A spinning meditation

I have a new video for you today! I recorded it this summer in Abisko national park, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. A magical place, perfect for a spinning meditation.

Abisko is such a beautiful spot in the world. I never get tired of it. The stillness, the vast landscape and the vegetation in the mountain birch forests and above the tree line are breathtakingly beautiful. I have had some blurry plans for a spinning meditation for a couple of years now, and just a few weeks before we boarded the train to Abisko I knew that was the place where I would shoot the spinning meditation video.

About the spinning meditation

The spinning meditation is a 12 minute spin-along meditation. I use a suspended spindle in the video, but feel free to use any spinning tool you like. In the video I sit, stand and walk. If there is a section you want to stay longer in you can pause the video. Or, if you want to skip a section, just jump to the next. With a little imagination you can adapt the meditation to fit your personal needs. The video is available in spoken English and spoken Swedish. Both versions have the option for subtitles in English and Swedish.

So here it is, or rather, here they are, A spinning meditation in English and Swedish.

A spinning meditation in spoken English with English and Swedish subtitles.
En spinnmeditation in spoken Swedish with English and Swedish subtitles.

An idea is born

When I have taught five day spinning courses at Sätergläntan craft education center I have offered a spinning meditation as the very last thing we do together before everyone returns home. I have no training in how to put together a meditation and I basically made things up as I went along. But all the students seem to have enjoyed it. Towards the end of the meditation I have invited the students to spin with their eyes closed and feel their way in the spinning. They have all managed to spin with a lot more ease with their eyes closed than they had imagined.

Spinning with eyes closed isn't as hard as you may think. Focus on the sensation of the wool in your hands rather than the visual input and you are on your way.
Spinning with eyes closed isn’t as hard as you may think. Focus on the sensation of the wool in your hands rather than the visual input and you are on your way.

Returning students have requested the spinning meditation after the first year I tried it and I have offered it on other courses where the students have had a few days to get to know each other and feel safe enough to take part in a group meditation. After the meditation they have shared their experiences, especially regarding the section where I invite them to close their eyes. I have learned so much from their stories.

Location scouting

So, a spinning meditation video started to take up space in my head. When we finally got to Abisko after a 17 hour train ride I took several location scouting walks around the mountain birch forest where the Abiskojåkka stream ends in Lake Torneträsk. I found a cliff overlooking the stream, a higher cliff overlooking the whole stream delta and the lake, and a pebble beach with Lapporten, the Lapponian gate, majestically resting on the other shore.

These are places I returned to several times, not only for the sake of the video but also for the incredible beauty, serenity and vast landscape. Most of the photos in this blog post are actually print screens from the video. As usual I didn’t think about taking photos too. But below is a real photo and a sweet memory from one of the hikes we did.

A late glacier buttercup (isranunkel) just below the peak of mount Slåttatjåkka, overlooking the Gohpasvággi canyon and Lake Torneträsk.
A late glacier buttercup (isranunkel) just below the peak of mount Slåttatjåkka, overlooking the Gohpasvággi canyon and Lake Torneträsk.

The hike, from the top of the Mount Njulla chair lift station between the peaks and down along the Kårsavagge canyon turned out to be 8 hours long. I was quite exhausted after having walked downhill for so long, but very happy for the experience.

Weather issues I

When I had decided on my video locations I gathered wool, tools and tripod and went out to shoot the video. In the rain as it turned out. I am a very stubborn person and actually went through with the whole wool preparation part of the video in the rain, wind blowing my hat off my head. After a while, when my hands were fuzzy of all the fibers sticking to the palms of my wet hands I realized that I needed to come to my senses and reshoot the video another day.

Weather issues II

That another day was the last day of our visit, so I needed to shoot the video no matter what. The what of the situation was the temperature this time. It was around 10°C/50°F, which isn’t optimal for spinning wool with lanolin left in it.

I was on a mission, though, and realized that I needed to solve my problem since the weather wouldn’t do it for me. I filled a metal water bottle with boiling water, wrapped the wool around the bottle and a woven seat pad around the wool to keep it as warm as possible. And it worked! I managed to shoot the video at my three chosen locations with only minor… let’s say… interventions.

Visitors

As I sat at the very steep cliff over the roaring stream, combing away, I heard rustling noises in the mountain birch forest. Suddenly, literally out of nowhere, and with no owner to be found, two spitz-like dogs (jämthund/Swedish elkhound?) came towards me. I’m not the biggest dog fan, especially when I’m at steep cliffs over roaring streams with no one else in sight. I had nothing else to do than to stay calm and comb my little heart out. The intruders sniffed at me and my wool and lurked away behind me.

Stray and rude dogs at the set.

After a while they came back, still without owner. Perhaps I should add that in all Sweden dogs are bound to be on a leash or under strict supervision from March to August and on a leash at all times all year round in a national park. I still have no idea where they came from and to whom they belonged.

The dogs actually peed and pooped behind me. On camera! That’s just rude, don’t you think? I could show you clips of their crimes, but I won’t sink to their level.

A spinning meditation

When I shot the video I had no idea how to put together the actual meditation. I just made sure I had shots of all the steps of the spinning process and some pretty angles. During September I have explored the construction of the meditation and the narration. I wanted it to be accessible to as many spinners as possible, both beginners and experienced and with different preferences regarding spinning tools. And I wanted to offer the beauty of spinning with closed eyes. It is quite a special experience. Beauty, inspiration and exploration have been key words as I have crafted the narration of the meditation. I hope you find these aspects if you take part of the meditation.

Oh, and did I bathe in the lake? Of course I did. Every day in either the stream (6°C/43°F) or the lake (8°C/46°F). Also quite meditative.

I hope you enjoy the spinning meditation. Let me know if you meditated along with me in the video and how you experienced it. I also hope you can do the meditation outdoors, possibly with a bit higher temperatures than the 10°C/50°F I shot the video in.

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 to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts. You are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how 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.

Wool combs

Every now and then people ask me for advice on spinning and wool processing tools. In this post I try to break down the properties of wool combs and what they do for the combing, the comber and the combed.

There are many aspects to consider when it comes to wool combs. For me, the most important thing is that they

  • do their job while being
  • gentle to the wool and
  • gentle to the comber.

The job of wool combs

I use my comb for three things mainly:

  • arranging fibers parallel and draw them off in a top
  • separating undercoat from outercoat (and in the next stage draw the outercoat off in a top)
  • teasing wool before carding.

For smooth combing the tines need to be properly aligned in the tine insertion. I have seen home made combs where this is not the case. With the tines haphazardly arranged the tines will get tangled in each other and the combing motion interrupted. The tines also need to be secured in the tine insertion.

The length of the tines need to be equal to or slightly higher than the width of the tine setup on the handle. This way the comber will be able to use all the tines on the combs. If the setup is wider than the length of the combs some tines will be unused and take up unnecessary space and weight.

Being gentle to the wool

The tips of the tines need to be sharp enough to cut through the mass of the wool. If they are too blunt the comber needs to put more force into the combing. This may lead to broken fibers and/or strain for the comber. The tines need to be sturdy to be able to withstand the resistance of the wool mass. If they are too thick, though, the comber again needs to put more force into the combing which may put strain on the comber and break fibers.

Three different sized two pitched combs. The mini combs have 17 tines/10 cm in one row, the minimidi combs 21 tines/10cm in one row and the maxi combs 13 tines/10 cm in one row.

The distance between the tines should be adapted to the kind of wool you comb. Smaller distance for fine wools and larger distance for coarse wools.

Being gentle to the comber

The weight of the combs is important. The combs need to be sturdy enough to, again, be able to withstand the resistance of the wool mass. Still, light enough for the comber to be able to comb comfortably.

As discussed above the tines need a certain sharpness for a smooth motion, but without the risk of breaking skin.

I prefer combs made of wood. The natural material feels comfortable in my hands and it is a renewable source. With an ergonomically designed handle the comber will be able to comb for longer periods of time without strain.

For larger combs I like the tines to be a bit tilted toward the handle side. This makes the combing motion a bit smoother – the shape of the tines sort of follow the circular motion of the combing action.

My wool combs

When people ask me about wool combs I always give them the same answer: Hand made combs by the Swedish maker Gammeldags (with an online web shop in Swedish and English). All the Gammeldags wool combs are unique and made in local Swedish woods. They are balanced in the appearance as well as in the hand.

My five pairs of wool combs, all by Gammeldags.
My five pairs of wool combs, all by Gammeldags.

For the record, I don’t get paid for this post. I just like these combs so much and want to share them with the world and why I like them so much. If this post leads to more sales for the maker I will be happy for the maker for the sale and for the buyer for the joy it will bring them to work with high quality wool combs.

Before I introduce you to my Gammeldags combs I would like you to meet the person behind them.

The Gammeldags story

In preparing to write this post I contacted Birgith Lundgren, the designer of Gammeldags (which translates to Old fashioned). I asked her to share the story of the combs she and her husband Pelle design, make and sell. Pelle is a blacksmith by trade, and he makes the combs and the other tools they sell.

Way back when

Birgith started her career as a physiotherapist and ergonomist, both in private and public health care organizations. In 1998, when she had worked for a few years as a manager in a public health care organization with lots expectations and little resources, she resigned and started her own company, Gammeldags. In her business she sold her hand woven textiles and taught weaving. She also started to explore spinning. At one occasion she came across wool combs from Eastern Europe. These were large and heavy and cumbersome to work with. As the problem solver she is she knew there must be some way to make wool combs that had a more user friendly design.

A wool comb embryo

Back then she was a beginner spinner and developed her skills while at the same time working on understanding what the wool combs should do and how they could be designed to meet these expectations and still be user friendly. Over the years Birgith and Pelle have developed wool combs that are designed for the wool combing as well as for the wool comber. Every suggestion for improvement has been meticulously tested with the wellbeing of the wool comber as a first priority. In 2011 they started selling the wool combs online.

Quality and inspiration

To keep the high quality and their own health they work slowly and methodically. For Birgith the inspiration is the most important thing in working with the tools she sells. If the web shop is empty the customer needs to kindly wait. Birgith and Pelle don’t work by the demand from customers, they work by inspiration for making high quality tools. And it’s all worth the wait – my combs are wonderful tools that I treasure. I use them in my own work as well as on my spinning courses.

Two pitched mini combs

  • Weight: 112 g (one comb)
  • Setup width for tines: 6 cm
  • Tine height: 6 cm
  • Tines per 10 centimeters (of one row): 18
  • Handle length: 14 cm
  • Bought: 2014
The first set of combs I ever bought was a pair of two pitched mini combs, in 2014.
The first set of combs I ever bought was a pair of two pitched mini combs, in 2014.

The first pair of combs I bought was a pair of two pitched mini combs, back in 2014, perhaps earlier. You can see that they have been used a lot. By me as well as by my students. Still, they work just as smoothly as the day I bought them.

The mini combs are lightweight and small enough to work with in your lap. The handles are comfortable to hold and I can work for a long time. I don’t get tired or strained when I use any of my mini combs..

The two pitched mini combs weigh a little more than the single pitched for obvious reasons, but this is not an issue. I use the two pitched combs when I want to separate undercoat from outercoat. If you only have one pair of combs you can still perform both tasks with both kinds of combs.

When you buy mini combs, or combs meant to use one in each hand, be sure to check the weight of the combs. This is what you will work with, plus the resistance of the wool. The heavier the combs the more you need to work and, consequently, the shorter time you will be able to work without strain or fatigue.

Single pitched mini combs

  • Weight 93 g (dark wood), 106 g (light wood). The weight refers to one comb.
  • Setup width for tines: 6.5 cm
  • Tine height: 7.5 cm
  • Tines per 10 centimeters: 17
  • Handle length: 14 cm (dark wood), 14.5 cm (light wood)
  • Bought: March 2018 (dark wood), July 2020 (light wood)

I have two pairs of single pitched combs, one in light wood and one in dark wood. The dark wood is actually not local at all – the dark combs are made of mahogany that Birgith got from a retiring woodworker in the neighbourhood. For myself I only need one pair of single pitched mini combs, but on my courses these are very popular so I bought a second pair last year. As you can see from the fact lists the single pitched combs (bought 2018 and 2020) have slightly different measurements compared to the two pitched combs above (bought 2014). This is a sign of Birgith’s constant work with design improvement. I use the single pitched combs if I want to keep undercoat and outercoat together in a top.

I use mini combs when I want to feel the flow of the crafting process.

If I would have to choose one type of combs it would be the mini combs. Using the lightweight combs in my lap can give me the same feeling of flow as spinning. The circular motion with the hands and the feeling of the fibers agains my skin as I draw the wool off the comb become a familiar choreography. I can bring my mini combs wherever I like and comb on a rock in the forest. With the mini combs I feel closer to the wool than with combs with a combing station (described below). For obvious reasons the mini combs don’t take as much wool in one load as the larger combs.

Maxi combs with combing station

  • Weight: 262 g (one comb)
  • Setup width for tines: 10 cm
  • Tine height: 11.5 cm, bended tips.
  • Tines per 10 centimeters: 13 (of one row)
  • Handle length: 15 cm
  • Bought: July 2018

The second pair of combs I bought was the maxi combs with a combing station. The sets with combing stations are work horses that will give you larger quantities of wool combed than with the mini combs. Another advantage of the station sets is that I can hold the free comb with both hands. That way my hands can share the strain. However, they also need a surface to fasten the station onto (and a pair of clamps).

The combing station on a rainy day and a period drama is the loveliest combo.
The combing station on a rainy day and a period drama is the loveliest combo.

I use the maxi combs with medium to coarse wools. I don’t get the same flowing feeling with the station sets. But they do get the job done quicker. I tend to watch a series while I use these. With an adjustable table I can choose to sit or stand.

Minimidi combs with combing station

  • Weight: 241 g (one comb)
  • Setup width for tines: 8 cm
  • Tine height: 10 cm, bended tips.
  • Tines per 10 centimeters: 21 (of one row)
  • Handle length: 13.5 cm
  • Bought: 2019

A year after I bought the maxi combs with station I got the minimidi combs with station. As you can see the station has changed a bit through Birgith’s work with design improvement. The new design is sleeker and require less wood, but the function is the same.

The distance between the tines is actually smaller on the minimidi combs 21 tines/10 cm) than on the mini combs (17 tines/10 cm). Due to the smaller distance between the tines the minimidi combs are heavier than the maxi combs, despite the smaller size. The minimidi combs work well with fine to very fine wools.

Video resources:

Happy combing!

You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how 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.

3D printed combs

3D printed comb handles with nails as tines.

In May I got an email from Joseph Bjork at Good and Basic. He has developed a 3D printed charkha and 3D printed combs. He wanted to send these to me in exchange for a review in a blog post. This first review is about the combs.

The designs are free for anyone with access to a 3D printer, but Joseph also sells his products in his Etsy shop. Joseph wrote that he was shocked at the price of spinning tools. Furthermore he says he deeply enjoys fiber arts and wants everyone who is interested to be able to spin. The idea with the 3D printed tools is to offer a cheap alternative to more expensive spinning tools for a new spinner who wants to have a go at the craft. The 3D printed combs cost $31.25.

Hesitation

I read Joseph’s email several times. I honestly didn’t know how to reply. To me, the experience of the tools are as important for the process as the experience of the process. I want to feel the wood in my hands as I prepare my wool, something I won’t get with 3D printed tools. I have seen lots of 3D printed cross-arm spindles with perfect balance and great reviews. However, I have never been interested in these for that particular reason – the sensation of the material in my hand.

At the same time I’m intrigued by Joseph’s view that anyone who wants to should be able to learn how to spin and prepare their wool without having to pay a fortune. To me, hand crafted spinning tools are not expensive. They cost a lot of money, but they are hand made by professionals and cost accordingly. A lot of money, yes, but not expensive. Still, not everyone has enough money to spend on spinning equipment.

Experience

When I looked at the images of Joseph’s 3D prints I could see aspects of them that I knew would be potential problems. I have a lot of experience combing wool – I have combed my way through at least 30 whole fleeces plus another 30 parts of fleeces and lots of teasing with combs. Also, I teach wool processing and know what I want in a pair of combs.

Brutal honesty

I still didn’t know how to reply. Therefore I decided to let Joseph make the decision for me. I listed all my concerns in a bullet list – about the material, the issues I saw with the combs, how expensive it would be to send me the combs and that I would be brutally honest and transparent in a blog post. I also offered to send my review to him without a post in case I didn’t like them.

He appreciated my feedback and still wanted me to try the combs and post a review on my blog. He has received this review of the combs before I published it. So here it is, beginning with a short version:

  • Can the combs produce a top? Yes.
  • Are they safe to use? Not necessarily.
  • Do they give me a feeling of flow as I use them? No.
  • Do they inspire to learn more about combing? No.
  • Would I recommend them to a new spinner? No.

3D printed combs

3D printed wool combs in action
My friend Cecilia is combing some rya wool with the 3D printed wool combs. A pair of my regular combs in the background.

I had my friend Cecilia over for a spinning date and we decided to try the combs together. That way both of us could review them. We could also discuss the combs and further refine our thoughts.

Assembly

The combs came as two 3D printed handles and a bag of nails. There wasn’t much of a description in the package, but there is a video link in the Good and Basic Etsy shop where Joseph shows how he assembles the combs and how he uses them. As I got the combs directly from Joseph without going via the Etsy page, I didn’t see the video until after we had assembled the combs.

3D printed comb handles with nails as tines.
3D printed comb handles with nails as tines.

Since we hadn’t retrieved the instructions we tried different ways. At first we just hammered the nails into the handles. Some were a bit loose and some firm. We decided to add some glue, just underneath the nail heads. It didn’t work optimally. For the second row we glued in the holes before we put the nails in. This resulted in glue all over the nails as they pushed through the gluey holes. We realized that we hadn’t thought very carefully before we tried this. But we also realized that this could happen to anyone. So a clear written description together with the components would have helped here.

Weight and weight distribution

With two rows of nails the combs weigh 240 grams each. This is the same as my midi and maxi combs that I use with a combing station (and that leaves both hands free to hold the active comb). The 3D printed combs are designed to be used without a combing station, though, which makes 240 grams in each hand. For comparison, the mini combs I use privately and in my classes weigh around 100 grams each. 240 grams is manageable. However, each nail weighs over 9 grams, so of the 240 grams the nails weigh 200 grams. Add to this that the nails are outside the hand as you comb. Since a large part – 200 grams – of the 240 grams is outside the hand the 3D printed combs feel even heavier.

Because of the uneven weight distribution the movement of the combs in the combing process gets uneven. As I watched Cecilia comb with a vertical circular motion the active comb almost fell on the way down and struggled on the way up. I have done a lot of combing and consider myself a reasonably experienced comber, but I am not tempted to comb a whole fleece with combs of this weight and weight distribution. I don’t think a beginner would either.

Nails

The nails are quite thick, around 3.5 mm, hence the weight. When Joseph first contacted me I looked at the pictures of the combs and suggested that he made them with thinner tines. He had considered this, but the material and work it required would make the combs cost more, which was against his vision of combs at a low cost. But apart from the weight and weight distribution discussed above, the width of the nails make the combs cumbersome to use. When Cecilia and I assembled the combs we started with a single row of nails. As we combed there were lots of lumps and we needed to comb a lot more passes than we usually do. There were still a lot of lumps left in the resulting top, plus a lot of waste. When we added the second row the result was more satisfying and with an acceptable amount of waste.

I comb to organize the fibers parallel. I also comb to remove vegetable matter, nepps and second cuts and to open up the fibers. The width of the nails in combination with the distance between them isn’t optimal for a satisfactory result in these aspects.

To avoid tear on the fibers I want to comb with large movements in the periphery of the wool, especially when the staples are long. With these combs it feels awkward and heavy. The nails don’t allow the wool to slide smoothly between them. Therefore I need to comb closer to the nails, which leads more tear on the fibers.

Cecilia pointed out that the tapering of the nails felt too abrupt. She would have preferred a softer tapering. From Joseph’s perspective I think a custom made tapering would make the combs cost too much.

Handles

As I wrote in the beginning I am very reluctant to plastic, which I told Joseph when he first wrote to me. He assured me that the material is biodegradable and made of fermented starches, which of course is a good thing. Still, I personally prefer working with wood. The sensation of holding the tools is as important to me as the spinning process. These handles don’t give me that feeling.

Cecilia and I were also concerned about static electricity. The air in Sweden is dry, especially in the winter and more dry the further north you get. The material in the handles may increase this static electricity, making the wool tentacle out in all directions and thus leading to more tear on the fibers.

The handles are square in the shape and not very comfortable to hold, at least not for a long time. Cecilia adds that she wants to be able to flip the handle of the active comb to achieve a more even fiber distribution. The edges of the handles in combination with the weight in the periphery of the combs makes this action difficult and awkward.

Setup

When I saw the pictures of the combs I saw that the setup of the tines/nails was off. For an effective combing the length of the tines need to be sightly longer than the width of the tine setup. In this case the with is about 3 nails too wide. When I pointed this out to Joseph he said it was possible to change the design to accommodate this request, so this may already have been changed.

The combs are quite easy to assemble with just a hammer and some glue. However, there is a risk that the row of nails becomes uneven. Even if the person assembling the combs is super careful, the little ridge underneath the nail head will prevent the nails from coming all the way to the handles. Cecilia, even had a fancy name for this – Smidesskägg, forging beard. The consequences of the ridge will influence the smoothness of the combing.

Risk of injuries

These combs are heavy. More than that, the weight is unevenly distributed. The combing motion becomes arrhythmic. Because of the weight and the uneven weight distribution there is a risk that the user either misdirects the motion of the combing or drops the comb. Either way there is a higher risk of breaking skin than with combs with a more even weight distribution, perhaps even more so for a beginner.

Flow and inspiration

I have the opportunity to buy high quality spinning tools that I like and not think too much about the price. I realize that not everybody has this luxury. There are tools available at mid-range prices too. I consider the 3D printed combs to be in a low-range price category. But the low price comes with a price too.

Let me tell you a story from when I first started spinning: I went to an evening class in hand spinning. We got the opportunity to buy the hand cards and the suspended spindles that the organizer provided. The shaft of the spindle available was 15 mm in diameter and the spindle weighed 93 grams. This is unnecessarily large and bulky for a suspended spindle. I think I payed around 10 or 12 Euros for it, which I consider a low-range price for a spindle. It worked to spin on, but the process wasn’t very enjoyable. I wasn’t eager to learn more about spindle spinning at the time. Instead I tried a (modern) spinning wheel and eventually bought one of my own. It wasn’t until a few years later that I went back to spindle spinning, with lighter and more easy-to-use spindles.

So, what I mean by telling this story is that the 3D printed combs do their job, just like the 93 gram spindle did. But the process is not enjoyable. There are too many adjustments I need to make as a spinner to get the combs (or the 93 gram spindle) to do their job. I want to work with tools that are constructed to suit my body and the technique they are designed for, not accommodating my technique to the construction of the tools. I fear that a beginning spinner who buys combs like these will soon tire of them and buy commercially prepared top rather than discover the beautiful world of processing wool with hand tools. A new spinner usually doesn’t know that combing can be as enjoyable a process as spinning. My guess is that they would buy the combs that were available at their price range. The experience with these first combs would probably form the new spinner’s experience with and attitude to combing.

Conclusion

So if the question is whether it is possible to produce a top with the 3D printed combs the answer is yes. If you ask me if I enjoy the process the answer is no. The combs don’t feel gentle to either hands or wool. To me spinning is a mindful and oftentimes meditative process through all the steps – sorting, washing, teasing, combing/carding, spinning and plying. I want the tools I use and teach with to assist me in the process. I want to enjoy the tools in my hands and using the tools. With the 3D printed combs this is not the case. The material, even if it biodegradable and made of starches, doesn’t feel alive and gentle in my hands. The motion doesn’t make my hands and arms dance as they do with my other tools.

Consequently, I would not recommend these combs to a new spinner. Coming back to the price range I discussed above there is a mid-range that I would recommend a new spinner with a limited tool budget. I don’t think the low price on these combs is worth the effort in the combing process and the lack of flow and inspiration when using them. Just as there is an alternative to the 93 gram spindle at a mid-range price, there is an alternative to the 3D printed low-range priced combs. I would rather recommend the new spinner to practice with dog combs before investing in tools that are more user friendly, more adapted to the process and potentially result in a high quality combed top and a smooth combing experience.

Thank you Cecilia for helping me reviewing the combs. And thank you Joseph for giving me an opportunity to articulate for myself what I want from a pair of combs.

Coming up: Review of a 3D printed charkha.

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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.

Blending

I’m not very fond of knitting socks. Yet socks are quite essential. I’m definitely not fond of plastic in sock yarn. Yet a strong fiber is quite practical to prevent holes in the socks. Fortunately, there are other strong fibers than plastic. This is the story of a simple blending process that hopefully will result in durable socks in natural materials.

A small scale sample yarn

On my 2019 wool journey I experimented with a sock yarn where I blended rya lamb’s wool and adult mohair. I ended up with a strong 3-ply sock yarn sample. I started out with 6 + 4 grams of fiber, which did help me find a process and a suitable yarn for socks, but in a very small scale.

Scaling up

On the fleece championships that year I bought a gold medal winning rya fleece and a bag of adult mohair to scale up my experiment to real socks. As usual the fleeces went in the back of the fleece queue, but now they’re next in line. This week I started my sock yarn project.

In my small scale experiment I had used 6 grams of rya and 4 grams of mohair. In my upscaled project I have 650 grams of rya and 400 grams of adult mohair which I somehow needed to blend.

Josefin Waltin sitting with a pile of wool. Locks are flying in the air around her
Willowing wool is a good way to blend wool.

Many people have seen a video where I willow my wool to open up the locks. This method is also perfect for blending two wool qualities or colours. However, I am not willowing my sock blend. I’m not very keen on sitting outdoors in the wind and temperature of November in Stockholm. Also, I’m afraid the willowing may ruin the lock structure in the staples. Since I will be combing the wool I need the staples to maintain their structure so that I can tell the cut end from the tip end. Therefore I needed to find another way of blending my wool.

Uncling

The fleeces had been somewhat compressed in the sofa bed storage and the staples were clinging to one another. So the first step was simply to separate them. Willowing would have been perfect for this task too, but still, not in November. Instead I sat down and started to pick and separate the locks by hand in both fleeces. This gave me the opportunity to look and feel through the fleeces and get to know their characteristics better, literally staple by staple.

The rya fleece was open and airy with long, silky and fine staples. They were also easy to separate from each other. The mohair staples on the other hand were compact in themselves and somewhat reluctant to opening up. The fibers in each staple seemed to cling to each other. The staples were quite easy to separate from each other though, since I had managed to wash a lot of the wax away.

I picked the locks by hand to make the blending of the mohair and rya fleeces easier.

The difference in willingness to separate in the different fleeces is something I need to keep in mind for when I process and spin the wool since it can influence how evenly the wool drafts when I spin. But first things first.

Let’s make Lasagne!

When I had gone through both of the fleeces and separated the staples it was time to start blending them. I did it the simplest way I could think of – I divided the fleeces in 6 piles each. I figured the smaller units of wool I could blend the more even the blend would be.

When I had my 6 + 6 rya and mohair piles I started building a lasagne by layering the piles one by one in a basket – one layer of rya and one layer of mohair until I was out of piles. After that I turned the basket upside down on the floor, dug my hands into the blended pile and whisked the whole arrangement around.

Combing

The final part of the blending was the actual combing. From my thorough lasagne blending technique I knew the two kinds of fiber were reasonably evenly distributed. Therefore I simply grabbed a handful of the blend and started combing. Later I decided to weigh each handful to make sure the rovings would be the same weight. This also eliminated my usual habit of over loading the comb.

8 grams of rya and mohair locks ready to be combed into sweet roving.
8 grams of rya and mohair locks on my medium comb, ready to be turned into sweet roving.

From the hand picking I had learned that the rya and mohair staples were very different. The dual coat rya locks were easy to separate and quite airy while the mohair locks were dense and quite reluctant to let go. With this in mind I made sure to make enough passes to thoroughly separate the fibers. The fleeces have in the blend formed a new togetherness with new characteristics that I need to consider when I work with the preparation and spinning.

I landed in five passes, planking, and then another three passes (you can read more about this combing technique in an earlier post about combing different fiber lengths). After the final three passes I dizzed the roving and got myself a lovely bird’s nest.

A 5 gram rya/mohair bird’s nest.

I am very happy with the result. The fibers are evenly distributed both in and between the rovings. Nothing clings anymore and I can draft easily. I have finished a first test skein and a second improved skein. The spinning process and resulting yarn however, is a matter for another blog post.

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.

Combing different fiber lengths

At the moment I have around 20 fleeces waiting to be spun. It is not always easy but I try to work them in order – first in first out. I have had to give up on some fleeces that have gone brittle and stale. The other day I finished a Gute fleece and next in line is a beautiful finull/rya cross that got a silver medal in the 2018 fleece championships. In this post I show you how I am combing different fiber lengths.

The finull/rya fleece has the most beautiful locks. They are more rya-like in their appearance, but still soft like finull. The outercoat is long and silky and the undercoat soft like cashmere. The draft feels like a luxurious night cream.

Finull/rya lamb's wool
My finull/rya fleece when I bought it at the auction at the 2018 fleece championships.

Cookie Monster wants all the cookies

One of the reasons why I have procrastinated for so long with this fleece is that I really didn’t know how to bring out the superpowers in it. Should I go for shine or softness? To get the shine my choice would have been to comb the wool and spin it worsted and for softness I would have opted for carding and woolen spinning. But deep down the Cookie Monster wanted all of it – both shine and softness.

To get both shine and softness in one yarn takes some planning and testing. Since this yarn was so soft I decided to go for a combing preparation – I figured that the wool was soft enough to still result in a soft yarn.

Combing different fiber lengths

After having read an article in the fall 2020 issue of Spin-Off magazine I knew what to do. Kim McKenna writes in her article Wool combing and the importance of planking about how to comb more evenly for a strong worsted yarn. My goal for this fleece isn’t a strong worsted yarn, but I think the technique will suit my goal perfectly – I want to make sure the fibers are as evenly distributed as possible.

Choosing a comb

Since the fleece I work with has quite a lot of different fiber lengths I want to make sure they are as evenly distributed as I can manage. Therefore I use a single pitched pair of mini combs. Using two-pitched combs may result in more of a separation between the fiber lengths.

Loading

I load the combs with the cut end as close to the tines as I can. I try not to load more than a third of the height of the tines. Too much wool will make it tougher on my hands and arms. It will also give me an uneven result.

First combing

I comb five passes, starting with the outermost part of the tip ends. If I go further in it will be more work and more waste. I use a circular motion – horizontal for the first pass, vertical for the second and then horizontal again. To save my wrists and shoulders I lock the arm of my stationary comb against the side of my torso.

I start combing at the very tip of the staples.

After the fifth pass I doff the wool off the comb in one continuous length. I pull both left, right and center to make the pulling motion easier on my hand. A lot of very short fibers are still on the comb, but they are too short to spin and I use them for other things.

I pull the fiber off the comb in one continuous length.

Planking and second combing

The resulting length now has most of the long fibers in one end and most of the short fibers in the other, which I don’t want. Therefore I divide the lengths into three to four shorter lengths and put them back onto the comb for a second combing. This is the planking part.

I divide the continuous length into shorter lengths and put them back onto the comb.

I comb another three passes to even out the fibers again. The motions are now very light since nothing is sticking to the combs anymore.

Three more light passes after the first combing.

Dizzing

I pull off the fibers through a diz and make a bird’s nest. Had I owned a pair of single-pitched combs with a combing station I would have used them for this step. Pinching the comb between my thighs isn’t ideal. The position isn’t very good for my back and my legs are far from relaxed.

I use a small dizzing hole since I want to spin a fairly fine yarn. There is still an uneven distribution of the fibers, but much more even than after the first time. The quality is also higher than after the first pass – I see no uneven parts and no nepps in the dizzed roving.

With a roving as well prepared as this the spinning feels very light. With the second combing the preparation takes more time, but I win it back when I spin and use the yarn.

Spinning a fiber as well prepared as this is a pure joy.

Since I combed the wool twice and dizzed the yarn gets very evenly spun and I find a relaxed focus behind the spinning wheel.

A Cookie Monster yarn

The yarn is finished. I 2-plied it and washed it last night and this morning it has dried by the air source heat pump over night.The yarn is very evenly spun and shiny. It is not as soft as I had hoped, but I still think I can wear it next to skin, perhaps as a shawl in some sort of lace pattern. Looking at it I realize that all the short fibers I removed were a part of the softness I imagined when I analyzed the staples. But there is not much I could have done here – had I kept the short fibers in the yarn they would have crept out of it sooner or later and created nepps. Still, I love the result. Considering that there still are different fiber lengths in the yarn it wouldn’t have been this even had I not planked after the first combing.

I made a video of the combing process. This time the video is available for patrons only. You can become a patron here.

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.

Frida Chanel bag

The Frida Chanel field belt bag. Photo by Dan Waltin

A project that I have been working on for a long time is finally finished – the Frida Chanel bag. The bag is woven on a backstrap loom from outercoat yarn spun on a suspended spindle. Frida and Chanel are the two ewes that gave me the wool.

The Frida Chanel bag project has gone slowly but steadily through winter, spring and summer. It has lived through office meetings, sheep festivals and the corona crisis. So many experiences fit in the resulting field belt bag. In this post I walk you through the process from fluff to stuff.

The Frida Chanel bag is comfortable to war across my hip, either to the front or to the back. Photo by Dan Waltin
The Frida Chanel bag is comfortable to war across my hip, either to the front or to the back. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sheep

The wool in the yarn comes from the outercoat from two fleece championships contestants – one Åsen/Härjedal crossbred lamb and one Klövsjö ewe. They are both perfect warp candidates with long, strong and shiny outercoat fibers.

Chanel

I got Chanel on the 2017 Swedish spinning championships. She got a gold medal and rightfully so. It wasn’t for sale, though. The shepherdess didn’t want to part with it. She isn’t a spinner herself, though, and she realized that no spinning mill would do the colour variations justice. I talked to her and she decided to sell it to me.

Chanel's fleece divided into colour piles.
Chanel’s fleece divided into colour piles.

I divided the fleece into colour piles and spun each of the lovely colours separately. After some trial and error I landed in separating undercoat from outercoat and spin the fiber types separately. This way I was able to make both wool and colours justice.

Frida

If found Frida’s fleece at the 2019 Swedish fleece championships. She didn’t win any medals, but she was still so beautiful and I really needed to take her home with me. She has the most incredible shine!

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

The yarns

With Chanel’s outercoat I ended up with five colours of brown, from solid chocolate, through dark and light coffee swirls to a frappuccino.

Five colours of the Åsen/Härjedal lamb Chanel's outer coat.
Five colours of the Åsen/Härjedal lamb Chanel’s outer coat.

I have been spinning Chanel’s combed outercoat tops on a suspended spindle on coffee breaks and meetings at work. Through the soft feeling of the fibers I have been able to filter the coffee break chatter and focus on the content of the office meetings.

I treated Frida’s fleece the same way I had treated Chanel’s – I separated outercoat from undercoat and spun them separately. When I got to spin Frida’s combed top it was already March and the government urged everybody who could to work from home, so I have spun Frida’s outercoat yarn at digital meetings and coffee breaks from my home.

The Klövsjö ewe Frida's outercoat spindle spun into a strong and shiny warp yarn.
The Klövsjö ewe Frida’s outercoat spindle spun into a strong and shiny warp yarn.

I decided to dye the Frida outercoat yarn in two shades of blue. I used the same dye base as the yarn for my weaving bag, but for some reason it turned out green instead. They are still lovely collars and I did get the difference in shade I was after.

Finished yarns from Chanel (brown shades) and Frida (dyed green). Spindle spun and hand wound with love. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Finished yarns from Chanel (brown shades) and Frida (dyed green). Spindle spun and hand wound with love. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Colour play

When all the yarns were finished I had a wonderful weaving yarn treasure to play with. I wanted the stripes to be in different widths and I wanted to pair dark colours with light. In the end I decided on using two gradients – one brown and one green (if you can call two colours a gradient) – going in different directions. I added a section with horizontal stripes in the middle. I messed up with the calculations here, though. The horizontal stripes should have been twice as wide but my head obviously wasn’t with me all the way in the warping.

Being able to build my weave and my loom is such a wonderful feeling of empowerment. I made that pattern from my own yarn. I set up that loom (that is mostly my own carving) to fit my yarns.

A sticky business

Weaving with this. yarn has been a very sticky business. The warp threads have been tremendously clingy and in the beginning I was wondering if I would ever see this weave finished. But the beauty of weaving with your handspun yarns is that it simply has to work out. I need to find ways to make it work. I have invested too much love in this project for it to go down the drain.

To come around the clinging warp threads I tried different sizing methods. My friend Cecilia made herself my guinea pig and tried brushing the warp with gelatine, which worked to some extent for her test warp. I brushed mine with flax seed infusion and later hair spray to make the warp threads stiffer and more protected against the frequent abrasion of a warp-faced weave.

I think the sizing helped to some extent, but the warp was still very sticky. After a while I decided to develop a more mechanical solution – instead of opening up the shed as one movement I declung the warp section by section for each new shed. This way it took me about five minutes to weave two rows and it wasn’t that mindful process that continuous weaving is. But it worked. And once I had accepted the fact that this was the way I was going to weave this project I did find some sort of mindfulness in that too.

In the lime-tree alley

When I worked with the weaving bag and Dan’s camera strap I set up my loom under a spare lime-tree in the lime-tree alley that leads to our house. It is perfectly backstrap loom sized and has a nice view of the park. It has been lovely to weave in this spot and see the spring unfold into summer. My weaves have grown with the grass and the leaves. These past few weeks with this weave the grass has been waist-high and the branches heavy with fully developed leaves.

The last part of June was really hot – around 30 degrees Celsius. My crankiness limit is at 25 degrees so it was way too hot for me. But standing under that lime-tree weaving was such a perfect activity in the heat. I got the shade I needed and some wind. And when the sun broke through the leves I could just move a few steps around the tree to get into the shadow again.

Come to think of it, the colours of the weave reflects the colours of the lime-tree. The browns are the trunk, the dark green the leaves and the light green the sweet flowers. This weave was meant to be woven together with a lime-tree!

A field belt

Sometimes I obsess about things. One of my latest obsessions is the sewing patterns from Merchant & Mills. They have lovely clothes patterns and some bags. I was particularly attached to the Field belt bag. I had finally decided to buy the kit and put it in my shopping cart when it dawned on me: I wasn’t going to buy the kit – I was going to weave the fabric myself! I’m not sure when in the process I got this idea, but probably around March when I started spinning Frida’s outercoat.

Sewing and assembling

The pattern I used for the Frida Chanel bag is simple. A lined pouch with a folded top. A belt goes through a channel at the back for wearing the belt around your hips.

I had to make some adjustments for my handwoven fabric, but mostly the sewing was quite straightforward. I didn’t use a seam allowance for the side seams. Instead I sewed the selvedges together with a figure-8 stitch. That way I lost no width on the sides. And the figure-8 seam is really pretty.

A simple figure-8 stitch closes the selvedges at the side seam. No extra fabric was wasted here. Photo by Dan Waltin
A simple figure-8 stitch closes the selvedges at the side seam. No extra fabric was wasted here. Photo by Dan Waltin

The rivets were tricky, though. I didn’t want to punch the rivets through the woven fabric. I was afraid the warp threads would sneak their way out of the weave. Again I consulted my friend Cecilia. She suggested reinforcing the weave with wood glue (fancy that!) and put extra leather on each side of the weave for the rivets to hold on to. I did this, and managed to push the rivets between the warp threads so that none of them broke.

The leather belt goes through a channel at the back of the bag. Underneath the leather strap for the closing you can see one of the extra pieces of leather I used to reinforce the holes for the rivets and protect the woven fabric. Photo by Dan Waltin.
The leather belt goes through a channel at the back of the bag. Underneath the leather strap for the closing you can see one of the extra pieces of leather I used to reinforce the holes for the rivets and protect the woven fabric. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Lining

Another obsession this spring has been vintage fabrics. I use them to line things. When you open a bag or a spindle case I think it is only fair that you find a scrumtious and decadent lining, don’t you? I chose a flowery upholstery fabric that gave me that tingling feeling I was looking for. I added a nifty bellows pocket in the lining for easy access to important things.

Every bag needs a scrumptious lining! In this case a vintage upholstery fabric I got from Swedish e-Bay. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Every bag needs a scrumptious lining! In this case a vintage upholstery fabric I got from Swedish e-Bay. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Frida Chanel bag

So, this week I finally finished the bag. I love the freedom of wearing it around my waist and the safe feeling of wool at my hip. When I wear it I have the company of the sweet wool providers Frida and Chanel. The shine of the fabric is luscious.

A working period of five months is over. The bag may be small but it contains two sheep, three seasons, a pandemic, work, pleasure and trees. That is a lot to carry for a small bag. But it was made with love and somehow fits it all.


I just started a six week vacation. I will post, but shorter pieces. There will be a lot of crafting during my vacation that I can write about in the fall!

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!

Spinning at work

I always bring some textile craft to work for coffee breaks and meetings. Usually knitting or nalbinding, but lately I have been spinning at work with a suspended spindle. The people around me have very different approaches to my spinning and I enjoy responding to people’s reactions.

Spinning as a safe space

Spinning is a safe space for me. I can spin in my own bubble and at the same time listen to the conversation around me. I need these safe spaces. If we have a coffee break at work and I’m not up to a conversation I can just spin away and take part when I want to and still get new energy. Spinning helps me take in the conversation and place it in a context without getting exhausted. The process of spinning helps me see the bigger picture and find solutions, much like a conversation or (thought process) can be more efficient during a walk, at least in my experience. The process of walking or spinning helps the mind find new paths and a direction of the topic.

Spinning for perception

During department meetings at work I bring my spindle. It helps me focus and take in the information. The combined auditive, visual and sensitive signals give me a better chance of remembering and understanding what is being said. In case the meeting is boring the spindle helps me stay alert. Recently I attended a mandatory training together with a colleague. She said that she was jealous of me who had something to do while listening to the speaker.

A suspended spindle in motion.
I spin at coffee breaks or, like in the picture, on department meetings. Many of my colleagues are softly gazing at the spindle during the meeting.

If I am worried that someone thinks I’m not interested in the meeting I just make sure they notice that I am alert and understand the topic. My boss has commented that I look so calm and at peace when I spin, and she is right.

The watchers

Some colleagues just watch the spindle – the spindle in motion, the rhythm or my hands drafting the fiber. Most of them don’t say anything, but I know they are watching. I also know that my spinning starts something in their minds. Perhaps they enjoy the calming effect of the spindle or think of a foremother who was skilled in a textile technique. Even though nothing is being said I know there is a connection between us, like a diffuse cloud of thoughts merged together into something more palpable, just like the undefined bundle of fiber merges into the twist of the yarn.

A conversation starter

Not often, but sometimes someone asks about my spinning or comments. Perhaps they ask about the breed or comment on the calming effect the spinning has. It usually turns into a lovely conversation about sustainability, the respect for handmade things or the cost for individuals when we buy a cheap T-shirt. These conversations are important for the understanding of something that we too often take for granted. We depend on people making our clothes in shitty conditions, no pay and lots of chemicals. If I can make people around me aware of the time and effort invested in our textiles I have done something good. Perhaps someone decides not to buy that cheap T-shirt next time or buy a more expensive and durable T-shirt that lasts longer and that has been produced in more fair conditions.

A hand holding a suspended spindle in motion in a hair salon.
A while ago I brought my spindle to the hair dresser’s. It started a conversation of the fibers as the hair dresser thought the wool looked a lot like human hair.

A good thing

Whether the people around me just watch, think, comment or ask question I am certain that the reactions are positive. Spinning brings ancient techniques to people’s mind and make them think of times when today’s comfort wasn’t taken for granted. Textile techniques are things of beauty and I believe people respect the skills, art and love that are the foundation of a handmade textile. I am a firm believer that spinning make the world a better and kinder place.

Yarn break

Recently some colleagues from another department started “Yarn breaks” every Monday and Thursday after lunch. We meet at the coffee station and do yarn stuff. Most of the participants knit or crochet at various levels and I spin. We set a timer at 30 minutes and yarn away. These are lovely little pauses. New yarn breakers joins in every week. The more experienced help the newbies and we are all engaged in each other’s projects. The premiere writ warmers were finished, the blueberry hat was given to a new baby and the ripped sleeve got re-knit.

A basket of yarn and open knitting books. A sign invites people to join the yarn breaks.
“Yarn break at noon Mondays and Thursdays. Everybody welcome. Annika treats you to yarn if you want to try.”

Spinning at work: A project

The wool I have been spinning these last few weeks at work is the outercoat of a multicolour Härjedal/Åsen crossbred that I have been writing about in previous posts. To make out the most of the colours I have divided the fleece into colour piles and spun each colour separately. I ended up with five colours of the outercoat.

I have thoroughly enjoyed spinning this wool. Since I have been processing the wool colour by colour it has never seemed like a mountain of wool to spin. Instead I have had a maximum of six combed tops at a time to spin. This way it has felt doable to spin everything on a suspended spindle.

A basket of wool staples, hand-carded rolags and hand-combed tops.
I prep the wool at home and bring to my spinning breaks at work.

I’m spinning this wool into a true worsted yarn intended as a warp yarn. Since it is outercoat only and combed it is freakishly strong even as singles. My plan for the yarn is to weave a bag of some sort. I intend to spin some shiny Klövsjö outercoat as well and dye it into a warm blue colour that hopefully will team up nicely with the browns.

Four skeins of yarn in shades of brown and a spindle with brown yarn.
Five shades of the Härjedal/Åsen lamb Chanel’s outer coat. Spinning at work pays off!

Do you spin at work?

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!

Trial and error

Last week I published a video where I spin from the cut end of flick carded staples. The reason for this technique was that I wanted to preserve as much as possible of the colours in a multicoloured fleece. I envisioned a sweater with all the colour variations showing. Today I write about why I chose to spin the sweater yarn in a completely different technique. Through trial and error I have learned – once again – that not every spinning technique goes with every textile technique for every fleece.

Error

When I had finished the first two skein of my first colour I started swatching to see how the yarn behaved. The second I started I realized that this was not the yarn for the sweater I had planned. The yarn was way too dense and felt more like rope in the swatch than a cozy yarn.

A skein of variegated brown yarn on a pier.
A beautiful yarn with lovely colours, but far too dense and coarse for the knitted sweater I had had in mind.

I was quite sad about this for a while. After all, I had got a responsibility to make the fleece justice when I bought it from the shepherdess. I put the rest of the fleece back into the sofa bed and picked up another fleece instead.

Trial

So, how would I spin this yarn to make it suitable for knitting and still keep the colour variations within each colour? I realized that there was way more outercoat than I had originally thought, making the first yarn rougher than I had planned. In the past I have spun other yarns with this method, but with a larger propportion of undercoat – in a pair of mittens, half-mitts and sleeves.

With this in mind I played with the idea to remove some of the outercoat. I also realized that I needed to card and spin this yarn woolen to make the yarn as soft as possible.

Soft knitting yarn

I combed the lovely staples with my medium combs and combing station. After two passes I pulled out two handfulls of outercoat and set aside. Then I pulled out the rest of the wool – that was now teased – and carded rolags. I had been afraid that the colour variation would vanish if I changed the preparation method, but the rolags looked lovely with their variegated colour.

A basket of variegated brown rolags.
I managed to keep the colour variation in the hand-carded rolags.

I spun the yarn with low twist and English longdraw, hoping for a soft yarn. Since I had plans for stranded knitting I made the yarn 2-ply. The result was a soft and warm yarn with a lovely variegated colour. There is still some outercoat in the yarn, keeping it together despite the low twist.

A skein of variegated brown yarn on a flat stone surface.
The new yarn is softer and airier than the original skein.

Comparison

The original yarn was too dense and rough and the new yarn is a lot softer and airier. I was afraid that the colour variation would be lost in the new yarn, but it turns out it wasn’t. It is a bit lighter, which is because the outercoat is chocolate brown and I removed a lot of it.

Two skeins of variegated brown yarn on a flat stone surface.
Original yarn to the left and new to the right. The new yarn is considerably softer and airier. The colour variation is less clear but still there.

Strong warp yarn

The outercoat fibers that I had set aside were long and strong – somewhere between 15 and 20 centimeters. I made another two passes in the combing station to really comb the different batches together. To spare myself from the strain of pulling all the fibers off the comb with my hand I used a button to diz through. I rarely use a diz when I comb, but since there was quite a lot of fiber on the combs I decided the diz would be a good idea. It would also ensure an even top to spin from.

Close-up of a hand pulling brown fiber off a wool comb through a button hole.
I’m dizzing the fibers through a button hole straight off the combing station.

I made the loveliest bird’s nests out of my dizzed tops. They look just like giant cinnamon buns, don’t you think?

A basket of hand-combed bird's nests.
Cinnamon bun bird’s nests.

A talented spinner, Kerstin, recently showed me her warp yarn that she had spun on a suspended spindle. With inspiration from Kerstin I decided to spin a warp yarn with a suspended spindle.

A spinning spindle with brown wool yarn. Trees in the background.
Spinning away, outercoat only on a suspended spindle. The second batch of outercoat is a little lighter than the first.

I have brought the spindle to the office during the last couple of weeks and also to the hair dresser’s (who thought I was spinning human hair). Yesterday I finished my first skein of outercoat warp yarn.

A skein of dark brown yarn on a wooden surface.
A spindle-spun outercoat warp yarn is finished!

It is dead strong, I can’t even break the singles! I have finished the first batch and I’m on my second. Hopefully there will be a lovely gradient from the different batches I had sorted the fleece into.

A project for the rejected

I was a little sad for the first yarn I had spun. I didn’t really know what to do with it. It looked sad and lonely and I wanted to give it a project it would shine in. And I found it. I just started an online course in backstrap weaving with Kimerly Hamill. The strong and dense original yarn would be perfect for the first module of the course.

A person weaving a band on a backstrap loom.
My very first backstrap weaving project.

The yarn was very clingy and I was well aware of that when I warped. Kimberly warned about yarn that was clingy, but I needed to feel for myself what worked, what didn’t work and what I could live with. The warp threads do cling together a lot and the weaving hasn’t been carefree and flowing in this project. But it does work and I’m very proud of my first backstrap weaving project.

I do apologize for the ugly plastic heddle string. It came with the loom and I didn’t question it at the time. Someone else did, though. Marie, a weaving teacher inspired me to use my handspun yarn for the heddles, so that’s what I will try for my next module.

The first backstrap project is now finished and I can’t wait for the second module.

A woven band on a wooden terrace floor.
My very first backstrap woven band is finished! 7,5 cm wide, 100 cm long.

Through trial and error I managed to spin a yarn that would fit my original idea. I also spun a promising warp yarn and found use for my dense yarn in a weaving project. Trial and error helped me find solutions and gave me lots of new inspiration and ideas. And as usual, I learned a lot along the way.

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!