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!

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!


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