Påsöm embroidery wool journey

This weekend I enjoyed the 2022 wool journey with my wool traveling club. The five members traveled from near and far to the small village of Dala-Floda where the påsöm embroidery technique has its origin and bloom. Have a peak at the påsöm embroidery wool journey!

The wool traveling club started in 2014 and had its first journey in 2015 to Shetland for Shetland wool week. Since then we find locations we can reach without flying. This was the first time all five of us could make it.

The påsöm tradition

Dala-Floda (or Floda which is the local name) is widely known for its traditional costumes and, especially for the very rich embroidery technique called påsöm. “På” means on or on top of and “söm” means seam, so a seam on top of something. The something has traditionally been broadcloth and two-end knitted items.

Our teacher for the course, Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg has a master craftsman’s diploma in embroidery. She is also very knowledgeable when it comes to the costume and textile traditions in the area. Her day job is as operation manager and antiquarian at the Dalarna museum. She also teaches påsöm embroidery, costume traditions and other textile techniques in her own business, Flodaros.

The påsöm technique is relatively modern, it came with the zephyr yarns and synthetic dyes in the mid-19th century. Embroidery was common in the area before that, but the yarns and the dyes marks a significant change in the expression of the technique. During the national romantic area women were hired as påsöm embroideresses.

A sewing hook works perfectly as a resistance to pull the stitches against.

Traditionally påsöm has not been practiced with embroidery hoops. Instead the material has simply been pinned onto the skirt of the embroideress. When I got home from the course I dug out my sewing hook that worked very nicely with the broadcloth material.

The wool traveling club took a short field trip to the Dala-Floda costume parts second hand shop. It was the sweetest shed-sized store filled to the roof with cuffs, hats, suspenders, skirt hems, baby slings, tie- on pockets, jackets and watch pockets – all parts of the traditional Dala-Floda costume.

The påsöm yarn and the stitch

The yarn typically used for påsöm is a very loosely spun 4-ply merino yarn in rich and vibrant colours. The stitch with the blooming yarn is supposed to fill out the motif and create a bulky, almost three dimensional look. As I was afraid to ruin the expression of the embroidery and as I am not a reliable dyer, I stayed away from trying to spin and dye my own påsöm yarn. I use the Flodarosyarn that Anna-Karin has dyed.

Nearly all the stitches for flowers and leaves are made in double satin stitches while the stalks and occasional borders are made in stem stitches. The surface underneath the satin stitch areas doesn’t show.

Her royal Mossiness, queen of the conifer forest.

Sewing the airy 4-ply yarn with the double satin stitch results in a spongy, cushiony surface, like a patch of moss on a spruce stump in a newly rained conifer forest. I want to stop and gently soak my hands in it, greet and smell its royal mossiness, just like I do when I do get to the forest and find that sweet mossy spruce stump.

Transferring the pattern

There is a set of flowers and leaves that have traditionally been used for påsöm embroideries. Anna-Karin had made both templates and stencils for us to play with and find a composition that worked with the påsöm expression and the embroidered item.

Anna-Karin shows us a way to sketch the winding stalks and the position of the flowers. Then she plays with templates of different flowers to build the bouquet.

A wool surface can be very fuzzy in the world of a pen and difficult to stick to. Anna-Karin showed us how to first make a sketch on the surface and refine it with an erasable pen. Once we felt happy with the composition and placement we could mark the final pattern and inside lines with a permanent pen.

The påsöm nitty-gritty

Påsöm has its foundation in a winding flower stalk. All the leaves, buds and flowers have a relation to that stalk, making the impression of a bouquet of flowers. The flowers – like dahlias, roses, pansies and lilies of the valley – usually have several colours. Sometimes a tinting technique is used to create the transition between darker and lighter.

A main flower and winding stems make out the motif of my tie-on pocket. I will probably push in more leaves to create even more abundance in the bouquet.

The motif fills out as much as possible of the surface (usually broadcloth) to create an abundance. Lots of reds and pinks together with the leafy greens, but sometimes also blues and purples and perhaps accentuating yellows and whites.

The projects

I had several ideas for påsöm embroidery. The one I picked for the course was a broadcloth tie-on pocket. If you look at the pictures of the inspiration Anna-Karin brought to the class you can see several tie-on pockets with abundant påsöm embroidery. I used these as an inspiration for my own pocket. I also brought a handspun nalbinding hat that I had waulked, to get inspiration for pattern transferring and design.

Upcoming projects that I have arranged the tempalates on are a nalbound and walked hat and a piece of needle felt punch.

My very first påsöm project that I did a couple of years ago was a yoga mat in needle punch felt. A difficulty then was that I couldn’t get a marker to stick to the fabric, so I had to free-form the flowers on the material. I brought a piece of needle punch felt to the course to find a way to transfer the pattern to it without having to improvise it.

Ellinor decided to embroider a broadcloth sample patch. She had her three month old baby with her and didn’t have the opportunity to embroider as much as the rest of us. We didn’t mind taking the baby every now and then, though.

Boel and Anna started on broadcloth bags of different sizes and Kristin had knit and felted a sweater that she embroidered on.

The setting

The Dala-Floda inn is a pearl in the Dalecarlia landscape. A garden not much different from a botanical garden – plants of all shapes, sizes and foliages form sweet rooms to discover. Carefully tended with skilled hands and hearts. Organic and locally grown food cooked with love is on the menu. The interior equally sweetly and thoughtfully planned. All about the inn breathes sincerity and warmth.

I practiced my early morning yoga at 6.30 am in the garden, filling my lungs and my whole system with the cool September air and the sweet garden view.

The company

One of the best parts of going on a wool journey with the wool traveling club is of course the company. Some of us don’t see each other at all during the rest of the year, so when we meet there is a lot to catch up on. For a couple of days we bathe in each other’s relationships, children work and play. Crafting helps bring the conversation deeper and despite the short time we spend together we manage to find truly meaningful and deep conversations. We are sisters in craft. I always go home with a mixed feeling of sheer joy of the company and desperately missing them.

The wool traveling club in the inn garden – Ellinor with baby D, Kristin, Boel, me and Anna.

Thank you sweet sisters in craft, I learn so much from you. We are already planning our 2023 and 2024 wool journeys and I can’t wait for them.

Pending påsöm projects

I’m back home now, embroidering away on my tie-on pocket. I hope to get the hat ready before winter. I also want to try some påsöm on two-end knitted material. Påsöm embroidery has been common on especially mittens. You can check out some lovely church going mittens in my blog post about an earlier wool journey. I have finished spinning a two-end knitting yarn for mittens, but I need to spin some more before I can start knitting and embroidering.

I also have a pair of unfinished two-end knitted jacket sleeves that I would love to decorate with påsöm embroidery.

Regarding the needle punch felt material I have plans to make a sweet… no, wait, that’s a secret.

If you are a patron (or decide to become one) there is a video postcard from the wool journey available.

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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.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.

Mending hems

The other day I got a pair of third hand jeans. They fit me perfectly, but parts of the hems had been worn out, so I wanted to mend them. I threw out a question on Instagram and asked for advice on how to mend the hems. I got lots of really useful replies, some of which I decided to use and some of which to save for later. This post is all about mending hems.

When I was teaching at Sätergläntan craft education center this summer I met a woman who had the most beautifully visually mended pair of jeans. There were colourful embroideries all over the legs and they were just a joy to see. She had had them for 20+ years and mended them as soon as she had seen a hole, wear or tear.

One of my worn-out jeans leg hems.

With the mended pair of jeans as an inspiration I decided to take care of my own pair and mend them visibly as soon as I needed to, starting with the sad hems.

Decisions, decisions

Among the replies to my Instagram question, some were leaning towards blanket stitching around the hem, others towards embroidery and some towards a bias band. One suggested weaving straight onto the hem. I decided to embroider on a bias band on one leg and sew a tight blanket stitch on the other. The weaving I will save for later. I feared that it might get too bulky on a pant leg hem.

Blanket stitch

Both leg hems were worn, one a bit more and wider than the other. I chose the blanket stitch for the less worn leg. I have a box full of thrift shop embroidery yarn in wool, silk and linen. But for a pair of jeans I would need cotton. The only cotton yarn I had was a melange pink pearl cotton one, which was perfect for visibly mending hems.

I think I will keep my eyes open for more melange pearl cotton for future mending emergencies, I really liked this one.

Bias tape and sashiko

I wanted to use sashiko as the main mending technique for the more worn leg. I had bought a bundle of 26 beautiful Chinese handwoven vintage cotton patches from the 1960’s from Indigoloom that I wanted to use. They are all great candidates for both a bias tape and other mending techniques. Since I wanted to make my own bias tape out of the Chinese patch – another great tip from my Instagram question – I had ordered a bias tape maker.

The loveliest bundle of cotton patches, hand woven in China in the 1960’s.

In the Ultimate Sashiko sourcebook by Susan Briscoe that I had in my book shelf I found sweet patterns based on chequered fabrics. There were a lot of those in the bundle and I chose one of them. I figured that as a beginner it would be a good idea to use a chequered fabric pattern as a guide when I did the stitches.

The world isn’t square!

As I meticulously measured the cutting angle and width of the bias tape-to-be I realized that something was wrong. Only I couldn’t figure out what. I saw that I had measured the angle and the width correctly, but still the checks didn’t add up. Measuring again and again I scratched my head until it dawned on me: There was a weaving error!

A bias tape to be from a vintage Chinese hand woven cotton fabric with, as it turned out, sweet irregularities.

I had made the mistake of counting on the squares to be square. But that’s the thing – the world isn’t square! It’s full of wonderful irregularities and differences. Therefore, so is my bias tape.

The making of a bias tape

Making the bias tape was quite entertaining. Once I had cut the fabric on the bias I eagerly waited for the bias tape maker to arrive. Once it did it took me five minutes to grab the iron and ironing board and make the tape.

The bias tape maker is just a metal guide where you stick the flat strip of bias fabric into one end and end up with a folded tape in the other. As soon as the folded end appears you just iron it and there you have it!

My very first bias tape, made from a vintage hand woven Chinese cotton fabric.

I cut the frays on the pant leg edges and stitched the tape by hand on the inside of the leg with a backstitch. I stitched the top of the tape onto the front of the leg with a whipstitch.

Sashiko pattern

I used a komezashi variation for the sashiko part, that took advantage of the chequered fabric pattern. This meant that I didn’t have to create a grid for my stitches since it was already there. I did want to continue the pattern above the tape, though, so I did my best to follow the lines from the tape onto the denim.

When mending my hems I allowed the sashiko stitches to run over the denim as well as the tape.

Since the bias tape was longer than I needed I could easily have cut out the weaving error. I chose not to, though, but instead to embrace the perfectly flawed irregularity and work with it as it was. It will serve as a tribute to the weaver who reminded me that the world isn’t square.

It was interesting to use the sashiko technique for mending. I haven’t tried it just for the sake of sashiko yet, but I have plans to make little sashiko project pouches. Perhaps to keep my sashiko kit in.

Mending with love

I love my old new pair of jeans. Every time I mend them, which will be a treat and an act of love in itself, I will get that feeling that a new piece of clothing can give. A new start, a fresh breath. But with a smaller ecological footprint and hopefully with the inspiration for others to mend their own clothes with love.

A pair of mended hems.

As I plan to keep mending my jeans I also ordered a book on visible mending by Arounna Khounnoraj . It’s supposed to come next week. I’m secretly looking forward to more wear on my jeans. There is so much to explore! Thank you all who contributed to my cry for hem mending help.

Happy mending!


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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.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.

Upcycled linen pocket

A while ago I stumbled upon a vintage handmade embroidered linen purse on Swedish eBay. I immediately fell for the fabric and the embroidery. In this post I take you through my process of turning the purse into an upcycled linen pocket.

The purse was a bit too large for my taste and I have never understood the purpose of a bag that is meant to be held in the hand. How are you supposed to be able to craft if your hands are busy holding a bag?

The purse was beautifully made. The ad said hand woven and I have no reason to argue with that. The embroidery is very sweet in its simplicity and the two subtle colours. Both the front and the back of the purse were lined and all seams hand sewn.

British vs Swedish pockets

When I saw the ad I was reading the beautiful book The Pocket: A hidden history of women’s lives, by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux where all known secrets of tie-on pockets between the 17th and late 19th centuries are revealed. So naturally my mind went to a pocket when I played with ideas for the purse fabric.

If you make a search on the Swedish digital museum for kjolsäck, the Swedish word for tie-on pocket (literally meaning skirt sack) you find lots of embroidered and embellished pockets (and some plain) with a horizontal opening. In the book The Pocket, though, covering only British pockets, nearly all the samples have vertical lined openings and basically the same design throughout the the book, in both samples and artwork picturing pockets.

My first pocket was inspired by the traditional Swedish pocket design – in a rounded shape and with a horizontal opening.

I made my first pocket with more of a Swedish design with a horizontal opening. So why not make this one like the British model I had spent so much time reading about?

A pocket pattern

When I published pictures of my first pocket in social media I got a response from Anne/Hamblemouse who wants us to revolt and take tie-on pockets into the 21st century fashion. And why not – when there finally are pockets in women’s clothes they are usually too small and simple. And mobile phones usually too large and too heavy for said pockets.

Anne makes and sells tie-on pockets inspired by old patterns such as the ones in the book mentioned above. She also sells kits for making your own pocket, and patterns. I wanted to make a pocket the British style and figured a proper pattern would be perfect, so I bought Anne’s pocket pattern.

Anne’s pattern is very easy to follow and paves the way for a beautiful and sturdy pocket.

The pattern has very clear instructions with a thorough and sensible process. While the pattern is made for hand sewing nothing will stop you from machine sewing your pocket. I chose to hand sew mine. I mean, why bring out a 17 kilo sewing machine from the -60’s when you can enjoy some peace and quiet with needle, thread and some sweet hand sewing?

Anne’s pattern suggests lining the front piece. The lining peeks through the opening and strengthens it in the smartest way. My eBayed bag was lined in both front and back piece, so I used the lining for the back piece as well.

Basting!

The pocket pattern calls for basting/tacking in nearly all the seams. And what a beautiful invention basting is! I haven’t reflected much about basting before (and I used to sew a lot), but this pattern really opened my eyes for basting. It may take a little longer, but it will also give you more time with a lovely fabric in your hands. And once basted the main seam is a breeze to sew.

A woven band

I needed a band for the pocket and I wanted to weave it. I turned to Kerstin Neumüller who sells lovely linen weaving yarn for her band weaving workshops. She didn’t have the exact colours to match the embroidery on the bag, so I went with two shades of blueish grey to at least match the subtle shine from the combination of two colours on the bag.

At the time I had a migraine and stayed home from work. Weaving a band on the balcony may not take the migraine away, but it did take my mind off it for a while.

The yarn was so smooth to weave with, the shed opened itself and I just lifted my heddle strings and let the weft yarn sing its way through the warp.

Round braids to finish the warp ends in a tassel-like fashion.

Since the ends of the band would be visible I chose to make them fancy – I made round braids of the warp ends for a tassel look. The braids are fiddly to make and takes a bit of time (seven minutes per braid and there were 24 of them), but it was definitely worth the effort.

Upcycled linen pocket

After having braided until my hands couldn’t move anymore I was finally finished. I basted and attached the band to the bag and wove in all ends.

I do love this pocket, it turned out even better than I had imagined. It’s sturdy, strong and does its thing. I can choose to wear it when my pockets are non-existent, too small or too weak for whatever I want to carry in them.

I’m not finished with tie-on pockets. I have ideas for at least three more in different materials, techniques and styles. And it’s just that – there is so much you can do with a small project like a pocket. You can make it in different materials, styles, with or without embellishments. You can embroider, try out new techniques or combinations or just enjoy a moment with a small sewing project. And you get to weave a band! There is room for so much more than physical objects in a pocket.

By the way – Does anybody have use for a bagless bag handle?

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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.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.

Linen shirt

A hand sewn linen shirt from antique linen fabric is the theme of today’s post. I dive into seams, details and techniques and find it surprisingly peaceful and rewarding. Spoiler alert: None of this is my handspun.

A two year project is finally finished: A linen shirt. Photo by Isak Waltin.

A couple of years ago, just in the beginning of the pandemic, I took a weekend class in hand sewing a linen shirt. The course took place at Historical textiles‘ studio (just a bike ride from home) and was taught by Magdalena Fick, museum assistant at the costume collection at Skansen open air museum. She is also a reenactor and creates lots of historical garments.

We got to use fancy tools in the class – a bone folder for folding seams and hems and a sewing hook for for keeping the fabric taut when sewing.

We were four students in the class, sitting in separate corners of a giant table. A couple of the other students took the class for reenactment purposes and one to add to her regional costume. I just wanted to hand sew a linen shirt for the sake of a hand sewn linen shirt.

Fabric

We got to sew small samples of different seams and techniques, which was quite fun. A wedge here, a hemstitch there, a sleeve gusset and some smocking in between. We also got to buy fabric, plan our shirts and cut out the pieces.

I wanted a 100 per cent linen fabric and I wanted it to be handwoven. At the studio I found an antique linen fabric to die for. It was at least 120 years old. A bit scary as a beginner to take on such a treasure, but I figured it would be my only chance to handle fabric like that.

Antique handwoven linen fabric to die for.

The width of the antique fabric I got my hands on was only 40 centimeters, though, so I had some planning to do. As it turned out, 40 centimeters was a bit on the tight side over my shoulders and bust. As I continued sewing at home after the course had finished I realized that I had to choose between wearing the shirt and breathing. I of course chose the best option: Procrastinating.

Sewing (or not) at home

When I picked the shirt up again I turned to my friend Cecilia who knows everything about anything that is important. Like shirt alterations. She guided me by telephone in making wedges at the sides and at the back. It was difficult and the fit still wasn’t ideal over the bust. I procrastinated some more.

A couple of months ago I got some new hand sewing mojo and picked up the shirt again. I had gone down a couple of sizes since I started sewing the shirt, so the shirt fit very well over the bust, but was quite roomy over the waist. I decided to leave the fit as it was, I didn’t want to risk the beautiful fabric by altering the side seams again.

Slow and reflective

Sewing by hand is slow. Which, to me, is a superpower. It gives me time to reflect over what I am doing and to better plan ahead. And there is something very grounding in holding a fabric made of natural fibers and stitch by stitch transform a flat surface into a three dimensional garment that fits my body.

When I am sewing a seam I don’t think about the length of it, I just get into the rhythm or the stitching and breathe in the sewing moment. So simple, yet so complex. All textile work is true engineering and I am so fascinated over the intricate techniques that have stood the test of time and developed since time began.

Seam anatomy

I know you are all dying to see the wrong side of the shirt. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The wrong side of a garment tells a lot about the making. Well, I will not let you down. Here are some wrong side wedges for you.

It’s funny, I have sewn a lot of garments for myself in my life. At least up until around 20 years ago. And still I have never known the anatomy of a hand sewn garment.

One of the last things I made was a wedding dress for my best friend. I was reasonably confident in fitting and altering, but I had asked her not to get pregnant, that was an alteration I wouldn’t know how to make. On the day she was coming to collect the dress she whispered in my ear “I’m pregnant!”. I smiled and whispered back to her “So am I!”. I did sew some totally misshapen baby clothes after that, but once my child was born I didn’t want to risk having pins on the floor, so I stopped sewing altogether.

This was machine sewing, though. Hand sewing gives so many more opportunities to sew neat and strong seams. And that has been necessary since there was no such thing as a consumer society and clothes had to be kept in good condition to be worn and handed down over the generations. Clothes were sturdily sewn, patched, mended and altered until there was nothing left to put a needle in. We could use some of that knowledge and awareness these days too.

My friend got married and the dress fit her, despite her 12 week pregnancy. We both had sons who are now 19.

Neckline

As I had finished all the major seams of my linen shirt the most scary part was left: The neckline. I had just made a T-shaped cut at the top, large enough to fit my head. Now I had to plan, cut and sew the whole shape of the neckline.

This is how I constructed my linen shirt. Rectangles, squares, triangles, a hole for the neck and voilá! A linen shirt.

There is a freedom in making the pattern as you go along. One of the appealing parts of making a linen shirt in historical techniques is the simplicity of the pattern – rectangles for sleeves and body. A couple of squares for sleeve gussets and a handfull of triangles for wedges. A hole at the top for the head.

At the same time it is truly scary to take on the responsibility for the whole fit with just a handful of geometric shapes. That in combination with the antique fabric and my beginner’s mind scared me. At the same time I knew I needed to make something beautiful of the fabric. I had adopted it and it was my responsibility to make it work and make it beautiful.

A simple neckline. Photo by Isak Waltin.

So I tried the shirt on, placed a couple of pins, drew a couple of curves and cut out a neckline. And it looked beautiful! Just the right width and depth of the hole and a fitting slit at the front.

Lace

When Magdalena showed us samples of neckline lace seams on the course I knew I wanted to make one. Just a small lace triangle at the bottom of the neckline slit. Simple, yet elegant. So once I had hemmed the neckline I started to reinforce the edges of the neckline slit with a tight blanket stitch and a blanket stitch bridge at the top.

Laces stitch extravaganza in a booklet about seams. I chose number 108.

At the course we had used a lovely (discontinued) booklet about stitches. I managed to find one on Swedish eBay, though. After having oohed and aahed through the pages I chose one of the lace stitches and sewed a triangle inside my blanket stitch border. I managed to finish it and it was evidently a tiny lace triangle. But not very pretty. I tossed and turned in bed that night, knowing I could do better.

The next day I carefully and determinedly ripped the lace stitch and tried again. I realized that I hadn’t pulled the stitches tightly enough. My second try was miles away from the first one. A real lace triangle, and pretty too!

Hemstitching

Isn’t hemstitching the sweetest thing? Just pulling out a couple of weft threads and bundling up the warp threads in pretty patterns. Again, simple, yet elegant. And very time consuming. One sleeve took me one hour. But it was definitely worth it. Such a sweet stitch and such a lovely rhythm.

The rhythm of hemstitching is the sweetest!

I found myself looking for more places to sneak some hemstitching in, but I managed to control myself. Less is more. So I closed the hemstitching chapter by hemming the sleeve ends against the hemstitch seam.

Smocking

Can I have a smock too? Just a tiny one? I did have to do something with the sleeve ends, they were too wide and unpractical. And smocking would be smashing! So I made one, with four threads. It solved two problems: The width of the sleeves and my urge to sew smocking.

I love the result. Just on the right side of flamboyant. And sometimes that’s just what we need, right?

Monogram

The last detail of the shirt was a monogram. I have so many anonymous monograms in our linen cabinet from all the flea market sheets we have bought over the years. Small traces of people who once lived, loved and dedicated time and skill into beautifully embroidered monograms, but whose lives I would never know anything about. Except from those personal, yet anonymous letters. This would be my own monogram, a testament of my love and dedication sewn into that linen shirt.

I wanted it small but bold, so I chose a flea market bright red linen yarn for the embroidery and my upper arm for the placement and cross-stitched my little heart out. And, as it turned out, the bright red dye. It bled. Just by passing the thread past the neckline as I made the stitches, the neckline changed into a misty pink.

My very own monogram. Photo by Isak Waltin.

I texted Cecilia again. She said that the dye probably wouldn’t go out of the white linen and that it was a part of the cultural heritage. I replied that I had decided to sulk for a while before I would be ready to embrace the cultural heritage. I am over the sulking part for now, I’ll get back to you for a sulkiness update after the first wash.

A finished linen shirt! Photo by Isak Waltin.

I’m very happy with my linen shirt. I got a unique opportunity to dive into hand sewing and I learned some pretty groovy techniques, not to mention the thread waxing skills. I’m glad I managed to control myself and stick to those four details – the lace, the hemstitching, the smocking and the monogram. I would love to sew a fitted bodice to match the shirt.

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 missanything!
  • 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 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.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.

The flax princesses

There are many versions of the story of Sleeping Beauty. The brothers Grimm’s may be the most widespread one while the romanticized Disney animation may be the most known today. Recently I found a new version, though, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you aren’t familiar with the Berta’s flax project, started by Austrian fiber artist and teacher Christiane Seufferlein, read this post before you go on to the story of the Flax princesses.

I am often asked by non-spinners what the princess was stung by. Was it a part of a spinning wheel? Was it a spindle? Or a distaff? My standard reply is usually that while she may have said she was stung by whatever, she was actually just making sure she got some peace and quiet to be able to spin. The new version I found is about strong and independent princesses who save the whole community with golden flax.

The flax princesses

Once upon a time in a land far, far away – or near – where the golden flax grew all the way to the horizon, many bold and skilled princesses lived. All the princesses had precious spindles, wheels and looms. They knew how to take care of the golden flax and turn it into the most beautiful fibers, yarns and textiles.

Once upon a time in a land far, far away.

The princesses also knew that the golden flax was an important and valuable treasure. They weren’t extravagant with the golden flax, instead they saved it for days of hardship. To show how much they valued the golden flax they put it in treasure chests and adorned the precious stricks with paper flowers.

Princess Berta was a skilled spinner and weaver. She also shared the secret of the golden flax in the treasure chests with her son. Princess Gusti knew all the secret flax words. While Princess Maria spun her way through rough childhood winters, Princess Stephanie started a weaving service for her neighbours.

The years went by. Fewer and fewer people knew the secret about the golden flax. Spindles, wheels and looms were stored away or thrown out. The memory of the princesses and their skills was fading away.

One day people started to burn or bury the chests with the once golden flax. Nobody wanted it anymore and it took up too much space. For many years the secret of the golden flax was forgotten by most people. Until one day. A new princess came – bold, skilled and with a very generous heart. Princess Christiane was her name. The son of princess Berta had come to Christiane with Berta’s chest filled to the brim with her golden flax.

Princess Christiane kissed the golden flax and brought it to life again. She shared Princess Berta’s and many of the other princesses’ flax with the world. The stories of the princesses flew out of the chests and enchanted people wide and far. New skilled and bold princesses, with their wheels, looms and spindles polished, cared for the golden flax and made new textiles.

The golden flax, the old princesses and their stories would never be forgotten again. The old stories were spun together with new ones and the flax became golden again.

The story of the flax princesses does not end here, but continues to enchant the world.

Princess Christiane

As it happens, I took the train to Austria with my family just recently. I have an Austrian heritage through both my parents and have spent lots of summers there both as a child with my parents and as an adult with my own family.

My childhood summers were filled with hikes in the mountains around Salzkammergut in Austria.

This time I did get a chance to meet Princess Christiane. She drove for two hours to pick me up at the bed and breakfast where I was staying with my family, and drove another 40 minutes to Bad Ischl where there was an exhibition of traditional and non-traditional costumes in the breakfast parlour of the former emperor and empress. While the exhibition was very interesting and well designed, I enjoyed our talks more than anything.

Josefin and Christiane, both a little star struck. I’m wearing the shawl Christiane gave me.

Christiane is such a generous soul and we shared so many experiences. We talked of spinning, flax and spinning teaching as well as the stories all the flax princesses have told and entrusted Christiane with. And we were both a little star struck with each other.

Sister shawls

As I have been reading about Berta’s flax and all the work Christiane has been doing I have seen her wearing a beautiful shawl. While spinning my Austrian flax (from Princess Stephanie) I realized I wanted to knit something similar, like a sister shawl to the one Christiane was wearing. I spun the yarn and cast on for the project (Veela by Libby Jonson) in time for our long train journey to Austria.

When we arrived to our destination it was a very special feeling to pick up the needles and knit the sister shawl with the yarn I had spun from Austrian flax back home in Sweden, there in Austria. On the same ground where the flax had grown some 80 years earlier.

When I met up with Christiane she was wearing the shawl I had admired so. And when I told her about the sister shawl I was making she instantly gave her shawl to me. It was spun and knit by artists of a Nepalese cooperative, from Nepalese nettles.

A common thread through all the lands

As I am writing this I am going back home on the train to Stockholm, a long journey from Austria. I keep knitting the shawl from my Austrian flax yarn. The thread goes from stitch to stitch, but also from town to town along the way, knitting all the communities together into a kind-hearted flax weave.

We start our journey back home from Salzburg, Austria. I thank the mountains and the land that raised my father and my grandmothers and that is a part of me and my children.

Every time I pick up my knitting I feel the skills and love put into the preparation of the flax, the stories and the value it had and almost lost. I knit this shawl with so much love and respect (and some skin chafing on my index finger) for all the flax princesses.

When I met Christiane met I did take the opportunity to buy some more flax from her. This time I got five stricks (about 800 grams) that were harvested before the turn of the last century. It was safely rolled into her nettle shawl in my luggage on the way back home. I will spin it in Sweden and I will think of the Austrian roots of both myself and the flax.

Berta’s flax. This time with an unknown story. What I do know is that it comes from Walding near Linz and predates 1900.

Vielen lieben Dank Christiane! For bringing the flax world together through princesses all around the world, for the conversations, for your kind soul and for a nettle shawl that will keep warming my heart. I hope we can continue our conversations soon.

Resources

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 missanything!
  • 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.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.

Ground and explore

I have a daily yoga practice that I don’t want to be without. The time I give myself is a moment where I ground in my foundation and explore where my body can take me. On many of these explorations on the yoga mat I have felt a connection to spinning. Grounding and exploring is an important part of my spinning journey.

When I started spinning ten years ago I didn’t know much about spinning at all. I knew knitting and I knew that most of the Swedish wool was being wasted while we imported tons of wool from New Zealand every year. I had decided I wanted to spin a Z-plied yarn for two-end knitting, I knew these yarns were hard to come by. This was the base from which I started building my experience.

Ground

We all have a foundation to lean on, whether it is a few years of spinning practice, a lifetime as a sheep farmer, a reenactment passion or simply the gut feeling that spinning is for me. We all have some sort of connection to spinning, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. This is our foundation, this is our grounding. A safe place where we can connect to what we know.

Pia-Lotta the sheep and mittens from her fleece. Photo by Dan Waltin
Pia-Lotta the finull sheep and two-end knitted mittens from her fleece. Photo by Dan Waltin

My foundation was knitting and a sense of responsibility for endangered techniques and wool waste. While knowing nothing at all about spinning I started from that very foundation, with a curiosity about wool as a knitting companion and as a natural resource that was right in front of me.

Explore

From that foundation I can start exploring what I don’t know, add what I learn to my foundation and explore some more from a new and expanded perspective. Explore the wool, the technique, the tools and my own capacity.

Since I got a box of raw fleece at my very first spinning lesson I got the opportunity to explore and get to know it. I explored the crimp, the elasticity and my technique. Even if I didn’t know it in so many words then, I did explore.

I explore weaving from my foundation as a spinner.

As I learned more I realized that there was a whole range of spinning techniques on the weaving end of the spectrum I decided to learn how to weave. My foundation was by then spinning and I could start from my handspun yarns. I made many mistakes as I explored what I could do and did learn a lot from it. I am still very much of a beginner in weaving. From my grounding as a spinner and with my handspun yarns as my most important foundation, I explore.

Dynamics

From my exploration point I can also go back to my foundation when things start feeling wobbly. The dynamic between grounding and exploring is a sweet motion between what I know and what I have the opportunity to learn, just a short reach away if I dare to take the step.

It’s up to me how far from my foundation I want to explore. As I had finished my two-end knitting yarn I made a pair of two-end knitting mittens. Far too loosely spun and with far too fine fibers in the yarn. As I realized this I went back to my home base, my foundation – I fulled the mittens quite heavily to make them more durable. I spun the yarn for my next two-end knitting project with stronger fibers.

A grey mitten with a venus symbol
I made my second two-end knitting yarn in a stronger wool. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Finding a dynamic between grounding and exploring is a sweet experience. Feeling confident in what I know and how far I can explore gives me strength to reach in new directions while standing strong in my foundation. Reflecting, analyzing and making new discoveries about myself as a spinner are a part of that dynamic. As I learn my foundation deepens, broadens and I can reach further and in new directions from there, just like a tree with deeper roots can stretch further than a sapling.

As my grounding grows, so can my exploration expand. I did make a second (and third) two-end knitting yarn and two-end knitted mittens from new foundations, reaching for further challenges.

The token of my inner artist

A year or so ago I found a bronze sculpture on Swedish eBay. A ballet dancer in a backbend pose, holding her raised ankle behind her. While balancing on the toes of her other leg she is firmly grounded in the floor. At the same time she explores her capacity to broaden her chest and bend her back. Strong, yet supple, grounded, yet open to new possibilities.

I needed her to come to me, and she did. She stands on a sideboard by the living room window, looking out over the lake and into the bright room. She is a token of my inner artist. Grounded in the safety of her foundation. Exploring upwards, outwards, forwards. Her future is bright, but she also has the capacity to face challenges and setbacks with her strength and calmness. She is a part of me.

Every time I practice yoga I see her and my heart sings. She stands beside my spinning wheel and I see her from there too. She reminds me to stand strong in my foundation and explore with curiosity and balance.

The ground will catch me

My ballet dancer is firmly rooted in the ground, yet she explores her capacity to open and stretch her body. Her whole body is attentive to this balance and while she stretches her mind she has full control of all the muscles that keep her upright. If she should fall the ground is there to catch her.

One of my very first weaving projects was full of breaking warp threads.

In one of my very first weaving projects over 30 of my warp threads broke. Very frustrating, no doubt, but my foundation was the handspun yarn and literally the foundation of the project. I know how much time and love I had spent spinning and that I couldn’t let the weave go to waste. I found out how to mend broken warp threads and saved my weave.

As a spinner I ground in my foundation, the ground that is true for me. Yours may be totally different. Our points of explorations will be different too. Yet, we both stand firmly on our respective grounds, reaching and exploring from there. If I fall the ground will catch me, just as your ground will catch you.

The teacher

As a teacher I find it extremely important to get to know the foundation of my students and their respective capacity to explore. I want them to find that dynamic between the points of grounding and exploration that makes them smile and sing “Aaahh!” as they see their progress and realize their own development. I want to be there, right with them as they start from their respective foundations.

Listen to this student as she listens to the wool and aaahhs over understanding carding on a new level.

I hear that aaahh every time I talk about the twist model and we practice opening up the twist. Not right away, but after a bit of practice it comes, I hear my students sing that aaahh, with a smile from ear to ear.

Seven spindle cases finished and ready for my A spindle a day class at Sätergläntan in July, five to go.

In mid July I will be back at Sätergläntan craft education center again, teaching the course A spindle a day to twelve students. I can’t wait to see their journeys. I will bring my yoga mat.

Resources

Below are some resources where you can explore from your foundation:

  • The five-day challenge Fleece through your senses, where you explore a fleece of your own from where you are and with the tools you have
  • The five-day challenge Hands-on, where you explore your hand roles in spinning and change hands to explore on a deeper level.
  • Know your fleece, a course where you go deeper into exploring a fleece of your own with some tools I provide.

Happy exploring!

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 missanything!
  • 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.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.

Sloyd

Sloyd. Ancient, smart, thrifty. The crafting of everyday objects with natural materials, your hands and simple tools. To me sloyd is also something that I can do sitting on a rock in the woods should I choose to. Just a pair of hand cards or combs and a spindle and I’m happily sloyding away.

The other day I got a fresh issue of Hemslöjd magazine in the mail. My heart sings when I get it. It is such a smart magazine with so much reading to dive into, so many crafters to admire and be inspired by. Brilliant people making beautiful objects and utensils with simple tools and natural materials. On the cover of this issue is Kristin Sundberg, a crafting friend of mine. I’ll get back to her in a minute.

Sloyd

The word hemslöjd means something like simple crafting for your household needs. The word slöjd, or sloyd, is one of the few Swedish loanwords in English. Slöjd comes from the word slug, which means sly, skilled or handy. Sloyd is smart.

I’m practicing my nalbinding needle carving skills. These are from my first and second sessions this spring. My favourite shape is the leftmost needle. Sadly it cracked down the middle as I drilled the hole.

Slöjd is also a subject in Swedish schools. It was was established in the Swedish school system in 1878 and is still a mandatory subject. Until 1962 girls learned textile crafts and boys wooden crafts, but since then all children learn to sloyd both soft and hard materials.

I eBayed handwoven tea towels and stitched initials for my son’s friends for their graduation.

Every now and then debates about the right of this school subject to exist emerge. Why spend time sewing and carving when you can focus on more important subjects like history or maths? This is a common argument. What would happen though, if we didn’t learn how to make things, how to mend, create or see the potential in a piece of cloth, fiber or wood? How would our brains look if we didn’t nurture what I believe is an inherent need to create with our hands, not to mention survive?

I streamlined the process of nalbinding carving for my third session. Still. I enjoyed every minute of it.

In 2018 a doctor concluded that the medical students’ dexterity in stitching up patients had decreased significantly during the past few years. He believed the reason to be too much swiping and too little fine motor crafting skills. Again, sloyd is smart.

The magic in the making

Back to the Hemslöjd magazine. Kristin Sundberg on the cover of the latest issue is the most sloyd I know. I met her at Sätergläntan when I was teaching supported spindle spinning a few years ago and she was my student. She was a total beginner at spinning. Crafting runs in her veins and she developed her skills remarkably during the five-day course.

Kristin’s main material is wood, though. On her YouTube channel she copies old objects that are mainly seen in museum these days. For Kristin the making and the love for the sloyding is more important than the skills in the techniques. She sees magic in the making, in the sloyding.

Kristin Sundberg with her copy of a birch bark rain hat. Kristin is so sloyd.

Kristin is such an inspiration to me and so many others. You can watch her videos on her YouTube channel.

The sloyd process

There are so many things I love about Kristin’s approach. The love for the material and the making. The story the material tells you if you take time to listen to it. To me the finished object, yarn in my case, is beautiful, but also so much more than an object.

A stick, a weight and some wool and I’m home.

My skeins remind me of all the time I have spent with the material, the techniques and the process. All the mistakes I have made, all I have learned and all the thoughts that have gone through my mind during the process. It also reminds me that the sloyd is in me. With my body I control tension, speed and the quality of the yarn. Through my body I communicate with the material and melt into its will.

Today the need to make things for your household needs may not be as obvious as it once was. But I believe we still need to make, with emphasis on make. Perhaps we need the process of making and creating to instill a sense of self-sufficiency. I can make, therefore I can survive. I may not need more nalbinding needles, but I need to make them, to feel the wood in my hands, to see the transformation from stick to a tool for more crafting. And who knows, I may give some of them away.

Yup, sloyd is smart.

My nalbinding needles

This is how I made my nalbinding needles:

  • I used a twig-free maple sapling I found near the house. It had a diameter of about 2 centimeters. Make sure you are allowed to harvest the material. You can also use dry wood, a firewood log for example.
  • I cut the sapling in smaller pieces, around 20 centimeters long, enough for two needles lengthwise.
  • With an axe I split the pieces in two.
  • I made sure to carve away the soft core.
  • With long strokes with the knife I roughly carved the wood into a flat shape with straight edges.
  • With a starting material of around 20 centimeters there is room for two needles. I chose to place them “eye to eye”, so that the holes would be placed near the middle of the material and the tips at each end. You can see the placement of the eyes in the featured photo.
  • I drilled three holes in a row for the eye with a 3 millimeter drill (I tried a 4 millimeter too, but I preferred the smaller diameter). Making the eye is the most crucial part of the making of the needles. Therefore it’s a good idea to make the eye early in the process. If things should go south you won’t have spent too much time fine-tuning the needle.
  • Now I created the shape of the needles and tidied up the holes.
  • I let the needles dry for a day or two before I did the finishing touches on them. The last thing I did was to flatten the wood slightly with the back of the knife.
  • Optional 1: You can sand the needles. Once, on a carving lesson I took, I asked if we were supposed to sand the insects we were making at the time. She stopped and gave me a stare (with a hint of a smile) and said: “Sanding carved objects is of the devil!”. So I don’t sand. I have learned to love the traces of the knife when I carve. I did use a round file to sand the inner walls of the eye, though. I have neither the tools nor the skills to carve them properly.
  • Optional 2: You can place the needles in a glass of rape seed oil for a week to make it more resistant. Nalbinding with a yarn with lanolin left in it will achieve something similar.
I’m nalbinding with a needle I made a few years ago from an elm we had to fell outside our house.

If you have any tips for carving nalbinding needles, do share.

Happy sloyding!

The upcoming blog posts may be scarce and short. Our son is graduating from upper secondary school in a couple of weeks and we have a lot to do to prepare for the reception.


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 missanything!
  • 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.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! – second edition

Just a short message today. Knit (spin) Sweden! – second edition is finally available! It ships from May 25th but you can order it now on Amazon.

Sara Wolf has worked hard to get a second edition publish and it’s finally here! The paper quality in this edition is thicker and gives the photos more justice. Our translator Anna Lindemark has worked equally hard with proof reading and fact checking the English version while at the same time translating the book to Swedish. This second edition is in English though. Hopefully the Swedish version will be published soon too.

You can read more about Knit (spin) Sweden! here.


As you are reading this I am on the ferry to Åland. I’m giving a presentation and workshop about Åland wool from a spinner’s perspective to the Åland sheep association. I may also find myself a ladder and take a dip in the Baltic Sea.

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 missanything!
  • 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.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.

I am a spinner

Many people have asked me how I started spinning. I tell them my story, how it began and how it continued. But the other day someone asked me how I became a spinner. And that is to me a totally different question with a totally different answer. During the first few years after having learned some basics of spinning I could say I know how to spin. For the past few years, though, I can say I am a spinner.

When I stream my webinars I always begin by telling the story of how I began. The very first time I had any kind of spinning tool in my hand was on my first spinning lesson. I got a very heavy suspended spindle in one hand, a pair of hand cards in my other and a cardboard box of the newly shorn fleece from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finull lamb in my lap (You can read about how I began spinning and how I continued in the two very first posts in this blog).

From fleece to project

That is how I started and that is how I want to approach wool – I want to go through the whole process, feel the fibers go through my hands every step of the way from raw fleece to a finished yarn and get to know the wool as I work with it.

On my very first spinning lesson I got to dive into Pia-Lotta’s beautiful finull fleece.

Back then, in 2011, I didn’t know that that was the way I wanted to approach wool, because it was the only way I knew how to approach wool. After a while I did try commercially prepared wool, but it didn’t sing to me.

Doing or being?

A few years ago I listened a lot to Brenda Dayne’s brilliant podcast Cast-on. In one of the episodes she talked about knowing how to knit versus being a knitter. I’m not exactly sure how she phrased it, but her reflection stuck with me. She talked about being a knitter as something more, something deeper than just knowing how to knit.

As I reflect over being a spinner as something deeper than knowing how to spin I think about spinning as the main event, something I always come back home to. Everything I do has its foundation in the wool and in the purpose of spinning. When I discover a fleece I do so with the intention to find its soul and translate it into a yarn with my hands and some tools. When I knit, weave, nalbind or otherwise make a textile of my handspun yarn it is to continue that intention and make the yarn shine in the project. I do spin for a certain project to, but always with the spinning as the foundation and guide.

Spinning is something deeper to me than just a craft. It is a way of being. I am a spinner. Photo by Dan Waltin.

As a comparison, I know how to weave, but I definitely don’t consider myself a weaver and I don’t think I will ever become one. Don’t get me wrong, I love weaving. But weaving is far too complicated for me and I just know the basics. Still, enough to make my yarns beautiful as a woven fabric. The reason I learned how to weave was just that, to be able to use yarns from a wider spectrum of handspun yarns than just for knitting purposes. I learned how to weave for the sake of spinning.

Following my inner guide

To me, being a spinner also means allowing the wool to be the guide, alongside my inner guide, which would be the experience I have built through the years. My hands know and remember earlier projects. I can trust that knowledge to guide me in the fleece I have in front of me. I know enough to trust my experience. I also know that I can make mistakes and learn from them. Perhaps even more than if everything went smoothly.

I listen to the wool and let it guide me as I work with it. Photo by Dan Waltin.

With the experience I can also see patterns on a larger scale, connecting the dots and see a larger whole. While grounded in my experience I also have the confidence to explore new perspectives of a fleece and see where it takes me.

Grounded in my experience I can experiment and find new perspectives.

Spinning is nourishing to me. My main creative output is through handspinning (and to some extent writing), but spinning also gives me something more, a peace of mind, a moment to be in my spinning bubble and just breathe. In that flow of creativity and nourishment I find a sweet balance that I don’t want to be without. A balance where I am a spinner.

Finding the shift

So, back to the question of when I became a spinner. I look through my Ravelry project page to see if I can find a point in time or mind when I shifted from knowing how to spin to becoming a spinner.

For the first few years I did make handspun projects, mostly knitted, alongside commercial yarn items. But in 2014 something happened. A Fair Isle vest finished in May 2014 is the beginning of a turn where 75% of my projects are handspun. What happened during or leading up to the vest project?

Norwegian breeds

I had knit the Fair Isle vest with small skeins of yarn I spun from Norwegian breeds. In 2013, when I had got my first spinning wheel, I had taken a summer course in spinning with my spinning friend Anna.

Old Norwegian Spælsau, part of Kia’s fiber club. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I also entered a fiber club with rare and endangered Norwegian breeds hosted by my wool friend Kia. Kia has had a long career in wool and has worked as a wool classifier in Norway for many years. Tons and tons of wool has passed through her hands and she knows wool deep in her core (she is a wooler by heart). In four deliveries I got fleece from different Norwegian breeds that were either rare, endangered or both, all hand picked by Kia.

More than just a vest

I spun the yarns and enjoyed the characteristics of the different breeds. Kia wrote with love about the breeds, how rare a certain quality or colour was and what she imagined that particular wool to become. Her passion is such an inspiration and it lit a spark in me. I decided to make something real with the small skeins of Norwegian yarn. Thinking back of when I knit the vest I remember a special connection to the yarn and how it turned out in the Fair Isle pattern.

Spinning for and knitting Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang may have been the place in time and mind where I became a spinner. Photo by Dan Waltin.

At the time I didn’t know I had become a spinner. In hindsight though, Kia’s beautiful fiber club and my relationship to the yarn as I knit that vest can have been a place in time and in my mind where spinning became something more than spinning just as a craft. It became a part of me as a person and I became a spinner.

Kia’s passion for wool is truly inspiring.

I have known for some years now that I am a spinner, but it has never occurred to me to look for the shift between knowing how to spin and being a spinner. So thank you JM for your question. It allowed me to explore and learn something new about myself as a spinner. And thank you Kia for holding my hand as I did become a spinner.

Do you know when you became a spinner?

The wool is my guide.

“Do you think you will ever stop being a spinner?” my husband asked me after I had enthusiastically told him about finding a point in time when I shifted from knowing how to spin to becoming a spinner. “If you for some reason take a break for a while, will you stop being a spinner?” A terrifying thought, no doubt, but probably possible. We never know what life throws at us. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.

Spin where you are

A woman spinning on a supported spindle.

It’s easy to get carried away or stressed by everything you see other spinners do on social media, especially since they only show a small and polished portion of reality. Today I encourage you to spin where you are, in terms of place, tools, skills and mind.

I am a volunteer cultivation advisor at our allotment association. Many of the tenants are enthusiastic and dream of abundance in bloom and harvest. But depending on the circumstances of the allotment it is not always possible to grow the plants they have dreamed of.

For the past week I have been preparing a presentation for the allotment tenants about cultivating where we are, in our allotment and the context in which it is situated – the type of soil it offers, the trees around it and the roots underneath it. I want the allotments gardeners to be able to grow an allotment in their context and with their experience. It may flourish, just not always in the crops they had imagined.

Josefin the cultivation advisor. Parsley is a perfect crop for a shady patch. Also not very appealing to slugs and deer, it seems.

As I was planning the lecture I saw parallels to spinning. Sometimes I get the sense that spinners feel bad because they think they should be able to spin better, more and know more techniques. Spinning to me is a place of ease, an activity that doesn’t make demands on me and a place of allowing. But it’s also easy to get carried away from things you see other spinners do online or in person. Today I want to encourage you to spin where you are.

Experience

We are all on different levels. Some people have spun for decades and some for only weeks. Even if the experienced spinner probably will know a thing or two more than the beginner we all bring our unique perspectives. I love being a beginner since I don’t feel any expectations. I don’t know any of the established dos and don’ts. Sooner or later I will, and I will also learn why they have been labeled as dos and don’ts, but in the moment I look at the craft with fresh and innocent eyes.

Processed flax from my experimental flax patch 2014–2019. I was once a beginner. Year by year I have added to my experience bank. Some years I succeed and some I don’t. But I always learn and that’s my goal with growing flax.

I learn a lot from my students, sometimes I think I learn more than the students themselves. Often the questions from a beginner give me more to reflect on that the question from the experienced spinner. A beginner will challenge my established pattern of teaching and understanding spinning. I need to challenge my methods of teaching, peel off the layers of my habitual patterns and come back to that blank slate to find a channel to the beginner.

A beginner spinner challenges my way of teaching and talking about spinning. I need to find the channel to where they are in their spinning . Supported spindle and bowl by Björn Peck.

I have actually been a beginner several times as a spinner, especially connected to changing hands in the spinning project. If you are up for an adventure, take my five-day challenge Hands-on, where you will play with switching your spinning and fiber hands.

Tools

There are a lot of spinning tools out there and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by them. Like so many other hobbies, spinning can be a tool sport, but it doesn’t have to be. All you need is fiber and a weight or a stick and you’re good to go. Even if I have a lot of spindles I only have two spinning wheels, one of which is my stationary wheel that I use. I don’t own a drum carder, wool picker or blending board. My go-to tools for fiber preparation is my hand cards and my combs, sometimes a flicker, sometimes just my hands.

It’s a great idea to try new tools at spinning guilds or fiber festivals and see what they are like. Chew on them for a bit. Do they suit you? Your wallet? Your home? Use what you have and what you are comfortable with.

Time

Sometimes we don’t feel we have enough time to spin. So many thing crave our attention. But even just a few minutes of spinning/wool preparation/knitting or just cuddling with a staple can get us a long way. I like to see spinning as a state of mind or an inner process rather than a craft or something that demands a physical result.

I'm listening to my Icelandic wool.
I’m listening to my Icelandic wool. Sometimes just digging your hands in raw fleece is enough to feel the closeness to the wool and to getting to know it.

Sometimes we do have times but don’t feel we produce enough yarn in that time. To me, time is a superpower. The more time I spend with wool the more I get to know it. And for me, preparing with hand tools and spinning on spindles give me more quality in the time I spend with the wool. The slowness allows me to spend more time with each fiber, getting to know the wool, how it behaves and how it wants to be spun.

Place

Spinning where you are can of course also mean physically, in a certain space. Sometimes there just isn’t enough space to keep the tools you dream of. I would love to get hold of a walking wheel, which isn’t very likely since they are very rare here, but even if I would there would be no space for it.

I’m spinning where I am. By Lake Torneträsk in Sápmi in this case, with a suspended spindle and a pair of mini combs.

Other times I’m spinning away from home, perhaps in the woods or on the train. It’s not always possible to bring and use a lot of tools and I need to negotiate with myself to find a solution that allows me to spin where I am.

Mind

I have had very hearty conversations over the years with students and supporters who talk about spinning as therapy more than anything else. A place to rest their minds, without expectations or prestige. A place where they can peel off the demands of the world around them and just be in the process. I imagine a lot of emotions are spun into the yarn from those sessions. Which, in itself could be quite therapeutic. A skein to some day look back at and remember where you were emotionally at the time.

Spinning for the soul.

Spinning for me is quite meditative. Just as the fibers come from the fiber supply, into the twist and onto the shaft or bobbin, so do my thoughts. Lightly effortless and and without expectations. They come and I let them go.

For meditative aspects of spinning, watch the videos A meditation and A spinning meditation.

Result

Whether we spin for the process, the project, the mind or a quantitative goal we always get a result, even if we don’t always think so. The result can be a meter, a skein, a collection of samples, relaxed shoulders, a balanced mind. Or, sometimes we get a result, an outcome or reaction much later, a cumulative effect of the superpowers of spinning.

Relaxed shoulders and a balanced mind can be a result too.

When I get migraines I spin to get some space, a moment to focus my dull mind on something other than the nails-on-the-blackboard sensation in my head and all my senses. The sensations don’t go away, but I can relax some from them for a little while, catch my breath and get a sense of ease from the pain. Even if the pain comes back afterwards I’m convinced that the room to breathe I get from spinning through migraines does me good in the long run.

Creativity comes from within because it is there and needs to come out, not because anyone else needs it to be in a certain way. Grow your spinning garden in the abundance that is available there and then. Be kind to yourself. Spin for you and spin where you are.

I’m going to sow my flax patch today.

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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • 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.