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 collars 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.

Weaving bag

Last week I wrote about my adventures with backstrap weaving and the online course in backstrap weaving I have been taking this spring. In this post I present the final assignment in the course – a woven bag.

Weaving a weaving bag

The assignment for the fifth and last module in the course was to weave a bag made of a warp-faced strap and a balance weave cloth to fold into the body and flap of the bag.

A smiling woman wearing a shoulder bag across her torso. The bag is blue and has fringes.
I’m very happy with my finished weaving bag. Dan was equally happy with the evening light. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The yarn I used was a 2-plied worsted yarn from combed tops of a Norwegian crossbred, NKS. I spun the yarn a few years ago and it has been waiting for a project ever since. Before I warped I dyed three skeins of the six I had.

A weaving bag to fit all the necessary weaving equipment.

Strap

Weaving the strap for the weaving bag went well. The yarn was sleek and didn’t stick, only a bit towards the end of the weave. If I had spun this yarn today and with weaving in mind I would probably have spun it with higher twist.

A backstrap loom outdoors. The project is a blue strap.
The strap is warp-faced.

Body

The instructions for the body of the weaving bag was to weave it balanced. I had done this in a previous project, but that was only 10 cm wide. This one was 23 cm wide, the widest I have woven on a backstrap loom. But I was determined to get it right and proper and after having lashed on I was very happy with the set-up.

A Backstrap Loom outdoors. The project is a wide balance weave in three sections – the edges in blue and the middle in white.
A mid section in white by necessity turned out pretty nicely.

Dyed and undyed

As I was calculating the meterage and the warping I quickly realized that I would need more yarn than I had dyed. Given the fact that dyeing is not my best skill, I didn’t dare to dye the three remaining skeins. Chances were that I would end up with a completely different colour.

One could argue that I should have dyed all six skeins at once, which I obviously hadn’t. The reason for this was that the skeins were a bit different and I picked the tree that looked most alike. And had I dyed all six skeins at once they would have been too bulky for the dyeing pot and the dye would have turned out uneven. So my solution was to add an undyed section in the mid third of the body of the bag.

Having the three sections actually helped me keep track of the warp threads and the spacing between them. The job of lashing on all the 99 warp pairs got a bit easier when I thought of them as 3×33 instead.

Heddles

I used my handspun Värmland outercoat yarn for the heddles for the strap. This was part of my contribution to the advanced category in the 2019 Swedish spinning championships.

A skein of yarn. 2-plied in natural white, grey and brown. The yarn is sleek and silky.
2-plied Värmland outercoat for heddles for the strap.

The yarn worked quite well, but there was a little warp fuzz. It could be because I had reused the yarn several times for heddles. I am new at heddle making as well, so I try to analyze and learn every time.

I didn’t have enough of the Värmland heddle yarn for the width of the body of the bag. Instead I used my contribution to the intermediate category of the same championships – a cable spun yarn from Gute lamb. Very strong, round and sleek.

A light grey silky yarn.
Cable-plied Gute lamb’s wool for heddles for the body of the bag.

The cable-plied yarn worked wonderfully as heddle yarn. It was originally spun as a sock yarn – combed, worsted spun, cable plied and with high twist. These properties worked very well for a heddle yarn.

A warp on a backstrap loom.
A long row of Gute heddles for my balanced weave.

I actually like making the heddles! Holding the heddle yarn, making lots heddles of equal size, watching the individual loops add to the long row of heddles, it really sings to me. It is a feeling of empowerment – I can make sticks and loops turn into a working loom together with myself and a tree!

Fringe

I am not a fringe fan on clothing and accessories. It is a bit too late -70’s/early -80’s for me. Remember the T-shirts with beaded sleeve fringe? I was about ten back then and I’m not particularly keen on going back. But weaving all the way to the end of the warp is an advanced and time-consuming technique that I may learn in time.

A woman wearing a woven shoulder bag.
The weaving bag fringe! Photo by Dan Waltin

Meanwhile, I have to choose between hemming and fringing. This project said fringe and so I fringed. I chose to twist my fringe to protect the yarn from wear.

Assembling

The assembling of the weaving bag is quite easy. The strap has a double function as sides of the bag. The body is folded to make out the front, bottom, back and flap.

Seams

I sewed the strap onto the body with a figure-8 seam that worked very well. The technique doesn’t require any seam allowance and is perfect for stitching selvedges together. The seam is sturdy but still discrete.

Close-up of a woven bag. The fabric is seamed together with a subtle seam.
A figure-8 seam to assemble the bag. The technique is simple – sew up through the left piece, over the edge and up through the right piece in a tight figure-8 pattern.

A decorative seam

I am very fascinated by the Andean spinning and weaving culture. To honor the textiles Andean weavers typically spend at least as much time decorating the woven textiles as they do weaving them. I wanted to do this too and decided to add a decorative seam on the bag opening.

This was the part where I had lashed on, the first few rows I wove on the body part or the third selvedge. When I looked at this selvedge it looked wavy and sloppy. I usually tell my students that your mistakes are a map of what you have learned. In this case, my map told me that I hadn’t beaten the first few rows closely enough to the loom bar.

Close-up of the opening of a bag. The edge is decorated with a seam in blue and white yarn.
My first try on a single-row Kumpay stitch to decorate and protect the bag opening.

In my vanity I thought that a decorative seam would cover the sloppiness of the edge, but of course it didn’t. But it is still a pretty seam that also protects the edge of the bag. I chose what I believe is a single-row Kumpay stitch with two colours.

Decadent rose lining

When I planned the project I suspected that the weaving bag would be somewhat sloppy without lining. Lately I have bought lots of small pieces of vintage fabrics from the Swedish e-bay for this very purpose. I seem to have fallen for bold 70’s motifs and, to my own surprise, roses. I do not like rose patterns. It is too Laura Ashley for my taste (back in the -80’s again). But I firmly believe that the hidden innards of a bag should be allowed to be a bit decadent, don’t you?

Sewing the lining with decadent roses.

I chose a study rosy rose fabric in cotton and linen from my e-bayed stash that worked well with the blue in the bag. I added two pockets in the lining – one on the side to fit emergency sticks and one in the center for pencils. There is plenty of room for other necessities like band locks, yarn, a backstrap and a bottle of water.

The inside of a bag. The bag is lined with a rosy woven fabric and contains weaving sticks and other weaving supplies.
The hidden innards of the bag is lined with decadent pink roses.

Before I stitched the lining onto the bag I added a piece of wool needle punch felt at the bottom of the lining to make the bottom of the bag a bit more stable and defined.

Happy beginner

When I started the bag project I felt confident – I knew what to do when and why. I know what parts I need to build the loom and I know how to operate the loom with my body movements. I know how to fix things when they go wrong. This has given me a lot of weaving confidence, in backstrap weaving as well as my rigid heddle loom.

I love being able to build my loom for every new project. I love being part of the loom. It helps me understand what I can do with it and how.

I am definitely an early beginner, but an independent one. After my first few projects I have the knowledge, skills and tools to realize a baby idea and create a textile at my level. I own my weaving.


Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, Peru

Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco is a non-profit organization focusing on the empowerment of weavers through revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. I support these talented textile artists. Please consider supporting them too. In these uncertain times they need financial support more than ever as they depend largely on tourism.

Happy weaving!


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.

If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Backstrap weaving

For a long time I have been fascinated by the rich textural culture of the Andes. The simplicity of the tools together with the complex textiles you can make and the ubiquitous presence and history of textile making all warm my heart. In this post I share my learning process, my thoughts and my woven projects in the online course in backstrap weaving that I’m taking.

Backstrap weaving

Backstrap weaving is an ancient technique where the warp is attached in one end to a weaver and in the other to a solid object like a tree or a post. The weaver builds the loom for every new project.

Close-up of a backstrap loom. Wooden sticks and rods attached between blue warp threads. A hand is pulling a piece of yarn through the shed.
The building of a Backstrap Loom: On the far ends (which you can’t see) are the near and far loom bars. The near loom bar is attached to the backstrap around the weaver’s hips and the far loom bar around a tree or post. The two bars attached together with silicone bands are the rolling bars. These keep the cross in place and helps the weaver find both sheds. The heddle rod holds the heddles that lift the lower threads in the shed. The beater/sword/machete is used to beat the weft. The thin stick at the top with red silicone bands is a dovetail stick. I’m weaving a circular warp and the dovetail stick keeps the beginning and the end of the warp together.

The technique can be used with tablets, a rigid heddle or with string heddles and is still practiced in many parts of the world. In the Andes most backstrap weaving is done warp-faced.

A person weaving on a backstrap loom. In the picture you see the backstrap around the weaver's hips and the loom bar the backstrap is attached to in front of the weaver. Wooden sticks are stored in the side pockets of the weaver's trousers.
The weaver ties her- or himself into the loom between the near loom bar and the backstrap.

Simple and complex

A year ago I started spinning as close as I could to Andean spinning on Peruvian Pushkas. The fleece I started with was around 2 kilos and there is lots left of it. I still spin every night on my Pushkas before I go to sleep. I have many nights left of spinning before I’m out of fleece.

The Andean way of spinning and weaving fascinates me, as is the rich textile history and culture in the Andes. At first I didn’t plan to learn backstrap weaving, but when I saw that there were online courses available I realized that I really needed to learn this beautiful technique. The courses I have found are made and taught by Kimberly Hamill and Laverne Waddington. I chose Kimberly Hamill’s course and I will also try one of Laverne Waddington’s for some extra techniques. I bought a loom from Kimberly Hamill. She also has instructions on how to make your own backstrap loom.

Backstrap weaving with handspun

One important part of learning backstrap weaving was to use my handspun yarns and find out how to spin suitable yarns for weaving in general and backstrap weaving in particular. By trying different yarns I would be able to learn what works and what doesn’t work for a weaving technique where there is a lot of tension and abrasion on the warp threads.

A natural brown woven strap
My first finished project woven with my backstrap loom. I used a handspun 3-ply from a Härjedal/Åsen crossbred. The yarn was quite sticky and I didn’t have the flow I expect I would have had with less sticky yarn.

Earlier this year I had a band weaving period and there I realized how different levels of fuzz influence the weaving process. In weaving with my handspun yarns I could find what level of fuzziness I could tolerate. So learning backstrap weaving will essentially also teach me how to spin for weaving.

Happy heddles

When I got the loom in the mail I found all the things I needed – an array of sticks of different sizes, warping pegs, c-clamps and balls of string for different purposes. One of the balls of strings was truly hideous. And I’m not talking about the bright pink colour, flown in directly from the -80’s. No, I’m talking about the material: Nylon. The reason for the nylon material was that it was smooth and wouldn’t catch the warp yarn which would be good for a beginner like me. I accepted that and used the nylon for my heddles.

A person weaving on a Backstrap Loom. The warp yarn is natural brown. The heddle yarn is bright pink.
My first backstrap weaving project with the hideous nylon heddles.

Equal heddle and warp

Marie Ekstedt Bjersing is a weaving teacher at Sätergläntan center for craft education. She saw pictures of my first weaving project politely asked me if I had chosen the heddle yarn myself. I said no and asked if she had any thoughts about the heddle yarn. She encouraged me to use my own handspun, which I would never have thought of myself. Her advice was to use a 3-plied yarn with long fibers and high twist. The best yarn for the heddles would be slightly thinner than the warp yarn.

Marie also advised me to use the same material for the heddles as for the warp – wool heddles for wool yarn etc. She has a theory about using equal fibers, or at least fibers with equal properties, in heddles and warp. The strongest material will win and with abrasion the weakest will break. She works with floor looms and often the nylon string have made ugly marks in the beams of the looms – the nylon string is stronger than the wood in the beams. But the heddles are far easier to change than the loom beams. A heddle yarn that is thicker than the warp yarn may cause breakage in the warp threads. Warp and heddle yarns with different properties may cause abrasion in one of the yarns. A balance between the warp yarn and the heddle yarn will be an important part of the balance in the whole weaving process.

Thank you Marie for your wise thoughts!

Handspun heddles

Just as I needed to find out for myself what level of fuzziness I could tolerate in the warp, I needed to find out how I could use my handspun yarn for the heddles. So far it is working out and I take mental notes of how the heddles interact with the warp. I have not yet woven with warp or heddle yarn that I have spun specifically for weaving but I will eventually. This is only the beginning.

I’m surprised that I enjoyed the making the heddles as much as I did! Perhaps just because I used my handspun yarn for the heddles. When I build the heddles that control the warp threads I feel like I can do anything.

A backstrap loom hanging in a staircase.
My Backstrap Loom safely and neatly stored under the staircase. Warp, weft and heddles are my handspun yarn. The backstrap is woven on my backstrap loom.

Backstrap weaving a backstrap

While the first project in the course was a plain strap, the second project was all about backstrap weaving a backstrap. I was thrilled with the idea.

Close-up of a tight warp-faced weaving in natural and turquoise flax yarn.
Backstrap weaving with flax yarn. Second backstrap project.

For this project I chose a commercial flax yarn, though. I figured that I would weave outdoors in the summer and I imagined a linen backstrap would be lovely to weave with.

Close-up of a tight warp-faced weaving in natural and turquoise flax yarn. Heddles in flax yarn. The sun shines through the heddles and leaves shadows on the warp.
Weaving a backstrap with my backstrap loom. Warp, weft and heddles in flax yarn from Växbo lin.

You know when you do something quite seldom, and when you do it again you remember why you don’t do it more often? That is the case for me and weaving with flax yarn. I love flax, but as soon as I weave with it I remember why I don’t do it very much. Flax yarn is not forgiving like wool and it takes lots of patience and focus to work with. I had this realization when I had finished warping. But this time it actually worked like a charm! The weave was a bit crooked in the beginning, but after a while I got a really nice and even looking fabric.

A finished backstrap on the ground. The end is braided.

I now love weaving with my backstrap woven linen backstrap. It fits perfectly and I burst with pride everytime I wrap myself in it.

Problems with pebbles

The third project was quite a challenge. We were weaving a band with pebble weave. The technique involves pick-up patterns. The first assignment was to design the pattern, which proved to be surprisingly difficult. After a while I came up with a wavy sort of pattern that I liked.

For this project I definitely chose the wrong handspun yarn. It was too loosely spun and too fuzzy. Several warp threads thinned out and broke. Also, the colours were too close to each other in hue. I actually didn’t finish the project, but it was still a valuable lesson in the most important qualities in a yarn.

Close-up of a person manipulating warp threads on a backstrap loom.
The third project was pebble weaving. Very thin, too loosely spun yarn in colours in hues too close to each other. The fiber comes from a merino/silk commercially combed top I had received as a gift. I spun the yarn on a supported spindle. If you squint you can see a vague wave pattern. Heddle yarn in Värmland outercoat wool.

I will get back to this technique with more suitable yarn and colours.

Balanced weave

While most backstrap weaving, at least in the Andes is done warp-faced, the fourth project was all about balanced weave. It was quite a challenge to find the right tension to weave loose enough.

A backstrap loom with a balanced weave in greens.
Balanced weave on a backstrap loom.

The yarn I chose was not one of my proudest moments. A while ago I received beautiful commercially combed and blended tops as a gift. I am not keen on spinning these. I don’t really know how to and I find neither flow nor mindfulness in the process. But I figured the yarn would be good for something and why not weaving. So I spun them quick and dirty and had myself some weaving yarn.

A green scarf hanging on a clothes line.
The fourth project was dedicated to balanced weave.

The assignment was to weave a scarf, but I did some miscalculation on the amount of warp threads and ended up with a 10 cm wide scarf instead of 20 cm. So I’m not really sure how to use this scarf. But it was still lovely weaving!

A bag to dye for

The final project of the course was to weave a bag with most of the components from previous projects. I had a lovely yarn that would be perfect for the bag, but I didn’t think the natural white would be very suitable for a bag. So I decided to dye it. I am not a very good dyer, but for some reason I did things right this time and ended up with exactly the colour I wanted. It was even even!

A ball of blue yarn on a tree trunk.
My proudest dyeing moment. The yarn is my handspun from a Norwegian whole-year NKS crossbred spun worsted and 2-plied.

I started weaving a warp faced strap for the bag. This was the first time I really felt I had control of all the aspects of the weaving. I knew what to do, but first and foremost I understood why I did it and how I could fix things that went wrong.

Last night I warped and lashed on for the bag part of the bag, which will be in balanced weave. You may see the finished bag in a future blog post.

A weaving sample over a book. A sheep's head on the cover of the book.
I’m doing sett tests for balanced weave on a book.

A bag with a purpose

Most pictures and videos I have seen of backstrap weaving have been with sitting weavers. I like to stand and so I stand when I backstrap weave. While starting out sitting I have realized that I have a better control of the tension when I stand. I also feel that I can get a stronger tension if I need to. The problem with standing, though, arises when I drop things – usually the sword. During this process I have become a master of picking things up with my toes!

At first I didn’t really know what to use the bag for, but when I realized that I would keep my weaving supplies in it when weaving instead of dropping them I could start weaving the bag with a purpose.

Weaving with the trees

The course started in March when it was way too cold to weave outdoors. But at the fifth module it had started to get warm enough to weave outdoors. I almost cried when I attached my loom to a young linden tree in the pale afternoon sun.

A person weaving outdoors on a backstrap loom. The loom is attached at the far end to a tree. An old house in the background.
Outdoor weaving at last.

Standing there, weaving on a loom that I had built myself (although I haven’t made the loom parts) and actually understood, and with warp, weft and heddles that I had spun myself was truly a magic feeling. Last year’s leaves were rustling under my feet and the spring birds were singing. I could feel the wind in my face. The trunk before me felt strong and safe as I worked with it to control the warp between us. We were both essential parts of the loom. I was finally weaving with the trees.

A Backstrap Loom attached to a tree.
I’m finally weaving with the trees.

Happy weaving!


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!

Portrait of a sweater

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

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

Everyday and wool festivities

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

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

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

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

A five year portrait

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

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

A new spinner

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

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

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

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

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

Tales from the elbows

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

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

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

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

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

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

A thin spot on my left elbow.

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

A new mending

I used help threads for my new patch.

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

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

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

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

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

Other signs of wear

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

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

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

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

Make that sweater

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

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

Thank you for the inspiration Sissel!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Curtain

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

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

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

Weaving

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

Bulky singles and sleek flax

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

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

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

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

Double width – double the fun?

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

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

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

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

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

Cut

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

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

Sewing

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

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

Loops

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

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

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

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

A parachute accident

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

When the sheet was fully unfolded I saw it.

A circular hole, the size of a human head.

Larger than a human head.

In the middle of the sheet.

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

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

Mending

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

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

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

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

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

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

A real curtain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A slow curtain

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

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Pin loom blanket

Another stash busting project is finished. This time I have used most of my early handspun skeins in a blanket made of pin loom squares. This is the third post in what has turned into a whole series of stash busting projects. The first one was about using stashed handspun skeins and thrums to make rya knots and the second was about weaving bands with odd handspun skeins.

Pin loom weaving

I started my pin loom blanket project over two years ago. I saw an article on the Spin-Off magazine website about pin loom weaving. The basic idea was to use stashed skeins and smaller amounts of yarn in 10×10 cm squares. I had a lot of handspun yarn in my stash even back then and I bought a pin loom. I made lots of squares in the beginning, but after a while my interest faded.

Woven squares in piles on a tree trunk. Balls of coloured yarn in a glass bowl.
Lots of squares to play with! Picture taken in November 2017.

Pin loom weaving is easy and addictive. You basically arrange the thread over the pins in three layers and weave on the fourth. For each new layer you turn the direction 90 degrees. When you reach the fourth layer you weave it all together. This locks all the threads together in a tabby-like weave. All the edges look the same which makes the squares easy to stitch together. After some practice I finished each square in around eight minutes.

a small loom and lots of finished woven squares
Three layers of layered yarn around the pins and a woven fourth. One of the squares is woven in two grey yarns (the needle is pointing towards it).

This was such a perfect project for odd skeins, test spinning and smaller amounts of yarn. If I ran out of yarn before a square was finished I just added in another colour, creating a chequered pattern.

A chequered gradient

Squares and pin loom have been gathering dust the past year or so. In my recent stash busting frenzy I picked up the pin loom again and finished the squares. After having cleared out my stash (again) I ended up with around 250 squares together with the ones I made back in 2017.

Lots of woven squares of the same size but in different colours. The squares are arranged in a colour gradient from light to dark.
All the coloured squares for my blanket. This is what I believe is a gradient from light to dark.

I had decided early on that I would have enough yarn for a blanket and I was right. When I was weaving the squares I realized that the majority of them were natural white. I decided to make a chequered pattern to give the blanket a quilty look. Since I had lots of different colours – mostly natural but also some hand dyed – I wanted to play with a gradient design for the quilt.

While I was planning the blanket pattern I was reading up on Fair Isle colour schemes for the Fair Isle yoke I finished recently. One trick that was mentioned in the book was to take a picture of the yarns in black and white to place the squares on a grey scale gradient.

Lots of woven squares of the same size but in different shades of grey. The squares are arranged in a gradient from light to dark.
This is the same picture as above. The gradient is a success!

This trick was very successful and I could quickly arrange my squares in the gradient I was looking for.

Stitching it all together

It took me a while to stitch all the squares together. After having placed all the squares in a gradient sequence I arranged the colours in one row to my liking. Then I stitched that row together. Since all the squares were constructed in the same way it was easy to whip stitch them in the selvedges. When one row was finished I whip stitched it onto the previously finished row. I arranged the next row, making sure there was some sort of harmony in the overall pattern and stitched the squares together and so on.

When they were all stitched together I had a blanket of 13×18 squares that measured 120×135 cm. The chequered gradient looked lovely!

13×18 squares, 120×165 cm, all handspun leftovers.

Fulling

While I was very happy with the design of the blanket, I wasn’t sure about the texture. The blanket was quite thin and felt like a loosely woven fabric rather than a blanket. So I decided to full it to keep it more together and to give it a more blankety structure.

The un-fulled blanket was loose and not very blankety.

At first I shocked the blanket by dipping it in hot and cold water. Not very much happened. So I tried some heavier stuff – I fed her to the tumble dryer! This was a very scary step and I had no idea what would happen. Or, well I did. Since there was a variety of wools and breeds in the squares I feared that the squares would full very differently, but I took the chance. My idea was that I could pin-point any less fulled squares and hand-felt those individually. However, the tumbling did the trick and fulled the blanket into a cozy blanket.

Fulling gave the blanket a more blankety structure and made it cozier. The blanket measured 100×140 cm after fulling. The section is the same as the above un-fulled picture.

Some squares did full more than others. But I realized that I didn’t mind. It only gave the blanket life and structure. It is easy to loose yourself in looking for the different textures of the squares. The rows and columns change in width like walking paths in a landscape.

I don’t know the breed of all the squares, but I do know that the orange ones are Swedish Jämtland wool. The wool obviously felts evenly and quite a lot, while the jeansy blue Swedish Leicester in the lower left corner doesn’t seem to have felted at all.

A bonus from the fulling was that the ridges of the seams on the back of the blanket sank into the fabric, making the front and back basically identical.

Edging

“Are these edges sturdy enough? Shouldn’t you make some sort of an edging?” said my 17-year-old when he inspected the blanket. I guess they weren’t and I guess I should. I made a simple blanket stitch around the edges and it looked a lot better. The inner squares held their shape through their alignment in the grid and through the seams, but the edges were a bit wobbly. The blanket stitch made the edges sturdier and shaped them up a bit.

A simple blanket stitch made a lovely and functional edging. The front and back of the blanket are hard to tell apart after fulling. Different yarns, colours, textures and degree of fulling – all ingredients in the blanket soup.

A spinner’s history

This blanket is my spinning history. The squares are woven in yarn that I spun when I was a new spinner (I started back in 2012). Here are lots of old friends and some I don’t even remember anymore. Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool sheep is in a lot of the natural white squares and in some of the dyed. She was the first fleece I dug my hands into on my first spinning lesson. My first Jämtland wool is also here. Some Norwegian rare and endangered breeds too. Lots of Shetland wool. Projects are represented – the orange squares can be found in a Veera Välimäki sweater. Some dark green come from another Veera Välimäki sweater. The apple green comes from the Paper dolls sweater I made for my daughter when she was around seven. Some of my pillowcases are represented too. All of them friends. All of them a part of a spinning history that I am very proud of.

A person sitting under a blanket made of woven squares. A fireplace in the background. Toes are sticking out from the blanket.
A cozy blanket made of odd and forgotten skeins from my spinning history.

It may look like just another blanket, with some wobble shaped squares and uneven yarns. But there is so much more in this blanket. So much of what I have learned as a spinner, twist by twist, thread by thread and stitch by stitch. This blanket was made for the love of spinning.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Weaving bands

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

Stashbusting

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

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

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

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

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle

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

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

This is how I did it:

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

The bands

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

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

Curtain band

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

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

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

Gotland meets Klövsjö

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

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

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

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

Broadbean green

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

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

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

Bog body

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

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

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

Rustic Värmland

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

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

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

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

Weaving more bands

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

Transfering new knowledge

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

Clinging warp threads

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

The body as part of the loom

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

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

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

Happy stashbusting!


You can follow me in several social media:

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

Fair isle yoke

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

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

Knitwear design

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

A fair isle yoke

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

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

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

The basics

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

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

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

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

Things I love

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

The colours

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

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

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

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

The pattern

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

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

Fit

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

Things I love less

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

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

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

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

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