Opening up the twist

By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.

Earlier this week I got a question from a follower on Instagram. Shelly asked: How do you avoid overuse injuries to your back, shoulders, wrists and hands since you use all these repetitively and so frequently when spinning/knitting? I see people like you posting constantly and seemingly unaffected by strain. Do you have a special practice to avoid issues when spinning with a drop spindle/Turkish spindle?

I have several replies to this interesting and important question, but my focus will stay on opening up the twist for the sake of this post.

But first, a few shorter replies to Shelly’s question:

  • I am not a monogamous crafter. I have a need to craft and I have lots of projects going on at the same time. When my body reminds me that I have been working in one technique for a long time I take a break and do something else. Preferably this will include a walk or some other way to engage different muscle groups. If I still have a crafting need I may change to some other technique, tool or craft.
  • Instagram posts shows things that have happened. It doesn’t say when it happened or things that happened but were not instagrammed. I love sharing pictures of spinning and other crafts, but it is not what I do all day long. My goal with posting on Instagram is to inspire others to craft and find the joy in the process of making. My wish is that my followers see it as inspiration and not as something that leads to stress for not spinning 24/7. Listen to your body when it tells you to stop.
  • When I spin on spindles I always spin clockwise with my right hand as spindle hand and counter-clockwise with my left hand as spindle hand. With this system the fingers always pull the spindle towards the palm of the hand (as opposed to pushing it away), which is better ergonomically. In all my spindle spinning classes I therefore make my students learn how to spin with both hands. You can read more about pulling and pushing in this blog post or watch this webinar on spindle ergonomics. In the article The Flick that I wrote for PLY magazine’s supported spindle issue I write about pushing and pulling too.
In the article The Flick in PLY magazine's Supported spindle issue I talk about pulling the spindle towards the palm of the hand and how it is better ergonomically than pushing it outward.
In the article The Flick in PLY magazine’s Supported spindle issue I talk about pulling the spindle towards the palm of the hand and how it is better ergonomically than pushing it outward. The thumb and index finger is turning the yarn against the twist direction to open up the twist.

Twist engagement

In the beginning of 2019 I wrote about a theory I call the Twist model. The model focuses on how the presence of twist engages the fibers into the draft and how we can take advantage of this when we spin. With no twist the fibers will pull apart when we pull in each end – nothing stops the fibers when pulled. The fiber is unstable. With a lot of twist nothing happens when we pull in each end – the high twist stops the fibers from moving. The yarn is stable. But there is a point between stable and unstable in which the fibers are semi-stable and will slide past each other without pulling apart. I call this the point of twist engagement (the term Point of twist engagement comes from the Swedish word dragläge which describes the point in a stick shift car where, when both clutch and gas pedals are engaged, the engine is running without moving).

The twist model
The twist model

Working with the point of twist engagement is a way to achieve an even yarn and a smooth spinning with a low strain on the hands, wrists and shoulders of the spinner.

Opening up the twist

When I spin I always work close to the point of twist engagement. In some techniques I keep the twist close to the point of twist engagement as I draft. Not until I have the thickness and evenness I want I add twist to get the final twist angle of the yarn. In others I open up the twist after it has passed the point of twist engagement. By opening up the twist I mean to turn the the yarn between the hands against the spinning direction with my spinning hand. The twist that was too much opens up and allows the fibers to glide past each other.

By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.
By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.

Short draw

When I spin a short draw I open up the twist with my spinning hand to allow the fibers to slide past each other without coming apart.

In the video above I spin on a suspended spindle. At 1:18 you can see how the thumb and index finger of my spindle hand turns the yarn against the spinning direction to open up the twist. This way I ease the motion for my fiber hand – I don’t need to pull. Instead, it is the opening up of the twist that allows my fiber hand to move outwards.

In supported spindle spinning I open up the twist with the thumb and index finger of my spindle hand by turning the yarn against the twist direction. You can see this in the video, beginning at 0:22. Turning the yarn against the spinning direction with my spindle hand – opening up the twist – is what allows my fiber hand to move outward.

To be able to open up the twist between the hands they need to be close enough to each other so that the twist opens up all the way between them. I usually keep my middle finger under the spun yarn. The way the yarn is bent over the finger the twist from the spindle is momentarily prevented from traveling up through the yarn too fast.

The yarn lies over the middle finger of my spinning hand, which prevents the twist from traveling up too fast.
The yarn lies over the middle finger of my spinning hand, which prevents the twist from traveling up too fast.

Longdraw

An example of keeping the twist close to the point of twist engagement is the English longdraw, either on a Navajo spindle, a supported spindle or a spinning wheel.

Spinning wheel

In the video above where I spin English longdraw on a spinning wheel I have a sequence that I repeat:

  • I treadle to build up the twist in the yarn on the bobbin side (yarn pinched to keep the twist from entering the rolag)
  • I make the draft in one smooth motion. At this stage the twist travels up the fibers. As long as I can draft with the fibers still semi-stable I am at the point of twist engagement. If I need to, I can manipulate the yarn slightly with my front hand to open up the twist.
  • When I am happy with the thickness and evenness of the yarn, I treadle some more to add the twist I want for the final yarn.

Navajo style spindle

On the video above where I spin on a Navajo spindle I do the same – I work close to the point of twist engagement. If there is too much twist for the fibers to glide smoothly I manipulate the yarn with just a slight roll with my spindle hand thumb. This opens up the twist just enough for the fibers to slide a little smoother. You can see this at 2:17 in the video. When I feel I have the thickness and evenness of the yarn that I want, I add more twist.

Supported spindle

Spinning an English style longdraw on a supported spindle is not very different from the Navajo spindle. I flick the spindle to build up twist, make the draw. As I make the draw I use the thumb and forefinger of my spinning hand to open up the twist. This allow the fibers to glide more smoothly. You can see this at 1:22 in the video above. When I’m happy with the evenness of the yarn I add more twist and roll on.

Spinning students

When I teach spinning I always talk about opening up the twist. In fact, it is one of the first things I bring up in the class. To me, the point of twist engagement is what explains drafting, be it to a beginner or intermediate spinner.

The students open up the twist when they learn how to spin on a Navajo style spindle.

The students work with opening up the twist and get the theory. Usually, though, I find myself picking at their grip and wonder what I need to understand to get them to ease their grips. During my last five-day course A spindle a day I realized that I need to connect the opening up of the twist (spindle hand) with how to hold the fiber (fiber hand).

A soft grip

When I learn a new practical skill I usually hold on to the tool or material for dear life. It is like I believe holding it harder will somehow make the skill morph itself into my hands through the tool or material. I see the same tight grip in my students’ hands – they compress the fiber and pinch the yarn.

Listen to the wool

The wool knows how it wants to be spun. As spinners we just need to listen to what it has to say. It is like the movement the fibers make when they slide past each other forms a signal with information. We can listen to the fibers through opening up the twist – the fibers can keep sliding past each other and set themselves into the twist. But if we hold the fiber preparation and/or yarn (usually and since both hands tend to want to keep the same firmness) too tightly the fibers won’t be able to move – the signal will die. With a gentle grip of both fiber and yarn the signal is free to move between the spinning hand and the fiber hand. This way the wool communicates with us while it also helps the hands communicate with each other.

No pain in the classroom

As a teacher it is my job to make sure my students can spin without strain and pain. To help them ease the grip of the fiber I ask them to see the prepared fiber as a baby bird. It needs to be held firmly enough to prevent it from taking off but loosely enough not to crush it.

I observe my students in the classroom. By this I try to make sure they spin with as much muscle economy as possible. They are there to spin and to enjoy the process and I need to make sure they can without strain. When the fibers slide past each other the fiber hand doesn’t need to pull. Instead the opening up of the twist by the spinning hand allows the fiber hand to move outwards without force, enough to just keep the yarn stretched.

I hold the rolag in a very gentle grip. Basically the yarn just goes over my thumb and rests in the hand. Photo by Dan Waltin
I hold the rolag in a very gentle grip. Basically the yarn just goes over my thumb and rests in the hand. Photo by Dan Waltin

Drafting or pulling?

If the fibers are not opened up enough between the fiber hand and spinning hand the fiber hand needs to start pulling. And with a pull from the fiber hand comes a counter-pull from the spinning hand and both hands end up using more muscle power than they need. Spinning this way may lead to strained hands, wrists or shoulders.

A grip too firm will reveal itself in other ways too – if there is just a bundled-up mess left in the fiber hand when a top or rolag is almost finished it is a sure sign that it has been held too tightly – the outermost fibers of the preparation have slid with the gripping hand hand to the end of the preparation. A fiber preparation that has been held gently has the same shape at the end as it did in the beginning.

I hold the fiber in a gentle grip to keep its original shape. Through the gentle grip and the opening up of the fibers I put the least strain on my body.

A positive result of opening up the twist is that the resulting yarn will end up much smoother than if it were pinched and pulled. Provided of course that the wool is well and evenly prepared. That, however, is another blog post.

Thank you Shelly for this interesting and important question. I gave you a rather short reply on Instagram. I hope this longer reply makes sense to you.


The fall issue of Spin-Off magazine is out now. In it I have written an article called Sliding hooks and textile heritage where I explore antique Swedish spinning wheels with sliding flyer hooks while at the same time discovering my textile heritage. It is a very personal story and I am very happy with the article. As usual, my husband Dan took the wonderful pictures.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Wool journey 2020

It may seem strange to talk of a journey in these days, but my wool traveling club managed to make one with proper social distance. In this post I tell you all about the wool journey 2020.

The wool traveling club

The wool traveling club consists of five spinners and knitters – Anna, Boel, Kristin, Ellinor and me. These talented women are my sisters in craft. We save money separately each month and go for a wool journey together. The wool journey is a highlight of the year. It is a time to come together, talk, learn, talk some more and just enjoy being around people with a deep knowledge and passion about wool.

The purpose of the club is to be able to learn more about wool and spinning on our level. Since there are five of us we can hire a teacher we like and have them customize course for us. You can read about our previous wool journeys here: 2019 in Åsebol with Lena Köster, 2018 at Utsikten, 2017 in Åsebol with Kia Gabrielsson Beer, 2016 at Solkustens spinning mill and 2015 in Shetland.

Wool journey 2020

This year the wool journey was a bit different. First of all, we realized that we may not be able to go at all this year, but in the end we decided to go. Second of all, it was in my home town, so I actually rode my bike to the castle we were staying at, which turned out to be very appropriate in the circumstances.

Ljunglöfska castle by bike
Wool journey 2020 – Ljunglöfska castle by bike.

Third, only three of us were physically there. Kristin couldn’t make it this year and Anna got something that may or may not have been a sore throat and decided to take the class from home via FaceTime. She also joined us in the evenings at the castle via FaceTime.

A knitting course with physical and digital participants.
Anna is with us from home digitally. Boel and I in the thumbnail. In the foreground you can see my half-way ripped handspun twined knitting sleeve.

Early in the fall we decided to ask Karin Kahnlund if we could hire her for the wool journey 2020. She is a renown knitter and knitting teacher, specializing in the old technique tvåändsstickning, or two-end knitting in English (also known as twined knitting). In twined knitting you use two yarn ends that are wound around each other at the purl side, creating horizontal ridges that make the fabric durable and wind proof.

This was the first time the wool journey didn’t involve spinning. But Karin is such a talented knitter and knitting teacher and twined knitting is something I love to do with my handspun yarn so I was thrilled when Anna confirmed that Karin agreed to teach us.

Untangling yarn in Karin Kahnlund's studio.
Karin Kahnlund is helping Ellinor untangle a mossy green skein of Z-plied yarn. Traditional two-end knitting sleeve jackets in the background. Karin is also wearing a jacket with her two-end knitted sleeves.

You can see a video I made about two-end knitting here. I have also published a pattern for a pair of half mitts in two-end knitting. Another pair of handspun mittens are here.

Karin’s collection

Karin Kahnlund is one of the most knowledgeable people in two-end knitting in Sweden and has written and participated in several two-end knitting books. She also has a large collection of old items in two-end knitting from the 19th and 20th century. Some of the items have been given to her and some she has found in craft stores and antique shops around the county of Dalarna where the technique seems to have been most common. A while back I visited the study collection at Sätergläntan and could fondle the two-end knitted items with gloved hands. In Karin’s studio you are allowed to fondle gloveless.

A bodice sweater (livtröja) with two-end knitted sleeves.
Gagnef jacket from the late 19th century.

Bodice sweaters

Two-end knitting was typically used for traditional bodice sweaters (livtröjor) in the county of Dalarna in Sweden. The bodices were machine sewn in broadcloth by tailors. Each parish had its own pattern tradition. The pattern in the sleeves above is typical of Gagnef parish. Below are sleeves from different parishes. They could be totally different eventhough the parishes may have been right next to each other.

Two-end knitted traditional jacket sleeves from different parishes in county Dalarna.

A woman who married a man from another parish would leave her old jacket and start wearing handed down jackets from her new parish.

The sleeves were knit in black and white yarn and then dyed red. Of course Karin has found an undyed sleeve to show us.

Mittens

Mittens were also common to knit in two-end knitting. Some used for hard work in the woods (common in Norway) and some for Sundays in church. These were white for women and blue for men. Patterns could be knit and/or embroidered in bright colours.

Two-end knitted mittens from around the mid-19th century. These belong to Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg, curator at Dalarnas museum. In the middle mitten you can see the ridges of the twined purl stitches.

The work a woman or girl invested in her mittens could be a ticket to a good marriage – a well decorated mitten showed a woman that could provide the family with warm clothes. Mittens with lots of yarn showed wealth – I can afford this much wool on my mittens.

A pair of old mittens with embroidery. The mittens are puffy.
Puffy mittens showed wealth. From Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg’s collection.

Påsöm mittens

A very special embroidery technique that is suitable for the strong and inelastic two-end knitted fabric is påsöm, common especially in Dala-Floda in Dalarna. This is a very rich technique where the crafter uses 4-ply lofty yarn in bright colours to embroider in thick layers. These mittens were dying to be shown off at church.

Two-end knitted mittens with påsöm embroidery, probably from the mid or late 19th century.
Two-end knitted mittens with påsöm embroidery, probably from the mid or late 19th century.

When it came to the marriage market you couldn’t leave anything to chance – the thumb was also richly embroidered. You don’t throw these away when there is a hole. Instead, you will carefully mend it, like shown below.

A twined knitted mitten with påsöm embroidery.
When did you last embroider your thumb gusset?

Karin also showed us two sets of mittens that had belonged to a woman named Alma. The name was knit on the back of the hand. They were knit in 1928 and had been worn and mended with lots of love. Another pair, also with Alma’s name, was knitted in 1943 with cheaper yarn. But apparently the first pair had been saved, perhaps out of respect for the warmth they had given her for so many years.

The course

It is quite easy to loose yourself in Karin’s wonderful collection. But we did knit too. We all practiced different things. Boel combined 2-colour two-end knitting with crook stitch patterning for a pair of wrist warmers to use in her new electric car. The colours even matched the interior of the car! Ellinor chose a colour patterning typical of jacket sleeves for her mittens. Anna knitted a crook stitch pattern at home.

Different styles of thumb gussets.
Thumbs up for the wool journey 2020!

I also made wrist warmers. I practiced my crook stitches. The pattern for my wrist warmers will be available in the book I am writing together with Sara Wolf.

Cozy two-end knitted wrist warmers in Z-plied yarn from Wålstedts ullspinneri.
Cozy two-end knitted wrist warmers in Z-plied yarn from Wålstedts ullspinneri.

In my experience, crafting brings people together and opens up minds. We had such a lovely time knitting and talking about our textile heritage, family and the joys and sorrows in our lives.

Yarn analysis

Apart from practicing two-end knitting I wanted to learn more about the yarn. I have spun yarn for two-end knitting a few times, but I wanted Karin’s view on my yarns. I also wanted to know what she is looking for in a yarn for two-end knitting. The most important difference from most knitting yarns is that it is Z-plied. It needs to be strong enough to hold and still not too coarse. A slight over twist can be a good idea since the yarn will untwist itself.

Karin approved of the handspun yarn I used for my jacket sleeves. When I compared my yarn with the commercial Z-plied yarn I used for the wrist warmers I could see the difference in twist. The commercial yarn had more twist than my handspun, making the arches in the crook stitches rounder and more defined.

Ripping consultation

Another, rather painful matter was the jacket sleeves I have been knitting off and on for almost a year now. I realized that they were too narrow over the elbows and upper arms. I knew I needed to rip the sleeves but I didn’t want to do it. But I decided to ask Karin about the best way to store the ripped yarn and how to best make the sleeves fit better.

Twined knitted jacket sleeves in my handspun Dalapäls yarn. I spun the yarn from flicked locks on a supported spindle.
Twined knitted jacket sleeves in my handspun Dalapäls yarn. I spun the yarn from flicked locks on a supported spindle.

When you two-end knit you use both ends of a center-pull ball. I thought I would need to unpick each thread separately and rewind them, but Karin had a much easier solution. I should just rip back the threads together and wind them in a new ball together. That way they would keep their twist and their relationship to each other. I ripped back a third of the sleeve length. I didn’t bother soaking the yarn to remove the squiggliness. There is a tiny difference between the neutral and squiggly yarns but it will disappear after soaking the sleeves.

With the too narrow sleeves I had increased every 10th row and I will now increase every 5th and try them on as I knit to find a comfortable fit.

All in all it was a lovely wool journey. The second I had said good bye to my wool travelers I missed them, like I always do. For the coming year we will fondly remember our past wool journeys while longingly planning the next.

Josefin, Boel and Ellinor on a wool journey walk
Josefin, Boel and Ellinor on a wool journey walk.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

The knowledge of the hand

“I have a Norwegian crossbred whole-year fleece of excellent quality. Do you want one or two kilos?” The phone call came a year ago from Kia, a wool classifier and the person who has taught me the most about wool. “Well, I really have no room for more wool, but I may be able to squeeze in one kilo” I answered. “Do you want one or two kilos?”, Kia persisted. I realized that she really wanted me to make this fleece justice. What Kia considers a high quality fleece is a high quality fleece, so I replied that I would love two kilos. “Great, I’ll send it straight away!”.

From grease to yes please

So I have two kilos of extra beautiful Norwegian crossbred wool. The staples are around 12 cm and creamy white. More than wavy, less than crimpy.

Raw fleece with greasy and almost solidified tips.
Raw fleece with greasy and almost solidified tips.

When I got the fleece the tips were solidified by greasy lanolin. I imagined the sheep having skipped about in a Norwegian mountain, coastal climate rain pushing the lanolin out into the tips, creating a concentrated paste of grease.

Clean fleece
Clean fleece after a fermented suint bath.

After having admired my new bundle of fluff I soaked it in a fermented suint bath. The grease in the tips disappeared like magic. Apart from the tips the fleece was actually quite clean from the beginning, just the odd seed or piece of grass. I saw no hay or straw so don’t think the sheep had been stabled over the winter.

Two staples of wool, the leftmost white and clean, the rightmost yellow and dirty.
Raw fleece to the right, soaked in fermented suint bath to the left.

The knowledge of the hand

I decided to make this wool a long time spinning project. I got the fleece around the time I started my fascination of Andean spinning and weaving, and I realized the fleece would be perfect for hand teasing and spinning on Andean pushkas. The technique is slow and gives me the opportunity to grasp the knowledge of the hand.

A minimum of tools

All through this project I use a minimum of tools. I tease the wool by hand and spin with a simple hand carved Andean pushka. The method is slow, at least the way I do it.

When I tease the wool I get to know it. I get to know how to tease it to its best advantage, the direction and angle of pulling the fibers apart. I feel the structure of the staples and the individual fibers. When I tease I feel how the fibers stick together and how they separate. I can spot every nepp, tangle and weak fiber. During the teasing phase I get a feeling of how how the wool drafts. My hands learn the length of the fibers and its bounce.

A handful of unprocessed wool, a hand teased top and spindle spun singles.
Three stages – a handful of unprocessed wool, a hand teased top and spindle spun singles.

Time is knowledge

In a project like this the wool goes through my hands many times. One handful of fiber takes between 20 and 30 minutes to hand tease into a top. This is 20 to 30 minutes of opportunity to get to know the fiber, in the preparation phase alone. I open up each staple, arrange the teased wool into a top, draft through the top, double it, draft again and so on until I have a top with decently aligned and fully separated fibers.

Every time my hands interact with the fiber they learn something new about it. The knowledge of the hand is one of my most important tools when I spin.

A suspended spindle with the sea in the background.
With a simple tool you have the opportunity to learn more – through your body and through time. The knowledge of the hand is my most important tool.

You can move lots of mechanics from your body to the tools – processing, speed, tension and twisting of the fiber. In a way it saves you time. But it also takes away time spent with the wool. Time is actually of the essence here – time spent with the wool in all its stages.

A bedtime story

Most of the time I spin this project in bed before I go to sleep. It is a lovely way to end the day. I either tease or spin, let my thoughts come and go and find balance at the end of the day.

A two kilo pile of wool is a lot. To avoid strain from spinning I spin half of it clockwise and half counterclockwise. That way both my hands will learn and get to know the wool and the spinning as spinning hand and as fiber hand.

I spin this wool with a very low twist. The simple reason for this is that that is how I have learned from watching the Andean spinning workshop. The singles for weaving yarns are spun very loosely and given a high ply twist. I haven’t figured out why yet. One reason can be that it is easier to handle the singles when they have a low twist (that is my experience and quite painful lesson).

Spinning with such a low twist requires a slow tool and a slow technique. I don’t think I would have been able to spin with such a low twist on a spinning wheel, or a faster spindle for that matter. And when I spin the low twist singles on the pushka I have time to test the yarn for strength for every stretch of yarn I spin.

A spindle full of plied yarn on a chopping block.
Around 50 grams of plied yarn on a 20 gram spindle

I feel lucky to be able to spend all this time with this wool. There are so many aspects in these evening moments that I am so grateful for. Practicing, learning and finding a peace of mind. When I am done for the night I shake the tiny bits of vegetable matter out of the duvet and go to sleep in balance and at peace. During the night my brain processes what my hands have learned.

Learning by doing

Someone can tell me the dos and don’ts of a craft. I can understand it intellectually. But I won’t truly get it until I feel it – the knowledge of the hand key here.

A recent example is when I took a course in backstrap weaving. The teacher said it was important to use a yarn that wouldn’t stick, preferably cotton. I wanted to learn backstrap weaving to weave with my handspun yarns. I knew some of the yarns I had chosen would be too sticky. But what did too sticky mean? How would it feel? What would too sticky lead to? Where was my stickiness limit?

I tried different yarns in different degrees of stickiness. I learned when it would be too much trouble to manually separate the warp threads for each shed. In some cases I learned that sticky wool would pull fibers out of the yarn, leading to thinning warp threads and eventually breakage. I understood this before, intellectually. But it wasn’t until my hands felt and experienced the effect that I truly understood. The knowledge of the hand teaches me so much more than understanding something I read or hear from someone. My hands need to feel experience and understand the cause and effect.

A skein of creamy white yarn on a flat stone surface.
Slow is my favourite way to quality.

The funny thing is that I can take this knowledge back to my brain again – by writing about this process I can verbalize it and understand it in more depth. So thank you dear readers for encouraging me to write!

Textile plans

I am spinning this yarn into a weaving yarn, half of the skeins z-plied and half s-plied. I plan to dye the skeins in a variety of colours and use in backstrap weaving projects.

One of my first projects will be a case for all the backstrap loom sticks I have carved lately. I suddenly got an urge to carve sticks and couldn’t stop. I carve in maple which is lovely to work with this time of year. The bark comes of and the knife moves through the wood like butter.

Hand carved sticks of different sizes on a pile of wood chips.
Some of the backstrap loom sticks I have been carving lately. Of course they need a backstrap woven case!

It will take a while before I get to that stage, though. I have spun six skeins thus far, around 250 grams. There is a lot of wool left. I will have many hours to deepen the knowledge of the hand.

Five skeins of white yarn and a spindle full of plied yarn.
Six skeins spun, plenty left to learn from.

In the end I did manage to squeeze the two kilo fleece into my fleece storage. I already knew there would be room in my heart for it. A big thank you goes from my heart and my hands to you Kia!


Next weekend I’m going on my annual wool journey with my wool traveling club. A bit more distanced than we are used to, though. I may not find the time to blog, but there will be a new blog post in two weeks, hopefully telling you about the wool journey (which I’ll be getting to by bike this year!).

Stay safe and happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

A fleece meditation

“I have a fleece from my young ewe Elin that I think you should have”, said Claudia, a shepherdess of Swedish Gestrike sheep. This happens every now and then. One of the advantages of being known in the spinning world is that shepherdesses trust me with their fleeces and they are curious of what I make of them. In this post I dive deep into the fibers in a fleece meditation.

The ladies and the elements

Claudia and I have met a few times since then but life has happened and the fleece stayed with Claudia. A global crisis came in the way. Eventually and with a little (or a lot) help from a friend Claudia managed to get the fleece to me. Claudia’s friend Kristina – also a spinner – was going to Stockholm where she studies and Claudia asked me if I could meet Kristina outside her school. Of course, I said. The bike ride would do me good.

So, we settled on a Tuesday in the end of April. I imagined a lovely bike ride through town, crisp birch leaves and cherry blossom edging the bike path and the fresh spring air welcoming my face in its midst. As it turned out, it was one of the most dramatic days of spring, weather wise – grinning rain, hail and icy winds had Stockholm in a firm grip, playing with its tousled inhabitants. The birches and the cherry trees were still there of course, but not in the atmosphere I had imagined. Still, a fleece was waiting for me and there wasn’t much I could do.

Embracing the hail as good as I could muster I hopped on the bike and pedaled my way in to town in sheer determination. I met Kristina, chatted for a while and went home with the fleece in the bike bag. An hour and 17 kilometers after I had left home I was back again. A bit cold, a bit wet, but richer in fleece and fresh air.

A raw fleece in dirty black and white.
The raw fleece from the Gestrike ewe Elin forms the beginning of a fleece meditation.

A bath

The fleece of the Gestrike sheep Elin is now in our house, filling the house with the soft smell of sheep and the promise of hours of gentle touch, creative work and new experiences.

Before I put Elin in the washtub I balanced her on the scales. 1,7 kilos, quite a large fleece for a Swedish heritage breed. I assumed some of the weight would wash out with the soaking water.

Soak

I filled the washtub with warm water in the bathroom – it is still a bit too cold to soak wool outdoors. As I gently pressed the sticky fleece down into the tub the water streamed up from underneath, found its path between the fibers, pressing the abruptly awoken dirt out of the staples and into the gushing water, creating reddish brown whirls which slowly shaped echoes of the locks.

A girl should have her privacy in the bath, so I left her in the tub for around fifteen minutes. When I came back I could hardly see her anymore. Gone was the clear water and the brown whirls. All that was left was a luke warm sea the colour of yesterday’s coffee with a few floating islands of wet wool lurking by the surface like frogs waiting for juicy flies. Between the islands were accumulations of soapy foam created by the union of the salty suint and the warm water.

Rinse

I gently squeezed the water out of the heavy water-saturated wool mass and filled the tub with fresh water. I repeated the process three more times, brown whirls fading slightly for each new soak. By the third rinse the water was clear and the wet locks distinctly visible in the tub, black and white staples shining like herrings in a school.

Spin-dry

After another squeeze I moved the shapeless wad into the washing machine to spin-dry it. Fifteen minutes later I opened the drum and was presented a bursting cloud of wool all the way up to the edge. Gone was the pile of sticky staples. Instead I saw before me an airy muchness of creative prospectives, inviting me to explore them.

A clean fleece in black and white.
Elin’s fleece is now clean an a lot lighter.

When I weighed the fleece again I was shocked of the number the pointer stayed at – 1,2 kilos. Gone were 500 grams of lanolin, sweat salts and short bits of fiber. My fleece was freed of half a kilo of gunk that I happily donated to the garden beds as fertilizer. My heart sings of the prospect of a flax harvest invigourated by dirty wool soak.

The fibers

Most of the staples had proud, gently waved outercoat, collected like the straws in a paint brush and air-filled hoopskirt undercoat, ready to embrace anyone who needed their warmth.

Black and white wool staples.
A few members of the Elin dance company.

Outercoat

The fibers are bundled up together to bring protection to the sheep. Some of the strands are long, proud and glistening, aspiring for length to protect the sheep from rain. I close my eyes and imagine the clusters of outercoat almost taking aim at the falling drops, competing about being the team to lead the wet intruder away from the body they have been set to protect.

Separated wool staples.
Dissected staples of Elin’s fleece – a whole staple, outercoat and undercoat.

Undercoat

Other fibers are fine, winding their way through the fiber collective, changing directions unpredictably, forming a billowing multitude of soft warmth to keep the wind and cold at bay. Together with air they fulfill their task with gentle determination.

Kemp

A third kind of fiber can be seen occasionally. Black, brittle and sprawly. This is the kemp, the oddball in the family. The kemp works with the other fibers, keeping the staple upright for additional protection against the elements and allowing more air to enter their fibery togetherness.

A microscope picture of wool fibers.
Strong and straight outercoat, fine and winding undercoat and coarse and brittle kemp, all working together to create the best conditions possible for the sheep.

The fibers look and work differently, yet in cooperation to protect the sheep they once grew on.

A fleece meditation: If I were a sheep

If I think of myself as the sheep the fibers are assigned to protect, how would I arrange them to do the same for me? How would I take advantage of their respective characteristics to create a garment that is for me what the fleece was to the sheep?

A staple of wool.
A fleece meditation.

Look at this picture for a moment. Long and strong outercoat, soft and warm undercoat. That means something. These fibers can be prepared, spun and arranged to their advantage and to give me the best protection. Soft, winding undercoat carefully carded into a pillowy rolag, kemp occasionally peaking out. Long and strong outercoat combed parallel into a bird’s nest.

A combed top and a rolag.
The beginning of the journey to a new textile. Outercoat and undercoat separated and processed.

When I close my eyes and feel a staple of Elin’s carefully selected wool in my hands I sense the different characteristics of the fibers. I envision a woven textile. In my mind I see the strong outercoat fibers as warp and the soft undercoat as weft.

Two shuttles with yarn. One light and airy, one dark and sleek.
Warp and weft. Separated but still together.

A dream of twill

I see twill. Fine singles, winding their way across the fabric. On one side the outercoat dominates – three over, one under – protecting me from the falling rain. The other side soft from the undercoat, keeping me warm and safe, kemp making sure there is room for air. Perhaps the fabric is slightly fulled to protect me even further. The two sides have different superpowers and different colours.

A woven twill sample.
A baby swatch, full of possibilities, waiting to grow into a mature fabric.

Claudia tells me that one of her ewes has a lot less outercoat than the rest of the flock. This sheep prefers to stay protected under a spruce when it rains while the downpour doesn’t bother her sisters. I want to be able to stand in the rain like the sheep, protected from the elements by an ingenious design that has worked for millennia.

A white wool staple with tips pointing in different directions.
The processing of Elin’s fleece could go in many different directions.

Eventhough the fibers in my textile would be disassembled and put together again in just one of many fashions, they would still work together. Their novel composition for a two-legged creature would still serve the same purpose: To keep me protected.

Meanwhile, Elin is generously growing a new fleece that shields her and that can be harvested again.

Stay safe and happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Come together

The corona virus has the world in its grip and we all need to do what we can to keep our risk groups safe and make sure the health care workers can do their job. Many initiatives are made and lots of creative solutions are figured out to make us able to come together in new ways.

Spin together apart

Lots of spinners have regular spin meetings where you can share ideas and inspire each other. Many of these have been cancelled due to the restrictions because of the virus. At the same time, I have seen so many initiatives to digital spin meetings across the world. In this I think both regular guild spinners and spinners who haven’t had a spinning guild or meeting in their community have found their way to digital meetings. Perhaps more spinners meet regularly now than before, only from their own living rooms.

A spinning workshop

One such example is the spinning workshop in Hölö, Sweden. They usually meet every Tuesday in an old church school and spin together. Several of them are risk group and the spinning meetings in the church school has taken a break. But the virus doesn’t stop the spinners from having their meetings. Now they meet online instead. The spinners who are in a risk group can come together apart without subjecting themselves to the virus. Others who have a long way to go to come to the church school can save the time it takes to get there and still enjoy the company and the discussions.

Spinning in the news

The new digital spinning workshop made such an impression that Swedish national media reported from the meetings. Here is a lovely clip and an article from Dagens Nyheter, of the largest newspapers in Sweden. They visited Lena and her Dalapäls sheep one Tuesday in lambing season.

The week after the newspaper had visited I joined the digital meeting. As it turned out, reporters from Swedish national television were visiting Lena to make another clip. It was aired in a live show raising money for those who have suffered the most in the corona crisis. You can watch it here. The clip starts at 49:25 (you can see me for about half a second). In the clip Lena tells us that they immediately closed down the meetings when the restrictions came. Now the digital spinning meetings are a success. People who belong to risk groups can safely go to the digital spinning workshops and join their spinning community. Lena tells us that when they go back to meeting in person again they will still bring a computer to open a digital opportunity for those who can’t come.

A digital Q&A

Once a month I host a Q&A for some of my patrons. They can send questions ahead or ask during the Q&A. The sessions have so far been directly in the chat, but in my last Q&A I decided to make it in video.

The first problem was to find a time that suited my patrons and me. Some are in the U.S. and Canada, some in Europe and some in Australia and New Zealand. There was no way I would be able to find a time when all could be present during daytime. So I scheduled two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Seven people from across the globe came to the sessions, one was present at both of them. We had a lovely time together. We could all see and hear each other. This was the first time I have seen some of my most faithful followers. One of them was my very first patron who has supported me for over two years and one was brand new.

Josefin Waltin smilling at the camera. She is wearing knit-in ear phones.
A video Q&A for my patrons.

Seeing each other made it easier to interact. People could ask questions and show what they meant. They could also bring things to discuss. One patron brought some fleece that she wanted to know how to process, another brought a spindle she asked my opinion of.

Another good thing was that I didn’t have to answer all the questions – all of the participants had experiences to share that was very helpful. I think we can develop these sessions to something very rewarding and useful.

The Q&As are for the higher tier patrons only. If you want to become a patron you can check out my Patreon page. Whether you do or not, I hope it inspires you to start or join digital spinning meetings in one way or another.

A course in corona times

In January I published a post about my rya chair pads. I had woven seven chair pads from my handspun stash on my rigid heddle loom.

Seven woven squares with rya knots. They are in different patterns and colours – striped, plain, zebra skin, cow skin and a heart.
Rya chair pads in my handspun yarn (none of them rya yarn).

Shortly after, my friend Lena (above) called me. The spinning workshop has a rya theme this year. They try to learn as much as they can about different aspects of rya. Rya is a Swedish sheep breed, a wool type (not necessarily from the rya breed) and a knotting technique (originally from rya wool type but not necessarily today). Lena wanted me to teach a class for them in the rya technique. The thing is, Lena and several of the members of the spinning workshop are weavers. I don’t consider myself a weaver. I consider myself a beginner at weaving and I don’t deserve the title weaver yet. But Lena argued that it was just because I wasn’t an experienced weaver that I was interesting as a teacher in the technique – you don’t need to know how to weave monk’s belt to make rya knots.

Digital rya knots

As the course date came closer I got increasingly worried about the course. I knew some of the spinners in the group are in risk groups. But since they had such success with the digital spinning meetings cancelling was no option – they wanted me to teach the course digitally.

So, for the past few weeks I have tried to plan a course that I was supposed to teach on site. I had planned to bring my chair pads and show them, and Lena was supposed to help non-weavers set up their warps. I imagined a creative zone with brilliant minds where we would inspire each other to try new ideas. We soon realized that we could still do most of these things in a digital course.

Wonder warps

Lena warped at home and delivered mini looms to the church school for the participants to come and get. I found a way to make a large demo warp that hopefully will help the participants see the technique.

This is how it works:

  • The loom bars at the top and bottom are my actual loom bars from my backstrap loom.
  • The six skeins of handspun yarn are the warp threads. Since they are looped I can actually make sheds.
  • I used a handspun and hand woven band as the weft.
  • The woven scarf is my rya knot.
  • The display is hung on a camera tripod.
A rya demo.
A pretty much hand made rya demo for digital teaching.

I am very proud of this arrangement and hope it will be a useful tool in the course.

A sample band

I also made a sample band to show how you can achieve big variations with small changes. I set up the warp on my backstrap loom and just played and had fun with the knots. For pedagogical reasons I used different colours for different purposes – the warp is brown, the weft white and most of the knots green.

A woven band with rya knots in different arrangements.
A sample band for the digital rya course. All the yarn comes from my handspun stash.

Apart from the rya demo, the rya chair pads and the sample band to show I will also have a Keynote presentation with close-up photos to show the participants.

The course is tomorrow and I hope we will all learn a lot from this experience. If you have been following me for a while you know I make lots of videos and webinars and also online video courses. But this will be the first time I teach live.

Possibilities of video

As a teacher I know how much I can give my students in an on-site course. We can talk face to face, cuddle with yarn, feel structures and pick up non-verbal signals. I can also see from a distance when I need to guide a student. But when the option to an on-site course is no course at all a digital solution is a powerful tool.

The same goes for spinning and guild meetings – we can still meet, just in a different format. And people who wouldn’t have been able to come to a spinning meeting at all suddenly has the opportunity to join one near or far. We are all neighbours online.

In the situation we are in it seems even more important to come together for comfort and a sense of togetherness. We are all in the same boat and we need to navigate it together in a new direction.

Stay safe and happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Webinars

This weekend I live streamed a webinar – a breed study of the Swedish breed Jämtland sheep from the spinner’s perspective. Webinars are powerful tools to meet and share information and skills. Today I invite you to my studio and the making of a breed study webinar.

This webinar is about Jämtland wool.

Webinar content creation

A webinar is a seminar or other presentation that takes place on the Internet, allowing participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter, ask questions and comment.

The first thing to think about in the making of a webinar is the content: What should the webinar be about? At the moment I am making a webinar series of breed studies of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective.

Subject and crafting

I pick the breed I want to talk about. Preferably a breed I have worked with and have fleece available for. I also want it to be a breed from which I have made something of the yarn to show you. If I haven’t I need to prepare that too – I want to be able to show you the whole process from fleece to a finished textile or at least a sample of some sort.

A woman working on a computer by an office desk.
There is lots of preparation work to create the content for a webinar.

I also take photos for the blog post. The photos, especially the close-ups, are important for both the blog post and the live stream. I have only one camera in the webinar and it doesn’t do close-ups very well. With the close-up photos in the blog post my viewers can go back to the blog post if they missed details in the webinar.

Outline

I have the same basic outline for all my webinars – I talk briefly about the breed and then I go on to preparation, spinning and use of the wool of that breed. I want to show the steps in the process from fleece to project. To me the preparation of wool is the most important thing – the steps I take early in the process have consequences for the end result. I show different ways to prepare and spin the wool and how they affect the end result.

The content I fill my outline with is the base of that week’s blog post and is also the starting point of my webinar script. My hope is that the video webinar together with the written blog post will fit as many learning styles as possible.

Administration and tech

There is a lot of administration and tech to be done before a webinar, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it now.

  • I write emails to invite followers to the webinar. I also write emails to those who register. A couple of days before the webinar I write reminders. To have everything ready I also compose the emails to send after the webinar – the link to the replay and a feedback email. During this period I also answer a lot of emails from followers. For one webinar I send roughly 2500 emails. I use an email marketing and automation platform to help me with this.
  • I set up the registration – a registration page, registration form and automations to send the right emails to the right people in the right order.
  • To show glimpses of what you can expect from the webinar I make a promo video with the most important information.
  • I also publish a blog post that covers the topic of the webinar.

Rehearsing

I want to have control of what I am doing and usually rehearse three times before a webinar. I do this as if it were a real webinar – I set up my studio and record a private live stream. This way I rehearse both the webinar and the studio set-up. It also means that I can watch the live stream afterwords to see if I need to make any adjustments. In the rehearsing phase I can fine tune the order of things and placement of tools in the studio.

As part of the rehearsing I decide on what to wear for the live stream. I want to wear something handspun, preferable from the breed I talk about in the webinar. It should also be in a colour that contrasts to the yarn I’m spinning. A light sweater behind white fiber wouldn’t be a good idea. As a former Sign Language interpreter I am always aware of the importance of good contrast between my hands, the wool and the background behind them (=what I wear).

I chose a shawl in Jämtland wool for the Jämtland webinar. I carefully planned how I wore the shawl so that the tail wouldn’t be in the way of or cover the fiber hand.

The webinar studio

I use a king size bed sheet for a backdrop, a studio light, some extra lights and a microphone. That’s it. It seems like a very simple studio set-up, and it is. However, every time I need to transform my home office to a live stream studio it is quite a lot to remember.

A room with a desk with computer screens, studio light, script holders and baskets of wool and spinning tools.
The studio is set up for a live stream!

The image above seems like your ordinary messy home office. All of the things and gadgets in the image have a purpose in the live stream, though. Let’s go through it:

The studio map.
  • The backdrop provides a calm background. It also covers the busy shelf and whiteboard behind it. A while ago I bought real grown-up curtains to keep the sun out. The window faces west and in the light months I need to pull the blinds down as well. In May or June I even place a parasol outside the window to block the sunlight.
  • The microphone is essential for a good and comfortable sound. Do pay attention to the fancy pop filter. I used to have a bug with a chord, but I didn’t like being attached to the computer while at the same time spinning. Just imagine the amount of things that could go wrong! I bought this new microphone for money I got from my patrons. My 17-ear-old is very envious.
  • Light is of course essential too. I have light from above and from the front plus my studio ring light from the side. These three light sources together minimize the shadows and give a pleasant picture.
  • I place the chair as far back as I can so that my lap shows. In my webinars I do a lot of carding and if I should sit closer to the screen you wouldn’t be able to see the cards. I need to sit quite high for my lap to show and therefore I need a foot support.
  • During the webinar I use lots of tools like cards and combs and I need them organized and close at hand. I keep the wool in a basket, my tools in another basket, the knits under the stool and processed wool in a bowl on the table. I use a felt board to display wool and yarn on.
  • The script is of course important too. I make one page for each section of the webinar and everything is organized in mind maps.
  • The computer screen is where I can see myself as you see me. I can also see the chat window where you write nice things and clever questions.
Mindmap script for my Värmland webinar.

And we’re live!

Ok, it’s Webinar Day. This means that I spend all day in a daze. I am a nervous wreck and quite annoying to the rest of the family. I go through the Imposter syndrome over and over and again. Who am I to do this? Why should people listen to me? But I also tell myself that I know what I am doing and that I am well prepared.

I set up the studio one hour before show time, which is way too early. But it helps me deal with my emotions which skip up and down like balls in a pinball machine. Hopefully I remember to spend the extra time meditating to ground myself. Ten minutes before the webinar starts I start the live stream to check sound and video. It also gives me a chance to chat with the early birds and get comfortable in the studio.

I come early to the webinar and spin with the first viewers.

When I start the webinar I am totally there, with you. It is a great feeling to have you there with me while at the same time in so many different parts of the world.

By the time I do the live webinar I am quite familiar with the script and I’m not nervous. I have prepared enough to know what I am talking about and how to make smooth transitions between different sections. What I am not prepared for, though, are your questions. You can ask me anything live and I quickly need to find a reasonably intelligent and suitable reply. Everybody doesn’t have the same frame of reference and I may need to explain and elaborate on terms or concepts I present. This is quite an adventure and I learn something new every time.

The chat window is full of love and dedicated spinners.

It’s funny, the hour before I start goes so slowly and once it’s webinar o’clock time flies. I have such a lovely time with you, doing what I love. All the hours I have spent up to this moment have had a purpose and paid off. The feedback I get from you is overwhelming.

When things go wrong

Sometimes things don’t go as I have planned. Everything is rehearsed and structured, but when something happens during the live stream I need to make fast decisions. Usually it is the tech that goes wrong. For every webinar I make the nagging sensation is always there: Will the tech goddesses treat me well this time? The very thing that makes this kind of production even possible is also the thing that can totally ruin it.

On one of my first webinars I couldn’t for the life of me find the go live button when the webinar was supposed to start. I got really frustrated and didn’t know what to do. I ended up postponing the webinar 24 hours and by then I knew what to do.

In the Jämtland webinar this past Sunday all started well. I got in early and chatted with people. Three minutes before scheduled time the webinar was shut down by YouTube due to “Violation of community guidelines”. I still don’t know why. I tried to get back and to move the webinar to Facebook, but with no luck. Instead I scheduled a new webinar for 24 hours later. To be on the safe side I recorded a private live stream (Monday morning 6:30 am) to send if the second try would fail. But everything worked out and we had a lovely Monday webinar.

It’s a wrap! The webinar is finished and I am full of endorphins.

Post production

When the webinar is over I am totally exhausted and at the same time overjoyed and full of endorphins. I finish the replay email and add links I have mentioned in the webinar or that viewers have asked for. I answer more emails, usually lovely ones. A week or two later I send out the last email asking for feedback to make future webinars better.

I hope to see you in upcoming webinars! I plan to make at least one more before 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!

Spinning at work

I always bring some textile craft to work for coffee breaks and meetings. Usually knitting or nalbinding, but lately I have been spinning at work with a suspended spindle. The people around me have very different approaches to my spinning and I enjoy responding to people’s reactions.

Spinning as a safe space

Spinning is a safe space for me. I can spin in my own bubble and at the same time listen to the conversation around me. I need these safe spaces. If we have a coffee break at work and I’m not up to a conversation I can just spin away and take part when I want to and still get new energy. Spinning helps me take in the conversation and place it in a context without getting exhausted. The process of spinning helps me see the bigger picture and find solutions, much like a conversation or (thought process) can be more efficient during a walk, at least in my experience. The process of walking or spinning helps the mind find new paths and a direction of the topic.

Spinning for perception

During department meetings at work I bring my spindle. It helps me focus and take in the information. The combined auditive, visual and sensitive signals give me a better chance of remembering and understanding what is being said. In case the meeting is boring the spindle helps me stay alert. Recently I attended a mandatory training together with a colleague. She said that she was jealous of me who had something to do while listening to the speaker.

A suspended spindle in motion.
I spin at coffee breaks or, like in the picture, on department meetings. Many of my colleagues are softly gazing at the spindle during the meeting.

If I am worried that someone thinks I’m not interested in the meeting I just make sure they notice that I am alert and understand the topic. My boss has commented that I look so calm and at peace when I spin, and she is right.

The watchers

Some colleagues just watch the spindle – the spindle in motion, the rhythm or my hands drafting the fiber. Most of them don’t say anything, but I know they are watching. I also know that my spinning starts something in their minds. Perhaps they enjoy the calming effect of the spindle or think of a foremother who was skilled in a textile technique. Even though nothing is being said I know there is a connection between us, like a diffuse cloud of thoughts merged together into something more palpable, just like the undefined bundle of fiber merges into the twist of the yarn.

A conversation starter

Not often, but sometimes someone asks about my spinning or comments. Perhaps they ask about the breed or comment on the calming effect the spinning has. It usually turns into a lovely conversation about sustainability, the respect for handmade things or the cost for individuals when we buy a cheap T-shirt. These conversations are important for the understanding of something that we too often take for granted. We depend on people making our clothes in shitty conditions, no pay and lots of chemicals. If I can make people around me aware of the time and effort invested in our textiles I have done something good. Perhaps someone decides not to buy that cheap T-shirt next time or buy a more expensive and durable T-shirt that lasts longer and that has been produced in more fair conditions.

A hand holding a suspended spindle in motion in a hair salon.
A while ago I brought my spindle to the hair dresser’s. It started a conversation of the fibers as the hair dresser thought the wool looked a lot like human hair.

A good thing

Whether the people around me just watch, think, comment or ask question I am certain that the reactions are positive. Spinning brings ancient techniques to people’s mind and make them think of times when today’s comfort wasn’t taken for granted. Textile techniques are things of beauty and I believe people respect the skills, art and love that are the foundation of a handmade textile. I am a firm believer that spinning make the world a better and kinder place.

Yarn break

Recently some colleagues from another department started “Yarn breaks” every Monday and Thursday after lunch. We meet at the coffee station and do yarn stuff. Most of the participants knit or crochet at various levels and I spin. We set a timer at 30 minutes and yarn away. These are lovely little pauses. New yarn breakers joins in every week. The more experienced help the newbies and we are all engaged in each other’s projects. The premiere writ warmers were finished, the blueberry hat was given to a new baby and the ripped sleeve got re-knit.

A basket of yarn and open knitting books. A sign invites people to join the yarn breaks.
“Yarn break at noon Mondays and Thursdays. Everybody welcome. Annika treats you to yarn if you want to try.”

Spinning at work: A project

The wool I have been spinning these last few weeks at work is the outercoat of a multicolour Härjedal/Åsen crossbred that I have been writing about in previous posts. To make out the most of the colours I have divided the fleece into colour piles and spun each colour separately. I ended up with five colours of the outercoat.

I have thoroughly enjoyed spinning this wool. Since I have been processing the wool colour by colour it has never seemed like a mountain of wool to spin. Instead I have had a maximum of six combed tops at a time to spin. This way it has felt doable to spin everything on a suspended spindle.

A basket of wool staples, hand-carded rolags and hand-combed tops.
I prep the wool at home and bring to my spinning breaks at work.

I’m spinning this wool into a true worsted yarn intended as a warp yarn. Since it is outercoat only and combed it is freakishly strong even as singles. My plan for the yarn is to weave a bag of some sort. I intend to spin some shiny Klövsjö outercoat as well and dye it into a warm blue colour that hopefully will team up nicely with the browns.

Four skeins of yarn in shades of brown and a spindle with brown yarn.
Five shades of the Härjedal/Åsen lamb Chanel’s outer coat. Spinning at work pays off!

Do you spin at work?

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!

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!

2019 in my heart

A woman sitting by a computer. A knitting pattern book on a book stand is on the table. An autumn tree is reflecting in the computer screen.

2019 is almost over and I am looking back at the year with pride and joy. 2019 will bubble in my heart as a year of teaching, learning, designing and webinaring. In this post I share some of my highlights from 2019. This is a long post with lots of opportunities to read more. If you want to you can stay under a blanket and read for days!

Teaching and learning

I have done quite a bit of teaching this year, both online and face-to-face. In March I released an online course in supported spindle spinning. I have also done two course series in supported spindle spinning in Stockholm and one five day course in spindle techniques (A spindle a day) at Sätergläntan craft education center.

A person spinning on a floor-rested spindle
Learning to spin on a Navajo floor-rested spindle. Spindle by Björn Peck.

I love seeing students make progress in their spinning and in their analysis of spinning. To see them understand what they are doing, talk about what they are doing and eventually even explain to others what they are doing and why. It is such a reward for me to see students understand and develop in their skills and to know that I have played a small part in that – I have found a channel to their way of learning.

For everything a student learns I learn something too. At least when it comes to face-to face learning, when I am with the student in the classroom. But also in all the emails I get from spinners in general and from students in my online courses. Every time someone asks a question I learn something new. And I’m so grateful for your questions. It keeps me sharp and I constantly need to reevaluate and develop my teaching and writing.

Writing

There has been lots of writing in 2019 – 54 blog posts including the present. Over 50000 shows in 115 countries in all the continents of the world. The most readers are in the U.S. followed by Sweden, the U.K., Canada, Germany and Australia. This is a lot for such a narrow subject as spinning, and I only cover a small section of the subject. At the same time it shows an interest and a need for knowledge and likeminded people in an ancient and worldwide subject.

Lots of shows on the blog in 2019.

The most read post in 2019 was Calculations with over 4000 shows. In the post I made some calculations of a recently finished sweater. The post was shared numerous times. I think what thrilled people the most was my calculations of the time spent on making the sweater from fleece to a finished sweater (including the design of the sweater) and what it would cost based on an hourly fee for an average typical male craft.

Close-up of a grey sweater with white embroidered flowers
Photo by Dan Waltin

During 2019 I have published two articles and one pattern. In the spring issue of Spin-Off magazine I wrote about sorting a Gute and a Gotland fleece and in the fall issue I wrote about twist analysis and twined knitting and published a pattern of the Heartwarming mitts, a pair of half-mitts in twined or two-end knitting.

Article and pattern in the fall 2019 issue of Spin-Off magazine.

Twist model

One of the posts that I have learned a lot from is the post about the Twist model. The twist model is my way of reflecting over drafting and what we as spinners can do to draft easily and evenly.

The model is based on the extremes of twist: A lot of twist makes the fibers stable and the fibers can’t move. We have a yarn. No twist makes the fibers unstable – if we pull the ends in opposite directions the fibers will fall apart. In the middle stage, between the yarn and the fiber, there is enough twist to make the fibers slide past each other but not enough to make them fall apart – it is semi-stable. I call this the point of twist engagement.

The twist model
The twist model

The twist model is an important part of all my teaching. I teach all my students to open up the twist to find the point of twist engagement and they use the method with great success. I think most spinners open up the twist when they spin, but I haven’t heard anyone talk much about it or seen anything written about it.

Case studies

In the beginning of the year I did a blog series with different topics based on the sorting, preparing, spinning and knitting of a sweater, like a case study. I started by looking at the superpowers of the fleece I was using for the project and from there deciding how best to prepare and spin a yarn that would show those superpowers. In a later post I wrote about consistency and what I did to spin a yarn that was consistent through all the skeins needed for the sweater. I then described my design process from fleece to sweater and how I made decisions about the design with the superpowers of the fleece as my guides. My last post in the series was about calculations (see above).

A sheet of paper with wool, yarn and knitting samples
Selecting the superpowers of a fleece.

Breed studies and webinars

Another field where I have been using case studies is in my breed studies of Swedish sheep breeds – both in blog posts and live webinars. The first breed study was about Gotland wool, followed by Gute wool, Dalapäls wool and Värmland wool. The blog posts and especially the live webinars have been a success and I have had such fun making them. In both blog posts and webinars I have had one or more fleeces of the breed as a case study. I have looked at wool characteristics and showed how I prepare, spin and use the wool. I have also given a brief background of the breed in Sweden.

Spinning on a Navajo spindle on the Värmland webinar.

The webinars have been very popular. Almost 600 people have registered for the webinars so far! I think there is a need for this kind of forum in a community that is so spread over the world.

Making and live-streaming webinars is so much fun! I have done lots of work to prepare – around 10 hours for each webinar. But I have learned so much from them. More importantly, I have been able to be live and unedited with you, my followers and fellow spinners. Eventhough I have been nervous about every webinar I have felt safe in your presence, even if I have only seen your names in the chat window. Your support means so much to me.

Videos

During 2019 I have published 10 videos. Most of them about different spindle techniques, but other topics as well.

Spindle techniques

A person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight
Catch the light. Photo by Dan Waltin
  • About 50 meters from the solstice light spot is our allotment. In July I made a video under our hop arch where I spin from the fold on a Tahkli spindle.
  • In the early summer I got an antique French spindle from a follower and in August I published a video where I spin on my antique French spindle with a distaff. I tried to spin worsted using four fingers on my distaff hand to draft the fibers before they entered the drafting zone.
A woman walking on a country road while spinning
Walking and spinning deepens the senses of both the walking and the spinning. Photo by Dan Waltin
A woman spinning on a ground-resting spindle. She is sitting on a tree trunk in a spring forest.
Dancing the Navajo spindle. Photo by Dan Waltin

Winding, washing, teasing and twining

  • Usually I don’t shoot any videos in the cold part of the year because the lanolin makes drafting nearly impossible. However, in the first video of the year I showed you how I wind a ball with my thumb as a nostepinne. And that doesn’t require drafting.
  • In May I made my outdoor video premiere for the warm season with a video about how I tease the wool with combs before carding. The video also shows how I card rolags.In June I got my hands dirty showing how I soak wool with the fermented suint method. I started the soak in May and kept it until November. The gunky suint water hosted around 15 fleeces that are now clean.
  • We spent a few days in Visby on the island of Gotland in July and in September I published a video where I knit (with hands-on yarn) with the old technique of twined or two-end knitting. We walked into every ruin we could find (and there are a lot of ruins in Visby) to shoot the video, and also managed a few shots on the city wall.
A woman knitting in a ruin. There is no roof in the ruin.
S:t Clement’s ruin was my favorite ruin to knit in.

Designs and patterns

2019 has been my first year of knitwear designing. I have designed and knit five sweaters during the year – Margau Beta, Sounnie, Bianka and another two that you haven’t seen yet.

A woman sitting by a computer. A knitting pattern book on a book stand is on the table. An autumn tree is reflecting in the computer screen.
Pattern making is a long, but rewarding process. Frustrating at times, but I learn a lot.

Some of you may also have seen that I have published my very first pattern – the Heartwarming mitts. I have already seen two pairs finished! The feeling of looking at someone else’s project made from your pattern is so lovely and just that – heartwarming.

Sounnie the Gotland top. Photo by Dan Waltin
Sounnie the Gotland top. Photo by Dan Waltin

Patrons

Just like many other creators I have a Patreon account. Patreon is a membership site for creators. Followers can pledge a monthly fee to their favourite creators. In return they get exclusive content from that creator. Examples of the exclusive content my patrons get are early access to new videos, patron only material, course discount and a patron exclusive video library.

While I do have patrons that pledge every month I need more. I spent lots of time making content in blog posts, videos and webinar. This is free and always will be. But with the pledges from my patrons I am able to get equipment to ease some of the burden off that work and make better content for you. So far I have been able to get a proper studio light for my webinars, a captioning service to let someone else caption my videos and a better microphone for webinars. You can check out my Patreon page here.

A big thank you to all my patrons from the bottom of my heart. You help me keep this ship afloat!

What’s in store for 2020

I have a few plans and hopes for 2020.

  • There will be more webinars in 2020. There are more breeds to cover, I love making the webinars and from the statistics and feedback I have received you seem to enjoy them too.
  • I will release new online courses! I have lots of material for an upcoming course. The topic is still a secret but I think you will like it.
  • Face-to-face courses in Sweden are also planned. A spindle a day will run at Sätergläntan this summer and I have a few more courses in other topics planned that haven’t been published yet.
  • I will keep designing. My idea is to design for the yarn I spin. Some of it for myself and some as published patterns. At least one pattern will be released in 2020, but I can’t tell you anything more about that yet.
  • Articles in spinning magazines are on the way. One in the summer issue of PLY magazine.
  • I will be weaving a lot this year, I want to experiment with fulling and sewing garments from my handspun fulled fabric.
  • My stash busting project will continue. My handspun stash is bursting and I need to make something of the yarn that I have spun. I have just finished two projects and started another two. You will see more of these processes soon.
  • And of course I will continue blogging and making videos.
  • What do you wish for in 2020?

2019 still bubbles in my heart and fills it with pride and joy. I look forward to spinning, blogging, video shooting and live-streaming in 2020. Hope to see you there!

A woman wearing a knitted sweater in shades of grey, from natural white at the neck to dark grey by the hips.
The finished Bianka sweater. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Happy 2020 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!