Swedish spinning championships 2019

Four wool balls in white with brown and dark grey stripes.

This past weekend I went to Öströö sheep farm outside of Varberg on the Swedish west coast for the 2019 fleece and spinning championships. It was a wonderful day. I met lots of people, cuddled with heaps and heaps of fleece and got the people’s choice medal around my neck. In this post I will show you how I made my competing yarns for the championships. In an upcoming post I will share my experience of the fleece championships.

A woman standing by the sea. She is wearing a knitted sweater and a medal around her neck.
I got the people’s choice medal for my competing yarns in the spinning championships!

Swedish spinning championships 2019

August kept me busy with spinning for the spinning championships. It has been a lot of fun and a real challenge. There were two categories in the championships – one intermediate and one advanced. I competed in both.

This year we got fleece to start with. Most of the previous years we have got machine carded batts, which I don’t really like. I want to get to know the fleece from the beginning, I want to dig my hands into a dirty fleece and work all the steps in the process myself.

All participants got the same fleece sent to us on the same day. We got about one month to finish and ship the finished yarns.

Intermediate Gute sock yarn

For the intermediate level of the championships the assignment was to spin a sock yarn. We got raw wool from a gute lamb.

Gute sheep is a primitive breed with both outercoat, undercoat and kemp. You can read more about gute wool in a previous post. This lamb’s fleece has probably both under coat and outer coat, but it is hard to distinguish since the fibers are so very fine, probably in the cashmere range.

Raw fleece in different shades of grey. The fibers are very fine but there is also lots of black, coarse fibers.
Gute (lamb) fleece. Extremely fine fibers but also lots of black kemp.

My original thought was to spin a 3-ply, but then I decided to make it a cable yarn. It is quite difficult, but it makes a really pretty structure and a strong and sturdy yarn, perfect for socks. In the Swedish spinning championships of 2017 I got a medal in a spinning championship for a cable yarn.

Preparation

I started by flick carding the locks. A lot of the kemp stayed in the flick card. After combing the wool even more kemp disappeared. I was left with soft and silky bird’s nests. I can hardly believe it is Gute wool.

Balls of combed light grey wool. Some coarse fibers are in the balls.
Soft and silky bird’s nests of Gute wool. Some kemp is left, but a lot less than when I started.

Spinning a cable yarn

I spun the top worsted, with short forward draw. As I spun I pulled more kemp out.

This is how I made my cable yarn:

  • I spun four singles with Z-twist.
  • Then I plied the singles S into two balanced 2-ply yarns.
  • After that I put more S-twist on the singles.
  • Finally, I plied the two 2-ply yarns together, Z.
A skein of light grey yarn.
A finished fingering weight cable yarn from Gute wool, ready to send to the championships.

I ended up with a fingering weight skein, 55 m, 32 g, 1708 m/kg. Some of the kemp is still in the yarn, but it will push itself out eventually.

Advanced Värmland cape

The advanced level of the championships was really interesting. The assignment was to spin a yarn for a woven cape. Not just any cape, but the cape of the Bocksten man. The Bocksten man was found – murdered with a stick through his chest – in a bog just outside of Varberg (where the spinning and fleece championships took place). A piece of cloth was analyzed and dated to around 1290–1430. His clothes had been very well preserved in the bog. As I understand it, the Bocksten man’s clothing is the only complete men’s outfit in Europe from this time period.

A postcard depicting medieval man's clothing
The medieval clothing of the Bocksten man. Photo by Charlotta Sandelin/Länsmuseet Varberg

The task was to make our own interpretation of the Bocksten man’s woven cape. Either in two different yarns for warp and weft or the same yarn for both. We got raw wool from Värmland sheep, mostly in white, but also some locks of brown and grey. Värmland wool has both undercoat and outercoat, and may be similar to the wool that the cape was originally woven from.

Locks of wool in white, brown and grey.
Silky locks of Värmland wool in white, brown and grey.

I decided to make two different yarns for warp and weft. I also wanted to separate the wool types and spin with different techniques. In addition to that I wanted to play with the colours.

Warp

Preparation

I sorted the staples according to colour and combed each colour separately using my double pitched mini combs. I also separated the outercoat from the under coat and saved the undercoat for the weft.

A palette of Värmland wool. Combed outer coat tops in white, brown and grey plus the undercoat comb leftovers.
A palette of Värmland wool. Combed outercoat tops in white, brown and grey plus the undercoat comb leftovers.

When I had combed through everything I combed it again. I took two bird’s nests and combed together. This way I got bigger nests and could separat the wool types even more.

A wool comb full of silky white long fibers.
Second combing. Just long and silky outercoat fibers.

Before I pulled the combed white wool off the comb I added some of the coloured wool to make a lengthwise stripe in the top.

Four wool balls in white with brown and dark grey stripes.
After this stage in the process it was difficult to continue. I wanted to keep my rippled chocolate merengues!

2-ply yarn

I am not a big fan of big colour variations in the same yarn, I prefer more subtle blending. Still, I wanted both the grey and the brown to shine next to all the white. To achieve a soft colour change I spun one of the singles all-white and the other with the striped tops.

Two bobbins of singles. One pure white and one with a mix of brown, white and grey.
Worsted outer coat singles ready to be plied.

I spun them both with short forward draw and 2-plied.

A skein of white, brown and grey yarn.
A finished lace weight (I have no idea what the translation to weaving is) warp yarn. 94 m, 35 g, 2655 m/kg.

It was such a joy to spin this yarn! The white fibers were so shiny and silky, just like a merengue batter. The grey and brown fibers were different in the structure compared to the white. The grey fibers were coarser and less conforming and the brown fibers were a bit closer to the white. The lengthwise stripe turned the singles to a beautiful chocolate rippled merengue batter.

Weft

Preparation

I wanted a coloured effect in the weft yarn too. I carded rolags of the white wool and in some of them I made stripes of the coloured staples.

Prepared fiber in a mushroom tray. Above and below: Outer coat hand-combed bird's nests. Middle: Under coat hand-carded rolags.
All the fiber prep in a mushroom tray. Above and below: Outercoat hand-combed bird’s nests. Middle: Undercoat hand-carded rolags.

Singles yarn

I wanted warp and weft spun in different directions. Therefore I chose to make the weft a singles yarn. My best tool for an even single is always the Navajo spindle. I started by spinning all the rolags into a roving.

A spindle full of yarn. A wood shed in the background.
Woolen yarn spun with long draw on a Navajo spindle from hand-carded rolags, first pass.

Well, it didn’t really end up as a roving as I had planned. It was more of a loosely spun single. I then spun it all again to give the yarn its final thickness and twist. This is when I realized that there was a bit too much twist for me to be able to make it finer. It was quite a bit of hard work.

A spindle full of yarn. A wood shed in the background.
The second pass on the Navajo spindle. The yarn is finer and more even.

The fact that there was no crimp in this silky soft undercoat made drafting a challenge. I had to pay close attention to the drafting zone to avoid breakage. Even if I spun it too much the first time I think it was a good choice to spin the yarn twice.

Another problem was the fact that the different colours had different characteristics as I wrote earlier. Especially the grey fibers were coarser and more difficult to draft in such a fine yarn. Many colour joins broke and many expletives were uttered.

A skein of singles yarn.
A finished weft yarn for the Bocksten man. 184 m, 42 g, 4335 m/kg. This yarn is so yummy!

After getting used to the behavior of the fibers I learned how to pay extra close attention to the colour changes and joins and ended up with a beautiful skein of singles.

A woven swatch.
Pin loom swatch of my Bocksten man yarns.

A joyful day

A row of yarns on a stick
The competing sock yarns in the intermediate category.

All in all, spinning for the Swedish spinning championships 2019 was a joyful process. The raw material was wonderful and I got to play with it on so many levels. I liked that we were free to make our own interpretations and add our own artistic touch in our contributions to the championships.

A row of yarns on a stick
The competing weaving yarns in the advanced category.

Meeting new and old friends

I met a lot of old friends at the championships – spinners, shepherdesses and suppliers. So many friendly faces to share a happy day with. And at least ten people came up to me, introduced themselves and said they were followers. This really made my day! I also got interviewed by a woman from a weaving podcast (I think she used the word star struck when she approached me). Meeting followers is such a joy for me. I am an introvert, but meeting you in person really warms my heart.

Coming up: The 2019 fleece championships.

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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Flax timeline

A small flax field in bloom

A follower asked me to make a flax timeline she could follow for her own flax. This is a lovely idea. I am so grateful for suggestions on blog topics. I write for you and if you have requests it’s even better. So thank you Kathy!

Making a timeline with dates for flax is a challenge, though, depending on different climate zones and on which side of the equator you are living. Any approximate dates would be a challenge even within Sweden. The official arrival of spring is around February 20th in the southernmost part of Sweden and May 5th in the far north. In this flax timeline I have tried to use signs as a starting point. You need to translate these signs to your own context.

Five stricks of flax. Smallest to the left and chunkiest to the right.
My flax harvests through the years. From the left: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In short

Instead of a timeline with dates I have tried to make a guide with practical indicators to help you know what to look for. In short, this is what I came up with:

  • Sowing: When the soil is manageable
  • Harvesting: When the stalks are yellow up to 2/3 of their height.
  • Drying: Outdoors in dry weather.
  • Rippling: Outdoors in dry weather.
  • Winnowing: On a dry and windy day.
  • Retting: Dew retting can be done in the fall or in the spring.
  • Processing and spinning: When you are able to do it outdoors.

In the paragraphs below I have tried to elaborate these indicators.

Cultivating

Sowing

This is the easy one. Sow your flax on Karolina Day, may 20th. This will result in high flax plants. The women sowing should wear no underwear (to show the seeds that they need new underwear). In addition to that, they should sow barefoot, wear at least three white garments (this would result in a white and shiny flax), walk with high strides (to guarantee a high flax) and let their hair down.

A small flax field in bloom
The experimental flax patch in July.

I sow when the soil is ready. This means that any ground frost should be gone and that the soil is manageable. In my part of Sweden this means sometime in April or early May.

This is also the time when the weeds start sprouting. Especially chickweed, a kind of weed that in its initial stage looks very much like flax and gives me lots of trouble when weeding. So I have waited for the weed to sprout, remove it and then sow the flax. This made my life easier and resulted in less chickweed.

When I did some research for this post I learned that sowing early would provide for a more even nourishment for the flax. Sowing later would result in uneven lengths of the flax straw. This explains a lot. My 2019 harvest is very uneven in length (albeit chickweed free). For the 2020 flax season I will start when the soil is manageable, as recommended. I’ll just have to deal with the chickweed.

Harvesting

The time for harvest will again depend on your climate zone. In some countries it may even be possible to have several harvests in one year. It will also depend on what fineness you want your flax fibers – fine medium or coarse. A fine flax is of coarse appealing to many, but it will also result in a seed capsule that isn’t ready. An early harvest for fine fibers will thus not give you any seeds for next year’s cultivation. Medium harvest will give you medium fibers and more developed seeds. A late harvest results in coarser fibers and fully developed seeds, something you may be interested in if you are harvesting the seeds for oil purposes.

I harvest my flax at the medium stage, when the stalks are yellow up to the lower two thirds of their height. According to my flax book that is around 25–30 days after blossoming, but this too would be depending on climate zone and weather.

Bundles of flax on the ground. The top 1/3 of the bundles are green and the bottom 2/3 are yellowed.
I harvest my flax when the stalks are yellow up to 2/3 of their height.

Prepare for process

Drying

When I have harvested the flax I dry it. How long that takes will depend on the weather and the moisture in the air. The air in my part of Sweden is quite dry and if the sun is shining the flax will dry quite quickly, in just a few days. This year I wasn’t that lucky. The sun was out, and when I planned to keep it out for just a couple of days more, it started to rain. Several times.

In the southern parts of Sweden you can find old flax saunas, especially from the 19th century. These were simple buildings used to dry the flax over an oven when the sun wasn’t enough to dry it.

Rippling and winnowing

When the flax is completely dried I ripple it. I take care of the seed pods and make sure to dry them some more. When the seeds are completely dry I wait for a windy days to winnow them.

Hands holding two bowls. The top bowl is pouring seeds into the bottom bowl. Dried plant material is blowing in the wind.
I winnow the flax seeds in dry and windy weather.

Retting

Retting flax is an art form in itself and I have just started to understand what to look for. There are several methods – dew retting, water retting and snow retting. I have experience from dew retting only. In all three methods the flax goes through the same stages, but with different duration. Water retting can be done in a fortnight while snow retting can take over 100 days.

A hand holding a flax straw. The fibers have been separated from the core.
The retting is finished when you can easily pull the fibers from the core in all its length.

I usually dew ret the flax directly when it has dried. Dried flax can still be interesting to pests, whereas retted flax is not. I make sure the lawn is newly mowed so that the stalks come as close to the dew as possible. My general retting period is around 20 days. I turn it over after ten. After around 15 days I check more regularly. The fibers should be easily removable from the core and in its entire length. This year it took exactly 20 days, last year 21.

After the flax has retted I dry it in standing bundles in a windy place.

A bundle of retted flax standing on the ground.
I dry the retted flax in standing bundles in a windy place.

Processing and spinning

Theoretically you can process and spin the flax any time of the year. In practice, though, you need to process your flax at a time when you can do it outdoors. Flax processing and spinning is very dusty and you really don’t want that to go into your lungs. I usually do it in mid-August, since that is when I take it to the Flax Day at Skansen outdoor museum for processing, but I could just as well do it in the spring or summer.

A woman hackling flax on a table outdoors. There are many flax samples on the table. Another woman in period dress behind her.
I process the flax outdoors. to get as little of the flax dust as possible in my lungs.

I hope this gives you an orientation of when to do what. What would be the flax timeline where you live?


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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Reuse

A while ago I finished a weave. That moment when you cut the warp is a scary one, especially when the warp is handspun. I have saved all my handspun thrums simply because I can’t bear to throw them away. In my current weaving project I reuse my saved thrums.

A hand cutting down a warp from a loom.
Cutting down a warp is scary, especially if the yarn is your own handspun.

Thrums

I have always felt bad for the thrums left behind. Up until now I haven’t figured out what to do with them, but I haven’t been able to throw them away. I have just sighed and put them in a cupboard.

A couple of years ago I saw the prettiest chair pads made just like a rya rug – a woven square with gordian knots covering the whole surface. This was the perfect project for my thrums!

Rya chair pads

After having cut down my latest weaving project from the loom – and carefully saving the thrums – I started warping for my chair pads. We have eight kitchen chairs with the ugliest cotton pads with foam rubber filling. I am ashamed to say that they are at least fifteen years old and leaking out all their innards. So I warped for eight pads, that’s four meters of warp. I haven’t warped four meters before and I hope I am not in over my head.

A loom with a long warp. A warping peg holding the warp is attached to a balcony fence.
September is the perfect month for outdoor warping!

I am a beginner at weaving and I only have a rigid heddle loom. But it does what I want it to do and on a level that I understand. The sweet thing about being a beginner is that I don’t know what rules I’m breaking. Trial and error are my guides.

The warp yarns are also my handspun that have been lying in my stash for quite a while without a designated project.

Setup

The warp is a Shetland 2-ply from a fleece I bought a couple of years ago. The weft is, well, whatever I have really. And I have a lot of yarn just waiting to be useful. I do spin more than I use my handspun. The weft for the first chair pad is hand-combed and worsted spun Värmland wool.

I have left a 2 cm border on each side edge without knots and 4 cm between each pad. This way I can make a folded hem around the pad for sturdiness.

The knots are made mostly with my saved thrums. The first thrums are from another warp yarn – a hand-dyed jeans blue Swedish Leicester yarn spun worsted from hand-combed tops. I will also use old skeins of handspun that I haven’t found a use for. Probably lots of white and natural colour yarn. And I have the freedom to make stripes, patterns or whatever my heart desires.

Gordian knots

A knot of blue yarn around three brown warp threads
A sweet little gordian thrum knot.

This is how I make my Gordian knots for this project:

  • I make my knots over three warp threads, leaving one warp thread between each bundle of three.
  • I use a doubled piece of yarn (resulting a loop in one end of the knot).
  • After having lifted the three warp threads slightly I put the middle of the doubled yarn over the three threads, then under the outer warp threads and up in the middle.
  • I slide the knot down to the weave and pull it snug.
A hand pulling a knot in a warp.
Pulling the Gordian knot snug.

After the knot “shuttling” I make three regular shuttlings and repeat these four shuttlings. The knots in the second repeat are moved one warp thread to make a more harmonious pattern.

Rpws of blue Gordian knots in a brown weave
One row of knots and three regular shuttlings.

Helpful tools and techniques

To get the yarn ends for the Rya knots in equal lengths I use a wooden board around which I wrap the thrums in bundles. I cut the bundles at the edges of the board and get equal lengths.

To make it easier to pick each individual piece of yarn I bundle them together and tie the bundle on the middle. That way I can place the bundle on the weave and easily pick out individual yarn ends as I make the knots. I use a tapestry beater to beat the knots and the weft yarn tight.

A Rya weave in a loom. A wooden tool with sawed out teeth and a bundle of 12 cm yarn ends lie on top of the warp.
I’m out of the blue Leicester and continue with natural white Rya/Finull crossbred. A tapestry beater helps me keep the weft tight. Bundled yarn ends make it easier to pick out individual strands.

The weaving of a muppet

As I happily knot away I realize how much yarn I will need for my eight chair pads. I ran out of blue Leicester thrums after two thirds of the first pad and continued with white finewool/rya thrums. This will be a very effective stash buster project!

I also realize how much time this will take. Each four row repeat take around ten minutes to finish. I’ll be lucky if we can place our new year’s bottoms on these. But when we do, I expect I will want to sit on them all the time.

A table loom  with a rya weave on it. Sunrise over a lake in the background.
A loom with a view

I’m still very much of a beginner at weaving. But that doesn’t stop me from treasuring the moments I bring out my loom. The repetitions of the knotting and the shuttlings help me unwind and allow my thoughts to come and go. Feeling the very muppetness of the knots gives me such joy. I smile at the prospect of sitting on these pads. They actually look like real things! I think I’ll name this first one Groover.

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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Dalapäls wool

A board with white yarn samples and wool locks.

The breed study is moving on and today I will dive in to the beautiful world of Dalapäls wool. This is the third post in my breed study series of Swedish sheep breeds. Previous posts have been about Gotland wool and Gute wool. Coming up is also my third live webinar in the breed study webinar series!

Next Saturday, September 21st at 5 pm CET I will host a live breed study webinar on Dalapäls wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

The webinar has already taken place

Whether you are celebrating World wide spin in public day outdoors or indoors, I hope you take the time to warm up/wind down (depending on your location in the world) with a wooly breed study webinar! A worldwide live stream is definitely a spin in public event.

About Dalapäls sheep

Dalapäls sheep is a rare and endangered Swedish conservation breed. A conservation breed means that the breed is protected. If you have a gene bank you are also committed to preserving the breed. This means that you are not allowed to cross the breed with other breeds. You also commit to strive for genetic diversity – breeding for specific characteristics (like wool or hornedness) is not allowed. In 2018 there were about 160 lambing ewes in 25 flocks of the Dalapäls sheep in Sweden according to the Swedish sheep breeders’ association.

White sheep eating straw
Dalapäls sheep

The name Dalapäls reveals both origin and use. Dala in this case means from the County of Dalarna. Päls means fur and indicates that the skins have been used for fur. The traditional jacket Kasung was used in areas of Dalarna as a traditional jacket. It was made of leather and had edgings of white wool locks. The locks look very much like Dalapäls wool.

An old leather jacket with fur edgings in bottom and front hem and cuffs.
A traditional Kasung with wool edgings. Image provided by Creative commons

The wool is usually white. Grey spots can occur. Some lambs are born black but usually turn grey or white as they grow.

The Dalapäls sheep are quite small, around 30 kg for ewes and 50 kg for rams. They have a strong sense for the flock and are very suspicious of strangers. This may come from the fact that they have been grazing in the woods or in a chalet historically and have developed a strong consciousness of enemies like wolf and bear. Because they are so watchful they are not cuddly sheep.

Wool characteristics

Dalapäls wool is a double-coated wool with strong and shiny outer coat and fine, soft and warm under coat. The most common fiber type is the long and wavy staple. This wool type has little or no crimp.

Long, white and wavy wool locks.
Extra long and silky locks of different Dalapäls sheep.

Shorter, wavy and even crimpy staples do occur and the fleece is not even across the body of the sheep. This gives a spinner many choices in spinning the wool. A shepherd or shepherdess can have a small flock of sheep and still get lots of different wool types.

Wool locks of different lengths and character.
One single sheep can have very different wool types. These staples come from the ewe Saga.

Some shepherdesses sort the wool according to fiber type and/or staple length at the shearing stage.

The top three: Shine, fineness and versatility

If I were to pick out three main characteristics of the Dalapäls wool it would be shine, fineness and versatility. I asked my friend Lena who is a Dalapäls shepherdess and these were her choices too. Another Dalapäls shepherdess, Carina, added that Dalapäls wool is easy to spin and I agree to that too.

  • The most obvious characteristic of Dalapäls is the shine – the very special Dalapäls shine. This characteristic alone is enough for me to fall for this breed.
  • My second choice would be the fineness. Eventhough the outercoat is long and strong it is still very fine and can be spun into a next to skin yarn. The undercoat is of course even finer than the outer coat. The locks are very lofty at the base and the undercoat is soft and silky.
  • Because of the variation of the wool between individuals and over the body of one individual sheep, Dalapäls wool is very versatile. I have seen everything from 25 cm long silky and wavy locks to 5 cm curly or even crimpy staples. If you sort the fleece according to wool characteristics and also separate the fiber types you could get a wide variety of yarns.

Preparing and spinning

A Dalapäls shepherdess was going to send her wool to a mill and asked me what kind of yarn she should ask them to spin. I didn’t really know what to answer. You can get so many different kinds of yarn with Dalapäls wool. Especially if you are a handspinner.

Separating the fiber types comes to mind – combing the outer coat for a worsted yarn and carding the under coat for a woolen yarn are good choices. You can just as well card or comb the fiber types together.

Four white yarn samples on a piece of card board.
Dalapäls wool can be spun in many different ways. From the left: Carded undercoat, woolen spun on a spinning wheel. Combed outercoat, worsted spun on a spinning wheel. Undercoat and outercoat teased and carded together, woolen spun on a spinning wheel. Flick-carded locks, spun worsted on a supported spindle from the cut end.

Separating the fiber types

Picking out the longest locks and separating the undercoat from the outercoat can give you two beautiful yarns – a strong and shiny worsted yarn and a soft and warm woolen yarn. I would use double row combs to separate the fiber types and pull the outercoat off. Perhaps I would even comb a second time to separate more and spin worsted from the lovely tops. The leftovers in the combs is the soft and airy undercoat that I would card into rolags and and spin woolen (after having cuddled them).

This way you will get two very different yarns with different superpowers. You can see the difference in the image above, the first from the left is the carded undercoat and the second is the combed outercoat.

Combing or carding together

Another way to create a beautiful Dalapäls yarn is to card or comb the locks as they are, without separating the fiber types. I would do this with the medium and shorter length staples. Carding and spinning woolen would give you a soft yarn that still has some strength and shine. If I were to comb the locks I would use single row combs that won’t separate the fiber types as much as the double row combs. Spinning the combed top worsted would result in a strong and shiny yarn that would still have some softness.

Spinning from the lock

In the Dalapäls yarn I’m currently spinning I have wanted to keep the fiber types together. The locks in this yarn are the very longest locks (see featured image) that the shepherdess has picked out from several fleeces. I have flick carded each lock individually and spun from the cut end. This way I will get both outer coat and under coat in the yarn. You can see my technique in my video Catch the light.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle.
I’m spinning counter-clockwise to get a Z-plied yarn for twined knitting. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I have spun the yarn on a supported spindle. When I spin from flick carded locks I prefer spinning on a supported spindle. The slowness of the technique allows me to watch the process and focus on quality. Spinning from the lock can be a challenge since the fibers don’t get as much of a separation compared to a hand-combed top.

A white skein of yarn.
Dalapäls yarn, spun from the cut end of flick carded locks on a supported spindle.

But the yarn I get from spinning from the cut end of flick carded locks is strong, shiny and still soft. When I spin it on a supported spindle I also get the quality and the evenness I want.

Blanka

My first acquaintance with Dalapäls wool was at the Swedish fleece championships a few years ago. I saw the fleece and knew I needed it. It turned out a silver medalist in the championships! The sheep’s name was Blanka, a lamb. I talked to the shepherdess and she suggested I spin from the cut end. I did, and used a supported spindle to do it. It became my bedside spinning. I spent many evenings spinning the Dalapäls locks just before bedtime. I had put away some shorter staples and spun a woolen singles yarn from hand-carded rolags on a Navajo spindle. When I was finished I wove myself a pillowcase!

Felting

Even if I don’t plan to felt or full I like to do a fulling test. This gives me information about the fibers in the yarn. In my current project I am planning to weave and full, so the information is truly valuable to me.

I make 10 x 10 cm woven samples on a pin loom and felt them.

Woolen yarn, outercoat and undercoat together

The first sample was from the yarn I had spun woolen from hand-carded rolags with both undercoat and outercoat. The swatch felted nicely, but there were some loops in the structure. This made me suspect that it is mainly the undercoat that felts.

A white felted swatch. Little loops of scattered over the swatch.
Woven felting sample from woolen yarn spun from carded rolags (undercoat and outercoat).

Worsted warp and woolen weft

To test my theory of the felting undercoat I made another swatch where I separated outercoat and undercoat. I used the worsted outercoat yarn as warp and the woolen undercoat yarn as weft. The result was a rectangular swatch from my square woven sample. I had proven my theory – mainly the undercoat felted. The structure of the material is the same, though – a nicely fulled swatch with little loops. They seem to go mainly in the warp direction and I guess I hadn’t separated the fibers properly in the combing process.

A rectangular felted swatch with some loops.
In this sample I have used the outercoat as warp and undercoat as weft. The undercoat has felted, leaving a rectangular shaped swatch.

Lockspun

Just for fun I made a third felting test, this time with my lockspun yarn. It resulted in a loopier swatch. My theory is that this is because the fibers are less separated than the carded sample. This yarn was also spun with longer locks.

A felted swatch with lots of loops in it.
The felted swatch with the lockspun yarn had more loops in it than the other swatches.

Use

Since the Dalapäls wool is so versatile I see a wide variety of uses for Dalapäls yarn. With different preparation, spinning and use of the different fiber types you can use Dalapäls yarn for basically anything except perhaps things that require rough handling like rugs and workwear. From a sheer lamb’s wool lace shawl, through both soft and everyday sweaters to sturdy mittens. As to techniques I don’t see any limits – knitting, weaving, nalbinding would all work well.

A knitting project on a rock by the sea.
My current Dalapäls knitting project – a pair of sleeves in twined knitting.

I’m twine knitting a pair of jacket sleeves. When they are finished I will spin a weaving yarn and full into a vadmal fabric from which I will sew a bodice. Perhaps I will even use locks as a hem decoration, flirting with the Kasung jackets.

Live webinar!

This Saturday, September 21st at 5 pm CET (world clock here) I will host a live breed study webinar about Dalapäls wool from a spinner’s perspective. In the webinar I will talk briefly about the breed in Sweden, wool characteristics and how I process, spin and use Dalapäls wool. I will use Dalapäls during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I process the wool.

Even if you think you will never come across Dalapäls wool this is an opportunity to learn more about a rare and endangered breed. The breed study will also give you tools to understand different wool types and apply your knowledge to breeds and wool types closer to you.

This is a wonderful chance for me to meet you (in the chat window at least, I won’t be able to see you) and for you to see me live and unedited. The previous live breed study webinars I did were great successes. I really look forward to seeing you again in this webinar.

You can register even if you can’t make it to the live event (I’m sorry Australia and New Zealand, I know it is in the middle of the night for you). I will send the replay link to everyone who registers for the webinar.

The webinar has already taken place


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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Twined knitting

Two pieces of knitting on a pebble beach.

I have a new video for you today! It is a short demonstration of twined knitting. Don’t worry, there is some spinning in the video too. Twined knitting requires a special kind of yarn that is hard to find and therefore perfect to handspin!

Spin-off article and pattern

In the fall 2019 issue of Spin-off Magazine I wrote an article about twist analysis and spinning for twined knitting. The article also includes a brief history of twined knitting in Sweden. On top of that, I made a pattern for twined knitting mittens especially for this issue. It is my very first published pattern! All the beautiful pictures in the article and the pattern description are Dan’s. Go get your copy now!

About twined knitting

The oldest finding of a twined knitting textile dates back to around the mid 16th century to the early 17th century in county Dalarna in Sweden. There are many garments and accessories left in County Dalarna – mittens, socks and jackets. Usually the sleeves only were twined knit while the torso was sewn of vadmal.

A jacket with red knitted sleeves with a black pattern and a green vadmal torso with decorative stitching.
An antique traditional jacket with twined knitted sleeves and a vadmal torso. From the study collection at Sätergläntan.

Two strands for sturdiness

With twined knitting you use two strands of yarn. The passive strand is carried at the back of the project. You knit with the back strand. This means that after one stitch is made the two yarns are twined. Ridges of twined knitting cover the whole wrong side of a knitted section and makes a sturdy material.

Close-up of a person knitting with two strands of yarn. A city in the background.
Twined knitting is done with two strands of yarn. The ruin of Saint Nicolai in the background.

Even though twined knitting is done with fine needles, the twining makes the fabric strong, sturdy and windproof. It will last for generations. The yarn I use is a handspun light fingering weight yarn and I knit with 2 mm needles.

Basic technique

Set-up:

  • Hold the two strands in your right hand. I usually wrap them once around my pinkie for even tensioning.
  • “Steer” the strands with your index and middle fingers between the strands.

Knitting:

  • Insert the right needle in the first stitch of the left needle
  • Pick up the back strand with your index finger
  • Throw it over the needle
  • Make a knit stitch
  • Insert the needle in the next stitch

When I make a pair of something in twined knitting I always knit both at the same time. This way I will make sure I get the same size.

Two pieces of knitting on a pebble beach.
I knit my jacket sleeves with 2 mm needles. The material is still strong and sturdy. On the inside you can see the horizontal twined ridges.

For cast-on, more basic techniques and a mitten pattern, see my article and pattern in the fall 2019 issue of Spin-off Magazine. For more in-depth knowledge about twined knitting there are good books. Mainly in Swedish, but some also in English. Twined knitting by Birgitta Dandanell was the one I started out with. My current favourite, which also covers the beautiful history of the technique and its traditions is Tvåändsstickat by Birgitta Dandanell, Ulla Danielsson and Kerstin Ankert. This book is in Swedish only, but has lots of beautiful pictures of traditions, old garments and how-to descriptions.

Twining and untwining

The two yarn ends typically come from both ends of a center-pull ball. Since the strands are twined they will eventually have to be untwined. You do this by making a half-hitch around the ball and holding it up to untwine itself.

A woman standing by a medieval wall. She is holding up a ball of yarn and a knitting project.
Every now and then I need to untwine the ball of yarn.

A lady on the train

In the beginning of July when I was on the train back home from teaching at Sätergläntan, I was working on my current twined knitting project. When we had almost arrived in Stockholm an elderly lady approached me and asked me if I had been to Sätergläntan. She had seen me knit on the train. The lady had poor eye sight, but she instantly recognized my untwining of the yarn ball as twined knitting. She told me that she used to twine knit all the time when she was younger. I love the effect public crafting has on people – both crafters and the people around them.

Z-ply yarn

Twined knitting is done best with a Z-ply yarn. An S-ply yarn (which is the most common in commercial yarns) will get even more twined and result in a bulkier material. There are only two mills in Sweden that spin Z-ply yarns for twined knitting. As spinners we can make our own Z-ply yarn, though!

A woman spinning on a supported spindle by a window opening in a ruin.
Spinning for twined knitting at Drotten’s ruin.

For this project – a couple of jacket sleeves – I spin Dalapäls wool on a supported spindle. I have flick carded the individual locks and spin them from the back end. This way I get both undercoat and outercoat in the yarn.

Since I spin counter-clockwise I use my left hand as a spinning hand to pull the spindle towards the palm of my hand when I spin. When I ply I change hands so that my right hand is the spindle hand, pulling the spindle. In this blog post you can read more about my thoughts on spinning direction. You can also check out this webinar on spindle ergonomics.

The Z-plied yarn I twine knit with is the yarn I spin in my recent video Catch the light.

Slow

The fine needles and the twining method makes twined knitting a slow technique. I’m in no hurry, though. I also make it even slower by stopping every now and then to feel the sturdy material and enjoying the structure.

A woman sitting on a font, knitting
Knitting by the font in Saint Catherine’s ruin

Considering that a pair of twined knitted mittens lasts for generations, you only need to make one pair where other techniques would require lots of mending or replacement mittens. Twined knitting may even be faster in a lifetime perspective.

Location: The medieval city of Visby

In mid-July, the whole family took a two-day trip to the medieval city of Visby, Gotland. In Medieval times the city was protected from angry farmers with a sturdy city wall and the wall still stands. Inside the city there are around 10 church ruins from the 12th and 13th centuries. The whole city is a world heritage.

A woman knitting in a ruin. There is no roof in the ruin.
S:t Clement’s ruin was my favorite ruin to knit in.

These sites are perfect for making beautiful video shots (most of which were made by Dan)! I especially loved knitting in the ruins. The space, acoustics and light were all magic. The grass, flowers and ivy all added a touch of mystery to the scenery.

By the way, you can see a glimpse of our children in the video. Towards the end I stand in an opening in of one of the walls of the ruin of Saint Lars, looking down. The two teenagers walking around below, discovering the passageways of the ruin are my darlings. They are also responsible for the stone skipping by the pebble beach.

Challenge yourself and spin a Z-plied yarn. Perhaps you will have finished a pair of twined knitted mittens by the holidays.

Happy knitting!


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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Flax Day

Six stages of processed flax. The fibers get increasingly finer and cleaner.

This past weekend was the Flax and wool days at Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm. I went with a friend and brought last year’s retted flax. My focus for the theme weekend this year was Flax Day.

The experimental flax patch

I have a small experimental flax patch in the flower bed in our tiny townhouse garden. The patch is about one square meter and big enough for me to experiment and learn about growing and processing flax.

A small flax field in bloom
The experimental flax patch in July.

Creative solutions

I have grown flax since 2014 and I have improved and learn every year. I have no tools for processing except a rough hackle and a fine hackle. For the other steps in the process I have had to improvise. I rippled the seeds by putting the flax in a pillowcase and roll a rolling pin over it. For breaking the flax I beat the flax with a fist-sized rock against a stone. I used a spatula to scutch. None of these methods work very well. Last year I took my 2017 harvest to Skansen outdoor museum for processing. I also made a video from the processing. The result was wonderful. For the first time I felt I could actually spin my flax.

Flax processing video, released in August 2018.

Flax Day processing

So, this year I went back to Skansen. I put the retted flax from 2018 in my backpack and hopped onto my bike. My harvest was bigger than previous years and I had really watched over the retting process and got a very good result.

The flax biker

Last time I rode my back with a big load I crashed. I had a chili plant for a friend in my bike bag. When looking back to make sure the plant was ok I turned the handlebar too much and the pedal got stuck in a rock by the side of the road. The plant didn’t break, but I did. My left arm broke in two places at the shoulder. The doctor said I wasn’t allowed to move the arm backwards or sideways, but “small movements in front of the body are encouraged!”. I could still spin and knit and that was the important thing.

A woman in a bike helmet. She is wearing a backpack with retted flax in it. Sunflowers in the background.
A small flax harvest fits nicely in a backpack!

So I was a bit conscious of my load this time. Every few minutes of my 8 km ride I tilted my head back so that the helmet touched the flax. When I heard the scraping sound I knew the flax was safe and sound in my backpack.

I did get both me and the flax to Skansen safe and sound. I went straight to the farmyard where the tools were out for demonstration. The museum educators recognized me from last year and were happy to help.

Breaking

The retted and dried flax is stiff and uncooperative. I want to separate the flax fibers from the cellulose core. This happens in a break. By jamming the break onto the flax I crush the core. When I’m finished the flax hangs sloppily instead of being stiff like a broom.

A woman breaking flax. Ladies in period costumes in the background.
I break the flax to break the cellulose core that is surrounded by the flax fibers. Breaking flax is an excellent workout! Photo by Cecilia von Zweigbergk Wike

I had the museum educators at my side during the whole process. They were happy I was there and happy to help.

The hardest part of breaking is the upper tips. If the straws in the bundle aren’t even in length there will be a thin end of just a few straws. It is difficult to get the ends properly broken since they are too thin for the break to come far down enough to crush them. I knew this, at least in theory, but I didn’t realize the implications of uneven bundles. Always bundle the flax in even lengths, that’s what all the books say. But it is not until I see what happens in practice that I realize why. My mistakes are a map of what I learn.

Pulling

The flax pull is a step between breaking and scutching. By pulling the flax through the puller (I have no idea what this tool is called in English) more of the broken cellulose is removed from the flax fibers.

A woman pulling flax through a flax puller
Pulling the flax to get rid of some of the cellulose bits. Photo by Cecilia von Zweigbergk Wike

Most of it ended up in my shoes.

I have never heard of this tool or read about it in my flax books. Perhaps it is a regional tool. Nevertheless, it is a great tool that will help you get a better result.

Scutching

The goal of the scutching step is to remove as much as possible of the remaining cellulose bits. This is done with a scutching knife – a sword-like wooden tool – against a board. An ornamented scutching knife used to be a gift from the groom to the bride of a couple. These knives were seldom used for flax processing, though. Instead they were hung on the wall for decoration and keepsake from the wedding.

A woman scutching flax.
In the scutching station you remove most of the cellulose bits from the flax fibers. Photo by Cecilia von Zweigbergk Wike

At Skansen there is also a scutching mill. This was open for demonstration on Flax Day. If you have ever seen a crime series in the English countryside, this would be the perfect murder scene! A big water-driven wheel with scutching knives doing the laborious work for the flax farmer.

A woman scutching in a scutching mill.
In the scutching mill the water drives a wheel with scutching knives. A person puts the flax over a beam and lets the scutching wheel scutch the flax.

Hackling

The hackles are also potential murder weapons. A gazillion pointy needles on a board through which you comb the scutched flax. Usually you go through both a rough and a fine hackle, or even a third in between. Luckily I didn’t break any skin this time.

A woman hackling flax
I hackle the flax in two hackles – one rough and one fine. Photo by Cecilia von Zweigbergk Wike

After two hours my friend Cecilia and I had finished all the flax from my tiny patch and ended up with this pretty strick. Imagine the time needed to process a whole flax field! I guess the whole village would take part in this work.

A strick of flax lying on top of flax tow.
Finished! Line and tow in sweet harmony.

I was really happy with the result. The strick was more than double the size of the 2017 strick. I had really paid attention to the retting process and it gave a great result. Almost all of the cellulose is gone.

Six stages of processed flax. The fibers get increasingly finer and cleaner.
All the steps side by side. From the left: Retted and unprocessed, broken, pulled, scutched, rough hackled and fine hackled.

In the image above you can see the results of all the steps of the process. From left to right:

  • Retted and unprocessed. The glue has been retted away and the fibers is ready to be separated from the cellulose core.
  • After being thoroughly broken in the break the cellulose core have been chopped to pieces. The bundle of fibers is no longer straight.
  • The in-between step of pulling gives a good result – some of the cellulose bits have been removed.
  • After a waltz with the scutching knife most of the cellulose bits are gone (most of them in my shoes, actually).
  • In the rough and fine hackling the fibers have been aligned and shorter bits removed.
  • A final step in the process can be a flax brush that is used to brush the line to remove the very last bits of shorter fibers, just before spinning. They didn’t have one here, though.
A small brush
Brushing the flax can be a final step after fine hackling.

Flax analysis 2014–2018

Five stricks of flax. Smallest to the left and chunkiest to the right.
My flax harvests through the years. From the left: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Even if my first rat’s tail of flax from 2014 is truly sad and despicable, I have saved it and all my stricks of flax from the following years. Looking at them I can learn from my results and experiences.

2014 – an unplanned harvest

Well, what can you say. It is just a rat’s tail really, but it is my rat’s tail. I processed it at Skansen this first year. I had only cultivated the flax for fun as a companion plant in the allotment, and without any sort of plan. Not until August did I come up with the idea to actually process it.

2015 – First fiber intention

This was the first year I had a fiber intention with my flax patch. The result is actually quite good, even if the fibers are rather short. I processed this harvest at home. The only tools I had (and still have) were two hackles. The other steps were creative inventions (see above).

2016 – under retted

This was the year of poor retting. The glue hasn’t been solved properly and a lot of the cellulose bits are still in the strick. Because of the under retting I got lots of waste and poor quality tow.

2017 – new crop!

I got new seed from a retired flax farmer. In the image below you can see the difference in length compared to previous years. I processed the flax at Skansen. This was the first harvest with actual spinning quality. The retting seems to be good too, even if I didn’t have a structure for it.

2018 – my best flax day yet

The result I got from the 2018 harvest is by far the best. This is actually a real strick of flax! This was a really good Flax Day!

I realized already in the summer that this would be a good harvest. Long and straight stems of even length grew in my tiny patch. Come harvest day I had very pretty bundles to dry and ret. I was very structured in the retting process and kept records. All of his gave a good result.

Five stricks of flax in a row. The three leftmost are shorter than the two to the right.
My flax harvests 2014–2018. 2017 and 2018 with new crop.

When processing a relatively large harvest I learned a lot and could improve during processing. I knew where to hold the strick, when I needed to work more in a step of the process and what to look for. I can actually spin with this flax, and not just a meter or two! Perhaps I can weave myself a small project bag together with the tow.

A strick of flax.
One more picture, just because it is so pretty.

2019 prognosis

I don’t think this year’s flax will be as good as the 2018 result. I had sowed the seeds unevenly which resulted in plants with uneven length and thickness. Towards the end of the summer the flax bended and looked rather sad. I’ll let you know next year how it turned out!

Gotta get my rolling pin and a pillow case ready, today is rippling day for the 2019 harvest.

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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Antique French spindle

Close-up of an antique spindle with yarn wound onto it.

Earlier this summer I got a antique French spindle from a follower. It is the first antique spindle I have and I’m childishly happy about it. Today I share a video where I spin on my antique French spindle.

A French spindle is held in the hand. The shaft stays in the hand or close to it as the spinner twiddles the upper tip. Some call it in-hand spindle, some grasped and some twiddle spindle.

A collector

There is very little information on French spindles and their use. Sylvie Damey is the person who knows the most about French spindles. She has been collecting spindles for many years now and has quite a collection. She collects the spindles to understand more about them. Sylvie says that the reason why there is so little information about the use of these spindles is that spinning used to be such a common daily activity for women and girls and therefore there was no need to document the use of spindles. Sylvie also collects old postcards with spindle spinners. This way she can learn something about who was spinning and how.

The spindle

A French spindle is made in one piece. It has a belly onto which the cop is wound. Embellishments seem to be common.

A French spindle has a belly in the lower part of the shaft to store the yarn on.
A French spindle has a belly in the lower part of the shaft to store the yarn on. This one is 32 centimeters long and weighs 50 grams.

Some French spindles have a detachable metal upper tip. Most of them have a spiral groove. Some of the metal tips have hooks instead of grooves.

The tip of a spindle with a spiral groove.
A spiral groove on the upper tip of a French spindle.

My antique French spindle spindle has a spiral groove carved into the upper tip for clockwise spinning.

Technique

The yarn rests in the groove as long as the spindle spins. The spinning hand is always close to the spindle, ready to grasp it when necessary. You either spin with the spindle in the hand all the time or spin with a short suspension. In the video you can see how I keep the spindle in the hand. However, if you look closely, the spindle spins against my thumb at times, without me holding on to it. In another video I made about French spindle spinning last year I let go of the spindle for longer periods.

The spinning hand

When I spin on a French spindle, or any in-hand spindle really, I use four fingers. I use my thumb and index fingers to twiddle the spindle and my middle and ring fingers to balance the spindle.

I pull the spindle towards the palm of my hand. In this case, since there is a spiral groove for clockwise spinning, my right hand is my spinning hand. You can read more about my thoughts on spinning direction and spindle spinning here or check out my webinar on spindle ergonomics.

I spin by rolling my forefinger against the spindle shaft, supporting it with my thumb. My third and fourth fingers are balancing the spindle between them.
I spin by rolling my forefinger against the spindle shaft, supporting it with my thumb. My middle and ring fingers are balancing the spindle between them.

With the spindle in my hand I am always prepared to make to make fine adjustments when necessary. In this sense, in-hand spinning is a technique where the spinner has a high degree of control. The slow nature of the technique also gives the spinner time to see and understand what is happening in the drafting zone.

The fiber hand

In the video I use a hand distaff. This is for practical reasons – I was on vacation and a hand distaff was easier to bring than a belt distaff. Up until recently, I have only spun with some sort of woolen technique on an in-hand spindle and a hand distaff. But I know that knitting is a relatively new technique and basically all spinning before knitting was developed was focused on weaving yarns. Therefore I wanted to learn how to spin a worsted yarn for a strong warp. I had a video meeting with my friend Anna and she demonstrated how she spins a worsted yarn with a hand distaff.

This is how she showed me and how I do it:

  • I hold the distaff loosely with my thumb against the palm of my hand
  • In my distaff hand I hold the yarn between my thumb and ring finger
  • I draft the fibers with my index and middle finger
  • After I have drafted the fibers I let the twist into the drafting zone by sliding the pinching finger towards the drafting fingers
  • I make a new pinch with my pinching fingers and draft a new section with my drafting fingers
  • I rearrange the wool when I need to to have the best drafting position.
A hand holding a distaff between the thumb and the palm. The index and middle fingers are holding the fiber and the thumb and ring fingers are pinching the yarn.
The distaff hand with two fingers managing drafting and two managing pinching.

Dressing the distaff

I haven’t dressed a distaff for worsted spinning with wool before. I tried different ways, but this is the way that worked best for me: I hand-combed wool and dressed the tops onto the distaff lengthwise in stripes in lengths that were suitable in relation to the length of the hand distaff. The wool I have used is a year’s growth of Norwegian NKS.

A woman holding a spindle in one hand and a distaff in the other. The yarn between the hands is tensioned.
To get an evenly wound on cop I tension the yarn between my pinching fingers and the spindle.

Even tension for a steady cop

Making a steady cop is an art form in itself. The cop needs to be firm so that the cop doesn’t collapse. If the cop collapses the yarn may slide down below the lower end of the cop and ruin the whole cop. A firm cop is achieved by an even tension. I used to support my spindle against my belly for winding the yarn onto the cop, but I discovered that the yarn was too loosely wound onto the cop this way.

I have seen talented traditional spinners wind the yarn onto the cop without support. When I tried it their way I realized why. When I have no support for the spindle I have to tension the yarn between the distaff and spindle to give balance to the spindle. Since the tension depends on the weight of the spindle the tension will be even. My cop remains firm and the shape will stay in shape, so to speak. It also allows me to store more yarn on the spindle.

Location: Tvättstuga

I shot the video this summer when I rented a cabin at a sheep farm with my family. There is a creek by the farm and a wash house – a tvättstuga – by the creek. It is over 100 years old, probably from the turn of the last century or earlier. Perhaps from around the time my antique French spindle was in use! If you peek inside the windows you can see the old boiler they used to heat up the creek water and beautiful wooden wash tubs.

One winter in the early 1900s when the mother of the family was in labour the main house burned to the ground. Everybody survived, but the whole family had to move to the small wash house until a new house was built. I hope they had time to save the spinning wheel.

A woman spinning on a hand-held spindle and distaff in front of an old red building.
Spinning by the old wash house.

A word about the music

I wanted to add music that would reflect the peace in the video. I searched for French music on Free music archive that I usually use for my videos and found this. In the beginning I was concerned that it might be too slow, but the more I listen to it the more perfect I think it is for the video. I hope you enjoy it too.

Bon filage!

Close-up of an antique spindle with yarn wound onto it.
Such a pretty antique French spindle

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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

At the wool market

Staples of black and white wool.

Last weekend I spent a day with a friend at a yearly wool market at Österbybruk, about 100 km from where I live in Stockholm. It is a market full of wool and people who care about wool.

My goal for the visit was to meet new and old wooly friends and get samples of wool that were new to me. And I did find some of both! I was so busy talking to people and looking for pretty wool that I completely forgot to take photos. Really. Not a single photo. But I do have pictures of the fluff I bought and I will share some fond memories from the market.

The wool people

Eventhough I am an introvert and get exhausted by events like this, I do love being in a wooly atmosphere and meeting people with room for wool in their hearts. There are lots of local farmers and initiatives to promote Swedish wool. It warms my heart to see all this love and initiative for wool.

The Swedish wool agency

Fia Söderberg runs a small-scale organic farm with Gotland and Jämtland sheep. She also used to have Roslag sheep (named after the area where the market was situated). She had brought the last wool from her Roslag sheep and I got my hands on some of it.

A row of white wool staples.
Wool from Roslag sheep (Roslagsfår)

Fia has started Ullförmedlingen, the Swedish wool agency. The agency works to promote Swedish wool, knowledge of Swedish wool and connection within the Swedish wool business. She has also developed a digital market place for Swedish wool, where buyers and sellers can connect. In addition to that, Pia hosts Ullpodden, a wool podcast that aims to increase knowledge about Swedish wool as a sustainable resource. Fia is a true wool superhero!

Klövsjö sheep

I met Camilla, a shepherdess who has a small flock of Klövsjö sheep. The breed is a Swedish conservation breed. In 2018 there were about 460 Klövsjö ewes in Sweden. I got some pretty lamb locks. Most of them were pitch black, but I also laid my hands on a handful of rippled candy staples. Long, soft and silky. Camilla had put the locks in individual bags with the lambs’ names on them. I got Alma and some of her brothers and sisters.

Staples of black and white wool.
Licorice ripple Klövsjö lamb candy.

I have no idea how to make them justice, though. I want to make all the colours shine.

Staples of black and white wool.
Long and strong staples of Klövsjö wool.

I also got some adult Klövsjö. Normally I prefer light wool because it is easier to show on camera. I also find dark wool very hard to spin because I can’t see it properly. But when there are only black staples of a rare breed I will get the black staples.

Kulturlandskaparna

I met Ulla Alm who is the chair of Kulturlandskaparna, an association working for biologic diversity. They have a flock of sheep at Överjärva gård just outside Stockholm. It is my go-to sheep farm and where I first learned to spin. They had many bags full of wool, all labeled with the sheep’s names.

Paper bags full of wool.
Many bags full of wool from Kulturlandskaparna. Picture from the 2017 wool market.

Ullvilja

I met Marianne Fröberg, chair of Ullvilja, an association aiming to promote Swedish wool. They also host the annual Swedish fleece and spinning championships. I have just submitted my yarns for the 2019 championships. I will tell you all about it later.

Ullvilja had a few fleeces on display for people to fondle. I was amazed by a wonderful Värmland lamb fleece with the prettiest lamb locks I have ever seen. Usually you see the lamb locks on the outer coat, but this one had soft lamb locks on the under coat too.

Staples of brown wool with small locks on both outer coat and under coat.
Sweet lamb locks on both outer coat and under coat.

When I sat on the bus home my brain had turned to goo and my heart was singing. I was also strengthened by the sweet memory of all these forces to promote Swedish wool.

Knit Sweden!

You can read more about these wool promoting forces in a blog post by American knitter, teacher and writer Sara Wolf, a k a A knit Wizard. She is also writing a knitter’s travel book: Knit Sweden!. She contacted me a while ago and asked if I wanted to contribute to her book. And I did! I will spin samples from the breeds I bought at the wool market (plus other breeds) and send to her so that she can knit swatches for her book. Yay!


And oh, I got recognized! Two spinners came up to me and introduced themselves. They were followers and/or students in my online courses. A few other people knew exactly who I was and what I did. It was a very mixed feeling. I was both immensely proud and childishly excited about the fact that people knew who I was and at the same time a bit embarrassed about the attention. But it made me really happy that people came to me and introduced themselves, it was very sweet and warmed my heart. Again.

Happy spinning!

Close-up of a staple of brown lamb's wool.
Let’s look at those Värmland lamb locks again!

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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Spindle ergonomics

A woman spinning on a supported spindle.

In March this year I launched my online course Spin on a supported spindle. On launch night I hosted a live webinar on spindle ergonomics. I have now edited the webinar and it is available for free in my online school.

Take me to the spindle ergonomics webinar!

As a spinning teacher I want my students to be able to spin comfortably. Sometimes it is difficult to understand why something hurts or feels uncomfortable. In the webinar I take you through some of the most common problems in spindle spinning in general and supported spindle spinning in particular. The webinar is an excellent way to learn more about my course Spin on a supported spindle and to see what my teaching style is like.

  • In the webinar I talk about the difference between pushing and pulling the spindle and what effects it has on your spinning process.
  • I talk about sharing the strain so that you can spin for a long time without pain.
  • I also talk about the online course Spin on a supported spindle – the content, course outline and practical information.
  • The offers and prices in the webinar are no longer valid.
A woman holding up a spindle.She is wearing a knitted sweater with spinning wheels on it.
In the webinar I talk about pushing and pulling the spindle and about sharing the strain.

The video quality is not what you are used to from my videos. It has to do with the fact that the webinar was a live stream and that I did it indoors with less than optimal lighting. This was my live webinar world premiere. However, in the editing I have improved both light and sound to the best of my ability.

Captioning

The whole webinar is captioned (subtitled) so that you can read what I say. My only choice was to burn in the captions, so if you are annoyed by them there is nothing I can do about it. The captions are very important to me because they make my content accessible to a larger audience. Several students have told me that they wouldn’t have been able to take my courses without the captioning.

Patron pledges

Captioning courses is the single most time consuming part of my business. I would say that one video minute takes at least ten minutes to caption, probably more. However, thanks to the pledges from my patrons I have now been able to pay a captioning service to caption my courses and webinars for me. This takes a huge load off my shoulders while at the same time it makes my videos accessible to a wider audience.

I have also been able to buy a proper studio light for the Patreon pledges to give you a better visual experience in my upcoming online courses and webinars. A big thank you to all my patrons! Your contributions are really important for the development of my business.

If you are not already a patron and want to contribute to this, have a look at my Patreon page! You can choose different levels with different patron rewards. I have also added a couple of higher tiers if you want to pledge more, but with no extra rewards.

A bundle of joy

Now you have a whole bundle of resources to dive into regarding supported spindle spinning:

  • The free online course in How to pick a supported spindle and bowl. The course gives you tools to decide which supported spindle that is the best one for you. In the course you will also get a pdf with a list of spindle makers that I can recommend.
  • This webinar. You will learn about spindle ergonomics, particularly in supported spindle spinning. I don’t want my students to be uncomfortable when they spin. You will also learn more about the paid course (see below) and see what my teaching style is like.
  • The course Spin on a supported spindle. It has three different pricing tiers. Find the one that suits you the best.
  • If you are not sure if you want to invest in my paid course you can buy the ebook that is based on the course Spin on a supported spindle. It has no video or audio, but it is a start.
  • Videos and blog posts.

Spindle ergonomics webinar

A woman spinning on a supported spindle.
Enjoying the spindle ergonomics webinar!

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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Ply on the fly

In the third week of walking down memory lane I take you to Austria, a place that is very close to my heart. I shot this video last summer and I show you how I ply on the fly on a Turkish spindle. Even if the video is simple, the place and the atmosphere are very special to me.

Austria in my heart

As many of you know I have some of my roots in Austria. While having been born and brought up in Sweden I am by blood 75% Austrian. I have spent many childhood summers in the mountain area in Salzkammergut just outside of Salzburg. The past six years I have traveled to the same area with my husband and children.

This year we didn’t get to go to Austria. While the train journey is long and cumbersome and it has been relaxing to stay home and tend to the allotments it still hurts my heart not to have been there this year.

A meadow

The meadow I’m standing in is unique. It lies in the middle of the village of Mondsee (Moon lake). The owners of the B&B we always stay at – a former convent from the 15th and 16th centuries – own the land of the meadow. Had they sold the land it would have been packed with buildings on top of each other in a second. But they won’t sell so the beautiful meadow is staying.

One beautiful summer morning when the village was still asleep I brought my gorilla tripod and a garden chair to fasten it onto. I shot my ply on the fly video in the meadow, enjoying the fresh air and the morning breeze.

You can read more about the video here.

So today I give you my Austria. I shed a tear of joy of seeing the silhouettes of Schafberg (Sheep’s mountain) and Drachenwand (Dragon’s wall) and a tear of sadness for not being there.

A woman spinning on a suspended spindle. She is standing in a meadow with mountains in the background
Plying on the fly in one of my favourite spots in Austria

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.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!