Teaching at Sätergläntan

This week I have been teaching at Sätergläntan craft education center – a five-day course I call A spindle a day. The students learn four different spindle types and wool processing. On the fifth and final day I invite them to a wool tasting to make them realize how much they have actually learned. The course is also about the slowness of spindle spinning and how spinning can help you find peace of mind.

Sätergläntan craft education center in its midsummer prime.

Teaching at Sätergläntan

This is the third time I teach a five-day course at Sätergläntan – the first time was all about supported spindle spinning. Last summer I taught A spindle a day for the first time. It has been such a lovely experience every time. Inspiration oozes from every corner of every building at the center. Every handle, curtain, rug, hook and decoration is hand made. Teaching at Sätergläntan is – aside from the teaching experience itself – an experience mindfully wrapped in a handmade environment bursting with craft and creativity.

I stayed in the landscape house where all the rooms are named after Swedish landscapes. I got the Gotland room, which must have been the nicest of them all. It was filled with hand crafted things made with love and care by crafters and artists from Gotland in traditional techniques.

A spindle a day

The course was fully booked many months ago, but due to the corona crisis several people had had to cancel their reservations. But there were still enough students left for the center to go through with the course. We all missed the presence of the spinners who couldn’t make it and hope they will be able to take it another, safer time. As a teacher I felt privileged, though, for the opportunity to teach only five students and be able to give them all individual coaching when they needed it. The students were between 20 and 69,5 years old – my youngest group yet. Usually I’m the youngest at 47. The students had different spinning backgrounds and experiences from novice to intermediate but all with a profound interest in textiles and wool.

Suspended spindle

The first day was dedicated to wool knowledge, combing and suspended spindle spinning. We looked at what the wool preparation does not only for the spinning experience but also for the decisions you make through the process. Every time you handle the wool you learn something about it – how long the staples are, the elasticity, how it drafts and how it holds together. All these little pieces add together into a puzzle that gets more and more complete as you work with the wool. When you get to the spinning part you have gathered information that will help you make decisions about your yarn and your spinning technique. We worked with these thoughts as our guide throughout the whole course.

I encouraged the students to try different wools and reflect over how the wools are and behave differently and how the behavior of the wool influence the decisions they make for the yarn.

One students made thorough samples with notes for all her preparation, spinning techniques and spindle types.
One students made thorough samples with notes for all her preparation, spinning techniques and spindle types.

Navajo style spindles and carding

Day two was dedicated to carding and spinning on Navajo style spindles. As I wrote in last week’s post my wood turner Björn Peck had delivered a batch of beautiful Navajo style spindles for the course.

Navajo style spindles are risky to ship, especially between continents. If you are in North America, please buy from Navajo artists. Here is one. There are also other makers in the U.S.

Carding rolags

There is something about carding. Some people card the way they have learned many years ago, some don’t really like carding because they don’t get good result. But few have analyzed their carding or which properties to strive for in their rolags. In the course we talked about what we want the rolag to do and how to get there.

Rolag progression in Åsen wool from one student from bottom to top. The aim is a rolag with an even distribution of separated fibers throughout a rolag with an even and defined shape.

After the class one student said she had been carding for 35 years but had never got as round rolags as she had today. Another said that she now enjoyed the carding process in a way she hadn’t before. My heart bubbles of joy when I can guide my students to make new insights like these. They all made a remarkable progress in their carding similar to the one in the photo above.

Spinning on Navajo style spindles

Spinning on a Navajo style spindle is both slow and fast. You set the spindle in motion by rolling the shaft with your flat hand against your outer thigh. You don’t get much speed in that. However, you usually spin with quite low twist yarn and often bulky yarns.

The students felt more comfortable with the slow spinning style but did get results fast since the fiber spun up quickly. And they all loved the technique. The whole body is involved in the motion and there is something magic happening between the hands in the long draw that stretches from the spindle hand at the thigh and the fiber hand by the opposite shoulder.

We worked a lot with opening up the twist and finding the point of twist engagement. The point of twist engagement is the space in the distance between fiber and yarn where there is enough twist for the fibers to stick together but not enough to lock them. This was a revelation to the students. By keeping the twist close to that twist angle where the fibers just slide past each other without sliding apart they could manipulate the yarn by opening up the twist with just a light movement with their thumbs on each side of the point of twist engagement.

Double and consecutive drafting

We tried spinning with both a double draft and (in lack of better words) a consecutive draft.

With the double draft you

  • add twist to the rolag until you feel the rolag twisting slightly in your fiber hand
  • draft (the first draft) by moving your fiber hand outwards until you reach shoulder height
  • fine tune any bumps by opening up the twist
  • add more twist (second draft) when you are happy with the shape and thickness of the yarn.

In consecutive drafting (does anyone have a better term for this?) you

  • do only the first draft all through the wool for one skein. You end up with a fluffy cake of lightly twisted pencil roving or pre-draft.
  • Once finished you draft through the wool a second, third or even fourth time, each time drafting a bit until you get the thickness you want, still keeping the twist close to the point of twist engagement. At the final draft you add the twist you need for the finished yarn.

This is a more efficient way that can also lead to a more even yarn. I haven’t done this very much, but this day I tried it. I ended up making four consecutive drafts, starting with a bulky pre-draft and ending with a thin and even singles yarn.

I really liked this consecutive method of drafting and I will explore it further. Having one task for each turn with the wool made the yarn more even. I also had time to think about what I was doing and how I wanted to go through with the upcoming draft.

In-hand spindle and distaff

I always feel a bit nervous when I present the in-hand spindle and distaff technique. There are lots of things to focus on and it can be a bit overwhelming. But it can bring the students closer to textile history (from a European perspective). It can also bring them closer to the yarn and the spinning since the spinner has a lot of control over the yarn they spin.

Nice and orderly and good. Dressed distaffs for in-hand spinning. Värmland, finull and dalapäls wool.

The students dressed their distaffs and spun their yarns, all looking like the flemish paintings that give us the clues to the technique – a proud raised distaff hand, a twiddling spindle hand in hip-height and the yarn diagonally over the torso. And, as with all the previous spindle techniques they learned how to spin with both hands as spindle hands and fiber hands, just like I tell them to. They look at their technique, verbalize it and make lots of progress in both theory and practice – they talk about what they do and have the vocabulary to analyze the technique.

In-hand spinning with distaffs in the shade.

Supported spindle

The fourth spindle in the course was the supported spindle. This is the spindle I feel the most confident teaching because I have done it so many times. It was also the spindle some of the students had looked forward to the most.

Supported spindle spinning day was a success. Spindle in cherry by Björn Peck.

On a one- or two-day course I usually teach the technique in steps, beginning with an empty spindle, progressing to spinning with commercial yarn and then move on to fiber. But in this course the students have gradually learned the skills they need to spin on a supported spindle and they can skip these preparational steps. They have learned to change angles and spin over the upper tip of the spindle in both Navajo style spinning and in-hand spinning. Through all the previous spindle days they have learned to handle the wool, wool preparation and most importantly to listen to and trust the wool. They all loved the technique and quickly came to a mindful place when spinning.

My students learn to flick with three fingers and the thumb for more flicking oomph and less strain. Supported spindle in flame birch by Björn Peck.

Many of them had very high expectations of the Björn Peck spindles I had brought and they were not disappointed. I had spindles from several different renown spindle makers for them to try but most of them loved Björn’s spindles the best.

Wool tasting

Wool tasting is a concept I have developed to give the students an experience of one wool at a time and to allow them to practice what they have learned throughout the week. We do this on the fifth day that is dedicated to peace of mind and reflection.

They get five different wools, one at a time and get to handle each wool for 15 minutes. They analyze the wool, make notes of its characteristics, prepare and spin it and tie a sample to the wool tasting form. During these 15×5 minutes they go on a journey to discover each wool on their own, make decisions on preparation and spinning tools and how to prepare and spin it based on the skills they have learned during the week. When the wool tasting form is filled with all five wools in the tasting they have in front of them a map of what they have learned.

I enjoyed every second of watching them focused at their task. During the course I had seen them struggling with tools and spindles, making amazing progress and now handling wool, tools and thought process with confidence. I was so proud of them and thankful for having had the privilege of guiding them to their new skills.

Spinning meditation

The last thing we did before the course was over was to go inwards in a spinning meditation. To me spinning and meditation have a lot in common. Just like meditation, spinning can bring you into a flow where you can allow your thoughts to come and go and to find the space between your thoughts.

In the spinning meditation we allow ourselves to listen to the wool with no expectations on the yarn. For fifteen minutes we spin in silence. I do my best to guide them into noticing their surrounding, the experiences of the senses in the spinning and the inner process when they spin. Towards the end of the meditation I ask them to close their eyes if they want to to get the opportunity to come even closer to the inner process of spinning. Spinning with your eyes closed can seem scary, but all the students felt safe enough in the group and confident enough in their spinning to close their eyes, some for several minutes.

Through the filled-out form in the wool tasting the students got their map of what they had learned. During the spinning meditation I got mine. I saw them spin relaxed, focused and with knowledge in their hands and minds. Eventhough it was melancholic to leave Sätergläntan and the students my heart was singing as I walked over the meadow to the main building. For five days I had had the privilege of watching five spinners develop and grow in their spinning skills and wool preparation, but perhaps most of all in their inner spinning process. And I had been a part of that.

I will treasure these memories like sweets in a chrystal bowl. In the darkness of the winter months I will pick them, one by one, and think back on a lovely midsummer time spent at Sätergläntan. But befor that, I will come back. In October I teach the five-day course Spin the fleece’s best yarn. I can’t wait.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Trial and error

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

Error

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

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

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

Trial

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

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

Soft knitting yarn

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

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

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

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

Comparison

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

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

Strong warp yarn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A project for the rejected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Spinning from the cut end

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

Preserving colours

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flick carding

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

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

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

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

From the cut end

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

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

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

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

Plying

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

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

A Mikado lazy Kate

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

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

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

Carrots to the rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Location

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

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Portuguese spindle

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

A Portuguese spindle

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

A brass tip

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

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

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

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

In-hand spindles

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

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

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

How I spin

The spindle hand

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

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

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

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

The fiber hand and distaff

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

This is how my fiber hand works:

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

Keeping an eye on the cop

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

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

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

Spinning in the forest

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

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

Happy spinning!

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

You can follow me in several social media:

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

Dancing the Navajo spindle

I have a new video for you today! In the video I’m dancing the Navajo spindle. The technique and cooperation between the hands remind me of a choreographed dance.

The weft yarn for the shawl I’m wearing in the video was spun on a Navajo spindle. You can see how I made the shawl here.

In the beech forest

The video was shot on a May day in a beech forest just in time for the spring flushing. The light was magical with the fresh newborn green on a background of the smooth, almost bewitching warm grey trunks. This is a small beech forest near Dan’s childhood home and less than an hour away from our house. We like to visit it on festive times like early May for the spring flushing and mid-October for the peak of the sparkling autumn leaves fireworks. It is the perfect location for photo and video shoots and for letting your shoulders relax and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature.

A woman sitting on a tree trunk and spinning on a ground-supported spindle. A basket of carded wool on the ground beside her. She is wearing a T-shirt with a sheep on it and a woven plaid shawl.
Dancing the Navajo spindle. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Dan was behind the camera (his fancy one) for the shooting of this video, hence the beautiful quality. He can’t shoot all my videos for me, so it is an extra treat for me when he does have time to help me. He has the right eye for the motif, composition, the sense of the perfect light and colour scheme and the artistic and technical experience for a beautiful shot. We have a lot of fun on these occasions and I like to think the interplay between us shows in the video. Moreover, I can flirt shamelessly with the camera man!

Words or no words?

At first I had planned to add keywords to the video describing my technique. But when I saw the beautiful shots I was afraid that a tutorial style would ruin the artistic perspective in the video. So for a while I planned to skip text altogether. Then one night when I had trouble sleeping I knew exactly what to do – I wanted to match the artistic perspective in the video with sort of poetic style reflections on the spinning technique.

Dancing

When Dan and I first met in our late teens we took dancing classes together. First jive, then on to ballroom dancing and later Argentine tango. To me, spinning on a Navajo spindle has many similarities with dancing as it includes leading and following, technical and artistic aspects and choreographed and improvised sequences.

Dancing the Navajo spindle

The moves are alternately bold and subtle, following each other in a balanced wave. Both hands lead and follow through different parts of the dance in a power balance between two equal partners.

Both hands so light on spindle and fiber, still controlled and ready for the instructions from their choreography master – the wool. The spindle hand sets the spindle in motion and a never-ending series of pirouettes. Meanwhile, the fiber hand mindfully follows the movements, waiting for the moment to gently take over the lead. When the twist is right the spindle hand surrenders the control in favour of the fiber hand that magically drafts the fiber into a smooth and even yarn.

The union between spun and unspun in the drafting zone is the heart of the dance, the spot where all the energy is created and transmitted to the hands. Fiber is transformed from cloudy mist to organized yarn in a cyclic motion lovingly shared between mindful and experienced hands. All the hands need to do is listen and dance the wool away.

A woman sitting on a tree trunk and spinning on a ground-supported spindle. A basket of carded wool on the trunk beside her. She is wearing a T-shirt with a sheep on it and a woven plaid shawl.
The hands just need to listen to the wool and dance the wool away. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The technical steps

I do like to animate spinning. Spinning is such a large part of my life and I see so much beauty and art in the craft. Animating the spinning becomes sort of a celebration of the beauty of it and a nod in recognition from my soul to the soul of spinning. But I realize dancing the Navajo spindle may not be everyone’s cup of tea. So here is a more technical description of the steps.

Since none of the hands really is on the yarn the hands need to communicate through the yarn, pretty much like a tin can telephone. The energy of the twist and the drafting is transmitted to the hands and you can actually feel it. If you allow your hands to listen carefully they will understand how to react to the different signals. The yarn thus acts like the coreographer – through both planned (the general cycle from fluff to stuff) and improvised signals (stuff happen on the way) the yarn, or rather the energy in the yarn, tells the hands what to do when. The hands follow the guidance from the yarn.

A woman sitting on a tree trunk and spinning on a ground-supported spindle. A basket of carded wool on the trunk beside her. She is wearing a T-shirt with a sheep on it and a woven plaid shawl.
The spun yarn works like a tin can phone and transmits the signals from the yarn to the hands that in turn take action. Photo by Dan Waltin.

This is how I spin on a Navajo spindle:

Both hands are very light – the spindle hand on the shaft and the fiber hand holding the rolag very lightly, like a baby bird. In fact, I tell my students to name their baby bird to be aware of the grip and not strangle sweet Kajsa (a rolag name borrowed from my most recent spinning class). You don’t want to strain your wrists and you don’t want to squish the rolag.

  1. The spindle hand sets the spindle in motion while the fiber hand follows the movements of the spindle.
  2. Now, here comes the first step of the double draft: When there is enough twist in the fiber, the fiber hand drafts the fiber while the spindle hand acts as the antagonist. I draft an arm’s length.
  3. When my arm doesn’t reach any longer but the yarn isn’t drafted enough I store the excess yarn between the pinkie and thumb of my fiber hand, always keeping the yarn taut.
  4. In the second step of the double draft I insert more twist when I need to. To even out the yarn I open up the twist by drafting some more. I can also pin-point uneven parts by rolling the yarn against the twist with my spindle hand thumb to allow the fibers to pass each other smoothly. You can read more about opening up the twist in my post about the Twist model (including examples from Navajo spindle spinning).
  5. I store the spun yarn in a temoporary upper cop.
  6. Repeat steps 1–5 until the rolag is all spun up.
  7. Then I transfer the yarn to the permanent lower cop. I use my fiber hand as a middle station. I butterfly the yarn between my thumb and pinkie. When all the yarn is on the fiber hand I roll it onto the lower cop, supporting the spindle either on the ground or on my hip.
  8. To join in a new rolag I simply place the end of the yarn on top of the rolag and insert twist.

I watch the yarn at all times. This is the beauty of spindle spinning – it is slow enough for the spinner to watch the yarn in the making at all times. You have the opportunity to control the quality up close. Use it.

A woman sitting on a tree trunk and holding a floor-supported spindle. She is reaching down into a basket of white carded rolags.
Well prepared rolags are essential in Navajo spindle spinning. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The prep of the fiber is essential in all spinning, and perhaps especially in the (English) long draw. Read my post and watch my video about teasing wool and carding rolags if you need an update on hand-carding.

A woman spinning on a ground-supported spindle. Large castle gates in the foreground.
The gates to the castle the beech forest belongs to. Photo by Dan Waltin

Dan and I had a wonderful time in the spring beech forest. We went back in early November for the majestic autumn colours. We may have brought the camera too. You may see the results of that photo shoot soon.

Happy spinning!


There is still time to register for the free live breed study webinar on Värmland wool this afternoon! Register here and read more about Värmland wool here. There may be Navajo spindle spinning in the webinar.


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Rescue operation

Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.

Last week I released a video where I tried to learn Andean spinning. Towards the end of the video I showed some clips of how the yarn got all tangled and we needed to shoot the scene again. Several followers commented on this and said that they especially liked this part. So, for this week’s post I will take you along on a rescue operation of a spinning project gone south. I did manage to take pictures during the operation. They are of poor quality, but they do their job in showing you what happened.

A pattern request

In February I was asked to write an article and pattern description for Spin-Off magazine. The deadline was short and I needed to spin a yarn, knit a pair of mittens, analyze and write the article and the pattern description. The pattern was in twined knitting, which is quite time consuming.

An open magazine showing an article with pictures of a Pinner and a pair of mittens.
Article and pattern in Spin-Off magazine.

Spinning gone south

I was quite stressed out by this and started spinning immediately. I asked a spinning friend who has made several twined knitting project how she prefered her Z-plied yarn. She said that she liked it with a high twist so that the yarn would be nice and round. A higher twist makes the patterns in twined knitting stand out more, she added. So I started spinning with a lot more twist than I usually do.

But for some reason, my fiber didn’t want to be spun with high twist. Perhaps the fibers were too long, combined with the low (or non-existing) crimp. Perhaps I didn’t understand how to adjust tension and intake. The yarn turned into phone cord with curls all over.

I was a bit bothered by this, but hoped that my problem would solve itself when I plied the yarn.

It didn’t.

Yarn with uneven and curly parts.
This is not publication worthy yarn. The twist is too high and has started to build up phone cord curls all over. It needs a rescue operation.

My assignment for the magazine hovered in my head and I realized that I needed to take some serious action. I decided to implement a rescue operation and respin the yarn.

Rescue operation

The problem was in the singles, but I had already plied the yarn. Therefore I needed to unply the yarn, ease the twist in the singles and reply.

Unply, ease and reply.

This is how I did it:

Unply

I put the bobbin with the plied yarn on the flyer and treadled the same amount of treadles as in the plying process, only against the plying direction. After having unplied a section of yarn I rolled each singles section onto a separate bobbin. If there was still ply left, I shifted the bobbins to undo the rest of the plies.

Close-up of a person spinning on a spinning wheel. She is holding two bobbins of singles in her lap. The singles are attached to a plied yarn on the flyer.
To unply the yarn I turn the wheel against the plying direction and store the singles on separate bobbins in my lap.

This process took around an hour and a half for each skein. I had two. It also took some blood, sweat and tears. I had lots. When the yarn was fully unplied I wound the singles onto my niddy-noddy to make skeins.

Overtwisted singles.
Back to the over twisted singles.

I then soaked the skeins of singles overnight.

A soaking skein of singles yarn. The yarn is heavily over twisted and plies back on itself.
Poor little over twisted single needs a bath.

Ease

To ease some of the twist I rolled the singles onto bobbins again and ran them through the spinning wheel against the spinning direction until the curls had let go.

A bobbin of singles yarn. The yarn looks mangled.
Singles with eased twist.

The singles looked a bit tousled and shocked, but who can blame them? They had been through a gruesome ordeal.

Reply

The final step of the rescue operation was to reply the singles into a balanced 2-ply yarn. This went quite smoothly. I made a skein and soaked overnight. The operation was successful and the patient recovered.

There were a few curls left after the operation. I see them as a reminder not to spin under pressure. The yarn had less twist than I had wished for in the beginning, but it was free of phone cord curls and well behaved, which was more important.

Patient released, lesson learned

I got it all done on schedule. I made my analysis, knit the mittens, wrote the pattern and article and submitted the night before deadline.

The name of the article was Twist analysis.

The irony.

Lesson learned:

  • Listen to your friends.
  • Listen to the wool.
  • If friends and wool contradict each other: Think. And listen to your gut feeling.
  • Don’t spin under pressure.
  • If spinning under pressure, you are less likely to think or pay attention to any gut feeling.
  • Don’t spin under pressure. Really.
Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.
Finished Heartwarming mitts knit with mended handspun yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin

You can buy the Spin-off issue with the article and pattern here. You can also check out the pattern on Ravelry.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Swedish spinning championships 2019

Four wool balls in white with brown and dark grey stripes.

This past weekend I went to Öströö sheep farm outside of Varberg on the Swedish west coast for the 2019 fleece and spinning championships. It was a wonderful day. I met lots of people, cuddled with heaps and heaps of fleece and got the people’s choice medal around my neck. In this post I will show you how I made my competing yarns for the championships. In an upcoming post I will share my experience of the fleece championships.

A woman standing by the sea. She is wearing a knitted sweater and a medal around her neck.
I got the people’s choice medal for my competing yarns in the spinning championships!

Swedish spinning championships 2019

August kept me busy with spinning for the spinning championships. It has been a lot of fun and a real challenge. There were two categories in the championships – one intermediate and one advanced. I competed in both.

This year we got fleece to start with. Most of the previous years we have got machine carded batts, which I don’t really like. I want to get to know the fleece from the beginning, I want to dig my hands into a dirty fleece and work all the steps in the process myself.

All participants got the same fleece sent to us on the same day. We got about one month to finish and ship the finished yarns.

Intermediate Gute sock yarn

For the intermediate level of the championships the assignment was to spin a sock yarn. We got raw wool from a gute lamb.

Gute sheep is a primitive breed with both outercoat, undercoat and kemp. You can read more about gute wool in a previous post. This lamb’s fleece has probably both under coat and outer coat, but it is hard to distinguish since the fibers are so very fine, probably in the cashmere range.

Raw fleece in different shades of grey. The fibers are very fine but there is also lots of black, coarse fibers.
Gute (lamb) fleece. Extremely fine fibers but also lots of black kemp.

My original thought was to spin a 3-ply, but then I decided to make it a cable yarn. It is quite difficult, but it makes a really pretty structure and a strong and sturdy yarn, perfect for socks. In the Swedish spinning championships of 2017 I got a medal in a spinning championship for a cable yarn.

Preparation

I started by flick carding the locks. A lot of the kemp stayed in the flick card. After combing the wool even more kemp disappeared. I was left with soft and silky bird’s nests. I can hardly believe it is Gute wool.

Balls of combed light grey wool. Some coarse fibers are in the balls.
Soft and silky bird’s nests of Gute wool. Some kemp is left, but a lot less than when I started.

Spinning a cable yarn

I spun the top worsted, with short forward draw. As I spun I pulled more kemp out.

This is how I made my cable yarn:

  • I spun four singles with Z-twist.
  • Then I plied the singles S into two balanced 2-ply yarns.
  • After that I put more S-twist on the singles.
  • Finally, I plied the two 2-ply yarns together, Z.
A skein of light grey yarn.
A finished fingering weight cable yarn from Gute wool, ready to send to the championships.

I ended up with a fingering weight skein, 55 m, 32 g, 1708 m/kg. Some of the kemp is still in the yarn, but it will push itself out eventually.

Advanced Värmland cape

The advanced level of the championships was really interesting. The assignment was to spin a yarn for a woven cape. Not just any cape, but the cape of the Bocksten man. The Bocksten man was found – murdered with a stick through his chest – in a bog just outside of Varberg (where the spinning and fleece championships took place). A piece of cloth was analyzed and dated to around 1290–1430. His clothes had been very well preserved in the bog. As I understand it, the Bocksten man’s clothing is the only complete men’s outfit in Europe from this time period.

A postcard depicting medieval man's clothing
The medieval clothing of the Bocksten man. Photo by Charlotta Sandelin/Länsmuseet Varberg

The task was to make our own interpretation of the Bocksten man’s woven cape. Either in two different yarns for warp and weft or the same yarn for both. We got raw wool from Värmland sheep, mostly in white, but also some locks of brown and grey. Värmland wool has both undercoat and outercoat, and may be similar to the wool that the cape was originally woven from.

Locks of wool in white, brown and grey.
Silky locks of Värmland wool in white, brown and grey.

I decided to make two different yarns for warp and weft. I also wanted to separate the wool types and spin with different techniques. In addition to that I wanted to play with the colours.

Warp

Preparation

I sorted the staples according to colour and combed each colour separately using my double pitched mini combs. I also separated the outercoat from the under coat and saved the undercoat for the weft.

A palette of Värmland wool. Combed outer coat tops in white, brown and grey plus the undercoat comb leftovers.
A palette of Värmland wool. Combed outercoat tops in white, brown and grey plus the undercoat comb leftovers.

When I had combed through everything I combed it again. I took two bird’s nests and combed together. This way I got bigger nests and could separat the wool types even more.

A wool comb full of silky white long fibers.
Second combing. Just long and silky outercoat fibers.

Before I pulled the combed white wool off the comb I added some of the coloured wool to make a lengthwise stripe in the top.

Four wool balls in white with brown and dark grey stripes.
After this stage in the process it was difficult to continue. I wanted to keep my rippled chocolate merengues!

2-ply yarn

I am not a big fan of big colour variations in the same yarn, I prefer more subtle blending. Still, I wanted both the grey and the brown to shine next to all the white. To achieve a soft colour change I spun one of the singles all-white and the other with the striped tops.

Two bobbins of singles. One pure white and one with a mix of brown, white and grey.
Worsted outer coat singles ready to be plied.

I spun them both with short forward draw and 2-plied.

A skein of white, brown and grey yarn.
A finished lace weight (I have no idea what the translation to weaving is) warp yarn. 94 m, 35 g, 2655 m/kg.

It was such a joy to spin this yarn! The white fibers were so shiny and silky, just like a merengue batter. The grey and brown fibers were different in the structure compared to the white. The grey fibers were coarser and less conforming and the brown fibers were a bit closer to the white. The lengthwise stripe turned the singles to a beautiful chocolate rippled merengue batter.

Weft

Preparation

I wanted a coloured effect in the weft yarn too. I carded rolags of the white wool and in some of them I made stripes of the coloured staples.

Prepared fiber in a mushroom tray. Above and below: Outer coat hand-combed bird's nests. Middle: Under coat hand-carded rolags.
All the fiber prep in a mushroom tray. Above and below: Outercoat hand-combed bird’s nests. Middle: Undercoat hand-carded rolags.

Singles yarn

I wanted warp and weft spun in different directions. Therefore I chose to make the weft a singles yarn. My best tool for an even single is always the Navajo spindle. I started by spinning all the rolags into a roving.

A spindle full of yarn. A wood shed in the background.
Woolen yarn spun with long draw on a Navajo spindle from hand-carded rolags, first pass.

Well, it didn’t really end up as a roving as I had planned. It was more of a loosely spun single. I then spun it all again to give the yarn its final thickness and twist. This is when I realized that there was a bit too much twist for me to be able to make it finer. It was quite a bit of hard work.

A spindle full of yarn. A wood shed in the background.
The second pass on the Navajo spindle. The yarn is finer and more even.

The fact that there was no crimp in this silky soft undercoat made drafting a challenge. I had to pay close attention to the drafting zone to avoid breakage. Even if I spun it too much the first time I think it was a good choice to spin the yarn twice.

Another problem was the fact that the different colours had different characteristics as I wrote earlier. Especially the grey fibers were coarser and more difficult to draft in such a fine yarn. Many colour joins broke and many expletives were uttered.

A skein of singles yarn.
A finished weft yarn for the Bocksten man. 184 m, 42 g, 4335 m/kg. This yarn is so yummy!

After getting used to the behavior of the fibers I learned how to pay extra close attention to the colour changes and joins and ended up with a beautiful skein of singles.

A woven swatch.
Pin loom swatch of my Bocksten man yarns.

A joyful day

A row of yarns on a stick
The competing sock yarns in the intermediate category.

All in all, spinning for the Swedish spinning championships 2019 was a joyful process. The raw material was wonderful and I got to play with it on so many levels. I liked that we were free to make our own interpretations and add our own artistic touch in our contributions to the championships.

A row of yarns on a stick
The competing weaving yarns in the advanced category.

Meeting new and old friends

I met a lot of old friends at the championships – spinners, shepherdesses and suppliers. So many friendly faces to share a happy day with. And at least ten people came up to me, introduced themselves and said they were followers. This really made my day! I also got interviewed by a woman from a weaving podcast (I think she used the word star struck when she approached me). Meeting followers is such a joy for me. I am an introvert, but meeting you in person really warms my heart.

Coming up: The 2019 fleece championships.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Antique French spindle

Close-up of an antique spindle with yarn wound onto it.

Earlier this summer I got a antique French spindle from a follower. It is the first antique spindle I have and I’m childishly happy about it. Today I share a video where I spin on my antique French spindle.

A French spindle is held in the hand. The shaft stays in the hand or close to it as the spinner twiddles the upper tip. Some call it in-hand spindle, some grasped and some twiddle spindle.

A collector

There is very little information on French spindles and their use. Sylvie Damey is the person who knows the most about French spindles. She has been collecting spindles for many years now and has quite a collection. She collects the spindles to understand more about them. Sylvie says that the reason why there is so little information about the use of these spindles is that spinning used to be such a common daily activity for women and girls and therefore there was no need to document the use of spindles. Sylvie also collects old postcards with spindle spinners. This way she can learn something about who was spinning and how.

The spindle

A French spindle is made in one piece. It has a belly onto which the cop is wound. Embellishments seem to be common.

A French spindle has a belly in the lower part of the shaft to store the yarn on.
A French spindle has a belly in the lower part of the shaft to store the yarn on. This one is 32 centimeters long and weighs 50 grams.

Some French spindles have a detachable metal upper tip. Most of them have a spiral groove. Some of the metal tips have hooks instead of grooves.

The tip of a spindle with a spiral groove.
A spiral groove on the upper tip of a French spindle.

My antique French spindle spindle has a spiral groove carved into the upper tip for clockwise spinning.

Technique

The yarn rests in the groove as long as the spindle spins. The spinning hand is always close to the spindle, ready to grasp it when necessary. You either spin with the spindle in the hand all the time or spin with a short suspension. In the video you can see how I keep the spindle in the hand. However, if you look closely, the spindle spins against my thumb at times, without me holding on to it. In another video I made about French spindle spinning last year I let go of the spindle for longer periods.

The spinning hand

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

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

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

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

The fiber hand

In the video I use a hand distaff. This is for practical reasons – I was on vacation and a hand distaff was easier to bring than a belt distaff. Up until recently, I have only spun with some sort of woolen technique on an in-hand spindle and a hand distaff. But I know that knitting is a relatively new technique and basically all spinning before knitting was developed was focused on weaving yarns. Therefore I wanted to learn how to spin a worsted yarn for a strong warp. I had a video meeting with my friend Anna and she demonstrated how she spins a worsted yarn with a hand distaff.

This is how she showed me and how I do it:

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

Dressing the distaff

I haven’t dressed a distaff for worsted spinning with wool before. I tried different ways, but this is the way that worked best for me: I hand-combed wool and dressed the tops onto the distaff lengthwise in stripes in lengths that were suitable in relation to the length of the hand distaff. The wool I have used is a year’s growth of Norwegian NKS.

A woman holding a spindle in one hand and a distaff in the other. The yarn between the hands is tensioned.
To get an evenly wound on cop I tension the yarn between my pinching fingers and the spindle.

Even tension for a steady cop

Making a steady cop is an art form in itself. The cop needs to be firm so that the cop doesn’t collapse. If the cop collapses the yarn may slide down below the lower end of the cop and ruin the whole cop. A firm cop is achieved by an even tension. I used to support my spindle against my belly for winding the yarn onto the cop, but I discovered that the yarn was too loosely wound onto the cop this way.

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

Location: Tvättstuga

I shot the video this summer when I rented a cabin at a sheep farm with my family. There is a creek by the farm and a wash house – a tvättstuga – by the creek. It is over 100 years old, probably from the turn of the last century or earlier. Perhaps from around the time my antique French spindle was in use! If you peek inside the windows you can see the old boiler they used to heat up the creek water and beautiful wooden wash tubs.

One winter in the early 1900s when the mother of the family was in labour the main house burned to the ground. Everybody survived, but the whole family had to move to the small wash house until a new house was built. I hope they had time to save the spinning wheel.

A woman spinning on a hand-held spindle and distaff in front of an old red building.
Spinning by the old wash house.

A word about the music

I wanted to add music that would reflect the peace in the video. I searched for French music on Free music archive that I usually use for my videos and found this. In the beginning I was concerned that it might be too slow, but the more I listen to it the more perfect I think it is for the video. I hope you enjoy it too.

Bon filage!

Close-up of an antique spindle with yarn wound onto it.
Such a pretty antique French spindle

You can follow me in several social media:

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

Spindle ergonomics

A woman spinning on a supported spindle.

In March this year I launched my online course Spin on a supported spindle. On launch night I hosted a live webinar on spindle ergonomics. I have now edited the webinar and it is available for free in my online school.

Take me to the spindle ergonomics webinar!

As a spinning teacher I want my students to be able to spin comfortably. Sometimes it is difficult to understand why something hurts or feels uncomfortable. In the webinar I take you through some of the most common problems in spindle spinning in general and supported spindle spinning in particular. The webinar is an excellent way to learn more about my course Spin on a supported spindle and to see what my teaching style is like.

  • In the webinar I talk about the difference between pushing and pulling the spindle and what effects it has on your spinning process.
  • I talk about sharing the strain so that you can spin for a long time without pain.
  • I also talk about the online course Spin on a supported spindle – the content, course outline and practical information.
  • The offers and prices in the webinar are no longer valid.
A woman holding up a spindle.She is wearing a knitted sweater with spinning wheels on it.
In the webinar I talk about pushing and pulling the spindle and about sharing the strain.

The video quality is not what you are used to from my videos. It has to do with the fact that the webinar was a live stream and that I did it indoors with less than optimal lighting. This was my live webinar world premiere. However, in the editing I have improved both light and sound to the best of my ability.

Captioning

The whole webinar is captioned (subtitled) so that you can read what I say. My only choice was to burn in the captions, so if you are annoyed by them there is nothing I can do about it. The captions are very important to me because they make my content accessible to a larger audience. Several students have told me that they wouldn’t have been able to take my courses without the captioning.

Patron pledges

Captioning courses is the single most time consuming part of my business. I would say that one video minute takes at least ten minutes to caption, probably more. However, thanks to the pledges from my patrons I have now been able to pay a captioning service to caption my courses and webinars for me. This takes a huge load off my shoulders while at the same time it makes my videos accessible to a wider audience.

I have also been able to buy a proper studio light for the Patreon pledges to give you a better visual experience in my upcoming online courses and webinars. A big thank you to all my patrons! Your contributions are really important for the development of my business.

If you are not already a patron and want to contribute to this, have a look at my Patreon page! You can choose different levels with different patron rewards. I have also added a couple of higher tiers if you want to pledge more, but with no extra rewards.

A bundle of joy

Now you have a whole bundle of resources to dive into regarding supported spindle spinning:

  • The free online course in How to pick a supported spindle and bowl. The course gives you tools to decide which supported spindle that is the best one for you. In the course you will also get a pdf with a list of spindle makers that I can recommend.
  • This webinar. You will learn about spindle ergonomics, particularly in supported spindle spinning. I don’t want my students to be uncomfortable when they spin. You will also learn more about the paid course (see below) and see what my teaching style is like.
  • The course Spin on a supported spindle. It has three different pricing tiers. Find the one that suits you the best.
  • If you are not sure if you want to invest in my paid course you can buy the ebook that is based on the course Spin on a supported spindle. It has no video or audio, but it is a start.
  • Videos and blog posts.

Spindle ergonomics webinar

A woman spinning on a supported spindle.
Enjoying the spindle ergonomics webinar!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Ply on the fly

In the third week of walking down memory lane I take you to Austria, a place that is very close to my heart. I shot this video last summer and I show you how I ply on the fly on a Turkish spindle. Even if the video is simple, the place and the atmosphere are very special to me.

Austria in my heart

As many of you know I have some of my roots in Austria. While having been born and brought up in Sweden I am by blood 75% Austrian. I have spent many childhood summers in the mountain area in Salzkammergut just outside of Salzburg. The past six years I have traveled to the same area with my husband and children.

This year we didn’t get to go to Austria. While the train journey is long and cumbersome and it has been relaxing to stay home and tend to the allotments it still hurts my heart not to have been there this year.

A meadow

The meadow I’m standing in is unique. It lies in the middle of the village of Mondsee (Moon lake). The owners of the B&B we always stay at – a former convent from the 15th and 16th centuries – own the land of the meadow. Had they sold the land it would have been packed with buildings on top of each other in a second. But they won’t sell so the beautiful meadow is staying.

One beautiful summer morning when the village was still asleep I brought my gorilla tripod and a garden chair to fasten it onto. I shot my ply on the fly video in the meadow, enjoying the fresh air and the morning breeze.

You can read more about the video here.

So today I give you my Austria. I shed a tear of joy of seeing the silhouettes of Schafberg (Sheep’s mountain) and Drachenwand (Dragon’s wall) and a tear of sadness for not being there.

A woman spinning on a suspended spindle. She is standing in a meadow with mountains in the background
Plying on the fly in one of my favourite spots in Austria

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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