It’s done. The knit sleeve jacket I have been working on since I started spinning the sleeve yarn four years ago. This is one of my biggest projects. It includes five different textile techniques, and I am glad to share it with you today. It’s really done.
It started with sweet locks of dalapäls wool and a dream of a knit sleeve jacket. This project has been with me for such a long time and I can’t believe it’s finished.
Creating this knit sleeve jacket has been such a joy. I have had this project in my hands in one way or another on and off since 2019. The sleeves have been with me on many train rides and vacations. Lately also on coffe breaks and meetings at work.
In 2023 I have worked on the sleeves more focused and finished them, and since mid-April I have sewn and embroidered almost every evening. I have felt the soft and safe wool in my hands over and over again.
Sometimes when I craft I watch a series or listen to an audiobook. But for this project, I have mostly just enjoyed being in the materials and in my hands, letting my thoughts come and go like the wool between my hands, the stitches from needle to needle, the thread up and down the cloth and my breath in and out.
This jacket has elements that are traditional in the County of Dalarna. I am not from Dalarna, but I am intrigued by the techniques and the rich textile heritage of the area. The techniques are sometimes used together, but probably not the way I have put them together. So, while to an untrained eye (like mine) the jacket may look like something of a folk costume jacket, it is not. It is just the result of my exploration and celebration of various techniques and designs.
Five textile techniques
So, in this project I have used five textile techniques:
- I spun the yarn on a supported spindle. The wool comes from the longest locks of several dalapäls sheep.
- I two-end knitted the sleeves with my spindle spun yarn
- I bought the broadcloth and hand sewed the bodice with waxed linen thread (commercial). I ebayed the lining and machine sewed it together and hand stitched it onto the broadcloth
- I wove the band with a commercial linen yarn
- I embroidered the greenery with påsöm technique and commercial yarn.
I will walk you through the techniques and my journey with them.
Supported spindle spinning the yarn
I started this project in 2019, spinning the yarn from locks of dalapäls wool on a supported spindle. This has of course taken a lot of time, but I have loved every spinning second. Dalapäls wool is very shiny and has strong outercoat fibers and fine undercoat fibers.
I opened up and lightly teased each staple and spun from the cut ends. This was to make sure I got both undercoat and outercoat fibers evenly in the yarn.
Since I wanted to two-end knit the sleeves I spun the yarn counter-clockwise and plied clockwise. This way the yarn looks its very best for this particular technique.
Two-end knitting the yarn
Tvåändsstickning, or two-end knitting is a technique that has an old history in Sweden, and particularly in Dalarna. The knitter alternates two yarn ends, usually the inner and outer ends from the same ball, and wrap them around each other at the back between the stitches. Tvåändsstickning means two-end knitting. A common translation is twined knitting. This translation came about since someone decided it was more commercially pleasing than two-end knitting. I prefer the latter.
After some adventures with running out of yarn, finding a suitable substitute sheep, frogging and reknitting I finally knit up to the armholes this spring. In April this year Karin Kahnlund, master knitter with two-end knitting as her specialty, helped me calculate how to decrease for the sleeve caps. I knit the caps in the round and cut the steeks when I was happy. All of a sudden I was done! And very happy.
The sleeves weigh approximately 250 grams each, without the embroideries. Here are some resources about spinning and knitting the sleeves:
- I spin the yarn for the sleeves in this video
- I knit the sleeves in this video
- In this blog post you can read more about two-end knitting
- In this blog post you can read about the progress of the sleeves
- You can see the finished sleeves in this blog post.
Hand sewing the bodice
Karin Kahnlund also helped me find a pattern for the bodice, a model called Gertrud. This also happened to be from the County of Dalarna. I had been thinking about having a professional seamstress sew the bodice for me, but Karin cheered me on to do it myself. And I am glad I did, I got to spend some lovely time with high quality broadcloth and waxed linen thread in hand.
The bodice pattern is quite simple. Two back panels and one front panel with two vertical darts on each panel. The front opening is also shaping the garment. I made a tuile out of a sheet first to make sure the fit was right. The bottom hem was originally straight, but I added some shape to it.
Years ago I had an itch for ebayed textiles. In one Ebay raid I found a piece of printed cotton cloth that I immediately knew would serve as the lining for the bodice. However, the piece was too small, so I paired it up with a similar fabric from the same raid. I did machine sew it, but stitched it to the bodice by hand.
A woven band
You know when you get an itch to weave a linen band in candy store colours? Well, I did, and I happened to find colours that would perfectly match the jacket lining, in Kerstin Neumüller’s web shop. Initially I had planned to do something with the band on the lining, but as I saw one version of the bodice pattern with woven bands along the front openings, I knew that was where they should be.
I wove the band on a backstrap loom, using just a bundle of hand carved sticks. Here is a blog post poem I wrote while weaving the band on a train ride back in February.
Påsöm is also a technique that is traditional in Dalarna. Bulky, almost paw print like flowers stitched with 4-ply, airy yarn in scrumptious colours. Who wouldn’t want that on their two-end knitted sleeves? As it turns out, the dense quality of two-end knitted fabric works perfectly for påsöm embroidery. A tradition in Dala-Floda, where the påsöm technique has been mostly used, is to stitch påsöm patterns on two-end knitted mittens. I decided to fill parts of my sleeves with the bombastic flower arrangements, with commercial yarn from Flodaros. I wouldn’t dream of spinning this yarn myself, let alone dye it.
In some older knit sleeve jackets with knit patterns, the shapes are larger the higher up on the sleeves they are placed. I wanted to do something similar with my embroidery. On the right upper arm the top flower is larger than the middle and the bottom one and the arrangement also narrowes downward. On the left underarm the pansies are the same size, but the greenery gets larger towards the elbow.
If you are a patron (or want to become one) you can see some of the påsöm embroidery on the sleeves in the May 2023 video postcard.
Embroidering on two-end knitting
Påsöm embroidery has been traditional on two-end knitted textiles. Because of the technique with the tight knitting, the twisting on the wrong side and the fine needles, the fabric is quite dense and inelastic. In this sense, it behaves more like woven fabric than knitted. I can stitch my embroidery without using an embroidery hoop and without running the risk of the sleeve getting bubbly or the embroidery pulled together.
Still, it’s different than embroidering on broadcloth and it was a delight to get to know the cooperation between the påsöm embroidery and the two-end knitted material.
Wearing the knit sleeve jacket
As I put the jacket on I suddenly wear all those hours of making – spinning, knitting, sewing, weaving and embroidering. I know every nook and cranny of this jacket and I am proud of every corner of it, including the wonky stitches. Perhaps especially the wonky stitches. This jacket has been made with such love, dedication and curiosity.
The other day I picked up a parcel from my friend Christiane of the Berta’s flax project. She had sent me the most beautiful handspun, handwoven 120-ish year old shift that was just perfect to wear underneath the knit sleeve jacket. It was likely worn by an Austrian woman named Josefine.
I had no idea of the finished result when I started spinning the yarn. All I knew was that I wanted to make a knit sleeve jacket. It’s here now and I love it.
The early summer light
There is a spot near our house that turns magic for around fifteen minutes every evening during just a couple of weeks in June. The evening sun shines through the trees onto the light green and fresh grass. The light is truly magic. It’s there for such a short time (provided the sky is clear), yet I giggle at the thought of the limits. I can’t get everything the way I want it. Nature decides, just as it should.
Yesterday I went to the spot for a photo shoot. I was back at the time and the spot where I, three years ago, shot a video of me spinning the yarn for the sleeves, catch the light. I brought my tripod and my daughter to the spot and shot a series of photos and a video with the finished jacket A special feeling indeed. Pop over to my Instagram account to see a reel from the photo session.
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 patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
- Follow me on Instagram. I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
- Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
- In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
- I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.