in 2014 I started a wool traveling club with four friends. Since then we have gone on an annual wool journey together. This year we went to one of the members’ house to weave.
To be able to tell you about the 2023 wool journey I need to go back first. The 2022 wool journey went to Dala-Floda where we learned a local embroidery technique called påsöm. The teacher we hired for the course, Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg, also arranges fulling workshops in the local 17th century fulling mill.
Weaving for fulling
A fulling mill is a mill that uses water to operate giant beams that stomp into larger troughs. Loosely woven wool cloth is placed in the troughs – 20 meters in each trough, and is fulled by the beams. You can read more about the fulling mill here and watch a video I recorded around the fulling mill back in 2018.
At the 2022 course we decided to weave together on the 2023 wool journey with the aim of fulling our woven cloths on the 2024 wool journey at the fulling mill. Boel invited us all to her house to weave.
Boel’s house is to die for. Smack in the middle of nowhere, still cozily tucked between green hills, forests and pastures. A flock of her parents’ Gotland sheep graze right around the yard and bind the perfect picture together with their quiet munching and sweet bleating.
It’s been a while since I met sheep and I was overjoyed at the opportunity to cuddle Boel’s sweet ladies. Being with sheep is such a serene place to be. Their warmth, their wool, the smell of lanolin, grass and sheep poo calmes me and makes my heart sing. Or bleat.
If you are outside of Sweden and have come in contact with Gotland sheep in your country, chances are their wool is softer than the wool of Swedish Gotland sheep. The Swedish breed standards encourage breeding for strong and lustrous Gotland wool to provide for beautiful skins. The Swedish Gotland wool is truly beautiful, but I rarely spin it since it is quite rough and at the same time very slippery.
Since I had the perfect opportunity, I bought a skin from Elton, the allegedly mean ram. He had done his job and fathered three seasons’ lambs. Rumour has it that he tasted good. And his skin is magnificent – large, silvery with a blueish tint and with a darker stripe down the mid back, an eel in the language of Gotland fleece.
Looms and projects
For this year’s wool journey in preparation for next year’s we didn’t hire a teacher or attend a course. We just got together at Boel’s house to weave. Anna and I came with our rigid heddle looms on the train, Kristin brought her rigid heddle loom in her car and Boel had her floor loom in her house. Ellinor couldn’t make it this year.
I didn’t use a handspun yarn for this weave, I didn’t have one ready. I did however have lots of Shetland yarn I bought at a clearance after a lady who was the first in Sweden to import Shetland yarns. My plan is to turn the fulled cloth into a pillowcase. I have lots of yarn left and my idea is to use the three colours but in a different order and in different patterns for a collection of pillowcases.
Together in our hands
The members of the wool traveling club usually don’t meet between the wool journeys, so we have a lot to talk about when we do meet. About wool and crafting of course, but also about families, relationships and the ways of the world. Children growing up – there are eleven children between us, from 2 to 22 years old. Joys, frustrations, we talk about everything and anything.
Crafting and talking is such a sweet space to be a part of. Being in our hands together gives an extra dimension to the room, something more, deeper, more sincere. I cherish these moments and am very grateful for them and for my sisters in craft.
We have different lives and live in different parts of the country, yet when we come together we take part of each other’s realities with warmth. When the journey is over we go back to our regular lives, and the following year we pick up where we left off.
It was so quiet. Not a human-made sound, just the buzzing of bees, bleating of sheep, fluttering of leaves and bare feet in the grass. Breathing in the air in a place like that must be extra nourishing. I like to think that the air I breathe when I get up at five a.m. is unused, crisp like a new sprout. But this, here, is something extra.
Knitting outdoors in the September sun, listening to the silence and resting my eyes on trees and pastures with the needles dancing in my hands was such a bliss. Kristin and I sneaked out both mornings for a lovely dip in a nearby lake. That too a lovely space to be, in the water with a friend in the early hours.
Ready to full
As I got back home to Stockholm I finished the last stripes of my weave. The next weave to full will hopefully be a handspun one.
I have actually already finished one that has been waiting for a couple of years by now to be fulled. I can’t wait to get to the fulling mill!
Now go and enroll in that online lecture about picking fleece!
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