Portrait of a sweater

At the Jämtland wool webinar a couple of weeks ago I showed a sweater made in Jämtland wool and how it had been worn on the elbow after five years. After the webinar I got a request from a follower. She asked me to make some sort of portrait of a sweater and show different stages of its life. I found the idea brilliant and I am happy to meet her request. So here it is – the portrait a sweater.

A woman walking outdoors. She is wearing a grey sweater with white spinning wheels in a stranded knitted yoke.
The spinning wheel sweater straight off the needles in 2015

Everyday and wool festivities

I have worn my sweater for both everyday and festive occasions. As an everyday sweater I have worn it at home and at work. It is a warm sweater that works for a large part of the year.

At work nobody really notices it, to most of my colleagues it is just another knitted sweater. But when I go to wool and spinning events it is definitely a festive sweater – people see the work that has been put into it, they smile heartily at the spinning wheels on the yoke and some recognize it from my videos.

In 2018 I attended the Swedish fleece and spinning championships. That is definitely a festive occasion.

No matter where or when I wear it, it always feels comfortable and safe.

A five year portrait

I started the making of the sweater in 2014 by shearing the Swedish finewool lamb Pia-Lotta. The whole process is well documented and actually the main character of one of my earliest videos Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater (also available in Swedish). In the video I go through all the stages from raw fleece to a finished sweater. For that reason alone this is the perfect sweater to use in a portrait. In this portrait I document the stages of wearing.

I knit the sweater in the Fileuse design by Valérie Miller.

A new spinner

When I made the sweater I had been spinning for two years. Since then I have improved my spinning for another six years. While it is far from my best spinning it is definitely one of my favourite sweaters. And one of my most worn.

Looking at the sweater today I see many things I would have done differently. The grey yarn is unevenly and loosely spun. I think the yarn ranges between light fingering and sport weight. A consistent fingering weight yarn with more twist would fill out the stitches better and give a more finished overall impression.

The yarn is quite thin and unevenly spun at the neckline.

Had I placed the bulkier yarn on the elbows they would probably be less worn now. The white finewool yarn is also a bit unevenly spun. However, it is woolen spun and the uneven parts don’t show as much as they do in the worsted spun grey Jämtland yarn.

I placed the bulkiest skein on the bottom of the sweater. Perhaps it would have worked better on the elbows.

Tales from the elbows

As I wrote in the preamble of this post the sweater is worn at the elbows. I have seen the thinned-out threads for a while and a couple of months ago my daughter told me there was a hole on the right elbow.

I mended it with parallel blanket stitches over a horizontal help thread. That is the only mending technique I have learned.

A darning needle mending a knitted sweater.
A mended underarm on a hoody in a commercial yarn. The sweater has been worn a lot during three years.

I must have been too greedy with the mending since there is a hole on the same elbow again, just underneath the first mending. I should have mended a bigger area.

Portrait of a sweater. A new hole on the right elbow, just underneath the first mending.

I stand at work and use the mouse with my left hand. The right elbow often leans on the table top. I guess that is the reason why my right elbow has thinned out faster than the left. The left elbow is thin, but not worn through.

A thin spot on my left elbow.

Don’t get me wrong – Five years is a long time for a sweater that I have worn so often. I remember finishing the sweater just in time to bring it to Shetland wool week in 2015. In Shetland I bought yarn for a hoodie at Jamieson & Smith and started knitting it, so the hoodie is a bit younger. I have worn these two sweaters equally – the spinning wheel sweater in handspun and the hoodie in commercial yarn. I started mending the hoodie in several places two years ago (see picture above of a sweater with stripes). My first mending of the handspun spinning wheel sweater (which is older) was this year.

A new mending

I used help threads for my new patch.

To mend the new hole I removed the old mending. I figured it would be better to make a bigger mending than to overlap the old one. To find a suitable mending technique I used Kerstin Neumüller’s excellent and methodical book Mend and patch (available of course in Swedish and also German and French). I attached help threads over the hole and followed the knitted pattern with a darning needle threaded with the mending yarn.

A mended elbow hole! I removed the help threads and wove in the ends after I had finished the mending.

The mending technique description calls for a thinner yarn than the original one to avoid a bulky patch. I went the other way and used a bulkier yarn. The elbow is an exposed area and I didn’t want to have to mend a third time. The yarn I used is a handspun Gotland yarn I made for socks. It has two Z-spun threads and one S-spun thread that are plied S for extra strength. I hope it does the trick!

The spinning wheel sweater in 2020, with a mended elbow. The portrait of a sweater has changed.

I decided to make an invisible mending. It blends into the original textile quite well. However, I now understand the beauty of visible mending. With yarn in a contrasting colour you will actually see what you are doing when you mend the hole!

Other signs of wear

I inspected the sweater to look for other signs of wear. I saw a thin spot on the cuff of the right arm. However, I think this part is slightly felted since it is knit in Swedish finewool which felts easily. I don’t think the risk of further damage is alarming. I have it on my watch list but I haven’t done anything to fix it yet.

Close-up of a knitted piece of fabric with a worn-out edge.
A thin spot on the right cuff.

I also looked for pilling and didn’t find much at all. There might have been pilling in the early days and if there was it has all been worn off by now.

All in all I think this sweater has really worn well. I have worn it so many times and it is a wonder that it still looks so nice. I plan to wear it for at least another five years.

Make that sweater

You don’t have to be a master spinner to spin yarn for a whole sweater. There will be uneven parts and flaws. You will be able to look at it later and understand what you would have done differently today. You will also look at your accomplishment with pride. All the flaws you see are seeds to new learning. All the mistakes you see will remind you of what you have learned and how you have used that piece of learning in later projects.

Make that sweater. Embrace the mistakes as gifts of learning and wear your accomplishment with pride. When you see thin patches and holes, mend them and be even more proud. Make your own portrait of a sweater, and many sweaters to come.

Thank you for the inspiration Sissel!

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!

Curtain

I don’t like curtains in our home just for the sake of curtains. They need a purpose – to keep light out or for privacy. My husband suggested we get a curtain for the front door, to keep the draft out. That is definitely a purpose and I agreed. I suggested I would weave it.

This is part four of a stashbuster series. The first post was about Rya knots, the second about weaving bands and in the third I made a blanket out of pin loom squares.

A loosely woven fabric in natural white with dark grey stripes.
A loosely woven fabric in natural white and dark grey wool singles and commercial flax.

Weaving

When I came up with the idea to weave Dan’s draft curtain I saw before me a loosely woven fabric that would be a perfect curtain. “Is a loose weave really the perfect draft stopper?” you say. Hold your horses, I’ll get back to that in a bit, all things in due time.

Bulky singles and sleek flax

I love spinning bulky, low twist singles on my Navajo spindle. I use them as weft in weaving projects. If you are in Sweden you can take a two-day course in Navajo spindle spinning in March!

Through the years I have spun quite a lot of bulky singles on my Navajo spindle and I haven’t used all the skeins that I have spun. When I took inventory in my bursting stash I found quite a lot of skeins of bulky singles in natural white and dark grey.

Close-up of natural white skeins of bulky singles.
Bulky singles from my stash for the weft.

I decided to use them in the curtain, there were more than enough skeins for a curtain. I also had a whole cone of commercial flax yarn that would be perfect as warp – strong, sleek and with that shine only flax can give you.

Double width – double the fun?

My loom is only 60 cm wide so I warped for a double width weave. I know from previous experience that flax yarn is a challenge to weave with and that proved to be accurate in this project as well.

Close-up of a weave in a loom. Natural white and dark grey stripes of wool yarn with flax warp.
Double layered curtain weave.

The double weave in combination with the loose fabric gave me an extra challenge. The top layer stayed reasonably taut while the bottom layer sagged and fussed. Trying to pass the shuttle through the bottom shed was a fight every time and really tough on my eyes, trying to identify the home of each warp thread. I was afraid that the left and right sides of the curtain would look different, but I kept weaving. I was really quite frustrated at times.

A woman cutting a warp.
The cutting down of the curtain warp will reveal all the secret of the fold and the second layer of the double width.

That is the beauty of weaving with handspun, though – so many things can go wrong and I can’t allow myself to give up. So much love, skill and time have been invested in the project and I just have to finish it. If there are problems along the way I need to fix them. End of story.

Cut

When I cut down the warp the weave actually looked good! It was a bit loose in the fold, but better too loose than too tight, right? A wave of joy rushed through me when I realized that I could actually make something with this cloth.

A person unfolding a cut-down warp.
The curtain weave was a bit loose in the fold but looked otherwise surprisingly good.

Sewing

Since the fabric was so loosely woven there was no way I would be able to sew the curtain on a sewing machine. Instead I settled down with waxed flax thread and started hand stitching.

The first thing I did was to secure the raw edges with a simple whip stitch so that the ends wouldn’t fray. When they were all secured I stitched hems on both ends after having soaked the cloth.

Loops

A curtain hanging on a forged rod with loops made of a woven band.
A hand woven band of Shetland wool for curtain loops. You can see a second curtain behind my woven curtain.

At first I had planned to make a channel for the curtain rod to go through, but as I was having my band weaving frenzy I realized I could make loops of the band to hang the curtain in. It probably has a fancy curtain name that I don’t even know in Swedish. Anyway, I cut half of the band in six peaces, whip stitched the edges and backstitched them onto the upper hem. I saved the other half of the band for a simple tieback.

A hand forged curtain rod and rod holder. An edge of a curtain hangs in loops from the rod.
A simple hand forged curtain rod and rod holder.

The curtain was finished. But at the same time it didn’t feel finished. There was something missing. It was loose and transparent and didn’t look curtainy enough. I remembered that we had an undyed linen sheet in the cloth stash. It had got a rip and we saved it to use for mending. Perhaps I could make a background curtain to give the whole assembly a more curtainy look?

A parachute accident

I found the sheet. As I unfolded it I tried to remember where the rip had been and hoped that it wouldn’t be a problem for my project. After all, a sheet is a lot larger than a front door, and the rip might be placed outside of my measurement needs. This thought lasted for a millisecond.

When the sheet was fully unfolded I saw it.

A circular hole, the size of a human head.

Larger than a human head.

In the middle of the sheet.

One of my darling little raspberry pies had had a parachute period a few years ago – he made parachutes for his toy figures and threw them up in the air to let them quietly fall down. My sweet little crafter. While I am proud that he instinctively started to make a parachute himself instead of asking for a store-bought parachute, I clearly remember having taught him how to cut fabric long before the parachute accident. In the middle of the sheet! When I muttered about fabric cutting etiquette my now almost seventeen-year-old said that the chance to blame anyone had expired a long time ago and that he didn’t have any guilt in it anymore. He was probably right. But still. A hole.

A picture of the hole would have been appropriate here. But the wound is too fresh.

Mending

I really wanted to make this curtain with stashed, up-cycled and reused materials only. So I had to find a way to fill the parachute hole instead of buying a new back curtain material. My initial idea was to take the leftover sheet cloth and make a visible mending with embroidery around the join. This seemed like a big project, though, so I decided to procrastinate for a while.

After a while I remembered that I had bought some lace ribbon at a flea market last summer. What if I could make a join with the lace? That would mend the hole and make a pretty detail on the back curtain.

A linen curtain with a lace inlay
A lace mended parachute accident.

I hand-stitched the raw edges of the sheet, hemmed it and added the lace where the parachute section had been. This really made the sheet turn into a real curtain instead of just an emergency solution. The back curtain looked lovely. I sewed snap fasteners on the front and back curtains so that I could detach them for washing.

I also went through the curtain and evened out any uneven shuttlings with a tapestry needle. The fold looks a lot better and hardly shows at all.

The last thing I added was curtain weights in the bottom hems of both curtains. This was the only item I bought. That and the curtain rod. It is hand forged locally, though and quite sustainably produced.

A real curtain

A finished handwoven curtain from spindle spun weft and commercial flax warp. Handwoven bands for rod loops and tieback and a back curtain made of a recycled linen sheet and a vintage lace ribbon.
A finished handwoven curtain from spindle spun weft and commercial flax warp. Handspun, handwoven bands for rod loops and tieback and a back curtain made of a recycled linen sheet and a vintage lace ribbon. All seams are hand sewn.

I wanted the simplicity of the loosely spun wool with the shine of the flax. The loose weave shows off the wool and gives the weave an impression of being both bulky and delicate at the same time. The loosely spun singles with the loose weave gives the curtain an almost raw look.

A curtain hanging in front of an open door.
The finished curtain keeps the draft out (especially if you close the door).

Together with the back curtain and the weights in the bottom hems the whole assembly has a lovely drape. It even looks pretty and finished from the back.

A linen sheet curtain tied back with a woven band.
The back of the curtain with the linen sheet.

I am so happy with the result. It turned out better than I had imagined and it feels very grown up.

A linen curtain with a lace ribbon join.
Billowing lace that is just the right amount of not too lacey.

A slow curtain

This curtain took time to make and assemble. The slowness of the weaving and hand stitching gave me time to think and make decisions that I wouldn’t have made had it been a faster process. I have said it before and I certainly say it now: Slow is a superpower that allows us to think and make grounded decisions.

A tied-back curtain.
A slow curtain made by hand and heart.

Every time I walk through the door my heart sings when I pass the curtain. So much love, care and creativity was put into this project. The fact that I managed to turn it into something that we use every day makes it even more precious.

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!

Weaving bands

In my current stashbusting frenzy I have been weaving bands with a simple rigid heddle and a backstrap weaving method. I warped for my first band just before the new year and couldn’t stop – I wove five bands and came to love the technique.

Stashbusting

I have reached a point where my handspun stash stresses me. It clutters my mind and I want to make good use of all the time, love and effort I have put into those precious skeins. Just before the holidays I used up one kilo of my handspun skeins and saved thrums in woven chair pads. When I had finished them I decided to explore band weaving.

I have failed weaving bands before. I have four started tablet weavings that I never finished (not my handspun, though). But why would it be different this time? Well, I think I have more of a clear purpose of destashing and using the bands.

This summer I bought a small rigid heddle for weaving bands and I have been curious about it ever since. It turned out to be a really nice technique that quite quickly transforms a shapeless bundle of yarn into a strong and dense band. One 50 gram skein is enough for a decent length band. I found some smaller skeins too, which I paired up with other smaller skeins and wove striped bands.

A small skein can become a striped a band together with another small skein. This is Klövsjö wool that I paired with a skein of silvery Gotland wool.

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle and the backstrap method is easy. The result is a tight warp-faced band with many uses. Apart from the rigid heddle and the yarn you just need a pole/tree/something else to secure the end in, a shuttle, a clamp of some sort and your own body. You also need a warp or two clamped pegs to warp the yarn. You can of course warp the yarn between two chairs turned upside down.

We have a very practical pole in our house, perfect for weaving bands. I tie the warp braid around the pole and keep a leather belt around the pole for quick fastening in the other end (me).

This is how I did it:

  • I warped the yarn between two pegs that I clamped on two tables. The tables were 2–3 meters apart.
  • I transfered the warped threads to the slots of the rigid heddle and threaded the holes.
  • Once the warp was evenly tensioned I tied one end to a pole in the living room and the other end to a belt around my waist, secured with a small clamp.
  • When weaving, I opened the shed, entered the shuttle and gave the weave a good beating with the shuttle between the warp threads. Before I pulled it through I pulled the old shuttling tight.
  • After having pulled the shuttle through I pulled the new shuttling tight.

The bands

In the course of two weeks I have been weaving five bands from odd handspun skeins. It was so rewarding and in some cases also a very quick weave.

My five new bands made of stashed handspun yarns. The history of the spinning and the projects the yarns were spun for is woven into the bands.

Curtain band

My first band was a simple one-colour band. The warp was smooth and easy to weave and it didn’t fight me. It took me a while to understand how narrow I should keep the band and how I should keep it even in width, but after I had figured that out it went fairly quickly.

An all-Shetland band. Both warp and weft were spun and plied on the fly on a supported spindle. 2,2×247 cm, 39 g.

I will use this band together with a curtain I have in my rigid heddle loom. The curtain is a loose weave in dark grey and natural white and I think it will go very nicely together with the band.

Gotland meets Klövsjö

Just before the holidays I spun some black and silvery Swedish Klövsjö locks for my friend Sara who is writing a book about knitting in Sweden. I didn’t give her the whole skein, though. I saved part of the skein and used it in this band. The silver grey yarn is Gotland wool from the lamb Sounnie. The rest of her is in the Sounnie sweater.

The black part of the warp is Swedish Klövsjö wool and the silvery grey is Gotland wool from the lamb Sounnie. If you watched my Gotland wool webinar have seen me comb this wool there. 2,2×209 cm, 67 g.

This warp was quite tricky to handle. The yarn was fuzzy and the warp threads clung to each other, making each shuttling a challenge. But I saw the potential of the yarn as a band and didn’t give up.

I do love this band. I may play with it in an upgrade of the woolen spindle cases I make for my spinning classes.

Broadbean green

I spun and dyed the broadbean green yarn for a helmet hat for a friend’s newborn baby some years ago. Swedish Jämtland wool and silk, so soft and silky. The grey yarn is Shetland wool. I spun it originally for my Sassenach shawl in the Slow fashion 2 video. I used the leftover warp yarn for a woven scarf for my father. Apparently there was a skein left even after that.

Broadbean green warp in Jämtland wool and silk. The dark grey warp is Shetland wool. 1,7×221 cm, 31 g.

This was a very smooth and easy weaving. Thin warp threads that were very well behaved. The band is slim and even.

Bog body

The bog body yarn is part of my contribution to the Swedish spinning championships 2019. It is the outercoat only of Värmland wool. The yarn is my warp yarn for the championships assignment. The task was to spin your interpretation of the coat of a man found in a peat bog. He turned out to be from the 14th century and wore the only complete man’s outfit found from that time period.

Värmland outercoat in a sleek band. 1,7×137 cm, 32 g.

This too was a very nice weave with a smooth and cooperative warp. Since the yarn was spun from outercoat only the band is very dense and sturdy, but still sleek and shiny. This was a lovely weaving experience.

Rustic Värmland

I did have my doubts when I warped for this band. I had a feeling that this warp would stick. I was right. For every shuttling I needed to separate the warp manually thread by thread. At the same time I knew how much I would love the rustic feeling of this band. I was right about that too!

Värmland wool in dark and light shades made a rustic band. 2,0×143 cm, 36 g.

The dark brown warp is Viola the Värmland ewe, a very pleasant spinning experience. The lighter warp is also Värmland wool, from a medal winning fleece from the Swedish fleece championships of 2017. I spun it on a mediaval style spindle and distaff. The rest of the fleece is in a pair of Venus mittens and my Heartwarming half-mitts.

Just a few decimeters from the end of the warp a thread broke and I cut the warp. It is now in my thrums bag, ready for another go at rya knots!

Weaving more bands

I’m not done weaving bands. This was a really rewarding method and I want to investigate it further. But first of all I’m going to finish those tablet weaving projects that have been taken up space in my ufo stash and in my mind.

Transfering new knowledge

By learning how to weave bands with a rigid heddle and the backstrap method I have learned a new textile technique. That, in itself, is a gift that I cherish. The beauty of this is that things I have learned are also applicable to other techniques and bigger projects.

Clinging warp threads

By seeing and feeling the consequences of a fuzzy yarn I can make wiser choices for upcoming bigger weaving projects. If a weft that is 2 cm wide is making trouble because of clingy warp threads, how much trouble wouldn’t there be for a 40 cm width? And if a warp thread breaks due to the clinginess and abrasion, how many warp threads would break in a larger project? Well, I already know this from a previous project where over 20 warp threads broke. But in a small project as this I get the chance to understand why this happens.

The body as part of the loom

This is my only experience so far with the backstrap method. But I love it already and I understand the importance of the body for the weaving experience and result. This simple method is so much easier to understand for me than a loom big enough to live in. I see the resemblance with the difference between spindle and wheel where my body movements are integral parts of the operation. This makes the technique so much easier to understand.

A pile of rolled-up woven bands.
Five woven bands, beautiful in all their simplicity.

I love my sweet pile of handwoven bands. Such a simple idea yet so brilliant and useful. An weaving plain bands is just a small taste of what someone can achieve with patterns and more knowledge. Still, I like the simple design of these. They show off the simple beauty of the handspun.

Happy stashbusting!


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!

Fair isle yoke

This post is not about spinning. It is, however, about the first knitting design I made, a Fair Isle yoke. I started designing and knitting it over two years ago, but for different reasons I have pushed it aside in favour of other projects. During my current stashbusting frenzy I have finally finished it.

A woman wearing a knitted sweater with a Fair Isle yoke in turquoise and oatmeal.
My finished Fair Isle yoke. Photo by Dan Waltin

Knitwear design

The idea of making my own knitwear designs has been in my mind for some years now. It has become more and more real and I have produced a few designs already and published one pattern. My problem has been that while I want to design for handspun yarn I have felt a need to involve commercial yarn for the sake of test knitting and publishing on Ravelry. That’s the way it goes, right? You make the pattern, send it to test knitters with yarn instructions and publish it. I thought I would have to make two items of every design – one in commercial yarn to fit the knitwear design practice and one in my handspun for my sake. Lately, though, I have realized that I can skip the commercial yarn part and just design for the yarn I spin. I can do this my way. I realize that I won’t sell tons of patterns by designing for handspun. But I need to design, my brain needs it.

A fair isle yoke

This sweater design started in 2017 in this spirit – a design in a commercial yarn for the sake of the established pattern writing practice. The yarn is 2ply jumper weight from Shetland woolbrokers.

Close-up of a Fair-Isle yoke
A Fair-Isle yoke knit in 2ply jumper weight from Shetland woolbrokers. Photo by Dan Waltin

When my brain created designs for my handspun yarns the yoke had to stand back. At some point I got back to it, only to realize that I would have to frog all of it. I had knit up to the armholes but too wide and too short. I reknit it with a better fit and put it aside again in favour of another handspun design. This fall I decided to finish it, and I did. After all, I had made the design (and changed it a number of times) and the yoke chart was finished so I just needed to follow my own instructions. But there had been quite a few alterations along the way, so I decided not to aim for a published pattern. I would ease the pressure and just make the sweater for myself.

The basics

This is a fairly basic Fair Isle sweater. A fitted body and a Fair Isle yoke. A k2p2 rib at the bottom, cuffs and neck. The bottom part of the Fair Isle pattern is based on traditional Fair Isle patterns and the top part (the rounder shapes) is more free-styled.

I managed to make a successful short row shaping for the neck. I made it below the yoke part just after the joining of the sleeves. It came out just the way I wanted it to. I did reknit the neck above the Fair Isle pattern once. My first try was a bit too wide and the second try was just right.

The Fair Isle yoke pattern consists of seven colours – three dark pattern colours, three light background colours and one pop of colour.

There are four decrease rounds in the fair Isle pattern. I love how they make the bubble shapes aim towards the neck. That was my plan, to let the bubble shapes form sort of a pearl necklace around my neck. After the reknitting of the neck I added a fifth decrease round above the Fair Isle pattern.

Things I love

I love the Fair Isle yoke – the colours, the pattern and the fit. I made it according to the books I have studied and it was successful.

The colours

I spent a lot of time choosing the colours. I wanted to do this by the book – three pattern colours, three background colours and one pop of colour. Easy, but complicated. I was advised to look at the colours in black and white to make sure the lightest dark was still darker than the darkest light. It was a lot of fun!

Close-up of a Fair Isle yoke. Main colours in turquoise, background colours in light natural colours and a pop of red.
Seven colours – three dark pattern colours, three light background colours and one pop of colour. Four decrease rounds in bubble shapes closest to the neck. The white yarn is my handspun. Photo by Dan Waltin

For several years I have had a special place in my heart for teal and turquoise and I still do. I found my three pattern colours that look lovely together. The tangerine pop works perfectly with these.

The background colours are oatmealy (the main colour), natural white and white white. The white white is actually my own handspun yarn. I did buy a white white together with the rest of the skeins, but when I couldn’t find it when I needed it, I picked a handspun instead. It is Shetland wool, though, bought as a fleece from Shetland woolbrokers, so it is the same fibers at least.

The pattern

This is my first ever try at making a Fair Isle pattern. And after a lot of time charting, re-charting and swatching I came up with something I like and that is simple enough to knit. It is an eight stitch repeat and quite a small pattern.

I love how the colours blend into each other, almost like water colours. You have to look closely to see the subtle changes. It actually looks like a real Fair Isle pattern, fancy that!

Fit

I am very happy with the fit (from the yoke up, that is). I managed to plan the chart very well to make the yoke sit comfortably on the shoulders without sagging or pushing itself up.

Things I love less

The body is still too wide and a bit too short, at least from the waist down. I have a problem with the waist shaping of my sweaters. I wear a size M except for the hip measurement where I am a size L. This makes the waist shaping a bit dramatic and difficult to get right. Now I know that I need to allow for more ease at the waist to get a more harmonious waist shaping and still fit over the hips. I hadn’t had this epiphany when I designed (and reknit) the body. Perhaps I will reknit the body once more.

The back of a Fair Isle sweater
A little blousy at the back and still a bit too wide over the hips. I may reknit the body again. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sleeves are a bit too tight. Not for me, but in comparison to the rest of the sweater. And there is an ugly mistake in the body – I had miscalculated the number of stitches in the body. When I started the Fair Isle yoke I suddenly had four stitches too many and I decreased these during the knitting of the yoke. Not very elegant. This doesn’t really show in the yoke, but the back of the sweater is a bit blousy.

All of these parts are parts you don’t see in the photos. I gave Dan strict instructions on what angles he could shoot in, to show mostly the good parts.

Close-up of the back of a Fair Isle sweater
You can see a glimpse of the surplus stitches at the back of the yoke. The join at the back of the Fair Isle pattern is a bit untidy in the picture. Since then I have ripped up the woven-in ends and redone it and it looks much better now. Photo by Dan Waltin

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!

Chair pads

My chair pads with Ghiordes knots are finished! They are such a joy to sit on and I smile every time I see them, especially considering they are made of handspun thrums and stashed handspun yarn only. The old store-bought pads with their innards crawling out of them are buried, forgotten and forgiven.

Stashbuster chair pads

During the fall I started making rya chair pads. The inspiration came from when I took a craft leadership course. For the classes we sat on stools with woven pads with rya knots that felt very cozy to sit on. I kept the pads in my mind and one day I connected them with all my saved handspun thrums and odd skeins of handspun yarn.

The warp is Shetland wool and the weft is Värmland wool that just hadn’t found their project yet. My plan was to make all the knots from saved thrums, but I ran out of thrums at quite an early stage in the process. The blue/white and the thinly striped in greens are the only ones made completely of thrums.

The numbers

The pattern consists of four parts: One row of rya knots and three shuttlings. One such series takes me around ten minutes. Every chair pad has around 40 such series and according to my calculations one pad has taken around seven hours to finish. Plus of course the time it took to spin the yarn. You can see how I made the knots in this post.

I wanted to replace the ugly pads on our eight chairs, so I warped for eight pads. Perhaps I should have thought of the bulk of eight knotted pads on the cloth beam before doing that. I will tell you more about why further down in this post.

There is a lot of bulk on the cloth beam. Cow pattern in dark brown Shetland wool and white Swedish finewool.

I used just under one kilo of handspun yarn for this project. One kilo of odd skeins, colours that I had found no use for and early creations that don’t match the standards I have today. It feels so good to have used these precious skeins for warming our behinds.

The pads

I decided to just use the yarns I had and make a new pattern for every new pad. The only theme of the pads is the stashbusting. I must say that it has been very satisfying to find such a good use for these yarns that have been filling my handspun stash.

Blue and white

My plan for the first pad was to make it blue. The plan worked perfectly until I ran out of blue thrums mid-pad. So I simply used white for the rest of the pad. Which turned out to be less than half of the pad. But still, a pretty pad. I spun the blue yarn from Swedish Leicester wool and dyed it. The wool has beautiful shine, just like rya knots are supposed to. The thrums comes from a twill pillowcase I finished just before I started warping for the chair pads.

A fuzzy chair pad in blue and white.
My very first chair pad in blue and white

The white yarn is a rya/Swedish finewool mixbreed. The thrums comes from a blanket I wove a few years ago. Yarn from rya wool is the traditional yarn you use for rya rugs. The fibers are strong and make durable and shiny knots for any rug.

Green waves

For my second pad I did have a plan. I wanted to alternate colours and number of rows in the stripes in sort of a continuum – there are three colours in the pad but every other stripe is light, making a four stripe series. The stripes is a series of three: 4 + 2 + 2 rows in the stripes. This means that the total repeat is 12 stripes.

Green waves made with thrums from two pillowcases.

The thrums comes from two pillowcases, the Blanka pillowcase and the non-Blanka pillowcase in Shetland and Dalapäls wool. The yarn is a bit too thin for a pad, but I still like it.

Hjärterum – room for the heart

There is a saying in Swedish going: “Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum”. This translates to “If there is room for the heart there is room for the bum”, meaning that if you have room for a person in your heart you will scooch over and make room for that person to sit, even if there aren’t enough seats.

A weaving project on a loom. The pattern is knots in a V-shape. The weaver's knees are visible below the warp threads, creating a heart together with the V shape.
Heart and filling in Shetland wool, background in Swedish finewool. Warp is Shetland wool and weft is Värmland wool.

This is the only pad I made a chart for. Or, well, I made it and used it until I lost it around the time the picture above was taken. But I think I did all right even on the chart-less part. The heart and the filling is thrums of Shetland wool, from a blanket and a scarf. The white background is a stashed yarn from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool lamb. She was my very first fleece.

Moo

Each pad has been planned during the weaving of the previous. So, mid-heart I realized I needed to weave a cow. And so I did. A typical Swedish landrace cow in white with dark brown patches.

A fuzzy textile with a cow pattern in white with dark brown patches.
I just felt a need to weave a cow

The dark brown patches are Shetland wool, the same yarn as the warp. The white is the same Swedish finewool as the heart background.

Textured whites

My idea for this pad was to make an all-white pad with different thicknesses of yarn to make a textured surface. The bulkiest yarn was too bulky to fold in the knots, so I made these knots single.

A fuzzy pad in white yarns of different thicknesses.
Different textures of white

It didn’t really turn out as I had expected, but I still like the pattern and it fills its bum warming purpose.

Grey waves

This is one of my favourite pads. Therefore I have placed it on my favourite chair – my spinning chair.

The pads take a lot of yarn. This is one of the heaviest one.

I decided to make a pad with bulkier yarn and I do like the effect. The white stripes are Icelandic wool and the grey are Shetland wool. All the stripes consists of four rows, but since the white yarn is bulkier and less elastic it takes up more room. I like how it sort of floods over the whole pad. The shading of the lighter grey was a coincidence in the first row of the first stripe and I liked it, so I repeated it for the rest of the stripe and the second light grey stripe.

Zebra

Obviously my animal theme wasn’t finished. I needed a zebra too. In my naiveté I thought I just needed to make an irregular striped pattern, but after having studied some googled zebras I realized there was more to it than that. So I added some branches, which resulted in a more accurate zebra pattern. I read somewhere that the mare makes sure to stand very close to her foal just after giving birth to make sure the foal remembers and recognizes her unique pattern and doesn’t get lost in a sea of stripes.

A fuzzy chair pad with a zebra pattern in dark brown and white.
I needed to weave a zebra too. The dark stripes in Norwegian Blæset say and white in Swedish finewool.

While the pattern looks like it is moving, I have only changed 1–3 knots for each row. After having finished one row I have marked the spots on the next row that I will change. To plan for one stripe to move I have had to make sure there is room for that stripe to move by slowly moving the adjacent rows. I have also stepped back to see the whole picture to plan upcoming movement in the stripes.

This is also one of my favourite pads and the pattern I am the most proud of. Despite the small changes in each row the overall pattern looks alive and, well, zebra-esque.

Sloppy warp edgings

As always, I learn a lot from my mistakes when I weave. This time I learned about keeping a close eye on the edges when warping. This was a long warp and apparently it wasn’t evenly spread over the width of the warp beam. This resulted in a tighter tension in the edges of the warp and bubbly chair pads. You can see this particularly in the turquoise, cow and heart pads.

The inside of my heart. You can see the bubbly edges from the over stretched edge threads of the warp.

Once again my woven project creates a map of what I have learned. I am sure someone has told me to keep a close eye on the edge of the warp. But I need to feel it too and understand with my hands what is happening. I am grateful for that.

Trouble shooting

I wrote in the beginning of this post that I had warped for eight pads, but I only made seven. By the beginning of the seventh pad, the zebra, the cloth beam started to fuss. The handle unclicked itself from its clicker pawl and the warp went very loose. The handle was all loose but I still couldn’t get it off the loom to investigate what had gone wrong. I contacted my supplier and she quickly sent me a maintenance kit with a new handle. When I saw the kit I quickly understood how it was assembled and could remove the handle from the cloth beam. I realized that there was nothing wrong with the handle or any of its parts. Instead, the thickness of the cloth on the beam had gradually loosened the screw that connected the cloth beam to the side pieces. This had caused the handle to turn loose and disconnect itself from the clicker pawl.

The zebra pad. Knots in Norwegian Blæset sau and Swedish finewool. This is also a favorite.

So, the seventh pad took ages to weave. The warp was very loose and I had to stop and tighten the screw every few shuttlings. But for some reason this made me pay extra close attention to the warp and this last pad turned out to be the most even one!

What about the eighth pad?

I had made plans for the eighth pad. I was going to make it into sort of a rag rug – using the last yarn I had in a striped pattern with white and coloured stripes and letting them replace one another as I ran out of a colour.

A fuzzy chair pad in white and grey stripes, hanging over the backrest of a red wooden chair.
Simple stripes to warm your behind.

Due to the unscrewed cloth beam the eighth pad didn’t happen. Yet. I don’t feel finished with this technique. Although very time consuming, it has been a joyful an educational ride and a very satisfying way to relieve my handspun and thrums stash.

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!

Wool conference

A fleece with long and shiny locks with almost no crimp

A while ago I attended a two-day wool conference for wool entrepreneurs. The conference was very popular and I was flattered just to be invited. All kinds of businesses were represented, from one-woman companies like mine to world-wide selling brands like Fjällräven. In today’s blog post I summarize some of the lectures.

Swedish wool for a sustainable future

The theme of the conference was Swedish wool for a sustainable future. I/5 of Swedish wool is used while the rest (around 1400 tons) is burnt, destroyed or otherwise wasted. At the same time we import 300 tons of wool, preferably from New Zealand.

The wool conference was crowded with wool enthusiasts on the edges of their seats to take part of the scrumptious program. There were lots of lecturers, all of which we greeted with a Jyväskylä applause. In a Jyväslylä applause the audience gives the new speaker a standing ovation when they go on stage. All the lecturers felt very welcomed!

You can see the slides from most of the presentations here. Some of them are in English.

The conference also included workshops about how to improve the value chain of Swedish wool. We also workshopped around the possibility of a national wool event. Many ideas were outlined and I look forward to the proceedings of these ideas.

Let’s stop wasting Swedish wool

The Innovation manager at Fjällräven (who make the popular Kånken backpack) talked under the headline “Let’s stop wasting Swedish wool now” about how they had started to use Swedish wool in their products. It turned out that many customers are afraid of itching material if the label says anything else than merino. So they started using Swedish wool for purposes not next-to-skin, like filling in down-like jackets and pressed together to form the back plate of backpacks.

Fjällräven also started a cooperation with Swedish sheep farms with Jämtland sheep. The Jämtland sheep is our newest breed, a cross between Swedish meat breeds and merino which gives a very fine wool with elasticity and shine. The compant made a small-scale edition of sweaters and showed that it really works to produce garments in Swedish wool.

Long locks of very fine wool and lots of crimp.
Jämtland wool has the crimpiest crimp.

The innovation manager at Fjällräven saw my embroidery on my Fjällräven wool backpack. He snapped a picture of it and sent it to the designer who loved my embroidered pimping!

A dark grey woolen backpack with a flower embroidery on the flap.
My Fjällräven backpack is made of wool. The embroidery is my own.

Circular wool clothes

The Swedish sheep breeders’ association talked about the project Circular wool clothes. In the project they network, invent and collects knowledge about the whole circular value chain from shearing, through use and recycling and eventually composting. The goal is to economize all the parts of the chain and find use in every fiber including residue and bi-products. The project is a cooperation between The Swedish Sheep breeders’ association, the Swedish farmers’ association, the University of Borås and the Swedish brands Filippa K and Röjk.

Alice Lund handwoven textiles

Alice Lund textiles is a handweaving company specializing in textiles for both private public spaces. Many of their textiles can be seen in churches in the county of Dalarna or in lobbies around the U.S. and Japan. Through their products but also through research and lectures they spread knowledge about handweaving as well as the immaterial cultural heritage.

Functional products from Swedish wool

CC wool has found a way to use crossbred wool of uneven quality, wool that many sheep farmers have had trouble finding use for. They collect wool from local sheep farmers, educate them on wool quality and shearing conditions to make sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives for animal owners. The company makes non woven horse and dog blankets from the wool they collect.

A basket with rolled-up wool blankets.
CC wool makes dog and horse blankets out of uneven crossbred wool

Scouring wool

Ullkontoret is a Swedish scouring mill for wool. They started to investigate how to use the vast amounts of Swedish wool that was wasted. Regardless of the ideas they came up with, there was always the same obstacle: The wool needed to be washed. So they bought a wool laundry from Spain and started Sweden’s first wool laundry in a larger scale. They use rain-water only and very little detergent. The waste water is used on their own fields.

Ullkontoret make needle punched felt products of some of the wool they wash.

A lot of the washed wool is used to make needle punched felt. I buy it regularly and use it to maka spindle cases for my spinning courses.

Three tubes made in felted wool.
I make spindle cases from needle punched felt from Ullkontoret. Photo by Dan Waltin

Norway and wool

One problem for the Swedish wool industry is that there is no classification system of Swedish wool. Norway has a long and strong tradition of sheep farming and wool use. Two representatives from the Norwegian company Norilia talked at the wool conference about Norwegian wool and how it is being taken care of. Norwegian sheep farmers receive subsidies to make sure the goals for sheep industries are reached and to improve the quality of Norwegian wool.

Wool from Norwegian pelssau

No waste

Norway produces over 4000 tons of wool every year. 75% of this wool is being exported. The remaining 25 % goes to Norwegian woolen mills. Nothing is wasted. Even the thigh and belly wool is saved and made into rugs. This can be compared to Swedish wool – we burn (oh, the irony), destroy or otherwise waste 80 % of our wool. This figure used to be a lot higher, though and the larger interest in taking care of Swedish wool is a proof that we are better at using this wonderful resource. It is also the reason I started spinning. I wanted to do what I could to use Swedish wool to its best potential.

A classifying system

Norway also has a system of classifying wool, something that Sweden lacks. There are 16 categories of wool in the Norwegian classifying system, sorting after when the wool was shorn (whole-year, spring shearing or autumn shearing), breed type and if the wool is very coarse, has vegetable matter or has otherwise a lower quality. 3800 tons of raw Norwegian wool is classified at one of the eight wool stations every year.

The Swedish wool agency

One initiative that has been taken lately is the Swedish wool agency – a digital marketplace for Swedish wool. It has been born out of the fact that so much Swedish wool goes to waste. Fia Söderberg has developed the digital marketplace where buyers can find the wool they are interested in and sheep owners can find use for their wool and get paid. The wool agency also strives to increase the general knowledge about Swedish wool and to make it more easily available to buyers.

When you visit the wool agency you will see ads that can contain information of sheep breed, when the wool was shorn, if the sheep was sheared by a professional shearer, staple length, degree of vegetable matter and other useful information. The agency also provides guides for buyers and sellers that list important things to think about when shearing and what potential buyers may be interested in.

A happy sheep

Shepherdess, agronomist and lamb advisor Titti Strömne has been around sheep for the past 41 years. She calls her business Glada Fåret, the happy sheep. Through this time she has experienced 16 generations of Swedish finewool sheep. At the conference she talked about wool quality. Swedish finewool sheep is one of three Swedish sheep breeds that is bred for the wool quality, alongside Jämtland sheep and Rya sheep.

Wool quality can come from both genetic and environmental factors.

Genetics

To be able to breed for wool quality the wool needs to be measured and registered. Aspects that are measured are staple length, homogeneity, shine, density and quality. The results are transformed to breeding values to help the sheep farmer decide which animals to use for breeding.

A fleece with short and crimpy staples
I always come back to Swedish finewool.

In Sweden around 3 % of all sheep are measured and registered for wool quality. This can be compared to 30% being measured and inspected for fur quality (to make pretty skins).

Environmental factors

Nutrition and stress can influence the quality of the wool. The summer of 2018 was a very dry one. Many sheep farmers had trouble finding pastures and some had to slaughter their animals. The sheep farmer’s care for the animals will have an impact on the quality of the wool through the whole length of the staple. A happy sheep will produce higher quality wool.

Happy is the new black

One of the most interesting lectures for me was about trends. A Swedish trend scout started by saying that consumption is so old and out. In 2020 people won’t want to consume stuff anymore – lots of stores run out of business. The customers want to live more sustainable lives. He said that in 2020 people will be interested in products that

  • have a story
  • are genuine
  • are locally produced
  • are made in sustainable materials.

His conclusion was that people don’t want more stuff. Instead they want experiences that give them joy – Happy is the new black.

With these words I feel that the services I provide – blog posts, videos, webinars and courses in spinning and wool – are right on track. I have said it before and I will say it again. And again:

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!

Finished

A few weeks ago I took you on a tour of some of my unfinished projects. I have actually finished a few things lately. One of them is a sweater in my own design from my handspun yarn. I call it Bianka.

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

Bianka

Staples of wool in shades of grey.
Bianka’s fleece in shades of grey.

A while ago I bought a fleece in shades of grey. The wool was from the Swedish finewool and East Frisean cross Bianka. She was old and is on other pastures now. The Shepherdess was happy that I gave some love and care to the last of her fleece. This was a day I had decided not to buy any fleece. I failed.

Colour sorting

Five skeins of handspun yarn from natural white through medium greys to dark grey. Three of the shades have specks of colour in them.
Shades of grey. From the left: Selma, three shades of Bianka in the middle and on the far right the nameless sheep number 12004. Selma, the lightest shade of Bianka and the dark grey has sari silk carded into it.

I decided to divide the fleece into three shades to show their beauty and spin them separately. I carded rolags and spun a 3-ply yarn with English long draw. The skeins turned out beautifully, but they weren’t enough for a sweater. I did have two other spinning projects going on that would suit my three greys perfectly – one natural white from the finewool/rya cross Selma (coming up in a later post) and one dark grey from the Margau Beta sweater. Luckily there was yarn left from the knitting project they had been involved in.

A plain design

I wanted to design a sweater that would let the colour gradient be the star. I also wanted it to be an everyday sweater. Since I wasn’t sure I had enough yarn I wanted it to be as plain as possible with a fitted design.

Top-down

A knitted sweater in shades of grey.
The sweater is knit top-down in the round to take advantage of the colour gradient. Please note the snowflakes. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I am new to designing and I have found bottom-up designs much easier to calculate than top-down. However, for this design I needed to start at the top. I wanted the shades to go from light to dark and I had much more of the darker shades than the lighter ones. I figured the distribution of the colours would be more in balance if the smaller amounts were at the yoke where the circumference was smaller. Hence, I needed to pull myself together and design a top-down sweater. After the third frogging it worked!

Subtle details

I wanted some small and subtle design element, though, and I wanted it to be present in different parts of the sweater. I found a very simple cable ribbing that I used for the collar, cuffs and bottom hem. The yoke shaping got the same kind of cable. I also added a faux seam in the sides and sleeves. The whole sweater is knit in the round, though.

Close-up of a knitted yoke in shades of grey. The neckband and raglan shaping is cabled.
Cabled neck ribbing that continues in the raglan shaping. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I decided not to make any short rows to for the neck. It would disturb the raglan cables and I wanted the design to be as simple as possible. I could have placed short rows below the raglan cables, but then the colour segments would look wrong.

Colour challenge

Since I was determined to keep the colour changes in the same place for sleeves and body and I didn’t have endless amounts of yarn I needed to knit the body and sleeves at the same time. There were lots of needles and cables to get tangled in, I can tell you! But I think there is a beauty in the limitation – if I have a finite amount of material I need to be more creative than if I had all the material I could wish for. I see the limitation as a positive thing that I need to account for in my design and that gives it an extra dimension.

Two hands touching a tree. You can see the cuffs of a knitted sweater. The ribbing of the cuffs is cabled.
The cuffs have the same cabled ribbing as the neck and raglan shaping. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I was a bit worried that I would run out of yarn before I was finished and I was aware that I may have had to keep the sleeves shorter than I wished them to be. In the end I did end up with one skein left of the darkest shade and part of a skein of the second darkest. I didn’t have to make the sleeves shorter. I love that the uncabled part of the cuff spreads out like a little skirt over my hands.

Close-up of the bottom hem of a knitted sweater. The hem has cabled ribbing.
A faux side seam and cabled ribbing at the bottom hem. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The hem ribbing has the same pattern as the cuffs. I like the fairly high ribbing, especially in combination with the few centimeters of dark grey above the ribbing, before the lighter grey takes over.


All in all I’m very happy with the result. I am learning more and more about garment design and what I can do with the yarn I have. All the way from feeling a fleece for the first time and through the steps of the process to a finished yarn a design takes shape in my mind. I feel so empowered by the realization that I can mold my fleece into a finished garment that celebrates the wool that made it possible.

Perhaps I will knit myself a matching hat with the leftover yarn.

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!

Reuse

A while ago I finished a weave. That moment when you cut the warp is a scary one, especially when the warp is handspun. I have saved all my handspun thrums simply because I can’t bear to throw them away. In my current weaving project I reuse my saved thrums.

A hand cutting down a warp from a loom.
Cutting down a warp is scary, especially if the yarn is your own handspun.

Thrums

I have always felt bad for the thrums left behind. Up until now I haven’t figured out what to do with them, but I haven’t been able to throw them away. I have just sighed and put them in a cupboard.

A couple of years ago I saw the prettiest chair pads made just like a rya rug – a woven square with gordian knots covering the whole surface. This was the perfect project for my thrums!

Rya chair pads

After having cut down my latest weaving project from the loom – and carefully saving the thrums – I started warping for my chair pads. We have eight kitchen chairs with the ugliest cotton pads with foam rubber filling. I am ashamed to say that they are at least fifteen years old and leaking out all their innards. So I warped for eight pads, that’s four meters of warp. I haven’t warped four meters before and I hope I am not in over my head.

A loom with a long warp. A warping peg holding the warp is attached to a balcony fence.
September is the perfect month for outdoor warping!

I am a beginner at weaving and I only have a rigid heddle loom. But it does what I want it to do and on a level that I understand. The sweet thing about being a beginner is that I don’t know what rules I’m breaking. Trial and error are my guides.

The warp yarns are also my handspun that have been lying in my stash for quite a while without a designated project.

Setup

The warp is a Shetland 2-ply from a fleece I bought a couple of years ago. The weft is, well, whatever I have really. And I have a lot of yarn just waiting to be useful. I do spin more than I use my handspun. The weft for the first chair pad is hand-combed and worsted spun Värmland wool.

I have left a 2 cm border on each side edge without knots and 4 cm between each pad. This way I can make a folded hem around the pad for sturdiness.

The knots are made mostly with my saved thrums. The first thrums are from another warp yarn – a hand-dyed jeans blue Swedish Leicester yarn spun worsted from hand-combed tops. I will also use old skeins of handspun that I haven’t found a use for. Probably lots of white and natural colour yarn. And I have the freedom to make stripes, patterns or whatever my heart desires.

Gordian knots

A knot of blue yarn around three brown warp threads
A sweet little gordian thrum knot.

This is how I make my Gordian knots for this project:

  • I make my knots over three warp threads, leaving one warp thread between each bundle of three.
  • I use a doubled piece of yarn (resulting a loop in one end of the knot).
  • After having lifted the three warp threads slightly I put the middle of the doubled yarn over the three threads, then under the outer warp threads and up in the middle.
  • I slide the knot down to the weave and pull it snug.
A hand pulling a knot in a warp.
Pulling the Gordian knot snug.

After the knot “shuttling” I make three regular shuttlings and repeat these four shuttlings. The knots in the second repeat are moved one warp thread to make a more harmonious pattern.

Rpws of blue Gordian knots in a brown weave
One row of knots and three regular shuttlings.

Helpful tools and techniques

To get the yarn ends for the Rya knots in equal lengths I use a wooden board around which I wrap the thrums in bundles. I cut the bundles at the edges of the board and get equal lengths.

To make it easier to pick each individual piece of yarn I bundle them together and tie the bundle on the middle. That way I can place the bundle on the weave and easily pick out individual yarn ends as I make the knots. I use a tapestry beater to beat the knots and the weft yarn tight.

A Rya weave in a loom. A wooden tool with sawed out teeth and a bundle of 12 cm yarn ends lie on top of the warp.
I’m out of the blue Leicester and continue with natural white Rya/Finull crossbred. A tapestry beater helps me keep the weft tight. Bundled yarn ends make it easier to pick out individual strands.

The weaving of a muppet

As I happily knot away I realize how much yarn I will need for my eight chair pads. I ran out of blue Leicester thrums after two thirds of the first pad and continued with white finewool/rya thrums. This will be a very effective stash buster project!

I also realize how much time this will take. Each four row repeat take around ten minutes to finish. I’ll be lucky if we can place our new year’s bottoms on these. But when we do, I expect I will want to sit on them all the time.

A table loom  with a rya weave on it. Sunrise over a lake in the background.
A loom with a view

I’m still very much of a beginner at weaving. But that doesn’t stop me from treasuring the moments I bring out my loom. The repetitions of the knotting and the shuttlings help me unwind and allow my thoughts to come and go. Feeling the very muppetness of the knots gives me such joy. I smile at the prospect of sitting on these pads. They actually look like real things! I think I’ll name this first one Groover.

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!

Twined knitting

Two pieces of knitting on a pebble beach.

I have a new video for you today! It is a short demonstration of twined knitting. Don’t worry, there is some spinning in the video too. Twined knitting requires a special kind of yarn that is hard to find and therefore perfect to handspin!

Spin-off article and pattern

In the fall 2019 issue of Spin-off Magazine I wrote an article about twist analysis and spinning for twined knitting. The article also includes a brief history of twined knitting in Sweden. On top of that, I made a pattern for twined knitting mittens especially for this issue. It is my very first published pattern! All the beautiful pictures in the article and the pattern description are Dan’s. Go get your copy now!

About twined knitting

The oldest finding of a twined knitting textile dates back to around the mid 16th century to the early 17th century in county Dalarna in Sweden. There are many garments and accessories left in County Dalarna – mittens, socks and jackets. Usually the sleeves only were twined knit while the torso was sewn of vadmal.

A jacket with red knitted sleeves with a black pattern and a green vadmal torso with decorative stitching.
An antique traditional jacket with twined knitted sleeves and a vadmal torso. From the study collection at Sätergläntan.

Two strands for sturdiness

With twined knitting you use two strands of yarn. The passive strand is carried at the back of the project. You knit with the back strand. This means that after one stitch is made the two yarns are twined. Ridges of twined knitting cover the whole wrong side of a knitted section and makes a sturdy material.

Close-up of a person knitting with two strands of yarn. A city in the background.
Twined knitting is done with two strands of yarn. The ruin of Saint Nicolai in the background.

Even though twined knitting is done with fine needles, the twining makes the fabric strong, sturdy and windproof. It will last for generations. The yarn I use is a handspun light fingering weight yarn and I knit with 2 mm needles.

Basic technique

Set-up:

  • Hold the two strands in your right hand. I usually wrap them once around my pinkie for even tensioning.
  • “Steer” the strands with your index and middle fingers between the strands.

Knitting:

  • Insert the right needle in the first stitch of the left needle
  • Pick up the back strand with your index finger
  • Throw it over the needle
  • Make a knit stitch
  • Insert the needle in the next stitch

When I make a pair of something in twined knitting I always knit both at the same time. This way I will make sure I get the same size.

Two pieces of knitting on a pebble beach.
I knit my jacket sleeves with 2 mm needles. The material is still strong and sturdy. On the inside you can see the horizontal twined ridges.

For cast-on, more basic techniques and a mitten pattern, see my article and pattern in the fall 2019 issue of Spin-off Magazine. For more in-depth knowledge about twined knitting there are good books. Mainly in Swedish, but some also in English. Twined knitting by Birgitta Dandanell was the one I started out with. My current favourite, which also covers the beautiful history of the technique and its traditions is Tvåändsstickat by Birgitta Dandanell, Ulla Danielsson and Kerstin Ankert. This book is in Swedish only, but has lots of beautiful pictures of traditions, old garments and how-to descriptions.

Twining and untwining

The two yarn ends typically come from both ends of a center-pull ball. Since the strands are twined they will eventually have to be untwined. You do this by making a half-hitch around the ball and holding it up to untwine itself.

A woman standing by a medieval wall. She is holding up a ball of yarn and a knitting project.
Every now and then I need to untwine the ball of yarn.

A lady on the train

In the beginning of July when I was on the train back home from teaching at Sätergläntan, I was working on my current twined knitting project. When we had almost arrived in Stockholm an elderly lady approached me and asked me if I had been to Sätergläntan. She had seen me knit on the train. The lady had poor eye sight, but she instantly recognized my untwining of the yarn ball as twined knitting. She told me that she used to twine knit all the time when she was younger. I love the effect public crafting has on people – both crafters and the people around them.

Z-ply yarn

Twined knitting is done best with a Z-ply yarn. An S-ply yarn (which is the most common in commercial yarns) will get even more twined and result in a bulkier material. There are only two mills in Sweden that spin Z-ply yarns for twined knitting. As spinners we can make our own Z-ply yarn, though!

A woman spinning on a supported spindle by a window opening in a ruin.
Spinning for twined knitting at Drotten’s ruin.

For this project – a couple of jacket sleeves – I spin Dalapäls wool on a supported spindle. I have flick carded the individual locks and spin them from the back end. This way I get both undercoat and outercoat in the yarn.

Since I spin counter-clockwise I use my left hand as a spinning hand to pull the spindle towards the palm of my hand when I spin. When I ply I change hands so that my right hand is the spindle hand, pulling the spindle. In this blog post you can read more about my thoughts on spinning direction. You can also check out this webinar on spindle ergonomics.

The Z-plied yarn I twine knit with is the yarn I spin in my recent video Catch the light.

Slow

The fine needles and the twining method makes twined knitting a slow technique. I’m in no hurry, though. I also make it even slower by stopping every now and then to feel the sturdy material and enjoying the structure.

A woman sitting on a font, knitting
Knitting by the font in Saint Catherine’s ruin

Considering that a pair of twined knitted mittens lasts for generations, you only need to make one pair where other techniques would require lots of mending or replacement mittens. Twined knitting may even be faster in a lifetime perspective.

Location: The medieval city of Visby

In mid-July, the whole family took a two-day trip to the medieval city of Visby, Gotland. In Medieval times the city was protected from angry farmers with a sturdy city wall and the wall still stands. Inside the city there are around 10 church ruins from the 12th and 13th centuries. The whole city is a world heritage.

A woman knitting in a ruin. There is no roof in the ruin.
S:t Clement’s ruin was my favorite ruin to knit in.

These sites are perfect for making beautiful video shots (most of which were made by Dan)! I especially loved knitting in the ruins. The space, acoustics and light were all magic. The grass, flowers and ivy all added a touch of mystery to the scenery.

By the way, you can see a glimpse of our children in the video. Towards the end I stand in an opening in of one of the walls of the ruin of Saint Lars, looking down. The two teenagers walking around below, discovering the passageways of the ruin are my darlings. They are also responsible for the stone skipping by the pebble beach.

Challenge yourself and spin a Z-plied yarn. Perhaps you will have finished a pair of twined knitted mittens by the holidays.

Happy knitting!


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!

Gotland top

The short-rows didn't make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I'm still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin

I have nothing educational to offer you in today’s blog post. Instead I show you my latest finished fluff to stuff project – a Gotland top in my own design and handspun yarn from the Gotland sheep Sounnie.

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

Background

Those of you who have followed my blog the last few months have seen the wool before. It is the freakishly long locks of the Gotland lamb Sounnie that I wrote about in an article in the spring issue of Spin-off magazine and a blog post on Gotland wool a while ago. Some of you also attended the breed study webinar on Gotland wool where I demonstrated how I prepared, spun and used the wool. Those of you who attended the Gotland wool webinar also saw a glimpse of the yoke on the needles in the webinar.

Sounnie, a Gotland top

Gotland wool in general has a lot of shine, strength and drape, ad so did the fleece I had from the Gotland lamb Sounnie. I wanted to honour these main characteristics in both the yarn and the textile. I played with different preparations, spinning and textile techniques until I found a yarn that would give me the shine, strength and drape the fleece had on the sheep.

Design

Just as I did the yarn and the textile, I wanted my Gotland top to signal shine, strength and drape. I chose to knit a fitted raglan yoke and give the top drape below the bust line. I had a vision of sort of an early 19th century empire look – fitted bust, elbow-length sleeves with some flair and a drapey bodice. At the same time I wanted a sporty look to give it a more modern touch, hence the stripes.

The Sounnie top has a longer back piece and elbow-length sleeves with flair. Photo by Dan Waltin
The Sounnie top has a longer back piece and elbow-length sleeves with flair. Photo by Dan Waltin

The finished top didn’t turn out as drapey as I had envisioned (I am a beginner designer and learning knitting maths by trial and error), but I still like the result. And the longer back-piece adds a little drape. The neckline should have been rounder, I do need to practice my short-row neck shaping. Dan commented that the sweater looked a bit medieval, and I do agree. So a sporty empire medieval top with a square neck it is then!

Construction

The Gotland top has a top-down seamless construction. What may look like side seams are actually just a column of P2 to balance the front and the back and to give the side increases something to lean against.

What may look like a side seam is actually a column of P2 to balance the front and the back. Photo by Dan Waltin
What may look like a side seam is actually a column of P2 to balance the front and the back. Photo by Dan Waltin

Neckline, sleeve ends and hemline are knit in garter stitch. I used short row shaping (I now officially love German short rows!) in the hemline for a longer back piece. I love this detail and I managed to get the maths right from the beginning. Yay!

The little flair in the sleeve ends are just increases in one row. I wanted a flair or trumpet effect and not a frill. I tried two different varieties and I think I got the increase to stay on the right end of the thin frill border.

Flair – not frill. Photo by Dan Waltin
Flair – not frill. Photo by Dan Waltin

Challenges

There are lots of challenges on the winding road of beginner designing. But I learn a lot from every detour and every curve of the ride. All the things I learn are knit into the garment and form a map of what I have learned.

Knitting direction

I wanted to knit it bottom-up as it is – in my opinion – a lot easier to calculate the numbers bottom-up than top-down. But I wasn’t sure there would be enough yarn and I didn’t want to run out of yarn at the bustline. Better to have a garment too short at the bottom than at the top, wouldn’t you agree?

Short rows

As I mentioned above, I didn’t get the neckline the way I had envisioned. I do like the one I ended up with, but it does bother me that I didn’t get it rounder. I’ll have to investigate that for my next design. The yarn isn’t really forgiving. It is a 2-ply yarn and they tend to show holes and irregularities more than 3-ply yarns. The w&t short rows in the back neck show, but I’ll have to live with that. The German short rows on the lower back hem look very nice, though.

The short-rows didn't make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I'm still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin
The short-rows didn’t make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I’m still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin

Dyeing dilemma

Since I was unsure of how much yarn I would need I only dared to dye one skein for the stripes. And of course there was too little dyed yarn left when I got to the bottom hem. So I dyed a bit more, using the same dye lot, but since I’m not an experienced dyer, the colour didn’t exactly match the original colour. The three bottom rounds have a more yellow tone than the top three in the hemline. But I’m the only one who will see it. If nothing else, it is part of the story of a new design.


When you read this I will be away on the 2019 wool journey with my wool traveling club. I will report about the event in an upcoming post!


Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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!