Catch the light

It’s summer solstice here in Sweden. Eventhough Stockholm is 1000 km south of the arctic circle the sun seems to only touch the horizon in the night before it rises again. The light gives me energy and I want to save it for the winter. There is a special spot where the light is almost magic. In this video I have tried to catch the light.

Catch the light

Starring: The solstice light

I have wanted to make this video for a very long time. But to make it happen a lot of things need to be in synch. This year, though, we managed to catch the light. We did catch it once. In the very beginning of For the love of spinning there is a short clip with the magic light. Dan managed to catch it beautifully. But it was only a short clip and for a long time I have wanted to make a longer video just for the sake of the light. But catching the light is tricky business. Everything must be just right.

A person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight.
Catch the light, Monday: A-roll.

Early summer

The set is on a path next to our allotment. There is nothing special about the location really, but it is the timing that makes it special. In late spring and early summer the sun reaches enough above the tree tops in the evenings to cast a brilliant light along the path. The window is open for just a few weeks in late May and early to mid June. In May the grass is crispy green, young and untouched. In June the brightest greens have faded slightly, but the grass is in full blossom, casting a misty tint over the slope. If you look close enough you can see the fairies dancing in the haze.

Magic o’clock

The light is at the path for just a short time in the evening, between 7:15 and 7:30. Before that the trees on the southern edge of the path are blocking the sun and after the sun has gone behind the trees on the northern edge. So things need to move fast – we need to set camera and tripod, find the right angle to catch the light and shoot the right clips to show the spindle. I couldn’t possibly do all this myself in such a short time frame, so Dan was behind the camera this time. He is, after all, the best light catcher in the family.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight.
Catch the light, Tuesday: B-roll.

We needed three evenings to shoot everything– two for the video and a third for photos. There isn’t enough time to make it in one night since the window is open for such a short time.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight.
Catch the light, Thursday: Stills. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sun and the wind

It has to be a sunny day, of course, otherwise there will be no magic light to catch. This was a sunny week, so we were in luck. Wednesday was cloudy, though, and we couldn’t shoot.

For an extra bonus, the wind should come from the right direction not to carry the noise from the surrounding traffic routes. The wind was well behaved on Monday night and I could edit away the low noise and enhance the bird song. To hide the last bit of noise I added the soft piano music.

By the way, can you see the insects swarming in the sunlight? Yeah, most of them bite. But it was all worth it.

Artistic focus

Since the light was the star of the video we chose to shoot the video from angles that would show the light rather than specific spinning angles. To avoid disturbing the scene I decided not to add any titles at all to the video. In that way it is not an instructional video. Luckily, I have other videos that will show the technique better. This video thus has a purely artistic focus.

Supporting role: Supported spinning

Since I chose to omit titles or distractions in the video I will mention a few words here about the tools and technique. How could I not?

Spindle and wool

I am spinning with a spindle and puck from Björn Peck. Björn is a professional wood turner and nowadays my royal supplier of both supported spindles and other spindle models. I got his name from another wood worker and asked if he could make me some supported spindles. It turned out that he could. We have been cooperating for a year now and in that time he has developed his technique to perfectly balanced spindles with an amazingly long spin. They are easy on the eye too.

Close-up of a person spinning on a supported spindle.
Perfectly balanced supported spindle in Swedish woods. The puck has a glass inlay and a magnet underneath. Both by Björn Peck. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The wool is from Dalapäls sheep, an endangered Swedish conservation breed (more on the Dalapäls sheep in an upcoming breed study webinar!). It has soft undercoat and long, strong outercoat. And the shine!

A row of white wool locks.
Sweet locks of Dalapäls sheep.

Wool prep and spinning

I chose to comb each lock separately and spin from the cut end. This way I got both undercoat and outercoat in the yarn and at the same time. It is also a nice way to prepare a little every time.

A person combing a staple of wool.
I gently combed each lock separately not to disturb the structure of the fibers. Photo by Dan Waltin.

As you can see in the video I’m spinning the yarn counter-clockwise with my left hand as a spinning hand. The reason why I’m spinning counter-clockwise is that I am planning to use the yarn for twined knitting, which requires a yarn with a Z- or clockwise ply. I’m spinning with my left hand as spinning hand to pull the spindle when I spin. This is easier on the hands. Read more about spinning direction and ergonomics here.

I didn’t want to disturb the structure of the staples or remove too much of the soft undercoat. Therefore I combed it very lightly. The consequence of this is that the wool isn’t fully separated. This makes the drafting a bit of a challenge. I open up the twist a lot to allow the fibers to slide past each other and find their place in the yarn.

A full spindle with plied yarn.
Plied and ready for the world.

The spinning project is actually my bedside spinning. I spin a little every night in bed. It is a nice way to let my thoughts come and go and get ready for sleep.

Savouring the light

The summer nights will still be bright for a while to come. I want to savour the light forever. In late August and early September, the sun will set just around the evening swims of the season and it will get increasingly darker during the coming months. In December it will be pitch black when I leave for work and when I go home. During these days I will find some light and comfort in watching videos like this.

Happy solstice!

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14 Replies to “Catch the light”

  1. Thank you, Josefin, for your lovely video. I am a spinner and also a still photographer, and am always looking at how the light interplays with the wool and my tools. I have not spun with my hand spindles for some time (because of some hand issues), but after watching the peaceful beauty of your video and admiring the spindle you used, I think I will get a supported spindle and see how that works. I hope I can find one as lovely and as functional as the one you used!

      1. Thank you, Josefin. Our evenings are not so long as yours and it is quite dark out now, but I just finished watching your video about selecting a supported spindle! I learned answers to questions it would never have occurred to me to ask! And now I am eager to start my search. I am fortunate to live in a place with many options, but my first step is still going to be to ask people I know who use supported spindles to find out what they like and don’t like about their spindles (keeping in mind the differences there might be between their needs and mine!). Tomorrow we are finally having some warm sunny weather, so I will be working in my garden in my own dream light while the latest fleece I cleaned is drying!

        1. Thank you for this feedback, it is truly valuable. I’m glad you enjoyed the course. And it’s an excellent plan to ask around in your spinning community. I’m very proud of you!

  2. Such a lovely video of sights and light and sounds. I received some very bad news yesterday from one of my dearest friends. Your video calmed me and took me from darkness to a place of light. Thank you, Josefin

  3. This was such a delight to watch! So much peace and beauty…Thank you for taking the time to catch the light and share it with us. I think one of my favourite parts was your contented sigh at the end: it was a perfect expression of what it felt like to watch you spin in that beautiful light… And I imagine that was also what it felt like to be there spinning in that short window of almost-magic light by the path!
    I’m really glad I came across your blog recently.

    1. Thank you Josiane and welcome to the blog! I almost edited out the sigh due to the dog walker. But the sigh won and the dog walker gets minimum space in the video. Happy spinning!

      1. Josefin, I thought that the sigh and the dog walker together were perfect- as if the dog walker completed a perfect day!

  4. Josefin, this is such a beautiful video. I wish I could have it as wallpaper (complete with the sounds of birdsong).

    May I use the still image as the cover image for this month’s Hand Spinning News? (with credit and link back to this post of course.)

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