Sätergläntan study collection

When I was teaching a course in supported spindle spinning at Sätergläntan earlier this fall, I also visited the library at Sätergläntan. It is a unique library with books on crafting and local cultural history. It also contains the Sätergläntan study collection.

The Sätergläntan study collection

At first I visited the library with the group I was teaching. It was interesting and lots to look at. But it was late afternoon and I wanted to catch the last daylight, so I went for a walk. When I got back it was dark outside and I went back to the library. I found myself blissfully alone in a room full of beautiful crafting books. My heart skipped a beat and I savoured the moment. This is when the librarian asked me if I wanted to look at the study collection. I did.

The study collection was basically a small storage room filled from floor to roof with  boxes and old crafting tools and supplies. I knew exactly what I was looking for.

Twined knitted jacket sleeves

In the study collection I found it – a box with four jackets with twined knitted sleeves, probably from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. I was in twined knitting heaven.

Two jackets with twined knitted sleeves in red.
Twined knitted treasures in a box.

The county of Dalarna is famous for a rich textile heritage with beautiful folklore costumes and local textile techniques. Dalarna is part of the region where twined knitting (or two-end knitting) was born. In twined knitting you use two threads. You alternate the two threads and twist them at the back of the work. Here is a short clip from an earlier post where I show the basic technique.

The wrong side of a knitted sleeve.
The wrong side of the fabric reveals the ridges created by the twining of the two yarn ends.

This results in a sturdy material with very little ease and it behaves more like weaving than knitting. The material also becomes very warm and wind-proof.

A jacket with a woven green bodice and sewn on twined knitted sleeves in red.
A traditional jacket with a vadmal bodice and sewn on twined knitted sleeves. The decorations on the bodice are machine sewn. The jacket is probably from the late 19th or early 20th century.

The method was called knitting back then, because that is how everybody knitted at the time in Dalarna. When knitting with only one thread became popular, that technique was simply called one-end knitting. Later, when the one-ended method had taken over the knitting market, the modern names were used – knitting for one end and twined knitting for two ends.

The yarn was spun with local wool, usually from the Dala-päls sheep. To accommodate for the twisting of yarns, you spin it S and ply it Z. Here is a post where I make a Z-plied yarn.

Twined knitting is a very old technique. The first found item, a mitten, was first dated to the 19th century, then to the late 17th century and recently as far as to the 16th century. The technique has been used mostly for socks and mittens. However, many everyday folklore jackets in the county of Dalarna have been made in the technique, for both men and women. Previously, I had only seen pictures of these truly exquisite jackets. When I heard about the study collection at Sätergläntan I knew there was a chance I would find one of these jackets. And indeed I did.

Distaffs

After I had Aaah-ed and ooohhh-ed over the twined knitted jackets I didn’t feel finished with the study collection. So I looked around to see if I could find any textile tools. And I stumbled upon a heap of beautiful distaffs.

Eight distaffs of different shapes and models
A buffet of distaffs. When I was standing on a chair to take this picture, my daughter called me on Face Time. The librarian heard me talking and came in and saw me standing on the chair FaceTiming. I wonder what she thought I was doing.

I asked Marie, the weaving teacher at Sätergläntan about the distaffs and she knew a bit about them. They had all been donated to Sätergläntan and had probably been rescued from thrift shops in the area. Most of them had probably been used for flax, particularly the ones with combs. The two on the left are belt distaffs for spindle spinning, the rests were made to assemble on a spinning wheel. Fourth from the left (with a London theme) was made quite recently by someone at the school. Third from the left was probably also made recently.

A distaff with a mirror.
A newly made distaff with interesting details. Shelves of crafting and crafted tools in the Sätergläntan study collection in the background.

The rich ornamentation and the hearts on some of the distaffs suggest that they may have been bridal gifts. A few of them even had little mirrors.

A richly ornamented distaff with a heart-shaped mirror.
A paddle distaff. Probably a bridal gift from Russia.

More treasures

Marie also showed me a flax brush. It was a very local tradition in the county of Ångermanland to brush the flax after the final hackling and before the flax was dressed on the distaff. I’ll try brushing my flax next time I dress my distaff.

A brush
A flax brush, local to the county of Ångermanland. Probably made with hog’s hair and leather or birch bark.

The final treasure Marie showed me was a book charkha from the -70’s. After a lot of head scratching we finally managed to assemble it, but some parts were broken and we couldn’t take her for a test spin.

A book charkha
A book charkha. On the left is a bundle of cotton punis, carefully wrapped in an Indian newspaper.

But she sure was pretty!

The quiet night at the library really paid off. And I can only imagine all the treasures I didn’t get to see this time. If I’m lucky, I will come back to explore more in the Sätergläntan study collection and library.

Happy spinning!


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