About weaving

A rigid heddle loom warp
Warping for the Bedtime shawl

I have spun lots of different kinds of yarns in various techniques of preparing, spinning and finishing. I have realized that there are some yarns I don’t really know what to do with since they are not really suited for knitting. Also it’s the other way around – there are some spinning techniques I haven’t bothered practicing since they aren’t very knittable. And so, I have played with the thought of learning how to weave.

I have never known how to weave. And looking at it, I didn’t think it looked that interesting. Lots of calculating and just a flat surface. And I have never been a fan of home textiles.

But I love crafting challenges and two years ago I decided to join the local weaver’s guild and learn the basics of weaving. The guild, or vävstuga (“weaving cabin”, where locals come and weave) is a fantastic place with six floor looms, of which five were purchased by the apartment association. The rent is also paid by the apartment association and all you pay as a member is an annual fee of 5€ plus the material cost for items you weave and keep. All of the members in the guild are women and most of them way beyond 70. Which means that they weave in the daytime and have lots of time to weave. I participated in warping for place mats and started weaving a towel and loved it, but i got really stressed when I knew there was a line of weavers behind me and I had a two week weaving window before it was the next weaver’s turn.

I wanted to weave my own stuff. These ladies are really skilled and glad to share their knowledge, but the system didn’t suit me. So I bought my  own loom, a rigid heddle loom. And it was a very good decision. I get to weave what I like, I do the patterns and designs myself and I can use my own handspun yarns. I warp on the balcony when the weather allows it, otherwise I head down to the guild and warp there, always meeting the lovely and helpful weaving guild members.

The rigid heddle loom suits me very well. I can only weave in tabby, but it still gets me far and it allows me to learn more at my own beginner’s level before I take any further steps. I know there is a way to weave twill too and I will explore that further on. I’m thinking a birthday scarf for x.

Now, after almost two years of weaving I just love it, even the calculating and warping parts. I can’t stop feeling the weave. The structure of my own handspun, my warp and weft looking so professional in the loom.

There is a satisfaction in making my own design, counting and recounting until the yarn required matches the amount of yarn I have spun. Someone said that having a limitation of some kind helps creativity. If I have only a certain amount of yarn spun from one fleece, there is no more yarn. I have to adapt my pattern to the circumstances and I learn so much from that. I can play with different textures and techniques in warp and weft and I get to expand my spinning repertoire and play with new ideas. Just as I wanted to.

Cutting the warp

I always feel a little sad and empty when finishing a weave. We have been together for so long. It feels like yesterday I struggled with warping. I have learnt the best way to weave this particular weave. I have felt the structure in my hands, I know all the mistakes and alterations. I have loved the process, I have ground my teeth, held my breath and floated away in meditation. I have imagined the finished item. But when I finally get there the feeling is mixed. With one simple cut it’s all gone. The stretched warp with its geometrical lines is no more, just a limp cloth. The loom is all naked and empty. All that is left are the cut-down warp ends, too short to use.

But a new phase has started. The finishing of a brand new piece of fabric, dying to look its best. And in my mind I have already started warping for my next weave.

A hand cutting the warp of a rigid heddle loom with sheep shearers
Cutting the warp. Yarn is my handspun Shetland wool.

Navajo plying on a Navajo spindle

I made a new video today! I wanted to explore plying on a Navajo spindle, and I thought Navajo plying would be very fitting. This is my first attempt at Navajo plying on a Navajo spindle and I’m sure it could be done more efficiently. But I found a nice location and the weather was nice, so…

Navajo plying, or chain plying, is when you make a 3-ply yarn out of a singles thread. The technique is the same as in chain crochet. This is a convenient way to ply if you only have one thread or if you want to make colour variations without ending up with a speckled yarn. More on Navajo plying here.

Navajo spindle is from Roosterick, Fluff is hand carded rolags from Engla the Finewool sheep from Överjärva gård. T-shirt is the Walk along from Ankestrick and yarn is from Växbo lin.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. Happy spinning!

A Navajo spindle leaning against a mossy stone. Purple flowers in the foreground.

Spinning with the sheep in the pasture

In October 2016 I made a video in the pasture at Överjärva gård. Anna helped me with filming and we both had trouble moving our fingers due to the cold. Sheepwise, we didn’t know quite what to expect. But two very friendly and curious ewes kept us company all through the filming. Anemone the multicoloured finewool lamb and Susanne the Gotland sheep. It was so comforting to have them there. Their calmness, the warm breaths and their constant nose poking on the spindle. Later, Anna was lucky enough to get her hands on Anemone’s lamb fleece.

The fiber I was spinning was from a prize winner, the Dalapäls ewe lamb Blanka. She (well, her owner actually) won a silver medal in the Swedish fleece championships of 2016 and I bought the fleece at the auction that followed. Spindle and cup from Malcolm Fielding.

A person spinning on a support spindle. Two sheep are investigating the spindle
Two very curious and friendly sheep

Combing and carding

I usually buy fleece and do my own preparation. For that I use my mini combs and my carders. I try to use as much of the fiber as possible and make as little waste as possible.

I do love combing. The way the wool transforms from separated staples to a fluffy bundle is like magic. And drawing the fiber off the comb in a long, continuous piece is very satisfying.

A basket full of combed wool. Lake in the background.
Shetland wool combed into bird’s’ nests

The longer fibers align themselves into that long combed piece. But usually there is an amount of shorter fibers left in the combs. I pull these out, one pinch at  time, and card. The nepps and noils stay in the combs and I use this waste in the garden.

Two baskets of prepared wool
Combed wool in the back basket shorter comb leftovers pulled off the comb in the front basket. In the front carded rolags and mini combs with leftover shorter fibers. All from the same Shetland fleece.

I follow the same routine when I card, but without making the combed bird’s nests. I lightly comb the fleece I want to card, pull it off the combs one pinch at a time and then card. This way, I use the combs for teasing the wool. It is much faster and nicer than teasing each staple with a flicker, which I used to do. And now I love carding too!

Wool journey 2017

A flock of sheep in the pasture. The sun is shining on them.
Happy sheep at Åsebol sheep farm

I just came home from the Wool traveling club‘s 2017 Wool journey. We have had such a wonderful time – Anna, Ellinor, Boel and I. Kristin couldn’t make it this time.

We went to Åsebol sheep farm, one of my favourite places on earth. During our stay we mostly sat by the creek, spinning and knitting. We also sat on the back porch, knitting and spinning. Sometimes we sat in the front porch. Spinning and knitting. Every now and then we went for a walk to see the sheep. Sometimes spinning.

Five toilet rolls filled with white yarn.
Rule number one on Wool journeys: Do not throw away empty toilet paper rolls! They are needed as bobbins.

We also had three classes. On the first day I taught a class in supported spinning. My students were fast learners and I think they enjoyed the class. We also hired Kia Gabrielsson from Ullsörvis to teach two classes. Kia is Sweden’s only wool classifier and works at a wool station in Gol, Norway.

Wool knowledge

Wool knowledge is essential to a spinner. With knowledge of wool characteristics the spinner will know what to look for in a fleece to match the quality and the purpose of the yarn. Kia unloaded tons of fleeces from her van and provided us with a wool protocol on which to note characteristics of the wool – strength, shine, elasticity, crimp etc.

A person filling out a form above a white fleece.
Protocol for wool assessment

We looked at several fleeces and filled in a wool protocol for each fleece. They were all wonderful fleeces and very different from each other. As a spinner I have endless opportunities to choose a fleece – or parts of a fleece – to suit my preferences, whether I want to make a sheer shawl, a warm sweater, a sturdy rug or something else. As a final exam, we each got to fill in a protocol of a fleece from the sheep farm.

Hands in a white fleece. The sun is shining.
So many wonderful fleeces

Uruahipi or Māori knitting

Kia’s second class was in Māori knitting, or Uruahipi. It is a very basic kind of knitting with minimal processing, which makes a very soft and airy fabric with a life of its own. You start by drafting straight off the staples to get kind of a rough sliver. The next step is to roll the sliver on your lap to make an even roll. After that you knit. This is usually an activity you do together – with the fleece in the middle you draft and roll for each other. Kia told us stories of how the Māori used to knit like this in the 60’s. She worked in New Zealand in the 80’s and saw lots of Uruahipi knitwear and asked around to find out more about the technique.  She fell in love with it and, lucky for us, she brought it back to Sweden. It also turned out that the technique has been used in other parts of the world.

Kia Gabrielsson holding hand teased wool
Kia drafting for Māori knitting

With the fleece warming our toes and the drafted sliver criss-crossing between us I felt very connected to it all – the wool, the stories and, above all, to Kia and my wool traveling friends.

People sitting in a ring with hand teased lengths of wool going across them. A fleece on the floor in the middle.
Entangled in Uruahipi and Kia’s stories

If you know anything more about Māori knitting or Uruahipi (I think it’s also sometimes called Kiwicraft), please let me know! There is also a Swedish Facebook group for Uruahipi.

Close-up of a project knit with unspun yarn
Uruahipi swatch

After four days of wooly adventures the 2017 wool journey came to an end. We went home and I think we all cherish the memories and long for our next wool journey in 2018.

Josefin Waltin cuddling with a sheep. Dandelions and farm houses in the background.
Lots of sheep cuddling. Photo by Anna Herting

The bedtime shawl

An arm holding up a sheer woven shawl in natural colours.
The bedtime shawl

When I started practising supported spinning, I was using what was left of three fleeces of beautiful alpaca I had bought from  Österlen alpacka a few years ago. I was spinning in bed just before I went to sleep. It was calming, like meditation and I cherished those bedtime spinning moments. I was spinning to learn, so I didn’t have a project planned for the yarn, but after a while I envisioned a sheer woven shawl. A bit like those fancy wide cashmere shawls. My mother-in-law was going through chemo at the time and she is always cold so I wanted to make it for her.

A support spindle full of yarn.
Singles from the baby alpaca Miracle

After about six months of bedtime spinning I started weaving on my rigid heddle loom. And it was hell. I am a new weaver and I am advising all weavers, regardless of experience, never to weave in alpaca. It’s a very slippery fiber. And especially prone to breaking with a super thin singles weft. Or perhaps the advise is not to weave with a super thin singles weft.

A rigid heddle loom warped with thin yarn
At the beginning of the alpaca hell

But I did learn a lot along the way. And that’s the beauty of creating, isn’t it? For every mistake you make you learn something new to add to your experience bank and bring into future projects. And at the end of the warp it turned out beautifully, smooth as silk.

A sheer woven shawl folded over a park bench
The finished alpaca shawl

Plying on a Navajo spindle

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I generally don’t ply on a spindle. It takes too much time and effort. I usually ply on my wheel. But I need to try it. Today, I had three singles spun on supported spindles and I wanted to try to ply them on my Navajo spindle. And I wanted to film something while the cherry trees were still in blossom.

When spinning on a Navajo spindle I roll the shaft towards me on my right leg. So, naturally, when plying I roll the shaft away from me on my right leg. It would work just as well rolling towards me on my left leg.

In the video I keep my spindles in a shoe box. Usually I wind the singles together on a bobble before plying. Or toilet rolls or tennis balls, do it in any fashion you prefer. When plying directly from the spindles I keep my fingers between the singles to keep them in order. When drawing out the singles I smooth them out with my thumb, feeling after bumps and places where a single has plied back on itself. I roll the shaft until I see that the yarn is balanced, and roll it on to the temporary cop. Every now and then I transfer the yarn from the temporary cop down to the permanent cop. It was very convenient to use the oak stump for that.

Well, plying yarn this thin on a Navajo spindle was tedious, I have to say, and there was no time difference from plying on a supported spindle. The positive thing was, as it usually is when it comes to spindles, that I can get a close look on my work and avoid the singles plying back on themselves. There is rarely time for that when plying on the wheel. I may ply on a Navajo spindle again, but with less yarn.

A skein of handspun white yarn in backlight
Result: 203 m, 58 g of fingering weight 3-ply yarn, 3581 m/kg.

Fiber is hand-carded rollags from the finewool sheep Engla from Överjärva gård. Supported spindles from Malcolm Fielding (outer) and Neal Brand (middle) and Navajo spindle from Roosterick. Shawl pattern is Beth Kling‘s Henslowe, Tussah tweed yarn from BC garn.

Happy spinning!

Subway spinning

Usually I take the bike to work. But occasionally I have to leave the bike at home and take the subway. I don’t like it at all, but I always bring some wooly friend to ease the pain. Today I went to work un-biked and my sweet Jenkins Lark kept me company. Fluff is from Vinterverkstan.

A Turkish spindle in motion on the subway
Happy spinning!

Spinning on a supported spindle – step by step

I thought I’d write something about how I spin on a supported spindle. I learned a lot from Fleegle’s book about supported spinning, I highly recommend it.

Starting on an empty spindle

An empty spindle shaft is quite slippery and it’s not always easy to start spinning. I take my fiber, unspun, and wrap it a few times round the shaft quite high, perhaps 3–5 cm from the upper tip. Then I flick the spindle in motion, stop, draft and roll on to the shaft. I repeat these steps a few times, until I have a bit of a length. I transfer the spun yarn onto my fiber hand and then, without removing the fiber from the shaft completely, push the starting fiber down to the placement of the permanent cop. I wind on most of the spun thread on the permanent cop, saving a length to spiral up the shaft. And I’m ready to spin!

Spinning continuously with a short draw

When I spin on a supported spindle I spin continuously. This took me a lot of time to learn and I took it step by step.

There are two major parts of this process (well, three actually, but I will get to the third part later on):

  1. Spinning
  2. Rolling the spun yarn onto the temporary cop

For these two steps I need to keep the yarn in different angles in relation to the shaft. When spinning, the yarn is kept in a low angle, 5–45°. This way, the yarn is sliding off the tip every turn and the yarn gets spun. When rolling the yarn onto the shaft, the yarn is kept at a 90° angle from the shaft. So in the spinning process I alternate these two tasks and angles.

Apart from the flicking, I don’t touch the spindle. All the support it needs comes from the spinning surface. The spinning hand is controlling the yarn and the fiber hand is controlling the fiber. I make sure I get a good flick to keep the spinning going long and strong.

Let’s get back to the spinning. For a continuous spin I flick the tip with my spinning hand, preferably with three fingers and my thumb.

I do this in a series of movements, not stopping in between: 5–45° Flick, draft, 90° flick, roll on. If I want to do this with park and draft I stop between: 5–45° Flick. Stop. I draft until I reach my desired amount of twist. Stop. 90° flick, roll on.

There are a few tricks to the spinning that you hardly see in regular motion, but in slow motion they are visible: When I draft I turn my fiber hand against the spinning direction, i.e. anti-clockwise for a clockwise spinning. Just briefly to make the drafting easier and to even out bumps. And just at the beginning of the flicking to roll the yarn onto the temporary cop I take charge by rolling less than a quarter of a round in the wrong direction (anti-clockwise).

Spinning continuously with a long draw

The method is basically the same as for a short draw, but with one difference. When I have flicked the spindle for spinning and put my fingers back on the yarn, I repeatedly open and close my spinning hand fingers on the yarn to let the twist go further into the fiber. This gets you a longer draft before the yarn breaks and a more fluffy yarn.

Moving yarn to permanent cop

So, on to step 3. Using the temporary cop is for convenience. I want to be as economical in my movements as possible and enjoy the continuous motion. But sooner or later I have to move the cop town to its permanent place. So I make a butterfly. With my fiber hand I lift the yarn interchangeably with my thumb and pinkie and thus transfer the yarn from the temporary cop to my fiber hand. When all the yarn from the temporary cop is wound on to my hand I transfer it down to the permanent cop. I help the rolling on with the spinning hand by flicking the shaft. I also make sure I make a neat cop. With a sloppy cop there is a risk the end will never be found again if I lose it.

Plying

Usually I don’t ply on my spindles. It takes too much time and is quite boring. But I do it occasionally when I have just a small amount of yarn to ply. So, I made a short video on plying. There’s nothing special about plying on a supported spindle really. I skip the temporary cop in this part of the process, instead I tilt the spindle a little away from the fiber hand and wind the yarn directly on to the permanent cop. In this video I ply from both ends of a center-pull ball. I keep a fiber hand finger between the singles to keep them in order. Then I just ply away.

Fiber is from Swedish finewool sheep. Spindles are from Maine fiber tools and Malcolm Fielding. Spinning bowl also from Malcolm Fielding. Hoody pattern is Kate Davies’ Northmavine Hoody, yarn from Jamieson & Smith.

Happy spinning!