A coloured fleece

Sport weight single yarn of four shades of brown from Pax's fleece. Spun from hand carded rolags on a floor supported Navajo style spindle. 100 meters, 44 grams. 2270 m/kg. Can I keep this for cuddling?

A year ago I bought a coloured fleece at a fleece market. Or two, actually. One brown and one grey. I didn’t mean to, but they called my name and there was nothing I could do. Today I sort the brown Värmland fleece and dive into its depths.

I have a soft spot for coloured fleeces. In online courses and webinars I usually work with white wool since it shows better on camera (at least with my limited photo skills). But a coloured fleece has a whole new dimension to dive in to.

Pax, a coloured fleece

The diversity of the coloured fleece is what lures me to dive deep and lose myself in the shades. Not only are there spots of different colours, but the tip and the cut ends can be different in colour, as can the undercoat and outercoat. There is so much to discover.

A brown Värmland fleece of many shades.
A brown Värmland fleece of many shades.

Walnut, hazel, driftwood and umber

I decide to sort the locks of the Värmland sheep Pax’s fleece into piles of different colours. I start roughly by picking out all the darker walnut staples I can find. They are disappearingly soft and quite short, some seemingly too short to spin. They seem to consist of mostly undercoat. Perhaps they have grown around Pax’s neck.

Four shades of Pax's fleece – walnut, driftwood, hazel and umber.
Four shades of Pax’s fleece – umber, driftwood, hazel and walnut.

I also find two shades of grayish brown – light hazel and slightly darker driftwood. Both colour staples are silky soft and have bleached tips. The fibers are not as fine as the walnut fibers, but for some reason these lighter coloured staples feel silkier. Perhaps because I don’t expect it. The different feel of the piles give me a hint that the colours will feel different to draft. I need to keep that in mind when I spin.

The different coloured staples of Pax's fleece are different in texture.
The different coloured staples of Pax’s fleece are also different in texture.

The driftwood pile grows larger and larger and I sort it again to look for more shades. I find something of a mix between the driftwood and the walnut. Umber, perhaps. I could probably go on and find more fractions of colours. However, for the project I have in mind I want some distinction between the shades and I am happy with my colour quartet.

New dimensions

When I look at the staples I see that there are still more colours than the four I have sorted out. There are different colour fibers in each staple. Most of the walnut staples are solid walnut, but the others sparkle of different shades. This brings even more depth in the wool and in the yarn I have planned.

The outercoat of the different colours look darker in all four cases.
The outercoat of the different colours look darker than the undercoat in all four cases. The hazel undercoat (bottom right) seem to still have at least two colours even after the separation.

Even though the staples feel a bit different from pile to pile, the distribution of undercoat and outercoat seem fairly similar – a lot of airy undercoat and a few strands of strong outercoat. For this reason I would say that most of the staples are of vadmal type according to the Swedish tradition of classifying staple types.

Vadmal type staples like these with mostly airy undercoat and a few strands of outercoat make perfect carding candidates – the crimpy and unruly undercoat fibers will help building air pockets in the rolags and the longer and stronger outercoat fibers will marry them together, creating a reliable reinforcement in the midst of the cuddly soft.

Colour scheme

I separate the colours because I want to show them one by one. To do that I need to find a combination that doesn’t blur them all together. I play and move around until I land in harmony. Walnut, hazel, umber, driftwood and back to walnut.

I use my combing station to tease one pile at a time. In this process I get a first idea of how each colour drafts. A lot of the walnut staples are very short and there is a lot of waste in this pile (which is also the smallest pile). I suspected that when I sorted the staples. The difference between the hazel and the driftwood is very small, but they are still somewhat distinct between the walnut and the umber.

Yarn of a coloured fleece

I want to make the colours the stars of the yarn I spin from Pax’s fleece. No fuss, no fancy, just a single strand of yarn, moving from shade to shade.

Walnut, driftwood, umber and hazel.
Walnut, driftwood, umber and hazel.

My favourite tool for spinning singles is the floor supported Navajo style spindle. With this tool I have a good overview and control of the spinning right in front of me. I see every potential lump and have the opportunity to open up the twist to smooth it out. I never want to stop. This tool is the perfect companion to the colour quartet. Every rolag amazes me – the depth of the colours is truly mesmerizing.

Long draws

The floor supported spindle also gives me the opportunity to make long, smooth longdraws that just melt in my hand like butter. Again, I never want to stop. Rolling the shaft against my thigh charges the rolag with twist. I make the draw. Long, smooth, slow. Like syrup. I watch the draft closely, to find when the thickness is exactly right. I slack the strand to control the twist and roll the yarn onto the shaft.

Sport weight single yarn of four shades of brown from Pax's fleece. Spun from hand carded rolags on a floor supported Navajo style spindle. 100 meters, 44 grams. 2270 m/kg. Can I keep this for cuddling?
Sport weight single yarn of four shades of brown from Pax’s fleece. Spun from hand carded rolags on a floor supported Navajo style spindle. 100 meters, 44 grams. 2270 m/kg. Can I keep this for cuddling?

The colours pass by my eyes rolag by rolag. I get to spend time with each section of browns, one at a time. When I have finished one rolag I butterfly it onto my spinning hand and transfer it to the lower cop. Again, the colours wind onto the cop in an ever changing spiral.

My heart sings as I see the cop build up of a thousand strands of brown. No spinning mill can separate the colours of a fleece like this – they would spin a solid oatmeal. I sort and spin for colours because it is possible for me as a hand spinner. Because I can.

Happy spinning!


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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Little ball of yarn

I wanted to spin a yarn that would tell its own story. Raw. Naked. With nothing to hide. Just present itself in its own splendour, on its own merits. This yarn of mine, this little ball of yarn, is a tribute to the wool it was made of.

You know when you happen to go to a fleece market with no intention of buying and you find yourself leaving the place with five bags of fleece? I’m sure you do know. This happened a year ago on the Kil sheep festival, Fårfest i Kil, just weeks before Covid hit Sweden on a larger scale.

Pax

Little ball of yarn. Once soft staples of wooly locks, with gentle swirls in their tips. Peaceful, just like the ewe from which they were shorn: Pax. Peace. Such a suitable name for such sweet curls. My hands can’t resist, can’t help touching – sparkling, giggling, electrified by the joy of soft sheepness. In a paper bag filled with peace and love.

In a corner of the fleece market at the festival I found a sheep farmer who had wool from her Värmland sheep. Large paper bags with sheep’s names and fleece weights written across the brown, coarse structure of the bags. I had all the wool I needed, but what’s the harm in just peeking at the fleeces? Perhaps cuddling with some staples?

Sweet staples of Pax's Värmland locks in shades of brown.
Sweet staples of Pax’s Värmland locks in shades of brown.

I peeked with one eye, then the other. One hand into the bag and, without warning, the other. Peeking into the bag labeled Pax. Just a little. And a little more. A billowing mass of brown staples emerged from the depths of the containers, flooding my hands. Singing, luring, calling my name. Come, come, feel how soft, look at my colour range and curly swirly tips!

Colours and textures

Little ball of yarn. From staples in every possible shape, wave and manner. Strike a pose, do your thing. And the colours. Oh, the colours. I dive into the spectrum of a fleece in all shades of brown. Rosy hazel, misty driftwood and solid walnut. On a closer look, all the colour segments in their own shape and manner. Matte, yet shiny. Subtle, yet vivid. Shy, yet bold.

I have a soft spot for coloured fleeces. Most coloured wool from the Swedish heritage breeds display a wide array of shades from light to dark. And with that, often different textures to different colours over the body of the sheep. Another dimension to explore and loose myself in.

Hazel, driftwood and walnut. All part of Pax's fleece.
Hazel, driftwood and walnut. All part of Pax’s fleece.

I decide to explore the colours of Pax’s fleece. Brown is just a collective name here, there are several nuances to dive in to. From the lightest latte to the darkest walnut. Some solid and some built up of a range of shades. All bringing depth and a longing to see more. The different coloured staples have different texture and appearance. All soft, but differently so. Soft is just so insufficient a word here. How do you describe staples that are soft in different ways? I want a range of descriptives here, a candy store of epithets of softness to choose from! I don’t drink wine, I do wool. So give me the range of ways to articulate wool the way a wine taster does wine.

Round and round

Little ball of yarn. I call your name. But what is your name? How do I make you justice? How do I mirror your soul in a yarn? I want you to shine in all your sheephood. Raw. Simple. Naked. Still elegant. Honest. Safe. The colours displayed, yet the fibers blended into one United Roundedness. Yes, now I know your name.

I choose to card rolags from the sorted colours. Such lovely acquaintances, all of them. Through the cards I get to know the characteristics of each colour. The whispering, almost escaping walnut. Perhaps better matched with finer cards. The hazel somewhat unruly. Driftwood staples mature and kind. Still, all comform into round rolag cylinders, built by a tight collaboration between the fibers and the air between them.

I'm spinning singles on a floor supported Navajo style spindle.
I’m spinning singles on a floor supported Navajo style spindle.

I see before me a singles yarn. Round. Simple. Consistent. A yarn that says it just how it is, with no ulterior motive, nothing to hide.

My favourite tool for a singles yarn is the floor supported Navajo style spindle. With this spindle I get to stretch and allow space to the draft. The long draw from my lap to the tip of my outstretched fiber hand. I love the way the technique allows me to use my whole body while spinning.

The dance

Little ball of yarn. How sweet a spin, a dance to make you shine. In one end flat hand, mindfully rolling the shaft, allowing it to twirl from tip to tip. In the other a closed hand, holding the wooly treasure, like a baby bird. Gently, gently. The strand between, conveying the message between the hands, like a tin can phone between the closest of friends. Hands following to the wool through the yarn, leaning in, listening to the whisper of the wool.

Spinning on a floor supported Navajo style spindle is like performing a choreographed dance. Photo by Dan Waltin
Spinning on a floor supported Navajo style spindle is like performing a choreographed dance. Photo by Dan Waltin

Spinning on a floor supported Navajo style spindle is a joy. I love how fast the yarn spins up, how I get to use my whole body in the process and how my hands need to really listen to the yarn and cooperate to perform the dance choreographed by the strand between them. Through spinning with this tool I get to more fully understand how the draft goes into the twist and how I can open up the twist to manipulate the semi-spun yarn in the direction I want it.

This particular wool is light and cooperative. Listening to it is easy and joyful. While the different colour rolags don’t work exactly the same I can still adapt the spinning so that they come out in the same manner in the yarn.

A skein aswirl

Little ball of yarn. So full of energy. spiraling here, swirling there. Charged with spinning spirit, never still, ever moving. A hot and cold dip will relax, ease and slacken. Allow stillness and peace in the whirl. The twist from the dance is forever trapped in the strand. Where did it go? What else has changed?

Knitting with energized yarns like singles presents some interesting challenges – unless you knit a balanced pattern (like garter stitch or rib) there is a good chance the knitted fabric will end up biased.

A fulled skein of Värmland wool singles.
A fulled skein of Värmland wool singles.

I decide to full the yarn by shocking it. In the fulling process, which can be seen as a light felting, the scales in the fibers catch on to each other, tightening up the yarn slightly and calming the energy down. I dipped the skein in hot and cold water until I saw that the strands in the skein had started to grab on to each other. Värmland wool does tend to felt. Instead of seeing this characteristic as a threat I allowed it to become a superpower to help me calm the energy down.

Little ball of yarn

Little ball of yarn. The strand light as a feather, sweetly wrapped around my thumb, keeping it safe. Layer by layer wound onto the ball, becoming the ball. The clarity of the single strand, the combination of colours, invite me to follow a sole fiber. Round and round individually, yet holding on in a wooly togetherness, streams of air in between.

A finished little ball of yarn. Värmland wool hand carded into rolags and spun with long draw on a floor supported Navajo style spindle. 12-ish wpi. 11 grams, 36 meters, 3234 m/kg before fulling.
A finished little ball of yarn. Värmland wool hand carded into rolags and spun with long draw on a floor supported Navajo style spindle. 12-ish wpi. 11 grams, 36 meters, 3234 m/kg before fulling.

And so it is here. My little ball of yarn. Only a simple sample of 11 little grams, still filled with hopes and dreams of a fabric, a design, a garment. A soft promise of a continued crafting adventure. My hands tingle to knit with it. At the same time I am reluctant to pull the inner ends braid to ruin the perfectly imperfect little ball of yarn. I want to look at it, follow the strand, follow the fibers, imagine its future.

I twirl the little ball of yarn and loose myself in the sections of hazel, driftwood and walnut.
I twirl the little ball of yarn and loose myself in the sections of hazel, driftwood and walnut.

Eventually I do dare. I dare to pull. Out it comes, the light single, new to the world. Not too skinny, not too floofy, just perfectly airy and pert, my little strand of yarn. Ready to meet its future.

A precious promise

Little ball of yarn. A precious promise of a transformation in shape, texture and vision. I close my eyes and see the shades of brown change in the fabric, walnut, driftwood and hazel float like water colour rivers in a painting, moving fluidly across the surface, inviting the curious to follow its paths.

I spun this yarn to pair it with a white yarn spun the same way from the same breed, only spun in the other direction. The combination of clockwise and counter-clockwise will further balance the structure, together with the fulling. Also it will offer balance to me when I spin – I spin with my left hand counter-clockwise and my right hand clockwise to work as ergonomically as I can. Alternating the two spindles also helps me avoid overworking one arm.

A triple tuck stitch pattern with the shades of Pax's fleece between rows of sheepy white.
A triple tuck stitch pattern with the shades of Pax’s fleece between rows of sheepy white.

This past summer I bought Nancy Marchant’s book Tuck stitches and lost myself (again) in the beautiful spectrum of this fascinating technique with endless possibilities. I picked one. To me, the yarns and the pattern make the perfect match. Soft, squishy, like freshly made waffles.

I do have a design in mind, another companion to the yarns and the structure. I’m just not telling you about it yet. But I will. I just need to spin the rest of the fleeces first.

I think I’ll get the waffle iron out today.

Little ball of yarn. Thank you for allowing me to discover your soul, for fueling my creativity and for giving me peace.

Happy spinning!


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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

The bottom of the basket

The bottom of the basket.

A basket full of wool can feel like an endless supply of woolly goodness. After having prepared what may seem like three bags full of wool the content still looks untouched. But the supply is not endless. Sooner or later you will get to the bottom of the basket. I did this week.

By spending time with the wool my hands learn how the wool behaves and how it wants to be spun.
By spending time with the wool my hands learn how the wool behaves and how it wants to be spun.

I love digging my hands in a new spinning project. Fiber by fiber I get to know the fleece – fiber length, elasticity, crimp, colour, shine, fiber type, staple type. These characteristics are there for me to discover. If I only invest my time and focus in the fleece they will present themselves to me. My hands will investigate and learn how the fibers behave on their way from staples to yarn:

  • How do the fibers blend in the preparation?
  • What is the draft like? Is it smooth, fudgy, resistant, slippery, light?
  • How do my hands adapt to the length of the fibers?
  • How does the lanolin work with me in the draft?

Fiber by fiber, meter by meter, my hands are programmed with the knowledge they gain from handling the wool. Always alert, always ready to reevaluate.

The bottom of the basket

But sooner or later, believe it or not, I do reach the bottom of the basket. I look down and there is not a single staple left. The wool that my hands have become so used to, so familiar with, is no more. Just like when I finish a good book – the characters and context I have come to know and love are suddenly just gone. And I miss them. I miss the wool that have become a safe space. My hands and mind have been in this particular wool for so long and now that it is gone I truly miss it.

The bottom of the basket.
The bottom of the basket.

Time spent is knowledge gained

The wool has taught me so much. Even if I can’t always put words on what I have learned – although I try to – my hands will have adapted to the characteristics of the wool. Through all the times the fibers have gone through my hands they will know how to work with the wool. Crafting is the knowledge of the hands. The knowledge from spending hours and hours with the material, the idea, the design and the tools. That knowledge is priceless.

Through handling the fibers again and again my hands have learned how the wool behaves and wants to be spun. The result this time is 12 skeins of cable-plied rya/mohair sock yarn, 454 grams and 826 meters.
Through handling the fibers again and again my hands have learned how the wool behaves and wants to be spun. The result this time is 13 skeins of cable-plied rya/mohair sock yarn, 454 grams and 826 meters.

The knowledge in numbers

I just amused myself with calculating the time spent on my latest spin, that got me to the bottom of the basket. Each of the skeins of my rya/mohair cable-plied sock yarn took:

  • 40 minutes for teasing
  • 40 minutes for carding
  • 2.5 hours for spinning
  • 30 minutes for the first S-ply
  • 20 minutes for the second S-ply
  • 20 minutes for the Z cable ply.

That sums up to 5 hours per skein. I spun 13. That is 65 hours of fibers going through my hands. Plus another few hours of washing fleece, sorting, blending, washing the finished yarn and dyeing. Let’s say 75 hours (mohair takes a lot of time to wash). That is 75 hours of being in the fleece. 75 hours of the fleece telling me what it is and how it wants to be treated (for a further discussion on time and cost of handspun, have a look at this post about calculations).

The bottom of the basket is full of knowledge.
The bottom of the basket is full of knowledge.

When I get to the bottom of the basket I realize it is not empty. I have gained not only a pile of handspun skeins yarn, but also a basketful of knowledge and experience.

I will miss handling this wool for a while. But I will also smile and walk a little prouder. I have a basketful of sparkling new knowledge. Knowledge that I will be able to put into my forthcoming baskets.

Happy spinning!


Gotta go now, I have birthday cake to eat. Our eldest turns 18 today (the age of majority in Sweden) and I am suddenly the mother of an adult.


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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Klövsjö wool

Klövsjö sheep is one of Sweden’s ten conservation breeds. In this post I present my experience with the long, strong and shiny Klövsjö wool.

Klövsjö sheep

Klövsjö sheep, is one of the ten conservation breeds in Sweden. Much like the other conservation breeds they were found in the early 1990’s and considered a breed of their own. They were found in the town of Klövsjö in Jämtland in mid-Sweden. Just like the other heritage breeds, the goal is to save the breed with the biggest genetic diversity possible. The breeding aims should not be directed towards a specific characteristics, like the wool.

For a heritage breed Klövsjö sheep are rather large. Rams can weigh 60–80 kg and ewes 45–70 kg. They can get very old, 15 years is not unusual. One of the shepherdesses of the found flocks says her grandmother made porridge for the oldest ewes who had no teeth left so they would make it through the winter.

The statistics from the Swedish sheep breeder’s association state that in 2019 there were 600 breeding ewes in 83 flocks.

Most Klövsjö sheep are white, black or black with white spots in face or on the legs. Klövsjö sheep are affectionate and the ram can usually go with the flock all year round.

Many of the heritage breeds, including Klövsjö sheep, are shorn twice a year. If not, there is a risk that the fleece will felt and be difficult to handle for both shearer and crafter.

Wool characteristics

Klövsjö wool is a dual coat with long, shiny outercoat and soft and fine undercoat. The lock is almost straight with defined staples. The outercoat is coarse and not suitable for next to skin garments. As you can see, the Klövsjö looks a lot like Rya wool. The klövsjö wool I got is a good example of a fleece with mostly staples of rya type.

The shine of Klövsjö wool is exceptional. Especially the outercoat, but there is lots of lovely shine in the undercoat as well.

The Klövsjö ewe Frida's beautiful fleece.
The Klövsjö ewe Frida’s beautiful fleece, unwashed.

The Klövsjö fleece I have is an autumn shearing of a grown sheep. The outercoat is around 18 cm and the undercoat 10.

Prepare

In the 2019 Swedish fleece championships I got my hands on the lovely Klövsjö fleece from the lamb Frida. I decided to plan for a warp yarn with Frida’s outercoat. Therefore I chose to separate outercoat from undercoat and spin them into different yarns. The outercoat makes out the warp yarn and the undercoat may become a soft knitting yarn.

Separating with combs

To separate outercoat from undercoat I use my combing station with two-pitched combs. The two-pitched combs grab hold of the shorter undercoat better than combs with only one row of tines, which makes the separation easier.

I load the stationery comb with the locks, putting the outermost edge of the cut end on the tines so that close to no fiber shows on the handle end of the comb. I comb with the tines perpendicularly to each other in a horizontal circular movements. Since the fibers are so long I need to make bold and dramatic movements. If not, there is a risk that the fibers in the combs aren’t separated and there will be loops which will make a mess.

When as much as possible of the wool is on the active comb I make the circular movement vertical, tines still perpendicular to each other.

I use combs with a combing station to separate the outercoat from the undercoat.

When the staples are separated and the fibers even I pull the outercoat off the stationery comb. I pull just under a staple length at a time, rearranging the grip after each pull so that I get a continuous top out of the comb. When I think there is no more outercoat left I pull the top all the way off the comb and put aside. I then pull the undercoat off and put it in a separate pile.

Second combing

After having made a few rovings I comb them again. This will make the rovings more even and I will be able to separate any residual undercoat from the outercoat. I take a number of combed rovings and recharge them on the stationery comb, usually two or three (of course depending on the capacity of the combs). I comb through the fibers twice and make sure they are fully separated and even.

To make the roving extra even I comb a second time and diz.

When the comb load looks good I pull it off the stationery comb. In this case I want a very even roving so I diz it through a button hole. To start I pull the very tip of the tip end and twist it between my fingers, double it and pull it through the button hole. Then I start dizzing – I push the button forward, pull the fiber bundle and repeat until there is no more outercoat left on the stationery comb. I remove the roving and make a bird’s nest of it. I pull the residual undercoat from the stationery comb and put it on the undercoat pile.

Lovely birds’ nests of combed and dizzed outercoat of Klövsjö wool.

Carding the undercoat

I card rolags from the undercoat that has been separated (and teased) from the outercoat in the combing process:

  1. I pull my teased wool onto the cards. When the wool doesn’t stick anymore I stop. To avoid over loading I remove any excess from the handle side of the card.
  2. I leave an empty frame around the wool. The wool will fluff up when I start carding and it will spread outwards in the next stroke.
  3. I stroke the wool gently between the cards. This pushes the wool just a bit into the teeth – not all the way down. The more silent the carding the better.
  4. After the third pass I use the active card and my free hand to lift the wool off the stationary card and make a rolag with the help of my active card and my free hand. To keep the stationery card steady I push the handle against the inside of my thigh.
  5. When I have reached the handle side of the stationery card and there actually is a rolag, I lift the rolag between my open hand and my active card, move it back to the beginning of the card again and roll the rolag gently between the cards.
Hand carded rolags of Klövsjö undercoat wool.

In the second part (starting at 4:11) of my video Teasing wool with combs you can see my carding technique and how I make the rolags.

Spin

I separated the undercoat from the outercoat to make the most of the two very different fiber types. To enhance the characteristics of each fiber type I spin them differently.

Outercoat

I spent the spring spinning the combed outercoat worsted on a suspended spindle with the aim of a strong warp yarn. The outercoat was very pleasant to work with and drafted like butter.

The length of the outercoat fibers can be a challenge. These fibers were around 20 centimeters. I think it is easier to work with a suspended spindle with this length compared to a spinning wheel. I need to consider the length of the fibers when I draft – the longer the fibers the longer the distance between my hands. If I spin on a spinning wheel the motion will be back and forth, which may be straining for my back. If I spin on a suspended spindle I can draft to the side and won’t have to work with my back in the same way.

The blue dye that turned out green. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The worsted spun outercoat yarn is fiercely strong and incredibly shiny. I dyed it in two shades of blue, which turned out green. I still love the result.

Undercoat

The lovely undercoat rolags had an adventure of their own. I brought them to Vallby outdoor museum and spun them on the great wheel with a smooth long draw into the loveliest woolen yarn. The rolags worked perfectly with the technique. In some cases there was a bit of outercoat left and the draft was a bit more demanding, but for the most part the draft surprisingly smooth.

Spinning the carded undercoat fibers on a great wheel.

The yarn I spun at Vallby is still in singles and I haven’t decided whether I should ply it or not. It is soft and airy and has a silky shine.

You can watch me spin and card the lovely Klövsjö undercoat on my video Spinning on a great wheel (available in Swedish as Spinna på långrock).

Strong and shiny worsted spun outercoat to the left. Soft and airy woolen spun undercoat to the right.

Use

Klövsjö wool with its dual coat is very versatile. You can choose to separate the fiber types like I have above or keep them together and prepare and spin for a woolen or worsted yarn. Considering the range from soft lamb’s wool to the coarser spectrum of a grown ewe the versatility increases even more. Have a look at the blog post about Rya wool I wrote a couple of weeks ago to compare.

Due to this versatility the yarn from Klövsjö wool can be used for a number of different purposes. Use the finest lamb’s undercoat for a next to skin yarn, the strong outercoat for a warp yarn, a combination of undercoat and undercoat for a sweater or play with anything between a fine embroidery yarn to a rough rug yarn.

All I have done so far with the Klövsjö wool I had is a woven belt bag from the spindle spun outercoat. It is combined with the Chanel warp yarn for a lovely green and brown striped pattern.

In my online course Know your fleece there is a 25 minute video where I present Klövsjö wool and demonstrate how I prepare, spin and use Klövsjö wool.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Sock yarn

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about blending rya wool and adult mohair to get the characteristics I needed for a sock yarn. Today I will share my adventurous journey of spinning that sock yarn.

When I had achieved the blending result I was after I combed the blend into strong and silky roving. I spun the roving worsted for extra shine and strength. A sock yarn needs to be durable in all directions and I decided to spin a cable yarn.

Cable ply

A cable yarn generally consists of four Z-spun singles. They are then plied into two balanced S-plied 2-plied yarns. After that you S-ply the yarns again with just as much ply as in the first ply. The 2-plies are now very overplied. In the final step you ply the overplied 2-plies Z into a cable yarn that contains all the four singles. The difficulty is to get to that magic cable ply where the fibers align in the direction of the yarn and create one balanced yarn unit.

An even, cable plied, strong and shiny sock…string.

Sock string

The problem was that the beautiful yarn I had created was basically string. There was no softness, no elasticity, no way near what I would wear next to even the roughest skin on the soles of my feet. It had also been quite exhausting to spin. The fibers were fighting me and I needed to keep my fingers quite tensed during the drafting.

A sock string swatch knit on 2 mm needles. The yarn split and resulted in a flat swatch with the texture and flexibility of suede.

Still I knitted a swatch from my sock string. If nothing else, I figured I at least would have the opportunity to learn something. The sock string was dreadful to knit with. It was very dense and a struggle to work around the needles. Also, the needle kept finding its way in between the 2-plies and splitting the yarn, which resulted in a flat (as opposed to rounded) yarn in the swatch. I couldn’t live like this.

So why am I writing about a disatrous sock string and a leathery swatch? Well, I do have a point. I always tell my students that their mistakes are maps of what they have learned. I consider myself just as much a student as my own students and in this string adventure I have learned a lot that I have put to use in my second try. And the leathery swatch is my map.

A second try

Back to square 1. I needed a preparation and spinning technique that would result in a softer yarn without taking the strength away. I still wanted a sock yarn that would last. So I decided to change the preparation technique, the drafting technique and the spinning direction. The spinning technique (a cable plied yarn) and thickness would stay as much as possible the same.

Carding and spinning woolen

This time I teased the blend with combs:

  1. I loaded the combs with the blend with no consideration of which staple end was where.
  2. I teased the wool with the combs like I normally would when combing
  3. I pulled the teased wool right off the combs, perpendicular to the direction of the tines.

The resulting cloud was now teased and the mohair, rya outercoat and rya undercoat well separated. I then carded the teased blend into rolags and spun the singles woolen. All to bring some softness and air into my yarn.

Three stages of fiber preparation of my sock yarn: Blended rya and mohair locks, the teased blend and carded rolags.

Compared to combing for the sock string, carding resulted in far less waste. In the combing process I had to leave a lot of the shortest fibers since they would make the worsted spinning more difficult. In a carded preparation I could keep more of the shortest fibers. They would also add more softness to the resulting yarn.

Carding long fibers

But can you really card fibers this long without disaster? Wouldn’t the long fibers just double around themselves in the rolag and create a tangled mess? Well, they would if they were

alone.

My sock yarn consists of long rya outercoat fibers (left), medium and short rya undercoat fibers (middle) and adult mohair (right). The combination of lengths makes the blend spinnable after carding.

When I card fibers of this length (in this case around 20 cm) I always make sure they are accompanied by shorter fibers. In a combination of short, medium and long fibers the fibers sort of marry each other and create an airy rolag. A dual coat therefore usually works well carding since there are different lengths in the staples. Combining three different lengths of different breeds would also work fine. In my sock yarn I use a dual coat with lengths between 7 and 20 cm and mohair of around 12 cm. The longest fibers will double around the rolag, but I don’t see that as a problem since there are so many other lengths that won’t.

A new direction

Since I had had the experience of splitting yarn I also changed the direction – I

  1. spun the singles S,
  2. 2-plied Z,
  3. plied again Z and
  4. cable plied S.

This yarn was way more comfortable to spin. I could relax my hands and enjoy the spinning, which, to me, is the whole point.

My finished woolen cable plied sock yarn. 18 grams, 36 meters, 2000 m/kg, 16 wpi.

Even though I am fully capable of spinning in both directions when I spin with spindles, I haven’t changed the direction very much on my spinning wheel. Habits are obviously very easy to form. Changing the direction when I spun the singles was a challenge and puzzled me in the beginning, but after a while I got the hang of it. I could be bold and switch the orifice hand and fiber hand too, but I haven’t been that adventurous yet.

I slip

The spinning was far from easy to manage, though. Mohair is extremely slippery. The smallest part of uneven blending could quickly result in a rush through my fingers in lightning speed. I needed to truly feel every millimeter of the wool in my rolag to be able to be constantly prepared for changes in my grip and drafting.

Swatching

The resulting yarn was softer and a lot more pleasing to handle. It didn’t split when I knit my swatch. I am very happy with this lesson. I remember reading about someone who had changed the direction of a cable yarn just because she experienced yarn splitting when she knit. So this was in the back of my head when I spun the sock string. But, obviously, my brain doesn’t realize that until I actually and physically feel it when I spin. Not until I see and feel the result I understand why I had been told not to go that way. And I am thankful for being able to learn and understand through trial and error.

A sock yarn swatch knit on 2.5 mm needles. The yarn stayed together and resulted in a flexible swatch that I definitely can see feet thriving in.

I have plans to dye the yarn in a few different colours. With one kilo of rya/mohair blend I should be able to knit a few pairs of socks.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

In the morning

My favourite time of day is in the morning. The air feels better in the morning – I’m the first one to inhale it. My thoughts are new and fresh, my mind clearer and I find peace. Sometimes I giggle to myself thinking what a treat it is to have discovered this wonderful time of day that very few people seem to know about. In this blog post I spin some precious Gute wool and sing my ode to the morning and its gifts to me.

My space in the morning

I get up at 5:45 a.m. on week days to be able to work when I know work at my best. On weekends I get up at 7 a.m. to have those precious morning hours to myself. Since I work from home since March for pandemic reasons I don’t bike to work anymore, which I truly miss. Instead I have the luxury of being able to take morning swims every day (I have 300 meters to the lake). I can highly recommend it – the combination of energy refill and mindfulness after a morning swim is indescribable.

A morning swim gives me energy and peace of mind.
A morning swim gives me energy and peace of mind. It is 8 a.m. and 6 degrees Celsius in the air, 12 in the water. I swim if the water isn’t too wild and stay in for around 3 minutes.

I’s like the morning offers a unique dimension – the air is fresh to breathe, my thoughts are sprouting and the world is beautiful in all its abundance and complexity. I get access to a morning elixir that expires every day after those precious early hours. The next morning the elixir is there again, available for me to absorb. I’m at platform 9 3/4 and receive a free shot of creativity, clarity and mindfulness. I’m just surprised that other people haven’t found out this superpower charged secret yet. But, then again, in the evening I turn into a pumpkin again – after 8 p.m. my mind turns to goo and I’m not usable for anything. There may be a similar elixir in the evening that I don’t have access to while others do.

Gute in the morning

I love sitting at my spinning wheel in the morning. The room faces east and has large windows in the east and south. The rising sun fills the room with peace and lightness and the view over the lake is spectacular. When I spin the sun warms my back and gives the yarn a special morning sparkle.

The rising sun fills our living room with peace and lightness.

These past few mornings I have spent some quantity time with a Gute fleece. I have had it for over a year now and for some reason I have been reluctant to spin it. Lots of other spinning projects have cut in line and the Gute fleece has humbly taken a step back to wait for its turn. When I finally decided to give the Gute fleece my full attention I was very happy I made that decision.

A fleece of contrasts

Gute wool has it all – the softest cashmere-like undercoat, long and strong outercoat and brittle and quirky kemp fibers. All in different lengths and colours. Together the fiber types make a yarn that is strong and light, robust and squishy. So many contradicting characteristics get along in one single skein.

Gute wool from one individual. The sheep has long and strong overcoat, fine undercoat and kemp over the whole body, but to varying degrees.
Gute wool from one individual. The sheep has long and strong overcoat, fine undercoat and kemp over the whole body, but to varying degrees.

The kemp fibers help keeping the staples open. This make the staples very light and airy. They are easy to tease and open up like blossoms.

The slowness of Gute wool

One of the superpowers of Gute wool comes to life when I process and spin it. There is a slowness in the drafting that I find unique to this breed, at least in my short experience of it. It is like I enter a parallel drafting zone with this fiber – the fibers pass each other with a slowness that can be comparable to syrup. You know that viscous feeling where you need to wait nicely for the syrup to find its way out of the bottle before you can do anything with it.

The way I need to work the flicker and the cards slowly under the fiber’s command is truly fascinating. I can’t rush this fiber, it has a mind of its own. It is not against me, it is on the contrary very cooperative and easy to work with once it has, with strong determination, set the speed of the process.

Gute – a wool like the morning

The slowness helps me understand what is happening in the draft, how the fibers align in the semi-yarn and in the end surrender to the power of the twist. Perhaps it is the different lengths and qualities of the fibers that gives this wool such a special mindset – I never know what to expect and I need to reevaluate the drafting properties for every draft, despite the fact that I have blended the wool properly. Come to think of it, it is with Gute fleece almost like the morning – a parallel space where the conditions change and new rules apply.

Spinning Gute wool is like the morning – a parallel space where new rules apply.

I love working with a wool that challenges me and forces me to think and make decisions in all the steps of the process. I can’t take the draft for granted and I need to stay alert all the way.

Every time I change from spinning to teasing, from teasing to carding or from carding to spinning I make new realizations. I get a deeper understanding of the fibers, how they work together and how to listen to the wool adapt my movements under their command.

Spinning in the morning

Coming back to the theme of this blog post, the morning is my best chance of understanding this wool more deeply. When my mind is alert and my hands eager to learn I can listen to the wool and make it shine. Sitting in the morning sun, inhaling the unused air and the shot of morning elixir gives me the spark, inspiration and peace to understand and learn.

Five finished skeins of Gute yarn. Carded and spun woolen with English longdraw.

There is still fleece in the bottom of the basket and enough for one or two more skeins. When the basket is empty I will have brand new skeins to make a textile with. The empty basket also means that the fleece I have spent so much time with and learned so much from is gone. It’s like finishing a good book and missing being a part of it. Luckily, wool grows out again and there are always new fleeces to learn from.

Creative space

The morning is the time when I feel the most grounded, inspired and creative. It is when I find my spinning mojo, my best ideas and the mental space to write blog posts. After my morning swim my mind wants and needs to be creative – spin in the pale morning sun and let my synapses connect slowly and mindfully or reflect more purposefully in a blog post. My creative space allows me to be more openminded and curious in the morning.

It’s 8 a.m. as I write the last rows of this blog post. I’m going down to the lake now for my morning swim. After that I still have a lot of morning left to enjoy.

When are you the most creative?


And, oh, last week I promised you a photo of me wearing my spinning championships gold medal and a silly grin on my face once I got the medal and the yarn back. Well, I got yarn, medal and diploma in the mail this week and, as promised, here are pictures of me with a silly grin on my face, happy as a lamb.

Happy spinning!

My contribution to the embroidery category of the Swedish spinning championships 2020 got me a gold medal.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Spinning on a great wheel

I have a new video for you today: Spinning on a great wheel. The video was shot at the manor hall at Vallby outdoor museum in Västerås, Sweden in the end of July. My friend Cecilia and I had the loveliest time with the wheel at the 18th century manor hall. We got so wrapped up in spinning and video angles that we totally forgot to take photos. All the photos from the shooting in this blog post are saved frames from the video.

I have been longing to even touch a great wheel for a long time. Due to the size of the great wheels there aren’t many left in Sweden. Luckily, there is one at Vallby outdoor museum not so far from my home in Stockholm.

I made this video in two versions. The first one is in spoken English. It has closed captions in English and Swedish.

The second version is in spoken Swedish, also with closed captions in English and Swedish. I usually don’t make multiple versions or multiple captions, but I made the spoken Swedish version as a thank you to the museum for letting us work and play in their manor hall.

Getting access

My friend Cecilia volunteers as a reenactor at Vallby outdoor museum from time to time. Through this cooperation she has connections with the curators at the museum. She also knows the buildings and the artifacts in the museum collections. During her work at the museum she had seen and admired the beautiful great wheel in the manor hall.

A reenactor at Vallby outdoor museum.
Cecilia volunteers as a reenactor at Vallby outdoor museum from time to time. Photo published with permission from the photographer, Åsa Lindberg at Bellman & Jag AB

Cecilia asked the curators if we could come to the museum and spin on the great wheel and make a video. Since she is used to dressing in period costume when she volunteers she also asked if we could borrow costumes for the event. They agreed and we were over the moon!

The manor hall

The manor hall at Vallby outdoor museum was finished in 1807 in the copper works in Hallstahammar. It was donated to the museum and moved there in 1928.

A red wooden manor hall.
The manor hall at Vallby outdoor museum, built in 1702 at Hallstahammar copper works and moved to the museum in 1928. The red pigment in the paint comes from copper.

There are lots of exciting rooms and chambers in the manor hall. The great wheel is in the dining room, from which you get sneak peaks of the surrounding rooms in the video. We shot the carding scene in the entrance hall.

The building is obviously old and a challenge to protect from wind and weather. To keep the moist out of the house there is a dehumidifier that is turned on automatically. You can hear the dehumidifier as a buzzing sound in the video.

Period costume

We spent a day at the museum in the end of July. Before we went to the manor hall we picked out the costumes in the costume store and transformed into 18th century sisters (Cecilia and I are actually second cousins). In the video we are wearing a simple chemise and on top of that a skirt and a bodice. An apron of course, a neckerchief and the humiliating cap. And, oh, I made sure we got ourselves secret pockets underneath the skirts too. You can’t have too many pockets! The clothes would have been worn by both ladies and maids at the manor hall.

Two women dressed in period clothing from the 18th century. They are sitting on a couch with a basket between them.
Cecilia and I are wearing period clothing from the 18th century, from the same time as the manor hall. Look at me all decadent with my tousled neckerchief!

Shooting

Being in such a beautiful setting made the experience even more special than it already was. The broad floor tiles, the magnificent tapestries and the air of the rooms was mesmerizing. And, of course the costumes added an extra dimension.

The great wheel was standing in a corner in the dining room of the manor hall, which was the perfect spot – the positioning in the natural light from several windows was just perfect. I had brought minimal equipment on the train, just my phone camera and two tripods.

Usually there are lots of visitors at the museum. The entrance is free and visitors can visit all the buildings. During the pandemic there have been restrictions – visitors are allowed to walk around outdoors but not in the buildings. This meant that Cecilia and I had the manor hall to ourselves and could concentrate on spinning and shooting the video. A few visitors peeked through the windows when they saw what they thought was staff in the building and some knocked on the door, but we kept on working.

Wool prep

Spinning on a great wheel requires high quality fiber preparation. Since the spinning is done with one hand there is no room for fixing bumps or thin parts. The fiber needs to be very evenly carded to keep a steady rhythm in the spinning.

For this shoot we used the undercoat from the Klövsjö sheep Frida. You can see her outercoat as the green stripes in the Frida Chanel bag. When I separated the undercoat from the outercoat I was left with a fluff of teased undercoat that I carded at home. We also carded more during the shoot. It was a lovely wool to work with all the way through.

The Klövsjö sheep Frida provided her undercoat fibers for our spinning on the great wheel. The basket is a traditional saigkorg from Gotland – a basket made of hand carved juniper and pine to store carded wool in.

Great wheels

Great wheels were originally used to spin short fibers like cotton in India and China. This type of wheel was the first mechanized spinning tool after the hand spindle. It was probably invented as a faster way to spin. The great wheel is believed to have become common among peasants in northern Europe in the late 13th century. It was a popular tool in Sweden in the 18th and 19th centuries for spinning cotton and wool.

Details of the great wheel. The circular wooden piece is the tension knob that we realized we needed to use more often.

Other names are muckle wheel, long wheel and walking wheel in English speaking countries. In Sweden the great wheel is called långrock (long wheel) but also fabriksrock (factory wheel), bomullsrock (cotton wheel) and dukrock (cloth wheel). A common use for the yarn spun on a great wheel was weft yarn for the textile manufacturers (vantmakerier) in Sweden. Cecilia has tried to find out more about the great wheel we used, but she has found none.

The great wheel was a lovely acquaintance. We had some problems with her, though. There seemed to be a part missing – some sort of disc to stop the spun wool from coming into the leather loop that holds the spindle. We tried different solutions to varying results.

We also experienced that the spindle started sliding after a while (you can see this in some parts of the video). After a while we realized that there was a simple solution to this problem – we just needed to adjust the tension of the drive band more often.

Spinning on a great wheel

To prepare for the very special moment with the great wheel I watched Norman Kennedy spin on a great wheel in the video Spin flax and cotton: Traditional techniques with Norman Kennedy from Long thread media. You can get a glimpse of his technique in this promo video. I actually walked the steps in my living room to practice while at the same time pretending I was turning the wheel, drafting the fiber and changing the angle of the yarn. It was actually quite fun!

There are lots of cooperating sequences to keep track of when spinning on a great wheel – fiber, steps, wheel and angles.

Spinning on a great wheel is the same principle as spinning on a supported spindle or a floor supported Navajo style spindle. You build up twist in the rolag, make the draft at a narrow angle from the tip of the spindle, add twist and change the angle to roll the yarn onto the spindle. To that comes the walking. Spinning on a great wheel requires a lot of focus.

Spinning by colour

I have played with colours to sort things out in a simple description of the not-so-simple step sequence, changing of angles and direction of the wheel.

  1. To start with a new rolag I place the end of the spun yarn on top of the rolag and let the twist catch the fiber when I start spinning.
  2. I hold the rolag with my left hand at a 45 degree angle from the direction of the spindle.
  3. I set the wheel in motion clockwise with my right hand.
  4. While I take three steps back to lengthen the yarn I allow more fiber into the twist.
  5. When there is enough twist in the yarn I turn the wheel counter-clockwise for a short section. At the same time I change the angle of the thread to a 90 degree angle from the direction of the spindle and walk one step to the right.
  6. I turn the wheel clockwise again, walk two steps forward and let the spun yarn roll onto the spindle. After that I change the angle of the yarn again and start over from 2 (or 1 if I am pout of fiber).
Spinning on a great wheel is a slow juggle with steps, angles, wheel and fiber supply.

Dancing the great wheel

Spinning on a great wheel is an experience. There is a flow and a rhythm that is truly fascinating. As a spinner I need to trust the wool to do its job. If I have carded the wool evenly and listen to the wool as I draft, a long draw of almost two meters is actually possible.

When I hold the rolag gently I will be able to feel how the twist enters the fibers and how the fibers join into the twist. There is a constant communication between the fiber and my hand: The fiber tells the hand

  • when the twist enters the fiber
  • how long the fibers are
  • how quickly the fibers catch each other
  • the amount of fiber that is fed to the twist
  • how thick the yarn is.

The hand listens carefully and adapts to the information. With the adaptation the fiber sends new information that my hand will interpret again. Through listening to the wool the hand learns what works and what doesn’t. And some things did work. I produced a lovely skein!

The result of the day at Vallby is this lovely skein of singles yarn. I think I will keep it this way and use it as weft, just as most great wheel spun yarn was back in the days.

After three hours with the great wheel Cecilia and I were blissfully happy, yet exhausted like wrung out rags. It’s a wonder I got home on the train.

Happy spinning!


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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Finull wool

Two-end knitted mittens from finull yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin

The first wool I ever dug my hands into was the fleece of Pia-Lotta the finull sheep (Swedish finewool). Finull wool is my home wool, the wool I feel I know the the best. Finull sheep is one of only three wool breeds in Sweden – breeds where wool is an important part of the breed standards. In this sixth part of my breed study of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective I will share my experience with finull wool. Previous posts have been about Gotland wool, Gute wool, Dalapäls wool, Värmland wool and Jämtland wool.

This Sunday, June 7th at 5 pm CET I will host a free live breed study webinar on Swedish finull wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

Wool staples from the finull sheep Karin from Glada fåret sheep farm.
Wool staples from the finull sheep Karin from Glada fåret sheep farm.

About finull sheep

Finull sheep is the first sheep I got to know as a spinner. To me, it is the way a sheep looks, the mother of sheep if you will. I’m sure you have a “home” breed too that you measure all other sheep against.

Finull sheep stem from the Swedish landrace that has grazed Swedish pastures for centuries. It didn’t become it’s own defined breed until the 1980’s. Therefore it shares the common history of the Swedish landraces.

Finull lambs.
Sweet finull lambs in a small-scale shepherding course I took in 2014.

A bit of Swedish sheep history

The landraces

The Swedish landraces were the only sheep in Sweden until the early 16th century. They most probably originate from the North European short-tailed sheep. They had different kinds of wool with both soft undercoat and coarser outercoat and provided Swedish farmers with carpets, vadmal and coarser textiles. Finer textiles couldn’t be produced with wool from the Swedish landraces. King Gustav Vasa ordered import of “bum sheep (rumpefår) which would mean the fat-tailed sheep from Germany, Great Britain and later Spain, with finer wool. For 300 years Sweden imported these breeds to varying degrees of success. The aim was to exterminate the “harmful Swedish sheep”, but the attempts failed. The farmers needed the coarse wool for the necessary textiles they had always produced.

Decrease, more decrease and increase

During the industrial revolution sheep farming decreased – Sweden imported cheap wool and especially cotton to the spinning mills. Many of the imported breeds and their crosses were removed and replaced with cows. During the First World War the demand for wool from the Swedish landraces increased again. The mills in Sweden couldn’t produce the same kind of lustrous textiles that were found in the museum collections. Breeding was then aimed at saving the old landrace and isolated flocks of Swedish landraces were found in remote areas of Sweden.

Some of these refound flocks had fine wool with lots of shine. They may be a result of crossing the landrace sheep with imported Spanish Merino sheep in the 18th century. The finer wool was also found in Finland (which at the time was part of Sweden). Thetra sheep with finer wool were crossed, first and foremost with Finnish landrace sheep, the first time in 1938. During the Second World War the demand for meat breeds increased and the pure-bred landraces decreased again. In the 1970’s the interest in Swedish landraces increased again and the Swedish finull sheep association was founded in the 1980’s.

Finull sheep. Photo by Dan Waltin
Finull sheep. Photo by Dan Waltin

Finull sheep today

Swedish finull sheep are fertile and usually get between 2 and 5 lambs. They are quite friendly and calm. The ewes weigh 50–70 kg and the rams 80–100 kg. The statistics from 2019 say 2115 breeding ewes in 161 flocks, but there are lots of finull flocks outside of the sheep breeder’s association too. A lot of finull sheep are also crossed with other breeds – Gotland sheep, texel sheep, rya sheep, Dorset sheep (Findor) and East Frisean milk sheep are common.

Finull sheep are white (61 %), black (23 %) and brown (17 %). The brown sheep have a higher resemblance to the Finnish landrace with a bigger variety in wool fibers, coarser wool and wool on the top of the head.

Wool characteristics

Finull sheep is one of the three Swedish wool breeds – breeds where wool is an important part of the breed standards. The other two are Jämtland sheep and Rya sheep (coming up soon). It is also one of the breeds that has a part in the new breed Jämtland sheep.

The shepherd intern and I go through the finull lambs and look for the best fleeces.
A shepherd apprentice and I go through finull lambs and look for the best fleeces. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Finull wool is soft, fine and shiny with a high crimp. The difference between undercoat and outercoat is very small. Swedish finull is popular among both hand spinners and Swedish spinning mills. The mills use finull for soft finull yarn but also to mix with Gotland wool since Gotland wool is too slippery to go through the carding machines unmixed.

Finull wool. Photo by Dan Waltin

Since finull is a wool breed there are standards and statistics for the wool. The staples are around 5–9 cm (when shorn twice a year) with an average crimp count of 8 crimps per 3 cm. The shine is around 4 of a scale of 1–5. The standards for the breed encourage breeding for shine, staple and crimp evenness. The micron count should be 20–30 microns and the wool should be even across the body of the sheep.

Most finull sheep are shorn twice a year. I have seen one or two whole-year finull fleeces, but that is an exception. A whole-year fleece will most probably break or felt.

Me shearing the Swedish finewool (finull) sheep Pia-Lotta.
Me shearing the finull sheep Pia-Lotta, whose lamb’s fleece was my very first wool.

At a course in small-scale shepherding I took back in 2014 I got to shear Pia-Lotta the finull sheep, the sheep whose lamb’s wool was that first wool I spun. You can see more of the wool from this shearing in one of my earliest videos Slow Fashion – from sheep to sweater.

Main characteristics

The main characteristics, the superpowers, of finull wool that I want to enhance in a yarn are the shine, softness and crimp.

  • Finull wool has a clear and soft shine that I find unusual in a wool with such a high crimp. It takes dye beautifully and reflects the light in a lovely way.
  • The fineness and softness of the fibers make finull wool a perfect wool for next-to-skin textiles.
  • The high crimp gives the finished yarn an appealing elasticity.
Sweet staples of finull wool.
Sweet staples of finull wool.

Preparing

Finull wool is a perfect candidate for carding – the short and crimpy finull staples make plush rolags that are screaming to be long-drawn.

Teasing and carding

I never card unteased wool. I could tease by hand, with combs or with a flick card. As much as I love teasing by hand and with combs, my method for teasing finull wool will be with the flick card. The tips of the fine fibers can be brittle and break in the carding process (especially if there is dirt in the tips), and leave unwanted nepps. If I tease the staples with the flick card, any breaks will stay in the flick card.

Brittle and/or dirty finull tips break and stay in the flick card. The teased wool is quality controlled and ready for carding.
Brittle and/or dirty finull tips break and stay in the flick card. The teased wool is quality controlled and ready for carding.

This process may seem tedious (and it is), especially considering the short and very thin staples that can be a bit fiddly. However, the time spent flick carding is definitely worth the effort. I end up with soft, even and consistent rolags.

When I have teased the staples I card the cloud as I usually do.

  • I load the stationary card with the wool, using only the amount of wool that will stick to the carding pad. I remove any excess.
  • To make sure all the wool gets carded I leave a 2 cm frame of the carding pad empty. If I load all the way to the edge there is a risk that the wool “leaks” out on the side and doesn’t get carded at all.
  • I card three passes using very light strokes.
  • When the wool is carded I make a rolag of the batt with the help of the free card and the back of my free hand. I make a last roll of the rolag between the cards.

Spinning

I spin finull with a longdraw. Finull fleeces are consistent throughout the body of the sheep and I can make a larger project from one single fleece. Since the wool is so fine and quite short I try to spin with a higher twist than I usually do.

Finull wool spun with English long draw from hand-carded rolags and 3-plied.
Finull wool spun on a spinning wheel with English long draw from hand-carded rolags and 3-plied.

I spin finull wool with a supported spindle, a Navajo spindle (for singles) or a spinning wheel. The draft is smooth and viscous in the loveliest way. Again, this is the wool I feel the most at home with.

Finull singles spun on a Navajo spindle.

Use

I use finull yarn for lots of things, but most preferably next-to-skin garments. Since the wool is so fine I don’t usually use it for more resilient products. I have tried, though. And failed.

Two-end knitted mittens from finull yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin
Two-end knitted mittens from finull yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin

One of the first “real” yarns I spun was a Z-plied yarn for a pair of two-end knitted mittens. The yarn was way too loosely spun and the yarn broke a number of times during the knitting process. I did felt the finished mittens to make them sturdier. They have worn out on the thumbs now, though, and been carefully mended.

One of my favourite garments is my Sides and stripes sweater (design by Veera Välimäki). The yarn is the blue 3-ply above spun from a truly beautiful finull fleece. I spun the yarn with English longdraw from hand-carded rolags and the yarn turned out amazingly consistent.

Sides and stripes sweater, knitted in 3-ply handspun finull yarn. The orange stripes are handspun from Jämtland wool.

Live webinar!

This Sunday, June 7th at 5 pm CET (world clock here) I will host a live breed study webinar about Swedish finull from a spinner’s perspective. In the webinar I will talk briefly about the breed in Sweden, wool characteristics and how I prepare, spin and use finull. I will use finull during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I prepare and spin the wool.

Even if you think you will never come across Swedish finull this is still an opportunity to learn more about wool and wool processing in general. The breed study webinar will give you tools to understand different wool types and apply your knowledge to breeds and wool types closer to you.

This is a wonderful chance for me to meet you (in the chat window at least, I won’t be able to see you) and for you to see me live and unedited. The previous live breed study webinars I have done have been great successes. I really look forward to seeing you again in this webinar.

You can register even if you can’t make it to the live event. I will send the replay link to everyone who registers for the webinar. Remember, the only way to get access to the webinar (live or replay) is to register.

The event has already taken place

Stay safe and 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.
  • 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.

A design process

Selma Margau sweater.

Finally I can reveal a secret that I have kept for many months: I have designed a sweater and published a pattern! The pattern is available in the Spin-Off summer 2020 issue. I have spent so much time with this project and planning for it and now that it’s finished I miss it a bit. It’s like finishing a good book – even if there was a happy ending you get a little sad by the thought of not spending any more time with the people in the book. In this post I invite you to my two year design process of the sweater pattern Selma Margau.

Selma Margau sweater. Photo by Dan Waltin.

A baby design idea

I started planning for this project two years ago. At the Swedish fleece championships 2017 I fell in love with a dark grey Swedish finewool Rya mixbreed fleece. I started playing with the wool to find a way to make it justice in a yarn. One idea I got was to make a tweed yarn. I got recycled Sari silk and a yarn started to take shape.

In my usual manner I looked for the superpowers of the fleece and landed in a 3-plied woolen yarn spun with English longdraw from hand-carded rolags with Sari silk.

I designed a sweater – Margau Beta – that would let the yarn shine. A raglan yoked stockinette sweater with reverse stockinette panels. I embroidered some flowers along the left side panel, up along the raglan panels and towards the neck band.

A woman walking in the snow. She is wearing a dark grey knitted sweater with white embroidered flowers.
Margau Beta was the first prototype for the Selma Margau design. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sweater was a Beta version, hence the name. I wanted to make another one, only in white wool. Instead of stockinette and reverse stockinette on the center panel I made a cable pattern.

The wool

I asked the shepherdess Margau if she had something in white that was similar to the dark grey fleece. In her thorough manner she sent me samples from three of her white finull/rya ewes. I got to pick the one I liked the most.

Unwashed wool from the finull/rya ewe Selma.
Unwashed wool from the autumn shearing of the finull/rya ewe Selma.

I decided to go with the autumn shearing of Margau’s ewe Selma – a lovely fleece with both long and shiny undercoat and soft undercoat. She also had the most crimpy and consistent wool of the three samples.

Having a relationship like this with talented sheperhedesses is truly valuable to me as a spinner. Usually I find my favourite shepherdesses at the annual fleece championships. I see the fleeces they win medals for and if I am lucky the shepherdess is there and I can talk to them. They are always friendly and helpful and provide me with their gold. Usually they love to see what I make of the wool from their sheep.

Finished rolags with sari silk, ready for spinning.
Finished rolags with sari silk, ready for spinning.

I prepared and spun Selma’s fleece the same way I had spun her dark grey sister’s – a 3-ply woolen yarn spun with English longdraw from hand-carded rolags. The Sari silk was added at the teasing stage.

Six skeins of white yarn with colored specks.
A 3-ply woolen yarn spun with English longdraw from hand carded rolags.

Swatching

When the first skein was finished I dove into swatching to find a suitable pattern for the front and back panels. Looking at cable patterns I realized that a simple cable panel would make the yarn shine. I decided upon a stag horn center with opposing 3+3 ropes on each side.

It took me a few swatches to find the right combination for this yarn, but I think this is the one.
It took me a few swatches to find the right combination for this yarn, but this is the one.

Yarn shortage

I knit away on the body happily and started the first sleeve. At the top of the sleeve I ran out of yarn. And there was no more wool. In desperation I contacted Margau and got Selma’s spring shearing. A bit shorter and a bit more vegetable matter, but otherwise the same quality.

When i had finished both sleeves I came to the really tricky part. Calculating for the yoke is not my best talent, but to my surprise it turned out just how I had envisioned it. The cables behaved and weren’t cut off in the raglan decreases. They just formed pretty cable rays around the neck band.

A woman wearing a natural white cabled sweater. She is standing on a forest floor covered with autumnal leaves.
Well behaved raglan cables. Photo by Dan Waltin.

When the sweater was finished I had one skein of yarn left. I used it for the top part of the yoke in my Bianka sweater.

From design (via tears) to pattern

Designing a garment is one thing. Creating a pattern is a totally different ballpark. I have published a mitten pattern before, but a sweater in numerous sizes is a lot of work. I have calculated and recalculated, found errors, cried and recalculated again. And again. You get the picture. Finally I gave birth to a publishable pattern in nine sizes. And it was approved by the tech editor. The relief was indescribable.

Selma Margau

I named the sweater design Selma Margau after the sheep and shepherdess that provided me with the lovely wool. It is a sweater I wear with love and pride. I made it. I designed the sweater from the properties of the yarn that I in turn designed after the superpowers of the wool. The fibers are shown at their best advantage and I like to think of the finished sweater as a tribute to the sheep that grew the wool and the shepherdess who nurtured that sheep and cared for it with her knowledge and experience.

I needed to stay warm in the beech forest, hence the staged throwing of leaves. Photo by Dan Waltin

Photo shoot

We took the pictures by a wooden castle not far from our house. We did two photo shoots – one by the castle for the pattern in Spin-Off magazine and one for my blog in the beech forest on the caste grounds. The magazine pictures were the most important ones, so we started by the castle. After just a few pictures, though, Dan’s fancy camera started to make odd sounds. We did the last shots quickly and moved on to the beech forest. After just one picture the camera stopped working altogether. It turned out that the one lens Dan had brought was cranky and had gone on a strike. So all but the featured photo for this post were shot with his phone camera. It was a big relief that we had done the magazine shot first.

Selma Margau sweater.
The only picture of the Selma Margau sweater in the beech forest we got with Dan’s fancy camera. Photo by Dan Waltin

It was a cold and windy day and despite the fact that the sweater is way too warm for me with all the cables, I was freezing for the photo shoot. To stay warm I jumped around between takes. When my 14-year-old saw the photos in the evening she was shocked: “Mum, you’re jumping!!” Apparently I haven’t been jumping much lately. But here it is, proof of me jumping in a beech forest.

A woman jumping in an autumn forest. She is wearing a natural white knitted sweater with cables.
I’m jumping to stay warm. Apparently a rare sight. Photo by Dan Waltin.

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.
  • 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.

Jämtland wool

The newest sheep breed in Sweden is Jämtland sheep. The purpose of the breed is to have a meat sheep with wool that can be a Swedish alternative to the tons of merino wool we import from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. This is the fifth part of my breed study of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective. Previous posts have been about Gotland wool, Gute wool, Dalapäls wool and Värmland wool.

This Sunday, March 22nd at 5 pm CET I will host a free live breed study webinar on Jämtland wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

I am aware that this is very short notice. However, considering the situation in the world, I think we need a live webinar now more than ever.

A framed board with a wool staple and a tuft of carded wool. Letters saying Jämtland wool at the top of the board.
Whole year’ staple of Jämtland wool.

About Jämtland sheep

Stop the waste

A lot of Swedish wool is being wasted. At the same time we import tons of merino wool from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The owner of a Swedish wool manufacturer in Jämtland in Sweden questioned this system and wondered if there was a way to use Swedish wool for his products. The problem, though, was that Swedish wool was coarser and would be scratchy in the next-to-skin garments that his company made. The idea of a Swedish alternative to wool import was born.

A new breed

As a result of this, a project started in 2004 where merino ewes were imported and crossed with fine fibered Svea ewes. Svea sheep is a Swedish meat breed which is a cross between the meat breed Texel and the Swedish landrace finewool sheep. Swedish finewool does have some merino in them from crossing with the merino sheep that we had in Sweden in the 18th century. In 2010 the Jämtland sheep was presented as a new breed at the world merino conference.

A pile of fine fibered white wool with high crimp.
Unwashed Jämtland wool.

Jämtland sheep has increased in popularity as both a meat bread and a wool breed. Statistics say that there were 382 breeding ewes in 20 flocks in 2019. Rams weigh 90–120 kg and ewes 80–110 kg. This is a lot heavier than the landraces and conservation breeds I have presented in earlier breed studies. The micron count lies between 17 and 23.

Long locks of very fine wool and lots of crimp.
Jämtland wool has the crimpiest crimp.

Fashion industry

Jämtland wool has become very sought after in the fashion industry. Several companies have produced clothes made in Jämtland wool. One problem is that the demand is bigger than the supply. A clothes manufacturer may want larger quantities than the sheep farmers can provide. The garments that have been sold have been produced in small quantities with social, environmental and ethical aspects considered.

Knitters and spinners

Many of the Swedish spinning mills today produce yarn with Jämtland wool and the products are popular among knitters.

Jämtland fleece is also very popular among handspinners in Sweden. In the past few Fleece Championships Jämtland wool has been placed in its own category. The shepherdess I usually buy my Jämtland fleeces from probably has more championship medals than she can count.

Jämtland wool characteristics

Two hands holding a grey long fine fibered staple of wool. Two piles of fleece in the background.
Jämtland wool at the 2019 Swedish fleece championships. Whole year’s fleece to the left, autumn shearing to the right. The white fleece got a silver medal in the Jämtland category.

Jämtland wool is very fine fibered and has high crimp. In contrast to most merino, Jämtland wool also has a beautiful shine. The staples are uniform over the length of the staple and over the body of the sheep.

A microscope picture of wool fibers. Fine and even.
Jämtland fibers enlarged.

Since Jämtland sheep has a lot of merino in them the fleece is generally very high in lanolin, at least compared to the Swedish landraces I’m used to.

I have bought all my Jämtland wool from Birgitta Ericsson, a shepherdess who covers her sheep and shears them once a year. The cover is probably necessary to be able to manage a whole year’s fleece, especially considering the high degree of lanolin.

A dark grey fleece wit fine fibers.
Unwashed staples of grey whole year’s Jämtland wool. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The superpowers

When I see a fleece I want to get to know it and find its superpowers. I look at the different characteristics and choose three that I feel represent the fleece and that I want to let shine in a yarn and garment. The main characteristics I see in Jämtland wool are:

  • The softness of the fibers. They are dying to be worn next to your skin.
  • The crimp. It is hard to take your eyes off the crimp of these staples and I want to make the crimp justice in the yarn I spin.
  • The shine. Jämtland wool generally has a lovely shine that in my experience is unusual in this fine type of wool.

Preparation and spinning Jämtland wool

Washing

Before I go into wool preparation I need to talk a bit about washing. I wash Jämtland wool a lot more brutally than any of the other breeds I spin (I wash other Swedish breeds in water only). Now that I have learned the terminology in English I can safely say that I scour Jämtland wool. I bundle up the long staples and tie them with yarn and put them in a pot. I use lots of detergent and hot water. When the wool is dry I can remove the yarn ties. This method takes away enough lanolin for me to be able to handle the fibers without too much fuss.

Combing and worsted spinning

The first fleeces of Jämtland wool I processed I combed. To avoid breakage I flick carded the ends of the staples first and hand-combed with my mini-combs. This resulted in beautiful, lofty bird’s nests with lots of bounce. I spun these fluffy balls worsted on my spinning wheel.

One issue with fine fibers like these in combination with the dry air in large parts of Sweden is static electricity. When I comb the long fibers they point in every direction possible and make the aligning of the fibers very difficult. I solve this by spraying a mixture of water, coconut oil and a drop of detergent on the staples. This calms them down a bit. The coconut oil is soluble in low temperatures and comes off easily when you wash the yarn.

If there is still a lot of lanolin in the fibers I place the bird’s nests near the fireplace to make it more fluid and cooperative.

2-ply laceweight Jämtland yarn, combed and worsted spun.

From the fold magic

One day I decided to try to spin the long Jämtland staples from the fold. The length was perfect and I thought why not? The second the fibers merged into the drafting triangle from its folded position over my index finger it dawned on me: This is how this Jämtland wool wants to be spun.

A hand holding fibers folded over the index finger. Fibers are going from both sides of the fiber into the spinning twist.
Spinning from the fold. The fibers come into the twist in a wider angle. Since they come into the twist from the middle of the fibers they strive to unfold.

When you spin from the fold you double the staple over your index finger and spin from the middle if the fibers. What happens when you spin from the fold is this:

  • The fibers come into the drafting triangle from a wider angle. In this, more air coms into the yarn.
  • The folded fibers strive to unfold, which also results in more air in the yarn.
Flick carded staples of whole year’s Jämtland wool spun from the fold on a supported spindle and 2-plied.

Spinning from the fold is not a spinning technique, it is just a different way to hold the yarn. Thus, you can spin both woolen and worsted from the fold.

Five pieces of yarn on a board and a staple of wool. The leftmost yarn is sleek and thin. The yarns become more fuzzy and airy towards the right.
Different preparation and spinning of Jämtland wool. From the left: 2-ply combed and spun worsted on a suspended spindle, 2-ply spun worsted from the fold on a suspended spindle, 2-ply spun woolen from the fold on a supported spindle, 3-ply spun woolen from the fold on a supported spindle, 2-ply spun woolen from hand-carded rolag on a supported spindle.

Carding and woolen spinning

I would not recommend carding fibers in this whole year’s length. The fine fibers would most probably break and result in nepps in the yarn. Shorter fibers would be excellent to hand-card with fine cards. The fine fibers and high crimp would be excellent for a soft woolen spun yarn.

Use

I have used Jämtland wool for lots of different purposes – sweaters, half-mitts and shawls. It is perfect for next-to-skin garments and accessories. Due to the fine fibers Jämtland wool is not suitable for projects that will wear a lot.

A woman standing against a tree. She is wearing a grey sweater with white sleeve ends and white hem. The yoke has a stranded knitting spinning wheel pattern.
Grey yarn from the grey Jämtland fleece above. White yarn from Swedish fihewool. Photo by Dan Waltin

The dark grey yarn in the sweater above is worsted spun from hand-combed tops of Jämtland wool. You can see the whole process in this video (available in Swedish too). I knit the sweater in 2015 and I recently had to mend the elbows.

A woman walking on a path. She is wearing a thin asymmetrical turquoise shawl with drape.
Laceweight worsted spun Jämtland yarn in Martina Behm’s Viajante design. Photo by Dan Waltin

In my experience Jämtland wool looks best in fine yarns – lace weight or fingering weight. The shawl above is spun as a lace weight. The shawl below is the leftover yarn from the shawl above.

A girl holding up a turquoise lace shawl. The shawl has a spider at the top.
I got some lace weight yarn left and made a spider shawl for my daughter back in 2015. Photo by Dan Waltin

Live webinar!

This Sunday, March 22nd at 5 pm CET (world clock here) I will host a live breed study webinar about Jämtland wool from a spinner’s perspective. In the webinar I will talk briefly about the breed in Sweden, wool characteristics and how I process, spin and use Jämtland wool. I will use Jämtland wool during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I process and spin the wool.

Even if you think you will never come across Jämtland wool this is still an opportunity to learn more about wool in general. The breed study webinar will give you tools to understand different wool types and apply your knowledge to breeds and wool types closer to you.

This is a wonderful chance for me to meet you (in the chat window at least, I won’t be able to see you) and for you to see me live and unedited. The previous live breed study webinars I have done have been great successes. I really look forward to seeing you again in this webinar.

You can register even if you can’t make it to the live event. I will send the replay link to everyone who registers for the webinar. Remember, the only way to get access to the webinar (live or replay) is to register.

Register for the webinar here!

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!