Sheep festival

This past weekend I attended the sheep festival in Kil in Värmland, Sweden. It is an annual event that attracts thousands of visitors. This was the 14th festival. The aim of the festival is to spread knowledge, inspire and facilitate networking with the four legs of the sheep as a foundation – wool, skin, meat and the sheep as a landscape manager.

The sheep organization

The first festival was held in the local industry building in Kil in 2006, but after a few years it had to move to a larger venue. It has since then been held at a local school when the children had their annual sports holiday in the end of February. The festival has grown from just a few hundred visitors the first year to somewhere around 10000 from all over Sweden in 2020. The town of Kil has 12000 inhabitants.

Everyone in Kil is involved in the festival and the preparations run through the whole year. The most significant symbol of the festival is the “tussris” – a bundle of twigs with wads of coloured wool. Every sports team in town is assembling wad twig bundles to decorate the town and the festival. The Red Cross is in charge of the wardrobe, other organizations are handling the entry fee, other volunteers are helping out as hostesses, serving coffee, cooking, serving, building, promoting, housing and literally breathing the festival. In addition to all the volunteers, several families opened their homes to traveling visitors. I stayed with a lovely family who moved out of their bedrooms to accommodate me and three other festival visitors for three nights.

Here is a short clip from the Swedish news from the sheep festival. You can see me and my embroidered backpack around 13 seconds into the clip.

The Golden Ram award

Every year The Golden Ram is awarded someone who is active in some aspect of the sheep. This year the prize was awarded to Fia Söderberg who is the founder of the Swedish wool agency – a digital marketplace where you can buy and sell Swedish wool. She is also the founder and host of the Swedish wool podcast (in Swedish).

Two women standing on a stage. They are holding up a certificate and a cheque. A sheep on a screen behind them.
Fia Söderberg receiving the Golden Ram award and 10000 Swedish Kronor ($1106/970 €).

While spinning, I listened to Fia’s acceptance speech about how the Swedish wool agency came about. From a frustration over wasted Swedish wool to a flourishing wool market where crafters and sheep owners meet in the name of wool in just a few years. That is quite an achievement and the festival organization couldn’t have picked a more worthy person to receive the award.

Activities on the festival

Around 150 vendors come for the festival, selling yarn, wool, meat, skins, tools for crafting, hand made items and much, much more. Visitors can also take classes, workshops, watch shows and demos and listen to talks about different aspects of sheep and products from sheep.

Braids of coloured wool yarn in a scale from green to pink.
Wool embroidery yarn in every colour.

I didn’t take many photos, but if I had, they still wouldn’t have made the festival justice. But if you wish, you can imagine pictures of yarn, wool, sheep, skins and textiles here.

A knit wizard

I came to the festival with Sara Wolf, who also goes by the alias A knit Wizard, and her husband. Sara is a writer who is working on a book called Knit (spin) Sweden and I assist her with some of the spinning parts. They flew from Boston, landed in Stockholm, rented a car and picked me up on the way. It was lovely to finally meet her. We have had so many conversations about Swedish wool via email and now we could continue that conversation in person. You can read Sara’s blog post about the sheep festival here.

Sara gave me a present that took my breath away. A Turkish spindle. A real Turkish spindle she bought from an antique dealer when she lived in Turkey. It was made around the end of the 19th century.

An antique Turkish spindle with crossing wings. One wing slides into the other through a rectangular hole. The spindle is ornamented with carved patterns.
My new old Turkish spindle is a beauty.

When I look at the Turkey page in the spindle typology it looks very much like the spindles called Kirman – crossed wings with a short shaft. I need to make myself a shaft for this pearl. It looks just like my modern Jenkins spindles, only a wee bit heavier – this one weighs 93 grams!

An antique Turkish spindle with crossing wings. One wing slides into the other through a rectangular hole. The spindle is ornamented with carved patterns.
I wonder how many people have spun on this spindle.

Sara had a talk at the festival where she discussed her findings and conclusions about the history of knitting in Sweden. She also described how and why she was looking for Swedish wool. It was a very interesting speech and I became even more proud of being a part of her book.

People

Eventhough there is a lot of wool to fondle and a beautiful focus on all the aspects of how sheep are so useful to us and to nature, one of the most rewarding things about these kinds of events is meeting people. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much an introvert who takes care not to go to fairs and events with lots of people, but meeting and talking to people one on one gives me so much.

The first person I ran into was the shepherdess Birgitta. Her Härjedal/Åsen crossbred gave me the multicoloured fleece I am currently working on. I had brought a couple of skeins to show her what I had done. After all, I had got Birgitta’s trust to buy the fleece because I would be able to make the fleece justice in a way that no spinning mill would. She was truly happy to see the skeins and cuddle with them.

I met Kari, another lovely shepherdess who is a crafter herself. She won eight medals in the 2019 fleece championships for her Rya, Gotland, Finull, Leicester and landrace crossbred fleeces. She pays close attention to the fleece quality when she decides which animals to pair up for breeding and she obviously gets successful results. I always try to connect with shepherdesses whose fleece buy at the championships auction. For me it is important to show them how I continue with spinning what they have started with the care of their sheep.

A person who has been very important to me when learning about wool is Kia. She has worked for many years as a wool classifier in Norway and she is the one I turn to with wool questions. Every now and then I text her with a wool conundrum and she can always give me a good reply and teach me new things. We haven’t met many times, but we made up for it in Kil as we sat for three hours just talking and having a lovely time in the quiet vendor’s lounge. I bought a loupe from her and I will write more about that in an upcoming post.

A microscope image of wool fibers
Swedish Svärdsjö wool under the microscope.

I also met lots of other friends of wool. Some who I had met before on other wool events and some who introduced themselves to me and told me how they appreciated my work. Encounters like these always warm my heart. It gives me a feeling of connection and context in this very small world of wool and spinning and lots of inspiration and empowerment to continue my work.

Fleece market

The last day of our visit was the day of the fleece market, and naturally I wanted to grab a good fleece or two. I ended up with four. Fortunately I had brought some vacuum bags for easier transport.

Sara had talked about how she was amazed by Rya wool. I got inspired by that so two half fleeces came home with me, one white and one in grey tones. I bought them from Kari as I knew she would provide really high quality fleeces.

A pile of shiny wool in white, grey and black.
Washed rya locks in all the greys.

I also found a shepherdess who had the loveliest traditional style Värmland fleeces. After all, we were in the county of Värmland so it would only natural to buy a Värmland fleece. I got two extremely soft fleeces – one in shades of grey and one in rosy brown tones. The ewes were four and six years old and I couldn’t believe how soft they were.

A row of shiny locks in different staple types from white to dark grey.
Unwashed staples from the Värmland ewe Rutan, born in 2014. She has all shades of grey and many different staple types.

My last fleece was a lovely Åsen fleece in a very light grey with some black tips. Soft, airy and shiny. I had bought fleece from this shepherdess before and I knew I would get good quality from her.

Staples of white wool with black tips.
Unwashed locks from Åsen lamb with fluffy white undercoat and black outercoat.

All fleeces have now been washed. It is too cold outside for a fermented suint bath, so I have just washed them in warm water with three rinses, no chemicals added.


All in all it was a wonderful weekend with lots of new inspiration and ideas buzzing in my head. It did take a lot of energy, though, and this past week I have been very tired. When you read this post I have shut out the world and gone to a mini yoga retreat. Over and out.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Hemslöjd

I subscribe to the most beautiful crafting magazine, Hemslöjd (Craft). It has thick, almost cardboard-like paper, environmentally friendly print, and comes without plastic or irrelevant ads. The articles make me want to learn how to make baskets big enough to live in with their exquisite photographs and mesmerizing writing. Every time the Hemslöjd magazine comes in our mail box it is a feast and we all try to get it first. It has received numerous prizes for its appealing design and focus on unexpected connections between crafting and important matters in society.

Be still my beating heart

In the beginning of December the editor in chief Malin Vessby emailed me and asked for an interview about different spindle models. The theme of the issue was Wool and a friend had recommended me. I was thrilled. The magazine that takes my heart on crafting adventures over and over again wanted to feature me.

Two days later Malin came to our house. She stayed for two hours, asking me to tell her all about my around 16 different spindle models. Imagine that – two hours of talking about your favourite subject with someone who just listens and is genuinely intrigued!

A woman spinning on a large spindle supported by the floor and resting against her thigh.
I talked about my different spindle models and showed the editor in chief how I use them. I always love bringing out my Navajo spindle. Many people I meet have never seen anything like it. Photo by Sara Mac Key.

Photo shoot

Another few days later the photographer Sara Mac Key came. She spent two hours crawling around on our living room floor, chasing the best angles and spinning action scenes. Spindles were displayed in different arrangements, wool was combed and held into the pale December light and locks were gently fluffed up for the most scrumptious backdrop.

A hand holding a comb with grey wool.
Sara was fascinated with the fluffy wool on the comb. This is Swedish Klövsjö lamb’s wool. Photo by Sara Mac Key.

We spent a third hour on the metro. During the interview I had told Malin about my metro spindle and she wanted Sara to take a photo of me spinning on the metro. This was in mid-December when the sun is up between 9 am and 3 pm. The metro goes over a bridge where the sun shines through at the very top of the bridge. To capture the light we crossed the bridge back and forth a number times to get the best light and angle. We had a lot of fun!

A woman spinning on a suspended spindle on the metro.
We captured the best metro light on the top of the bridge. My house is on the hill right behind my back. Photo by Sara Mac Key.

A clonk in the mailbox

In the beginning of February there was a familiar clonk in the mailbox. The Hemslöjd magazine had come. It was bursting with juicy articles about crafters working with different aspects of wool – knitter, author and knitting author Celia Dackenberg. Weaver and artist Miriam Parkman (on the cover, like a queen). The traditional sock as a true working class hero. The new dawn of the Swedish wool industry with Claudia Dillman and her Gestrike sheep, a wool station in the far north and a young textile engineer with dreams about a Swedish spinning mill for worsted yarn. Täpp Lars Arnesson, fur and leather artist. All such royally talented crafters and artists. And me.

Pull the whorls

The title of the article is “Dra på trissor” (Pull the whorls). This makes absolutely no sense without an explanation. Dra på trissor is an idiomatic expression referring to amazement or astonishment. I’m not sure about what, though.

A hand holding up a magazine page. A picture of a woman arranging hanging spindles in a window like a curtain.
Spinners have had opinions of my spindle curtain, saying they may come to harm by sunlight and temperature changes. But I take the risk, it is so pretty!

Malin managed to capture my relationship with my spindles and spinning, how they give me time to think and understand spinning on a deeper level. She could convey my view on slow as a superpower.

A hand holding up a magazine page with pictures of spindles.
A selection of the spindle models I have in my collection. The queen of them is my Björn Peck supported spindle.

The article also features how I started my cooperation with Björn Peck who makes supported spindles for my classes. I am so proud of this cooperation. Björn is an immensely talented wood worker and such a nice person to work with.

The metro spindle is a lovely little friend to hold in my hand when I need to abandon my bike and commute with public transportation.

After the magazine had been published I contacted the photographer and got access to some of the photos that hadn’t been used in the article. You can see them here in the post.

Some of my different spindle models in a lovely potpourri. I particularly love the shot of the miniature Pushka in the lower left corner. Photo by Sara Mac Key.

You can read the article (as well as other articles) for free in exchange for your email address here. If you haven’t brushed up your Swedish lately you can always pop the text into Google translate.


When you read this I will be busy fondling wool at the annual Kil sheep festival in Värmland in Sweden. I will tell you all about it in an upcoming post!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Trial and error

Last week I published a video where I spin from the cut end of flick carded staples. The reason for this technique was that I wanted to preserve as much as possible of the colours in a multicoloured fleece. I envisioned a sweater with all the colour variations showing. Today I write about why I chose to spin the sweater yarn in a completely different technique. Through trial and error I have learned – once again – that not every spinning technique goes with every textile technique for every fleece.

Error

When I had finished the first two skein of my first colour I started swatching to see how the yarn behaved. The second I started I realized that this was not the yarn for the sweater I had planned. The yarn was way too dense and felt more like rope in the swatch than a cozy yarn.

A skein of variegated brown yarn on a pier.
A beautiful yarn with lovely colours, but far too dense and coarse for the knitted sweater I had had in mind.

I was quite sad about this for a while. After all, I had got a responsibility to make the fleece justice when I bought it from the shepherdess. I put the rest of the fleece back into the sofa bed and picked up another fleece instead.

Trial

So, how would I spin this yarn to make it suitable for knitting and still keep the colour variations within each colour? I realized that there was way more outercoat than I had originally thought, making the first yarn rougher than I had planned. In the past I have spun other yarns with this method, but with a larger propportion of undercoat – in a pair of mittens, half-mitts and sleeves.

With this in mind I played with the idea to remove some of the outercoat. I also realized that I needed to card and spin this yarn woolen to make the yarn as soft as possible.

Soft knitting yarn

I combed the lovely staples with my medium combs and combing station. After two passes I pulled out two handfulls of outercoat and set aside. Then I pulled out the rest of the wool – that was now teased – and carded rolags. I had been afraid that the colour variation would vanish if I changed the preparation method, but the rolags looked lovely with their variegated colour.

A basket of variegated brown rolags.
I managed to keep the colour variation in the hand-carded rolags.

I spun the yarn with low twist and English longdraw, hoping for a soft yarn. Since I had plans for stranded knitting I made the yarn 2-ply. The result was a soft and warm yarn with a lovely variegated colour. There is still some outercoat in the yarn, keeping it together despite the low twist.

A skein of variegated brown yarn on a flat stone surface.
The new yarn is softer and airier than the original skein.

Comparison

The original yarn was too dense and rough and the new yarn is a lot softer and airier. I was afraid that the colour variation would be lost in the new yarn, but it turns out it wasn’t. It is a bit lighter, which is because the outercoat is chocolate brown and I removed a lot of it.

Two skeins of variegated brown yarn on a flat stone surface.
Original yarn to the left and new to the right. The new yarn is considerably softer and airier. The colour variation is less clear but still there.

Strong warp yarn

The outercoat fibers that I had set aside were long and strong – somewhere between 15 and 20 centimeters. I made another two passes in the combing station to really comb the different batches together. To spare myself from the strain of pulling all the fibers off the comb with my hand I used a button to diz through. I rarely use a diz when I comb, but since there was quite a lot of fiber on the combs I decided the diz would be a good idea. It would also ensure an even top to spin from.

Close-up of a hand pulling brown fiber off a wool comb through a button hole.
I’m dizzing the fibers through a button hole straight off the combing station.

I made the loveliest bird’s nests out of my dizzed tops. They look just like giant cinnamon buns, don’t you think?

A basket of hand-combed bird's nests.
Cinnamon bun bird’s nests.

A talented spinner, Kerstin, recently showed me her warp yarn that she had spun on a suspended spindle. With inspiration from Kerstin I decided to spin a warp yarn with a suspended spindle.

A spinning spindle with brown wool yarn. Trees in the background.
Spinning away, outercoat only on a suspended spindle. The second batch of outercoat is a little lighter than the first.

I have brought the spindle to the office during the last couple of weeks and also to the hair dresser’s (who thought I was spinning human hair). Yesterday I finished my first skein of outercoat warp yarn.

A skein of dark brown yarn on a wooden surface.
A spindle-spun outercoat warp yarn is finished!

It is dead strong, I can’t even break the singles! I have finished the first batch and I’m on my second. Hopefully there will be a lovely gradient from the different batches I had sorted the fleece into.

A project for the rejected

I was a little sad for the first yarn I had spun. I didn’t really know what to do with it. It looked sad and lonely and I wanted to give it a project it would shine in. And I found it. I just started an online course in backstrap weaving with Kimerly Hamill. The strong and dense original yarn would be perfect for the first module of the course.

A person weaving a band on a backstrap loom.
My very first backstrap weaving project.

The yarn was very clingy and I was well aware of that when I warped. Kimberly warned about yarn that was clingy, but I needed to feel for myself what worked, what didn’t work and what I could live with. The warp threads do cling together a lot and the weaving hasn’t been carefree and flowing in this project. But it does work and I’m very proud of my first backstrap weaving project.

I do apologize for the ugly plastic heddle string. It came with the loom and I didn’t question it at the time. Someone else did, though. Marie, a weaving teacher inspired me to use my handspun yarn for the heddles, so that’s what I will try for my next module.

The first backstrap project is now finished and I can’t wait for the second module.

A woven band on a wooden terrace floor.
My very first backstrap woven band is finished! 7,5 cm wide, 100 cm long.

Through trial and error I managed to spin a yarn that would fit my original idea. I also spun a promising warp yarn and found use for my dense yarn in a weaving project. Trial and error helped me find solutions and gave me lots of new inspiration and ideas. And as usual, I learned a lot along the way.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Spinning from the cut end

In this video I show you how I spin a multicoloured fleece from the cut end of flicked staples to preserve as much as possible of the colour variation. In a previous post you can read about how I divided the fleece into four piles of different colour combinations. I shot the video in late July when we rented a log cabin at a sheep farm in Tiveden in Sweden.

Preserving colours

The wool comes from a Swedish Åsen/Härjedal cross that won a bronze medal at the 2018 Swedish fleece championships. The name of the sheep is Chanel. This fleece is multicoloured over the fleece and over each staple. Shades of chocolate brown, silver, honey and natural white are scattered over the fleece. If I blended it all together it would result in a homogenous oatmeal colour. I wanted to preserve as much as possible of the colour variations. In this first yarn I have picked one of the colourways to play with.

A person holding locks of wool. The quite straight staples are rose grey at the cut end and cocolatey brown in the tip end. The tips end with a curl.
Lovely locks almost too pretty to spin. But I take on the challenge!

Since I had already sorted the wool in four piles of different colour variations I would get four different types of colour variegation. My vision was to design and knit a sweater that would celebrate these colour variations.

I decided to flick card and spin each staple separately from the cut end. That way I would be able to show as much as possible of the colour variation over the staple. The colour variation over the staple comes from different colours in undercoat and outercoat. In this colour variation the outer coat fibers are chocolatey brown and the undercoat silver white. In others the outercoat fibers are darker still or more honey coloured and the undercoat white or grey.

Close-up of a hand holding fiber. Fine and light undercoat and long and shiny outercoat. The undercoat is silver white and the outercoat chocolatey brown.
Dividing the staple in outercoat and undercoat gives you a chance to examine the properties of each fiber type.

The outercoat is really shiny and strong while the undercoat is very fine and almost silky. Without access to measuring the fibers I can tell that there is quite a big difference in diameter between the two fiber types.

Flick carding

To protect my clothes from the flick card I place a leather patch underneath the staple. I hold the cut end in a steady grip and card the tip end. If you card a lot of staples this way it might be a good idea to keep the card stationary and pull the staple towards you. It will be easier on your arms to pull the staple towards you than to move the card hand outwards. This is the same as the principle of pushing and pulling for spindle spinning.

Close-up of a person carding a wool staple. A leather patch is underneath the wool. One hand is holding the staple at the far cut end while the other hand is holding the card that is carding the tip end.
When I card the tip end I keep a steady grip on the cut end.

When the tip end is all carded I flick the staple and hold it in the tip end. You need to hold the staple closer to the middle here, otherwise the shorter undercoat will end up in the flick card. When the staple is carded I start spinning.

Close-up of a person carding a wool staple. A leather patch is underneath the wool. One hand is holding the staple at the middle  while the other hand is holding the card that is carding the cut end.
For carding the cut end I need to grip the staple closer to the cut end to avoid catching all the undercoat in the card.

From the cut end

To catch both the long outercoat and the shorter undercoat I spin from the cut end of my flicked staples. For each draft I make sure I catch both fiber types with my spinning hand.

Fibers that have been flick carded like this are still quite dense and may be a challenge to draft. It is easy to pinch rather than guide with the spinning hand. To ease the strain on the hand I allow the fibers to draft more easily by opening up the twist. I do so by rolling my spinning hand thumb against the twist.

Close-up of a person spinning yarn. You only see the hands holding the fiber.
I roll my spinning hand thumb against the twist to open up the twist and allow for an easier draft.

If necessary I also twist my fiber hand against the twist. This too helps opening up the twist for an easier draft. As I said, the fibers are dense in this kind of preparation. They are also a bit clingy and you need to work and focus to achieve a smooth and even yarn. Since there are lots of elements in this spinning technique I spin with quite a low ratio.

Plying

I wanted to 3-ply this yarn. My problem was that my lazy Kate only accommodated two bobbins. Furthermore, I only had three bobbins. I needed to find my inner McGyver and make the 3-ply yarn happen.

The bobbin was my smallest problem. Remember this is a sheep farm. Naturally the owner has a spinning wheel. I borrowed a bobbin from her wheel, which is an antique. With a very small bobbin compared to my modern ones.

A Mikado lazy Kate

I made a station for my third bobbin with the help of a barbecue stick and two giant outdoor Mikado sticks (you play it with your feet, by the way). I jammed the barbecue stick into the ground outside the cabin and placed the Mikado sticks underneath the third bobbin to lift it off the grass.

Two bobbins on a lazy Kate on a lawn. A third bobbin on the grass next to the others. The third bobbin is secured in the ground with a barbecue stick and the bobbin is resting on two larger wooden sticks. An antique bobbin below the three bobbins. Yarn goes from the three bobbins to the antique bobbin.
A station for a third bobbin next to a lazy Kate that only accommodates two bobbins. All you need is a lawn, a barbecue stick and two giant Mikado sticks!

With this avant garde lazy Kate solution I could transfer my three singles to the antique bobbin.

Carrots to the rescue

I just about managed to fit the 20+20+20 grams of singles onto the antique bobbin. Now I needed a lazy Kate for the antique bobbin – the hole was too small for my Kate. Since the rain was pouring down this was not the time for a barbecue and Mikado stick Kate on the lawn. I needed to solve this problem indoors.

The logs of the cabin are just the way logs are – full of cracks. I jammed another barbecue stick into one of the cracks and slid the antique bobbin onto it.

A spinning wheel plying. In the background an antique bobbin secured on a log cabin wall with a barbecue stick and a carrot as a stop at the end.
Plying with an antique bobbin, a barbecue stick, a carrot and a log cabin. Easy peasy.

Then I realized that the bobbin would slide off the barbecue stick if it didn’t have some sort of stop. I found one in the fridge – I decorated the end of the stick with a potato-like carrot.

Close-up of an antique bobbin on a barbecue stick jammed into a log cabin wall. The bobbin is stopped at the end of a roundish carrot.
Barbecue stick-carrot-log cabin wall plying mechanics.

My idea worked like a charm and I could ply my yarn to the sound of the pouring rain! You can see a short video demonstration of the plying process on my Facebook and Instagram pages.

I was really happy with my ad-hoc solutions. And the yarn. It got the colour variations I was looking for.

A 3-ply skein of yarn in variegated browns and greys.
A 3-ply yarn spun from the cut end of flicked staples, 53 grams, 68 meters.

Location

Lake Unden is just one kilometer from the cabin and we often take evening walks to the lake when we are there. I decided that the pier would be the perfect location for a video with my traveling wheel. So I took the spinning wheel in its bag over one shoulder, tripod over the other and foldable stool, well I took that too. One kilometer proved to be quite far with large and bulky bags. But what wouldn’t you do for the sake of art?

A woman sitting on a pier by a lake. A spinning wheel in front of her. She is wearing a knitted sweater with spinning wheels.
Enjoying the silence by the lake.

It was a lovely evening with only the sound of the lake and the sea gulls. The wooden boards of the pier were warm under my feet and the lake so soothing. I didn’t want to leave. But eventually I did. And we’re coming back this summer!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Curtain

I don’t like curtains in our home just for the sake of curtains. They need a purpose – to keep light out or for privacy. My husband suggested we get a curtain for the front door, to keep the draft out. That is definitely a purpose and I agreed. I suggested I would weave it.

This is part four of a stashbuster series. The first post was about Rya knots, the second about weaving bands and in the third I made a blanket out of pin loom squares.

A loosely woven fabric in natural white with dark grey stripes.
A loosely woven fabric in natural white and dark grey wool singles and commercial flax.

Weaving

When I came up with the idea to weave Dan’s draft curtain I saw before me a loosely woven fabric that would be a perfect curtain. “Is a loose weave really the perfect draft stopper?” you say. Hold your horses, I’ll get back to that in a bit, all things in due time.

Bulky singles and sleek flax

I love spinning bulky, low twist singles on my Navajo spindle. I use them as weft in weaving projects. If you are in Sweden you can take a two-day course in Navajo spindle spinning in March!

Through the years I have spun quite a lot of bulky singles on my Navajo spindle and I haven’t used all the skeins that I have spun. When I took inventory in my bursting stash I found quite a lot of skeins of bulky singles in natural white and dark grey.

Close-up of natural white skeins of bulky singles.
Bulky singles from my stash for the weft.

I decided to use them in the curtain, there were more than enough skeins for a curtain. I also had a whole cone of commercial flax yarn that would be perfect as warp – strong, sleek and with that shine only flax can give you.

Double width – double the fun?

My loom is only 60 cm wide so I warped for a double width weave. I know from previous experience that flax yarn is a challenge to weave with and that proved to be accurate in this project as well.

Close-up of a weave in a loom. Natural white and dark grey stripes of wool yarn with flax warp.
Double layered curtain weave.

The double weave in combination with the loose fabric gave me an extra challenge. The top layer stayed reasonably taut while the bottom layer sagged and fussed. Trying to pass the shuttle through the bottom shed was a fight every time and really tough on my eyes, trying to identify the home of each warp thread. I was afraid that the left and right sides of the curtain would look different, but I kept weaving. I was really quite frustrated at times.

A woman cutting a warp.
The cutting down of the curtain warp will reveal all the secret of the fold and the second layer of the double width.

That is the beauty of weaving with handspun, though – so many things can go wrong and I can’t allow myself to give up. So much love, skill and time have been invested in the project and I just have to finish it. If there are problems along the way I need to fix them. End of story.

Cut

When I cut down the warp the weave actually looked good! It was a bit loose in the fold, but better too loose than too tight, right? A wave of joy rushed through me when I realized that I could actually make something with this cloth.

A person unfolding a cut-down warp.
The curtain weave was a bit loose in the fold but looked otherwise surprisingly good.

Sewing

Since the fabric was so loosely woven there was no way I would be able to sew the curtain on a sewing machine. Instead I settled down with waxed flax thread and started hand stitching.

The first thing I did was to secure the raw edges with a simple whip stitch so that the ends wouldn’t fray. When they were all secured I stitched hems on both ends after having soaked the cloth.

Loops

A curtain hanging on a forged rod with loops made of a woven band.
A hand woven band of Shetland wool for curtain loops. You can see a second curtain behind my woven curtain.

At first I had planned to make a channel for the curtain rod to go through, but as I was having my band weaving frenzy I realized I could make loops of the band to hang the curtain in. It probably has a fancy curtain name that I don’t even know in Swedish. Anyway, I cut half of the band in six peaces, whip stitched the edges and backstitched them onto the upper hem. I saved the other half of the band for a simple tieback.

A hand forged curtain rod and rod holder. An edge of a curtain hangs in loops from the rod.
A simple hand forged curtain rod and rod holder.

The curtain was finished. But at the same time it didn’t feel finished. There was something missing. It was loose and transparent and didn’t look curtainy enough. I remembered that we had an undyed linen sheet in the cloth stash. It had got a rip and we saved it to use for mending. Perhaps I could make a background curtain to give the whole assembly a more curtainy look?

A parachute accident

I found the sheet. As I unfolded it I tried to remember where the rip had been and hoped that it wouldn’t be a problem for my project. After all, a sheet is a lot larger than a front door, and the rip might be placed outside of my measurement needs. This thought lasted for a millisecond.

When the sheet was fully unfolded I saw it.

A circular hole, the size of a human head.

Larger than a human head.

In the middle of the sheet.

One of my darling little raspberry pies had had a parachute period a few years ago – he made parachutes for his toy figures and threw them up in the air to let them quietly fall down. My sweet little crafter. While I am proud that he instinctively started to make a parachute himself instead of asking for a store-bought parachute, I clearly remember having taught him how to cut fabric long before the parachute accident. In the middle of the sheet! When I muttered about fabric cutting etiquette my now almost seventeen-year-old said that the chance to blame anyone had expired a long time ago and that he didn’t have any guilt in it anymore. He was probably right. But still. A hole.

A picture of the hole would have been appropriate here. But the wound is too fresh.

Mending

I really wanted to make this curtain with stashed, up-cycled and reused materials only. So I had to find a way to fill the parachute hole instead of buying a new back curtain material. My initial idea was to take the leftover sheet cloth and make a visible mending with embroidery around the join. This seemed like a big project, though, so I decided to procrastinate for a while.

After a while I remembered that I had bought some lace ribbon at a flea market last summer. What if I could make a join with the lace? That would mend the hole and make a pretty detail on the back curtain.

A linen curtain with a lace inlay
A lace mended parachute accident.

I hand-stitched the raw edges of the sheet, hemmed it and added the lace where the parachute section had been. This really made the sheet turn into a real curtain instead of just an emergency solution. The back curtain looked lovely. I sewed snap fasteners on the front and back curtains so that I could detach them for washing.

I also went through the curtain and evened out any uneven shuttlings with a tapestry needle. The fold looks a lot better and hardly shows at all.

The last thing I added was curtain weights in the bottom hems of both curtains. This was the only item I bought. That and the curtain rod. It is hand forged locally, though and quite sustainably produced.

A real curtain

A finished handwoven curtain from spindle spun weft and commercial flax warp. Handwoven bands for rod loops and tieback and a back curtain made of a recycled linen sheet and a vintage lace ribbon.
A finished handwoven curtain from spindle spun weft and commercial flax warp. Handspun, handwoven bands for rod loops and tieback and a back curtain made of a recycled linen sheet and a vintage lace ribbon. All seams are hand sewn.

I wanted the simplicity of the loosely spun wool with the shine of the flax. The loose weave shows off the wool and gives the weave an impression of being both bulky and delicate at the same time. The loosely spun singles with the loose weave gives the curtain an almost raw look.

A curtain hanging in front of an open door.
The finished curtain keeps the draft out (especially if you close the door).

Together with the back curtain and the weights in the bottom hems the whole assembly has a lovely drape. It even looks pretty and finished from the back.

A linen sheet curtain tied back with a woven band.
The back of the curtain with the linen sheet.

I am so happy with the result. It turned out better than I had imagined and it feels very grown up.

A linen curtain with a lace ribbon join.
Billowing lace that is just the right amount of not too lacey.

A slow curtain

This curtain took time to make and assemble. The slowness of the weaving and hand stitching gave me time to think and make decisions that I wouldn’t have made had it been a faster process. I have said it before and I certainly say it now: Slow is a superpower that allows us to think and make grounded decisions.

A tied-back curtain.
A slow curtain made by hand and heart.

Every time I walk through the door my heart sings when I pass the curtain. So much love, care and creativity was put into this project. The fact that I managed to turn it into something that we use every day makes it even more precious.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Pin loom blanket

Another stash busting project is finished. This time I have used most of my early handspun skeins in a blanket made of pin loom squares. This is the third post in what has turned into a whole series of stash busting projects. The first one was about using stashed handspun skeins and thrums to make rya knots and the second was about weaving bands with odd handspun skeins.

Pin loom weaving

I started my pin loom blanket project over two years ago. I saw an article on the Spin-Off magazine website about pin loom weaving. The basic idea was to use stashed skeins and smaller amounts of yarn in 10×10 cm squares. I had a lot of handspun yarn in my stash even back then and I bought a pin loom. I made lots of squares in the beginning, but after a while my interest faded.

Woven squares in piles on a tree trunk. Balls of coloured yarn in a glass bowl.
Lots of squares to play with! Picture taken in November 2017.

Pin loom weaving is easy and addictive. You basically arrange the thread over the pins in three layers and weave on the fourth. For each new layer you turn the direction 90 degrees. When you reach the fourth layer you weave it all together. This locks all the threads together in a tabby-like weave. All the edges look the same which makes the squares easy to stitch together. After some practice I finished each square in around eight minutes.

a small loom and lots of finished woven squares
Three layers of layered yarn around the pins and a woven fourth. One of the squares is woven in two grey yarns (the needle is pointing towards it).

This was such a perfect project for odd skeins, test spinning and smaller amounts of yarn. If I ran out of yarn before a square was finished I just added in another colour, creating a chequered pattern.

A chequered gradient

Squares and pin loom have been gathering dust the past year or so. In my recent stash busting frenzy I picked up the pin loom again and finished the squares. After having cleared out my stash (again) I ended up with around 250 squares together with the ones I made back in 2017.

Lots of woven squares of the same size but in different colours. The squares are arranged in a colour gradient from light to dark.
All the coloured squares for my blanket. This is what I believe is a gradient from light to dark.

I had decided early on that I would have enough yarn for a blanket and I was right. When I was weaving the squares I realized that the majority of them were natural white. I decided to make a chequered pattern to give the blanket a quilty look. Since I had lots of different colours – mostly natural but also some hand dyed – I wanted to play with a gradient design for the quilt.

While I was planning the blanket pattern I was reading up on Fair Isle colour schemes for the Fair Isle yoke I finished recently. One trick that was mentioned in the book was to take a picture of the yarns in black and white to place the squares on a grey scale gradient.

Lots of woven squares of the same size but in different shades of grey. The squares are arranged in a gradient from light to dark.
This is the same picture as above. The gradient is a success!

This trick was very successful and I could quickly arrange my squares in the gradient I was looking for.

Stitching it all together

It took me a while to stitch all the squares together. After having placed all the squares in a gradient sequence I arranged the colours in one row to my liking. Then I stitched that row together. Since all the squares were constructed in the same way it was easy to whip stitch them in the selvedges. When one row was finished I whip stitched it onto the previously finished row. I arranged the next row, making sure there was some sort of harmony in the overall pattern and stitched the squares together and so on.

When they were all stitched together I had a blanket of 13×18 squares that measured 120×135 cm. The chequered gradient looked lovely!

13×18 squares, 120×165 cm, all handspun leftovers.

Fulling

While I was very happy with the design of the blanket, I wasn’t sure about the texture. The blanket was quite thin and felt like a loosely woven fabric rather than a blanket. So I decided to full it to keep it more together and to give it a more blankety structure.

The un-fulled blanket was loose and not very blankety.

At first I shocked the blanket by dipping it in hot and cold water. Not very much happened. So I tried some heavier stuff – I fed her to the tumble dryer! This was a very scary step and I had no idea what would happen. Or, well I did. Since there was a variety of wools and breeds in the squares I feared that the squares would full very differently, but I took the chance. My idea was that I could pin-point any less fulled squares and hand-felt those individually. However, the tumbling did the trick and fulled the blanket into a cozy blanket.

Fulling gave the blanket a more blankety structure and made it cozier. The blanket measured 100×140 cm after fulling. The section is the same as the above un-fulled picture.

Some squares did full more than others. But I realized that I didn’t mind. It only gave the blanket life and structure. It is easy to loose yourself in looking for the different textures of the squares. The rows and columns change in width like walking paths in a landscape.

I don’t know the breed of all the squares, but I do know that the orange ones are Swedish Jämtland wool. The wool obviously felts evenly and quite a lot, while the jeansy blue Swedish Leicester in the lower left corner doesn’t seem to have felted at all.

A bonus from the fulling was that the ridges of the seams on the back of the blanket sank into the fabric, making the front and back basically identical.

Edging

“Are these edges sturdy enough? Shouldn’t you make some sort of an edging?” said my 17-year-old when he inspected the blanket. I guess they weren’t and I guess I should. I made a simple blanket stitch around the edges and it looked a lot better. The inner squares held their shape through their alignment in the grid and through the seams, but the edges were a bit wobbly. The blanket stitch made the edges sturdier and shaped them up a bit.

A simple blanket stitch made a lovely and functional edging. The front and back of the blanket are hard to tell apart after fulling. Different yarns, colours, textures and degree of fulling – all ingredients in the blanket soup.

A spinner’s history

This blanket is my spinning history. The squares are woven in yarn that I spun when I was a new spinner (I started back in 2012). Here are lots of old friends and some I don’t even remember anymore. Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool sheep is in a lot of the natural white squares and in some of the dyed. She was the first fleece I dug my hands into on my first spinning lesson. My first Jämtland wool is also here. Some Norwegian rare and endangered breeds too. Lots of Shetland wool. Projects are represented – the orange squares can be found in a Veera Välimäki sweater. Some dark green come from another Veera Välimäki sweater. The apple green comes from the Paper dolls sweater I made for my daughter when she was around seven. Some of my pillowcases are represented too. All of them friends. All of them a part of a spinning history that I am very proud of.

A person sitting under a blanket made of woven squares. A fireplace in the background. Toes are sticking out from the blanket.
A cozy blanket made of odd and forgotten skeins from my spinning history.

It may look like just another blanket, with some wobble shaped squares and uneven yarns. But there is so much more in this blanket. So much of what I have learned as a spinner, twist by twist, thread by thread and stitch by stitch. This blanket was made for the love of spinning.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Portuguese spindle

Spring is not far away now in my part of the world, so today I tease you with some summer. In this new video I spin on a Portuguese spindle and distaff. I shot the video last summer when we rented a log cabin at a sheep farm. There are lovely woods in this part of the country and this sweet place is situated just a few kilometers from the cabin. It is a place where you can hear the wind in the trees and just listen to the silence.

A Portuguese spindle

I didn’t plan to buy this spindle, I already had a Portuguese spindle and I had made a video about it. But when this one turned up I knew I needed it. I got the spindle from the talented Neil Whiteley at NiddyNoddyUK.

A brass tip

The spindle is modern but looks just like the antique Portuguese spindles I have seen. It has a quite bulky shaft and a brass tip with a spiral groove.

A wooden spindle with a brass tip. Brown wool is wound around the lower tip.
A lovely Portuguese spindle with a spiral grooved brass tip, by NiddyNoddyUK. The yarn is from Badger Face Welsh Mountain (Torddu) wool that the spindle came cozily wrapped in. That is my kind of packaging!

I have another Portuguese spindle that is quite similar, only without the brass tip. Alice at Saber Fazer that sell the all-wood Portuguese spindles says she has tried to make new spindles with brass tips like the antique ones she owns, but so far she hasn’t succeeded. Luckily, Neil has.

Close-up of a wooden spindle with a brass tip. Yarn is spiraled up the brass part.
The brass tip has a spiral groove where the yarn rests. This makes it possible for the spindle to spin freely for short periods.

In-hand spindles

While a suspended spindle spins hanging in its own yarn and a supported spindle rests on a surface, a Portuguese spindle is spun in the hand, usually from fiber dressed on a distaff. There are several names for this kind of spindle – in-hand spindle, grasped spindle or even twiddle spindle. Other models that work the same way are French, Bulgarian/Balkan, Italian (do let me know if you know anything about these!) European Medieval and Viking spindles.

Some of these have spiral grooves in the upper tip. The yarn rests in the groove as long as the spindle spins. The spinning hand is always close to the spindle, ready to grasp it when necessary. You either spin with the spindle in the hand all the time or spin with a short suspension. In the video you can see how I keep the spindle in the hand. However, if you look closely, the spindle spins against my thumb at times, without me holding on to it. 

For short periods the tip of the spindle spins against my thumb without me holding on to it. I set the spindle in motion with my thumb and forefinger. The spindle is balanced between my middle and ring fingers.

How I spin

The spindle hand

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

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

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

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

The fiber hand and distaff

For practical reasons I am using a hand distaff. I could just as easily have used a belt distaff, but it was less convenient for me since we were on vacation. The task of the fiber hand is to arrange and feed the fiber into the drafting zone. In this case I have chosen to spin worsted. For this reason I have combed the wool and arranged it with the fibers going in the same direction as the yarn. For a more detailed description of the dressing of the distaff, see my post on spinning on an antique French spindle.

This is how my fiber hand works:

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

Keeping an eye on the cop

Making a steady cop is an art form in itself. The cop needs to be firm and steady so that the spindle can store more yarn without the cop collapsing. If the cop collapses the yarn may slide down below the lower end of the cop and ruin the whole cop. A firm cop is achieved by an even tension. I used to support my spindle against my belly for winding the yarn onto the cop, but I discovered that the yarn was too loosely wound onto the cop this way.

I balance the spindle in the air when I roll the yarn onto the cop. This way I achieve an even tension between my hands and a firm and steady cop.

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

Spinning in the forest

While I do love the scenery in this video I am not as happy with the technical side. I didn’t get the right camera angles and my hands wouldn’t really do what I wanted them to do. However, the technique is in my view quite similar to how you spin on a French spindle. I published a video recently where I spin on an antique French spindle. The angles and technical shots are better in that video and you can watch it for inspiration.

The best way to learn how to spin on a Portuguese spindle, though, is to watch the real professionals. In this post I have linked to several videos with talented spinners of Portuguese spindles. Watch, learn and – most of all – enjoy!

Happy spinning!

A woman sitting on a tree trunk in a forest. She is holding a spindle and distaff with white wool.
Listening to the silence of the mossy forest.

You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Weaving bands

In my current stashbusting frenzy I have been weaving bands with a simple rigid heddle and a backstrap weaving method. I warped for my first band just before the new year and couldn’t stop – I wove five bands and came to love the technique.

Stashbusting

I have reached a point where my handspun stash stresses me. It clutters my mind and I want to make good use of all the time, love and effort I have put into those precious skeins. Just before the holidays I used up one kilo of my handspun skeins and saved thrums in woven chair pads. When I had finished them I decided to explore band weaving.

I have failed weaving bands before. I have four started tablet weavings that I never finished (not my handspun, though). But why would it be different this time? Well, I think I have more of a clear purpose of destashing and using the bands.

This summer I bought a small rigid heddle for weaving bands and I have been curious about it ever since. It turned out to be a really nice technique that quite quickly transforms a shapeless bundle of yarn into a strong and dense band. One 50 gram skein is enough for a decent length band. I found some smaller skeins too, which I paired up with other smaller skeins and wove striped bands.

A small skein can become a striped a band together with another small skein. This is Klövsjö wool that I paired with a skein of silvery Gotland wool.

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle and the backstrap method is easy. The result is a tight warp-faced band with many uses. Apart from the rigid heddle and the yarn you just need a pole/tree/something else to secure the end in, a shuttle, a clamp of some sort and your own body. You also need a warp or two clamped pegs to warp the yarn. You can of course warp the yarn between two chairs turned upside down.

We have a very practical pole in our house, perfect for weaving bands. I tie the warp braid around the pole and keep a leather belt around the pole for quick fastening in the other end (me).

This is how I did it:

  • I warped the yarn between two pegs that I clamped on two tables. The tables were 2–3 meters apart.
  • I transfered the warped threads to the slots of the rigid heddle and threaded the holes.
  • Once the warp was evenly tensioned I tied one end to a pole in the living room and the other end to a belt around my waist, secured with a small clamp.
  • When weaving, I opened the shed, entered the shuttle and gave the weave a good beating with the shuttle between the warp threads. Before I pulled it through I pulled the old shuttling tight.
  • After having pulled the shuttle through I pulled the new shuttling tight.

The bands

In the course of two weeks I have been weaving five bands from odd handspun skeins. It was so rewarding and in some cases also a very quick weave.

My five new bands made of stashed handspun yarns. The history of the spinning and the projects the yarns were spun for is woven into the bands.

Curtain band

My first band was a simple one-colour band. The warp was smooth and easy to weave and it didn’t fight me. It took me a while to understand how narrow I should keep the band and how I should keep it even in width, but after I had figured that out it went fairly quickly.

An all-Shetland band. Both warp and weft were spun and plied on the fly on a supported spindle. 2,2×247 cm, 39 g.

I will use this band together with a curtain I have in my rigid heddle loom. The curtain is a loose weave in dark grey and natural white and I think it will go very nicely together with the band.

Gotland meets Klövsjö

Just before the holidays I spun some black and silvery Swedish Klövsjö locks for my friend Sara who is writing a book about knitting in Sweden. I didn’t give her the whole skein, though. I saved part of the skein and used it in this band. The silver grey yarn is Gotland wool from the lamb Sounnie. The rest of her is in the Sounnie sweater.

The black part of the warp is Swedish Klövsjö wool and the silvery grey is Gotland wool from the lamb Sounnie. If you watched my Gotland wool webinar have seen me comb this wool there. 2,2×209 cm, 67 g.

This warp was quite tricky to handle. The yarn was fuzzy and the warp threads clung to each other, making each shuttling a challenge. But I saw the potential of the yarn as a band and didn’t give up.

I do love this band. I may play with it in an upgrade of the woolen spindle cases I make for my spinning classes.

Broadbean green

I spun and dyed the broadbean green yarn for a helmet hat for a friend’s newborn baby some years ago. Swedish Jämtland wool and silk, so soft and silky. The grey yarn is Shetland wool. I spun it originally for my Sassenach shawl in the Slow fashion 2 video. I used the leftover warp yarn for a woven scarf for my father. Apparently there was a skein left even after that.

Broadbean green warp in Jämtland wool and silk. The dark grey warp is Shetland wool. 1,7×221 cm, 31 g.

This was a very smooth and easy weaving. Thin warp threads that were very well behaved. The band is slim and even.

Bog body

The bog body yarn is part of my contribution to the Swedish spinning championships 2019. It is the outercoat only of Värmland wool. The yarn is my warp yarn for the championships assignment. The task was to spin your interpretation of the coat of a man found in a peat bog. He turned out to be from the 14th century and wore the only complete man’s outfit found from that time period.

Värmland outercoat in a sleek band. 1,7×137 cm, 32 g.

This too was a very nice weave with a smooth and cooperative warp. Since the yarn was spun from outercoat only the band is very dense and sturdy, but still sleek and shiny. This was a lovely weaving experience.

Rustic Värmland

I did have my doubts when I warped for this band. I had a feeling that this warp would stick. I was right. For every shuttling I needed to separate the warp manually thread by thread. At the same time I knew how much I would love the rustic feeling of this band. I was right about that too!

Värmland wool in dark and light shades made a rustic band. 2,0×143 cm, 36 g.

The dark brown warp is Viola the Värmland ewe, a very pleasant spinning experience. The lighter warp is also Värmland wool, from a medal winning fleece from the Swedish fleece championships of 2017. I spun it on a mediaval style spindle and distaff. The rest of the fleece is in a pair of Venus mittens and my Heartwarming half-mitts.

Just a few decimeters from the end of the warp a thread broke and I cut the warp. It is now in my thrums bag, ready for another go at rya knots!

Weaving more bands

I’m not done weaving bands. This was a really rewarding method and I want to investigate it further. But first of all I’m going to finish those tablet weaving projects that have been taken up space in my ufo stash and in my mind.

Transfering new knowledge

By learning how to weave bands with a rigid heddle and the backstrap method I have learned a new textile technique. That, in itself, is a gift that I cherish. The beauty of this is that things I have learned are also applicable to other techniques and bigger projects.

Clinging warp threads

By seeing and feeling the consequences of a fuzzy yarn I can make wiser choices for upcoming bigger weaving projects. If a weft that is 2 cm wide is making trouble because of clingy warp threads, how much trouble wouldn’t there be for a 40 cm width? And if a warp thread breaks due to the clinginess and abrasion, how many warp threads would break in a larger project? Well, I already know this from a previous project where over 20 warp threads broke. But in a small project as this I get the chance to understand why this happens.

The body as part of the loom

This is my only experience so far with the backstrap method. But I love it already and I understand the importance of the body for the weaving experience and result. This simple method is so much easier to understand for me than a loom big enough to live in. I see the resemblance with the difference between spindle and wheel where my body movements are integral parts of the operation. This makes the technique so much easier to understand.

A pile of rolled-up woven bands.
Five woven bands, beautiful in all their simplicity.

I love my sweet pile of handwoven bands. Such a simple idea yet so brilliant and useful. An weaving plain bands is just a small taste of what someone can achieve with patterns and more knowledge. Still, I like the simple design of these. They show off the simple beauty of the handspun.

Happy stashbusting!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Fair isle yoke

This post is not about spinning. It is, however, about the first knitting design I made, a Fair Isle yoke. I started designing and knitting it over two years ago, but for different reasons I have pushed it aside in favour of other projects. During my current stashbusting frenzy I have finally finished it.

A woman wearing a knitted sweater with a Fair Isle yoke in turquoise and oatmeal.
My finished Fair Isle yoke. Photo by Dan Waltin

Knitwear design

The idea of making my own knitwear designs has been in my mind for some years now. It has become more and more real and I have produced a few designs already and published one pattern. My problem has been that while I want to design for handspun yarn I have felt a need to involve commercial yarn for the sake of test knitting and publishing on Ravelry. That’s the way it goes, right? You make the pattern, send it to test knitters with yarn instructions and publish it. I thought I would have to make two items of every design – one in commercial yarn to fit the knitwear design practice and one in my handspun for my sake. Lately, though, I have realized that I can skip the commercial yarn part and just design for the yarn I spin. I can do this my way. I realize that I won’t sell tons of patterns by designing for handspun. But I need to design, my brain needs it.

A fair isle yoke

This sweater design started in 2017 in this spirit – a design in a commercial yarn for the sake of the established pattern writing practice. The yarn is 2ply jumper weight from Shetland woolbrokers.

Close-up of a Fair-Isle yoke
A Fair-Isle yoke knit in 2ply jumper weight from Shetland woolbrokers. Photo by Dan Waltin

When my brain created designs for my handspun yarns the yoke had to stand back. At some point I got back to it, only to realize that I would have to frog all of it. I had knit up to the armholes but too wide and too short. I reknit it with a better fit and put it aside again in favour of another handspun design. This fall I decided to finish it, and I did. After all, I had made the design (and changed it a number of times) and the yoke chart was finished so I just needed to follow my own instructions. But there had been quite a few alterations along the way, so I decided not to aim for a published pattern. I would ease the pressure and just make the sweater for myself.

The basics

This is a fairly basic Fair Isle sweater. A fitted body and a Fair Isle yoke. A k2p2 rib at the bottom, cuffs and neck. The bottom part of the Fair Isle pattern is based on traditional Fair Isle patterns and the top part (the rounder shapes) is more free-styled.

I managed to make a successful short row shaping for the neck. I made it below the yoke part just after the joining of the sleeves. It came out just the way I wanted it to. I did reknit the neck above the Fair Isle pattern once. My first try was a bit too wide and the second try was just right.

The Fair Isle yoke pattern consists of seven colours – three dark pattern colours, three light background colours and one pop of colour.

There are four decrease rounds in the fair Isle pattern. I love how they make the bubble shapes aim towards the neck. That was my plan, to let the bubble shapes form sort of a pearl necklace around my neck. After the reknitting of the neck I added a fifth decrease round above the Fair Isle pattern.

Things I love

I love the Fair Isle yoke – the colours, the pattern and the fit. I made it according to the books I have studied and it was successful.

The colours

I spent a lot of time choosing the colours. I wanted to do this by the book – three pattern colours, three background colours and one pop of colour. Easy, but complicated. I was advised to look at the colours in black and white to make sure the lightest dark was still darker than the darkest light. It was a lot of fun!

Close-up of a Fair Isle yoke. Main colours in turquoise, background colours in light natural colours and a pop of red.
Seven colours – three dark pattern colours, three light background colours and one pop of colour. Four decrease rounds in bubble shapes closest to the neck. The white yarn is my handspun. Photo by Dan Waltin

For several years I have had a special place in my heart for teal and turquoise and I still do. I found my three pattern colours that look lovely together. The tangerine pop works perfectly with these.

The background colours are oatmealy (the main colour), natural white and white white. The white white is actually my own handspun yarn. I did buy a white white together with the rest of the skeins, but when I couldn’t find it when I needed it, I picked a handspun instead. It is Shetland wool, though, bought as a fleece from Shetland woolbrokers, so it is the same fibers at least.

The pattern

This is my first ever try at making a Fair Isle pattern. And after a lot of time charting, re-charting and swatching I came up with something I like and that is simple enough to knit. It is an eight stitch repeat and quite a small pattern.

I love how the colours blend into each other, almost like water colours. You have to look closely to see the subtle changes. It actually looks like a real Fair Isle pattern, fancy that!

Fit

I am very happy with the fit (from the yoke up, that is). I managed to plan the chart very well to make the yoke sit comfortably on the shoulders without sagging or pushing itself up.

Things I love less

The body is still too wide and a bit too short, at least from the waist down. I have a problem with the waist shaping of my sweaters. I wear a size M except for the hip measurement where I am a size L. This makes the waist shaping a bit dramatic and difficult to get right. Now I know that I need to allow for more ease at the waist to get a more harmonious waist shaping and still fit over the hips. I hadn’t had this epiphany when I designed (and reknit) the body. Perhaps I will reknit the body once more.

The back of a Fair Isle sweater
A little blousy at the back and still a bit too wide over the hips. I may reknit the body again. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sleeves are a bit too tight. Not for me, but in comparison to the rest of the sweater. And there is an ugly mistake in the body – I had miscalculated the number of stitches in the body. When I started the Fair Isle yoke I suddenly had four stitches too many and I decreased these during the knitting of the yoke. Not very elegant. This doesn’t really show in the yoke, but the back of the sweater is a bit blousy.

All of these parts are parts you don’t see in the photos. I gave Dan strict instructions on what angles he could shoot in, to show mostly the good parts.

Close-up of the back of a Fair Isle sweater
You can see a glimpse of the surplus stitches at the back of the yoke. The join at the back of the Fair Isle pattern is a bit untidy in the picture. Since then I have ripped up the woven-in ends and redone it and it looks much better now. Photo by Dan Waltin

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Chair pads

My chair pads with Ghiordes knots are finished! They are such a joy to sit on and I smile every time I see them, especially considering they are made of handspun thrums and stashed handspun yarn only. The old store-bought pads with their innards crawling out of them are buried, forgotten and forgiven.

Stashbuster chair pads

During the fall I started making rya chair pads. The inspiration came from when I took a craft leadership course. For the classes we sat on stools with woven pads with rya knots that felt very cozy to sit on. I kept the pads in my mind and one day I connected them with all my saved handspun thrums and odd skeins of handspun yarn.

The warp is Shetland wool and the weft is Värmland wool that just hadn’t found their project yet. My plan was to make all the knots from saved thrums, but I ran out of thrums at quite an early stage in the process. The blue/white and the thinly striped in greens are the only ones made completely of thrums.

The numbers

The pattern consists of four parts: One row of rya knots and three shuttlings. One such series takes me around ten minutes. Every chair pad has around 40 such series and according to my calculations one pad has taken around seven hours to finish. Plus of course the time it took to spin the yarn. You can see how I made the knots in this post.

I wanted to replace the ugly pads on our eight chairs, so I warped for eight pads. Perhaps I should have thought of the bulk of eight knotted pads on the cloth beam before doing that. I will tell you more about why further down in this post.

There is a lot of bulk on the cloth beam. Cow pattern in dark brown Shetland wool and white Swedish finewool.

I used just under one kilo of handspun yarn for this project. One kilo of odd skeins, colours that I had found no use for and early creations that don’t match the standards I have today. It feels so good to have used these precious skeins for warming our behinds.

The pads

I decided to just use the yarns I had and make a new pattern for every new pad. The only theme of the pads is the stashbusting. I must say that it has been very satisfying to find such a good use for these yarns that have been filling my handspun stash.

Blue and white

My plan for the first pad was to make it blue. The plan worked perfectly until I ran out of blue thrums mid-pad. So I simply used white for the rest of the pad. Which turned out to be less than half of the pad. But still, a pretty pad. I spun the blue yarn from Swedish Leicester wool and dyed it. The wool has beautiful shine, just like rya knots are supposed to. The thrums comes from a twill pillowcase I finished just before I started warping for the chair pads.

A fuzzy chair pad in blue and white.
My very first chair pad in blue and white

The white yarn is a rya/Swedish finewool mixbreed. The thrums comes from a blanket I wove a few years ago. Yarn from rya wool is the traditional yarn you use for rya rugs. The fibers are strong and make durable and shiny knots for any rug.

Green waves

For my second pad I did have a plan. I wanted to alternate colours and number of rows in the stripes in sort of a continuum – there are three colours in the pad but every other stripe is light, making a four stripe series. The stripes is a series of three: 4 + 2 + 2 rows in the stripes. This means that the total repeat is 12 stripes.

Green waves made with thrums from two pillowcases.

The thrums comes from two pillowcases, the Blanka pillowcase and the non-Blanka pillowcase in Shetland and Dalapäls wool. The yarn is a bit too thin for a pad, but I still like it.

Hjärterum – room for the heart

There is a saying in Swedish going: “Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum”. This translates to “If there is room for the heart there is room for the bum”, meaning that if you have room for a person in your heart you will scooch over and make room for that person to sit, even if there aren’t enough seats.

A weaving project on a loom. The pattern is knots in a V-shape. The weaver's knees are visible below the warp threads, creating a heart together with the V shape.
Heart and filling in Shetland wool, background in Swedish finewool. Warp is Shetland wool and weft is Värmland wool.

This is the only pad I made a chart for. Or, well, I made it and used it until I lost it around the time the picture above was taken. But I think I did all right even on the chart-less part. The heart and the filling is thrums of Shetland wool, from a blanket and a scarf. The white background is a stashed yarn from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool lamb. She was my very first fleece.

Moo

Each pad has been planned during the weaving of the previous. So, mid-heart I realized I needed to weave a cow. And so I did. A typical Swedish landrace cow in white with dark brown patches.

A fuzzy textile with a cow pattern in white with dark brown patches.
I just felt a need to weave a cow

The dark brown patches are Shetland wool, the same yarn as the warp. The white is the same Swedish finewool as the heart background.

Textured whites

My idea for this pad was to make an all-white pad with different thicknesses of yarn to make a textured surface. The bulkiest yarn was too bulky to fold in the knots, so I made these knots single.

A fuzzy pad in white yarns of different thicknesses.
Different textures of white

It didn’t really turn out as I had expected, but I still like the pattern and it fills its bum warming purpose.

Grey waves

This is one of my favourite pads. Therefore I have placed it on my favourite chair – my spinning chair.

The pads take a lot of yarn. This is one of the heaviest one.

I decided to make a pad with bulkier yarn and I do like the effect. The white stripes are Icelandic wool and the grey are Shetland wool. All the stripes consists of four rows, but since the white yarn is bulkier and less elastic it takes up more room. I like how it sort of floods over the whole pad. The shading of the lighter grey was a coincidence in the first row of the first stripe and I liked it, so I repeated it for the rest of the stripe and the second light grey stripe.

Zebra

Obviously my animal theme wasn’t finished. I needed a zebra too. In my naiveté I thought I just needed to make an irregular striped pattern, but after having studied some googled zebras I realized there was more to it than that. So I added some branches, which resulted in a more accurate zebra pattern. I read somewhere that the mare makes sure to stand very close to her foal just after giving birth to make sure the foal remembers and recognizes her unique pattern and doesn’t get lost in a sea of stripes.

A fuzzy chair pad with a zebra pattern in dark brown and white.
I needed to weave a zebra too. The dark stripes in Norwegian Blæset say and white in Swedish finewool.

While the pattern looks like it is moving, I have only changed 1–3 knots for each row. After having finished one row I have marked the spots on the next row that I will change. To plan for one stripe to move I have had to make sure there is room for that stripe to move by slowly moving the adjacent rows. I have also stepped back to see the whole picture to plan upcoming movement in the stripes.

This is also one of my favourite pads and the pattern I am the most proud of. Despite the small changes in each row the overall pattern looks alive and, well, zebra-esque.

Sloppy warp edgings

As always, I learn a lot from my mistakes when I weave. This time I learned about keeping a close eye on the edges when warping. This was a long warp and apparently it wasn’t evenly spread over the width of the warp beam. This resulted in a tighter tension in the edges of the warp and bubbly chair pads. You can see this particularly in the turquoise, cow and heart pads.

The inside of my heart. You can see the bubbly edges from the over stretched edge threads of the warp.

Once again my woven project creates a map of what I have learned. I am sure someone has told me to keep a close eye on the edge of the warp. But I need to feel it too and understand with my hands what is happening. I am grateful for that.

Trouble shooting

I wrote in the beginning of this post that I had warped for eight pads, but I only made seven. By the beginning of the seventh pad, the zebra, the cloth beam started to fuss. The handle unclicked itself from its clicker pawl and the warp went very loose. The handle was all loose but I still couldn’t get it off the loom to investigate what had gone wrong. I contacted my supplier and she quickly sent me a maintenance kit with a new handle. When I saw the kit I quickly understood how it was assembled and could remove the handle from the cloth beam. I realized that there was nothing wrong with the handle or any of its parts. Instead, the thickness of the cloth on the beam had gradually loosened the screw that connected the cloth beam to the side pieces. This had caused the handle to turn loose and disconnect itself from the clicker pawl.

The zebra pad. Knots in Norwegian Blæset sau and Swedish finewool. This is also a favorite.

So, the seventh pad took ages to weave. The warp was very loose and I had to stop and tighten the screw every few shuttlings. But for some reason this made me pay extra close attention to the warp and this last pad turned out to be the most even one!

What about the eighth pad?

I had made plans for the eighth pad. I was going to make it into sort of a rag rug – using the last yarn I had in a striped pattern with white and coloured stripes and letting them replace one another as I ran out of a colour.

A fuzzy chair pad in white and grey stripes, hanging over the backrest of a red wooden chair.
Simple stripes to warm your behind.

Due to the unscrewed cloth beam the eighth pad didn’t happen. Yet. I don’t feel finished with this technique. Although very time consuming, it has been a joyful an educational ride and a very satisfying way to relieve my handspun and thrums stash.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!