In the classroom I want to find each student’s way of learning. I want them to flourish and feel that they have achieved something when the course is over.
If you are a patron (or want to become one) you can see more of the course and the surroundings in my February 2023 video postcard.
Last Friday I took the train six and a half hours north of Stockholm. I ended up smack in the middle of Sweden, in the city of Östersund. Since Östersund is on Sami land it also has a Sami name – Staare, meaning city. I spent most of the train ride weaving and blogging. It ended up in sort of a train weaving poem you can read in last week’s blog post One more beat.
Östersund/Staare at dawn
As soon as I had found the hotel I dumped my luggage and went out hunting for a hole in the ice for the next two days’ morning baths. I did find it. Saturday morning, 7 am, I took a 20 minute walk in -8° C through the empty high street. Flanked with two story wooden buildnings from the turn of the last century it meandered itself along the lake. I crossed a pedestrian’s bridge across the lake to Frösön island and the jetty with the bathing ladders. They all had neatly organized holes in the ice and I enjoeyd the shy and quiet dawn from the bubble tub. The ice sang and my heart tingled by the thought of my sweet morning adventure and kept tingling all the way back to the hotel.
Ullforum Yarns and Barns
The aim of the journey was to teach a beginner’s class in suspended spindle spinning. The local spinners had specifically asked for me, hence the long journey. One of the organizers, Karin, was sweet enough to pick me up at the hotel and drive me to the venue 20 minutes outside the town centre.
The spinning course was held at Ullforum spinning Mill and the Yarns & Barns yarn shop, all housed in a large barn on a hill with a breathtaking view of lake Storsjön and the Oviksfjällen mountains. As I opened the barn door the smell of wool and fleece greeted me with a warm embrace. This was a place of wool. I have taught in dull and soulless premises. Even if the group of students always is sweet, the environment does matter. The Ullforum spinning mill was one of the loveliest venues I have ever taught at.
The owner Ingela Fredell was there as a host and she also joined the class. She told us about the mill, its stories, the people in it and showed us the machines and a lot more than three bags full of Swedish wool.
In the classroom
When I come to a new group of students I am always nervous at first. I obsess for a bit about whether they will like my perspective and my way of teaching, whether I will be able to teach them something and whether they will enjoy the course. But quite quickly I make myself at home as a teacher and enjoy all the activity around me.
I generally start with an introduction and some theory before we dive into teasing and carding the wool. I try to talk about why we do things rather than about dos and dont’s and how it “should” be done. With the whys available it’s easier to understand why things go wrong.
Sitting in a circle
In the classroom I always arrange the chairs in a circle, like the spinning bubble we will all enter mentally once the initial chatter settles. In the circle we are all facing each other, nothing blocking our view. I want to have an undisturbed connection between us. I want the ability to move within the circle to be available to the students. To be able to see the students’ activities properly I squat or sit on the floor in front of them. In the close circular setting we can have a conversation about whatever they are focusing on. Without tables the students can come closer to each other and listen to individual tutoring and conversations should they choose to. The circle makes it easier for the students to learn from each other and to take part of each others’ challenges and successes.
As the initial buzz has faded I look around the room to see where I can be of service. The students have closed the door to their own spinning room, a personal bubble within the group bubble. Every expression is a signal I can pick up and react to, the beginning of a conversation. A frown about an uneven rolag, a sigh about not remembering what to do next, a bewildered look about which card to transfer the wool to. I may see a struggled combing in the corner of my eye or a spindle that keeps falling to the ground. A movement, a gaze, a pattern that I respond to. I see a tense shoulder and ask if it is more comfortable to rest the card in the lap. I see an over charged comb and a grimased face and ask them to see what happens if they rest the card in the lap.
Even if the students don’t always ask me questions directly I pick up on the signals. I ask them what they need or if they know what caused their struggle. Some welcome the support, others need to work it out in solitude before they are ready to invite me into the conversation.
After six years of teaching spinning, I have a big bank of teaching experiences. By now I know some of the most common mistakes, questions, challenges and struggles for students, beginners and advanced alike. I know how to address issues. I reuse the previous deposits in the bank and refine my approach to them to create a learning situation. And I always learn more.
Every student has a different way of learning and prefered way of taking on a new challenge. I want to find each student’s learning style and guide them in the best way for them. Some ask a lot of questions, some are quiet. But I try to look at their body language to see beyond the verbal questions.
I want to guide the students to find the answers themselves. When someone asks a question I often ask one in return. Can you explore this? Test your theory? See what works for you? If a student is struggling I ask them to take a step back and see if they can find the cause in an earlier step. Did you tease the wool properly? Have you charged the card with a proper amount of wool? Did you tuck in the edge of your rolag in to make it more compact?
My goal with the course is for every student to feel that they have achieved something. I want them to be able to walk out the classroom door with some added value, something more than just a lovely weekend, something to build upon when they get back home. In skills, understanding and flow I want them to cherish the progressions they have made, to understand more about how wool behaves and what they can do to trouble shoot the process. I want them to feel proud.
I want them to be able to find the answers themselves and challenge themselves rather than worry about what “the teacher said”. A ground to stand on and explore from. During the class I gave them a few mental tools. I want them to be able to use them in several ways and understand why they do it and when.
Bursting the bubble
When the course is over we gather in the circle for some final reflections of what we have learned, what has been challenging and what we are proud of. This is one of my favourite moments of any course, a time for my heart to sing the song of the progress and growth of the students that I have had the pleasure of guiding.
As we put the chairs back in the traditional classroom seating we burst the spinning bubble. It’s time to go home and bring the contents of that bubble into the day-to-day spinning in their own environment and keep exploring.
Thank you Östersund/Staare, Ullforum and sweet students for inviting me!
And oh, my next course is En slända om dagen (A spindle a day) at Sätergläntan this summer with a few spots left.
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- 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 patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
- You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
- Follow me on Instagram. I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
- Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
- In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
- I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.