Little ball of yarn

I wanted to spin a yarn that would tell its own story. Raw. Naked. With nothing to hide. Just present itself in its own splendour, on its own merits. This yarn of mine, this little ball of yarn, is a tribute to the wool it was made of.

You know when you happen to go to a fleece market with no intention of buying and you find yourself leaving the place with five bags of fleece? I’m sure you do know. This happened a year ago on the Kil sheep festival, Fårfest i Kil, just weeks before Covid hit Sweden on a larger scale.

Pax

Little ball of yarn. Once soft staples of wooly locks, with gentle swirls in their tips. Peaceful, just like the ewe from which they were shorn: Pax. Peace. Such a suitable name for such sweet curls. My hands can’t resist, can’t help touching – sparkling, giggling, electrified by the joy of soft sheepness. In a paper bag filled with peace and love.

In a corner of the fleece market at the festival I found a sheep farmer who had wool from her Värmland sheep. Large paper bags with sheep’s names and fleece weights written across the brown, coarse structure of the bags. I had all the wool I needed, but what’s the harm in just peeking at the fleeces? Perhaps cuddling with some staples?

Sweet staples of Pax's Värmland locks in shades of brown.
Sweet staples of Pax’s Värmland locks in shades of brown.

I peeked with one eye, then the other. One hand into the bag and, without warning, the other. Peeking into the bag labeled Pax. Just a little. And a little more. A billowing mass of brown staples emerged from the depths of the containers, flooding my hands. Singing, luring, calling my name. Come, come, feel how soft, look at my colour range and curly swirly tips!

Colours and textures

Little ball of yarn. From staples in every possible shape, wave and manner. Strike a pose, do your thing. And the colours. Oh, the colours. I dive into the spectrum of a fleece in all shades of brown. Rosy hazel, misty driftwood and solid walnut. On a closer look, all the colour segments in their own shape and manner. Matte, yet shiny. Subtle, yet vivid. Shy, yet bold.

I have a soft spot for coloured fleeces. Most coloured wool from the Swedish heritage breeds display a wide array of shades from light to dark. And with that, often different textures to different colours over the body of the sheep. Another dimension to explore and loose myself in.

Hazel, driftwood and walnut. All part of Pax's fleece.
Hazel, driftwood and walnut. All part of Pax’s fleece.

I decide to explore the colours of Pax’s fleece. Brown is just a collective name here, there are several nuances to dive in to. From the lightest latte to the darkest walnut. Some solid and some built up of a range of shades. All bringing depth and a longing to see more. The different coloured staples have different texture and appearance. All soft, but differently so. Soft is just so insufficient a word here. How do you describe staples that are soft in different ways? I want a range of descriptives here, a candy store of epithets of softness to choose from! I don’t drink wine, I do wool. So give me the range of ways to articulate wool the way a wine taster does wine.

Round and round

Little ball of yarn. I call your name. But what is your name? How do I make you justice? How do I mirror your soul in a yarn? I want you to shine in all your sheephood. Raw. Simple. Naked. Still elegant. Honest. Safe. The colours displayed, yet the fibers blended into one United Roundedness. Yes, now I know your name.

I choose to card rolags from the sorted colours. Such lovely acquaintances, all of them. Through the cards I get to know the characteristics of each colour. The whispering, almost escaping walnut. Perhaps better matched with finer cards. The hazel somewhat unruly. Driftwood staples mature and kind. Still, all comform into round rolag cylinders, built by a tight collaboration between the fibers and the air between them.

I'm spinning singles on a floor supported Navajo style spindle.
I’m spinning singles on a floor supported Navajo style spindle.

I see before me a singles yarn. Round. Simple. Consistent. A yarn that says it just how it is, with no ulterior motive, nothing to hide.

My favourite tool for a singles yarn is the floor supported Navajo style spindle. With this spindle I get to stretch and allow space to the draft. The long draw from my lap to the tip of my outstretched fiber hand. I love the way the technique allows me to use my whole body while spinning.

The dance

Little ball of yarn. How sweet a spin, a dance to make you shine. In one end flat hand, mindfully rolling the shaft, allowing it to twirl from tip to tip. In the other a closed hand, holding the wooly treasure, like a baby bird. Gently, gently. The strand between, conveying the message between the hands, like a tin can phone between the closest of friends. Hands following to the wool through the yarn, leaning in, listening to the whisper of the wool.

Spinning on a floor supported Navajo style spindle is like performing a choreographed dance. Photo by Dan Waltin
Spinning on a floor supported Navajo style spindle is like performing a choreographed dance. Photo by Dan Waltin

Spinning on a floor supported Navajo style spindle is a joy. I love how fast the yarn spins up, how I get to use my whole body in the process and how my hands need to really listen to the yarn and cooperate to perform the dance choreographed by the strand between them. Through spinning with this tool I get to more fully understand how the draft goes into the twist and how I can open up the twist to manipulate the semi-spun yarn in the direction I want it.

This particular wool is light and cooperative. Listening to it is easy and joyful. While the different colour rolags don’t work exactly the same I can still adapt the spinning so that they come out in the same manner in the yarn.

A skein aswirl

Little ball of yarn. So full of energy. spiraling here, swirling there. Charged with spinning spirit, never still, ever moving. A hot and cold dip will relax, ease and slacken. Allow stillness and peace in the whirl. The twist from the dance is forever trapped in the strand. Where did it go? What else has changed?

Knitting with energized yarns like singles presents some interesting challenges – unless you knit a balanced pattern (like garter stitch or rib) there is a good chance the knitted fabric will end up biased.

A fulled skein of Värmland wool singles.
A fulled skein of Värmland wool singles.

I decide to full the yarn by shocking it. In the fulling process, which can be seen as a light felting, the scales in the fibers catch on to each other, tightening up the yarn slightly and calming the energy down. I dipped the skein in hot and cold water until I saw that the strands in the skein had started to grab on to each other. Värmland wool does tend to felt. Instead of seeing this characteristic as a threat I allowed it to become a superpower to help me calm the energy down.

Little ball of yarn

Little ball of yarn. The strand light as a feather, sweetly wrapped around my thumb, keeping it safe. Layer by layer wound onto the ball, becoming the ball. The clarity of the single strand, the combination of colours, invite me to follow a sole fiber. Round and round individually, yet holding on in a wooly togetherness, streams of air in between.

A finished little ball of yarn. Värmland wool hand carded into rolags and spun with long draw on a floor supported Navajo style spindle. 12-ish wpi. 11 grams, 36 meters, 3234 m/kg before fulling.
A finished little ball of yarn. Värmland wool hand carded into rolags and spun with long draw on a floor supported Navajo style spindle. 12-ish wpi. 11 grams, 36 meters, 3234 m/kg before fulling.

And so it is here. My little ball of yarn. Only a simple sample of 11 little grams, still filled with hopes and dreams of a fabric, a design, a garment. A soft promise of a continued crafting adventure. My hands tingle to knit with it. At the same time I am reluctant to pull the inner ends braid to ruin the perfectly imperfect little ball of yarn. I want to look at it, follow the strand, follow the fibers, imagine its future.

I twirl the little ball of yarn and loose myself in the sections of hazel, driftwood and walnut.
I twirl the little ball of yarn and loose myself in the sections of hazel, driftwood and walnut.

Eventually I do dare. I dare to pull. Out it comes, the light single, new to the world. Not too skinny, not too floofy, just perfectly airy and pert, my little strand of yarn. Ready to meet its future.

A precious promise

Little ball of yarn. A precious promise of a transformation in shape, texture and vision. I close my eyes and see the shades of brown change in the fabric, walnut, driftwood and hazel float like water colour rivers in a painting, moving fluidly across the surface, inviting the curious to follow its paths.

I spun this yarn to pair it with a white yarn spun the same way from the same breed, only spun in the other direction. The combination of clockwise and counter-clockwise will further balance the structure, together with the fulling. Also it will offer balance to me when I spin – I spin with my left hand counter-clockwise and my right hand clockwise to work as ergonomically as I can. Alternating the two spindles also helps me avoid overworking one arm.

A triple tuck stitch pattern with the shades of Pax's fleece between rows of sheepy white.
A triple tuck stitch pattern with the shades of Pax’s fleece between rows of sheepy white.

This past summer I bought Nancy Marchant’s book Tuck stitches and lost myself (again) in the beautiful spectrum of this fascinating technique with endless possibilities. I picked one. To me, the yarns and the pattern make the perfect match. Soft, squishy, like freshly made waffles.

I do have a design in mind, another companion to the yarns and the structure. I’m just not telling you about it yet. But I will. I just need to spin the rest of the fleeces first.

I think I’ll get the waffle iron out today.

Little ball of yarn. Thank you for allowing me to discover your soul, for fueling my creativity and for giving me peace.

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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.

Knit (spin) Sweden!

Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!

Sara Wolf has written the lovely book Knit (spin) Sweden and I’m a co-author. The book has been out for a while, but due to Brexit and lockdowns I got my hands on it only last week. Today I give you a sneak peak of the book.

The more I read this book the more I’m fascinated by Sara’s thoroughness and knowledge. She leaves no stone unturned in finding answers to her questions. And even when she has no answer she does her very best to present as complete a picture as she possibly can. I am so glad to know her and proud be part of this book.

Sara Wolf

Sara Wolf has had a long career in museums as a textile conservator. She has a great passion for textiles in general and knitting in particular. Through her many travels, Sara has developed a deep interest in different knitting techniques and traditions around the world. While she teaches knitting she is always open to learning new techniques herself. I may be partly responsible for dragging her into the deep, deep spinning rabbit hole.

Sara has a long experience as a textile conservator, knitter and knitting traveller.
Sara has a long experience as a textile conservator, knitter and knitting traveller.

Knitting history in Sweden

While knitting is a relatively new textile technique it is still old enough to have a blurry origin. There are pieces of the puzzle, but we don’t have the whole picture. As the structured and organized reasearcher Sara is, she provides us with a lot of pieces that lead us not to a clear picture bot a lot closer to one. One example is an Egyptian sock, dated between the 12th and 14th century. The sock is knit with intricate stranded colourwork and has complex toe and heal constructions. This leads Sara to the conviction that knitting started a lot earlier than the dating of the sock. And together with findings of coins from over 20 different nations in the island of Gotland in the 9th century it makes the idea of an early arrival of knitting in Sweden very appealing.

Swedish knitting designers

Sara has chosen to portray five Swedish knitting designers and their work – the two-end knitting patterns of master knitter Karin Kahnlund, Viking inspired cable design by Elsebeth Lavold, floral stranded colourwork by Katarina Segerbrand, everyday cable garments by Ivar Asplund and the work of experimenting designer Kristin Blom.

Swedish fleece and fibers

In the fall of 2018 Sara contacted me via my blog and asked if I could spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds for a book (this book) she was writing. I was a bit reluctant at first, but we really connected and soon I sent handspun yarns from Swedish sheep breeds across the pond to her. She in turn knit swatches of my yarns.

The section in the book about Swedish fleece and fibers is almost entirely focused on Swedish sheep breeds and the wool they produce. This is the part of the book where I come in. While Sara describes the Swedish sheep breeds, I write about my process and what I think of the wool I work with. She has then written about her experience with the yarn in knitting.

I finally have the book Knit (spin) Sweden in my hands!
I finally have the book Knit (spin) Sweden in my hands! My contribution to the book is handspun yarn and some of the sections in the chapter of Swedish fleece and fibers.

My handspun in Sara’s hands

Having someone else knit with my handspun yarns is a new experience to me. Sara has some really interesting points as a knitter that differ from mine as a spinner. Some of the yarns are too scratchy as a knitting yarn, which I was fully aware of when I sent them to her. No matter how much I want a yarn to work as a knitting yarn, Sara with her long experience and skill as a knitter can pinpoint what it is that makes a particular yarn less suitable for next to skin garments. This understanding confirms my decision a few years ago to learn how to weave to be able to use yarns from the whole spectrum of spinning possibilities– from the softest of soft next to skin knitting yarn to the coarsest rug weaving yarn.

Yarn shops, mills and fairs

In three of the chapters in Knit (spin) Sweden Sara goes through places to visit in Sweden – yarn shops, craft shops, museums, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists, wool and knitting fairs and much more. She writes about how to get there, what to expect and where the real treasures are.

Three chapters of the book Knit (spin) Sweden are dedicated to yarn shops, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists and fairs all over Sweden.
Three chapters of the book Knit (spin) Sweden are dedicated to yarn shops, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists and fairs all over Sweden.

Sara has visited many of these places during her travels to Sweden and bought their yarns. Just as with my handspun yarns she has test knitted all the yarns and tells us how they feel when knitting and as a fabric and in what kind of technique and use she thinks they will be best suited.

Knitting patterns

Are you curious about trying some Swedish knitting patterns? In the book Sara offers 11 patterns, featuring traditional patterns from different regions in Sweden and from some of the featured designers in the book. Sara has also adapted some of the historically interesting findings into patterns. I have contributed with a pair of two-end knitted wrist-warmers using traditional crook-stitch patterns.

Glossary

In the back of the book Sara provides a Swedish to English and English to Swedish glossary of knitting and spinning terms.

Find Knit (spin) Sweden here

You can find Knit (spin) Sweden in several online bookstores in North America, Europe and Sweden. Check the publisher Cooperative press in the U.S., Amazon in the U.S., Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Book depository in the E.U., and Adlibris, Akademibokhandeln and Bokus in Sweden. On all the Amazon options you can look inside the book and read the first few pages, including Sara’s and my introductions.

Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!
Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!

Thank you Sara for all the hard work you have put in to this book and for inviting me on your journey.

Have you read the book? Let me know what you think!

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. Contributions from those who can afford it will also help keeping the content free for those who can’t. 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.

Dear Blanket

As a knitter of 35 years and a spinner of 8,5 years I have produced a lot of textiles. Some of them have wandered off to new adventures, some are used every now and then. Others are used and loved every day. One of these is a Shetland hap I spun and knit from Shetland fleece three years ago. This is a love letter to a dear blanket.

Dear Blanket,

we have been through a lot you and I. From a bundle of Shetland fleeces through washing, sorting, carding, spinning, plying and knitting to a finished Shetland hap. You had traveled a bit before you came to us. From the soft, green hills of Shetland to me in Stockholm. All four fleeces – white, eskit, shaela and mooskit – and pressed together. In plastic bags! I realize the humiliation of that, dear Blanket, but you did come to a good home in the end, didn’t you?

Once I had liberated you from that horrid plastic prison I gave you a lovely soak. You provided the lather from your soapy suint supply. Thank you for that! I did what I could to make you shine like the star you are. Softly spun with smooth long draw, rolag by rolag into a squishy 3-ply yarn and fashioned through an intricate but subtle lace pattern. The result: A perfectly lovely blanket. I think you rather enjoyed that! A traditional Shetland hap construction in all your Shetlandiness, but here with me in Sweden.

50 of the around 1000 grams of 3-ply handspun Shetland yarn that was made into a dear blanket.

We took the tram together to the craft leadership course, remember? Well, just the edges of you of course, way back when you were little and easy to handle. The tram ride took me 40 minutes. Very handy, I must say, since that is the time it took to knit two reports. As I worked my way in to the border and the middle you got increasingly harder to handle. The size of you! Towards the end of the knitting you covered most of my lap and half the sofa.

When you were finished

I made a hap stretcher for you, dear Blanket, to flaunt all your soft natural colours and lacey exquisiteness. It must have felt good getting de-wrinkled like that and straightened into your true shape, size and manner. Exposed to sun and daylight, just as you had been once on the hoof.

Nowadays

we hang out almost every day during the cold season. You just have that perfect nap size. Did you know that, dear Blanket? Your weight is light enough not to weigh down and heavy enough to feel safe and at ease under. I feel very privileged wrapped in you like a dumpling. You even have the wavy edges to match! Your natural colours and comforting wooly touch make me feel totally safe and at peace as your human-sized filling.

A person standing behind a stretched Shetland Hap
The Moder Dy hap. A dear blanket in a perfect nap size. Photo by Dan Waltin

In the evenings you are the perfect lap warmer for two people to snuggle under. Sometimes a teenager comes and worms themselves underneath your warmth with us. We don’t mind, quite the contrary. We are happy for whatever teenage snuggle we can get these days.

A dear blanket for two.
A dear blanket for two.

You have also joined me for Shavasana in my yoga practice. I bet you like that. No fidgeting, no fussing. Just a flat, relaxed, breathing body to cover.

Do you remember all the indoor huts you have been the floor, walls or roof of? With giggling children, soft toys and cushions making up a whole world for a precious moment. The giggling children are older now, sometimes more grumpy than giggly, and still use you for a hut. But they would never call it that these days.

The past few weeks

have been really cold, around -14°C at night. When I go to bed I steal you from the sofa, dear Blanket, and smuggle you up to the bedroom and drape you on top of my duvet. On occasions like these it’s like you undergo a transformation – from that everyday blanket in muted colours you suddenly stretch yourself into a majestic creation, like the train of an exquisite gown. Shining, suddenly. Beaming. Nights like that I imagine I sleep extra well underneath your wooly warmth.

The comfort of sleeping under a dear blanket in the cold winter.
The comfort of sleeping under a dear blanket in the cold winter.

Even though we enjoy your warmth and safety every day you don’t look a day older than when I unpinned you from the hap stretcher three years ago. I thank you for all the warmth and support you have provided us, dear Blanket. I hope you will continue to keep us safe and at peace.

A dear blanket to give warmth and comfort on cold winter days.
A dear blanket to give warmth and comfort on cold winter days.

All my love,

Josefin

P.S. I do wonder what will become of you when we are no longer with you. Who will treasure you? Who will know where you came from? Perhaps your heritage will be a secret to your future companion. Either way I’m sure you will warm someone else’s heart and become someone else’s dear blanket. And that’s the important thing.

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.

Spinning a song

With the information I have about the wool I work with I'm spinning a song. The cues I get as I spin give me the opportunity to also sing my spin.

In previous posts I have compared spinning with dancing – how the hands need to work together to find what the wool needs to become its best yarn. In this post I reflect over the similarities between spinning and singing. Today I feel like spinning a song.

Lead and backup

The other night I was watching an episode of a Netflix series. A talented singer was performing a song on stage. She also had a gutarrist with her. As she came to the chorus he acted as her backup singer. They had a focused eye contact and it looked like he watched her every movement to be able to follow her lead and back her up with every tone, duration and intensity to help bringing harmony to the song.

He had singing skills, experience and the knowledge of where she had been and where she was now. Together with both of their awareness of the present he was able to figure out where she was going and, through that, where he would go. It was a very intense moment where they totally trusted each other’s skills, knowledge and presence in the moment. It reminded me of the relationship between the wool and the spinner.

My hands learn about the wool through handling it and listens mindfully for cues to respond to during spinning.

On stage

When I spin, the wool is my lead singer, I’m the backup and the yarn is the song. I guess, in this analogy, the tools I use are the band. I have spinning skills and experience in general. Each fleece has its own characteristics that I need to keep in mind during the process. Through handling the fleece in all the steps I get a deeper understanding of this particular wool:

  • Through working with the fleece I get a sense of the length of the fibers. I adapt the twist and distance between my hands for a smooth spin and a twist to match the length of the fibers.
  • The quality of the lanolin left in the wool gives the wool a certain viscosity and decides how the fibers move in the spinning. Is it fast or slow? Light or tough? Or is there little to no lanolin left and the yarn slippery and unpredictable? My hands get an understanding of the role the lanolin plays in the way the fibers joins in in the twist.
  • Do the fibers work together as one or are they fighting each other? With stubborn fibers my hands need to make more of an effort whilst an agreeing preparation will allow my hands to work lighter.
  • Is the preparation fresh and airy or a bit old and stubborn? This will decide how much my hands need to work for the fibers to join the twist.
Working with the fleece gives me important information about how the wool is built up and how it behaves.
Working with the fleece gives me important information about how the wool is built up and how it behaves.

These are all cues I use when I spin. My hands remember how the wool behaves and they can adapt to my understanding of it. That is, if you will, the general knowledge of the wool. The wool is the lead singer here and I’m the backup singer. I need to get to know my lead singer but also be open to listening in the moment to be able to follow.

Mindful listening

Through mindful listening during spinning I get cues that tell me what is going on in this very moment. Is there a lump in the preparation that I need to take account for? Are there shorter or longer fibers in a section where I need to change the distance between my hands? I can close my eyes and try to get a sense of the consistency in the yarn. When I draft, my hands will listen for the point of twist engagement, where the yarn is open for adjustments in twist and thickness. My hands remember the quality of the yarn. If I listen mindfully I can follow the wool’s lead and contribute to making the yarn shine.

Focusing on how the fiber behaves gives med cues to respond to when I spin.
Focusing on how the fiber behaves gives med cues to respond to when I spin.

Spinning a song

The wool I’m working with now is a rya/mohair blend for a sock yarn. The mohair is quite dense and the fibers like to stick together. The rya is more airy, so in this combination there are parts that are airy and parts that are denser. I try to tease and card the blend to the best of my ability, but there are still critical spots here and there when I spin. Through the preparation of the wool my hands have gained a basic understanding of how the blend works. It’s not the walk in the park kind of wool, but I am getting to know how it sings. With this knowledge I have a better starting point when I spin. I listen for cues that have become clear to me during processing and I have a pre-understanding of what may turn up.

My hands listen carefully to the information they can get from the fibers in the yarn I'm spinning.
My hands listen carefully to the information they can get from the fibers in the yarn I’m spinning.

Just the other week I realized the difference between freshly carded rolags and rolags that were a week old. The older rolags were stubborn and fighted me while the fresh ones were a lot more cooperative. A freshly made rolag made spinning my song so much easier.

Singing a spin

In this sock yarn song the notes are difficult and the lead singer way ahead of my game. But I do my best to listen mindfully and learn as much as I can from my lead singer. I try hard to learn where my wool has been, where it is in this moment and where I can expect it to be further on and be ready for new cues. By working with what I know about the wool I’m spinning a song. With the knowledge I gain from listening mindfully to the wool while I spin I am also able to think one step ahead and sing my spin.

My hands learn about the wool through handling it and listens mindfully for cues to respond to during spinning.
With the information I have about the wool I work with, I’m spinning a song. The cues I get as I spin give me the opportunity to also sing my spin.

Happy spinning!

Knit (spin) Sweden book is out!

The book Knit (spin) Sweden, written by Sara Wolf with me as a co-author, is out! Some of you have bought it already. I hope you enjoy it! The book is available in online stores. The link is to Amazon U.S. Check it out to read about the book and also look inside it. I’m sure you can find it in other web shops in North America too. I haven’t read it yet, because I haven’t got the book. The European printer is in the U.K. and the books are sadly stuck there in a Brexit innuendo and covid shut down.

Sara has written a history of knitting in Sweden and Swedish knitting traditions. There are also knitting patterns in the book. She visits yarn shops and sheep farms, museums and spinning mills in different parts of Sweden. My contribution to the book is the (spin) part. I have spun yarn from many of the Swedish sheep breeds and sent them to Sara in the U.S. for her to knit swatches with. I have written about my experience with the wool as well as preparing and spinning it. Sara has in turn written about her experience knitting with my yarns.

You can find me in several social media:

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

55 grams of wool

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

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

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

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

A small ziplock bag

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

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

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

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

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

A smell and a smile

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

55 grams of Dalapäls wool
55 grams of Dalapäls wool.

The cast and the crew

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

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

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

Translate and transform

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

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

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

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

Once upon a staple

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

Separating outercoat from undercoat.
Separating outercoat from undercoat.

Locks of love

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

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

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

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


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

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Coming up

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

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

Writing

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

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

Teaching, coaching and lectures

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

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

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

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

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

Coming up: Coaching

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

Online course(s) and webinars

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

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

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

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

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

Spinning and making

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

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

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

Balance

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

2020 condensed

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

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

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

Stash and grab

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breed studies and webinars

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

Backstrap weaving

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

Tech tips

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

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

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

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

Meditations

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

Teaching

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

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

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

Writing

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

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


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


Happy spinning in 2021!

You can find me in several social media:

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

Weaving with the trees

Photo by dan Waltin

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

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

Turning the train around

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

The landscape

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

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

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

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

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

Rain shadow

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

The trees

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

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

The wool

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

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

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

The yarn

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

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

Sticking to it

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

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

Sources

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

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

Weaving with the trees

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

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

Being a part of the loom

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

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

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

Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support Andean textile artists

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

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Mending

A couple of years ago I made a pair of socks in nalbinding. I made them striped in two colours and fulled them for extra strength and durability. I have loved them and worn them a lot during the years, which has resulted in holes. Today it is mending time.

Mending to reinforce

Yesterday I had a whole day of zoom lectures in a university course I’m taking in my day job. I decided to use the screen time for mending socks. Use in sort of a reciprocal way – I use the lecture to mend socks and the sock mending to reinforce (literally!) what I hear. It is like the lecture sets itself in the yarn and is woven into the socks, stitch by stitch.

I actually had a whole different blog post planned, but this one just bubbled up as I was sitting at the morning lectures and now I suddenly have mended socks. Sometimes a blog post just jumps at you and makes some extra blogging and crafting sense. This was such a time.

Old socks with new holes

Nalbinding is a very old technique where you basically sew, or rather knot, the yarn around the thumb and in different ways over and under the thumb thread. The resulting fabric becomes very strong since A: the threads go over and under each other and B: you can’t pick a thread and unravel it. Oh, well, I’ll show you instead:

Nalbinding the Dalby stitch.

When I nalbind I always full it to make it even stronger, and I did for these socks too. But sooner or later there will be holes from wearing. If I remember correctly, I think I have mended these socks once before, under the heels, which would be the most logical place for the first holes in socks. I think I did that mending by adding more nalbinding.

The mending scene

The white yarn in the socks is a rya/finull cross which is quite strong. Originally I spun it as a warp yarn for a blanket. It is 2-plied and a sport weight-ish yarn. The dark grey yarn is superfine Shetland wool I think – a fingering weight 2-ply yarn that I spun for something else, I don’t remember what. So the fibers in the dark grey are finer and the yarn thinner than the white yarn. And neither of the yarns was originally spun for socks.

As I decided today was mending day I found some of the original white yarn. I decided to use it for all the holes, both grey and white. This resulted in some sort of semi-visual mending. If you count the soles of the feet as visual, that is.

Looking at where these new holes are gives me some clues to how my feet work and how the yarns in the socks work. On both feet the holes are on the inner side of the heels. This is an area with lots of abrasion and despite the strong white yarn and the strong technique plus fulling the holes are a fact. I had made the previous (nalbinding) mending on the bottom of the heels.

Close-up of a nalbinding socks with two holes under the ball of the foot. A laptop in the background.
Holes in socks and a whole day with zoom lectures. What are you gonna do?

There were also holes on the dark grey stripes on the inner sides of the balls of the feet. This tells me that the dark yarn is weaker than the white yarn (which I knew of course) and that there is a lot of abrasion on that part of my feet. I have high arches. On the quite slim areas of the soles of my feet that do touch the ground, the pressure is quite high. This is something I make mental notes of for future sock projects.

I mend

I decided to weave a new fabric over the holes. I’m sure there is a fancy name for this kind of mending, I just haven’t learned it yet. Or is it just called darning?

Close-up of a sock in mid-mending.
After I have sewn a running stitch around the hole I sew long stitches across it as a “warp” and then weave the weft up-down up-down in a simple tabby weave to make a new fabric over the hole.

Anyway, I started by sewing a running stitch around the hole or worn part. The running stitch works as a strengthener of the edges of the darning and as a marker of where the hole is. In the next step I made long stitches across the hole, the warp if you will. I started and finished the warp threads on the outside of the running stitch border. In the final step I wove a tabby weave through the warp with a darning needle and fastened the thread.

I sew a running stitch (blue) around the hole (black) and sew long “warp” threads across the hole (horizontal red) and then weave the weft (vertical red) with the darning needle up-down up-down through the warp into a tabby weave.

I was very happy with the result. It just feels like such a pity that my pretty mending is on the soles of the feet where no one can see them!

Symmetric wear on my socks has been mended with tabby weave darning.

Extra reinforcement

In one of the socks I found a flat piece of felted wool that must have been pulled out of the fabric by my sweaty feet (sorry for the perhaps too illustrative explanation, but I do have a point). I decided to take advantage of the felted patch and place it on the inside of the heel mending as an extra strengthener for a spot on the socks with lots of abrasion. After all, that is probably where the wool on the loose came from in the first place!

Pretty woven squares on my previously naked heels.

A happy mending

I have done this kind of mending before, but never this organized and geometrical. It must have been because I saw the experience as blog worthy and made an effort to do it properly for you. So thank you for helping me make a pretty mending!

Suddenly I feel the urge to flaunt my mended socks. Have you ever found yourself wanting to flaunt your mending? I’m sure you have. A mending is a sign of love and tribute to something you hold dear, an opportunity to give back to the sock that has kept your feet protected and warm for so long. An anthem for cherished socks.

As you can see from the shape of my feet I have impressive bunions on the insides of my feet. I can see that the dark grey stripes are thinning on these parts, so they will be my next area to mend. I will keep my mending radar turned on for the next lecture.

The soles of two feet dressed in mended socks.
My socks are mended and my feet are ready for new and wooly adventures.

By lunch I had finished my sock mending. Lucky for me I had prepared a spindle for the afternoon lectures! For more mending adventures, read my portrait of a sweater post. And oh, for an excellent book on mending, get Mend and patch by Kerstin Neumüller. It is available in several languages.

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.

A warping meditation

Sometimes I loose myself in the crafting moment. The senses take over like a force of nature and guide me through my process, sweetly, mindfully. My fingers know what to do and still they experience every movement and every sensation as if for the first time. I had one of those sweet moment the other day while I was warping. So today I give you a warping meditation.

I have just come back from a morning swim in the pale morning sun. It is early November and the trees still have some yellow and red leaves on their branches. Heaps of leaves in all shades of red, yellow and brown are scattered over the ground, inviting, enticing. The musky autumn smells swirl around me, whispering sweet autumnal hymns in my ears.

A warp in waiting

Meanwhile, eight skeins of handspun Gute yarn are waiting in the book shelf. My plan is to weave a loose sett and full the finished fabric into a sturdy wadmal cloth. I decide today is Warping Day. Usually I warp longer projects at the local weaver’s guild, but due to the pandemic I don’t want to put the elderly ladies in the guild at risk. The sun is warm on our terrace and that will be my warping zone.

Five skeins of grey yarn.
2-ply Gute yarn, waiting to be put to use.

The whispers of a fleece

As I grab one of the skeins I immediately feel the soft and safe message from the lanolin in the yarn. The smell, the touch and the soft colours take me back to the staples I processed just a few weeks ago. Strong, light and rustic. It also reminds me of the Gute sheep that gave me the wool. I received the gift of wool and it is now my mission to make the strengths of the fleece justice as a textile.

Close-up of two mittened hands holding a skein of grey yarn. Yellow autumn leaves on the ground.
Strong outercoat, soft undercoat and brittle kemp fibers in my 2-ply woolen spun Gute yarn.

I look at the skein in my hand and see the different fiber types – the long and strong outercoat, some fibers finer and some coarser. Soft, soft undercoat in sparkling silvery white. Rough and short kemp fibers that point in a direction of their own choice. I know that a majority of the kemp fibers will fall out of the yarn as I weave, leaving air pockets, making the cloth warmer and softer.

A warping setup on a terrace. A woman dressed in jacket, hat and half-mitts is warping.
A sunny terrace in November is a splendid substitute for a weaving room.

Warping in the November sun

I bring my tools out to the terrace, secure the warping peg and mount the umbrella swift on the fence. The skein on the swift sparkles in all its glorious shades of grey, turning round and round on my command as I feed the yarn to the hungry warp.

Close-up of a warping outdoors.
Thread by thread I build the skeleton of the weave in a warping meditation..

A warping meditation

The yarn goes through my hands over and over again, just as it has many times before during sorting, washing, carding and spinning. The strand in my hand leaves a touch of its wooly magic, like a gentle puff of lanolin and sheephood on my fingers. Inch by inch my fingers attentively follow the thread, from the loom, through the slot of the heddle, around the warping peg and back again.

I own this yarn. My hands made it and through the many hours of processing and spinning they know every fiber of it. Yet, it keeps teaching me new things every time I touch it and it will probably keep teaching me through its career as a fabric, on levels I don’t yet know will exist.

Close-up of a person pulling warp yarn through the slots of a rigid heddle. The person is wearing half-mitts.
Following the warp threads back and forth between the loom and the warping peg makes me present in the moment, like a warping meditation.

Thread by thread I build the frame of the warp, the very skeleton which I will dress, one shuttling after another, with woolen layers. My hands giggle as they touch the surface of this scaffold in the making. As I walk mindfully back and forth with the warp yarn in the shy November sun I remember that the Gute sheep I work with is an outdoor sheep, it stays outdoors all year round. Even the name is an acronym for the very outdooriness of the breed – Gotland outdoor sheep (Gotländskt Utegångsfår). I smile and hope the yarn enjoys being in some way in its natural habitat.

When I have reached the last slot of the heddle I smile at my newborn warp. I wonder what will become of it, how we will work together and what it will teach me next. As I go back inside I thank the sun with its pale rays for their warmth and comfort.

A sun salutation

This time of year I follow the sun – from the gentle sparkles accompanying me on my early morning swim, through the warm morning and mid-day sun by the spinning wheel in the living room and to the afternoon gold-pink-red transformation in my home office.

After a soup lunch I see the loom standing against the book shelf as I leave the kitchen. I can’t help myself and decide to start weaving, just a little bit. The rhythm of dressing the heddle is mesmerizing – Slot, hole, slot, hole all the way to the end. I tie the warp bundles onto the warp beam and feel for irregular tension with my fingers, eyes closed. I lift the heddle and the first shed is born. As new sheds are created between the shuttled weft threads I feel them again – the soft rays, on the side of my face. The sun has rounded the house and reached the office where I weave.

A woman weaving on a rigid heddle loom by a sunny window.
After lunch the sun has reached the other side of the house, where my home office is.

I finish today’s session and put the loom back agains the book shelf. Looking down on the floor I see little heaps of kemp fibers that have decided to leave the yarn and seek their own adventure, just as I anticipated. A new chapter of the weaving journey has begun and I cherish every second of it.

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.