Spinning championships 2020

This past weekend the Swedish spinning championships 2020 were decided. Usually I visit the championships, but due to the pandemic it wasn’t a public event this year. For this reason I have no pictures from the championships to show you. The prize ceremony was live streamed, though.

There were two categories in the spinning championships. All contestants got the same wool to work with and we could choose preparation and spinning method and tools ourselves. The categories were

  • a 2-ply embroidery yarn from Swedish Leicester wool
  • the thinnest 10 gram 2-ply yarn from Swedish Jämtland wool.

I registered for both of the categories, but I only submitted my yarn for the embroidery category. More about that below.

Embroidery yarn

Swedish Leicester wool is long, strong and shiny. Swedish Leicester is, just like Swedish Gotland, bred for the pretty skins and has basically outercoat only. The wool we got came from a farm that has received numerous medals in previous championships.

Hand combed and dizzed Swedish Leicester wool spun worsted on a suspended spindle.

The strength of the Swedish Leicester wool is suitable for embroidery yarn since it won’t break or fuzz despite repeated agitation when threaded through the fabric. The shine gives an extra focus on the yarn in the embroidery.

I combed the wool twice with my medium combs with a combing station. First I combed the locks into tops. When I had finished I placed two or three tops together and combed once more. To get the tops even I dizzed them. I spun the yarn worsted on a suspended spindle. To make the yarn stay rounded in the embroidery I chose to spin with quite a high twist. I plied the yarn on a spinning wheel.

And the winner is…

I ended up with the gold medal for my embroidery yarn! I was very happy with the result when I submitted it, and even happier now that I won. The motivation was:

“An even and lovely yarn for the purpose with a nice thickness and well plied, which results in perfect loops for sewing.”

Yay me!

A huge and warm thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who have already congratulated me on my Facebook page and on Instagram. I am very proud of this gold medal, and perhaps a little extra proud that the gold medal went to a spindle spun yarn.

Embroidery yarn plans

The yarn and the medal will come to me in the mail one of these days, together with a diploma. My plan is to A: Wear the medal all day with a silly grin on my face, B: Post a picture for you with my medal and my silly grin and C: Do something with my embroidery yarn. I bought a new to me dyeing system this summer (bengala mud dyes) and I may split the yarn in a few smaller skeins and play with different colours. I am positive that the lustre in the Leicester locks will be spectacular when dyed. And then I will embroider my little heart out!

Thinnest yarn

I was hesitant from the start about the thinnest yarn category. I have done it several times for the Bothwell longest thread competition. It does take a lot of work and strain. This time was no exception and after around 5 grams I decided to withdraw. It took too much work, time and pain and it wasn’t worth it. So I withdrew and published an online course instead.

Jämtland wool has some merino in it and has very fine fibers. I have worked with Jämtland wool before and discovered that it is perfect for spinning from the fold, provided that it is long enough. This is what I did this time too – I opened up the individual staples with a flicker and spun from the fold on a supported spindle.

Spinning Jämtland wool from the fold for the thinnest yarn category of the spinning championships 2020 on my Björn Peck supported spindle.

I spent many evenings spinning this yarn and when I decided to withdraw I was happy I made the decision.

The gold medalist of this category ended up with a super impressive 380 meters in her 10 gram skein (about 200 meters more than the silver medalist)!

Wool is in the air

The fleece and spinning championships are one of the wool highlights of the year for me. This is when I bury my hands in seemingly endless rows of high quality fleece. It is also the time when I meet the loveliest spinners, shepherdesses and other wooly people. There are always friendly people to ask and learn from and I cherish every moment. It is an event where I forget time and space and just savour the smell, the abundance, the subtle natural colours and the sparkles from the fresh lanolin. Wool is in the air on the fleece and spinning championships.

No picture of yummy fleece here.

Shepherdesses

When people ask me how I know from whom to buy fleece this is my answer: I find my shepherdesses at the fleece championships. I see who gets the medals, a handful of shepherdesses get numerous medals for their fleeces and some even get medals in both the fleece championships and the spinning championships. Shepherdesses who know what I want as a spinner and who consider the wool quality when they plan the breeding.

No picture of yummy fleece here either.

Buying fleece

I always buy fleece at the auction that always follows the championships. Every year I have cuddled with the fleeces and talked to shepherdesses all day and come the auction I know which fleeces I plan to take home with me. I talk to the shepherdesses to find out more about the sheep – does it have a name, is the fleece a typical fleece for this breed or cross, what does she think is special about it and so on. I make a bond with these talented women and commit to make the yarn from the sheep they have cared for shine.

None of this happened this year. I got a medal that I am very proud of and I got to see which fleece got which medal. There will even be an online auction of the fleeces. But it still doesn’t come near the real thing and I can’t post juicy pictures of pile upon pile of fleece. Like with most events these days.

If you, like me, miss the real thing you are more than welcome to read the post from last year’s fleece championships (lots of yummy pictures of fleece here!). And I hope I can come to next year’s event.

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.

Know your fleece

This is it! I have pushed the publish button. Drum rolls and fanfares – My new online course Know your fleece has officially launched! Make sure you enroll in tonight’s free webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage to get access to special course offers!

Buy the course here!

Know your fleece

After a lot of hard work and a long launch period it is finally Launch Day. I wanted to make a course in wool knowledge that takes its starting point in the characteristics of the fleece you have in front of you. A breed can have typical breed characteristics, but it is the fleece you have that you will work with and get to know.

In this course you work with a fleece that you have chosen. With the help of inspirational video material and structured assignments you will explore, analyze, empower, plan and experiment with your fleece to get to know it. You work with your fleece, at your skill level, with the tools you have access to and as extensively as you like. I provide inspiration, my experience, my perspective on wool and a structure to work within.

When you have finished the course you will feel more confident in handling raw fleece and planning the process from fleece to textile. You will know how your fleece feels, behaves and how it wants to be spun.

A glimpse of the course curriculum of the new online course Know your fleece.
A glimpse of the course curriculum of the new online course Know your fleece (the image is a screen shot from the course curriculum page).

Five sheep breeds

Through the course you will get to know five Swedish sheep breeds – Gotland sheep, Gute sheep, Klövsjö sheep, Helsinge sheep and Dalapäls sheep. Three of these breeds are presented as webinars that I have streamed during the past couple of years. You may have seen them, but for the course I have edited them and added pictures, keywords and captions. For the two remaining breeds I have made new videos where I present how I prepare, spin and use them.

In one of the sheep breed videos I present Helsinge sheep and look for the main characteristics of the fleece I got.
In one of the sheep breed videos I present Helsinge sheep and look for the main characteristics of the fleece I got (the image is a screen shot of the video).

Championships tour

I will also take you on a tour of the Swedish fleece championships of 2019 together with my spinning friend Anna Lindemark. We go through the fleeces in the championships, category by category, and look at what is unique to the breeds and to the individual fleeces.

A visit to a shepherdess

Another friend of mine is shepherdess and spinner Lena Hansjons. She has a flock of Dalapäls sheep and in one of the inspirational videos of the course I visit her while she shears her sheep and talk about the endangered Dalapäls breed.

Dalapäls sheep are also presented in one of the breed study webinars that is included in the inspirational material.

Know your fleece: Course outline

The course is organized in five themed modules which include the inspirational videos. Each module also presents an assignment you will work on with your fleece and document. When the course is over you will have produced a wool board with samples and swatches to use as a guide for when you process and spin the rest of the fleece.

When you sign up for the course you will get

  • over 5 hours of video material
    • presentations of five Swedish sheep breeds
    • a tour of the Swedish fleece championships
    • a visit to a shepherdess
  • a pdf ebook of the course
  • checklists for each assignment
  • a list of the tools I use
  • useful links to further reading.

The videos (except the visit to the shepherdess) are in English. All the videos are fully captioned in English.

Requirements and material

To take this course you need to be comfortable spinning yarn and you need basic knowledge of wool preparation. When it comes to material you need

  • a washed fleece*
  • tools for wool processing
  • knitting needles
  • notepad
  • time.

*it is up to you if you want to work with washed or unwashed fleece, but I don’t provide washing instructions in the course

This is not a course in spinning or wool preparation, it is about wool knowledge and with your fleece as a case study. You work with your fleece, at your level and with the tools you have. The work and time you invest in exploring your fleece now will bring you closer to the essence of your fleece and to making it shine.

Should I buy the course?

Buying a course is an investment. Many students of my free five-day challenge Fleece through the senses have expressed a feeling of transformation in how they look at fleece after having taken on the challenge. I hope this course will do the same for you if you buy it.

I have tried to describe the course as extensively as possible. To help you decide I have made several things available for you:

  • The course page provides information about the course. You can also see the themes and headers of the lectures in the course.
  • The course promo is available on the course page. In the promo I show you glimpses of the video material and talk about the content, purpose and goal of the course.
  • The introductory video of the course is available as a preview before you buy the course.
The introductory video of the course Know your fleece is available as a free preview.
The introductory video of the course Know your fleece is available as a free preview (the image is a screenshot of the video).

Webinar: The hand spinner’s advantage

(the webinar has already taken place)

Another way to help you decide about buying the course or not is tonight’s webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage. I will stream it live today Saturday, September 19th at 5 pm CET (world clock here). In the webinar I will talk about

  • what a fleece can teach us
  • how we as hand spinners can make the superpowers of a fleece shine
  • a mindful approach to working with fleece.

In the webinar I will also talk about the online course Know your fleece. Towards the end of the webinar I have made special course offers for you that you don’t want to miss. The offers are time-limited.

Two yarns in ten different colours. As a hand spinner I have the advantage to make the most of the fleece I work with
Two yarns in ten different colours. As a hand spinner I have the advantage to make the most of the fleece I work with. I will talk about this in the webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage.

The webinar has already taken place

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.

New online course and webinar

Last week I told you I would have a big announcement this week, and I do: This Saturday, September 19th I will launch my new online course Know your fleece. It is a course in wool knowledge that is presented in five themed modules. The same day I will host a free live webinar where I talk about the handspinner’s advantage. In the webinar will also talk about the online course and give you a special offer.

Preview of the course promo for the online course Know your fleece. Enrollment opens on September 19th.

Close to 300 of you have taken the five-day challenge Fleece through the senses that I launched two weeks ago (the challenge is evergreen and open for enrollment). Last week I wrote about how participants in the challenge have appreciated the mindful approach to wool that is presented in the challenge. In addition to that, a lot of the students who accepted the challenge say they have gained a new way to look at fleece after the challenge.

The hand spinner’s advantage

As hand spinners we have the opportunity to look for the essence of a fleece and make the most of it. We can choose to divide the fleece on the basis of colour, fiber type or staple type or make one yarn quality from the whole fleece. We can investigate and find the superpowers of the fleece and make it shine.

We have an advantage, a privilege and an opportunity to get to know the fleece. By exploring a fleece we can make choices for preparation and spinning that are based on our knowledge and experience as spinners.

To me, this is a happy place. I want to be with my hands and my mind in the fleece and discover its hidden treasures. The joy of finding the soul, the essence of a fleece is what drives me to create this course. To me, working with a fleece gives me as much joy and peace of mind as spinning. It is not just something I go through to get to the spinning part. The degree to which I get to know the fleece determines how well I can portray it in a way that makes it justice. The sheep has given me the fleece and I want to make it shine. This perspective is what I want to share with you.

New online course: Know your fleece

Know your fleece, a new online course. Enrollment opens on September 19th.
Know your fleece, a new online course. Enrollment opens on September 19th.

In the course Know your fleece you will join me on my journey from fleece to yarn with the help of five Swedish sheep breeds –Gotland sheep, Gute sheep, Klövsjö sheep, Helsinge sheep and Dalapäls sheep. I invite you to investigate a fleece of your choice through five assignments. This means a lot of work for you but at the same time lots of opportunities to learn more and get a deeper understanding of working with fleece in general and your fleece in particular. I invite you to explore, investigate and be curious about the fleece you have in front of you. There is no right or wrong in this. Your fleece is unique, just as your skill level and the wool preparation and spinning tools you have available.

The purpose of this course is for you to feel more confident in handling raw fleece and planning the process from fleece to textile. The goal is to produce a wool board to use as a guide for preparing and spinning your chosen fleece.

The course is organized in five themed modules with assignments where you work with your fleece and document your findings. After the course you will be able to use your wool board as a guide when you process the rest of the fleece. The work and time you invest in exploring the fleece now will bring you closer to the essence of your fleece and to making it shine.

Requirements

To take the course you need to feel comfortable in spinning yarn and you need basic knowledge in wool preparation. This is not a spinning course and not a course in wool preparation. It is a course in wool knowledge.

Material

You need:

  • a washed* fleece to work with during the course
  • Tools for wool processing – hand cards, combs, flick cards etc. You don’t need all of the tools and not from the start. Perhaps you can borrow some from a spinning friend or from a nearby guild or buy along the way.
  • Knitting needles
  • An area to work by where you have room for your fleece.
  • Time! Invest time in this course to work with your fleece.

*You can by all means choose to work with an unwashed fleece. However, the course doesn’t cover fleece washing.

What you will get

When you enroll in the course you will get

  • videos with five Swedish sheep breeds
  • a video tour of the Swedish fleece championships
  • a video where I visit a shepherdess
  • five assignments
  • an ebook version of the course
  • downloadable assignment checklists
  • useful links to further reading.

The total playing time of the videos is over 5 hours. The videos are fully captioned in English.

Launch webinar

Two yarn types in ten colours from one single fleece. The hand spinner has the advantage to find the superpowers in a fleece and make it shine. Register for The hand spinner’s advantage – a live webinar about what a fleece can teach us.

(the webinar has already taken place)

The course launches on September 19th, which also happens to be World wide spin in public Day! To celebrate the launch and the special day I will host a live webinar for you! The theme is The hand spinner’s advantage. In the webinar I will talk about

  • what a fleece can teach us
  • how we as hand spinners can make the superpowers of a fleece shine
  • a mindful approach to working with fleece.

I will also talk about the online course Know your fleece. There will be a special course offer in the webinar. The offer is time-limited and you might want to stick around until the end of the webinar to get access to the offer. But regardless of whether you buy the course or not I hope you will enjoy the theme of the webinar!

The webinar streams live on September 19th at 5 pm CET.

The webinar has already taken place

So, to sum up– here are ways to help you decide whether you want to buy the course or not:

I hope to see you on the webinar!

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.

Challenge accepted

Last week I launched a free five-day challenge I call the Fleece through the senses challenge. Every day for five days the students get a text lesson where I reflect over an aspect of working with fleece, some examples and a task to fulfill with their own fleece as a case study. The lesson and the task takes around 15–30 minutes a day to finish. In the challenge I inspire the students to take notes of what they find when doing the tasks.

Challenge accepted

Over 200 people have enrolled in the challenge and I get new students every day. This is mind-blowing in itself – I am so thrilled that so many people are taking this opportunity to spend time with their fleeces. But in this case there was something more going on than an accepted challenge.

Comments

What I wasn’t prepared for was the response in the comments. So many students have shared their thoughts and experiences with the rest of the class. They read and get inspired by each other’s comments and I learn so much about what people are struggling with and what background they have with fleece. The classroom is packed with knowledge and experience!

It seems like students have been inspired by the previous comments to write more than they thought they would. My impression is that many students have taken the tasks seriously and spent time and energy to do the tasks thoroughly and mindfully.

A Swedish Åsen fleece, ready to be explored.
A Swedish Åsen fleece, ready to be explored.

The teacher in the classroom

When I teach in-person classes I love being the teacher. Discovering each student’s learning style and watching them develop and blossom fuels my teacher’s engine. As a course creator, though, I spend a lot of time creating the course, but once I launch it the students are to a large extent alone in the classroom. However, from the comments in this challenge I have been able to take part of the students’ individual journeys through the challenge. I get to be with them as they discover their fleeces and I get to be the teacher in the classroom! So thank you for letting me in!

Confidence to start

Many students in the challenge say that they haven’t felt they have had the confidence to start working with a fleece. This is something I have seen on a larger scale too. Some say that a fleece has felt overwhelming. Others say they have spun from fleece but have seen the pre-spinning part as something they want to skip to get to the spinning part.

I think that this feeling is quite common, especially if you have learned to spin with commercially prepared fiber. But spinning from fleece is a wonderful way to get to know the fiber, regardless of your spinning skill level. When I started spinning eight years ago I didn’t know anything about spinning. I certainly didn’t know a thing like commercially prepared fiber even existed. I got a box of newly shorn wool in my lap, a spindle and a pair of hand cards. Now, getting to know the fleece is to me an integral part of spinning that I love just as much as shaping the fibers into yarn. I can’t have one without the other.

During my spinning career I have made lots of mistakes. But I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t made those mistakes. Doing something that looks good tells me that it looks good. But by making a mistake I can learn why the mistake happened and how I can avoid it in the future. I have said it before and I say it again: Your mistakes are a map of what you have learned.

Sweet Rya lamb's locks waiting to be discovered.
Sweet Rya lamb’s locks waiting to be discovered.

Respect your learning process

It is easy to get frustrated by a perceived lack of knowledge. But there is knowledge! All the students in the challenge are spinners at some level. They know how to spin and how to work with the wool. Working with fleece is an opportunity to get to know the wool from the very start. And when you do take the time to get to know it, it will teach you how it wants to be spun. Or, as a student wrote, “To jump in where you are and begin learning Is the best place to start.  This means right now today”.

Teaching intermediate students means dealing with the frustration many students can express when they think they should know one aspect of a field just because they are experienced in another. But I think it is important to respect your own learning process – you can’t know all about a field from the start. You can build on what you know but you can’t take your knowledge for granted over the whole field.

Read your mind

Many of the students in the challenge have been fascinated by what they read when they take notes of what they discover in their fleeces. This happens to me every time I write a blog post. By making notes of my thoughts I need to articulate them. The thoughts become more clear in writing and when I read what I have written I make more realizations. This seems to have been the case for the students too. They have been very clear in their descriptions of how they experience their fleece and by that they have been able to make conclusions or explore further aspects.

Shades from white to dark grey and staples from crimpy to wavy in one single Värmland fleece.
Shades from white to dark grey and staples from crimpy to wavy in one single Värmland fleece.

Transformation

During the course of the five-day challenge many students seem fascinated by the transformation of the fleece from a mass of locks to something that can actually teach them something. By listening to the wool they discover the potential in the fleece and learn to understand it.

In this there also seems to be something of a personal transformation. A lot of the students say they have a new way of looking at fleece after the challenge. They see the potential of the fleece. Or, rather the potential of a potential that they will discover if they take the time to explore it. This new perspective will have a significant influence on how they look at fleece in the future. Students say they will continue to take the time to listen to and get to know the fleece and let it lead the way.

I hold this transformation particularly close to my heart. The seed to this course is the love of fleece and what it can teach us. If the challenge has helped only one person to this transformation I am over the moon.

Elin the Gestrike fleece is full of potential.
Elin the Gestrike fleece is full of potential.

Confidence to continue

While many students have expressed a lack of confidence to take on a fleece in the first lesson of the challenge, they also say they have a new confidence in the fifth and final lesson. I feel they have gained a new respect for themselves as learning beings. With open minds they show a curiousity about what their fleeces can tell them. They know that every new fleece is a journey of learning that they now are more than happy to make. And that truly warms my woolly heart.

My friend Sara wrote a blog post about her participation in the challenge together with her Gute lamb Elvis. You can read the post here.

Are you tempted to join the challenge? Find a fleece and come to the Fleece through the senses classroom!

This it what you will see when you come to the course page of the five-day challenge Fleece through the senses. This is a screenshot.

Next week I plan to make a big announcement!

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.

Five-day challenge

Listen to the wool. It has a lot to teach us.

Lately I have been working a lot with course creation. I have a number of things in the pipeline, but first up is a free five-day challenge! I call it the Fleece through the senses challenge.

The challenge of a fleece

I love working with fleece. It gives me the opportunity to discover its characteristics layer by layer. From the questions people ask me I get the sense that many spinners are afraid of doing things the wrong way when it comes to working from a raw fleece. My usual answer to questions about how to do this or that is to try, compare and see what happens. Experiment and analyze, let your hands explore and see what information they can get from listening to the wool.

I know that there is so much to learn from really digging deep into a fleece. Every time I meet a new fleece I learn something new that helps me understand how wool works in general and the fleece that I work with in particular. I want to share the joy of working from raw fleece all the way to a spun yarn. At the same time, I realize that the thought of approaching a fleece can seem a bit daunting if you haven’t done it before. To offer some support and structure I have created this five-day challenge where you work with your own fleece (or part of a fleece) as a case study.

Listen to the wool. It has a lot to teach us.
Listen to the wool. It has a lot to teach us.

Fleece through the senses

I call the challenge the Fleece through the senses challenge. I do believe in experiencing a fleece through looking, feeling and especially listening to the wool and all it can tell me if I just let it. This challenge is intended for both spinners who are curious about working with a fleece and spinners who do work with fleece and want to try a new approach.

Five-day challenge

In the challenge you will get five text lessons over five days. Each lessons has a theme where I write about an aspect of working with a fleece through the senses. In each lesson you will also get a task to work with. My recommendation is that you work 15–30 minutes with the task, but nothing stops you from working longer than that of course.

The course page of the Fleece through the senses challenge.
This is what you will see when you get to the course page (this is a screen shot).

Each day of the challenge the lesson will be available at the challenge page at midnight UTC. If you enroll in the challenge after that you will get access to the lesson the next day. 15 hours after the lesson has become available to you you will get an email about it.

You need a fleece or part of a fleece (washed or unwashed) to go through the challenge and around 15–30 minutes a day to work with it. You also need pen and paper to take notes of your findings.

The purpose of the challenge is for you to learn more about the knowledge you can get access to if you give yourself time to discover a fleece with your senses. The goal is to peel the layers of a fleece of your own and write down what you have found. My hope is that after you have finished the challenge you will get a sense of what working with a fleece can be like or, even better, you want to continue approaching fleece the way I have come to love.

Enroll in the five-day challenge 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.

A fleece meditation

“I have a fleece from my young ewe Elin that I think you should have”, said Claudia, a shepherdess of Swedish Gestrike sheep. This happens every now and then. One of the advantages of being known in the spinning world is that shepherdesses trust me with their fleeces and they are curious of what I make of them. In this post I dive deep into the fibers in a fleece meditation.

The ladies and the elements

Claudia and I have met a few times since then but life has happened and the fleece stayed with Claudia. A global crisis came in the way. Eventually and with a little (or a lot) help from a friend Claudia managed to get the fleece to me. Claudia’s friend Kristina – also a spinner – was going to Stockholm where she studies and Claudia asked me if I could meet Kristina outside her school. Of course, I said. The bike ride would do me good.

So, we settled on a Tuesday in the end of April. I imagined a lovely bike ride through town, crisp birch leaves and cherry blossom edging the bike path and the fresh spring air welcoming my face in its midst. As it turned out, it was one of the most dramatic days of spring, weather wise – grinning rain, hail and icy winds had Stockholm in a firm grip, playing with its tousled inhabitants. The birches and the cherry trees were still there of course, but not in the atmosphere I had imagined. Still, a fleece was waiting for me and there wasn’t much I could do.

Embracing the hail as good as I could muster I hopped on the bike and pedaled my way in to town in sheer determination. I met Kristina, chatted for a while and went home with the fleece in the bike bag. An hour and 17 kilometers after I had left home I was back again. A bit cold, a bit wet, but richer in fleece and fresh air.

A raw fleece in dirty black and white.
The raw fleece from the Gestrike ewe Elin forms the beginning of a fleece meditation.

A bath

The fleece of the Gestrike sheep Elin is now in our house, filling the house with the soft smell of sheep and the promise of hours of gentle touch, creative work and new experiences.

Before I put Elin in the washtub I balanced her on the scales. 1,7 kilos, quite a large fleece for a Swedish heritage breed. I assumed some of the weight would wash out with the soaking water.

Soak

I filled the washtub with warm water in the bathroom – it is still a bit too cold to soak wool outdoors. As I gently pressed the sticky fleece down into the tub the water streamed up from underneath, found its path between the fibers, pressing the abruptly awoken dirt out of the staples and into the gushing water, creating reddish brown whirls which slowly shaped echoes of the locks.

A girl should have her privacy in the bath, so I left her in the tub for around fifteen minutes. When I came back I could hardly see her anymore. Gone was the clear water and the brown whirls. All that was left was a luke warm sea the colour of yesterday’s coffee with a few floating islands of wet wool lurking by the surface like frogs waiting for juicy flies. Between the islands were accumulations of soapy foam created by the union of the salty suint and the warm water.

Rinse

I gently squeezed the water out of the heavy water-saturated wool mass and filled the tub with fresh water. I repeated the process three more times, brown whirls fading slightly for each new soak. By the third rinse the water was clear and the wet locks distinctly visible in the tub, black and white staples shining like herrings in a school.

Spin-dry

After another squeeze I moved the shapeless wad into the washing machine to spin-dry it. Fifteen minutes later I opened the drum and was presented a bursting cloud of wool all the way up to the edge. Gone was the pile of sticky staples. Instead I saw before me an airy muchness of creative prospectives, inviting me to explore them.

A clean fleece in black and white.
Elin’s fleece is now clean an a lot lighter.

When I weighed the fleece again I was shocked of the number the pointer stayed at – 1,2 kilos. Gone were 500 grams of lanolin, sweat salts and short bits of fiber. My fleece was freed of half a kilo of gunk that I happily donated to the garden beds as fertilizer. My heart sings of the prospect of a flax harvest invigourated by dirty wool soak.

The fibers

Most of the staples had proud, gently waved outercoat, collected like the straws in a paint brush and air-filled hoopskirt undercoat, ready to embrace anyone who needed their warmth.

Black and white wool staples.
A few members of the Elin dance company.

Outercoat

The fibers are bundled up together to bring protection to the sheep. Some of the strands are long, proud and glistening, aspiring for length to protect the sheep from rain. I close my eyes and imagine the clusters of outercoat almost taking aim at the falling drops, competing about being the team to lead the wet intruder away from the body they have been set to protect.

Separated wool staples.
Dissected staples of Elin’s fleece – a whole staple, outercoat and undercoat.

Undercoat

Other fibers are fine, winding their way through the fiber collective, changing directions unpredictably, forming a billowing multitude of soft warmth to keep the wind and cold at bay. Together with air they fulfill their task with gentle determination.

Kemp

A third kind of fiber can be seen occasionally. Black, brittle and sprawly. This is the kemp, the oddball in the family. The kemp works with the other fibers, keeping the staple upright for additional protection against the elements and allowing more air to enter their fibery togetherness.

A microscope picture of wool fibers.
Strong and straight outercoat, fine and winding undercoat and coarse and brittle kemp, all working together to create the best conditions possible for the sheep.

The fibers look and work differently, yet in cooperation to protect the sheep they once grew on.

A fleece meditation: If I were a sheep

If I think of myself as the sheep the fibers are assigned to protect, how would I arrange them to do the same for me? How would I take advantage of their respective characteristics to create a garment that is for me what the fleece was to the sheep?

A staple of wool.
A fleece meditation.

Look at this picture for a moment. Long and strong outercoat, soft and warm undercoat. That means something. These fibers can be prepared, spun and arranged to their advantage and to give me the best protection. Soft, winding undercoat carefully carded into a pillowy rolag, kemp occasionally peaking out. Long and strong outercoat combed parallel into a bird’s nest.

A combed top and a rolag.
The beginning of the journey to a new textile. Outercoat and undercoat separated and processed.

When I close my eyes and feel a staple of Elin’s carefully selected wool in my hands I sense the different characteristics of the fibers. I envision a woven textile. In my mind I see the strong outercoat fibers as warp and the soft undercoat as weft.

Two shuttles with yarn. One light and airy, one dark and sleek.
Warp and weft. Separated but still together.

A dream of twill

I see twill. Fine singles, winding their way across the fabric. On one side the outercoat dominates – three over, one under – protecting me from the falling rain. The other side soft from the undercoat, keeping me warm and safe, kemp making sure there is room for air. Perhaps the fabric is slightly fulled to protect me even further. The two sides have different superpowers and different colours.

A woven twill sample.
A baby swatch, full of possibilities, waiting to grow into a mature fabric.

Claudia tells me that one of her ewes has a lot less outercoat than the rest of the flock. This sheep prefers to stay protected under a spruce when it rains while the downpour doesn’t bother her sisters. I want to be able to stand in the rain like the sheep, protected from the elements by an ingenious design that has worked for millennia.

A white wool staple with tips pointing in different directions.
The processing of Elin’s fleece could go in many different directions.

Eventhough the fibers in my textile would be disassembled and put together again in just one of many fashions, they would still work together. Their novel composition for a two-legged creature would still serve the same purpose: To keep me protected.

Meanwhile, Elin is generously growing a new fleece that shields her and that can be harvested again.

Stay safe and happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Spinning from the cut end

In this video I show you how I spin a multicoloured fleece from the cut end of flicked staples to preserve as much as possible of the colour variation. In a previous post you can read about how I divided the fleece into four piles of different colour combinations. I shot the video in late July when we rented a log cabin at a sheep farm in Tiveden in Sweden.

Preserving colours

The wool comes from a Swedish Åsen/Härjedal cross that won a bronze medal at the 2018 Swedish fleece championships. The name of the sheep is Chanel. This fleece is multicoloured over the fleece and over each staple. Shades of chocolate brown, silver, honey and natural white are scattered over the fleece. If I blended it all together it would result in a homogenous oatmeal colour. I wanted to preserve as much as possible of the colour variations. In this first yarn I have picked one of the colourways to play with.

A person holding locks of wool. The quite straight staples are rose grey at the cut end and cocolatey brown in the tip end. The tips end with a curl.
Lovely locks almost too pretty to spin. But I take on the challenge!

Since I had already sorted the wool in four piles of different colour variations I would get four different types of colour variegation. My vision was to design and knit a sweater that would celebrate these colour variations.

I decided to flick card and spin each staple separately from the cut end. That way I would be able to show as much as possible of the colour variation over the staple. The colour variation over the staple comes from different colours in undercoat and outercoat. In this colour variation the outer coat fibers are chocolatey brown and the undercoat silver white. In others the outercoat fibers are darker still or more honey coloured and the undercoat white or grey.

Close-up of a hand holding fiber. Fine and light undercoat and long and shiny outercoat. The undercoat is silver white and the outercoat chocolatey brown.
Dividing the staple in outercoat and undercoat gives you a chance to examine the properties of each fiber type.

The outercoat is really shiny and strong while the undercoat is very fine and almost silky. Without access to measuring the fibers I can tell that there is quite a big difference in diameter between the two fiber types.

Flick carding

To protect my clothes from the flick card I place a leather patch underneath the staple. I hold the cut end in a steady grip and card the tip end. If you card a lot of staples this way it might be a good idea to keep the card stationary and pull the staple towards you. It will be easier on your arms to pull the staple towards you than to move the card hand outwards. This is the same as the principle of pushing and pulling for spindle spinning.

Close-up of a person carding a wool staple. A leather patch is underneath the wool. One hand is holding the staple at the far cut end while the other hand is holding the card that is carding the tip end.
When I card the tip end I keep a steady grip on the cut end.

When the tip end is all carded I flick the staple and hold it in the tip end. You need to hold the staple closer to the middle here, otherwise the shorter undercoat will end up in the flick card. When the staple is carded I start spinning.

Close-up of a person carding a wool staple. A leather patch is underneath the wool. One hand is holding the staple at the middle  while the other hand is holding the card that is carding the cut end.
For carding the cut end I need to grip the staple closer to the cut end to avoid catching all the undercoat in the card.

From the cut end

To catch both the long outercoat and the shorter undercoat I spin from the cut end of my flicked staples. For each draft I make sure I catch both fiber types with my spinning hand.

Fibers that have been flick carded like this are still quite dense and may be a challenge to draft. It is easy to pinch rather than guide with the spinning hand. To ease the strain on the hand I allow the fibers to draft more easily by opening up the twist. I do so by rolling my spinning hand thumb against the twist.

Close-up of a person spinning yarn. You only see the hands holding the fiber.
I roll my spinning hand thumb against the twist to open up the twist and allow for an easier draft.

If necessary I also twist my fiber hand against the twist. This too helps opening up the twist for an easier draft. As I said, the fibers are dense in this kind of preparation. They are also a bit clingy and you need to work and focus to achieve a smooth and even yarn. Since there are lots of elements in this spinning technique I spin with quite a low ratio.

Plying

I wanted to 3-ply this yarn. My problem was that my lazy Kate only accommodated two bobbins. Furthermore, I only had three bobbins. I needed to find my inner McGyver and make the 3-ply yarn happen.

The bobbin was my smallest problem. Remember this is a sheep farm. Naturally the owner has a spinning wheel. I borrowed a bobbin from her wheel, which is an antique. With a very small bobbin compared to my modern ones.

A Mikado lazy Kate

I made a station for my third bobbin with the help of a barbecue stick and two giant outdoor Mikado sticks (you play it with your feet, by the way). I jammed the barbecue stick into the ground outside the cabin and placed the Mikado sticks underneath the third bobbin to lift it off the grass.

Two bobbins on a lazy Kate on a lawn. A third bobbin on the grass next to the others. The third bobbin is secured in the ground with a barbecue stick and the bobbin is resting on two larger wooden sticks. An antique bobbin below the three bobbins. Yarn goes from the three bobbins to the antique bobbin.
A station for a third bobbin next to a lazy Kate that only accommodates two bobbins. All you need is a lawn, a barbecue stick and two giant Mikado sticks!

With this avant garde lazy Kate solution I could transfer my three singles to the antique bobbin.

Carrots to the rescue

I just about managed to fit the 20+20+20 grams of singles onto the antique bobbin. Now I needed a lazy Kate for the antique bobbin – the hole was too small for my Kate. Since the rain was pouring down this was not the time for a barbecue and Mikado stick Kate on the lawn. I needed to solve this problem indoors.

The logs of the cabin are just the way logs are – full of cracks. I jammed another barbecue stick into one of the cracks and slid the antique bobbin onto it.

A spinning wheel plying. In the background an antique bobbin secured on a log cabin wall with a barbecue stick and a carrot as a stop at the end.
Plying with an antique bobbin, a barbecue stick, a carrot and a log cabin. Easy peasy.

Then I realized that the bobbin would slide off the barbecue stick if it didn’t have some sort of stop. I found one in the fridge – I decorated the end of the stick with a potato-like carrot.

Close-up of an antique bobbin on a barbecue stick jammed into a log cabin wall. The bobbin is stopped at the end of a roundish carrot.
Barbecue stick-carrot-log cabin wall plying mechanics.

My idea worked like a charm and I could ply my yarn to the sound of the pouring rain! You can see a short video demonstration of the plying process on my Facebook and Instagram pages.

I was really happy with my ad-hoc solutions. And the yarn. It got the colour variations I was looking for.

A 3-ply skein of yarn in variegated browns and greys.
A 3-ply yarn spun from the cut end of flicked staples, 53 grams, 68 meters.

Location

Lake Unden is just one kilometer from the cabin and we often take evening walks to the lake when we are there. I decided that the pier would be the perfect location for a video with my traveling wheel. So I took the spinning wheel in its bag over one shoulder, tripod over the other and foldable stool, well I took that too. One kilometer proved to be quite far with large and bulky bags. But what wouldn’t you do for the sake of art?

A woman sitting on a pier by a lake. A spinning wheel in front of her. She is wearing a knitted sweater with spinning wheels.
Enjoying the silence by the lake.

It was a lovely evening with only the sound of the lake and the sea gulls. The wooden boards of the pier were warm under my feet and the lake so soothing. I didn’t want to leave. But eventually I did. And we’re coming back this summer!

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!

Värmland wool

Staples of wool

One of my favourite breeds to spin is Värmland wool – a versatile and lightweight wool in many colours. This is the fourth part of my breed study of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective. Previous posts have been about Gotland wool, Gute wool and Dalapäls wool.

Next Saturday, December 14th at 5 pm CET I will host a free live breed study webinar on Värmland wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

Register for the webinar here!

About Värmland sheep

Värmland sheep is a Swedish conservation breed. Many of the Swedish domestic breeds were extinguished in the 18th and 19th centuries due to import of foreign breeds that were more meaty and had other wool qualities. When the domestic breeds were rediscovered around 30 years ago, Värmland sheep (or forest sheep) was the first breed to be rediscovered. They all came from the same flock in the county of Värmland, close to the Norwegian border. Due to an extensive conservation effort the 100 rediscovered sheep are now around 4000. In 2018 there were 1544 breeding Värmland ewes in 170 flocks in Sweden, making Värmland sheep our largest conservation breed regarding both individuals and flocks.

A conservation breed means that the breed is protected. If the sheep farmer has a gene bank they are also committed to preserving the breed. This means that they are not allowed to cross the breed with other breeds. They also commit to strive for genetic diversity – breeding for specific characteristics (like wool or hornedness) is not allowed.

Värmland sheep are quite small – a ewe weighs around 40–60 kg. They are good at keeping the landscape open and eat both shrubberies, flowers and herbs.

Wool characteristics

Staples of wool
Staples of Värmland wool from the left: Two white staples from the same lamb of more of a traditional line. Silky and soft. The brown in the middle is open and airy and just a little coarser. The white silver grey with the honey-dipped tips is divinely silky. To the far right a brown staple with long outercoat and also lots of soft undercoat. All but the middle are from lambs.

Värmland wool is very versatile. A lot of different wool types can occur in one individual, from long dual coated staples to both predominantly outercoat or predominantly undercoat. The fiber is quite fine and sometimes even silky. The staples can be crimpy, wavy or straight. Colours vary between white, grey, brown, beige and black. The staples are usually open and very easy to spin.

Three piles of wool: Brown, grey and white.
Three different Värmland fleeces on the Swedish fleece championships of 2019

There are two main lines of Värmland sheep – the traditional line and the modern line.

Traditional Värmland

A white fleece with wavy staples
A yummy white Värmland fleece with many possibilities. This is more of a traditional Värmland fleece.

The traditional line of Värmland sheep has a lot of undercoat and a few strands of outercoat. The staples are triangular in their shape and the staples are open and airy. These are lovely to spin and make a soft, silky and strong yarn.

Modern Värmland

A lock of Värmland wool
A prize winning Värmland lamb fleece of the modern line – lots of undercoat, long outercoat and some kemp.

When the Värmland sheep was rediscovered some of them were crossed with Old Norwegian spæl rams and possibly also Swedish Rya sheep. This gave the breed more outercoat and in some cases also more kemp.

Versatile and lightweight wool of many colours

If I were to pick out three main characteristics of Värmland wool it would be versatility, lightweight and the large spectrum of colours:

  • Since the staples come in many different forms the Värmland wool is very versatile. I can use different preparation methods and spin a wide variety of yarns from silky soft lace yarn to robust sock yarn and even rug yarn.
  • In my experience Värmland wool is very lightweight. When you look at the staples you see a broad base with lots of air. This also makes Värmland wool very easy to spin.
  • The array of colours make me want to spin them all. The shades of grey are just beautiful and the browns, beige, whites and blacks make the colour possibilities endless.

Preparing and spinning

With a big variety of staple and fiber types I can process and spin Värmland wool in many different ways – fiber types separated, together and with different tools and spinning techniques.

Prepared fiber in a mushroom tray. Above and below: Outer coat hand-combed bird's nests. Middle: Under coat hand-carded rolags.
All the fiber prep in a mushroom tray. Above and below: Outer coat hand-combed bird’s nests. Middle: Under coat hand-carded rolags.

Combing

Longer staples of Värmland wool are lovely to comb, either with both fiber types together or by separating undercoat from outercoat. I would spin a combed top with short draw into a strong and shiny yarn.

A skein of white, brown and grey yarn.
This yarn is spun with short draw from hand-combed top where I have used the outercoat only.

Carding

A Värmland wool with lots of undercoat is lovely to card and spin with long draw. The skein above is spun with the long outercoat only. I carded the separated undercoat and spun with a long draw on a Navajo spindle into a lightweight and airy singles yarn (see image below).

A skein of singles yarn.
A light and airy singles yarn, spun with long draw from hand-carded rolags on a Navajo spindle.

In another fleece I had different staple types. I separated the fleece into two piles – one for long and wavy staples and another for the shorter and crimpier staples. I carded the latter – outercoat and undercoat together – and spun with a medieval spindle and distaff into a very airy and light yarn.

Crimpy staples of a Värmland fleece spun into a light and airy 2-ply yarn on a mediaval spindle and distaff.

Flick carding

The other pile of the grey fleece was in a lovely colour of light silvery grey in the cut end and honey-dipped tips. To save as much of the colour variation as possible I flick carded the staples and spun them individually from the cut end.

A ball of yarn in shades of grey.
Värmland wool spun from the cut end of flicked locks to preserve the natural colour variation over the length of the staple.

Use

Since the variation in fiber and staple type Värmland wool can be spun and used in a wide variety of textiles. My first Värmland fleece has become two pairs of twined/two-end knitted mittens – one whole and one half-mitt.

A grey mitten with a venus symbol
A venus symbol. The perfect mitten chart. Värmland wool in spun from the cut end of flicked staples. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The yarn used in the whole mitts was spun on a supported spindle from the cut-end of flicked locks. You can read more about these mittens here.

The half-mitts are available as a pattern from the Spin-off Fall 2019 issue. The mitts will also be part of a mitt-along! I spun the yarn for these on a spinning wheel, from flick-carded staples. You can also read about how I rescued this yarn from disaster here.

Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.
Finished Heartwarming mitts knit with mended handspun Värmland yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin

At the moment I am using a sturdier dark brown Värmland yarn as weft in a weaving project.

Rpws of blue Gordian knots in a brown weave
One row of knots and three regular shuttlings. Warp in Shetland wool, weft in Värmland wool and knots in Swedish Leicester wool.

Värmland is also very well suited for fulling. I can also see lace knitting, socks and outerwear in Värmland yarn.

Live webinar!

This Saturday, December 14th at 5 pm CET (world clock here) I will host a live breed study webinar about Värmland 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 Värmland wool. I will use Värmland wool during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I process the wool.

Even if you think you will never come across Värmland wool this is still an opportunity to learn more about wool in general. The breed study 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 dome 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’m sorry Australia and New Zealand, I know it is in the middle of the night for you). I will send the replay link to everyone who registers for the webinar.

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!

Swedish fleece championships 2019

Last week I wrote about the Swedish spinning championships 2019. In this blog post I will take you with me to the Swedish fleece championships.

Fleece highlight of the year

The Swedish fleece championships is one of my favourite events of the year. This is when I meet talented shepherdesses who know what spinners want. It is also the time when I buy my best fleeces. I take notes of the winners and put them in my list of shepherdesses to contact when I need a specific breed or quality.

A long table full of wool.
Over 50 fleeces competed in the 2019 fleece championships!

Eight categories

There were 54 competing fleeces, which, as I understand it, was a record. The fleeces are sorted into categories depending on the breeds that are competing. This year there were eight categories:

Gotland

Heaps of silvery grey and wavy fleeces
Some of the silvery Gotland fleeces in the championships. The leftmost got a bronze medal.

Seven fleeces competed from the most common breed in Sweden, the Gotland sheep. Strong, silky and drapey are words that I think best describe this breed. Not a next to skin material, but prefect for socks and sturdier garments.

Rya

Fleeces with white wool at the bottom and colored at the tips.
Spectacular Rya fleeces with unusual color changes in the staples. The rightmost got a silver medal.

Six stunning fleeces competed in this category and I could have eaten all of them. From pitch black, through caramel ripple to beaming white. Rya wool can be described as long, strong and shiny with strong outercoat and soft undercoat and very little crimp. The fleece has traditionally been used in Rya rugs. It works wonderfully as a sock yarn or for embroidery.

Swedish Finewool

Heaps of white wool. The staples are short with lots of crimp.
Sweet Swedish fine wool locks with lots of crimp. The middle fleece got a gold medal.

My first fleece was a finewool fleece and since then it has been the wool I feel most familiar with. Soft, crimpy and and warm are words that come to mind. A very good candidate for next to skin garments such as mittens, sweaters and shawls. This is my go-to wool for woolen spun yarn from hand-carded rolags. Six fleeces competed in this category.

Swedish Leicester

Heaps of white wool with long, curly and shiny staples.
Swedish Leicester. Long, curly and shiny.

The Swedish Leicester come from Leicester longwool sheep that were brought to Sweden in the 16th to 18th centuries. Just like Gotland wool the fibers are long, strong and drapey. The two breeds have been co-bred in Sweden to make pretty skins. Not next to skin material, but it makes an excellent warp or as a strong component in a blend with something softer. Seven fleeces competed in this category.

Värmland

Heaps of brown, grey and white wool.
The Värmlands. So many variations in colour and character. The white fleece to the right got a bronze medal.

Six fleeces competed in our biggest conservation breed, the Värmland sheep. They were all lovely and represented the colour variation very well. The fleece is a dual cote with lots of fine undercoat and long outercoat. The breed is quite versatile and you can get anything from strong and rustic warp yarn to silky soft locks I have made mittens and half-mitts from a Värmland fleece and medalist in the fleece championships of 2017.

Crossbred Jämtland

Heaps of wool with a very fine crimp.
Crimp, anyone? There were lots of Jämtland fleeces in the championships.

Jämtland sheep are our newest breed. Officially it has been a breed for less than ten years. It is a crossbred between a meet crossbred Svea sheep and merino. Seven fleeces competed in this category.

General domestic breeds

Fleeces of different colors
Two Helsinge fleeces competing in the general domestic breeds category. The darkest one got a bronze medal.

This was a category for domestic breeds that were to few to make their own category. Nine domestic breeds and domestic breed crosses competed – Helsinge, Klövsjö, Jämtland/Härjedal/Åsen, Gotland/finewool, Gotland/Rya and Gotland/finewool/Rya.

Crossbreds

Fleeces of different colours
General crossbreds. From the left: Finewool/Dorset, Finewool/Leicester and Gotland/Texel. The dark to the left got a silver medal and the white to the right got a gold medal.

Six exciting crossbreds competed in this category – Finewool/Leicester, East Frisean, Finewool/Dorset, Finewool/Leicester, Gotland/Texel and Jämtland/Leicester.

Championship harvest

I had a allowed myself to buy three fleeces from the auction of the competing fleeces following the prize ceremony. That is about the amount of wool I can manage to bring home on the train. I also wanted to buy some smaller quantities of wool for, say, upcoming breed study webinars.

Long and silky Rya

A fleece with long and shiny locks with almost no crimp
Long and silky Rya lamb’s locks. The fleece got a gold medal in the fleece championships.

On this year’s wool journey I experimented with making a sock yarn blend with Rya and mohair. On the championship auction I managed to get the gold medalist – a shiny white lamb’s fleece from the Shepherdess Kari Lewin. She won an obscene amount of medals for her fleeces of several breeds – Swedish Leicester, Rya, Gotland and Swedish finull.

Versatile Värmland

A white fleece with wavy staples
A yummy white Värmland fleece with many possibilities.

The second fleece I bought was also a medalist – a bronze winning white Värmland lamb’s fleece. It was unusually shiny and with lots of variations in fiber length and fiber type. I have spun some Värmland of very different character and colour and this was my first white Värmland fleece.

Shiny Klövsjö

A white fleece with long and shiny staples.
The most shiny fleece was a Klövsjö fleece. No medal, but it wanted to come home with me.

The last fleece I bought was not a medalist, but still such a beauty. It was a shiny white Klövsjö fleece with long and Rya-like locks. Klövsjö sheep is another conservation breed. I wasn’t alone in having fallen in love with this fleece. I bid against another spinner (and, as it turned out, a follower) for a while until I won. Then I offered her to share it with me and she happily accepted my offer.

Miscellaneous yum

There was also a raw fleece market where shepherdesses sold their fleece. There wasn’t very much space and therefore not many vendors. Still, I got what I wanted.

First of all, I got some mohair for my sock yarn project (see Rya paragraph above). I haven’t really worked with mohair before so this will be exciting.

Shiny locks of mohair.
Mohair for my socks!

Next up was a small bag of Swedish finewool. This is my favourite breed and the one I started out with eight years ago, but since I don’t have a project planned at the moment I didn’t get a whole fleece. Instead I will use the wool for teaching purposes.

A fleece with short and crimpy staples
I always come back to Swedish finewool.

Another smaller batch for teaching purposes was some Jämtland wool. My favourite Jämtland wool supplier covers her sheep and shears them once a year, so her fleeces are remarkably clean and has very long staples.

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

I’m always keeping my eyes open for conservation breeds, and I found one that I hadn’t planned to buy. I stumbled upon a stall full of Åsen wool as if it was meant to be.

A heap of white wool.
Åsen wool, another conservation breed.

Going back home

We had a couple of days to ourselves and then we had to go back home. I had bought seven batches of wool (two whole fleeces and five smaller batches). I had also received a bag of Norwegian pelssau from a friend, so there was a lot of wool to take home.

Seven bags of wool.
There is always room for more wool!

Luckily I had brought vacuum bags for the transport. I could press my eight bags of wool into three practical bags and fit them in our luggage and get home on the train.

Wool in vacuum bags.
Always come prepared for the fleece market! My 4 kg of fleece fit nicely into three vacuum bags.

If you are looking for me in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be washing fleece.

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!

A multicoloured fleece

A multicoloured fleece, ranging from white to dark brown.

At the 2018 Swedish fleece championships I bought a bronze medal winning multicoloured fleece. The shepherdess didn’t really want to part with it, but she also knew that no spinning mill would be able to show the beautiful colours as a hand spinner would. In the end she was kind enough to sell me the fleece and now I have the honour and responsibility of making something beautiful of her baby.

A multicoloured fleece, ranging from white to dark brown.
A yummy multicoloured fleece.

Meet Chanel, a multicoloured sheep

The sheep’s name is Chanel (how’s that for a superstar!). She is a 75 % Härjedal and 25 % Åsen sheep. This is her lamb’s fleece. Chanel lives with her flock and shepherdess Birgitta Lindh Andersson.

A sheep with a multicoloured fleece
A multicoloured sheep, Härjedal/Åsen mixbreed Chanel as a lamb. Photo by Birgitta Lindh Andersson.

The fleece has soft undercoat and long, strong outercoat. Do I have to mention the shine? It has it. A deep and golden shine.

The depth of the colours and variations is spectacular. In the picture above she looks mostly brown, but her main colour is actually some sort of latte swirl with dark brown to light golden tips. The colour varies over the fleece. Since the short undercoat and long outercoat have different colours there is also a colour variation over the staples.

Staples of multicoloured wool, from white to dark brown.
The variation in Chanel’s multicoloured fleece is spectacular.

And look at those sweet lamb’s curls! The corkscrew curled tips are a sure sign that you are dealing with a lamb’s fleece.

Curly tips of wool staples.
Lamb’s curls to die for.

Capturing the colours

While the fleece is truly mesmerizing, trying to capture the colours in a yarn is a challenge. Processing them together would just lead to a porridge-coloured result. Even dividing the staples by colour may give a bland result if you card or comb each colour separately. Not only is the fleece in different colours over the body of the sheep, they are also in different shades over the length of the staple. I can use my superpowers as a hand spinner, though, and create a yarn that no spinning mill would be able to achieve.

Shades of coffee

I decided to try and divide the staples according to colour. It was a challenge, since the colour varied over the staples. But I started to make a rough estimation of the different colour themes and finished with some fine-tuning.

Five piles of wool of different colours.
Finding the different colours in the fleece.

I ended up with five different piles of fluff, that after some consideration turned into four.

  • The chocolate. These staples were basically solid in their chocolatey colour and also the softest pile.
  • The dark coffee swirl. Dark rose grey staples with dark brown tips. This was the biggest pile and will be the main colour yarn.
  • The light coffee swirl. Medium rose grey staples with medium to dark tips. The second biggest pile and very close in colour to the dark coffee swirl. I will need to make a design that separates these variations to make each colour shine.
  • The latte swirl. Light rose grey staples with soft honey tips.
  • The white chocolate. This pile looked a bit sad and lonely, so I decided to let the latte swirl pile adopt it.

I don’t even drink coffee.

Letting the colours shine

So, how can I make the most of the colour variations? If I card or comb the colours separately I still won’t be able to show the variation over the staple. My solution is to flick card each staple separately with a dog comb and spin from the cut end.

Technique

By spinning each staple separately I will get as much colour variation as I can. By spinning from the cut end, undercoat and outercoat will enter the twist at the same time, making the yarn both soft and strong. I spun a fleece with a similar colour variation for a pair of twined knitted mittens a while ago. It resulted in a beautifully variegated yarn. To see the processing and spinning technique, you can have a look at my recent video Catch the light or an oldie but goldie With the sheep in the pasture.

Design plans

I’m thinking of some sort of striped design. There is a risk that the colours blend into each other too much and still create a porridge-coloured result. Therefore I’m considering spinning a light yarn to use as a separator between the coloured stripes to make them all shine. Perhaps with a slipped stitch pattern to subtly play with the colours.

Oh, by the way, if I run out of fluff I can’t get any more. Chanel is still very much alive, but she has changed her mind and become more grey. Still beautiful, though, but different.

The back of a sheep with grey staples with brown tips.
Chanel today. A lot more grey. Photo by Birgitta Lindh Andersson.

I haven’t started spinning Chanel’s fleece yet. After all, a multicoloured fleece like this comes with great responsibility. I want to give this fleece my full attention and make it shine. I am in no hurry. But I will keep you posted on how the yarn turns out!


Tomorrow I will leave for Sätergläntan, a nordic center for craft education. I’m teaching a five-day course in different spindle techniques. I call the course A spindle a day. My next post will hopefully be a review of the course. Until then, you can read about the course in supported spindle spinning I taught at Sätergläntan in October 2018.

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!