Dear Fleece

I have been practicing free writing lately and I decided to write this blog post in a flow without overthinking things. It turned into a letter of gratitude to the dear fleece from Iceland I have been working with during the past months.

Dear fleece,

I got you on a lovely October morning. As I opened the parcel that had sailed all the way from Iceland the loveliest smell of lanolin struck my nose like a sweet melody. You had just been shorn off a lamb skipping about in the Icelandic green hills.

I'm listening to my Icelandic wool.
I’m listening to my Icelandic wool.

Lubrication

The lanolin glistened like the Milky Way between your soft fibers. Its presence there to protect the sheep you once grew on, but also serve as a lovely spinning assistant for me as I work with the wool. Moist, flexible lanolin that gives a lightness in the draft and smoothness in the yarn.

A dear fleece on its journey from raw fleece to a softly spun singles yarn.
A dear fleece on its journey from raw fleece to a softly spun singles yarn.

I didn’t even wash you before I started spinning, I wanted the lanolin to be a part of the spinning team – my hands, the spinning wheel and the lanolin all together, listening to the wool to find its best and sweetest yarn. The lanolin works with me to the extent that I hardly need to make any adjustments – my hands just follow the guidance from the lubricated fibers. I am thankful for the lanolin.

Passengers

When I explore a new fleece, part of the adventure is to identify the vegetable matter. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a fleece filled with vegetable matter, but there will always be bits and pieces in the fleece, that have traveled between the fibers from the pastures the sheep has grazed. From you fell no hay, no straw. Just a few pieces of unidentifiable plants and some dark brown granules of what I believe is peat. At least it looks a lot like the granules that have fallen out of the Shetland fleeces I have got from Shetland.

All the yarn from my Icelandic fleece in a basket.
27 skeins of worsted weight singles yarn, 766 g rams and 1597 meters. I started with 1200 grams of raw fleece, which gives a yield of 65%. My usual yield from raw fleece to finished yarn lies around 55 %.

Being reminded of the reality the sheep has lived in gives me a sort of grounding in the life it has had so far. A sheep with this low amount of vegetable matter is in my imagination a sheep with lots of space on green hills, grazing in all weathers, protected by a fleece that has developed through centuries to protect a body in just those circumstances of weather, landscape and climate. I am thankful, yes, thankful, for the passengers on the fleece that remind me of the sheep and its life. They bring me closer to the sheep and its reality.

Connection

I wanted to spin you as gently as I could, with as little preparation and alteration as possible. Just a light teasing and a soft twist in a singles yarn. A soft yarn that would show your stars – the baby soft undercoat cloud and the strong and silky outercoat armouring – in a gentle almost-not-even-yarn kind of yarn. Just a sweet puff of my spinning wand, where the colours and quirks were still visible, alive and fresh in the yarn. Yes, I wanted a yarn spun from you to be alive, vibrant with the air of you, dear Fleece. A connection to the source of your modest splendour.

With my freshly spun yarn, more like raw food than oven baked, I wanted to be able to knit a garment that would be what you, dear Fleece, had been for the sheep. A protection from the weather, streamlined for me just as you were to the grazing fiber source. Close. Safe. Raw. I am thankful for the connection to the source.

Process

Spinning you has been a process. It is of course always a process, but this one has been unique. I have learned so much from you. First and foremost, I have been monogamous with you. With other fleeces I have worked in parallel process, but with you I wanted to keep the freshness of the lanolin and see it fresh all the way through.

Handspun singles yarn of Icelandic wool.
The knitting has begun! Main color in the middle.

I didn’t even pick your staples before I started teasing them. The basket was full of fields of lightly touching staples. Like a flock of sheep, really. Some from the sides, some from the back, the shortest and sweetest from the neck. All connected to the sheep they once served (don’t worry, she will have new staples to protect her). But in this focused process I have been able to be more present, more aware and learn more, deeper. To listen to your sweet whisper, to find what you wanted to become. To find your soul. I am thankful for the process.

Teacher

Second, I have learned how to work with you a my teacher. How to tease your staples as gently as possible and to still be able to create a soft and smooth yarn with your gentle colours still present, each in their own beauty. How to make my grip gentle and trust your guidance in the spinning. To trust that the yarn will be what it will be and that all is as it should be. I even learned to trust my hands enough to change roles – the spinning hand became a fiber hand and the fiber hand a spinning hand. Wasn’t that an adventure? So lovely an adventure that I kept exploring this sweet change of hands. I am thankful for the teacher.

I'm knitting an Icelandic style sweater with my handspun Lopi-style yarn.
Knitting is happening!

So thank you, dear Fleece, for helping me becoming a better spinner. I’m on a knitting journey with the yarn from you now and I promise I will do my very best to make you proud, as a thank you for all your gifts.

In gratitude,

Josefin


Happy spinning!

Resources

For you, dear readers, I have listed some previous post written with this very fleece as an example and exploration:

  • In the post In the grease I go through my processing method for the Icelandic fleece – lightly teasing the raw fleece with a flicker, hand teasing and spinning from the cut ends into a singles yarn that I then back to get a low Lopi-style twist. If you are a patron (or decide to become one) there is a digital postcard video I put together for you where I show you how I prepare and spin this wool into a lopi style yarn like I describe in this post.
  • I explore a spiritual perspective in The gift of Knowledge, inspired by a quote in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s brilliant book Gathering Moss. In this post you can also learn how to make an accordion burrito.
  • A sore thumb make me switch hands to be able to keep spinning without pain. As it turns out, it was a brilliant idea that I learned a lot from.
  • In Hands-on five-day challenge I invite you to just that. Access the challenge for free here.

You can find me in several social media:

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