvest, the middle from the second and the freshly peeled skin from the fourth.

Basket dreams

I wanted to learn more, though. About what plants to look for, when to harvest and techniques for basket weaving. I found a Swedish basket weaving forum on Facebook. I presented the talented wild weavers I link to above and asked if anybody in Sweden did the same kind of weaving and if there were any courses available. A lot of people replied, but only to admire the work of the wild basket weavers I referred to. One person, Susanna Jacobson, said she used similar techniques and plants. As it turned out, she lives five kilometers from my home. She is a gardener by trade and grows 32 different kinds of willow at her summer house.

I asked if she would teach me and my friend Cecilia about the plants, their superpowers, when to harvest them and basket weaving techniques. She was happy to. When I asked her about the price of the course she suggested a trade: “I I really want to learn how to spin, will you teach me?”. Well, twist my arm!

Wild basketry

So, last weekend Cecilia and I skipped to Susanna’s house full of anticipation. And we got plenty. Susanna was so generous with her garden, plants and skills. We learned how to strip willow and bramble bark and how to dissect and find the fibers in stinging nettle. She showed us her favorite fiber plants for basket weaving and how to find and identify them.

After some theory we got to work with out baskets. We chose cattail/reed mace for the base and an array of plants for the weavers – Siberian iris, yellow flag iris, dandelion , cattail and juncus (sibirisk iris, gul svärdslilja, maskros, kaveldun och veketåg).

The chunkiness

We worked with cattail/reed mace for both frame and weavers. It was such an interesting plant! It looked slim and nothing special. but it turned out to have channels on the inside, carrying the gooiest of goo. Eventhough the plants had been dried we needed to press out a lot of goo to be able to weave somewhat comfortably. Through the channels the material still stayed chunky like… well, like muppet skin, cardboard or styrofoam. I still go to my basket every now and then just to make sure it hasn’t lost its muppet chunkiness.

The superpowers of crafting

As in all crafting classes I have attended and taught, silence fell a few minutes after we had started weaving. The crafting silence, or, if you will, crafting devotion. The focus on the material and the making. And, after a while, a warm and soulful conversation about what really matters in the world. A precious moment of peace of mind, the knowledge of the hand and the natural materials.

After eight hours of fiber and wild basketry joy Cecilia and I had finished our baskets. Row by row of wild plants to build up our unique first wild baskets. As always, the mistakes of the basket form a map of what I have learned – make slimmer joins, push the weavers down to prevent holes once they dry and don’t rush. With mistakes and all, though, they are beautiful and unique. And they make me want to weave a lot more wild baskets.

Foraging

I have new glasses now, fiber plant glasses. Whenever I walk in nature I look out for interesting plants and take mental notes of species, location and development. It is a lovely way to follow the seasons. Lately I have been looking for dandelions. They need to have seeded and be as tall as possible. They don’t really smell like raspberry pie when I dry and later rehydrate them, but they make fantastic cordage and basket material.

There is a spot right next to our house all covered in long ivy stems, some of which have made their way to one of our curtain rods for drying (we don’t use many curtains anyway). I have got permission from the local authorities to harvest willow sticks nearby. I strip the bark and plan to use it for baskets. Next in line will be stinging nettles, perhaps a week or two after midsummer.

At the allotment we have plenty of honeysuckle and hops which I look forward to harvesting. We also bought some carex and day lilies to add to our basket plant collection. This new rabbit hole has lots of passages that I will discover headfirst and wholeheartedly.

Come autumn

As the days go by I will continue collecting basket and cordage material. Just as when I go to the lake for my swim every day it will give me a new appreciation of nature and the turn of the seasons.

Wool and baskets, a beautiful combination.
Wool and wild basket in beautiful harmony.

Towards the autumn I will teach Susanna the basics of spinning. I hope I can give as generously in a private spinning class as she gave Cecilia and me in the wild basketry class. There are a lot of rabbit holes in the spinning world I can lure her in to, wouldn’t you agree? Welcome to class, Susanna, I can’t wait!

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

The comfort of wool

It has been a turbulent year. So much has happened that few of us could imagine before it was on our doorstep. This spring has been crazy on a personal level, with loved ones receiving life changing diagnoses, needing support. Wool allows me to find pause and perspective. Through the comfort of wool – Åsen wool this time – I discover creativity, adventure and new perspectives.

The comfort of wool – through warmth, security and process.

The comfort of wool in the storm

When the world storms around me I find my comfort in wool. When loved ones worry I worry about their worry (how crazy is that?). I find my comfort in wool. Clouds of fluttery thoughts swarm in my mind – I need to remember… What if… How do I prioritize… – I find my comfort in wool.

The safe smell of sheep. The warm feeling against my skin. The fibers working side by side for strength, warmth and structure. Ever tolerant, patient and kind.

From structure to chaos and back to structure again.

Project and process

The process gives me comfort – the rhythm of preparing and spinning the wool. The transformation from structured staples, through chaotic clouds, back to increasingly structured shapes again only to start another adventure in the process of becoming a fabric.

Project and process, both give me comfort in the storm.

Project and process. All wool and all giving me the gift of comfort. Of course the finished object too, but there is so much more to a pair of cozy mittens than just the pair of cozy mittens. Not only do I find warmth and comfort in the mittens on a cold winter’s day – the physical warmth they give me also bring me a spiritual warmth through the memory of the making. The reminiscence of impressions through the making. A place, a scent, a thought, a mood.

I find creativity, adventure and new perspectives through the comfort of wool.

The fiber of many gifts

Wool is my comfort zone, while at the same time being a place for expansion, discovery and art.

  • I find my creativity in wool. With all the shapes this remarkable fiber can take, why couldn’t I?
  • I find adventure in wool. What happens if I take a new approach, try a new technique or just plain and simple break the rules?
  • I find new perspectives in wool. There is always a new way to look at wool that I haven’t experienced yet. What will I learn today?

With the comfort of wool I turn my what ifs from worry to curiosity, from dragons to flee to dragons to tame, from close mindedness to an open heart. Through the material and through the making of the material. Come join me!

I gain new perspectives through all the parts of the process.

Today I will work with plant based materials. Still creating, still discovering and still learning from my mistakes. I might tell you about it in another post.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.