Longitudinal study

A couple of months ago I started playing with the idea of a longitudinal study of the fleece of one individual sheep through its lifetime. The idea grew on me and I contacted Claudia Dillmann, a shepherdess with a small flock of Swedish Gestrike sheep. This is the first post in a what I hope will be a long row of posts from different perspectives of the fleeces of one sheep.

A width of perspectives

A longitudinal study allows me to look at the changes in an individual sheep’s fleece during its lifetime, over the seasons, in different weather conditions and other environmental factors like pregnancy, food and choices a sheep farmer needs to make. It will give me an opportunity to look in depth at a fleece and how it develops during the sheep’s lifetime. It will also give me a deeper understanding of what factors influence the quality of the fleece and all the work a sheep farmer invests in their flock to keep it healthy.

Fleece subscription

Claudia has a small flock of the Swedish conservation breed Gestrike sheep (yes, there will be a webinar eventually) at her farm about two hours from my house. She is also a board member of the Swedish sheep breeders’ association (Svenska Fåravelsförbundet) and responsible for skin and fleece. She is very knowledgeable about fleece and Swedish sheep breeds.

I asked Claudia if I could “subscribe” to the fleece of one of her sheep. Preferably a lamb to get hold of the first shearing. She loved the idea and a couple of weeks later she presented the sheep Gunvor as my subscription sheep.

About shearing in Sweden

Before I move on with Gunvor’s story I want to cover the shearing a bit. Sheep must be shorn at least once a year according to the law, but most sheep in Sweden are shorn twice a year. A whole year’s fleece may get felted and become very difficult to both shear and process. Usually the sheep are shorn in late fall and early spring. This follows the natural rhythm of the fleece growth and is usually adapted to the lambing periods.

Many sheep farmers have the ram serve the ewes in late fall. It is a good idea to have the sheep shorn before that so the fleece isn’t in the way of the mating. It is also a good idea to shear the sheep a few weeks before they lamb. Shearing a sheep with littluns crying their little hearts out for their mum can be a challenge. And they may not even recognize her afterwards without her coat.

The fall shearing usually has a higher quality than the spring shearing. The sheep have been grazing during the summer and the fleece has grown a lot from the nutrients in the fresh food. During the winter the sheep are usually pregnant. Some of you may know what can happen to your hair during pregnancy when most of the energy goes straight to the fetus. It is the same for sheep. The sheep also produce more lanolin during the winter to keep warm. Hey and straw can easily find their way into the fleece. Still, for the purpose of a longitudinal study I want to experience the difference between fall and spring shearings.

Gunvor the Gestrike sheep

Gunvor was born in May 2020. She is the lamb of Gosprick (“cuddle spots”) which came to Claudia from Vallby open air museum in 2014. Gunvor was Gosprick’s last lamb and Gosprick has now moved on to greener pastures.

Gunvor the Gestrike sheep in April 2021, a few weeks before the second shearing. Photo by Claudia Dillmann.

Gunvor had her first shearing in October 2020. As Gunvor was so young Claudia decided not to let the ram serve her the first year, so the outgrowing second fleece wasn’t affected by pregnancy. Lucky for me, Claudia had saved Gunvor’s first fleece and was a good choice when I asked Claudia for a sheep to subscribe to.

A bike ride through town

A couple of weeks ago Gunvor was freed from her second fleece. Claudia and I live a couple of hours away from each other. I don’t drive and I didn’t want to sit for two hours in public transportation during the pandemic. Instead Claudia sent Gunvor’s first and second fleece with a friend of hers who was going to Stockholm (thank you Kristina!). This week I took the bike through town to collect them. Next time I hope I can get to Claudia’s farm and meet her and Gunvor.

Two bags full! Gunvor's first and second fleeces ride safely home with me.
Two bags full! Gunvor’s first and second longitudinal study fleeces ride safely home with me. The saddle cover was once part of a Gotland sheep that belonged to my husband’s late aunt.

Whenever I ride my bike with the bags full of wool I giggle on the bike path. No one would even think that I had raw fleece in those bike bags. I secretly imagine the fleeces enjoying the rush of the wind through a beautiful Stockholm along the shore of Lake Mälaren.

First and second fleeces: A first look

I haven’t come very far with the fleeces yet, but I did notice a few things as I unpacked them. I soaked both fleeces in warm water and rinsed in three waters. Nothing added, just water and love.

First shearing

The first shearing (Claudia always hires professional shearers for her sheep) was very loose and the staples didn’t hold together. Therefore I don’t know where the staples were shorn off Gunvor’s body. They are black and white, a little more white wool than black. Most of the staples are of rya type – around 50 percent undercoat and 50 percent outercoat, long, quite straight and cone shaped. You can read about the Swedish wool types here. The lamb’s lock ends each staple with a sweet curl.

The fleece feels light and airy. Most of the staples feel like medium in their fineness, but some feel very fine and soft while others are coarser.

The staples are quite long, some around 20 centimeters. I can see some white kemp but not very much. The black fibers feel softer than the white.

Second shearing

When I emptied the bag with the second shearing the staples kept together. I could just about map out the fleece to see what went where. I could define the tight mid back staples, the coarser leg staples and the soft neck curls.

I also noticed a lighter colour. Claudia tells me that many Gestrike lambs are born black or spotted but that the fleece usually turns lighter during their first year or so. The staples are also generally shorter than the first fleece. This seems fully logical since the main growth period is during the summer. The second shearing is a bit coarser than the first, but not significantly. At the same time the staples seem airier, puffier. Perhaps this is a winter thing to keep the sheep warmer.

This fleece also has some vegetable matter in it. Claudia tells me that her sheep can choose to be outdoors or indoors during the winter. That way they don’t stand or lie in straw all the time. Usually they shake off straw, but some of it will of course stay in the fleece. By being outdoors snow and rain will clean the fleeces. The vegetable matter is quite easy to remove and I don’t worry about it. I find some Timothy grass here and there. Even if I know they are a nuisance I still smile. They are a reminder that the fleece in my hands comes from a grazing sheep with all that it brings with it.

Shearing timing

When it comes to the Swedish heritage breeds the spring shearing is best done in February or May. Through the energy from the grass (that starts growing in May in many parts of Sweden) the lanolin production will decrease and the wool will be easier to shear. Gunvor was shorn in April, though. The shearer told Claudia that the sheep took hard work to shear because of the high amount of lanolin and the stubborn staples. Therefore there are more second cuts than the shearer had wished for. The second cuts are easy to remove, though. A lot of them also came out with the soaking water.

If you look at the staple picture from the spring shearing you will notice little yellow spots towards the cut end. That is accumulated lanolin. Claudia tells me that this shearing was unusually greasy and the shearer needed to clean the shears several times during the shearing. It will be interesting to see how much difference this high amount of lanolin will make in preparing and spinning the wool.


These were my first observations of the first and second fleeces of Gunvor. There will be more! My longitudinal study of Gunvor’s fleece has officially started and it will continue during Gunvor’s lifetime. I hope I can go see Gunvor and Claudia soon.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

The wool is my teacher

I can read a thousand books about wool, spinning and sheep breeds, but it is the wool in my hands and in my process that will teach me how it wants to be spun. Today I reflect about how the wool is my teacher.

Don’t get me wrong – I love spinning books and they are a wonderful resource for deeper knowledge about wool, wool preparation and spinning. I also need guidance to understand how to work the tools for wool preparation and spinning. But to really understand the wool I need to dig my hands into it and spend quantity time with the fibers.

Trust my hands

Handling fleece may seem daunting, but there are so many rewards in exploring a new fleece. Every time. Regardless of whether it is my first or my twentieth fleece, I need to trust my hands in the fleece. I need to trust that my hands investigate the wool and learn how the wool behaves.

The wool is my teacher. Through trusting my hands to investigate the wool I will learn how it behaves and wants to be spun.
The wool is my teacher. Through trusting my hands to investigate the wool I will learn how it behaves and wants to be spun.
  • What does the wool look and feel like in the grease? What happens when I pull out a lock? The information I get from the raw fleece is a good start to getting to know the fleece.
  • How is the different after washing? I recently soaked a fleece where the locks were very loosely attached to each other. When I lifted the fleece out of the soak a number of stray staples swirled around in the tub, like memories in Professor Dumbledore’s pensieve.
  • How are the locks built up? Are they dense, puffy, crimpy, oblong, triangular or downy? By investigating this I can get an idea of how the yarn may bloom when finished.
  • What is the outercoat to undercoat ratio? The information about the dominant fiber type will give me a clue to what I can expect regarding characteristics like softness, warmth, shine and strength in the finished yarn.
  • How does the wool draft? Is it slinky, tough, smooth or jerky? By drafting from the cut end of a staple I can get an idea of how spinnable the wool is.

Trust the information you receive in your hands. Store it, analyze it and experiment with what you learn.

The wool is my teacher

My hands ask the wool questions like the ones in the bullet list above. I need to trust the wool to reply to me with the information I need to proceed. If I allow my hands to listen to the wool and to trust the wool they will learn about how the wool behaves and what I can do to make it justice. I need to trust the wool to be my teacher. I need to trust my hands to trust the wool. When I give myself the time to slow down and listen I will learn.

Two yarns in ten shades from one fleece. At first I spun outercoat and undercoat together, but that resulted in string. The wool taught me that I would benefit more from separating the coats.
Two yarns in ten shades from one fleece. At first I spun outercoat and undercoat together, but that resulted in string. The wool taught me that I would benefit more from separating the coats.

In the book Momo by Michael Ende the girl Momo lives in an amphitheater. By simply being with people and listening to them, she can help them find answers to their problems, make up with each other, and think of fun games. The story is about the concept of time and how it is used by humans in modern societies. The Men in Grey, eventually revealed as a species of paranormal parasites stealing the time of humans, spoil this pleasant atmosphere. One of the most important steps Momo takes in winning the stolen time back is to walk backwards. Only then can she get forward. So to come to the end of your yarn, go back to the raw fleece. Get to know it, trust it and let it lead the way.

The wool is my teacher every day. Every time I spin I learn and realize something new. I may call myself a spinning teacher, but I am just as much a spinning student. I am so grateful for this.

A learning process

To me, spending time with the wool in all its stages is the most important part of understanding wool and spinning. You can only learn about the fleece you have by being with the fleece you have. Investigate the wool and experiment. What did you see in the investigation? How is that realized in your experimentation? Analyze your findings. What do you see? What do you think that will imply? How does it realize in experimentation? What do you learn from that? The information and knowledge you get from one fleece will stay with you. With every new fleece you get to know you will have more previous fleeces to lean on. Walk backwards to move forwards.

You are your own best teacher

I trust the wool to guide me. In this guiding I trust my hands to listen to the wool. I allow my hands to ask the wool questions. And I listen to the answer. I trust what I learn from the knowledge of my hands. In this process I allow myself to be my own best teacher.

My students at Sätergläntan craft education center are their own best teachers.
My students at Sätergläntan craft education center are their own best teachers.

Together with books and talented teachers I am also my own best teacher. So are you. Trust the wool. Trust yourself to trust the wool.

Tools

I offer coursers where I guide you in understanding your fleece and making your conclusions. Through investigating, being curious and experimenting I encourage you to getting to know your fleece. Here are some tools that may inspire you to investigate your fleece:

  • Fleece through the senses challenge. Free challenge with one assignment every day for five days. This challenge has become very popular! 550 people have already accepted the challenge. Many students have shared their experiences with their fleeces in the comments. This is a huge asset to the course!
  • Know your fleece. An online course where we go a bit deeper into a fleece. I show lots of examples and inspiring videos and you get lots of tools to investigate and explore your fleece.
  • Spinn ullens bästa garn, a five-day course at Sätergläntan. We bring a fleece and investigate it to get to know how it behaves and how it wants to be spun.
  • You are welcome to contact me for a zoom workshop for your spinning group or guild.
  • I also offer personal coaching sessions.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

55 grams of wool

55 grams of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.

I bought a jar of home made shoe wax from a spinner, made of sheep tallow and beeswax from her own backyard. To optimize the cost of the shipping, she added some extra padding – 55 grams of wool from the young Dalapäls ewe Brisa.

Today I dive deep into words of beauty and excess to dress my sensations of Brisa’s wool in linguistic splendour. Feel free to read this story aloud.

Brisa, born 2019. Dalapäls sheep. Shorn fall 2020. Sorted, unwashed. 55 grams of wool.
Brisa, born 2019. Dalapäls sheep. Shorn fall 2020. Sorted, unwashed. 55 grams of wool.

A small ziplock bag

A small ziplock bag of little importance. Brisa, it’s labeled, 55 grams of wool. Inside it a world of wooly wonder. My hands electric with excitement as I open the transparent treasure chamber. Devoutly I free the locks from their plastic prison. Out they come with a sigh of relief – floof – they huff and they puff and they grow their house out.

An airy cloud of promises emerges from the wool cave. Let me tell you what I see:

  • Long outercoat rays, beaming like the sun.
  • Soft, cushioning undercoat, flowing, billowing, a silky, subtle glow like the moon’s reflection in a lake.
  • Breezy greasy lanolin spots, sparkling stars all over.

Sweet vanilla locks, shining like the sun, the moon and the stars together. A universe of ripples in countless dimensions.

The whole family of staples – long and sleek, short and crimpy and a spectrum between.
The whole family of staples – long and sleek, short and crimpy and a spectrum between.

A smell and a smile

As I lean over for a closer look I stop. I smell. A smile starting at my giddy toes reaches the follicles on the top of my head – Swoosh! A burst of joy. Surely you must have heard it, the sound of delight for the smell of a sheep. Of wool in my lap, of drafting with love, of wearing my handspun and bursting with pride. Through all the steps the scent will prevail. Fainter, yes, paler, but still a reminder of a sheep it once knew.

55 grams of Dalapäls wool
55 grams of Dalapäls wool.

The cast and the crew

The whole family of staples is there. Locks of all shapes and fashions. All important, all sincere, holding hands in their dance through the fleece. Protecting their queen from hot, cold and rain. May I present:

  • The tall, bold cones. Silky and strong, slight poof in their feet.
  • Others, tall too, yet buoyant and plush. Like nervous cartoon legs, twirling a sway.
  • A small group of staples are wavier still, unruly, open and airy.
  • Smallest of all are the crimpies, the curlies, the ever so softies, shy and petite.
Sweet locks of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.
Sweet locks of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.

Cutting edge design for optimal sheep comfort. Sharpened through centuries of nature’s own choice. I wonder where you grew, sweet locks? Keeping the neck warm with short, crimpy curls? Long outercoat tips leading the rain drops away? Which ones grew on the sleepy side? Who protected the belly, lightly touching the grass? The map of the sheep a guide for my tools – shawls, socks and mittens from neck, back and legs.

Translate and transform

What can you do, sweet curls? How can I make you shine through my hands? How can I form a strand that is for me what you were for your sheep? Dare I take on these 55 grams? Will I find the soul of this pearl? I dare, I will, I do! I will make mistakes, surely I will. Bumps will appear in the road. I keep them as treasures to learn and to steer my craft in a novel direction.

I find the cut end of a luscious lock, I draft, I twirl and rejoice. Slowly, gently, the fibers give in, finding their place in the draft. My hands listen closely: When to draft? How to twist? The fibers will tell me if I open my mind and welcome the voice of the wool.

Finding the soul of sweet Brisa's locks.
Finding the soul of sweet Brisa’s locks.

I close my eyes and draft, slowly, mindfully. The lanolin, oh, the lanolin oils the journey from cloud to contour. As I draft I see little grains of nature, wandering forward into the twist, playfully skipping off the ride along the way. I wait for that point of twist engagement, when the fibers slide past each other without coming apart. That very window when nothing is decided and possibilities are endless. In this now freedom is mine. Yet I hear the wool and do its bidding. I spin what the locks want to be.

Once upon a staple

Another curl, another now. Pointy top tip, sweet puffy toes. One end in each hand, gently tugging. Resist, resist, resist… and yield. In a viscous blink the once upon a staple is suddenly divided. In the one hand strong and shiny, in the other soft and airy. The tug of togetherness takes new shapes. One sleek, the other abundant. Each with their own treat of traits. New yarns imagined. Another now is here.

Separating outercoat from undercoat.
Separating outercoat from undercoat.

Locks of love

I look at the locks, once again smiling. The cut ends straight, shorn in a whiff. Closing my eyes I can hear the shears squeaking. One clip, another, another still. Soft hand on breathing sheep back. Comforting, close, still one of the flock. Snip by snip with love for sheep and wool. Allowing a new coat to grow, flow and flourish.

I see a seed, a twig, a piece of moss. A nod from grazing the pasture. A token of love from mother nature herself. Signs of a landscape, a meadow or forest. All part of a story that is sheep. This sheep. Sweet Brisa of Nyland.

I want to say this is Brisa, but it is not, she was unavailable at the time of the photo. It is however one of her pasture colleagues Stumpan, born in 2019 as a bottle lamb.
I want to say this is Brisa, but I can’t. She was full of straw when I asked the shepherdess for a photo. It is however an earlier photo of one of her pasture colleagues Stumpan, born in 2019 as a bottle lamb. See the curlies around her neck? Photo by Carina Jakobsson.

With a sigh of lightness I put the locks back in the ziplock bag. I go for a walk in the evening air. The billowing snow flakes land gently on my newly waxed boots.


Recently I bought a book on writing – Steering the craft, a 21st century guide to sailing the sea of story, by Ursula K. Le Guin. The book consists of 10 themes, each theme with an exercise for the reader. Today’s blog post is my contribution to the theme The sound of your writing and the exercise Being gorgeous – write a text that is meant to be read aloud, using onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects and made-up words, just not rhyme. I hope you got some gorgeous out of this piece.

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.

Klövsjö wool

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

Klövsjö sheep

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

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

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

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

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

Wool characteristics

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

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

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

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

Prepare

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

Separating with combs

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

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

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

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

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

Second combing

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

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

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

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

Carding the undercoat

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

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

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

Spin

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

Outercoat

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

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

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

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

Undercoat

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

Spinning the carded undercoat fibers on a great wheel.

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

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

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

Use

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

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

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Rya wool

Five staples of wool in different colours and textures. Some more wavy and some more sleek and shiny.

There are three wool breeds in Sweden – breeds where wool is an important part of the breed standards. I have covered two of these (finull sheep and Jämtland sheep) in previous posts and today I present the third: Rya sheep. In this seventh part of my breed study of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective I will share my experience with Rya wool. Previous posts have been about Gotland wool, Gute wool, Dalapäls wool, Värmland wool, Jämtland wool and finull wool.

This Saturday, December 12th at 5 pm CET I will host a free live breed study webinar on Swedish rya wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

A background

The word rya refers to three different things – a textile, a wool type and a sheep breed. These are all connected. The word rya is believed to be connected to ragg (coarse hair, compare to raggsocka, a sock with added goat’s hair for extra strength) and related to the English word Rug. The word rya thus refers to a textile with a fur-like side, the pile.

The rya breed as we know it today was bred during the 20th century while the textile has been made since at least the 14th century. To be able to tell you about the rya breed I need to start at the textile.

Rya as a texile

Many of you may have come across rya rugs – woven rugs with looped knots making up a pile. These were very popular to make during the 1970’s. They have a far longer history than that, though, and used mainly for other purposes.

From the oldest sources known today it is evident that the rya has been used in the bed for warmth. Because of its lightness compared to animal skins it has been used as a more lightweight alternative to these. The first mention of a rya is in a regulation from 1420 for bed equipment for nuns in the Vadstena convent: They shall wear a kirtle of white wadmal. In addition to that a rya. And a sheep skin for the winter” (my translation). These regulations may very well have been used already in the 14th century.

Many ryas have been registered in inventories from mansions and castles, the oldest one from 1444. This also speaks for the value of these textiles. Ryas have been used in trading in exchange for important groceries like hop and salt. During the 17th century ryas spread to social clusters outside the nobilities.

Originally the rya was used with the pile side down and the smooth side up. Many of the oldest finds have a plain knot side – perhaps with some decorative elements at the top to fold over – and a more elaborated smooth side. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries many ryas were shifted – the fur side was facing up and was more decorated for a more fancy bed spread.

Searching for the Rya wool type

The earlier ryas had a remarkable shine, whereas the ryas from the time of the industrial revolution had more matte wool with a lower quality. The spinning mills were not adapted to the Scandinavian double coated (short-tailed) land races. Fat-tailed sheep with shorter wool were imported to suit the industry. Thereby the landraces became less common.

During the national romantic era in the late 19th century there was an increased interest in traditional techniques and artifacts. Textile experts were fascinated by the shine in the old ryas, a shine they couldn’t find in contemporary sheep in Sweden. They gathered that there would probably be sheep with this wool type left in Sweden. They searched and found. Dalapäls sheep was one of the breeds that became the starting point of saving the rya wool type.

Five staples of wool in different colours and textures. Some more wavy and some more sleek and shiny.
Staples from five different rya sheep. Second from right from a lamb, the rest from ewes. the three leftmost are whole-year fleeces from the same flock. The two rightmost staples are the most typical rya staple types – long and shiny with almost no crimp.

Economic interests were more important than saving old landraces, though, and focus was again directed towards more undercoat and more meat. Wool was not a part of the breed standards. In 1978 the Rya sheep organization was founded to protect the Swedish landrace the Rya sheep and the wool quality got a prominent position in the breed standard.

So to the wool type rya. Rya as a wool type has long and shiny outercoat and soft undercoat, with almost no crimp. The outercoat to undercoat ratio is between 60/40 and 50/50. Many other sheep breeds in Sweden, especially the heritage breeds, can have rya type wool, partly or over the whole body. The term rya type wool is thus a way to describe the staple type and distribution of undercoat and outercoat within that staple.

Rya sheep

The sheep that had been developed to save the old landrace characteristics with the long, strong and shiny wool was thus called Rya sheep, and had rya type wool to resemble the wool used in the old rya textiles.

A light fawn sheep with long and fluffy wool. One lamb lying in the grass, one nursing.
Rya sheep Beppelina with whole-year fleece, just before she was shorn and the fleece sent to me. Photo by Ann Arvidson

Rya sheep are medium-sized – rams weigh 70–100 kilos and ewes 60–80 kilos. Face and legs are wool free and the wool is uniform over the body of the sheep. The wool can be white, black, brown or grey. Rya sheep are skilled in grazing in rugged terrain. In 2019 there were 570 breeding ewes in 60 flocks in Sweden. According to the breeding goals the wool should be uniform over the body, strong and shiny and no less than 15 cm at 120 days of age and with 0–3 crimps per 5 cm.

Rya wool

As discussed in the paragraphs above, Rya wool was saved and developed to rescue the strong and shiny wool type that had been used in the old rya textiles. Rya wool is thus long, strong and shiny. It also has soft undercoat. Since the breed comes from old landraces there are still rooing tendencies – some individuals shed their fleece in the spring.

The outercoat to undercoat ratio is between 60/40 and 50/50. The outercoat is very strong and shiny and the undercoat soft and also quite shiny. Eventhough rya wool is quite homogenous over the body of the sheep, the dual coat makes the wool very versatile. As a hand spinner you can choose to spin undercoat and outercoat together or separated. If you consider the fineness of lamb’s wool and the strength of wool from ewes you have an even wider spectrum of qualities to play with.

The wool characteristics that I want to focus on when I spin rya wool is the exceptional shine, the amazing strength and the versatility over the fiber types and of wool from both ewes and lambs.

Preparing and spinning

At the moment I have a few rya fleeces in my stash – ewe’s and lamb’s wool in white, grey, brown(s) and black. Some of them are quite traditional rya fleeces with the long, strong and shiny staples. But four of them (one fleece and samples from three other sheep in the same flock) are a bit different. They have some crimp and finer fibers. They have a full year’s growth and have started to shed.

Four piles of fleece in natural colours.
Fleece samples from the rya sheep Alva, Lina, Beppelina and Bertil (ram).

Combing and worsted spinning

This summer I spent many walks together with the outercoat from this quartet and a suspended spindle. I had separated the coats with stationery combs and set the undercoat aside. I combed the outercoat and made bird’s nests.

A spindle and combed wool on a step down to a creek.
The outer coat from the whole-year’s shearing of the rya ewe Beppelina, spun worsted on a suspended spindle.

This whole year’s fiber is longer than any wool I have ever worked with before, around 30 cm. During the summer I generally spin on spindles, but even in the winter I think I would have preferred to spin this length on a suspended spindle. With the spindle I can control the speed and the intake in a way I think would have been difficult on a spinning wheel with fibers this long.

A white and a black ball of shiny yarn.
Combed whole year’s outer coat from the rya ewe Lina and the rya ram Bertil. Spun on a suspended spindle.

These shiny and fiercely strong yarns make excellent warp yarn. One day I will spin singles warp yarn, but I am not there yet. In the mean time I will spin 2-plied warp yarns.

Carding and woolen spun

The undercoat I had set aside from the combing resulted in a lovely knitting yarn. I carded the separated undercoat fibers into rolags and spun with English long draw on a spinning wheel and 2-plied. I am thinking stranded colourwork knitting for this quartet.

Four skeins of yarn in white, light beige, beige and dark brown.
Undercoat woolen spun from hand carded rolags of the rya sheep Alva, Beppelina, Lina and Bertil.

Keeping it all together

On my wool journey of 2019 I experimented with a sock yarn where I mixed 60 per cent rya wool with 40 per cent adult mohair. At the 2019 fleece championships I bought a gold medalist rya fleece and a bag of adult mohair for my sock yarn project. I try to keep a strict queue in my fleece stash and I have just started spinning this yarn. I have blended it with adult mohair and spun it woolen as a cabled yarn.

Perhaps I will play with some dyeing for striped socks. I am not a big sock knitter, but this project might change my opinion on sock knitting.

A rya rya yarn

Another project I have in my mind is a yarn for rya knots in rya yarn. I may not be able to make a whole bed cover, but I could weave something smaller, perhaps a foot rug for the bed. I have woven chair pads with rya knots, but only with stashed handspun and not in rya wool.

A yarn for rya knots is spun in its entirety with both undercoat and outercoat and 2-plied. Some of the findings have a lot of twist – around 11 rounds per centimeter. Saved rya textiles have been both Z-plied and S-plied. I have asked several textile experts about how the wool for the rya textiles in the museum collections were prepared and spun, but there doesn’t seem to be any clear information about this.

Since a textile with rya knots tends to get quite heavy my plan is to card it and spin it woolen. Since I have no plans of making a floor rug out of it there is no need for super strong worsted yarn.

Use

As I wrote earlier rya wool has a wide variety of uses since you can use it together or separated and find different qualities in lamb’s wool and adult wool. I have already shared some ideas of what I want to do with the fleeces I have – socks blended with adult mohair, yarn for rya knots, stranded knitting with undercoat yarn and outercoat warp yarn.

A wooden lucet with some finished cord wrapped around it. An ammonite pendant hanging from the cord.
A lucet cord from Bertil’s outercoat made a lovely pendant cord. Combed and worsted spun on a suspended spindle.

I played with my lucet to make a cord for an ammonite pendant I bought myself a while ago. I made it with the dark brown worsted spun outercoat from Bertil the ram. The cord is very strong and sleek.

Other uses for yarn from rya wool is rugs, tapestries and embroidery. Due to the exceptional shine the wool is very well suited for weaving rugs and is said to get even shinier with wear. Yes, I might spin an embroidery yarn too.

Live webinar!

This This Saturday, December 12th at 5 pm CET I will host a live breed study webinar about Swedish rya wool from a spinner’s perspective. In the webinar I will talk briefly about the breed in Sweden, wool characteristics and how I prepare, spin and use rya wool. I will use rya wool during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I prepare and spin the wool.

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

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

The event has already taken place.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Finding a fleece

A white fleece with fine, crimpy staples.

Many spinners ask me where I find the fleeces I work with. I live just outside the Stockholm city center and there aren’t many flocks around here. Today I will share with you how I found my first fleeces and give you a few tips of what you can do in your pursuit of finding a fleece.

When I first started spinning I took a spinning class twice a month at a city sheep farm. I bought my first fleece on the first spinning lesson. After that I have bought several fleeces from the farm. Visitors can buy fleece in the sheep barn all year round. The head shepherdess basically know all the sheep by smelling it. The fleeces come individually packed in paper bags with the sheep’s name on it. I can reach the farm with the commuter train and investigate the fleece on the hoof.

But finding a fleece isn’t always easy. Many people don’t have sheep close to them and don’t know where to start. Some are also worried that they will get bad fleece. In this post I won’t go into what to look for in a fleece, but with the methods I use I make sure, or as sure as I can, that I find the people who can provide good quality fleece.

The soul behind the fleece

When I look for a fleece I try to stay as close to the source as I can. Preferably on a level of knowing the name of the sheep. I keep a list of shepherdesses and I always look for potential additions to that list. You can see it as sort of a fleece networking.

The key element for me is connecting with sheep owners. Having a connection with a shepherdess gives me an understanding of their work and the day-to-day lives of the sheep. I try to find the soul behind the fleece. Do the shepherdesses represent what I want from a fleece? In the conversation I also get to explain what I look for as a spinner.

The key to a breed

One example is Lena. She is a Gute shepherdess, spinning teacher and weaver and has been a judge at many spinning competitions. I didn’t know much about Gute sheep, but since I know her work I knew that there must be something in the Gute fleece that attracts her as a spinner. I knew that she would be able to get me a Gute fleece of high quality. And I was right, I got a lovely Gute fleece that I have used for many classes to show the diversity of a primitive breed. And through that many of my students have grown fond of the breed too.

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

In the Gute case I didn’t know much about the Gute breed, but I knew about Lena and her knowledge and experience. That was enough for me to try the breed.

Connect with knowledge

Another example is Ann who has a small flock of Rya sheep. She is also one of the founders of a Swedish online spinning forum and very generous with her knowledge and encouragement. She is also a very experienced spinner. Someone posted a picture of Ann’s sheep and I knew I wanted to try the wool from her sheep. I had a few rya fleeces before, but I really wanted to try the fleece from Ann’s sheep since she knew so much about them.

Four piles of fleece in natural colours.
Fleece samples from the rya ewes Alva, Lina and Beppelina and Bertil the ram. I chose Beppelina (bottom left).

Ann sent me very generous samples of fleece from her four sheep and I got to pick the one I preferred, which wasn’t easy – they were all lovely. I had follow-up questions and Ann, with her long experience with fiber animals, could give me very detailed descriptions of her line of the breed and the individual sheep in her flock. She also sent me pictures of the sheep. I picked one and she sent me the rest of that fleece.

Handling the fleece from Ann’s flock has taught me a lot of the diversity within a breed, especially since rya is one of the three Swedish breeds that are bred for the wool.

Fleece feedback: Åsen fleece

My third example here is Ylva. I met her on the Fleece championships of 2019. As far as I know she didn’t have a competing fleece, but she was at the event selling her Åsen fleeces. I talked to her for a bit, asked her about the breed that I didn’t know very much about. I ended up buying one of her fleeces. In the fleece bag was a piece of paper with carefully made notes of the number of the sheep, when she was born, when she was shorn, some of the characteristics of the fleece and the weight.

I spun a lovely skein from the Åsen fleece and sent to Sara Wolf for the book Knit (spin) Sweden. Then I brought the fleece to one of my classes. The first fleece we ran out of was Ylva’s Åsen fleece. All the students loved carding and spinning the Åsen wool. It was open and airy and had just the right combination of fluffy undercoat and strong outercoat to make the draft nice and slow. Of course I told Ylva about this and she was very pleased that we had enjoyed the fleece from her sheep.

Lovely Åsen wool from an experienced shepherdess.
Lovely Åsen wool from an experienced shepherdess.

More Åsen fleece

I met Ylva at another fleece event and bought a very fine Åsen fleece from her, totally different from the first fleece I bought. I hadn’t planned on buying Åsen fleece, but since I knew she was serious about wool quality I was more than happy to buy from her.

The fleece I got had long white locks with black tips. When I got home I discovered that the tips broke in the join between the black tips and the white growth when I tugged the staples lightly. The fibers beneath the breakage was still soft and lovely. Since I had talked to Ylva I knew she was very dedicated and serious about the wool quality of her sheep. I knew this must have been an unlucky exception in her flock. I asked her what she thought was the reason behind the breakage in the tips. She told me that the lamb had been fathered by a new ram that obviously had some bad fleece genes. She was very grateful for my feedback and decided not to use that lamb for further breeding (the ram had already moved on to greener pastures).

Setbacks

I have bought a lot of fleece through the years and I figure I have quite a good sense of what to look for. But I do make mistakes. The good thing about that is that I learn a lot from them. Not so much due to bad quality, but in realizing that this wasn’t for me. Most of the mistakes have actually been pre-processed wool – quite early I learned that I want to get to know the wool from the start, from that dirty, poopy newly shorn fleece. It has also been about a breed that I didn’t really get along with.

Fleece events

A wonderful opportunity for finding a fleece is a fleece event, like a fleece competition, a wool fair or a wool festival. One of the most important fleece shows for me is the Swedish fleece championships. At this event the visitors can look at and fondle all the fleeces that have entered the competition, watch the prize ceremony and take part in the fleece auction afterwards.

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

A lot of the visitors are shepherdesses that either sell their fleeces at the event and/or have one or more fleeces in the competition. I do several things at this kind of event to find fleeces:

  • The first thing I do is to go through the fleeces in the competition. I look at them, fondle them of course and make mental notes of their characteristics and which ones I want to buy.
  • During the competition I keep track of who gets the medals. I have been a visitor to the championships for the past four years (sadly not this year when it was a no visitor event) and I see a lot of the sheep owners come back and get more medals. These are people I keep track of. They obviously care a lot about the wool quality of their sheep. Some of them even get medals in both the fleece championships and the spinning championships. These shepherdesses are extra interesting to me since they share my perspective as a spinner.
  • If I win the auctions I have set my sight on I try to connect with the shepherdess who submitted the fleece. I tell them that I love what they do, ask about the name of the sheep and just engage in wooly conversation.

In my course Know your fleece there is a 47 minute video where I go through all the fleeces of the 2019 fleece championships together with my friend Anna.

A finull/rya master

Let me tell you about Margau. On the first fleece championships I visited I fell for a dark grey finull/rya she had submitted. It got a gold medal. She has worked for several years with this particular cross and she does a smashing job of it. On a previous blog post I wrote about another fleece I got from her, also a medalist. Later when I spun it I ran out of fleece. I contacted Margau and got the next shearing of the same sheep.

Later, when I wanted a white fleece of the same quality she sent me samples from three sheep that I could choose from. From that fleece I made the Selma Margau sweater pattern.

Getting to know a new breed

On that same first fleece championships I fell for a lovely Dalapäls fleece, that ended up with a silver medal. The shepherdess, Carina, wasn’t at the event, but I texted her. We had a long conversation and she told me about the breed in general and the sheep (Blanka) in particular. I hadn’t come across the dalapäls breed before, but once I had seen Blanka’s shiny fleece I knew this was a special breed.

Long, white and wavy wool locks.
Long and silky locks of Dalapäls sheep. The locks come from the same shepherdess, Carina, but from different sheep.

Later I also connected with Lena, another Dalapäls shepherdess and I even got to visit her on shearing day. On the course Know your fleece you can see a video where I interview Lena while she shears her sheep.

Fleece queen 1

On the 2019 fleece championships, one of the shepherdesses, Kari, got eight (8) medals for her fleeces. She has several different breeds and a passion for wool and crafting. She wasn’t at the event at the time, but I met her later at another wool event and bought two lovely rya fleeces from her. We chatted for a while and it was so lovely to connect with someone with such a warm passion for her sheep and their wool.

A white fleece with very long and silky staples.
The 2020 seduction of the wool guru, a Swedish Gotland/Leicester/finull fleece.

At the 2020 fleece championships she got another seven medals and I managed to win the auction of one of them, a Swedish Gotland/Leicester/finull cross. The fleece didn’t get a regular medal, but it did get a special award called “The seduction of the wool guru”. The wool guru is Alan Waller, one of the judges and the prize is awarded to a fleece he can’t take his hands and eyes off. And it is indeed a magical fleece – 18 cm staples with 13 cm undercoat, shiny and soft and just mesmerizing.

I had no plans to buy this kind of fleece when I started planning which ones I wanted to buy, but with this award and this shepherdess I couldn’t help myself. I hope I can make this magical fleece justice.

Fleece queen 2

Titti is an experienced shepherdess who has grown up with finull (Swedish finewool) sheep, one of Sweden’s three wool breeds. She won her first fleece championship medal a few years ago and has since then worked with breeding for the fleece and teaching other sheep owners about breeding for fleece. She has kept winning medals for her excellent fleeces year after year and this year I decided to snatch me one. After all, finull is my home fleece, the one I started with nine years ago.

A white fleece with fine, crimpy staples.
The silver medalist fleece from the finull lamb Nypon (Rose hip).

I won the auction of her silver medalist Nypon (Rose hip) and it is just the yummiest of yum – soft, crimpy and shiny. Lots of finull wool has gone through my fingers over the years, but none with a quality like this one.

If you are a patron I have a treat for you – a short unboxing video where I unbox the three fleeces I bought from the 2020 fleece championships auction. Go to my Patreon page if you want to become a patron.

Nodes

Nodes (I just made the concept up) are what I call people with wool knowledge and lots of connections to shepherdesses. It can be wool handlers/brokers/consultants/classifiers, spinning teachers, fleece show judges, shearers etc. You may not know any of these yourself, but if you search a little you will soon find some that you can contact. Nodes are people whose judgements I trust fully. They have met many sheep farmers and/or had their hands on hundreds, thousands of fleeces and know what to look for.

A wool classifier

One such example is my friend Kia. She has worked for many years as a wool classifier in Norway. Tons of fleeces have gone through her hands and she is extremely knowledgeable about fleece. My first fleece adventure outside the city farm was with the help of Kia. She started a fiber club with rare and endangered Norwegian sheep breeds and I jumped along. In the fiber club she sent out four packages of fleece samples (also some processed fiber) from different Norwegian breeds that were rare or endangered. She also attached information about the breeds and what she thought of them. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know different wool qualities in small batches. I ended up making a Fair Isle vest from most of the yarns I spun from the samples.

Ivy League vest by Eunnie Jang, knit from my handspun Norwegian rare and endangered sheep breeds in 2014. Photo by Dan Waltin

I didn’t know the shepherdesses of these batches, but I got lots of information of the breeds. I trusted Kia through her knowledge and experience of and passion for the breeds.

A wool broker

Another example of a node is Shetland woolbrokers. What Oliver Henry and his fleece crew don’t know about fleece isn’t worth knowing. They handle and grade tons of fleece from sheep farmers across Shetland every day.

A superfine Shetland fleece from the treasure room at Shetland woolbrokers. I bought it in their shop when I visited Shetland wool week back in 2015 with my wool traveling club.

Most of the fleece goes to spinning mills, but they also have a treasure room for hand spinners. This is where the best fleeces go. The first time I was there and got to go to the treasure room, but on several occasions I have got the loveliest fleeces from them via email inquiries. I have simply said: Please get me two superfine fleeces of so and so colour. And by that I have been confident that they will send me high quality fleece.

Finding a fleece

I have been a spinner for nine years and nowadays I have a well tried list of shepherdesses that I have a connection to and nodes that I trust. But I did start from knowing nothing about fleece at all, just like most of us have at some point. If you want to work with fleece but don’t know where to fine one, I have made a list of some ideas where to start.

Checklist for finding a fleece

  • Start as close to the source as you can. Have you seen sheep in your neighbourhood? Or somewhere you visit every now and then? If you see the sheep owner, start a conversation. Ask about the sheep and what they do with the fleeces.
  • Are you a member of a spinning guild? If so, see if the other members have sheep of their own or connections with sheep owners.
  • If you don’t live near sheep you can look in spinning forums – local, regional or national. Browse through the feed and look for people who have bought fleece they are happy with or spinners who own sheep. Perhaps you can find a connection there. Remember to check the forum rules, though. If it is a non-commercial forum you are better off making this kind of connection in a private message.
  • Do you know of any fleece nodes? Or can you find one? Again, check spinning guilds or spinning forums. Are there names that pop up often, people who seem to know a lot about wool or have a large wool network? This could be shearers, fleece show judges, wool classifiers/sorters/handlers/consultants etc.
  • Is there a wool agency in your region or country? In Sweden we have Ullförmedlingen, the Swedish wool agency where sheep owners can put their fleeces for sale. The forum has a tagging system so that the seller can give accurate information about the fleeces and the buyer can search for specific information.
  • Go to wool events, live or online. Talk to sheep owners, ask them about their sheep and try to get an understanding of how they work with their sheep, especially regarding the wool. Also, try to look at the fleeces with someone. Together you can investigate the fleece and get more information than had you looked at it alone.
Look at fleece with a friend. This is my friend Anna and I looking at Värmland wool.

You will find fleece you like and you will develop your own list of people and places to find fleece. Sooner or later you will make mistakes, just like I have. You will learn from your mistakes, perhaps more than from your successes –you will learn what to look for and what to stay away from. A wise friend of mine said:

You don’t have to know to get started, but you need to get started to know.

Embrace your fleece buying mistakes and learn from them on your next fleece hunt.

When you have got a fleece, remember to give feedback to the shepherdess! Show what you spin and what you make. Tell them what is good about the fleece and your suggestions for improvements from your spinner’s perspective. I am sure they will appreciate the feedback and remember you in their next shearing.

Happy spinning!


P.S. I have just published an edited version of the webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage that I streamed live on September 19th, 2020. The webinar is free to watch at my online school.


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.

Combing different fiber lengths

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

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

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

Cookie Monster wants all the cookies

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

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

Combing different fiber lengths

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

Choosing a comb

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

Loading

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

First combing

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

I start combing at the very tip of the staples.

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

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

Planking and second combing

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

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

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

Three more light passes after the first combing.

Dizzing

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

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

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

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

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

A Cookie Monster yarn

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

A journey

Pia-Lotta the sheep and mittens from her fleece. Photo by Dan Waltin

This week a nine year old picture of a bag of Swedish finewool popped up in my Facebook feed. The picture showed of my very first fleece on my very first spinning lesson. It was also the very first time I ever held a spindle in my hand. A lot has happened since then. In this post I walk you through some of the highlights from this journey.

A bag of wool from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool sheep.

My friend Anna is my husband’s colleague. At an office get-together Anna and I talked about knitting. She mentioned that an acquaintance of hers had sheep but didn’t know what to do with the wool. The acquaintance also said that a large amount of Swedish wool was wasted (I think the number at the time was around 80 per cent), or even burnt. This was shocking to me and I looked up an evening spinning class that Anna and I signed up for.

A ram and his lamb

Meanwhile there was a Swedish finewool ram called Muffe. He fathered many lambs, one of which was called Pia-Lotta. For some reason kids were bullying Muffe. He got very stressed and had to be put to sleep for this reason. Muffe had been very loved by his Shepherdess Ulla.

Ulla had not planned to keep the lamb Pia-Lotta. But when Ulla saw Pia-Lotta on her way to the truck that was going to the butcher’s she saw so much of Muffe in Pia-Lotta that she couldn’t bare losing her too. Pia-Lotta got to stay on the farm.

It was at the farm where Pia-Lotta lived that the spinning course took place every other Tuesday evening and it was Pia-Lotta’s fleece that ended up in my bags on that first spinning lesson. After that I have got two more of her fleeces, one of which I shore myself.

Me shearing the Swedish finewool (finull) sheep Pia-Lotta.
Me shearing the finull sheep Pia-Lotta in the beginning of my spinning journey.

The journey of a fleece

I got very fascinated by the journey the fleece made from newly shorn to a finished textile. Since the world of wool and this process was all new to me I was totally smitten by it. I wanted to tell the world what a beautiful thing spinning and the process from fluff to stuff was. So I did. I made a video that became a two year project. During that time I shot the whole process from the newly shorn sheep (Pia-Lotta) to a finished sweater where I showed all the steps – sorting, washing, teasing, carding/combing, spinning, knitting and assembling. I called the video Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater.

Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater. Also available in Swedish: Slow fashion – från får till tröja.

The sweater that was the product of the project is one of my favourites. It has a lot of flaws that I have learned from and I know so much more now. But it was at the same time so much better than the first skeins I spun from the very same wool (the white yarn in the sweater comes from Pia-Lotta).

Fileuse by Valérie Miller.

A learning journey

We all learn every second. New experiences come to us all through the course of our lives. We build on that experience and develop our skills. Just as every single one of you I started from the beginning. In fact, I start from the beginning every day.

Pia-Lotta the sheep and mittens from her fleece. Photo by Dan Waltin
Pia-Lotta the sheep and mittens from her fleece. Before I knit them I learned to knit both mittens at the same time to get the same size. Since I knit them I have learned to spin with higher twist for two-end knitting to avoid yarn breaks every time I untwisted the skein. Photo by Dan Waltin

Every time I pick up a spinning project – new or old – I start from the beginning of that particular day. When the day is over I have learned new things that I bring to tomorrow’s beginning. And it goes on. I still make mistakes, only different ones than nine years ago. And I still learn from them and look upon them as a map of what I have learned.

By the way, I write this particular paragraph in the morning. I would never have thought something this clever in the evening. Just saying.

Making videos

Slow fashion became the real boost of my then newborn youtube channel. The video is still one of my most popular ones with over 17000 views. When I look at it my heart tingles. It tingles from how much the video means to me and from all I see that I have learned since then. I have learned about shooting, angles, locations, light, sound, editing and, of course, spinning and wool preparation. But it all started there, with that idea of sharing the process of the wool and what it did for me with the world.

A journey on a train

I started spinning on a supported spindle because my family’s decision to stop flying gave me a long train journey to my father’s family in Austria. I wanted a craft that I could dive in to on those hours gliding through the landscape. So I practiced supported spinning daily from November until we got on the train in July. That moment when I finally placed the spinning bowl in my lap and started spinning was magical. My then ten year old son helped me shoot a short video somewhere in Denmark.

A teaching journey

That train journey became the starting point of teaching for me. Spinners in Sweden were fascinated with the technique and soon someone asked me to teach supported spinning. I can’t resist flattery, so I did it, knowing nothing at all about teaching. Now, several teaching hours later, teaching spinning is one of my favourite things to do in the world. Finding a student’s learning style and watching someone understand, learn and love a technique is pure joy. Through teaching spinning I learn more than through any other means. So thank you all past, present and future students for teaching me how to be a better teacher, student and spinner.

A few courses have been cancelled during the pandemic, but in a couple of weeks I will teach a weekend course again and I can’t wait. There are still spots left in a course in floor supported Navajo style spindle spinning in Stockholm on November 7–8 and of course you can check out my online school. One of my favorite right now is the five day challenge Fleece through the senses. I have learned a lot through all your stories there.

An inner journey

I am still smitten by the journey the fleece makes from fluff to stuff, but today that infatuation has grown into a more mature kind of love.

The most important part of my spinning journey has been the inner journey. Spinning has taught me to appreciate the wool I see before me. I just need to find the superpowers of that particular fleece and make them shine. I have learned to be thankful to the wool I work with and for being able to work with wool.

Wool is an inner journey for me.

Working with wool is my safe space. It is a place where I can relax, find focus and balance. The world is always beautiful when I work with wool. If it is not, the wool will get me to that place of beauty soon enough.

When I spin the doors to creativity open and I see and understand things that have been blurred before. The feeling of the wool in my hands, the rhythm of the wheel or spindle, the repetitive motions of the drafting. It is a place where I find the space between my thoughts and relax in the here and now. And I thank wool for that.

Happy spinning!

/Josefin, spinning student and teacher


You can find me in several social media:

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

Spinning 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.