Unfinished

I have a lot of things going on at the moment and I can’t seem to finish any of them. I get inspired by so many things. Even if I am a very structured person I sometimes find it hard to focus on finishing one idea.

Last week I took you along on a rescue operation of a capsized spinning project. Today I will give you a glimpse of my pile of unfinisheds. Perhaps it will give me some perspective and actually finish some of them.

A creative wave

I’m in the middle of a creative wave. I want to craft and design, but when I need to structure my thoughts in numbers and charts that I don´t master yet the wave dies off. I start another project. It’s like the wave flushes over me and then leaves me with the mess it has caused.

Creativity works exponentially for me at the moment. Ideas pop up in my head like little stars, poking me and winking for my attention. I feel bad when I don’t listen to them, they are all my babies. But when there are many ideas my head gets blurry and nothing comes out of it.

But all the while I have lots of unfinished projects I am convinced that good will come out of it. For me and for you. I like to see it as a step in a learning process that I need to take. It is a large and demanding step, but I need to take it in order to be able to move forward.

Here are some of my unfinished projects and ideas.

The sleeve pile

Miscellaneous unfinished sleeves. Well, two of them are actually finished by now, but still. Why is it so hard to finish sleeves? All the yarn in the picture is my handspun with the exception of the turquoise.

Can we talk about sleeves? What’s their problem? Really, I mean they are practical and all that, but they are so uninteresting to both knit and design. It’s like they place themselves on top of a creative wave like a damp cloth and smothers it.

To prevent the project from collapsing completely I usually knit both sleeves at the same time. But since I have so many projects going on I don’t have enough knitting needles! How’s that for an irony?

The never-ending chair pads

A loom with a Gordian knots weaving project
My rya chair pads are coming along slowly. Perhaps we can sit on them for the holidays?

A few weeks ago I showed you the rya chair pads I’m making from handspun stashed yarns and thrums. I was thrilled in the beginning, seeing my stashed-away thrums get new life between the warp threads. The process of making the knots is meditative. But there are a lot of knots. I’m on my third pad (I warped for eight) and I’m so looking forward to sitting on them. But they are still very much unfinished.

Yoke ripping

A new yoke is sprouting. Started three four times, still unfinished.

I started a new sweater design (after actually having finished one). Once I have a project envisioned in my head my hands itch to start. It’s like I can’t wait to shape my new idea between my hands. But when creativity moves faster than reason things can go awry. I’m not sure I have enough yarn to start with. The sleeves may have to suffer. The design is still unfinished. I started it three four times, though!

All the numbers

A woman sitting by a computer. A knitting pattern book on a book stand is on the table. An autumn tree is reflecting in the computer screen.
Pattern making is a long, but rewarding process. Frustrating at times, but I learn a lot.

I’m learning pattern making. It is so exciting and I’m getting to know the process a little more every day. For every new piece of the puzzle I get acquainted with my understanding of knitting design deepens. But it is so difficult! So many things to think about, so many calculations to make and so frustrating when I miss one tiny step and I have to go back two. Still, somehow it is moving forward. Slowly but steadily.

Unfinished online business

I am also working on course material, videos and webinars for you. These things do take their time, especially since my boss (me) is very demanding. They will be finished one day, and they will be good. Just not yet.


I’m not sure this post is properly finished

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!

Flax timeline

A small flax field in bloom

A follower asked me to make a flax timeline she could follow for her own flax. This is a lovely idea. I am so grateful for suggestions on blog topics. I write for you and if you have requests it’s even better. So thank you Kathy!

Making a timeline with dates for flax is a challenge, though, depending on different climate zones and on which side of the equator you are living. Any approximate dates would be a challenge even within Sweden. The official arrival of spring is around February 20th in the southernmost part of Sweden and May 5th in the far north. In this flax timeline I have tried to use signs as a starting point. You need to translate these signs to your own context.

Five stricks of flax. Smallest to the left and chunkiest to the right.
My flax harvests through the years. From the left: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In short

Instead of a timeline with dates I have tried to make a guide with practical indicators to help you know what to look for. In short, this is what I came up with:

  • Sowing: When the soil is manageable
  • Harvesting: When the stalks are yellow up to 2/3 of their height.
  • Drying: Outdoors in dry weather.
  • Rippling: Outdoors in dry weather.
  • Winnowing: On a dry and windy day.
  • Retting: Dew retting can be done in the fall or in the spring.
  • Processing and spinning: When you are able to do it outdoors.

In the paragraphs below I have tried to elaborate these indicators.

Cultivating

Sowing

This is the easy one. Sow your flax on Karolina Day, may 20th. This will result in high flax plants. The women sowing should wear no underwear (to show the seeds that they need new underwear). In addition to that, they should sow barefoot, wear at least three white garments (this would result in a white and shiny flax), walk with high strides (to guarantee a high flax) and let their hair down.

A small flax field in bloom
The experimental flax patch in July.

I sow when the soil is ready. This means that any ground frost should be gone and that the soil is manageable. In my part of Sweden this means sometime in April or early May.

This is also the time when the weeds start sprouting. Especially chickweed, a kind of weed that in its initial stage looks very much like flax and gives me lots of trouble when weeding. So I have waited for the weed to sprout, remove it and then sow the flax. This made my life easier and resulted in less chickweed.

When I did some research for this post I learned that sowing early would provide for a more even nourishment for the flax. Sowing later would result in uneven lengths of the flax straw. This explains a lot. My 2019 harvest is very uneven in length (albeit chickweed free). For the 2020 flax season I will start when the soil is manageable, as recommended. I’ll just have to deal with the chickweed.

Harvesting

The time for harvest will again depend on your climate zone. In some countries it may even be possible to have several harvests in one year. It will also depend on what fineness you want your flax fibers – fine medium or coarse. A fine flax is of coarse appealing to many, but it will also result in a seed capsule that isn’t ready. An early harvest for fine fibers will thus not give you any seeds for next year’s cultivation. Medium harvest will give you medium fibers and more developed seeds. A late harvest results in coarser fibers and fully developed seeds, something you may be interested in if you are harvesting the seeds for oil purposes.

I harvest my flax at the medium stage, when the stalks are yellow up to the lower two thirds of their height. According to my flax book that is around 25–30 days after blossoming, but this too would be depending on climate zone and weather.

Bundles of flax on the ground. The top 1/3 of the bundles are green and the bottom 2/3 are yellowed.
I harvest my flax when the stalks are yellow up to 2/3 of their height.

Prepare for process

Drying

When I have harvested the flax I dry it. How long that takes will depend on the weather and the moisture in the air. The air in my part of Sweden is quite dry and if the sun is shining the flax will dry quite quickly, in just a few days. This year I wasn’t that lucky. The sun was out, and when I planned to keep it out for just a couple of days more, it started to rain. Several times.

In the southern parts of Sweden you can find old flax saunas, especially from the 19th century. These were simple buildings used to dry the flax over an oven when the sun wasn’t enough to dry it.

Rippling and winnowing

When the flax is completely dried I ripple it. I take care of the seed pods and make sure to dry them some more. When the seeds are completely dry I wait for a windy days to winnow them.

Hands holding two bowls. The top bowl is pouring seeds into the bottom bowl. Dried plant material is blowing in the wind.
I winnow the flax seeds in dry and windy weather.

Retting

Retting flax is an art form in itself and I have just started to understand what to look for. There are several methods – dew retting, water retting and snow retting. I have experience from dew retting only. In all three methods the flax goes through the same stages, but with different duration. Water retting can be done in a fortnight while snow retting can take over 100 days.

A hand holding a flax straw. The fibers have been separated from the core.
The retting is finished when you can easily pull the fibers from the core in all its length.

I usually dew ret the flax directly when it has dried. Dried flax can still be interesting to pests, whereas retted flax is not. I make sure the lawn is newly mowed so that the stalks come as close to the dew as possible. My general retting period is around 20 days. I turn it over after ten. After around 15 days I check more regularly. The fibers should be easily removable from the core and in its entire length. This year it took exactly 20 days, last year 21.

After the flax has retted I dry it in standing bundles in a windy place.

A bundle of retted flax standing on the ground.
I dry the retted flax in standing bundles in a windy place.

Processing and spinning

Theoretically you can process and spin the flax any time of the year. In practice, though, you need to process your flax at a time when you can do it outdoors. Flax processing and spinning is very dusty and you really don’t want that to go into your lungs. I usually do it in mid-August, since that is when I take it to the Flax Day at Skansen outdoor museum for processing, but I could just as well do it in the spring or summer.

A woman hackling flax on a table outdoors. There are many flax samples on the table. Another woman in period dress behind her.
I process the flax outdoors. to get as little of the flax dust as possible in my lungs.

I hope this gives you an orientation of when to do what. What would be the flax timeline where you live?


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!

At the wool market

Staples of black and white wool.

Last weekend I spent a day with a friend at a yearly wool market at Österbybruk, about 100 km from where I live in Stockholm. It is a market full of wool and people who care about wool.

My goal for the visit was to meet new and old wooly friends and get samples of wool that were new to me. And I did find some of both! I was so busy talking to people and looking for pretty wool that I completely forgot to take photos. Really. Not a single photo. But I do have pictures of the fluff I bought and I will share some fond memories from the market.

The wool people

Eventhough I am an introvert and get exhausted by events like this, I do love being in a wooly atmosphere and meeting people with room for wool in their hearts. There are lots of local farmers and initiatives to promote Swedish wool. It warms my heart to see all this love and initiative for wool.

The Swedish wool agency

Fia Söderberg runs a small-scale organic farm with Gotland and Jämtland sheep. She also used to have Roslag sheep (named after the area where the market was situated). She had brought the last wool from her Roslag sheep and I got my hands on some of it.

A row of white wool staples.
Wool from Roslag sheep (Roslagsfår)

Fia has started Ullförmedlingen, the Swedish wool agency. The agency works to promote Swedish wool, knowledge of Swedish wool and connection within the Swedish wool business. She has also developed a digital market place for Swedish wool, where buyers and sellers can connect. In addition to that, Pia hosts Ullpodden, a wool podcast that aims to increase knowledge about Swedish wool as a sustainable resource. Fia is a true wool superhero!

Klövsjö sheep

I met Camilla, a shepherdess who has a small flock of Klövsjö sheep. The breed is a Swedish conservation breed. In 2018 there were about 460 Klövsjö ewes in Sweden. I got some pretty lamb locks. Most of them were pitch black, but I also laid my hands on a handful of rippled candy staples. Long, soft and silky. Camilla had put the locks in individual bags with the lambs’ names on them. I got Alma and some of her brothers and sisters.

Staples of black and white wool.
Licorice ripple Klövsjö lamb candy.

I have no idea how to make them justice, though. I want to make all the colours shine.

Staples of black and white wool.
Long and strong staples of Klövsjö wool.

I also got some adult Klövsjö. Normally I prefer light wool because it is easier to show on camera. I also find dark wool very hard to spin because I can’t see it properly. But when there are only black staples of a rare breed I will get the black staples.

Kulturlandskaparna

I met Ulla Alm who is the chair of Kulturlandskaparna, an association working for biologic diversity. They have a flock of sheep at Överjärva gård just outside Stockholm. It is my go-to sheep farm and where I first learned to spin. They had many bags full of wool, all labeled with the sheep’s names.

Paper bags full of wool.
Many bags full of wool from Kulturlandskaparna. Picture from the 2017 wool market.

Ullvilja

I met Marianne Fröberg, chair of Ullvilja, an association aiming to promote Swedish wool. They also host the annual Swedish fleece and spinning championships. I have just submitted my yarns for the 2019 championships. I will tell you all about it later.

Ullvilja had a few fleeces on display for people to fondle. I was amazed by a wonderful Värmland lamb fleece with the prettiest lamb locks I have ever seen. Usually you see the lamb locks on the outer coat, but this one had soft lamb locks on the under coat too.

Staples of brown wool with small locks on both outer coat and under coat.
Sweet lamb locks on both outer coat and under coat.

When I sat on the bus home my brain had turned to goo and my heart was singing. I was also strengthened by the sweet memory of all these forces to promote Swedish wool.

Knit Sweden!

You can read more about these wool promoting forces in a blog post by American knitter, teacher and writer Sara Wolf, a k a A knit Wizard. She is also writing a knitter’s travel book: Knit Sweden!. She contacted me a while ago and asked if I wanted to contribute to her book. And I did! I will spin samples from the breeds I bought at the wool market (plus other breeds) and send to her so that she can knit swatches for her book. Yay!


And oh, I got recognized! Two spinners came up to me and introduced themselves. They were followers and/or students in my online courses. A few other people knew exactly who I was and what I did. It was a very mixed feeling. I was both immensely proud and childishly excited about the fact that people knew who I was and at the same time a bit embarrassed about the attention. But it made me really happy that people came to me and introduced themselves, it was very sweet and warmed my heart. Again.

Happy spinning!

Close-up of a staple of brown lamb's wool.
Let’s look at those Värmland lamb locks again!

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!

Winners in the giveaway

The spindle case giveaway is over and we have three winners! My husband pulled three names out of a bowl and they are:

Donna

Tine

Barbara

Congratulations all three and thank you to everyone who participated.

Happy spinning!

Spindle case giveaway!

In September I made a spindle case from needle punch felt I had left from my shopping trolley makeover. I really liked the design and decided to make some more. Now you have the opportunity to win one of three handmade spindle cases in a spindle case giveaway!

A wool tube
Spindle case giveaway! Photo by Dan Waltin.

All you have to do is fill out the form and you are in the giveaway. If you have a spindling friend, make sure to share this post with them!

Entry has closed.

Important: When you submit the form you will be asked to confirm your subscription (check your spam filter if you don’t get the confirmation email). Do that, otherwise I won’t be able to contact you if you win. One entry per person.

The giveaway closes at January 26th at 10 am CET (world clock here). Winners are announced as soon as possible after that.

Craft and design by me

Design

I wanted to make a case that would protect my spindles. When I saw the needle punch felt I realized that the material would be a very good candidate for spindle protection. It is made with wool from Swedish sheep, probably mostly Gotland.

Close-up of a woolen tube with a woven logo label.
Design by Josefin Waltin. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The case is designed as a simple tube with a bottom and a lid. The lid is attached to the tube so you won’t lose it. The lid closes with a loop and an enamelled cork button.

Close-up of a woolen tube with a lid
Simple closing with a loop and button. Photo by Dan Waltin.

A strap is attached to the case for easy hanging on a hook, your wrist or in your belt for fast spindle access.

A woolen tube hanging on a branch.
A loop to hang your case in. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Inside, the case is lined with decadently pink silk. Not only is it pretty, it also makes it possible to store fiber in it without having the fiber stick to the inside of the case.

A woolen spindle case
A woolen spindle case for your precious spindles. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Inside the case there is a loose wool disc. If you store a small spinning bowl in the bottom of the case, you can put the wool disc on top of the bowl to protect the spindle tip.

You can store more than one spindle in the case. If you store fiber in the case it will help protect the spindle. You can also fit in a hand distaff if it is not too long.

Handmade

Every seam is hand sewn by me. Apart from the store bought thread for the silk lining, all the sewing yarn is my own handspun (Shetland). The closing loop for the lid is also my handspun. It is the cabled yarn I won a bronze medal for at the 2017 Swedish spinning championships.

The case is about 34 cm/13″ high with a diameter of about 10 cm/4″.

Three woolen spindle cases hanging on a tree branch.
One of three handmade spindle cases can be yours! Photo by Dan Waltin.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

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

Distaff carving

Close-up of a person carving

A couple  of weeks ago I had a distaff carving day!

The lime avenue

We have a beautiful old lime-tree avenue just outside our house. Ever since someone told me that lime is a perfect carving wood I have longed to get out and make distaffs for in-hand spinning. It has been a cold un-spring so far and far too cold to carve outdoors. According to the weather report, it was supposed to be a little less cold a couple of weeks ago. I prepared to get out and saw the branches down on Saturday morning.

Saturday came, and when I peeked out from behind the curtains, it was a sunny day. I was out the door at nine and got some low hanging branches. I had big plans to sit in the March sun and carve, but the sun got shy and hid behind the clouds, resulting in quite a cold carving session.

Three distaffs

I made three distaffs for different purposes – one 30 cm hand distaff, one 100 cm belt distaff and one 120 cm floor distaff. The lengths are just as I want them. The floor distaff may be a bit too short, though. Or perhaps I just have to get used to the floor distaff spinning technique.

Three hand carved distaffs
Distaffs for belt, floor and hand.

The carving was wonderful – the bark just peeled off  like butter and it was a very nice feeling to carve in fresh wood from such a soft and carving friendly material. I managed to carve all three distaffs without any personal injuries (I did ruin the first hand distaff, though), just a cut in my thumb nail, you can see it in the featured image. Boy, they are practical. Nails, I mean.

I did nothing fancy, I just followed the shape of the sticks and made a few notches at the top to hold the fiber better. There was a small branch at the bottom end of the hand distaff, which I took advantage of to make a more ergonomic handle.

A hand holding a hand distaff
A branch bump fits perfectly in my hand

I carved and carved, made little embellishments and improved imperfections. I didn’t want to stop carving. Why would you want to let a raw, natural material out of your hand?

Dressed for success

I have dressed the two longer distaffs with Värmland wool and given them a test run. They work very well. I will make another skein of the yarn I made in a winter video of in-hand spinning in medieval style. Blog post about the video here.

A distaff dressed with grey wool
Dressed floor distaff. Wool is from Värmland sheep, spindle from NiddyNoddyUK and whorl from Pallia.

I like that the distaffs are organically shaped and the fact that I have to adapt myself to the natural shape of the distaffs. They feel more alive that way.

Happy crafting!