Calculations

In many spinning or knitting projects people have asked me how much time I have spent spinning, how much raw fleece it takes to spin a certain amount of yarn, how much a skein would cost etc. I have often wondered this myself. In this post I will take you through all the calculations of my recently finished fleece-to-garment project.

This is the fourth post in a blog series. The first post was about how to find the superpowers of a fleece and in the second post I talked about consistency. The third post was about design from fleece to garment. Through the blog series I use the wool from one sheep as a case study.

Wool preparation

I started with two fleeces from the same sheep, one spring shearing and one autumn shearing. I had given parts of both to a friend, so none of them were complete fleeces. But an estimation is that I had around 1,2 kg of raw fiber before I started the project.

To make this yarn happen I went through the following preparations steps:

  • I blended the two fleeces together in a big basket
  • To tease the wool I used combs and added the sari silk at this stage
  • I carded the teased fluff into rolags with my hand cards. Every rolag was carded 6×3 strokes
Close-up of a grey sweater with embroidered flowers.
Photo by Dan Waltin

Spinning

  • I spun the yarn with English longdraw. For each draw I treadled 4 + 10 treadles. Darn it, I didn’t count how many long draws I did for each rolag. But there was a lot of treadling!
  • Every single took 16 rolags. The yarn was 3-plied, which equals 16×3=48 rolags for every skein
  • When the last singles had been plied I had 12 skeins of roughly 60 g each.
  • The total weight of the skeins was 700 g. Total length: 1270 m. 700 g of yarn from 1200 g of wool makes a yield of around 58% of the weight of the fleeces. My average yield is around 55 %.
  • 12 3-plied skeins with 48 rolags in each skein makes 576 rolags, carded with a total of 10368 strokes. Roughly.

Knitting

It took 8 skeins to knit the sweater – 830 m and 440 g. Still, it is light as a cloud and feels like a second skin. Or my very own fleece.

Josefin Waltin wearing a dark grey sweater with embroidered flowers
Photo by Dan Waltin

Time investment

For time calculations I tried to make an estimation of each part of the process from fluff to stuff. For example, I knit for 20 minutes and weighed how much I had knit during that time and multiplied it by 3 to get the knitted weight per hour.

Per skein

  • Teasing/combing 20 g of wool: 20 minutes x 3 = 1 hour
  • Carding 20 g of fiber: 20 minutes x 3 = 1 hour
  • Spinning 20 g of fiber: 40 minutes x 3 = 2 hours
  • Plying 3×20 g of singles: 30 minutes
  • Plus sorting and washing for a total of around 4 hours

Total time for 12 skeins: 60 hours (40 for the 8 skeins for the sweater), 5 hours per skein

Oh, and the embroidery yarn. Let’s add another 4 hours for that.

Knitting time

Knitting per hour: 21,6 g. Total weight of the sweater was 440 g, so an estimated total time for knitting is roughly 20 hours. Plus embroidery 2 hours. Ball winding by hand, 2 hours. Add to that designing, swatching, frogging, pattern calculations, blocking etc, an extra 10 h. That’s roughly 80 hours for one sweater.

Cost

“I know you love knitting, how much for a sweater? I can pay for the material cost!” How many of you have heard that before? My usual answer is, “Tell me a decent hourly rate and I’ll tell you how many hours it took to knit it.” You know where I’m heading, don’t you?

Pia’s calculations

A few years ago Pia Kammeborn, Queen of Kammebornia, calculated the cost of a pair of mittens. The post is written in Swedish but the gist of it is: It takes her around 20 hours to knit a pair of half mitts. Textile crafts (or women’s craft) have never really been paid fairly, so Pia’s calculations are based on an average hourly rate for typical male crafts. With an hourly rate of 600 Swedish kronor/ 60 €/ $67, which is what a craftsman in a typical male craft like plumbing or carpentry would earn, Pia’s mittens would cost around 12000 Swedish kronor/ 1200€/ $1320.

“I know you love renovating kitchens, will you do mine? I can pay for the material cost!”. Nobody ever said that. Does that mean men’s work is worth more than women’s? Well, that’s just wrong.

A man and a woman putting together a wooden floor
Back in 2011, Dan and I renovated our bedroom. We considered asking Dan’s father (who built his own house) to help us, but instead we did it ourselves. Together. We still asked Dan’s father to help out, but as a baby sitter. Photo by Dan Waltin.

My calculations

Back to my sweater. We landed in 80 hours totally from fleece to garment. With the same calculations as in Pia’s example that would land in roughly 48000 Swedish kronor/ 4800 €/ $5280. Or, if you are short on cash, a skein for 3000 Swedish kronor/ 300 €/ $332.

Material cost?

Two of the fleeces were championship winners and I bought them at the auction following the competition. I paid around 800 Swedish kronor/80 €/ $88 for all three fleeces, so an estimation for the cost of the material for the sweater is around 500 Swedish kronor/50 €/ $55. That’s less than the rate per hour in the calculations in Pia’s example above.

Less than 300 Swedish kronor/30 €/ $33 for one fleece is way too cheap, considering the all the work invested by the sheep owner. But that is another story and for a shepherdess to tell.

The crocodile in the river

So basically I’m walking around at work with a sweater worth 48000 kronor! But I can’t be the first person to having done that. Or, well, 48500 to be more exact if you include the material cost, but that’s just a fart in the universe in this example.

Josefin Waltin walking in the snow, wearing a dark grey sweater with embroidered flowers.
Photo by Dan Waltin

I’m just waiting for someone to ask me what I will charge for a sweater. I’ll take the bait without hesitation, like a crocodile in the river, unannounced – BAM! – 48000 kronor.

A baby crocodile

I can say that I would charge 48000 Swedish kronor for a sweater. I know nobody would buy it, though and I won’t sell it. My husband tried to convince me to sell a pair of nalbinding mittens on e-bay for 20000 Swedish kronor just to make a point. But I would never knit or spin for money. These things are my babies.

I know many people need to sell their handspuns and hand knits. And I know the discussion about pricing handspuns – and fleeces – pops up every now and then in the spinning forums. Even if nobody will buy handmade textiles with the calculations above it is an important discussion.

As a hand spinner and/or hand knitter you can always charge at least a little more than you think. Like a baby crocodile. Chances are, the more people pay, the more they will appreciate the time, skill and love invested in handmade textiles.


This was the last post in this blog series. As always, I have learned a lot from writing the posts and reflecting over what I am doing and why. I hope you learned something too.

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!
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Design from fleece to garment

Close-up of a grey sweater with white embroidered flowers

Through my years as a spinner I have made lots of projects where I spin for a garment. This time I take the process further and make my own garment design, based on the superpowers of the fleece. In this post I look at design from fleece to garment.

This is the third post in a blog series. The first post was about how to find the superpowers of a fleece and in the second post I talked about consistency. In the remaining post I take you through some calculations. Through the blog series I use the wool from one sheep as a case study.

Design: Margau beta

When I designed the yarn in this case study I worked with the superpowers of the fleece. I wanted to take advantage of the characteristics of the wool in the finished yarn. By listening to the wool and let it tell me how it wanted to be prepared and spun I could allow it to become its best yarn. I wanted the same for the design of a garment – to let the yarn be the star of the garment. So I designed for the yarn. Meet the Margau beta design.

Josefin Waltin walking in the snow. She is wearing a dark grey knitted sweater with white flowers embroidered on the side.
Meet the Margau Beta design. Photo by Dan Waltin

Texture

I wanted a simple pattern with both knit and purl elements. An advanced pattern like cables or lace would take the focus from the yarn too much. At first I was playing with the idea of stockinette stitch with panels of garter stitch. This idea didn’t work very well, since garter stitch fills out the thickness of the fabric and takes from the length. Stockinette and garter in the same row would therefore result in a bubbly structure, which I didn’t want. Instead I came up with simple panels of stockinette and reversed stockinette. The smooth stockinette shows off the shine in the yarn and the reverse stockinette reveals the roundedness of the 3-ply and the colored specks from the sari silk.

Model

I love the look of a raglan yoke. It looks very flattering and knitting in the round suits me as a process knitter. Top-down knitting is what first comes to mind for me, but I wanted to try bottom up this time. I knit the sweater seamlessly with a no-ease fit and waist shaping. Neckband and cuffs in garter stitch.

Design details

The main part of the body of the sweater is knit in stockinette. At the front and on the sleeves there are panels of reverse stockinette stitch. The waist shaping is all made in reverse stockinette side panels. The panels pass the sleeve in the front and back and go between the raglan yoke shapings.

Close-up of a dark- grey knitted sweater with embroidered flowers.
The side panels pass on both sides of the sleeves and between the raglan shapings. Photo by Dan Waltin

Embroidered flowers

I decided I wanted som assymetrical bling on one of the side panels. I spun a yarn from another finull/rya mix breed, also a winner (silver medal) at the Swedish fleece championships and also from shepherdess Margau Wohlfart-Leijdström. She knows what she is doing! This finull/rya mixbreed, however is more rya-like in its character. The staples are long, shiny and quite straight, but also soft (lamb).

A white fleece.
Long, soft and shiny staples of a finull/rya mixbreed.

The fleece was the perfect candidate for an embroidery yarn, and extra special since it was from the same flock as the main fleeces. I combed the staples and spun with short forward draw into a 2-ply worsted yarn.

I had plans to dye it in a light turquoise and a medium turquoise, but the colors turned out all wrong for this project (dyeing is not one of my superpowers). Beautiful colours, but just not for this sweater. I ended up using the natural white only.

Handspun yarn
2-ply embroidery yarn.

The embroidery pattern is simple flowers in chain stitch. I placed them randomly on the left side panel and let them continue on the left front raglan panel and end mid-neckline.

Close-up of a grey sweater with white embroidered flowers
Flowers climbing up the side panels. Photo by Dan Waltin

I have never embroidered on a knitted garment before and I was very careful not to stretch the embroidery yarn. The chain stitch is in itself has some ease. I didn’t stretch the chains since I wanted the rounded shape of a flower petal. that way it works quite well even on a garment with no ease.

Thoughts for a future pattern

I call the design Margau beta. Margau is the name of the shepherdess. I added Beta because it is not a finished pattern. and I haven’t made a pattern to publish for this sweater. Knitting this sweater was a test to see if I could design one at all. However, I do want to try to make a pattern of the design eventually if people are interested. From the experiences of designing and knitting Margau beta I have some alterations to make:

  • I will try to design the second design top-down. I think it will make the yoke fitting easier.
  • The neckline needs to be a bit more rounded and I will experiment more with short rows.
  • I do like wide raglan panels, but I think they will benefit from being a little slimmer. That will probably make the transition between front and back look better.
  • The front panel can also be a bit slimmer. That will probably make the yoke area look better.
  • To make a better balance and fit, I may put a panel at the back too (in this design the back is all stockinette).
  • The sleeves are a bit too tight and will benefit from a little more ease.
  • I am playing with the idea of making some sort of pattern in the side panels, perhaps also in the front panel. To fit a pattern, the side panels need to be a bit wider at the waist.

I just need to spin some more yarn first.

A sweater to wear with pride and love. Photo by Dan Waltin

I am very happy about this design and I wear the sweater with love and pride.

Coming up: The last post in this blog series is about calculations. I will summarize the work with this fleece with some interesting stats!


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!
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

The fulling mill

A few weeks ago I published a video I called A meditation. In the video I wanted to pay a tribute to the meditative aspects of spinning on a supported spindle.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a spindle by a mill wheel
Spinning at the fulling mill.

We shot  the video at a 17th century industrial site in Dala-Floda, Sweden. The site consists of, among other things, a number of water mills by a creek. One of the mills is a fulling mill.

An old mill house by a creek
Kvarna fulling mill at Dala-Floda, Sweden.

The fulling mill

A fulling mill (vadmalsstamp in Swedish) is a water mill that people use to full, or felt, their woolen cloth to make a sturdy and windproof felted material, used for wadmal clothing. Times were hard in Sweden once and wadmal clothing was the only thing that kept the wind and the cold out.

The inside of a water mil.
The door out to the mill wheel. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The typical cloth for fulling is a loosely woven woolen cloth. The cloth is carefully folded like an accordion and placed in a trough under the big fulling stocks. For the fulling to work you need to pour hot water on the cloth.

Wooden stocks in a fulling mill.
The fulling stocks and the troughs. Isn’t this the perfect murder scene? Killed by fulling. photo by Dan Waltin.

The water-driven mill wheel drives the stocks so that they beat the woven woolen cloth and thus full it. The trough is rounded in the bottom. In the front, the trough mirrors the shape of the stocks. This makes the cloth move around, thus allowing it to be evenly fulled.

Fulling 6 kilos of cloth in the fulling mill takes around 6 hours. After the fulling is finished the cloth is carefully rolled up on rods to dry and re-rolled once a day until it is evenly dried.

Behind the fulling stocks are wheels connected to the water mill that drives the stocks.
Behind the fulling stocks is the huge wooden milling mechanics. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The fulling mill at Dala-Floda is one of just a handful of remaining and working fulling mills in Sweden. In the prime time of the industrial site in Dala-Floda the people in the area worked the mill  Monday through Friday. Today it is only worked a couple of times a year as far as I understand it. There is also a working fulling mill at Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm.

Skansen outdoor museum explains the fulling mill

Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm has made a beautiful video where they show and explain how the Skansen fulling mill is used. Even though the video is in spoken Swedish, I think you will get the most of the meaning of how the mill works if your Swedish is a little rusty. The last minutes of the video shows how you can full your cloth with your feet in a basin in the comfort of your own home. Fulling your cloth at home will take about 12 hours. Why not let the whole family join in!

Josefin Waltin spinning on a supported spindle
Spinning by the fulling mill. Photo by an Waltin.

I have a secret dream to one day spin a yarn, weave it, full it and sew a garment out of it. Even if I only get to full it by feet, what’s another 12 hours after a sheep-to-cloth process?

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!
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Cotton blog series

A hand holding a boll of cotton

I’m starting a cotton blog series. There will be upcoming posts with cotton preparation and spinning, but in this first post I want to air my thoughts about this fiber.

Fast fashion

I try not to buy cotton clothes. If you have seen my videos Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater and Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl you probably realize that I try to live a sustainable life. I have also tried to show this in my latest documentary video I choose to stay on the ground.

Cotton farming is to a large extent governed by the fashion industry. Anyone who has been in a fashion store realizes that the range of clothes is changed at least four times every year. A large part of these clothes are made of cotton. Therefore, cotton takes up an enormous part of the farmland in the world, land that could have been used for food production. Cotton farming also uses vast amounts of water and pesticides. This in turn affects the nearby flora and fauna and, of course, the people working on the farm. Even if there is organic cotton available, it is still grown as a monoculture which will have consequences for the biodiversity in the area.

Spinning cotton

I have never spun cotton before. Cotton farming depends on a warm climate and I doubt that any of the cotton that is sold to spinners has been farmed in Europe, let alone here in Sweden. Buying cotton from another continent and having it flown back to Sweden just for my pleasure has not appealed to me.

Last year I tried growing my own cotton plants. It all went very well at the beginning. I cultivated five plants indoors and placed them outdoors by midsummer when there was no more risk of night frost. I was delighted to see the pretty flowers and I waited eagerly for the magic to happen in the bolls. However, last summer was a cold and wet one. All the bolls fell off, and one by one the plants died. I didn’t try again this year.

A white and pink cotton flower
A cotton flower from my own plant in 2017

This blog series could have ended here.

Instead, this is where it starts.

Just a couple of weeks ago I received a bag of cotton from a fellow spinner. The cotton had been cultivated right here in Stockholm! She told me that I could share the cotton with fellow spinners. I didn’t. Instead I will share my thoughts and reflections of preparing and spinning locally cultivated cotton.

A pile of cotton bolls
Locally cultivated cotton.

So, with all this said, let the cotton blog series begin! In upcoming posts I will publish videos and show you how I prepare cotton for spinning and three different ways to spin cotton.

Spoiler alert: One of the videos will contain a guest starring cat!

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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Horse buggy cover

I have written in earlier posts about my miniature-scale flax patch and how I grow, process and spin my own flax. This post is about flax processing at a whole different scale.

This is the sixth and last post in my flax series. Earlier posts have covered flax processing in general, the 2018 harvest in my experimental flax patchspinning flax on a spindle,  flax processing and retting. Last year I wrote about the first harvests in my experimental flax patch and my first attempt at spinning flax on a wheel.

A horse buggy cover

This summer we rented a cottage in the Swedish countryside. The landlords are well aware of my textile interest. One day they came to the cottage and said that they had something to show me. I followed them into their kitchen and saw a giant piece of textile. It was a horse buggy cover. They had received it from a relative who was dying and who knew the cover would be well taken care of.

A piece of textile with stripes
The horse buggy cover

The cover was woven from handspun flax from the relative’s in-law’s ancestors. I don’t have a picture of the whole cover, but picture this: A woven blanket the size to fit a two-seat horse buggy for the riders to sit on and perhaps also be covered by in cold weather, like a blanket.

The cover is very densely woven in twill. It is constructed as a pillowcase, so that it can be filled with wool for the winter. The yarn is very fine and evenly spun.

Close-up of a striped textile
Evenly spun and densely woven hand processed flax

When we looked at the inside of the cover, we saw the difference in colour. The outside of the cover had been significantly bleached while the inside had kept its blue colour.

A textile
Looking at the inside reveals the unbleached dye.

The mysteries

How much flax?

So many questions arise when I look at this textile.  Say the cover is at least about 150×200 cm, perhaps even more. And double it for the pillowcase construction. How much flax would you need to grow to weave something this size?

How many farms or harvests?

Did the people who made this cover have enough land of their own to sow all this flax? Were there more farms involved to grow the flax? Or did one family save flax for several year’s growth to process enough flax for the weave?

Who was the spinner?

Who were the people who spun and wove this cover? Was it only one spinner and weaver or were there more people involved?

When was it made?

I have no information of when the cover was made, and we looked for some clues to the time period it could have been made. We looked at the seams and they seemed to be machine sewn, so the cover was probably made in the 20th century.

For what occasion was it made

Was this the regular horse buggy cover that people in general made for themselves for everyday use or was it a fancy cover, or perhaps a community horse buggy cover used for special community occasions?

A little help from a friend

I talked to my friend Maria Neijman of Historical textiles and asked her if she could tell me anything more about the cover based on these photograph. She told me that the weaving technique seems to be warp-faced broken twill to make the cloth dense and durable. I asked if she could tell me anything about the dying. She said that the dark blue yarn in the stripes probably was dyed with indigo. The background colour was more difficult. She said that since the dye had bleached so badly, it may have been dyed with aniline, a synthetic dye.

Some questions answered and many still unanswered. But at the same time it is nice to leave the blanket with its mysteries. Just being able to look at it and feel all the labour and love put into it makes my spinning heart skip a beat.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

This was the last post in my flax series. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

At the flea market

As many of you know, I live in Stockholm. There are lots of antique stores, but no good flea markets. By good I mean flea markets where I can find textiles and textile tools. These kind of flea markets do exist, you just need to go to the countryside to find them. For the last five years we have rented a cabin at a sheep farm in the beginning of August. Not far from the farm there is a three storey flea market in an old spinning mill. Couldn’t be better.

The market is open every Sunday all year round. Of course we made a day of it! So far I am disappointed in the range of textile tools, but there is one table at the flea market I can spend the whole day at.

The textile table

The sellers keep their table for as long as they rent them, so I know exactly where to go. My first stop is always the textile table. A woman collects textiles from around the countryside, not seldom from estates. Picture an old lady who once cherished her linen closet and filled it with hand woven gems. Picture the next generation unaware of the treasure hidden behind a squeaky cabinet door. The local super heroine, the Textile Lady, comes to the rescue and saves all the textiles from oblivion.

A table full of folded textiles.
The textile table at the flea market. Filled with old textiles that someone has cherished, another thrown away and a third has saved from extinction.

The table is filled with sheets, towels, table cloths and lots of haberdashery (oh, how I love this word!). Bobbin lace, name bands, needles and every colour of buttons you can imagine.

Hooks, pins and sewing thread.
Flea market treasures – hooks, pins and sewing thread.

The old packages are just exquisite. The pin box above right says “First class brass pins, solid heads”. Isn’t it to die for?

Boxes of lace and name bands.
Lace and name bands for every occasion.

I stayed for a long while at the lace box, just taking in all the lace beauty and the  hours upon hours of (women’s) work invested in them.

I bought three embroidery hoops from the haberdashery corner (I just had to write this sweet word again!). The two bigger ones look like most embroidery hoops I have seen (see also featured image). But the smallest one is just so exquisitely made! The locking mechanism seems different and the inner hoop has a band meticulously wrapped around it. When I look at the label and the logo I’m thinking the 1020’s.

Save the sheets!

My heart aches for all the sheets, towels and table cloths at the flea market and I want to rescue them all. I can’t, but we always end up buying more than we intended to. There is a lot of women’s history in these textiles, but also a story of industrialism and contemporary consumption patterns.

When my parents got married in 1965 they got lots of household textiles for their new home – sheets, kitchen towels, table cloths etc. They still sleep on those sheets and dry their hands on those linen towels. If I should buy new sheets today, they would be threadbare in under a year. The pressure to buy more and new clothes every turn of the season has led to a pressure on the cotton industry. The cotton fibers are shorter to make way for more harvests. The yarn is more loosely spun and the sheets are woven at a wider sett to save fiber.

We bought four old sheets at the market. Last year we bought six. These are wonderfully thick and strong, some of them hand woven. They will probably last longer than a lifetime.

Four folded sheets with lace borders
Old sheets, a treasure

Look at the sheet below with the beautiful monogram. This sheet was made with love and pride. Probably also various amounts of blood, sweat and tears. However, the loom was too narrow to weave a whole sheet’s width. Thus, the sheet was woven in two lengths and joined in the middle. If you look closely, you can see a very fine seam between the letters in the monogram and above the crocheted lace. Just look at that join! Imagine the hours it took to sew it in bad lighting and sore eyes in a tiny country cottage. I sleep on these sheets with joy and the knowledge that someone has put their skill, love and hours and hours of work into my sleep comfort.

A sheet with a lace border and monogram. A tiny seam between the letters.
Can you see the join of the two sheet halves?

The sheets cost €4 each.

Upcycling

While the Textile Lady has heroically saved the textiles, we bought the workings of another textile heroine. Someone had bought four hand woven fancy kitchen towels and joined them together with a crocheted lace ribbon. Such a smart and thrifty way to upcycle old textiles.

A table cloth made of four kitchen towels joined together with lace ribbons
Kitchen towels made into a table cloth

In my textile rescuing frenzy, I bought five hand woven kitchen towels. Some of them were beautifully monogrammed.

Five white towels, two monogrammed in red
Handwoven kitchen towels

I put them away in the linen cabinet, but the other day I took them out again. My plan was to sew drawstring spindle bags. When I looked closer at them, I saw that they were woven in twill with a linen warp and cotton weft.

Close-up of a white twill textile
Twill towels in linen warp and cotton weft.

If you look closely, you can see it. The horizontal weft is matte while the vertical warp is shiny. I pulled out a warp thread and my theory was confirmed – long and shiny fibers. And then I realized that the linen thread was most likely handspun. You can see in the close-up above that the thread is not industrially even. You can also see some remaining cellulose from the flax processing.

I bought the five towels for €15. Talk about unappreciated women’s labour. Now, however, they are greatly appreciated, by me. And I have turned them into beautiful drawstring bags, ready to host spindles and new yarn for future textiles. The circle is complete.

Enamel necessities

The last thing we bought was an enamel washbasin. Actually, it was my husband who found it. ” I figured you would need this to wash yarn in!”. Indeed I did. This is a very typical kitchen utensil from the beginning of the last century by Kockums enamelware.  They were very popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s but they stopped making them in the 1960’s. I have bought several Kockums utensils from Swedish e-bay – colanders, 5 and 10 deciliter measures and funnels. My favorites are the milk fetcher and the cream fetcher. The fetchers are lidded buckets to fetch the milk (2 l) and cream (5 dl) from the milk store in. We use the milk fetcher for compost and the cream fetcher for tea.

Anyway, the washbasin is doing its job very well and when I don’t use it for soaking yarn in it is the proud home of my cards and combs. We also bought a potty for my husband’s niece who was born two months ago.

A washbasin and potty in enameled tin
Enamel basin for various handspun related purposes

What about the textile tools?

Well, I looked for textile tools and found none. You might expect the odd scutching knife, flax hackle or weasel, but nothing. A couple of modern umbrella swifts and a the ugliest sewing table you have ever seen. Well, we’ll come again next year. Maybe we will save some more textiles or spot a whole range of flax processing tools, who knows!


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Logo embroidery

Embroidery is not my strongest textile technique. Sometimes, though,  an embroidery just needs to exist, and this was such a time. I needed to do some serious logo embroidery on a wool handling apron.

Josefin Waltin wearing an apron with an embroidered sheep
My wool handling apron with sheep logo. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The logo

You may have noticed my logo, the sheep with the spiral fleece.

A logo with a sheep and the text Josefin Waltin spinner

My retired father used to work as an art director and has made lots of logos and I asked him to make one for me. He presented several different ideas, but I fell for this one. It was finished in March and I am very fond of it.

Looking at it, I realized that it wouldn’t be very difficult to make an embroidery of it. I had the perfect wool for embroidery yarn – a strong and shiny white Rya. You have seen it in the Spinning around the world video I released in June. I spun it on a supported spindle and 2-plied it. In this blog post you can read more about the wool and the spinning.

Dyeing

The first step after spinning was getting the colour right. Dyeing is not my field of expertise, I dye when I need to. I use dyes from Greener Shades. I want to mix the colours myself, but I find it quite challenging. Sometimes I don’t see the colour until it’s all dyed. eventually I did get the colour right, but I dyed very little yarn, so it ended up very dark. On the second try I got it right.

a bit of felted wool and a skein of yarn hanging on a washing line
Newly dyed and dried. Rya embroidery yarn and wet felted undercoat for the head.

Looking at the pictures now, though, I see that it has a bit too little red in it. I will have to live with that.

A small skein of blue yarn on a stone
A pretty skein of Rya embroidery yarn

Logo embroidery

I borrowed an embroidery hoop from my friend Maria (who helped me with my medieval spinning video). My original plan was to use a stem stitch – I thought it would look nice on the moving wool spiral. But the yarn was far too thick for the fine linen on the apron and it just looked like croquet hoops. So I picked it up and started again, this time with a simple backstitch. It didn’t make the yarn any thinner of course, but it was easier to make the curves of the spiral look better.

An embroidery hoop with embroidery in blue yarn
Backstitching away

The face was a bit tricky. Originally, I had planned to fill the face with embroidery, but then my friend Elaine suggested that I use a piece of felted wool instead. And that was av very good idea. The felted piece got a little thick, but I can live with that too.

An embroidered sheep in an embroidery hoop
A finished embroidery

My father suggested beads for the eyes, which was just right.

I love my new apron and I feel like a proud entrepreneur when I wear it.

Close-up of a person wearing an apron with an embroidered sheep
My wool handling apron with logo embroidery. Photo by Dan Waltin

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • 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. You can subscribe or get an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts and post lots of woolliness.

Nalbinding socks

A pair of striped socks in backlight

One of my favourite textile techniques is nalbinding. I have made lots of mittens in nalbinding and showed you glimpses of the technique. In this post, though, I go a bit deeper into the world of nalbinding. This is my first pair of nalbinding socks.

An ancient technique

Nalbinding  is a simple technique where you seam with a blunt wooden or bone needle with your thumb as your gauge. It is an ancient technique, dating back at least to the Viking age, but probably further back in pre-history. It is basically a sewing technique, since the thread goes in loops through each other. There is no way to rip the seam, you have to pick it up stitch by stitch. When you are out of yarn, you simply join in a new yarn and felt it together by rolling the ends together between your palms with the addition of a little saliva. Perfect for handspun yarns! It might be a good idea to practice joins in a subtle way if you are amongst people. I am a master of subtle joins. The resulting fabric is dense and sturdy and lasts for a long time. If you waulk your project, it will basically last forever.

Stitches for all tastes

While the basic technique stays the same, there are lots of different stitches to choose from. In the beginning, I chose between the few stitches I could get access to in a leftie description. After the initial learning period, I advanced to the whole spectrum of stitches and learned how to make them from the right-handed descriptions. Lately, I have made most projects in the Dalby stitch.

Close up of nalbinding
Nalbinding close-up using the Dalby stitch. The technique leaves a sturdy fabric, perfect for socks and mittens.

I love the rhythm of the Dalby stitch – pick, pick, over, under, back in a cross and under again, hold the threads with your thumb and pull the yarn to a new thumb loop. It is like a choreographed dance. It also makes a quite dense and firm fabric, great for mittens and socks.

Here is a quick tutorial of the Dalby stitch from a leftie’s perspective.

Mittens for everyone

I have nalbound (?) several pairs of mittens for me and my family. It is quite easy, beginning with a small spiral worm, increasing until you have a suitable circumference and keep spiraling until you have reached the proper length. A hole and gusset (with decreases) for the thumb of course and then you just add the thumb. Increasing, decreasing, hole and plain stitches. The challenging part is the waulking. I’ll get to that later.

Nalbinding socks

This time I wanted to try to make a pair of nalbinding socks. The technique is the same, a spiral worm to start with, increasing until a proper circumference, plain stitch and a big hole for the heel. Continue the spiral in plain stitch until you have the desired length. The new part for me this time was the heel. I started the heel at the hole and decreased until I only had a small hole left, and then I just closed it with a few stitches.

Stripes!

I had seen lots of beautiful striped nalbound mittens and socks and decided that it was time for me to investigate that level. Also, I wasn’t sure there would be enough yarn for single colour socks. After I had made my first spiral worm, I just added another colour. With this technique, I could only bind one round at a time, until the end of the round of the previous colour. This helped me keep track of the rounds and make sure both socks looked the same (I always make both mittens/socks at the same time to keep track of my increases and decreases).

The material

I used two needles, one in bone, bought at the museum at Birka, and one in elm, which I have carved myself. It is a bit too short, but I still love it.

The white yarn is a 3-ply yarn I originally spun (woolen) for a blanket. It is a rya/finewool cross. I also used the yarn for a pair of nalbound mittens for my brother-in-law as a thank you for arranging and playing the music for my video Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl. And as it turned out, I had some yarn left. Rya wool is long and silky and finewool soft and crimpy, a good combination in a cross. The dark grey yarn is 2-ply (worsted) from a crimpy and long-stapled Shetland Eskit fleece.

Pieces of scrap yarn
The nalbinding part is over and all the ends have been woven in.

Waulking

As I wrote earlier, I have made lots of pairs of nalbound mittens. And they have all ended up too long after waulking. Only recently, it occurred to me that nalbinding material shrinks more widthwise than lengthwise. This means that I need to make the mittens proportionally wider to be able to waulk them to a proper size both lengthwise and widthwise. I can tolerate some margin of error in a pair of mittens, but socks need to fit. So, waulking the socks was a challenge.

 

A person waulking a garment on a waulking board.
Waulking away with my waulking board.

Waulking takes time at the beginning.

Close-up of a hand waulking a garment on a waulking board
Still waulking.

Lots of time.

A person waulking socks on the feet.
And waulking some more.

Suddenly, magic happens and you can see the waulked character of the fabric. I am thankful that the different yarns waulked relatively in the same manner.

A pair of waulked nalbinding socks on a waulking board.
The waulking is finished!

Final touches

I had made a slit in the top of the sock shaft to make it easier to put them on. After the socks had dried from the waulking, I added a simple blanket stitch.

A pair of striped socks hanging on a wash line
Waulked socks with a simple blanket stitch edging.

Now, my feet are ready for my hiking boots!

Featured photo by Dan Waltin

Wip series: Finished twined knitting mittens!

Two grey mittens

I have finally finished my twined knitting mittens!

This is the fifth and final post in my wip series of spinning for and knitting a pair of twined knitting mittens. The previous posts are about preparing, spinning, plying and knitting.

A lot of joy

I am very happy with the result. They were a true joy to knit. But, as always, there is a melancholy and a sense of loss when finishing a project. There are so many thoughts in a project. Practical thoughts like the next step in the project, how to avoid mistakes, but also all the thoughts that float around in my mind in the making. Things I hear, think or experience while I make are things that are captured in the thread and, literally, woven in to the fabric. In this sense, the finished item is so much more than a pair of mittens. It is a sparkling weave of skill, experience, memories, thought processes, love and emotions. And I treasure them all in my wooly, twined knitted treasure box.

Even if I miss the process of making, I do get to relive all the emotions and sensations that are a part of the mittens. Every time I wear them.

A lot of time

Twined knitting does take a lot of time to make, but the reward is such a sturdy and strong fabric.  And once I was over the initial novelty of the technique (which isn’t all new to me, but the last time I did twined knitting was in 2010), I found a nice rhythm of knitting, twining and untwisting.

A lot of yarn

I used 2 mm needles, which was perfect for this yarn. As you can see, the fabric is very dense on the surface. When you turn the mitten inside out you can see the beautiful ridges, caused by the twining. These also add to the density of the mittens.

Close-up of a grey mitten turned inside-out.
The inside of the mittens show the beautiful ridges created by the twining of the two working yarns.

When I first read the pattern I was a bit sceptical to the yarn requirements – 60 g per mitten seemed a lot to me. After a while I started worrying about having spun too little yarn! But when I had woven in the last yarn end I did have some yarn left, just enough to make a handful of pin loom squares.

The pattern

I used a basic mitten pattern from Berit Westman’s booklet Tvåändsstickning. She has a lot of examples of charted chain path patterns. For the cuffs I made a simple xo pattern from the book. This doesn’t show very well even after blocking. For the back of the hands I wanted something special, so I made my own pattern. I wanted the mittens to represent all the strong and talented textile workers through history. When I had finished the chart, I realized that it was International women’s day, which was very suitable.

A grey mitten with a venus symbol
A venus symbol. The perfect mitten chart. Photo by Dan Waltin

Felting

I struggled with the thought of felting the mittens for extra strength and durability. I had felted my first two pairs of twined knitting mittens. But already at the spinning stage I got a strong feeling of the wool being really prone to felting. It was quite sticky in all the parts of the process and I handled the yarn very carefully. I feared that if I felted the mittens, there was a strong risk of over felting. Also, since I had worked with the structure and colour of the yarn from the very beginning, I wanted the yarn to be the star of the show.

Evaluation

The colour

I do love the variegated colour of the yarn and it looks beautiful in the mittens. Especially in the pattern parts. The mixture of greys and the light golden brown gives the fabric a lovely depth. I am a sucker for greys!

The ply

As you can see in the pictures of the finished yarn, It was quite loosely spun and plied. This goes hand in hand with the wool, that was almost straight. I did over ply the yarn after it was balanced, to compensate for the unplying made by the twining. I don’t think it would have hurt to over ply a little more than I did.

The fabric

I think this is the most even I have ever knit. I think it is easier to make a more even and tight fabric with twined knitting than with regular knitting, since it is easier to pull the thread after each stitch. Also, I love the mixture of plain twined knitting and the blocks of pattern knitting. The squiggly horizontals are well matched with the straight verticals.

Close-up of a grey twined knitting mitten.
The pattern and the colour variations really make the wool justice.

The feeling

When I was preparing the wool and saw the black guard hairs I was afraid that the mittens would be itchy. But they are not. It is just that silky feeling of the under coat. The guard hairs just add a strength bonus. That’s a well behaved yarn! When I wear the mittens I pet the silky ridged insides with my hands. I feel rich.

The works

All in all, I think these mittens are in the top five of myfavourite hand spun projects and I smile every time I wear them. I feel proud and humbled to have the knowledge and skills to create something like this, like thousands of women (and a few men) have done before me.

What is your favourite hand spun project?

Happy spinning!

A pair of twined knitting mittens hanging from a tree branch.
Spring is coming and it’s a happy mitten day!

Wip series: Twined knitting mittens in progress

The twined knitting mittens are in progress! It’s a slow knit, but I knew that already. And the reward is a sturdy, strong and windproof textile, and, of course, a quiet moment of making.

Treasured notes

I read in my Ravelry notes from my last twined knitting project that it would be a good idea to overply the yarn, since the yarn is unplying a little when the yarns are twisted. So before I started casting on, I ran my balanced yarn through the spinning wheel and overplied it. Hopefully it’s enough.

How I do it

Casting on for twined knitting takes three yarn ends, one dark cast-on yarn and the two working yarns. After casting on there are four ends hanging – the ends from the two working yarns and the two ends from the cast-on yarn. The easiest way to weave these in is to make a braid out of them. This is  a pretty detail, as well as practical for hanging up the finished mittens.

To prevent the material from curling, it is a good idea to start with a couple of rows of crook stitch (alternating knit and purl stitches with the purl thread in front of the work). I did four rows and then I started an xo pattern and finished the cuff with another eight crook stitch rows. I’m planning a pattern stitch for the back of the hand and a plain palm side.

I really enjoy this knit. I love the yarn and the structure that develops. I can’t stop feeling the softness of the yarn and the magical texture of the fabric.

A glimpse of the making

I shot a short video of the knitting. I put the baking table in my lap as a background and a flexible knitting light wrapped around my head like a crown. My husband looked at me very quizzically. Still, the lighting arrangement did its job and was successful.

As you can see, it is a slow and a somewhat fidgety knit. Both yarn ends come from the same ball of yarn and every now and then I have to stop and untwist the ball. But I get into the rhythm and enjoy the moment.

Towards the end of the video I show you the wrong side of the work. The horizontal lines you see on the back of the knit rows is where the yarns are twined. This makes the fabric sturdy. If you hold up a regular knit fabric to the light, you see the light through the fabric. This does not happen with a twined knitting fabric, it is really dense – and I’m using 2 mm needles, which would indicate the density of the fabric.

I think it will be a while before I write the post on the finished mittens, I will enjoy the slow knitting and the feeling of the progress of wool yumminess in my hands.

Happy spinning!