Påsöm embroidery

For a long time I have been fascinated by påsöm. This embroidery technique involves abundant flowery motifs in rich, saturated colours. For my first påsöm embroidery project I decided to make a yoga mat and honour the yoga practice with soft, wooly stitches.

A woolen mat for yummy yoga practise.
A woolen mat for yummy yoga practise.

About påsöm embroidery

Påsöm is a composition of the words På (on top of) and Söm (seam or stitch), so a reasonable translation could with some imagination be surface stitch. The embroidery technique originates from the small village of Dala-Floda in county Dalarna in Sweden. The technique started being used in the mid 1800’s and is especially used in various parts of the traditional folk costume from the village. The yarns were imported and dyed with synthetic dyes. A bride usually made her betrothed mittens or suspenders with the påsöm technique. Many women in the early 20th century earned a living stitching påsöm embroideries on mittens and household textiles to sell.

At the last wool journey I made with my wool traveling club I got to fondle some truly remarkable finds of påsöm embroidered mittens in Karin Kahnlund’s massive collection of knitted items.

Materials

The foundation

Påsöm is embroidered on both two-end knitted items and wadmal or broadcloth. Both two-end knitting and broadcloth are perfect for this embroidery technique. The material is dense and inelastic, which allows for the stitches to be made very close to each other. This creates the rich and abundant, almost 3D texture in the motifs.

The material I had in mind for my embroidery was different, though. The scouring mill Ullkontoret sells a needle punch felt by the meter, made with Swedish wool. I usually make spindle cases from the felt, but someone came up with the idea to use it for a yoga mat, so I wanted to try that. After having cut out the yoga mat shape I needed I made a blanket stitch around the edges for protection. This yarn was my handspun (the only spinning related thing about this post).

The needle punch felt is looser and thicker than two-end knitting and broadcloth. The thickness requires more yarn and the looseness makes it a challenge to get the stitches as close to each other as I want. But I am the boss of my embroidery and I say my way works just fine in this context.

Yarn

The embroidery yarn I used for the motifs is a commercial yarn. To create the rich and billowy texture the yarn needs to be at least 4-ply and loosely plied. I didn’t want to sacrifice the påsöm look so I bought the yarn this time instead of trying to spin it myself. Perhaps I will have a go at spinning my own påsöm yarn one day, who knows. There are few yarns suitable for påsöm embroideries. One of the available yarns is the British Appleton tapestry wool, that worked really well.

Påsöm requires lots of colour and especially lots of green leaves. I went for reds, blues and greens in different shades and some white and yellow for details.

Motifs

Apart from the colours and the soft and airy yarn, the motifs and the composition of the motifs are important in påsöm embroidery. An abundance of flowers, bound together by rich greens is what you will be looking for.

I started with the center rose, added the pink flowers flanking it and then the pansies just below the front corners. After that I simply needed to add as many garlands, leaves and decorative flowers as possible and let them create a mass of flower extravaganza. And I did. For every part I added I took a step back and tried to find what and where my next move would be.

My favourite part to stitch were the little green heart-shaped leaves, especially the double ones just beneath the pansies. And I’m childishly charmed by the pink flowers on both sides of the center rose. And who wouldn’t be?

Templateless

I used the booklet Påsöm by Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg to learn the stitches and motifs. The book suggests using transparent sheets to copy the shapes and a needle and Gellyroll pen to transfer the motif to the cloth. With a material like broadcloth or two-end knitting transferring templates would have been fairly easy. But the needle punch felt was way too fuzzy and the markings wouldn’t stick at all. Instead I tried to the best of my ability to draw the shapes directly onto the felt and accepted the wobbly shapes with an open heart.

For some of the more precise motifs I managed to draw something that resembled a contour with the gellyroll pen on the fuzzy felt surface.
For some of the more precise motifs I managed to draw something that resembled a contour with the gellyroll pen on the fuzzy felt surface.

Therapy stitches

I have chronic migraines and peaceful that usually last for several days. It is what it is. Crafting helps me stay sane during many of these episodes. I get very sound sensitive, especially to kitchen clatter and rustling paper bags. But wool is blissfully gentle and quiet.

This could actually be what migraine looks like from within.
When I turn the yoga mat upside down I realize that this could actually be what migraine looks like from within.

For the last couple of weeks I have turned to my påsöm embroidery numerous times for some soft and quiet migraine therapy. The repetitive motions, the slow process and, of course, the feeling of chunky wool in my hands give me some peace of mind. I didn’t keep track of the time I spent on this embroidery, but I don’t think I would be totally wrong if I estimated it to 20 hours.

Quiet yoga

The yoga mat is now finished with a lovely påsöm flower garland at the top and I’m very pleased with the result. The mat is slippery, though. It slips on the floor (which can be helped with a sticky mat underneath it) and my hands and feet slip on the surface in asana practice. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend the material for a moving practice. I would say this mat is more suitable for meditation, sitting postures, restorative yoga and yoga nidra. After all, these are the types of yoga I can practice when migraine hits me. What wouldn’t be more suitable then than a yoga mat stitched as migraine therapy.

Slow embroidery for slow and mindful practice.
Slow embroidery for slow and mindful practice.

Neither embroidery nor yoga help in migraine episodes. However, they do give me the peace of mind I need and lots of wooly comfort. And that is worth a lot.

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.
  • 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.

55 grams of wool

55 grams of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.

I bought a jar of home made shoe wax from a spinner, made of sheep tallow and beeswax from her own backyard. To optimize the cost of the shipping, she added some extra padding – 55 grams of wool from the young Dalapäls ewe Brisa.

Today I dive deep into words of beauty and excess to dress my sensations of Brisa’s wool in linguistic splendour. Feel free to read this story aloud.

Brisa, born 2019. Dalapäls sheep. Shorn fall 2020. Sorted, unwashed. 55 grams of wool.
Brisa, born 2019. Dalapäls sheep. Shorn fall 2020. Sorted, unwashed. 55 grams of wool.

A small ziplock bag

A small ziplock bag of little importance. Brisa, it’s labeled, 55 grams of wool. Inside it a world of wooly wonder. My hands electric with excitement as I open the transparent treasure chamber. Devoutly I free the locks from their plastic prison. Out they come with a sigh of relief – floof – they huff and they puff and they grow their house out.

An airy cloud of promises emerges from the wool cave. Let me tell you what I see:

  • Long outercoat rays, beaming like the sun.
  • Soft, cushioning undercoat, flowing, billowing, a silky, subtle glow like the moon’s reflection in a lake.
  • Breezy greasy lanolin spots, sparkling stars all over.

Sweet vanilla locks, shining like the sun, the moon and the stars together. A universe of ripples in countless dimensions.

The whole family of staples – long and sleek, short and crimpy and a spectrum between.
The whole family of staples – long and sleek, short and crimpy and a spectrum between.

A smell and a smile

As I lean over for a closer look I stop. I smell. A smile starting at my giddy toes reaches the follicles on the top of my head – Swoosh! A burst of joy. Surely you must have heard it, the sound of delight for the smell of a sheep. Of wool in my lap, of drafting with love, of wearing my handspun and bursting with pride. Through all the steps the scent will prevail. Fainter, yes, paler, but still a reminder of a sheep it once knew.

55 grams of Dalapäls wool
55 grams of Dalapäls wool.

The cast and the crew

The whole family of staples is there. Locks of all shapes and fashions. All important, all sincere, holding hands in their dance through the fleece. Protecting their queen from hot, cold and rain. May I present:

  • The tall, bold cones. Silky and strong, slight poof in their feet.
  • Others, tall too, yet buoyant and plush. Like nervous cartoon legs, twirling a sway.
  • A small group of staples are wavier still, unruly, open and airy.
  • Smallest of all are the crimpies, the curlies, the ever so softies, shy and petite.
Sweet locks of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.
Sweet locks of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.

Cutting edge design for optimal sheep comfort. Sharpened through centuries of nature’s own choice. I wonder where you grew, sweet locks? Keeping the neck warm with short, crimpy curls? Long outercoat tips leading the rain drops away? Which ones grew on the sleepy side? Who protected the belly, lightly touching the grass? The map of the sheep a guide for my tools – shawls, socks and mittens from neck, back and legs.

Translate and transform

What can you do, sweet curls? How can I make you shine through my hands? How can I form a strand that is for me what you were for your sheep? Dare I take on these 55 grams? Will I find the soul of this pearl? I dare, I will, I do! I will make mistakes, surely I will. Bumps will appear in the road. I keep them as treasures to learn and to steer my craft in a novel direction.

I find the cut end of a luscious lock, I draft, I twirl and rejoice. Slowly, gently, the fibers give in, finding their place in the draft. My hands listen closely: When to draft? How to twist? The fibers will tell me if I open my mind and welcome the voice of the wool.

Finding the soul of sweet Brisa's locks.
Finding the soul of sweet Brisa’s locks.

I close my eyes and draft, slowly, mindfully. The lanolin, oh, the lanolin oils the journey from cloud to contour. As I draft I see little grains of nature, wandering forward into the twist, playfully skipping off the ride along the way. I wait for that point of twist engagement, when the fibers slide past each other without coming apart. That very window when nothing is decided and possibilities are endless. In this now freedom is mine. Yet I hear the wool and do its bidding. I spin what the locks want to be.

Once upon a staple

Another curl, another now. Pointy top tip, sweet puffy toes. One end in each hand, gently tugging. Resist, resist, resist… and yield. In a viscous blink the once upon a staple is suddenly divided. In the one hand strong and shiny, in the other soft and airy. The tug of togetherness takes new shapes. One sleek, the other abundant. Each with their own treat of traits. New yarns imagined. Another now is here.

Separating outercoat from undercoat.
Separating outercoat from undercoat.

Locks of love

I look at the locks, once again smiling. The cut ends straight, shorn in a whiff. Closing my eyes I can hear the shears squeaking. One clip, another, another still. Soft hand on breathing sheep back. Comforting, close, still one of the flock. Snip by snip with love for sheep and wool. Allowing a new coat to grow, flow and flourish.

I see a seed, a twig, a piece of moss. A nod from grazing the pasture. A token of love from mother nature herself. Signs of a landscape, a meadow or forest. All part of a story that is sheep. This sheep. Sweet Brisa of Nyland.

I want to say this is Brisa, but it is not, she was unavailable at the time of the photo. It is however one of her pasture colleagues Stumpan, born in 2019 as a bottle lamb.
I want to say this is Brisa, but I can’t. She was full of straw when I asked the shepherdess for a photo. It is however an earlier photo of one of her pasture colleagues Stumpan, born in 2019 as a bottle lamb. See the curlies around her neck? Photo by Carina Jakobsson.

With a sigh of lightness I put the locks back in the ziplock bag. I go for a walk in the evening air. The billowing snow flakes land gently on my newly waxed boots.


Recently I bought a book on writing – Steering the craft, a 21st century guide to sailing the sea of story, by Ursula K. Le Guin. The book consists of 10 themes, each theme with an exercise for the reader. Today’s blog post is my contribution to the theme The sound of your writing and the exercise Being gorgeous – write a text that is meant to be read aloud, using onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects and made-up words, just not rhyme. I hope you got some gorgeous out of this piece.

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.
  • 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.

Wool type

Pälsull, rya, vadmal and finull type wool frame one Värmland fleece.

There are many ways to describe and categorize wool. Many countries have their own way of describing wool, probably in a way that is suitable for the sheep breeds that are most common in that particular country. The traditional way to describe wool in Sweden is by wool type.

Wool types

The traditional way to describe wool in Sweden is with wool types. These describe the shape and constitution of the staples. Through that it also describes the composition of undercoat and outercoat fibers in the staples.

We use four wool types that cover the most common breeds in Sweden – finull, rya, pälsull and vadmal type wool. The names (which I will explain in the post) are not always logical, but once you know what they mean the types are quite straightforward and easy to use. A wool type can have the same name as a sheep breed. That doesn’t mean that all the fleeces from the breed have that particular wool type. Neither does it mean that only that breed have that wool type. As you will see, there can be several wool types in a breed or indeed in a individual fleece.

The use of wool types is an accessible way to describe wool. Once you have the keys to the types you will understand some of the character of the wool and what you can expect from it. In my experience it is not an exact science, but rather a way to understand and approach the wool with a simple tool.

Soft finull type wool

As I have described in the historical sections of rya wool and finull wool, there was once a Swedish landrace. It had both soft, warm undercoat and strong, shiny outercoat. These different kinds of wool were used for different purposes. The wool type with mostly undercoat fibers was called finull (finewool) type wool. Later the landrace breed finull sheep was established. Not all finull sheep have finull type wool. Sheep of other breeds can also have finull wool type staples in their fleeces.

Balanced Rya type wool

When textile researchers were puzzled about where the long and shiny wool in the old rya textiles came from, they started a search for the rya type wool. The wool that had been used in the pre-industrialization rya textiles had long and shiny outercoat fibers and soft and warm undercoat fibers. They were found in the Dalapäls sheep which was later used to breed rya sheep. Thus, the breed standards for rya sheep aim for rya type wool. Other breeds like Klövsjö sheep can also have rya type wool on all or part of the fleece.

Shiny pälsull type wool

When Gute sheep were saved from extinction about 100 years ago, some sheep were used to start the pälsfår sheep breed, the fur sheep. Sheep skins with locks shining like silver were in high demand. To sell better abroad the breed later changed names to Gotland sheep. The aim for the Gotland fleece is to be strong, shiny and have dense, three dimensional locks to make pretty skins. The term pälsull (fur wool) is still used to describe the wool type.

Another breed that typically has pälsull type wool is Swedish Leicester. The first Leicester longwool sheep were imported in the 18th century so the breed today is indeed a Swedish Leicester sheep adapted to the Swedish climate. During the 1980’s the breed was further bred to be a white pälsull type sister to the Gotland sheep and make pretty skins.

Vadmal type wool

A fourth type is the vadmal (wadmal, or broadcloth) wool. This wool type was thought to be extra fitting for fulling fabric into thick wadmal or broadcloth that would withstand the wind and the cold in the Swedish winters. Many breeds can have vadmal type wool in their fleeces.

The difference between the wool types

So, what distinguishes these wool types? Well, I would say the undercoat to outercoat ratio in the staples, which manifests itself in shape and constitution of the staples. Also to some extent the difference between the undercoat and outercoat fibers. This is not absolute in any way, but it is a way to roughly categorize staples into wool types. In the description below I have pulled the fiber types apart in the staples to find a rough outercoat to undercoat ratio.

Almost only undercoat

Finull type wool consists, as the name suggest, of mostly or only undercoat fibers. The staple is usually short and crimpy with very fine tips. Finull wool usually has finewool type wool, as does Jämtland wool (which is a new Swedish crossbred).

As you can see in the images above the finull type staples are usually quite short and have soft and crimpy staples. They consist of mostly or only undercoat fibers. To the right you see the fluffy undercoat and just a few strands of what I think are outercoat fibers.

Mostly undercoat fibers

Vadmal type wool still has mostly undercoat fibers but also some outercoat fibers. The shape is usually triangular with a very narrow tip of the outercoat fibers. The staple is usually wavy. I would say that the vadmal type wool is quite unusual. I have seen vadmal type wool as one of the wool types in heterogeneous fleeces of several Swedish heritage breeds. So far I have only seen one fleece – of Åsen wool – with predominantly vadmal type wool. I used it in a course I taught and it was by far the most popular wool to work with.

The vadmal type wool has a characteristic look in its triangular shape with the wide undercoat base and the pointy tip of a few strands of outercoat fibers, hugging each other for support. Vadmal wool is soft but will still have some strength due to the outercoat content. It is a very versatile wool and I jump at any opportunity to get my hands on and in a vadmal type fleece. In the right picture above you can see the distribution of fibers in the staple I divided – mostly airy undercoat and some longer outercoat fibers.

50/50

Rya type wool typically has an outercoat to undercoat ratio of 60/40 or 50/50. The staple is long and wavy to straight. The staples are long with a conical shape. Rya sheep typically has rya type wool. Many breeds can have partly or predominantly rya type wool, like Dalapäls sheep, Klövsjö sheep and Värmland sheep.

Rya type wool is quite versatile since you can divide it and use it in so many ways. Use both fiber types together, divide into outercoat and undercoat or make an even larger buffet using lamb’s or ewe’s wool.

Mostly outercoat

Pälsull wool has only outercoat fibers. Or, there can be some undercoat fibers, but all fibers are typically quite coarse. The staple is thin, dense and wavy. A pälsull type staple usually has lots of shine. Gotland sheep is an example of a breed that produces almost only pälsull type wool, as is Swedish Leicester sheep. Sometimes you can find pälsull type wool in finewool sheep.

With a pälsull type wool you are not likely to get a soft yarn. I prefer to use pälsull type wool for project that require strength like socks, warp or embroidery.

All in one

Through this post I have presented examples of the different wool types I have talked about. You have seen that a wool type can exist in different breeds. Now, take another look at the pictures with staples on a waulking board. All the staples on the waulking board come from the same Värmland fleece. Yes. One fleece with all the wool types represented.

A versatile Värmland fleece

The Swedish heritage breeds are rare and some even threatened. The genetic base is too small to breed for specific characteristics and the sheep farmers with gene banks are not allowed to single out characteristics to breed on. Therefore the fleeces can be, and usually are, very heterogenous. Like this Värmland fleece.

A Värmland fleece with all the fiber types represented – pälsull, rya, vadmal and finull type wool in a gradient from strong to soft.

This lamb’s fleece got a bronze medal in the 2019 Swedish fleece championships. I realized its potential when I bought it at the auction that followed the event.

From a quick investigation of the fleece I can tell that the most common wool type in this particular fleece is rya type wool and the least common is the pälsull type wool. With that information I also know that the fleece has lots of soft and warm undercoat and some strong outercoat. I can choose to divide the fleece into wool types, fiber types or keep it all together. The possibilities with a fleece like this are endless.

I am sure a sheep farmer with a fleece like this will know where the wool types will typically be found on the body of the sheep. My guess is that a lot of the finull wool type can be found around the neck and the rya type wool on the sides.

Systems to describe wool

Back to the Swedish landrace. When the textile experts realized that the wool in the pre-industrial rya textiles were different from the wool in the post-industrial rya textiles a search began for the wool type that was used in the earlier rya textiles. Would this have been the first mention of wool types in Sweden? I want to think so. Either case, the use of wool types in Sweden would be based on the wool types that traditionally have been grazing Swedish pastures.

At the time of the industrial revolution lots of breeds were imported to Sweden to provide wool to the spinning mills that the mills could actually work with. Traces of these imported breeds are still in the landrace and heritage breeds in Sweden today. The imported breed that seems to have had the most success is the Swedish Leicester sheep that is used for its own sake and to cross with other breeds.

I am curious of any systems to describe wool in your countries:

  • Are there systems to describe wool where you live?
  • Do you have a system of your own to describe wool?
  • Do you see any pros and cons of using a system to describe wool?

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.
  • 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.

Coming up

Last week I looked back on what happened during 2020. This week I make plans and dreams for this year – teaching, writing and creating. As well as a heads up for you on what I plan to make happen I see this post as sort of a business plan for myself. Once I publish this I can’t go back, right? This is what’s coming up in 2021.

A lot of things are still uncertain when it comes to Covid. Therefore many things are uncertain for me, just as it is everywhere else in the world. But that won’t stop me from dreaming and making plans.

Writing

My plan is to keep the blog as I have so far, with a weekly post. There may be an occasional article coming up in spinning magazines too. Sara Wolf’s book Knit (spin) Sweden (where I am a co-writer) is at the printer’s as we speak but has got stuck there due to, again, Covid. I think that the first copies are being distributed to the people who have signed up for preorders, though. As soon as the printed book is in Sara’s hands the work with the translation to Swedish will begin. Yay!

I also want to explore my writing. I have always loved writing – crafting the sentences, dressing feelings and observations in well chosen words and phrases. finding a balance between lyric-like interpretations and clear, concise descriptions. Giving birth to a new piece that will make its way into the world and become a part of the readers’ lives. But I have never studied writing or taken any writing courses. This is something that I am curious about and a rabbit hole I am eager to fall into. Who knows where it may take me?

Teaching, coaching and lectures

As I told you last week quite a few courses and events got cancelled in 2020. There will be a risk of cancellations this year too. I have a coupe of weekend courses planned in April, one of which is already on my course page. As we speak I am also preparing for a zoom lecture in March.

In the spring of 2020 I taught a zoom course in weaving with rya knots for a guild and I will be teaching a course series on zoom for this guild in the beginning of the year. I’m really looking forward to this series as it is a new course that I will get the chance to explore.

Sätergläntan craft education center.
Coming up: A fleece course at Sätergläntan craft education center.

If all goes well I will teach at Sätergläntan craft education center in the end of June. The five-day course is quite similar to my online course Know your fleece. The students bring their own fleece to the course and we go through different tools to investigate and explore the fleece. I really look forward to this opportunity and hope to learn a lot.

Video coaching sessions are coming up soon.
Coming up: 1:1 video coaching sessions!

Coming up: Coaching

I am also preparing for 1:1 video coaching sessions. This is a totally new field for me and I am very excited to start this adventure. I have no public page for this yet, but if you are interested, just contact me and I will fill you in with the details. The coaching session will only take place if I think I can help you. Therefore you will need to fill in a questionnaire before any money is transferred.

Online course(s) and webinars

I do have several ideas of online courses. Some of them are more technical and others have more of a mindful focus. I hope to make at least one of them happen during 2021.

Coming up with ideas is no problem. Getting started can take a while. Once I have started things can move pretty fast and soaked in a creative flow. The finishing takes a lot longer than I think and is packed with procrastination. Once I have launched I get steam rolled by a heavy attack of imposter syndrome. But it is all part of a process I need to get through to get a course out to you.

Rya wool live webinar.
Anything can happen on a live webinar! It can be scary, but also exciting since everything else I do is so edited. Webinars are live, unedited and refreshing!

I love live streaming webinars for you. In the practical and theoretical research I do to prepare for them I learn so much, as well as from your questions. The next sheep breed for an upcoming breed study webinar is already in my mind. I hope you haven’t gone tired of Swedish sheep breeds. There are lots left to cover!

If you are interested in a zoom lecture or custom made course for your spinning group or guild you are more than welcome to contact me. And of course my online school is always available for you with both paid and free online courses.

Spinning and making

A lot of spinning, weaving and knitting projects are waiting for my attention. I always have a plan to work on the oldest first, but then an idea comes and bothers me until I give that my attention and my structure has been wrecked. A loom warped with Gute yarn is under our bed, a sock yarn is on the spinning wheel, lots of fleeces in the sofa bed and plans and dreams in my mind.

Weaving Gute wool.
I have a queue of spinning, weaving and knitting projects to learn from.

I have no concrete plans for YouTube videos, but they usually come to me in the moment or through your questions. So I have no doubt there will be more videos this year! In the mean time there are lots of older videos on my channel, feel free to check them out.

Balance

To maintain some sort of balance with a full time job, a family, a business and time to breathe I need some sort of structure and tools. I have made lots of changes in my life recently and found routines that give me a lot of energy and peace of mind. Yoga and meditation are vital parts of my morning and evening routines. My daily dip in the lake gives me a rush that stays with me for hours and I can’t wait for my next bath. In fact, I’m going there as soon as I publish this post.

I also look forward to conversations with you, I learn so much from these. Your feedback, dedication and participation makes my work possible. So thank you, stay in touch!

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.
  • 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.

2020 condensed

2020 is over and a new year is waiting to be discovered in all its possibilities. To be able to plan my upcoming year I want to look back at what has happened fiber wise in the past year. If you have been following me for a while you can revisit 2020 with me. If you are new here – a warm welcome – you have the chance to catch up on what has happened. This is 2020 condensed.

From all of me to all of you: Happy new spinning year 2021!

“It’s New Year’s Day. 2021 is on. May s he bring us peace, health, light and love. And wool. May she bring us wool. Happy spinning. Happy new year!” It’s 3.5 degrees Celsius in the water and 2.5 in the air and a lovely day for a morning bath.

Stash and grab

In the first month I focused on reducing my handspun stash. I had spun a lot that I hadn’t really found a project for and the handspun cupboard was bursting in its hinges. The burstiness (it’s a word) stressed me and I realized I needed to do something about it. I made lots of projects of these neglected skeins and leftover balls and we use practically all of them daily.

During the autumn of 2019 I had already started a project and I finished it in January. In the stash I had lots of naah yarn and warp thrum. My first stash busting project was seven woven chair pads with rya knots. All in all I used 1 kilo of stashed handspun yarn for warp, weft and rya knots for seven chair pads. The satisfaction! And we use them every day. I also got on a band weaving frenzy and made five handspun bands with a small rigid heddle in a few winter weeks. And suddenly I realized how much you need hand woven bands.

Years ago I started a stash busting blanket project. I had woven 10×10 cm pin loom squares of odd balls of handspun and finally got to a blanket worthy amount. Read about my blanket, and while you are at it, check out Anna’s pin loom blanket project too! She spun her squares on a medieval spindle specifically for the blanket and it looks beautiful.

With lots of skeins of Navajo spindle spun bulky singles I wove a curtain with a loose sett with the singles as weft and commercial flax yarn as warp. I used an old sheet as a background and mended a hole with a flea market lace ribbon.

A follower asked me to write about how my handspun garments have worn and matured and so I wrote a portrait of a sweater I spun and knit in 2014–2015. Later I also made a post about mending a pair of much loved nalbinding socks.

I have mended lots of other things during the year and I always feel very satisfied doing it. The rest of the family also turn to mending now rather than discarding something that is broken or worn.

Breed studies and webinars

During the past year I have written blog posts about the wool from four different Swedish sheep breeds – finull, Jämtland, rya and Klövsjö wool. I have also managed to live stream three of them in live breed study webinars. Making the breed study webinar takes a lot of time – around 10 hours for one webinar. I am nervous all day before a live stream, but once I go live I love being with you and learning through your questions. So thank you for showing up at my webinars. We are doing this together!

Backstrap weaving

In the beginning of the year I took a few courses in backstrap weaving. Since then I have started to explore this beautiful way of weaving where you as the weaver are also a part of the loom. Being so close to the weaving process has made me understand and respect it on a deeper level. During the year I have woven a weaving bag, a camera strap, a belt bag and a stick wrap on my backstrap loom. At the end of the year I also published the video Weaving with the trees where I weave on a backstrap loom in the northernmost corner of Sweden.

Tech tips

I have tried to blog about how I work with different tools and techniques. One of my most important and foundational concepts that I teach in every class is opening up the twist to achieve an easier draft and less strain. In Finding a fleece I walk you through a lots of useful tips to find fleece to work with. Don’t miss these two blog posts!

I am a happy beginner at embroidery, but I did manage to spin a lovely embroidery yarn as my contribution to the 2020 Swedish spinning championships. The skein gave me a gold medal. In this post I walk you through the rules of the championships and how I spun the yarn.

During the fall I have been experimenting with sock yarn and found a way to spin a cable yarn with a rya/mohair mix. I gave my husband a promise of socks from this yarn in a colour and model of his choice for Christmas. Still, I am sure there will be enough yarn for another couple of socks too.

A couple of videos with tech tips have left the editing board as well. In the beginning of the year I released a video where I spin by a lake from the cut end of flicked locks. A bit later a video where I spin on a Portuguese spindle in the forest. In the early fall I finished a lovely video where I spin on a great wheel in costume at the manor hall of Vallby outdoor museum (Swedish version here).

Meditations

As a way of developing my writing and opening up to a more personal way of expressing myself and my fiber journey I have been experimenting with what I call meditations. In these I let my sensations steer my process with both fiber and words and just enjoy the ride. Read about the knowledge of the hand and my relationship to the morning. Find peace with my warping and fleece meditations.

Teaching

As for many other teachers a lot of my planned courses have been cancelled this year due to Covid. I was however one of the lucky ones who was able to teach at Sätergläntan in the course I call A spindle a day.

I did launch a couple of courses in my online school. The free five-day challenge Fleece through the senses became a huge success from the start. So far 444 people have taken the course and contributed with their explorations and experimentation. Later I launched the course Know your fleece – a course about going deep into your fleece to find its soul.

The crisis has opened many people’s eyes to different ways of communicating. In early July I was invited to a zoom meeting with a spinning guild in the east coast of Australia at 6:30 in the morning. In December I was hired as a speaker at a guild meeting in Washington state in the U.S.

Writing

Apart from the 52 blog posts I have written in other contexts too. I love writing articles for spinning magazines since it makes me explore and challenge my writing even more. For Spin-Off I have written about Textile heritage and how I teach at Sätergläntan. I also published the Sweater pattern Selma Margau for Spin-Off. And of course I didn’t miss the PLY Support spindle issue. I wrote an article I simply call the Flick. In the beginning of the year the Swedish craft magazine Hemslöjd featured me and my spindles in an article.

My contribution to Sara Wolf’s book Knit (spin) Sweden has been taking up a lot of time, energy and love this year. The book is at the printer’s as we speak (a bit delayed due to Covid). You can preorder the book if you want to make sure not to miss it. A Swedish translation is in the pipeline as well.


A large part of the work I do is free and my goal is to keep it that way. If you want to support my creative work and make sure it can go on in a sustainable way, do consider becoming a patron at my Patreon page. You can pick a monthly payment of your choice. A new feature is the possibility to pay annually and get two months for free.


Happy spinning in 2021!

You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Weaving with the trees

Photo by dan Waltin

Today, on one of the darkest days in my hemisphere I give you a new video from the other side of the year: Weaving with the trees. I shot the video in the northernmost part of Swedish Lappland in the beginning of July when the sun never set.

This video is my season’s gift to you: Weaving with the trees, with love from me. May it bring you light, space and peace.

Turning the train around

We had plans to take the train to Austria this year. But in March we realized that it wouldn’t be possible. Instead we turned the rails 180 degrees and went 18 hours north, to Abisko, 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Situated by the foot of mount Nuolja it is the perfect starting point for hikers southward on the 400 kilometer Kungsleden trail. We chose to stay at the tourist station and take day trips, though. I packed my backpack with the essentials – emergency snack (Notnüsse, a family tradition of mixed nuts and seeds for energy dips), hat, hiking boots, loom and spindles.

The landscape

Before I dive into the wool and the weaving I need to give you at least the chance to understand the vastness of this landscape. This is so far north from where I live – when the train made a short stop in Boden, at the top of the Bothnian Bay, there were still 5 hours left to go!

You can start your hike straight off the platform at Abisko Tourist station train station. During that whole week we traveled by rail and hiking boots only – we walked from our house to the metro, took the metro to Stockholm Central Station and the train to Abisko.

I'm drinking the water straight from the stream with a Kuksa, hand made by Bengt Waldemarsson and gifted from me to my husband for his birthday. Photo by Dan Waltin
I’m drinking the water straight from the stream with a Kuksa, hand made from a birch burl by Bengt Waldemarsson and gifted from me to my husband for his birthday. The mittens are my handspun and two-end knitted Heartwarming mitts. Photo by Dan Waltin

When you get to Abisko all you see is the vast mountain landscape to the south, lake Torneträsk to the north and more mountains in Sweden and Norway to the northwest. The river Abiskojåkka runs lively from the mountains down to the lake. A bit south-east the U-shaped Lapporten (The Lapponian gate) rises like a queen in the valley.

So, now that you have some idea of the set you may get a feeling of what spinning and weaving with simple tools with endless opportunities this close to nature can feel like. For me, crafting in nature brings me closer to the tools, the craft and the people who craft before, beside and after me.

Rain shadow

The tourist station is situated on the leeway side of mount Nuolja with its rich summer flora. This means that the wind comes from the windward side in the west and the mountain stops the rain from falling on the Abisko side. The phenomenon is called rain shadows and is the reason why Abisko has very few rain days per year (around 300 mm of rain per year while Riksgränsen, 30 km to the west, has roughly 1600).

The trees

In the valleys and up to the tree limit there is basically one kind of tree – the Fjällbjörk, Arctic downy birch. The black and white stems grow in groups of low, gnarly, windswept stems, showcasing their crispy green leaves under the blue sky. The mass effect of these humble fjällbjörk forests is just mesmerizing. There is an enchanted touch to this black-white-green mass and I keep looking for signs of forest beings peeping out from behind one of the stems.

Above the tree limit there are still birches, but not really trees. The mountain is covered in a rich flora, mixed with dwarf birch, dvärgbjörk. The Dwarf birch doesn’t look like a tree or even a bush. Just twigs on the ground, sprinkled with the tiniest green wave-edged leaves. Where the arctic downy birch can’t stand against the arctic winds, the dwarf birch and the flowers can. I love those low, fiercely strong plants that are designed to endure the most extreme elements. I guess you can see their relatives on any mountain.

The wool

I started spinning this yarn a couple of years ago. The wool comes from a Norwegian crossbred, NKS. I have teased the wool by hand and spun it on Andean pushkas straight off the hand teased rovings. To the best of my ability I tried to spin and ply the way Andean spinners spin their yarn. I have watched Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez teach Linda Ligon how to spin the Andean way in the video Andean spinning.

Making. 2-ply yarn from a figure-8 skein by the river Abiskojåkka. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Making. 2-ply yarn from a figure-8 skein by the river Abiskojåkka. Photo by Dan Waltin.

If you want to dive more into how I spun this yarn you can watch my video Learning Andean spinning. You can also read the blog post about the video.

The yarn

I wanted to play with different colours and spinning directions in the yarn. Also, I figured that spinning with both hands would decrease the risk of straining my neck and shoulders. Therefore I alternated between S-plied and Z-plied yarn: I did all clockwise spinning with my right hand and all counter-clockwise spinning with my left hand to always pull the spindle. You can read my thoughts about pushing and pulling the spindle and spinning direction in this blog post. You can also check out my webinar Spindle ergonomics to see what I mean.

So, when I had spun the skeins in two different directions I dyed the yarn and planned the weave. I played with opposing twist directions throughout the striped sequence until I found something I liked. Warping was a challenge, but well worth the time and effort.

Sticking to it

Since I have hand-teased this wool as the only preparation the fibers aren’t as neatly arranged as if I would have processed it with tools. Ends are sticking out here and there. When I weave on a warp-faced weave the warp threads are naturally very close to each other. Using this yarn for such a tight sett led to a very sticky warp. Even if I try to do the process as closely as I can to how I understand Andean spinners do it, some things can’t be the same, especially when I use my local wool. I just had to deal with the sticky warp, spend many hours unsticking warp layers and stick (!) to my plan. To my surprise only one warp thread broke during the entire weaving process.

What yo see in the video are the short sections where I just insert the batten after having manually unstuck the warp threads. I saw no point of showing you the endless fiddling with my shortcomings.

Sources

To get closer to the technique and the textile traditions of the Andes, I bought the beautiful book Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. The book has excellent tutorials of some of the techniques. The eye-pattern tubular bands and borders is one example. As I mentioned I also took the class Andean spinning by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. I took an online course by Kimberly Hamill and later I also bought ebooks on pick-up techniques and the eye-pattern tubular band by Laverne Waddington.

Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez is a beautiful book that explains the traditions of Andean backstrap weaving and has several step-by-step tutorials with pictures.
Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez is a beautiful book that explains the traditions of Andean backstrap weaving and has several step-by-step tutorials with pictures.

Weaving with the trees

Backstrap weaving is practiced in many different cultures across the world. I love the portability of the loom as well as the many traditions and weaving techniques associated with it.

With backstrap weaving the weaver is a part of the loom together with the tree. Many weavers sit while they weave. I prefer standing since I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. My kids, in the background (dressed in mosquito net head covers), found a climate research location. Photo by dan Waltin.
With backstrap weaving the weaver is a part of the loom together with the tree. Many weavers sit while they weave. I prefer standing since I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. My kids, in the background (dressed in mosquito net head covers), found a climate research location. Photo by dan Waltin.

Being a part of the loom

The idea of being a part of the loom together with a tree is truly fascinating. Being a part of the loom makes my body understand the rhythm of the weaving better than when I am detached from the loom. I like to compare it to spindles and spinning wheels: When I spin on a spindle – of any kind – I am a part of the mechanics of the spinning. Therefore I can understand and control the spinning better than if I were spinning on a spinning wheel where those mechanics are built-in in the spinning wheel.

Standing while weaving with the trees has downsides when it comes to dropping loom parts or tools, especially when weaving on a cliff. Photo by Dan Waltin
Standing while weaving with the trees has downsides when it comes to dropping loom parts or tools, especially when weaving on a cliff. Photo by Dan Waltin

I prefer standing when I weave on a backstrap loom. I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. It also feels more flexible than sitting. A downside to weaving standing is that the ground is further away if (when) I drop things. Usually I bring a shoulder bag with the essentials for easy access.

Gratitude

I am, and will keep being, a novice at backstrap weaving. Still, I have learned so much about this craft that is as humble as it is magnificent, as simple as it is complex. And all between just a few hand-carved sticks. And I am truly grateful for the time and space I get to spend with and in the weaving.

I shot the video with my iPhone and a light tripod. Photo by dan Waltin
I shot the video with my iPhone and a lightweight tripod. Photo by dan Waltin

Thank you. sweet followers, for another year of spinning, teaching and learning. Your support, your progress and your spinning stories all give me energy and sparkle to keep creating for you.

Waiting for the train back home to Stockholm. Basswood weaving sword by Verena Soe, Yarnengineer, on Instagram, juniper band lock by Spångmurs.

The week in Abisko ended far too quickly. I am not finished with this place. There are so many things to discover, so many places to craft. I will come back. After all, it’s just an 18 hour train ride from home.

Back home I finished the striped weave and the band. I wove an eye-pattern tubular band around the weave to protect the edges. I sewed the band onto the striped piece and attached D-rings for closure. And voilá, I had myself a wrap for my loom sticks.

I made a wrap to keep all my various sizes of hand carved loom sticks warm and in order. I found the band pattern in Laverne Waddington's book Complementary-warp pick-up. The tubular eye-pattern edging around the wrap has different names in different regions in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
I made a wrap to keep all my various sizes of hand carved loom sticks warm and in order. I used a band pattern from Laverne Waddington’s book Complementary-warp pick-up. The tubular eye-pattern edging around the wrap has different names in different regions in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

Support Andean textile artists

I make a monthly donation to the Center for traditional textiles of Cusco. If you want to support the textile traditions of the Andes you can donate. Andean weavers are facing multiple difficulties due to the consequences of the pandemic. The center also has an online shop where you can buy beautiful hand made items like bags, purses, hats, shawls etc.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Klövsjö wool

Klövsjö sheep is one of Sweden’s ten conservation breeds. In this post I present my experience with the long, strong and shiny Klövsjö wool.

Klövsjö sheep

Klövsjö sheep, is one of the ten conservation breeds in Sweden. Much like the other conservation breeds they were found in the early 1990’s and considered a breed of their own. They were found in the town of Klövsjö in Jämtland in mid-Sweden. Just like the other heritage breeds, the goal is to save the breed with the biggest genetic diversity possible. The breeding aims should not be directed towards a specific characteristics, like the wool.

For a heritage breed Klövsjö sheep are rather large. Rams can weigh 60–80 kg and ewes 45–70 kg. They can get very old, 15 years is not unusual. One of the shepherdesses of the found flocks says her grandmother made porridge for the oldest ewes who had no teeth left so they would make it through the winter.

The statistics from the Swedish sheep breeder’s association state that in 2019 there were 600 breeding ewes in 83 flocks.

Most Klövsjö sheep are white, black or black with white spots in face or on the legs. Klövsjö sheep are affectionate and the ram can usually go with the flock all year round.

Many of the heritage breeds, including Klövsjö sheep, are shorn twice a year. If not, there is a risk that the fleece will felt and be difficult to handle for both shearer and crafter.

Wool characteristics

Klövsjö wool is a dual coat with long, shiny outercoat and soft and fine undercoat. The lock is almost straight with defined staples. The outercoat is coarse and not suitable for next to skin garments. As you can see, the Klövsjö looks a lot like Rya wool. The klövsjö wool I got is a good example of a fleece with mostly staples of rya type.

The shine of Klövsjö wool is exceptional. Especially the outercoat, but there is lots of lovely shine in the undercoat as well.

The Klövsjö ewe Frida's beautiful fleece.
The Klövsjö ewe Frida’s beautiful fleece, unwashed.

The Klövsjö fleece I have is an autumn shearing of a grown sheep. The outercoat is around 18 cm and the undercoat 10.

Prepare

In the 2019 Swedish fleece championships I got my hands on the lovely Klövsjö fleece from the lamb Frida. I decided to plan for a warp yarn with Frida’s outercoat. Therefore I chose to separate outercoat from undercoat and spin them into different yarns. The outercoat makes out the warp yarn and the undercoat may become a soft knitting yarn.

Separating with combs

To separate outercoat from undercoat I use my combing station with two-pitched combs. The two-pitched combs grab hold of the shorter undercoat better than combs with only one row of tines, which makes the separation easier.

I load the stationery comb with the locks, putting the outermost edge of the cut end on the tines so that close to no fiber shows on the handle end of the comb. I comb with the tines perpendicularly to each other in a horizontal circular movements. Since the fibers are so long I need to make bold and dramatic movements. If not, there is a risk that the fibers in the combs aren’t separated and there will be loops which will make a mess.

When as much as possible of the wool is on the active comb I make the circular movement vertical, tines still perpendicular to each other.

I use combs with a combing station to separate the outercoat from the undercoat.

When the staples are separated and the fibers even I pull the outercoat off the stationery comb. I pull just under a staple length at a time, rearranging the grip after each pull so that I get a continuous top out of the comb. When I think there is no more outercoat left I pull the top all the way off the comb and put aside. I then pull the undercoat off and put it in a separate pile.

Second combing

After having made a few rovings I comb them again. This will make the rovings more even and I will be able to separate any residual undercoat from the outercoat. I take a number of combed rovings and recharge them on the stationery comb, usually two or three (of course depending on the capacity of the combs). I comb through the fibers twice and make sure they are fully separated and even.

To make the roving extra even I comb a second time and diz.

When the comb load looks good I pull it off the stationery comb. In this case I want a very even roving so I diz it through a button hole. To start I pull the very tip of the tip end and twist it between my fingers, double it and pull it through the button hole. Then I start dizzing – I push the button forward, pull the fiber bundle and repeat until there is no more outercoat left on the stationery comb. I remove the roving and make a bird’s nest of it. I pull the residual undercoat from the stationery comb and put it on the undercoat pile.

Lovely birds’ nests of combed and dizzed outercoat of Klövsjö wool.

Carding the undercoat

I card rolags from the undercoat that has been separated (and teased) from the outercoat in the combing process:

  1. I pull my teased wool onto the cards. When the wool doesn’t stick anymore I stop. To avoid over loading I remove any excess from the handle side of the card.
  2. I leave an empty frame around the wool. The wool will fluff up when I start carding and it will spread outwards in the next stroke.
  3. I stroke the wool gently between the cards. This pushes the wool just a bit into the teeth – not all the way down. The more silent the carding the better.
  4. After the third pass I use the active card and my free hand to lift the wool off the stationary card and make a rolag with the help of my active card and my free hand. To keep the stationery card steady I push the handle against the inside of my thigh.
  5. When I have reached the handle side of the stationery card and there actually is a rolag, I lift the rolag between my open hand and my active card, move it back to the beginning of the card again and roll the rolag gently between the cards.
Hand carded rolags of Klövsjö undercoat wool.

In the second part (starting at 4:11) of my video Teasing wool with combs you can see my carding technique and how I make the rolags.

Spin

I separated the undercoat from the outercoat to make the most of the two very different fiber types. To enhance the characteristics of each fiber type I spin them differently.

Outercoat

I spent the spring spinning the combed outercoat worsted on a suspended spindle with the aim of a strong warp yarn. The outercoat was very pleasant to work with and drafted like butter.

The length of the outercoat fibers can be a challenge. These fibers were around 20 centimeters. I think it is easier to work with a suspended spindle with this length compared to a spinning wheel. I need to consider the length of the fibers when I draft – the longer the fibers the longer the distance between my hands. If I spin on a spinning wheel the motion will be back and forth, which may be straining for my back. If I spin on a suspended spindle I can draft to the side and won’t have to work with my back in the same way.

The blue dye that turned out green. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The worsted spun outercoat yarn is fiercely strong and incredibly shiny. I dyed it in two shades of blue, which turned out green. I still love the result.

Undercoat

The lovely undercoat rolags had an adventure of their own. I brought them to Vallby outdoor museum and spun them on the great wheel with a smooth long draw into the loveliest woolen yarn. The rolags worked perfectly with the technique. In some cases there was a bit of outercoat left and the draft was a bit more demanding, but for the most part the draft surprisingly smooth.

Spinning the carded undercoat fibers on a great wheel.

The yarn I spun at Vallby is still in singles and I haven’t decided whether I should ply it or not. It is soft and airy and has a silky shine.

You can watch me spin and card the lovely Klövsjö undercoat on my video Spinning on a great wheel (available in Swedish as Spinna på långrock).

Strong and shiny worsted spun outercoat to the left. Soft and airy woolen spun undercoat to the right.

Use

Klövsjö wool with its dual coat is very versatile. You can choose to separate the fiber types like I have above or keep them together and prepare and spin for a woolen or worsted yarn. Considering the range from soft lamb’s wool to the coarser spectrum of a grown ewe the versatility increases even more. Have a look at the blog post about Rya wool I wrote a couple of weeks ago to compare.

Due to this versatility the yarn from Klövsjö wool can be used for a number of different purposes. Use the finest lamb’s undercoat for a next to skin yarn, the strong outercoat for a warp yarn, a combination of undercoat and undercoat for a sweater or play with anything between a fine embroidery yarn to a rough rug yarn.

All I have done so far with the Klövsjö wool I had is a woven belt bag from the spindle spun outercoat. It is combined with the Chanel warp yarn for a lovely green and brown striped pattern.

In my online course Know your fleece there is a 25 minute video where I present Klövsjö wool and demonstrate how I prepare, spin and use Klövsjö wool.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Sock yarn

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about blending rya wool and adult mohair to get the characteristics I needed for a sock yarn. Today I will share my adventurous journey of spinning that sock yarn.

When I had achieved the blending result I was after I combed the blend into strong and silky roving. I spun the roving worsted for extra shine and strength. A sock yarn needs to be durable in all directions and I decided to spin a cable yarn.

Cable ply

A cable yarn generally consists of four Z-spun singles. They are then plied into two balanced S-plied 2-plied yarns. After that you S-ply the yarns again with just as much ply as in the first ply. The 2-plies are now very overplied. In the final step you ply the overplied 2-plies Z into a cable yarn that contains all the four singles. The difficulty is to get to that magic cable ply where the fibers align in the direction of the yarn and create one balanced yarn unit.

An even, cable plied, strong and shiny sock…string.

Sock string

The problem was that the beautiful yarn I had created was basically string. There was no softness, no elasticity, no way near what I would wear next to even the roughest skin on the soles of my feet. It had also been quite exhausting to spin. The fibers were fighting me and I needed to keep my fingers quite tensed during the drafting.

A sock string swatch knit on 2 mm needles. The yarn split and resulted in a flat swatch with the texture and flexibility of suede.

Still I knitted a swatch from my sock string. If nothing else, I figured I at least would have the opportunity to learn something. The sock string was dreadful to knit with. It was very dense and a struggle to work around the needles. Also, the needle kept finding its way in between the 2-plies and splitting the yarn, which resulted in a flat (as opposed to rounded) yarn in the swatch. I couldn’t live like this.

So why am I writing about a disatrous sock string and a leathery swatch? Well, I do have a point. I always tell my students that their mistakes are maps of what they have learned. I consider myself just as much a student as my own students and in this string adventure I have learned a lot that I have put to use in my second try. And the leathery swatch is my map.

A second try

Back to square 1. I needed a preparation and spinning technique that would result in a softer yarn without taking the strength away. I still wanted a sock yarn that would last. So I decided to change the preparation technique, the drafting technique and the spinning direction. The spinning technique (a cable plied yarn) and thickness would stay as much as possible the same.

Carding and spinning woolen

This time I teased the blend with combs:

  1. I loaded the combs with the blend with no consideration of which staple end was where.
  2. I teased the wool with the combs like I normally would when combing
  3. I pulled the teased wool right off the combs, perpendicular to the direction of the tines.

The resulting cloud was now teased and the mohair, rya outercoat and rya undercoat well separated. I then carded the teased blend into rolags and spun the singles woolen. All to bring some softness and air into my yarn.

Three stages of fiber preparation of my sock yarn: Blended rya and mohair locks, the teased blend and carded rolags.

Compared to combing for the sock string, carding resulted in far less waste. In the combing process I had to leave a lot of the shortest fibers since they would make the worsted spinning more difficult. In a carded preparation I could keep more of the shortest fibers. They would also add more softness to the resulting yarn.

Carding long fibers

But can you really card fibers this long without disaster? Wouldn’t the long fibers just double around themselves in the rolag and create a tangled mess? Well, they would if they were

alone.

My sock yarn consists of long rya outercoat fibers (left), medium and short rya undercoat fibers (middle) and adult mohair (right). The combination of lengths makes the blend spinnable after carding.

When I card fibers of this length (in this case around 20 cm) I always make sure they are accompanied by shorter fibers. In a combination of short, medium and long fibers the fibers sort of marry each other and create an airy rolag. A dual coat therefore usually works well carding since there are different lengths in the staples. Combining three different lengths of different breeds would also work fine. In my sock yarn I use a dual coat with lengths between 7 and 20 cm and mohair of around 12 cm. The longest fibers will double around the rolag, but I don’t see that as a problem since there are so many other lengths that won’t.

A new direction

Since I had had the experience of splitting yarn I also changed the direction – I

  1. spun the singles S,
  2. 2-plied Z,
  3. plied again Z and
  4. cable plied S.

This yarn was way more comfortable to spin. I could relax my hands and enjoy the spinning, which, to me, is the whole point.

My finished woolen cable plied sock yarn. 18 grams, 36 meters, 2000 m/kg, 16 wpi.

Even though I am fully capable of spinning in both directions when I spin with spindles, I haven’t changed the direction very much on my spinning wheel. Habits are obviously very easy to form. Changing the direction when I spun the singles was a challenge and puzzled me in the beginning, but after a while I got the hang of it. I could be bold and switch the orifice hand and fiber hand too, but I haven’t been that adventurous yet.

I slip

The spinning was far from easy to manage, though. Mohair is extremely slippery. The smallest part of uneven blending could quickly result in a rush through my fingers in lightning speed. I needed to truly feel every millimeter of the wool in my rolag to be able to be constantly prepared for changes in my grip and drafting.

Swatching

The resulting yarn was softer and a lot more pleasing to handle. It didn’t split when I knit my swatch. I am very happy with this lesson. I remember reading about someone who had changed the direction of a cable yarn just because she experienced yarn splitting when she knit. So this was in the back of my head when I spun the sock string. But, obviously, my brain doesn’t realize that until I actually and physically feel it when I spin. Not until I see and feel the result I understand why I had been told not to go that way. And I am thankful for being able to learn and understand through trial and error.

A sock yarn swatch knit on 2.5 mm needles. The yarn stayed together and resulted in a flexible swatch that I definitely can see feet thriving in.

I have plans to dye the yarn in a few different colours. With one kilo of rya/mohair blend I should be able to knit a few pairs of socks.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Rya wool

Five staples of wool in different colours and textures. Some more wavy and some more sleek and shiny.

There are three wool breeds in Sweden – breeds where wool is an important part of the breed standards. I have covered two of these (finull sheep and Jämtland sheep) in previous posts and today I present the third: Rya sheep. In this seventh part of my breed study of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective I will share my experience with Rya wool. Previous posts have been about Gotland wool, Gute wool, Dalapäls wool, Värmland wool, Jämtland wool and finull wool.

This Saturday, December 12th at 5 pm CET I will host a free live breed study webinar on Swedish rya wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

A background

The word rya refers to three different things – a textile, a wool type and a sheep breed. These are all connected. The word rya is believed to be connected to ragg (coarse hair, compare to raggsocka, a sock with added goat’s hair for extra strength) and related to the English word Rug. The word rya thus refers to a textile with a fur-like side, the pile.

The rya breed as we know it today was bred during the 20th century while the textile has been made since at least the 14th century. To be able to tell you about the rya breed I need to start at the textile.

Rya as a texile

Many of you may have come across rya rugs – woven rugs with looped knots making up a pile. These were very popular to make during the 1970’s. They have a far longer history than that, though, and used mainly for other purposes.

From the oldest sources known today it is evident that the rya has been used in the bed for warmth. Because of its lightness compared to animal skins it has been used as a more lightweight alternative to these. The first mention of a rya is in a regulation from 1420 for bed equipment for nuns in the Vadstena convent: They shall wear a kirtle of white wadmal. In addition to that a rya. And a sheep skin for the winter” (my translation). These regulations may very well have been used already in the 14th century.

Many ryas have been registered in inventories from mansions and castles, the oldest one from 1444. This also speaks for the value of these textiles. Ryas have been used in trading in exchange for important groceries like hop and salt. During the 17th century ryas spread to social clusters outside the nobilities.

Originally the rya was used with the pile side down and the smooth side up. Many of the oldest finds have a plain knot side – perhaps with some decorative elements at the top to fold over – and a more elaborated smooth side. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries many ryas were shifted – the fur side was facing up and was more decorated for a more fancy bed spread.

Searching for the Rya wool type

The earlier ryas had a remarkable shine, whereas the ryas from the time of the industrial revolution had more matte wool with a lower quality. The spinning mills were not adapted to the Scandinavian double coated (short-tailed) land races. Fat-tailed sheep with shorter wool were imported to suit the industry. Thereby the landraces became less common.

During the national romantic era in the late 19th century there was an increased interest in traditional techniques and artifacts. Textile experts were fascinated by the shine in the old ryas, a shine they couldn’t find in contemporary sheep in Sweden. They gathered that there would probably be sheep with this wool type left in Sweden. They searched and found. Dalapäls sheep was one of the breeds that became the starting point of saving the rya wool type.

Five staples of wool in different colours and textures. Some more wavy and some more sleek and shiny.
Staples from five different rya sheep. Second from right from a lamb, the rest from ewes. the three leftmost are whole-year fleeces from the same flock. The two rightmost staples are the most typical rya staple types – long and shiny with almost no crimp.

Economic interests were more important than saving old landraces, though, and focus was again directed towards more undercoat and more meat. Wool was not a part of the breed standards. In 1978 the Rya sheep organization was founded to protect the Swedish landrace the Rya sheep and the wool quality got a prominent position in the breed standard.

So to the wool type rya. Rya as a wool type has long and shiny outercoat and soft undercoat, with almost no crimp. The outercoat to undercoat ratio is between 60/40 and 50/50. Many other sheep breeds in Sweden, especially the heritage breeds, can have rya type wool, partly or over the whole body. The term rya type wool is thus a way to describe the staple type and distribution of undercoat and outercoat within that staple.

Rya sheep

The sheep that had been developed to save the old landrace characteristics with the long, strong and shiny wool was thus called Rya sheep, and had rya type wool to resemble the wool used in the old rya textiles.

A light fawn sheep with long and fluffy wool. One lamb lying in the grass, one nursing.
Rya sheep Beppelina with whole-year fleece, just before she was shorn and the fleece sent to me. Photo by Ann Arvidson

Rya sheep are medium-sized – rams weigh 70–100 kilos and ewes 60–80 kilos. Face and legs are wool free and the wool is uniform over the body of the sheep. The wool can be white, black, brown or grey. Rya sheep are skilled in grazing in rugged terrain. In 2019 there were 570 breeding ewes in 60 flocks in Sweden. According to the breeding goals the wool should be uniform over the body, strong and shiny and no less than 15 cm at 120 days of age and with 0–3 crimps per 5 cm.

Rya wool

As discussed in the paragraphs above, Rya wool was saved and developed to rescue the strong and shiny wool type that had been used in the old rya textiles. Rya wool is thus long, strong and shiny. It also has soft undercoat. Since the breed comes from old landraces there are still rooing tendencies – some individuals shed their fleece in the spring.

The outercoat to undercoat ratio is between 60/40 and 50/50. The outercoat is very strong and shiny and the undercoat soft and also quite shiny. Eventhough rya wool is quite homogenous over the body of the sheep, the dual coat makes the wool very versatile. As a hand spinner you can choose to spin undercoat and outercoat together or separated. If you consider the fineness of lamb’s wool and the strength of wool from ewes you have an even wider spectrum of qualities to play with.

The wool characteristics that I want to focus on when I spin rya wool is the exceptional shine, the amazing strength and the versatility over the fiber types and of wool from both ewes and lambs.

Preparing and spinning

At the moment I have a few rya fleeces in my stash – ewe’s and lamb’s wool in white, grey, brown(s) and black. Some of them are quite traditional rya fleeces with the long, strong and shiny staples. But four of them (one fleece and samples from three other sheep in the same flock) are a bit different. They have some crimp and finer fibers. They have a full year’s growth and have started to shed.

Four piles of fleece in natural colours.
Fleece samples from the rya sheep Alva, Lina, Beppelina and Bertil (ram).

Combing and worsted spinning

This summer I spent many walks together with the outercoat from this quartet and a suspended spindle. I had separated the coats with stationery combs and set the undercoat aside. I combed the outercoat and made bird’s nests.

A spindle and combed wool on a step down to a creek.
The outer coat from the whole-year’s shearing of the rya ewe Beppelina, spun worsted on a suspended spindle.

This whole year’s fiber is longer than any wool I have ever worked with before, around 30 cm. During the summer I generally spin on spindles, but even in the winter I think I would have preferred to spin this length on a suspended spindle. With the spindle I can control the speed and the intake in a way I think would have been difficult on a spinning wheel with fibers this long.

A white and a black ball of shiny yarn.
Combed whole year’s outer coat from the rya ewe Lina and the rya ram Bertil. Spun on a suspended spindle.

These shiny and fiercely strong yarns make excellent warp yarn. One day I will spin singles warp yarn, but I am not there yet. In the mean time I will spin 2-plied warp yarns.

Carding and woolen spun

The undercoat I had set aside from the combing resulted in a lovely knitting yarn. I carded the separated undercoat fibers into rolags and spun with English long draw on a spinning wheel and 2-plied. I am thinking stranded colourwork knitting for this quartet.

Four skeins of yarn in white, light beige, beige and dark brown.
Undercoat woolen spun from hand carded rolags of the rya sheep Alva, Beppelina, Lina and Bertil.

Keeping it all together

On my wool journey of 2019 I experimented with a sock yarn where I mixed 60 per cent rya wool with 40 per cent adult mohair. At the 2019 fleece championships I bought a gold medalist rya fleece and a bag of adult mohair for my sock yarn project. I try to keep a strict queue in my fleece stash and I have just started spinning this yarn. I have blended it with adult mohair and spun it woolen as a cabled yarn.

Perhaps I will play with some dyeing for striped socks. I am not a big sock knitter, but this project might change my opinion on sock knitting.

A rya rya yarn

Another project I have in my mind is a yarn for rya knots in rya yarn. I may not be able to make a whole bed cover, but I could weave something smaller, perhaps a foot rug for the bed. I have woven chair pads with rya knots, but only with stashed handspun and not in rya wool.

A yarn for rya knots is spun in its entirety with both undercoat and outercoat and 2-plied. Some of the findings have a lot of twist – around 11 rounds per centimeter. Saved rya textiles have been both Z-plied and S-plied. I have asked several textile experts about how the wool for the rya textiles in the museum collections were prepared and spun, but there doesn’t seem to be any clear information about this.

Since a textile with rya knots tends to get quite heavy my plan is to card it and spin it woolen. Since I have no plans of making a floor rug out of it there is no need for super strong worsted yarn.

Use

As I wrote earlier rya wool has a wide variety of uses since you can use it together or separated and find different qualities in lamb’s wool and adult wool. I have already shared some ideas of what I want to do with the fleeces I have – socks blended with adult mohair, yarn for rya knots, stranded knitting with undercoat yarn and outercoat warp yarn.

A wooden lucet with some finished cord wrapped around it. An ammonite pendant hanging from the cord.
A lucet cord from Bertil’s outercoat made a lovely pendant cord. Combed and worsted spun on a suspended spindle.

I played with my lucet to make a cord for an ammonite pendant I bought myself a while ago. I made it with the dark brown worsted spun outercoat from Bertil the ram. The cord is very strong and sleek.

Other uses for yarn from rya wool is rugs, tapestries and embroidery. Due to the exceptional shine the wool is very well suited for weaving rugs and is said to get even shinier with wear. Yes, I might spin an embroidery yarn too.

Live webinar!

This This Saturday, December 12th at 5 pm CET I will host a live breed study webinar about Swedish rya wool from a spinner’s perspective. In the webinar I will talk briefly about the breed in Sweden, wool characteristics and how I prepare, spin and use rya wool. I will use rya wool during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I prepare and spin the wool.

Even if you think you will never come across Swedish finull this is still an opportunity to learn more about wool and wool processing in general. The breed study webinar will 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 have done have been great successes. I really look forward to seeing you again in this webinar.

The event has already taken place.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Blending

I’m not very fond of knitting socks. Yet socks are quite essential. I’m definitely not fond of plastic in sock yarn. Yet a strong fiber is quite practical to prevent holes in the socks. Fortunately, there are other strong fibers than plastic. This is the story of a simple blending process that hopefully will result in durable socks in natural materials.

A small scale sample yarn

On my 2019 wool journey I experimented with a sock yarn where I blended rya lamb’s wool and adult mohair. I ended up with a strong 3-ply sock yarn sample. I started out with 6 + 4 grams of fiber, which did help me find a process and a suitable yarn for socks, but in a very small scale.

Scaling up

On the fleece championships that year I bought a gold medal winning rya fleece and a bag of adult mohair to scale up my experiment to real socks. As usual the fleeces went in the back of the fleece queue, but now they’re next in line. This week I started my sock yarn project.

In my small scale experiment I had used 6 grams of rya and 4 grams of mohair. In my upscaled project I have 650 grams of rya and 400 grams of adult mohair which I somehow needed to blend.

Josefin Waltin sitting with a pile of wool. Locks are flying in the air around her
Willowing wool is a good way to blend wool.

Many people have seen a video where I willow my wool to open up the locks. This method is also perfect for blending two wool qualities or colours. However, I am not willowing my sock blend. I’m not very keen on sitting outdoors in the wind and temperature of November in Stockholm. Also, I’m afraid the willowing may ruin the lock structure in the staples. Since I will be combing the wool I need the staples to maintain their structure so that I can tell the cut end from the tip end. Therefore I needed to find another way of blending my wool.

Uncling

The fleeces had been somewhat compressed in the sofa bed storage and the staples were clinging to one another. So the first step was simply to separate them. Willowing would have been perfect for this task too, but still, not in November. Instead I sat down and started to pick and separate the locks by hand in both fleeces. This gave me the opportunity to look and feel through the fleeces and get to know their characteristics better, literally staple by staple.

The rya fleece was open and airy with long, silky and fine staples. They were also easy to separate from each other. The mohair staples on the other hand were compact in themselves and somewhat reluctant to opening up. The fibers in each staple seemed to cling to each other. The staples were quite easy to separate from each other though, since I had managed to wash a lot of the wax away.

I picked the locks by hand to make the blending of the mohair and rya fleeces easier.

The difference in willingness to separate in the different fleeces is something I need to keep in mind for when I process and spin the wool since it can influence how evenly the wool drafts when I spin. But first things first.

Let’s make Lasagne!

When I had gone through both of the fleeces and separated the staples it was time to start blending them. I did it the simplest way I could think of – I divided the fleeces in 6 piles each. I figured the smaller units of wool I could blend the more even the blend would be.

When I had my 6 + 6 rya and mohair piles I started building a lasagne by layering the piles one by one in a basket – one layer of rya and one layer of mohair until I was out of piles. After that I turned the basket upside down on the floor, dug my hands into the blended pile and whisked the whole arrangement around.

Combing

The final part of the blending was the actual combing. From my thorough lasagne blending technique I knew the two kinds of fiber were reasonably evenly distributed. Therefore I simply grabbed a handful of the blend and started combing. Later I decided to weigh each handful to make sure the rovings would be the same weight. This also eliminated my usual habit of over loading the comb.

8 grams of rya and mohair locks ready to be combed into sweet roving.
8 grams of rya and mohair locks on my medium comb, ready to be turned into sweet roving.

From the hand picking I had learned that the rya and mohair staples were very different. The dual coat rya locks were easy to separate and quite airy while the mohair locks were dense and quite reluctant to let go. With this in mind I made sure to make enough passes to thoroughly separate the fibers. The fleeces have in the blend formed a new togetherness with new characteristics that I need to consider when I work with the preparation and spinning.

I landed in five passes, planking, and then another three passes (you can read more about this combing technique in an earlier post about combing different fiber lengths). After the final three passes I dizzed the roving and got myself a lovely bird’s nest.

A 5 gram rya/mohair bird’s nest.

I am very happy with the result. The fibers are evenly distributed both in and between the rovings. Nothing clings anymore and I can draft easily. I have finished a first test skein and a second improved skein. The spinning process and resulting yarn however, is a matter for another blog post.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.