Linen pocket

A while ago I started to take an interest in loose pockets. When my friend Cecilia and I got to dress in 18th century clothing when we shot the Walking wheel video at Vallby open air museum I desperately wanted to wear a loose pocket underneath my skirts. And when we were on a guided tour in the costume collections at Skansen open air museum I asked if we could see the loose pockets. Today I present my linen pocket. Warning: Nothing in this post is spinning related.

Can we talk about the size and weight of mobile phones? And the existence and if so the size of pockets on women’s trousers, skirts and dresses? With the few clothes that happen to have pockets large enough for a mobile phone the weight of the device turns the clothing askew. They may also tear or break.

As we got dressed for the Walking wheel video I insisted on finding loose pockets to wear underneath our skirts. Perfect for not so 18th century things like mobile phones, mini tripods and credit cards.

A loose pocket on the other hand is the perfect solution for both nonexistent, too small or torn pockets. It can be used and mended while keeping the trousers reasonably whole. The thought of different pockets for different occasions, seasons, mood or simply the crafting craving of the day is also appealing.

Loose pockets

A loose pocket is just what it sounds like – a loose pocket to wear around your hip, either plain and secretly underneath a skirt or visibly and decadently embellished, some semi visible with embellishments on only one half. Kjolsäck is the most common word for this accessory in Swedish – meaning skirt pouch. At a guided tour at the costumes collection at Skansen open air museum we got the opportunity to look at beautifully embellished kjolsäck pockets from different areas in county Dalarna.

Typically the wearer would keep important things like needles and a sewing or knitting project in the pocket, as well as herbs for staying awake during long church visits and perhaps something to keep the children at peace.

A pocket dream

I am not sure where this pocket dream came from, but it has been lurking in the back of my mind for a while, squeaking silently every now and then to remind me of its existence. I had an embroidery pattern in another corner of my mind, intended for something else, but as I realized that I could experiment with a pocket of my own I decided to practice the pattern on the pocket.

My plans for my first linen pocket.

Since I have no connection to either traditional regional costumes or reenactment I decided to make a style that I wanted and not follow regional costume rules or historical correctness. I just wanted a pocket to fit my needs now.

Recycled linen pocket

While I was planning my pocket project I decided to only use material that I had at home or that I had eBayed.

  • I bought two linen damask towels from Swedish eBay for the pocket material.
  • The linen embroidery yarns are also from Swedish eBay.
  • The linen weaving yarn is a commercial yarn from my stash.
  • I found a tablet woven band that I made a few years ago in a band weaving frenzy.
  • At the last minute I realized I needed key carabiners for the loops, and I got them from Swedish eBay too.
  • And oh, the embroidery hoop comes from a flea market.

A pocket recipe

Front and back

The first thing I did was to draw a line around my spread-out hand to find a size. I drew a shape I liked and transferred it to the pink (back side) towel. I made slightly larger version that I transfered to the turquoise (front side) towel. That way I got the opportunity to frill the front piece for a bellows effect. I also figured the bellowed front side would keep the pocket flat against my hip.

Embroidery

When the shape was drawn on the front side towel I started embroidering an amoeba shaped pattern with a couching stitch (läggsöm). I love the freedom of this stitch, I can just let the yarn lead the way and enjoy the ride. When I was happy with the embroidery I ironed interfacing on the back of the front side for protection and extra sturdiness. I cut out the front side and two back sides, with interfacing on one of them. To keep the shape neat I added an inner pocket for my mobile phone on the back piece and two band loops with carabiners for important stuff like keys and needle cases.

Shaping

While I ruffled the bottom of the front pice for extra room I kept it tight at the top for a neat opening. I added a protecting Kumpay seam at the top of the pocket opening. I found it in the book Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez and in an online course by Laverne Waddington.

Weaving, tubular and flat

After having tacked the front and back pieces together I wove and sew a tubular band in a linen yarn as an edging. This is common in the Andes and I found the instructions in the same sources as the Kumpay stitch. It was a bit fiddly and has a charmingly irregular look.

At this stage I had a very limited amount of the turquoise colour left. For the ties I used the same weaving yarn and wove a 180 cm band, ending with pretty cords of the warp ends. The colour pattern is carefully planned and only a meter or so remains of the turquoise yarn.

I warped the ties as a circular warp, which always fascinates me. But then again, weaving is such an amazing art form and I am only nibbling gently at a very small edge of the weaving universe.

A myriad of details in a small project

I love making small projects. It gives me the opportunity to try new techniques and adding details. The couching stitch, the Kumpay edging, the tubular band and the cords, all quite time consuming, but on a small project still doable.

Herbs and things for the kids aren’t my first choices to inhabit my pocket. I’m more into housing my mobile phone (or my husband’s in this case since I took the photo with mine) and any sort of textile project. The mini Pushka is there for good luck.

For the finishing touch I hand stitched the woven band onto the pocket. I had no idea really what to do with the warp ends of the tubular band, and I decided to simply tuck them in between the two back piece layers and hope they would behave.

More pockets to come

I have loved my first pocket project. There will be more pockets. I have learned from my first project and I will make some alterations for future projects. The linen towel was a little to thin and wobbly, at least on the front piece that was single. I may alter the size and the amount of bellow room. I like the opportunity to fit stuff into the pocket, but at the same time it mustn’t be too big and clumsy.

This will be a summer pocket and for my next I’m planning a more autumnal and wintery, in wool. There is so much to play with and I am ready to dive in.

and oh, a book is on its way to me – Pocket: A hidden history of women’s lives, 1660–1900 by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux. I can’t wait!

Happy spinning!


Thank you all 237 (a record!) who registered for last week’s breed study webinar on Åland wool and all 65+ who came to the livestream. I had the loveliest time!


You can find me in several social media:

Peace of mind

These are troubled times. When my mind is racing and I need something to focus on I turn to nalbinding. Simple (but not easy), close and slow. Nalbinding gives me some peace of mind in a chaotic world.

All you need to nalbind is a thumb, some yarn, a blunt needle and time. Yes, nalbinding does take time, but it also means you get to spend time with the material you are creating, following every stitch over, under, behind, under, over again, through and around the thumb. Unlike knitting where I tend to zone out sometimes, nalbinding softly whispers for your attention.

Empirical mittens

I decided to work this process as simply as possible. Tease some wool, card some rolags, spin some singles on a suspended spindle. As the spindle gets too heavy for a comfortable spin I wind the singles into a centerpull ball and ply from there on the spindle. I end up with a sweet ball of around 12 grams. That leaves me enough yarn for a couple of rounds on each mitten. I get into a rhythm between preparing, spinning and nalbinding without getting tired of any one part. I also don’t get fatigued or strained by doing one step for a long time.

With a short fluff to stuff cycle like this I get a sense of presence in all the steps. I can make the connection between all the parts of the process and get instant feedback from one step to the next in sort of an empirical mini – or mitten in this case – study.

On my Instagram account I have saved a video series as a highlight called Fluff to stuff, where I go through the process from carding to nalbinding in this project. I have of course teased the wool first, you can read more about that here.

In the moment

I also break the rules and omit some of the steps I normally take – I don’t let the singles sit overnight, I don’t soak the yarn and set the twist before using it. Why? Because I don’t feel like it. In this process like to feel the instant feedback from the previous step into the present and from the present to the next. As the world spins at the moment I just want to be in the moment, channeling my worried mind into that particular step of the process. I need crafting in my hands and in my brain to bring some peace of mind in a chaotic world.

I get instant feedback between steps as I work with a short fluff-to-stuff cycle.

To be honest I don’t think too much about consequences of my choices, they are not the important thing here. And I don’t always have to make conscious choices. Sometimes the wool and the tools make the appropriate choices for me.

The safety of wool

Nalbinding is an activity where I feel truly in the craft. My hands are literally in the project since my thumb is the actual stitch gauge. For every stitch I make the yarn goes around and over my thumb, making it a tool just as important as the needle. The unwashed yarn smells of sheep and leaves a whisper of lanolin on my hands. The slow process of under-over-under-behind-between and under again brings a focus and a slow pace rhythm that is just what I need and can handle right now.

A forgiving craft

I make lots of choices in this project – where I break rules and skip steps. Luckily nalbinding is a forgiving craft, for several reasons.

  • The slowness makes it easier to plan your next step.
  • You basically can’t loose a stitch. You only have the one stitch on your thumb to keep track of (depending on the stitch you have chosen for the project). Should you loose it for some reason it will just tighten and the spiraling construction will lead directly to it.
  • I waulk all my nalbinding projects for extra strength and durability. Any fitting or other irregularities will be smoothed out at the waulking board.
  • Nalbinding is generally worked in a spiral. That way it is easy to shape the project as you go along.
  • Since nalbinding is a sewn technique you can’t work with a continuous strand of yarn. Instead you work with shorter sections – I use three arm’s lengths for each turn. Joins are a natural and inevitable part of the technique.
Nalbinding is a slow process but the fabric will last forever. Alder cone spindle by Wildcraft

Thoughts on nalbinding

Stitches

There are lots of stitches on different difficulty levels to choose from. When I started out I found very few descriptions on left-handed nalbinding. This actually made it easier for me to choose – I could only work with the ones that were described for lefties. After a while I got the hang of the principles and could translate the right-handed instructions in my head.

For Dan’s mittens I chose the Dalby stitch.

Needle

You need a large blunt needle. I have four – one that I bought at Birka World heritage, one I carved from an elm just outside our house and two that kind-hearted supporters made for me. Perhaps I should make some more this spring. Spring is after all the perfect carving season and needles are always welcome.

Lovely nalbinding needles. From the left: Hand-carved by me from an elm tree just outside our house, hand-carved by a student, hand-carved by a supporter and bought at Birka World Heritage.

Yarn

I haven’t really thought so much about the yarn for nalbinding. I like mine with quite a high twist, as my S-plied yarn untwists a bit as I work with my left hand. This means that for anyone working with S-plied yarn with the right hand the twist will instead increase.

2-ply yarn spun with longdraw from hand-carded rolags on a suspended spindle. Plied from both ends of a centerpull ball on a suspended spindle. The wool comes from the Gestrike Ewe Elsa.

It’s a good idea to work with a yarn that can stand the abrasion of going through the fabric so many times. A yarn from a dual coat wool is perfect to work with – it has the warmth of the undercoat and the strength from the outercoat. I used staples that I had sorted out from a Gestrike fleece, with mostly undercoat and a few strands of outercoat.

I spun my yarn woolen from hand-carded rolags. A yarn like this tends to be weaker than a worsted spun yarn. However, the tension the yarn is under due to the weight of the suspended spindle makes the yarn a bit more dense that it would have been with another spinning tool. Also, the combination of undercoat and outercoat keeps the yarn strong but not too coarse.

It’s a good idea to use a wool that felts since you may want to waulk the finished project. You can read more about how I have waulked a pair of nalbound socks here.

Mittens for Dan

The nalbinding project I have been working on for the past few weeks is a pair of mittens for my husband Dan. It was a Christmas gift, but things got in the way and they were only half-finished for the holidays.

For the beginning of the mittens I used an Åsen wool yarn that I had spun for a previous pair of mittens. This particular Åsen fleece had mostly vadmal type staples – mostly warm and airy undercoat fibers and just a few strands of long and strong outercoat fibers. It was not particularly soft and I saw a big nalbinding yarn potential. The airy undercoat fibers would provide lightness and warmth while the few outercoat fibers would bind the fibers together and add strength and integrity to the yarn.

As always with pairs of anything I make both simultaneously. One yarn length on the left and another on the right. When I ran out of yarn I picked out similar staples from a Gestrike fleece and spun the same way – I carded rolags out of teased wool and spun woolen on a suspended spindle. I gave the yarn lots of twist to make sure it would stand the abrasion of going up and down in the nalbinding. The resulting yarn was round, strong and kind, and not too different from the white Åsen yarn.

I just hoped that the yarns would felt reasonably equally, and they did. A design born through a take-what -you-have situation is a good design, don’t you think?

Future nalbinding projects

I have been working comfortably with the Dalby stitch for a number of projects by now. After these mittens I think it’s time for something new. Perhaps a more intricate stitch, perhaps a hat. The possibilities are endless. Still, whatever I choose I know it will be a process where I can feel close to my work, both physically and mentally. Where I can be in the project with just the needle and yarn in my hand and some peace of mind.

A hat embryo for peace of mind at the office office.

To tell you the truth I actually did start another nalbinding project already. After two years of working from my home office I have to be at the office office at least 50 % of the time, starting Monday. With over 800 other people in an open landscape office. I need wool for protection and nalbinding is my project of choice. I’m making a hat.

Resources

Here are some lovely resources for nalbinding

  • On Neulakintaat you can see videos of a whole range of stitches for right-handed and a few for left-handed
  • Mervi Pasanen has written a beautiful book on nalbinding, With one needle
  • If you search for nalbinding on this blog you will find some more posts.

Last week I launched an auction for Ukraine. I donated my gold medal winning embroidery yarn to the highest bid and the money to UNHCR’s work in Ukraine. The highest bid was 200€. The second highest bidder donated her 150€ too and I added another 100€. So I sent 450€ to the Swedish UNHCR and the embroidery yarn to Australia. Also, a foundation is doubling all donations to the Swedish UNHCR, so 900€ are going to their work in Ukraine. Thank you all who participated!

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Full circle

I have finished a project! A lovely Icelandic-style yoke sweater that has been on my wish list for a few years now. I have knit it with my handspun singles lopi-style yarn. An Icelandic sheep sweater shorn in October on an Icelandic pasture, spun from November to February and knit in February into a sweater for me with a round yoke. A full circle from fleece to sweater.

I have been working with the Icelandic lamb’s fleece for this sweater since November, a lot more monogamous than I usually do. Since I decided to spin the wool in the grease I didn’t want to let it sit longer than necessary, so I made an exception for it in my fleece queue.

27 skeins of Icelandic singles yarn.

Telja pattern

The pattern I chose is Telja by Jennifer Steingass. I wanted an Icelandic style pattern that was designed for a lopi-style yarn in a yarn weight I could manage to spin as a singles yarn. I figured that my lopi-style yarn would stand the best chance of resembling the stranded colourwork if the original pattern was designed for a similar yarn.

Shifting shades

The light grey, lighter grey, white and dyed blues come from one Icelandic lamb. I also bought 200 grams of fleece from a dark grey lamb for some contrast in the colourwork. I used the light grey (in the middle of the picture below) as the main colour. As it turned out, the contrast between the light grey and the dark grey was too small, so I needed a solution that would show the pattern despite this challenge.

These skeins come from one and the same fleece. The middle skein is the overall shade of grey of the fleece. This is also the shade that I have dyed in two blue tones.

Some parts of the fleece were lighter, almost white, and I decided to spin these parts separately into a white yarn. In the sweater I used the white yarn as main colour just before, during and just after a colourwork section, making the light grey ex-main colour a contrast colour over the colourwork sections. I tried to make a gradient from the light grey to the white with a couple of skeins that were sort of a light light grey.

Will there be enough white yarn left to finish the neckline?

I was a bit nervous about the white yarn, though, I wasn’t sure I had enough of it. When I bound off the last stitch of the collar I realized that it was enough, I even had a meter or so left. At least just enough to tie the leftover skeins of the remaining other colours into a bundle.

I dye with my little eye

Last summer I read about the Bengala mud dye colours in Handwoven magazine. I got a bit obsessed by the earthy tones and decided to buy some and try. A few pinkish tones, orange and yellow, plus indigo that would work with the other colours. I hadn’t found a good project to experiment with, until now. I wanted two shades of the same colour and decided on the indigo.

I have said it before and I say it again: Dyeing is not one of my superpowers. The shades got a bit too close to each other and somehow they both dry bleed. But I still love the result. And I’m very happy that I dyed on the light grey, it gives such a beautiful depth in the colour.

I will continue experimenting with these colours in upcoming projects. I’m sure I will learn a lot.

A teared watercolour painting

I had some thoughts about the shades and colours in the beginning, but as soon as the stranded pattern started to unravel I just loved the effect. It looks a bit smudged, almost like a tie-dye or watercolour art painted with drops of rain or tears.

The pattern falls from the yoke like a watercolour painting. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I wanted the yarn to be as simple and ras aw as possible. With that comes a sweater with that same raw expression. As I knit round and round the pattern runs down from my hands and land comfortably in an organized structure. On the wrong side the soft floats emerge like gentle waves on a summer lake.

Using handspun yarn in a project where the gauge is crucial for the fit is a challenge. Even more so with a singles yarn. I realized that the sleeves (which I knit before the body) got a bit tight at the cuffs with the stranded colourwork. No, I can’t tell you that, it’s too embarrassing.

I got a bit nervous about the colourwork sections over the hips and yoke, though. I tried the sweater on after the hip section and it worked. I was so scared of the yoke riding up that I didn’t try the sweater on until mid-colourwork, and to my great relief it fit perfectly. I do have to remove my glasses when I put the sweater on and off since the neckline is an I-cord bind-off with no elasticity, but I can take that.

A joyous knit

The yarn was truly lovely to knit with and it gave a soft and kind structure, lightweight and simple. I was a bit worried about the risk of bias since the yarn is single (eventhough I have shocked it to full it slightly). Therefore I added faux side and underarm seams using a column of purls.

I have been wearing the sweater a lot lately. It’s both comfortable and comforting to wear and I feel rich and fortunate to have the skills to make myself a warming and protecting shell.

Full circle. The sweater is finished and I’m spinning away on my next project on a department meeting at the home office.

So, now I have around 750 meters left of the yarn. Most of it in the light grey colour. I may dye some of it and use it in another project. I liked the Shaina top by Yumiko Alexander. With some modifications and additions I think I can make it work.

Resources

I have written a few earlier post about this fleece from different perspectives:

  • In Close I write a poetic style ode to the fleece.
  • In the grease covers the main part of the processing and spinning of the yarn – spinning a low-twist singles yarn from the cut end of teased locks in the grease.
  • In The gift of knowledge I look at a spinning from a spiritual perspective using this fleece as an example. It also shows how I make accordion burritos of the teased wool for easier spinning.
  • A sore thumb forced me to switch hands and a new world opened in front of me, right there in my hands. It also resulted in the free five-day challenge Hands-on that you are welcome to join.
  • In Dear Fleece I give thanks to the fleece for teaching me so much and move on from spinning to knitting.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Gunvor’s Sirwal pants

And they are done. My largest spindle spun project so far, the Sirwal snow shoveling pants that used to be common in the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains. I call them Gunvor’s Sirwal pants from the sheep that gave me the wool. Since my 16-year-old has dibs on snow shoveling for pocket money I may use the pants for outdoor yoga and for walking down to the lake for my daily bath.

A while ago I bought Irene Waggener’s beautiful book Keepers of the sheep and reviewed it on the blog. One of the most striking patterns was the Sirwal pants, a pair of black and white striped pants that the shepherds used to knit while herding the sheep.

A patternless pattern

In the book Irene describes her first meeting with the pants in a museum, how she learned to knit them from her host Muah n’Aït Tabatoot’s demonstration. Irene has in turn written down the oral description and demonstration for the book. As all of the projects in the book the pattern is based on working with what you have in the form of wool, yarn, needles and body size rather than a detailed knitting instruction. I really liked the idea and think it would be a good challenge for me.

The challenge of keeping it simple

In the book Irene describes how Muah’s wife Nejma spun and plied the yarn on a floor supported spindle, wound it into a ball and handed it straight over to Muah for knitting. I wanted to make my own pair of Sirwal pants as close to the original as possible. So, a spindle spun yarn. I didn’t have a floor supported spindle of the kind Nejma used, but I do have Navajo style floor supported spindles so I used one of them. I also decided not to soak the yarn and set the twist after plying, to stay as close to the High Atlas way as I could.

“So, the yarn is not soaked and the twist has not been set?” you may say. That’s right. “But soaking the yarn will allow it to bloom into its final shape! And setting the twist will even out the twist over the length of the yarn!” you may continue. That is true. This will probably not happen with my pants. Something else probably will, though. I don’t know what, but if and when it does, all is as it should be. Instead of the finished yarn I got the loveliest smell during knitting and the softest hands. That counts for something too.

Gunvor the Gestrike sheep

Gunvor the Gestrike ewe who was my longitudinal fleece study sheep
Gunvor the Gestrike ewe who was my longitudinal fleece study sheep.

I used two fleeces of Gestrike wool, the first and second shearing of the Gestrike ewe Gunvor. She was the subject of my longitudinal study I wrote about in May 2021. She was a beautiful white sheep with large black spots, perfect for the striped Sirwal pants.

Gestrike wool has both long and strong outercoat fibers, soft and airy undercoat and some kemp. This results in a strong and warm yarn, perfect for my Sirwal pants.

A life through stripes

The fleece of Gestrike sheep can lighten with age and Gunvor’s fleece turned out to have that particular characteristic. I took advantage of this feature and used the blackest black from the first shearing at the bottom of the legs and continuted with the lighter shades as I worked my way up the legs. I like how you can see Gunvor’s life through the stripes.

The quality of the wool was different between the shearings too. The first shearing was shinier and a bit finer while the second shearing was a bit shorter and airier. I’m not sure it’s visible in the pants, though. The second shearing was a lot higher in lanolin. As I calculated the yield from the two fleeces I was amazed by the difference. From the raw fleece I got a yarn yield of 59 per cent from the first shearing and 38 per cent from the second. The amount of lanolin should be an important clue to this difference. Perhaps the second shearing also contained more short fibers and/or kemp than the second, that stayed in the combs when I teased the wool.

You can read more about shearing and lanolin content through the seasons in the post Shearing Day.

Bulky

Another challenge was the yarn. The tradition calls for a super bulky yarn, which is far from my light fingering weight default thickness. But a challenge is a challenge and I took it by the horns. I managed to spin the bulkiest singles I have ever spun. Add plying to that and I got myself a super bulky woolen spun yarn from hand carded rolags.

At first I tried to card the wool without teasing the wool first, again in an effort to stay as close to the High Atlas way as possible. But the kemp in the wool made the yarn very scratchy. By teasing the wool with combs I got rid of a lot of the kemp and I decided to keep the teasing.

When the pants were finished I had used 26 balls of yarn. 1200 grams, 717 meters from the two fleeces, between 500 and 700 meters per kilo with an average grist of 590 meters per kilo. You can read more about how I spun this yarn in my blog post bulky.

If you are a patron (or become one) you may get access to a Patreon postcard video I made in November, where I demonstrate how I spin the super bulky yarn.

Knitting

I started knitting as soon as I had the first ball of handspun yarn in my hand. This is how I continued with the whole project – spin a ball and knit it. A yarn of this weight doesn’t last very long, though. At the bottom of the legs one skein lasted about one stripe and at the hips around eight rounds.

Spin a ball, knit a stripe, hoping the two fleeces would be enough for the whole project.

Knitting the Gunvor Sirwal pants was quite strenuous. The bulky yarn and the large needles (5.5 mm) require some work. Add to that the tight twist and the tight gauge and, as I joined the legs in the crotch, quite some weight in my lap to manage. The finished pants weigh around one kilo.

Despite the heavy knitting it was lovely to work with the yarn. I love the roundedness of the yarn and the strong character it has. It takes its place in the world and doesn’t apologize for its existence. I got all giggly by the sheepy smell from the unwashedness of the pants in progress. As I knit I experienced Gunvor’s life, from the blackest of the black lamb locks at the shins to the more mature depth in the lead grey in hip height.

Outdoor yoga and cold baths

If you have been following me for a while you may know that I take baths in the lake every day and that I sometimes practice yoga outdoors. Gunvor’s Sirwal pants are perfect for both outdoor yoga and walking down to the lake on the coldest days.

A walk to the bath

Gunvor’s Sirwal pants are warm, reasonably windproof, and easy to put on after a cold bath, which is important since my fingers are stiff from the cold and I need to get warm fast. Yesterday afternoon I went down to the lake with an axe and cleaned up the edges of the hole in the ice. We’re five ladies in the cold bath group and they have all been cheering me on during the making of the pants.

An outdoor yoga studio

Practicing yoga outdoors is not a problem as long as you have clothing that suits the weather. Down to -2°C is ok with one or two layers of wool tights or sweat pants. I can even practice with bare feet on my cork mat at this temperature. With lower temperatures staying warm easily gets too chunky which makes it difficult to do the postures comfortably.

Gunvor’s Sirwal pants are perfect, though, even for temperatures below -2°C. I took the pictures above at -6°C and it wasn’t too cold. With the suspenders they stay up without getting too tight around the waist.

I practice yoga asana every day, and sometimes outdoors on our terrace. I just love having all the fresh air to myself. As I usually do my outdoor yoga at around 8 p.m. it’s dark, as dark it gets in a city. I get to look up at the sky and the waving pine branches above. It gives the practice an extra dimension of space that I don’t want to be without.

Gunvor’s Sirwal superhero pants, ready for your next wooly adventure.

Some people say the pants look a bit like Obelix’s blue and white striped pants, some say they look like Findus the cat’s green striped suspender pants. They remind me of swimsuits from over a century ago, which is quite suitable since I wear them in a bathing context. But most of all they make me think of superhero pants with their bold stripes and dazzling lightning bolts up the sides. Don’t we all wish to be just a little superhero-y every now and then?

Thank you Irene for making the pattern accessible and Muah for teaching Irene. Thank you Gunvor for the loveliest wool. I have learned a lot from this project.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Nalbinding Åsen mittens

The waulked and embroidered nalbinding mittens are finished!

For the past few months I have been on an Åsen wool journey. It started with my wanting to make a breed study on Åsen wool. I contacted an Åsen shepherdess who provided me with lovely fleeces. When I started to investigate the fleeces in preparation for the study I sank deep into one of them in the search for its soul. I may have found it in a pair of nalbinding Åsen mittens.

I like to investigate a fleece to find out how it wants to be treated to become its best yarn. In fact, that is my aim in all the fleeces I meet. Every fleece has a purpose and I think I owe it to the sheep who gave me the fleece to find its soul.

A nalbinding friendly fleece

This particular Åsen fleece had mostly vadmal type staples – mostly warm and airy undercoat fibers and just a few strands of long and strong outercoat fibers. It was not particularly soft and I saw a big nalbinding yarn potential. The airy undercoat fibers would provide lightness and warmth while the few outercoat fibers would bind the fibers together and add strength and integrity to the yarn.

Nalbinding straight off the spindle, breaking the rules of soaking and finishing.
Nalbinding straight off the spindle, breaking the rules of soaking and finishing.

To keep as much of the softness in the yarn I carded rolags and spun with a long draw on a suspended spindle. To make the yarn strong I chose the suspended spindle. The tension from the weight of the spindle brings integrity to the yarn. This was the first time I have spun this way. It was truly a lovely treat to explore this technique.

I gave the yarn lots of twist to make sure it would stand the abrasion of going up and down in the nalbinding. The resulting yarn was round, strong and kind. A few strands of black kemp here and there added to the rusticity of the yarn, which went well together with the ancient nalbinding technique.

Nalbinding Åsen mittens

I loved nalbinding these Åsen mittens. Well, I love nalbinding full stop. The technique is slow and I get to hold warm and kind yarn in one hand and a hand carved wooden needle in the other. The slow path of the needle up and down between the strands in my work and the working yarn gently hugging my thumb. Nalbinding doesn’t take up much space and I can do it anywhere. What’s not to love?

The comfort of nalbinding.
The comfort of nalbinding.

Waulking

I was almost sad when I had finished. Now what? Well, a nalbinding project is seldom finished just because the nalbinding itself is over. A nalbinding structure is strong and warm. The sewing of the yarn in all directions of the project makes it impossible to unravel. But my nalbinding projects aren’t finished until it has been properly waulked. The waulking makes the fabric even stronger and warmer. It also makes it windproof.

Nalbinding spirals

Nalbinding is done in a spiral. So for a pair of mittens I make the spiral from the tip of the fingers, round and round and finish at the wrist. I have learned – the hard way – that a nalbinding project made like this shrinks horizontally. Therefore I design the shape a bit off the end proportions – I make them a lot wider than my hands but not necessarily longer.

Nalbinding is generally done in a spiral, which makes the shrinkage happen horizontally. I designed the mittens to be a lot wider than my hands but not much longer.
Nalbinding is generally done in a spiral, which makes the shrinkage happen horizontally. I designed the mittens to be a lot wider than my hands but not much longer.

A few years ago I got a waulking board from Swedish eBay which I used with these mittens to waulk them to a size that would fit my hands. With soap and hot water I started working the mittens against the waulking board. The felting process didn’t take long to start. When I first got to know this fleece I noticed its excellent felting properties.

Woven square, 2-ply yarn and fulled square (from a woven square same as to the left) from Åsen sheep 16010. The fulled square took me less than five minutes to full to size.
Woven square, 2-ply yarn and fulled square (from a woven square same as to the left) from Åsen sheep 16010. The fulled square took me less than five minutes to full to size.

The spiral of the seasons

I was very happy with the end result of the waulking process. The mittens fit perfectly and the shape is very appealing. They are warm, snug and ready for the cold and the wind in the winter. I look forward to wearing them in an authentic setting (and not just for photo purposes in the middle of the summer).

The waulking is finished! The main shrinkage has happened sideways and the mittens have better proportions than pre-waulking.
The waulking is finished! The main shrinkage has happened sideways and the mittens have better proportions than pre-waulking.

I have been making these mittens during a few weeks in June, thinking of winter as the needle has been pushing through the fabric. When I wear them this coming winter I will think of early summer when I made them. It is a lovely cycle, kind of like the nalbound spiral in the fabric.

Finishing

When the mittens had dried after the waulking I brushed the surface lightly to give them a bit of a halo. But they didn’t feel finished, there was something missing. A spinning friend, Elaine, makes the loveliest embroidered mittens, often with just a simple heart on the back of the hand. They look somehow even more inviting with that embroidery.

A tone-in-tone embroidered heart on my waulked nalbinidng mittens.
A tone-in-tone embroidered heart on my waulked nalbinidng mittens.

I felt my mittens needed an embroidery too. Just a simple shape in the natural white nalbinding yarn. I decided on a heart, the kind of careless heart of a phone scribble. Unorganized but still clearly and undoubtedly a heart.

The waulked and embroidered nalbinding mittens are finished!
The waulked and embroidered nalbinding mittens are finished!

I love how the embroidery turned out. Tone-in-tone, but very clearly an embroidery. The round and free shape of the unwaulked yarn against the subtle but structured stripes of the waulked nalbinding. A bit of shine in the embroidery against the matte waulked background. A little shadow from the height of the stem stitch. I can’t wait to wear my nalbinding Åsen mittens this winter!

Nalbinding resources:

  • Excellent written (Finnish, Swedish and English) and video tutorials to a range of nalbinding stitches at Neulakintaat.
  • A new book on Nalbinding by Mervi Pasanen, With one needle. Available in Finnish and English.
  • My own tutorial of the Dalby stitch with the left hand.
  • You can also search for nalbinding on my blog for some more posts with nalbinding projects.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Mending apparatus

For some years now I have been longing to get hold of a 1940’s mending machine, “Stoppapparaten Perfekt” (the mending apparatus Perfect), also known in English as Speedweve. This week I won a bid for the mending apparatus at Swedish eBay (Tradera). As soon as I had got it out of the box I searched the house for holes to mend. I found plenty.

The Stoppapparaten Perfekt is such a great little tool. Small, portable, lightweight and with everything you need to mend holes, except for the hole itself and the mending yarn. But it is so much more than that. It is a piece of history in a little cardboard box.

The mending apparatus

The mending apparatus was produced in the thousands in the 1940’s. The Swedish version was made in a welding workshop in Stockholm. The daughter of the owner writes in an article that she and her brother used to put them together in the workshop for 5 Swedish öre a piece. Street vendors stood in every other street corner of Stockholm, demonstrating the mending process in the speed of light and sold box after box.

Stoppapparaten Perfekt, a perfect little mending apparatus. From the manual: “A practical novelty for mending any kind of finer or coarser woven or knitted goods. […] The mending becomes a pleasant pastime.”

A tantalizing textile tool treasure

Most people have no clue about this apparatus when they see it. But among textile people this is a highly sought after item. When it happens to turn up at an auction lots of people bid lots of money. The box says it cost 3 Swedish kronor in 1940. In today’s money it would be around 80 kronor/$8.5/7.5€. My winning bid at the auction was 800 kronor, a normal winning bid for the mending apparatus. I am aware that it is a crazy sum for a small piece of metal. At the same time it is a cultural heritage. Even if they were sold by the thousands in the 1940’s the supply isn’t endless, especially considering that most people who find it in their attics or dusty old boxes have no clue what it is. So I’m happy I got mine.

Awkward syntax

Another piece of history in this cardboard box treasure chest is the instruction sheet. Or, to be more precise, the language in the instruction sheet. As a linguist (and ex interpreter) I am truly fascinated by the way every sentence is made in a most fascinatingly complicated and heavy fashion. Loads of passive phrases, obsolete expressions and unnecessary words. It takes a long time to read and even longer to comprehend.

The lovely, yet horrific manual to the mending apparatus.

Quick, artful and no previous knowledge required

The funny thing is that the manufacturer advertises the use of the apparatus with the exclamations “Quick! Artful! No previous knowledge required!” Well, once you manage to get through the instructions it may be sort of quick if you have basic weaving skills (that were most probably considered common knowledge among housewives in the 1940’s). But instead of getting you stuck already at the instructions, I invite you to watch this beautiful video where Kajsa Larsdotter methodically explains how to use the mending apparatus. After that you will be all set to mend.

Cultivated, simple and comprehensible

In my day job I work as an administrative officer at a Swedish authority. Every day I make and write decisions. One of my most important jobs is to make the decisions understandable to the receiver. They have the right to know what we grant, what we reject and why. As a government official I need to follow the Swedish language act that states that the language in the public sector should be cultivated, simple and comprehensible (vårdat, enkelt och begripligt). In the beginning we wrote horrific texts that weren’t even comprehensible to our law department. However, since then we have made quite a journey in writing the decisions in a cultivated, simple and comprehensible way.

Reading a text like the instructions to the mending apparatus makes me gasp for air at the first sentence (or the first quarter of the first sentence since they are a mile long). Here is a translation of one of the sections in the instruction sheet:

“7. Insert the pin in the loops and remove the darning mushroom, when enough transverse threads have been threaded that the hole is covered, and turn the frame so that the longitudinal threads fall out of the hooks, and weave in the ends in a regular manner and the work is finished.”

I could go on. But I won’t. Instead I will mend.

Mending

I chose a cashmere sweater I have worn to pieces. I actually bought it for my husband a few years ago. It was quite cheap for cashmere (and I do understand why now). Unfortunately he accidentally felted it in the washing machine. Fortunately it shrank to a perfect size me.

Quite quickly though, seams unraveled and the yarn thinned at the elbows. Note to self: Don’t buy cheap cashmere sweaters. They will 1 cost more for someone else who don’t get paid and work 8 days a week, 2 break and 3 need mending (which is kind of fun but not the point of buying the sweater in the first place).

Preparing

I had already mended the elbow and now it was time to take care of the hole at the underarm. Securing the hole on the darning mushroom with the elastic band was a bit fiddly since the hole was rather large. But after a few trials I got it reasonably centered.

I used handspun yarns for the patch – a pink and orange wool/silk blend that I had got as a gift at some point. It is one of the first yarns I ever spun on a supported spindle and a dear memory.

Warping and weaving

After having sewn a security seam at the bottom of the hole, I sew the bottom end of the warp threads below the security thread and placed the top ends around the hooks. The width of the hooks make the shed possible. By sliding your finger across the loops the shed will change. One of the ingenious parts of this invention. I made a stitch in the sweater after each shuttling.

Finishing

When I got to the top of the warp the weaving got a bit fiddly, but with a little patience and good glasses it worked out. After having removed the warp loops from the hooks I stitched each loop individually in the fabric and wove in the ends on the wrong side.

Using the mending apparatus was a lot of fun. I have lots of holes to practice with. Dan is also keen to use it. I will definitely mend by hand too, but options are always welcome. And as all cultural heritages, tools techniques need to be used and handed down to future generations.

Mend with love and your clothes will keep you warm.

Mend your clothes with love and pride. I do. I see thin spots under the other arm. Perhaps I will take the mending machine for a second dance later today. I do have the same yarn in yellow and green too.

Happy mending!

You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to 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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Socks

During the fall and winter I have been spinning a rya/mohair cabled sock yarn. It has taken a long time but I finally reached the bottom of the wool basket a few weeks ago. For Christmas I had promised Dan a pair of socks in a colour and style of his choice and I have now finished knitting them.

A blend of lamb's rya (dual coat) and adult mohair makes a strong foundation for a plastic free sock yarn.
A blend of lamb’s rya (dual coat) and adult mohair makes a strong foundation for a plastic free sock yarn.

Dye

The colour of Dan’s choice was blue, which was kind of vague. Lucky for him, since my dyeing experiments can be quite adventurous. First I mixed equal proportions of yellow, red and blue for a brown base. Then I added more blue and just a pinch of yellow to lean the blue a bit toward petrol. While I do love the colour it ended up a lot darker and murkier than I had planned. It is quite liberating, though, to just accept that I get the colour I get, enjoying the ride.

I dye with my little eye and it never turns out the way I had imagined. Still, I am happy for the colour I get.
I dye with my little eye and it never turns out the way I had imagined. Still, I am happy for the colour I get.

Design

The yarn has absolutely no elasticity, so I knew I needed to make the fabric elastic. A k2p2 rib was an easy choice. Dan wanted stripes, so he got stripes of the dyed and the natural white skeins. A simple short row toe (which I am ever amazed at and never seem to understand how it actually works) that I am particularly delighted by.

A sidetrack here: Provisional cast-on with a crochet chain. How is it that I always manage to fail utterly and completely with this method? I imagine just pulling the end of the crochet chain and magically unravel a perfect row of loops. Instead I end up having to untie it loop by loop. I had to check a YouTube tutorial for the second sock to get it right (which I actually did).

I had planned to knit the heel in the project, but changed my mind mid-sock and made sort of a semi- afterthought heel. The whole point of making this hopefully very strong and durable sock yarn was so that the socks would last, and without plastic. So, with an afterthought heel I will be able to knit a new heel when necessary.

Knitting and bingeing

My first test in spinning this yarn was a combed and worsted spun yarn that resulted in string. The carded and woolen spun version I tried next was so much better. Still, the yarn is quite dense and left a clear mark across my index finger as I knit the socks. The positive side of this, though, was that the density and strength of the yarn made out sort of a self regulating anti-strain button – I couldn’t binge knit these socks without strained shoulders and yarn cuts. So I took it in small portions, leaving space for taking a step back and planning the design. Slow is a superpower.

A basket full of yarn is like a bowl of candy!
A basket full of yarn is like a bowl of candy!

I watched several episodes of Gentleman Jack and Scott and Bailey for these socks. Suranne Jones with her several aspects of superheroness will be forever entangled in these socks. Like sort of a gentle sock body guard for Dan.

Numbers

The yarn is of light fingering weight and the gauge 25 stitches and 38 rows of stockinette stitch with 2.5 millimeter needles for a 10×10 cm square. This gauge leaves a tight material that I think is suitable for socks. For Dan’s socks I cast on 60 stitches to fit his feet with a comfortable negative ease. The yarn is quite heavy – four singles in the yarn (1819 meters per kilo) with quite some twist – and the finished socks weigh 161 grams in total (293 meters of yarn). The code word for these socks is chunky.

Toe-up

I knit the socks toe-up. I think it is the only way I have ever knit socks. My calves are quite generous above the ankles and I think it is easier to increase the circumference as I go than to decrease it. So I stayed in my comfort zone with Dan’s socks.

After the toes were finished I knit the socks parallell. Not on the same cable needles though, since I had too many balls of yarn to babysit. About 10 centimeters above the heel I changed to 3 millimeter needles to fit the calves. I used Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind-off for the leg opening.

Sock future

Knitting socks wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. However, this was with my own sock yarn and as a gift for my husband, so I really needed to get a good result. The socks fit Dan perfectly and look very nice. After the first wear he said they were a bit scratchy. I hope they will soften up after a few dates with his feet. Also, I’m looking forward to follow the durability of the yarn. I actually saved the leftover 2-plies for mending when that time comes.

At last, in early March, Dan got his Christmas socks.
At last, in early March, Dan got his Christmas socks.

There is yarn left for another two pairs of socks in a smaller size. I am also considering using the yarn for heels and toes only. Then I would have to spin another yarn for the foot and ankle, though.

Dan, my love, may your feet always be warm and happy. Merry Christmas!

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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Frida Chanel bag

The Frida Chanel field belt bag. Photo by Dan Waltin

A project that I have been working on for a long time is finally finished – the Frida Chanel bag. The bag is woven on a backstrap loom from outercoat yarn spun on a suspended spindle. Frida and Chanel are the two ewes that gave me the wool.

The Frida Chanel bag project has gone slowly but steadily through winter, spring and summer. It has lived through office meetings, sheep festivals and the corona crisis. So many experiences fit in the resulting field belt bag. In this post I walk you through the process from fluff to stuff.

The Frida Chanel bag is comfortable to war across my hip, either to the front or to the back. Photo by Dan Waltin
The Frida Chanel bag is comfortable to war across my hip, either to the front or to the back. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sheep

The wool in the yarn comes from the outercoat from two fleece championships contestants – one Åsen/Härjedal crossbred lamb and one Klövsjö ewe. They are both perfect warp candidates with long, strong and shiny outercoat fibers.

Chanel

I got Chanel on the 2017 Swedish spinning championships. She got a gold medal and rightfully so. It wasn’t for sale, though. The shepherdess didn’t want to part with it. She isn’t a spinner herself, though, and she realized that no spinning mill would do the colour variations justice. I talked to her and she decided to sell it to me.

Chanel's fleece divided into colour piles.
Chanel’s fleece divided into colour piles.

I divided the fleece into colour piles and spun each of the lovely colours separately. After some trial and error I landed in separating undercoat from outercoat and spin the fiber types separately. This way I was able to make both wool and colours justice.

Frida

If found Frida’s fleece at the 2019 Swedish fleece championships. She didn’t win any medals, but she was still so beautiful and I really needed to take her home with me. She has the most incredible shine!

The Klövsjö ewe Frida's beautiful fleece.
The Klövsjö ewe Frida’s beautiful fleece.

The yarns

With Chanel’s outercoat I ended up with five colours of brown, from solid chocolate, through dark and light coffee swirls to a frappuccino.

Five colours of the Åsen/Härjedal lamb Chanel's outer coat.
Five colours of the Åsen/Härjedal lamb Chanel’s outer coat.

I have been spinning Chanel’s combed outercoat tops on a suspended spindle on coffee breaks and meetings at work. Through the soft feeling of the fibers I have been able to filter the coffee break chatter and focus on the content of the office meetings.

I treated Frida’s fleece the same way I had treated Chanel’s – I separated outercoat from undercoat and spun them separately. When I got to spin Frida’s combed top it was already March and the government urged everybody who could to work from home, so I have spun Frida’s outercoat yarn at digital meetings and coffee breaks from my home.

The Klövsjö ewe Frida's outercoat spindle spun into a strong and shiny warp yarn.
The Klövsjö ewe Frida’s outercoat spindle spun into a strong and shiny warp yarn.

I decided to dye the Frida outercoat yarn in two shades of blue. I used the same dye base as the yarn for my weaving bag, but for some reason it turned out green instead. They are still lovely colours and I did get the difference in shade I was after.

Finished yarns from Chanel (brown shades) and Frida (dyed green). Spindle spun and hand wound with love. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Finished yarns from Chanel (brown shades) and Frida (dyed green). Spindle spun and hand wound with love. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Colour play

When all the yarns were finished I had a wonderful weaving yarn treasure to play with. I wanted the stripes to be in different widths and I wanted to pair dark colours with light. In the end I decided on using two gradients – one brown and one green (if you can call two colours a gradient) – going in different directions. I added a section with horizontal stripes in the middle. I messed up with the calculations here, though. The horizontal stripes should have been twice as wide but my head obviously wasn’t with me all the way in the warping.

Being able to build my weave and my loom is such a wonderful feeling of empowerment. I made that pattern from my own yarn. I set up that loom (that is mostly my own carving) to fit my yarns.

A sticky business

Weaving with this. yarn has been a very sticky business. The warp threads have been tremendously clingy and in the beginning I was wondering if I would ever see this weave finished. But the beauty of weaving with your handspun yarns is that it simply has to work out. I need to find ways to make it work. I have invested too much love in this project for it to go down the drain.

To come around the clinging warp threads I tried different sizing methods. My friend Cecilia made herself my guinea pig and tried brushing the warp with gelatine, which worked to some extent for her test warp. I brushed mine with flax seed infusion and later hair spray to make the warp threads stiffer and more protected against the frequent abrasion of a warp-faced weave.

I think the sizing helped to some extent, but the warp was still very sticky. After a while I decided to develop a more mechanical solution – instead of opening up the shed as one movement I declung the warp section by section for each new shed. This way it took me about five minutes to weave two rows and it wasn’t that mindful process that continuous weaving is. But it worked. And once I had accepted the fact that this was the way I was going to weave this project I did find some sort of mindfulness in that too.

In the lime-tree alley

When I worked with the weaving bag and Dan’s camera strap I set up my loom under a spare lime-tree in the lime-tree alley that leads to our house. It is perfectly backstrap loom sized and has a nice view of the park. It has been lovely to weave in this spot and see the spring unfold into summer. My weaves have grown with the grass and the leaves. These past few weeks with this weave the grass has been waist-high and the branches heavy with fully developed leaves.

The last part of June was really hot – around 30 degrees Celsius. My crankiness limit is at 25 degrees so it was way too hot for me. But standing under that lime-tree weaving was such a perfect activity in the heat. I got the shade I needed and some wind. And when the sun broke through the leves I could just move a few steps around the tree to get into the shadow again.

Come to think of it, the colours of the weave reflects the colours of the lime-tree. The browns are the trunk, the dark green the leaves and the light green the sweet flowers. This weave was meant to be woven together with a lime-tree!

A field belt

Sometimes I obsess about things. One of my latest obsessions is the sewing patterns from Merchant & Mills. They have lovely clothes patterns and some bags. I was particularly attached to the Field belt bag. I had finally decided to buy the kit and put it in my shopping cart when it dawned on me: I wasn’t going to buy the kit – I was going to weave the fabric myself! I’m not sure when in the process I got this idea, but probably around March when I started spinning Frida’s outercoat.

Sewing and assembling

The pattern I used for the Frida Chanel bag is simple. A lined pouch with a folded top. A belt goes through a channel at the back for wearing the belt around your hips.

I had to make some adjustments for my handwoven fabric, but mostly the sewing was quite straightforward. I didn’t use a seam allowance for the side seams. Instead I sewed the selvedges together with a figure-8 stitch. That way I lost no width on the sides. And the figure-8 seam is really pretty.

A simple figure-8 stitch closes the selvedges at the side seam. No extra fabric was wasted here. Photo by Dan Waltin
A simple figure-8 stitch closes the selvedges at the side seam. No extra fabric was wasted here. Photo by Dan Waltin

The rivets were tricky, though. I didn’t want to punch the rivets through the woven fabric. I was afraid the warp threads would sneak their way out of the weave. Again I consulted my friend Cecilia. She suggested reinforcing the weave with wood glue (fancy that!) and put extra leather on each side of the weave for the rivets to hold on to. I did this, and managed to push the rivets between the warp threads so that none of them broke.

The leather belt goes through a channel at the back of the bag. Underneath the leather strap for the closing you can see one of the extra pieces of leather I used to reinforce the holes for the rivets and protect the woven fabric. Photo by Dan Waltin.
The leather belt goes through a channel at the back of the bag. Underneath the leather strap for the closing you can see one of the extra pieces of leather I used to reinforce the holes for the rivets and protect the woven fabric. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Lining

Another obsession this spring has been vintage fabrics. I use them to line things. When you open a bag or a spindle case I think it is only fair that you find a scrumtious and decadent lining, don’t you? I chose a flowery upholstery fabric that gave me that tingling feeling I was looking for. I added a nifty bellows pocket in the lining for easy access to important things.

Every bag needs a scrumptious lining! In this case a vintage upholstery fabric I got from Swedish e-Bay. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Every bag needs a scrumptious lining! In this case a vintage upholstery fabric I got from Swedish e-Bay. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Frida Chanel bag

So, this week I finally finished the bag. I love the freedom of wearing it around my waist and the safe feeling of wool at my hip. When I wear it I have the company of the sweet wool providers Frida and Chanel. The shine of the fabric is luscious.

A working period of five months is over. The bag may be small but it contains two sheep, three seasons, a pandemic, work, pleasure and trees. That is a lot to carry for a small bag. But it was made with love and somehow fits it all.


I just started a six week vacation. I will post, but shorter pieces. There will be a lot of crafting during my vacation that I can write about in the fall!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Camera strap

During a few weeks this spring I have been secretly weaving a camera strap for my husband Dan. He takes all the photos for my magazine articles and a lot of photos for my blog. His birthday was this week and I was finally able to give it to him.

Dan is test shooting with nis new camera strap.
Dan is test shooting with his new camera strap.

For his birthday last year I wanted to get him a camera strap from Textiles Cusco, a cooperative of Peruvian weavers that I support. In the end it didn’t work out since I didn’t have the credit card type they accepted. Little did I know then that I would fall into the backstrap weaving rabbit hole before his birthday this year!

The yarns

In the online course in backstrap weaving I took this spring I totally failed the pebble weave pick-up pattern module. My yarn was way too loosely spun and in colours with too little contrast. I wanted to make up for my questionable decisions and weave a strap in a pick-up pattern.

For this project I chose the white and blue yarns I used for the weaving bag I had just finished. I did run the yarns through the spinning wheel again, though, to give them some more twist. In the balanced weave they had been a bit fuzzy and a higher twist would make them stronger, especially considering they would be in a tight warp-faced project.

The participating hand spun yarns in the camera strap.

For the kind of pick-up technique I chose it is a good idea to use three colours – two with high contrast for the pick-up pattern and a third for the edges. The black yarn I chose for the edges comes from a sample bag of a Gotland/finull cross that I got from a shepherdess recently. I tried to prepare and spin it in the same way I had spun the white and blue yarns – hand combed and worsted spun on a spinning wheel and 2-plied with some extra twist. The black yarn turned out a little less elastic though.

The weaving

The strap was only 65 cm long and 4 cm wide, so even if pick-up patterns take time it would still be doable before his birthday. I bought an ebook for a different kind of two-faced pick-up pattern by Laverne Waddington. I wanted the pattern I loved the most and not necessarily the one that was the easiest. In the end I chose one with heart shapes over 16 warp pairs and 32 rows. A lot to keep track of, but I pinned the pattern onto the warp for easy access.

A lovely heart-shaped pattern over the stretch of the camera strap.

Pick-up pattern

In this kind of pick-up pattern you work with warp pairs with one thread of each colour in every pair. When warping for the pick-up part you warp with one colour in the top and one in the bottom. This is to keep track of the colours and pairs. In the pattern you pick up one thread for each pair every row. This results in a pattern that is inverted on the “wrong” side.

Picking up the warp threads for the pick-up pattern. I need to pick up each individual warp thread in a new combination every row for the 32 row repeat. The heddle yarn in the top of the picture is my handspun and cable plied in Gute lamb’s wool.

I use a stick to pick up my warp threads with. In the picture above the blue warp threads are on top. Picking up the blue threads is no problem. When I need to pick up a white thread I need to pick up this from the bottom (white) layer and make sure I don’t pick up the blue thread in that pair.

The camera strap takes shape in the Stockholm spring sun. In the picture I have picked up all the warp threads for the row and inserted the batten in the new shed, ready to beat.

When I have finished picking up the row I place my batten in the picked-up shed and beat. Next row I pick up a new set of warp threads for a new shed. When I have picked up all the rows in the 32 row pattern I start from the beginning again.

I really loved this technique and I will do it again. It doesn’t take much yarn, but the result is so lovely and the fact that I made it makes me all giddy.

Narrow strap

The strap with the pick-up pattern is the part that goes over the shoulder of the photographer. I also needed to make a narrower strap to fasten to the camera. This was just a plain 1 cm wide warp-faced band. I used a band lock instead of the front beam and I didn’t bother with a stick for the heddles. Instead I used a piece of string to hold the heddles. To change the shed I simply lifted the heddles in the string loop.

I used a band lock for the narrow band instead of the wider front loom bar. Also I used a piece of string to hold the heddles instead of a stick. The band lock is made in juniper wood and smells oh so lovely.

The camera strap

Assembling the camera strap was a bit more of a challenge than I had expected. The original strap joined the wide and the narrow straps with a fake leather patch on both sides. I did the same, only with real leather. I used two waxed linen threads simultaneously for a double running stitch. The first strap join was really difficult and fiddly to make. I broke two needles and had sore fingers for a few days afterwards. The leather join looked really crooked and sad. For the other leather join I pre-punched the needle holes which made sewing a lot easier.

All assembled and ready to shoot!
All assembled and ready to shoot!

I decided to pick up the first join and make it better, which was a good decision. I would have been annoyed with the crooked join if I hadn’t. The second time I could use the old needle holes and the sewing went much smoother.

The camera strap sits nicely over the shoulder.
The camera strap sits nicely over the shoulder.

The black edges of the strap are a bit wavy because the black yarn has less elasticity than the blue yarn. But it isn’t a problem, it just adds to the hand made feeling.

Test shooting some grass in the evening light.
Test shooting some grass in the evening light.

I really loved making these straps. The pattern took a long time but the result is so lovely. And making the narrower strap felt surprisingly good. I enjoyed having the knowledge to weave the band so narrow. The yarns worked very well in the project, especially since I had added extra twist.

Dan loves his new camera strap. Last night he went out for a photo shoot – grass in backlight – and it went so much better than with the original camera strap. Fancy that!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

A design process

Selma Margau sweater.

Finally I can reveal a secret that I have kept for many months: I have designed a sweater and published a pattern! The pattern is available in the Spin-Off summer 2020 issue. I have spent so much time with this project and planning for it and now that it’s finished I miss it a bit. It’s like finishing a good book – even if there was a happy ending you get a little sad by the thought of not spending any more time with the people in the book. In this post I invite you to my two year design process of the sweater pattern Selma Margau.

Selma Margau sweater. Photo by Dan Waltin.

A baby design idea

I started planning for this project two years ago. At the Swedish fleece championships 2017 I fell in love with a dark grey Swedish finewool Rya mixbreed fleece. I started playing with the wool to find a way to make it justice in a yarn. One idea I got was to make a tweed yarn. I got recycled Sari silk and a yarn started to take shape.

In my usual manner I looked for the superpowers of the fleece and landed in a 3-plied woolen yarn spun with English longdraw from hand-carded rolags with Sari silk.

I designed a sweater – Margau Beta – that would let the yarn shine. A raglan yoked stockinette sweater with reverse stockinette panels. I embroidered some flowers along the left side panel, up along the raglan panels and towards the neck band.

A woman walking in the snow. She is wearing a dark grey knitted sweater with white embroidered flowers.
Margau Beta was the first prototype for the Selma Margau design. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sweater was a Beta version, hence the name. I wanted to make another one, only in white wool. Instead of stockinette and reverse stockinette on the center panel I made a cable pattern.

The wool

I asked the shepherdess Margau if she had something in white that was similar to the dark grey fleece. In her thorough manner she sent me samples from three of her white finull/rya ewes. I got to pick the one I liked the most.

Unwashed wool from the finull/rya ewe Selma.
Unwashed wool from the autumn shearing of the finull/rya ewe Selma.

I decided to go with the autumn shearing of Margau’s ewe Selma – a lovely fleece with both long and shiny undercoat and soft undercoat. She also had the most crimpy and consistent wool of the three samples.

Having a relationship like this with talented sheperhedesses is truly valuable to me as a spinner. Usually I find my favourite shepherdesses at the annual fleece championships. I see the fleeces they win medals for and if I am lucky the shepherdess is there and I can talk to them. They are always friendly and helpful and provide me with their gold. Usually they love to see what I make of the wool from their sheep.

Finished rolags with sari silk, ready for spinning.
Finished rolags with sari silk, ready for spinning.

I prepared and spun Selma’s fleece the same way I had spun her dark grey sister’s – a 3-ply woolen yarn spun with English longdraw from hand-carded rolags. The Sari silk was added at the teasing stage.

Six skeins of white yarn with colored specks.
A 3-ply woolen yarn spun with English longdraw from hand carded rolags.

Swatching

When the first skein was finished I dove into swatching to find a suitable pattern for the front and back panels. Looking at cable patterns I realized that a simple cable panel would make the yarn shine. I decided upon a stag horn center with opposing 3+3 ropes on each side.

It took me a few swatches to find the right combination for this yarn, but I think this is the one.
It took me a few swatches to find the right combination for this yarn, but this is the one.

Yarn shortage

I knit away on the body happily and started the first sleeve. At the top of the sleeve I ran out of yarn. And there was no more wool. In desperation I contacted Margau and got Selma’s spring shearing. A bit shorter and a bit more vegetable matter, but otherwise the same quality.

When i had finished both sleeves I came to the really tricky part. Calculating for the yoke is not my best talent, but to my surprise it turned out just how I had envisioned it. The cables behaved and weren’t cut off in the raglan decreases. They just formed pretty cable rays around the neck band.

A woman wearing a natural white cabled sweater. She is standing on a forest floor covered with autumnal leaves.
Well behaved raglan cables. Photo by Dan Waltin.

When the sweater was finished I had one skein of yarn left. I used it for the top part of the yoke in my Bianka sweater.

From design (via tears) to pattern

Designing a garment is one thing. Creating a pattern is a totally different ballpark. I have published a mitten pattern before, but a sweater in numerous sizes is a lot of work. I have calculated and recalculated, found errors, cried and recalculated again. And again. You get the picture. Finally I gave birth to a publishable pattern in nine sizes. And it was approved by the tech editor. The relief was indescribable.

Selma Margau

I named the sweater design Selma Margau after the sheep and shepherdess that provided me with the lovely wool. It is a sweater I wear with love and pride. I made it. I designed the sweater from the properties of the yarn that I in turn designed after the superpowers of the wool. The fibers are shown at their best advantage and I like to think of the finished sweater as a tribute to the sheep that grew the wool and the shepherdess who nurtured that sheep and cared for it with her knowledge and experience.

I needed to stay warm in the beech forest, hence the staged throwing of leaves. Photo by Dan Waltin

Photo shoot

We took the pictures by a wooden castle not far from our house. We did two photo shoots – one by the castle for the pattern in Spin-Off magazine and one for my blog in the beech forest on the caste grounds. The magazine pictures were the most important ones, so we started by the castle. After just a few pictures, though, Dan’s fancy camera started to make odd sounds. We did the last shots quickly and moved on to the beech forest. After just one picture the camera stopped working altogether. It turned out that the one lens Dan had brought was cranky and had gone on a strike. So all but the featured photo for this post were shot with his phone camera. It was a big relief that we had done the magazine shot first.

Selma Margau sweater.
The only picture of the Selma Margau sweater in the beech forest we got with Dan’s fancy camera. Photo by Dan Waltin

It was a cold and windy day and despite the fact that the sweater is way too warm for me with all the cables, I was freezing for the photo shoot. To stay warm I jumped around between takes. When my 14-year-old saw the photos in the evening she was shocked: “Mum, you’re jumping!!” Apparently I haven’t been jumping much lately. But here it is, proof of me jumping in a beech forest.

A woman jumping in an autumn forest. She is wearing a natural white knitted sweater with cables.
I’m jumping to stay warm. Apparently a rare sight. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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