In 2019 I started spinning yarn for a pair of two-end knitted sleeves. I have worked on and off on them since then, but now they are finally finished!
It started with some sweet locks of dalapäls wool I got from a shepherdess, Carina. She had collected the longest locks from several of her sheep and I got to buy them. I had been keen to knit a pair of two-end knitted sleeves and when I saw the locks I knew they would be the perfect candiates for the yarn.
Two-end knitting is a very old Scandinavian knitting technique where you use two strands of yarn and twist them around each other on the wrong side. This creates horisontal twisted ridges on the wrong side and makes the fabric very sturdy and wind-proof. You knit quite tightly with small circumference needles.
I choose to have the right side facing, which is traditional in Sweden. In Norway it seems to be more common with the wrong side facing, often for workwear garments and accessories.
It takes time
I have worked on these sleeves for a very long time. With long pauses obviously, but spinning the 430 grams of yarn that the sleeves required on a spindle does take time. I spun the yarn on a supported spindle from the tip end of lightly teased locks. Mainly in bed in the evenings before I went to sleep. It was the loveliest way to end the day.
The knitting technique in itself is slow too, and add to that 2 millimeter needles and a tight gauge. As always, I have knitted the sleeves parallel. I do not want to risk either a second sleeve syndrome or different sized sleeves due to different tensions.
Many a journey
The sleeves have accompanied me on many train journeys, to the farthest north in Sweden and down south to Austria. The journeys and my experiences are now forever knitted into the sleeves.
I cast on for the sleeves just before I went to a teaching gig at Sätergläntan back in 2019. Two-end knitting is the perfect train craft – it usually dosen’t take up very much space and the knitting is slow and mindful. As the yarn gets too twisten I hold it up and let the ball untwist the yarn. I remember a lady watching me on the train, smiling. When I readied myself to get off she approached me and asked if I was going to Sätergläntan and if I was two-end knitting. She said she was nearly blind, but she had recognized the motion I had made to untwist the yarn. She was of course a knitter too and had taken many courses at Sätergläntan herself.
Frogging and finding sheep
I had calculated the increasing of stitches, but as I approached the upper arms I realized the sleeves were a bit on the slim side. On the 2020 wool journey I asked the teacher Karin Kahnlund for advice and she said I should frog a large part of the sleeves and make more increases. For a long while I didn’t knit at all, the project didn’t sing to me at the time.
Eventually I did pick up the project and started the long journey to the upper arms, now with frogged yarn. It went quite well, until I realized I didn’t have enough yarn. I needed to find another sheep with the same staple length. I put the project aside again. Six months ago I did find my fleece – a lovely one from my dalapäls shepherd friend Lena’s ewe Nehne. I started spinning again. This time my heart sang. I had found a sweet spinning rhythm that moved me from winter to spring in a mindful flow.
I have been knitting on most of the coffee breaks at work since January, spinning at home on the couch. And suddenly, a couple of weeks ago I had reached the armholes. I wasn’t comfortable calculating the decreases for the sleeve caps on my own, so I looked for help. Luckily, Karin Kahnlund, one of the most skilled two-end knitters and knitting teachers in Sweden has her studio just a couple of kilometers from my house and she offers tuition twice a month.
I went to Karin’s place and found myself in the midst of five ladies and their two-end knitting projects and Karin walking between all of us and guiding us. She helped me calculate the decreases and gave me lots of feedback on my plans for the sleeves (which will be another post).
Cut the steeks
Two-end knitting is almost always done in the round. It is a lot easier than working back and forth. The back and forth method also results in stitches tilting in different directions. So her advice for me was to knit the sleeve cap decreases in the round and then cut the steeks.
I know cutting steeks works perfectly fine, but still, it’s totally nerve wrecking! I did finish the decreases and I did manage to cut the steeks without either fainting or ruining the sleeves. The shape of the sleeve caps looks really nice. All is as it should be.
Fulling and fluffing
To make the steeks a little more reliable I decided to full them slightly. I also wanted to make the wrong sides a little fluffier against my skin. So I dusted off my sweet waulking board, turned the sleeves inside out and worked them against the board. As a bonus the soap and the hot water helped clean the sleeves too. They were a bit dirty from all their adventures through the last four years.
I do have plans for a bodice to attach the sleeves to. I’m just not ready to share that yet. But I can tell you that it will be splendid! To be continued when it’s finished.
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