Waiting for spring

Josefin Waltin knitting outdoors

I long

Spring is taking its sweet time in Sweden this year. We’re almost at spring equinox and it was -8°C when I got up this morning. It does get warmer in the sun and the birds are singing very spring-like, but there is still snow and degrees below zero during a big part of the day. My whole being is waiting for spring to happen. I long to get out and craft. I have videos to shoot, outdoor knitting to be enjoyed, distaffs to carve and a whole allotment to cultivate. But it’s still too cold for the lanolin and my hands and I can’t put seeds in a frozen ground.

So I do what I can.

I make

I’m knitting away on my twined knitting mittens.  It is a slow and mindful knitting and I love how the whole range of greys are displayed in the fabric. I had my outdoor knitting premiere the other day (featured image), listening to the birds chirping and the dripping of melting snow from the roofs. It was quite lovely.

I finished spinning a fleece that had been waiting for over 18 months to be spun. It was a soft and beautiful Värmland fleece. But it had quite a lot of second cuts and vegetable matter. It was also very dark and difficult to see when preparing and spinning. All these things made me reluctant to spin the fleece. At the same time I felt guilty about not spinning it. But I finally gathered my energy to do it. It turned out to be quite a nice (wheel) spin, despite the dark colour, and I turned into four skeins of strong and lustrous warp yarn.

Three skeins of dark handspun yarn
The Värmland 2-ply warp yarn, 186 g and 306 m (four skeins), about 1600 m/kg.

I also finished an in-hand spinning yarn, the one I started in this video. It is the same fleece as in the twined knitting mittens, but I used the shorter staples and spun them woolen from hand-carded rolags. It came out quite differently compared to the twined knitting yarn.

A skein of grey handspun yarn
2-ply Värmland yarn, 45 g, 105 m, 2300 m/kg. Spun woolen on an in-hand-spindle from hand-carded rolags.

I found my way back to a rigid heddle weave I started before Christmas. It it yet another pillowcase (such a good practice project). This time in 3-shaft. The warp is 2-ply Leicester, worsted spun (wheel) from hand-combed tops and then dyed. The weft is Shetland singles, spun from hand-carded rolags on a Navajo spindle. It was lovely to weave in the spring sun in the kitchen, but I really wanted to be able to weave outdoors.

A rigid heddle weave with blue warp and dark grey weft
The beginning of a pillowcase

I plan

I am planning this season’s videos. There are lots of ideas in my head – more in-hand spinning of different kinds and in different environments, perhaps some flax spinning. I have promised a video on how I spin English long draw on a spinning wheel. I am also thinking something towards mindfulness and meditation.

I’m also planning to make online spinning courses. This is a bigger project and it has to take its time to get a good result. A lot of you are far away from me and my local courses and this is a way to solve the distance issue. If you are interested in taking an upcoming online course, please let me know what you would like and how.

There is still time for you to make requests for upcoming videos. What would you like to see learn, explore?

Happy spinning!

Do you like what I do? Then head over to my Patreon page and become a patron. If you become a patron I have lots of exclusive material in store for you. If you don’t I will still continue with the blog and make videos, just as I have before.

Wip series: Twined knitting mittens in progress

The twined knitting mittens are in progress! It’s a slow knit, but I knew that already. And the reward is a sturdy, strong and windproof textile, and, of course, a quiet moment of making.

Treasured notes

I read in my Ravelry notes from my last twined knitting project that it would be a good idea to overply the yarn, since the yarn is unplying a little when the yarns are twisted. So before I started casting on, I ran my balanced yarn through the spinning wheel and overplied it. Hopefully it’s enough.

How I do it

Casting on for twined knitting takes three yarn ends, one dark cast-on yarn and the two working yarns. After casting on there are four ends hanging – the ends from the two working yarns and the two ends from the cast-on yarn. The easiest way to weave these in is to make a braid out of them. This is  a pretty detail, as well as practical for hanging up the finished mittens.

To prevent the material from curling, it is a good idea to start with a couple of rows of crook stitch (alternating knit and purl stitches with the purl thread in front of the work). I did four rows and then I started an xo pattern and finished the cuff with another eight crook stitch rows. I’m planning a pattern stitch for the back of the hand and a plain palm side.

I really enjoy this knit. I love the yarn and the structure that develops. I can’t stop feeling the softness of the yarn and the magical texture of the fabric.

A glimpse of the making

I shot a short video of the knitting. I put the baking table in my lap as a background and a flexible knitting light wrapped around my head like a crown. My husband looked at me very quizzically. Still, the lighting arrangement did its job and was successful.

As you can see, it is a slow and a somewhat fidgety knit. Both yarn ends come from the same ball of yarn and every now and then I have to stop and untwist the ball. But I get into the rhythm and enjoy the moment.

Towards the end of the video I show you the wrong side of the work. The horizontal lines you see on the back of the knit rows is where the yarns are twined. This makes the fabric sturdy. If you hold up a regular knit fabric to the light, you see the light through the fabric. This does not happen with a twined knitting fabric, it is really dense – and I’m using 2 mm needles, which would indicate the density of the fabric.

I think it will be a while before I write the post on the finished mittens, I will enjoy the slow knitting and the feeling of the progress of wool yumminess in my hands.

Happy spinning!

Wip series: First spindle full

A spindle full of grey yarn

Earlier, I wrote about my new spinning project. I am spinning a yarn counter-clockwise to be able to knit myself a pair of twined knitted mittens.

One finished, three to go

The current status is that I have finished one spindle of s-spun singles, about 30 grams. According to the pattern book, I need 100–120 grams, so if I make another 3 30 gram singles I will end up with one 60 gram skein for each mitten. With twined knitting it is av very good idea to knit both mittens at the same time. This to make sure that the gauge turns out the same. I did not do this with my first pair.

A challenging spin

I have to say It is not the easiest spinning I have experienced. The fiber is impressingly smooth and silky, but there is a certain amount of tugging. I think it has to do with the preparation – I comb the locks as lightly as possible, just to separate the fibers. I guess they are still a little attached to each other, making the drafting a little challenging. But I get the effect I want, and I really enjoy spinning counter-clockwise with my left hand.

A close-up of a spindle with grey yarn
The many shades of beautiful grey

Beautiful greys

I love how the colour variation turned out. There is a spectrum from almost white, through silver and light grey to medium and even dark grey, and some strokes of golden brown. Spinning the locks one by one, I was hoping to catch as many of the shades in the fleece as possible. I would not have been able to achieve this effect had I combed the wool in the traditional way. Also, a yarn like this is not possible to machine spin. This will truly be a unique yarn, which warms my heart a little extra.

Happy spinning, both clockwise and counter-clockwise!

A Shetland hap

A person standing behind a stretched Shetland Hap

As I have written in an earlier post, one of my favourite knitting designers is Kate Davies. In her book The book of Haps she has a pattern of a beautiful square Shetland hap, called Moder Dy. When I saw it, I immediately felt that it needed me. After months of knitting and spinning, it is finally finished!

Josefin Waltin standing at the end of a stretched Shetland hap.
Beautiful natural colours on a Shetland hap. I love the variegated Mooskit garter center square. Photo by Dan Waltin.

A hap stretcher to match

Knitting a big shawl like a Shetland hap and making it justice requires proper blocking. And the Shetland way fo doing that is with a hap stretcher. These are very hard to come by and difficult to ship since they are quite large. As it turned out, the hap stretcher needed me too. Fortunately, Kate Davies has an excellent hap stretcher tutorial on her blog.

So, this fall I put on my best carpenter’s suit and started drilling.

Lots of holes.

176 holes.

Eventually I was done drilling, did a little sanding and varnishing and became the proud mother of a brand new hap stretcher.

A person drilling holes on a piece of timber.
Drilling away on my hap stretcher. Photo by Dan Waltin

Shetland all the way

Since the Moder Dy is a typical Shetland hap, I wanted to use Shetland wool for the yarn. After getting tired of spinning up my earlier Shetland fleeces as 2-ply fingering weight yarn, I had spun a few skeins as 3-ply sport weight yarn. I had white, Shaela (light gray), Yuglet and Eskit (dark grays), all from the treasure room for hand spinners at Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers. I have combed the fiber and spun with short draw to define the lace pattern. I planned this quality for the lace edge and shell border.

A skein of white yarn
Shetland white, hand combed and spun with short draw and 3-plied. Strong and defined for lace knitting.

For the garter middle I used a Mooskit (light fawn) fleece that I carded and spun with long draw to make it soft and warm. One of the wonderful benefits of handspinning is that I can customize the yarn for my knitting needs.

A ball of light fawn yarn
A ball of Shetland Mooskit yarn. Hand carded and spun with long draw and 3-plied. Soft and fuzzy for a warm garter center square.

Using what I have

I spun some more 3-ply and started knitting the lace edge in light gray. When I had finished half of the lace edging, I realized that I didn’t have enough light gray yarn. I also didn’t have any more light gray fluff. So I simply changed to a dark gray Shetland yarn. I mean, I can’t be the first one to have run out of fluff  and I’m sure there are other creative solutions for this problem that have resulted in stunning designs. I read once that having limitations actually forces you to be more creative since you need to find a solution within certain boundaries.

Josefin Waltin standing by a stretched Shetland hap.
It’s a really big hap. Here you can see the two different colours of the lace edging. Can you see the trees through the garter stitch middle?  Photo by Dan Waltin.

Spinning as I run out of yarn

This Shetland hap is really huge and It ‘s amazing how much yarn is required. I have spun up more as I have run out of yarn. Since the rows of the shell border are about 500 stitches long in the beginning, one 50 g skein may last only for about 5 rows. Every time I have thought I didn’t need any more yarn, I have realized I was wrong. Way wrong.

Big and heavy knitting

Knitting this hap has been an adventure and it’s wonderful to be in the best seat to see the development. Naturally, the project has grown bigger and bigger and when I knit the last part (the garter middle) I was totally covered under a heavy hap monster.

Total weight: 1055 g

Total meterage: 1909 m

Close-up of a hand knit shawl.
Close-up of the garter stitch center and the auld shell border.  Photo by Dan Waltin.

The pattern called for a sport weight yarn, but the my yarn is for the most part a bit thicker than that. Which also meant that the hap stretcher was a bit too small – had it been bigger I would have been able to stretch the fabric and define the pattern even more in the blocking.

Close-up of a lace shawl
Close-up of the lace edging.  Photo by Dan Waltin.

As always, I have learned a lot from this project. All in all, I’m hap happy!

Grey matters

I love grey wool. There are so many possible shades from just a combination of black and white fibers. And the combinations within combinations gives me a whole universe of sparkling silver. I can look at a grey yarn for ages and get mesmerized by the spiraling promise of everlasting variation.

Also, I have discovered the wonderful world of dyeing on grey. The colours turn out so deep and rich and gives the yarn a beautiful heathered effect from all the shades in the grey. Which, of course, puts me in a dilemma – I want to keep the beautiful grey and at the same time dye it for the wonderful  colour result.

A grey Trønder fleece

At Christmas, I bought a beautiful fleece from talented wool classifier Kia Gabrielsson of Ullsörvis. It was a grey Trønder fleece with lots of different shades in it. I separated the fleece and ended up with four piles of grey, from anthracite to very light grey. I carded the fiber and spun the colours separately and 3-plied them. The result was four squishy skeins of yummy greys.

Four skeins of grey handspun yarn
3-ply grey Trønder yarn spun woolen from hand-carded rolags

I also found the perfect knitting project for the skeins, where I could use all the shades and show the beautiful variation. It was the Slouchy shrug by 伊凡 陳, Yarn door on Ravelry.

Josefin Waltin wearing a grey slouchy shrug made of handspun yarn
The slouchy shrug in four shades of Trønder grey. Photo by Dan Waltin
Josefin Waltin wearing a grey slouchy shrug made of handspun yarn
A square knit in Brioche stitch, folded in half, sleeves knit on in the fold and a brim round the edges. Voilá, a slouchy shrug! Photo by Dan Waltin

There is a story in every item

Close-up of a striped shawl draped over stone steps
Lamina wrap by Ambah O’Brien, knit in my handspun.

There is a story in every part of the process and in every item I make.

When I knit something it is always in a certain context. Perhaps I am talking to someone, listening to a podcast or thinking of something. Next time I pick up the needles, my mind brings that context to life again in the feeling of the structure and the muscular memory of the motion. It’s like the context gets caught in the thread and woven into the garment. A parallel process of the time, space and events of that moment is created and recreated.

I may be thinking about when I prepared and spun the yarn or remembering what the fleece felt like. Perhaps I am thinking of how the dye didn’t turn out the way I had planned but how I still loved the result.

I may remember the last time I was knitting at a coffee break at work, letting my co-workers choose the next colour.

Perhaps I remember a heartwarming conversation with a curious subway passenger asking me about my project. I may smile at the memory of seeing other passengers watching the repetitive movements of my hands, and getting helplessly enraptured in the motion. I imagine they are positively affected by my serenity.

I may definitely remember all the mistakes I have made in the process, how I have dealt with them and what I have learned from them.

When the garment is finished and all the ends woven in, I wrap myself in it, like a story book. And I walk on, a little richer in memories.

A striped shawl draped over stone steps
So many new stories in one single item.

Oh, Kieran

In my series of favourite designers the turn has come to Kieran Foley. He makes extremely complicated designs, mostly shawls, in lots of vibrant colours, using several intricate techniques such as intarsia, lace knitting and stranding, preferably all at the same time. All the designs make you breathless, both by looking at and by knitting, like the Kurdish shawl and the Oceania pattern. I have made a few of his not so exhaustingly complicated designs. Well, one of them really was quite complicated, the Daisy crescent shawl. A regular crescent shawl, but with flowers knit in intarsia. Using 69 mini skeins.

A person squatting on a rock, putting her hands on a crescent-shaped shawls with flowers
The Daisy Crescent. MC is my handspun, Daisies are scraps of handspun and commercial yarns. Photo by Dan Waltin

My first Kieran was less difficult, though, the Shetland crescent. He was inspired by the colour range of Shetland sheep when he designed it. I was at the time equally fascinated by the same in alpaca, so I knit in in my handspun alpaca yarn.

A hand holding hanger with a natural-coloured lace shawl
Shetland Crescent, by Kieran Foley. Yarn is my handspun alpaca. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I also made the Echo beach shawl with very interesting ladder patterns. So simple an idea, yet so exquisitely designed.

Oh, Veera

In a recent post I told you about one of my favourite knitting designers, Kate Davies. Another favourite designer is Veera Välimäki. She has designed a lot of sweaters with brilliantly smart and yet simple yoke constructions, preferably using short rows. Many of the designs are in garter stitch which gives handspun yarns an extra opportunity to show their perfect non-perfectness.

My first Veera was a shawl, though, the Color affection. You can read more about it here. I knit it in my handspun  alpaca yarn in natural colours and I love the result, it has a wonderful drape.

The back of a person wearing a striped shawl
Color affection, by Veera Välimäki. Yarn is my handspun alpaca. Photo by Dan Waltin

When I changed jobs a few years ago, my colleagues gave me a gift voucher at a local yarn store (boy, did they know me well!) and I bought the yarn for and knit the Still light tunic, a garment I could live in.

One of my favourite Veera designs is the Shift of focus sweater, which I altered a bit. Instead of a buttoned front, I made it closed and I really loved the result. The yarn was a different matter, though. I wasn’t very used to making consistent grist, so the skeins were quite different in thickness. Also, I had spun too little yarn, so I had to make some more from another fleece. Fortunately I had the same dye bath left, so nobody knows the difference.

The torso of a person wearing a teal knitted top
Shift of focus, by Veera Välimäki. Yarn is my hand dyed and handspun from Jämtland sheep, Swedish finewool sheep and some silk. Photo by Dan Waltin

Right now I’m working on the Sides and stripes sweater. The yarn is my handspun from Swedish finewool sheep (blue) and Jämtland sheep (orange) and hand dyed with Greener shades.

Orange and blue hand spun skeins of yarn on a wash line
Yarn for Sides and stripes sweater by Veera Välimäki

I’ll show you when it’s finished!

Oh, Kate

One of my all-time favourite knitting designers is Kate Davies. She is from Scotland and many of her designs are influenced by the landscape and history of Scotland and Shetland. She has written several books, where she often combines and integrates stories of the area, history, tradition and beautiful photography with the patterns. Like the Moder Dy hap, where she tells the story of how these giant shawls were constructed and why, the origin and purpose of the different parts of the shawl and how she has adapted it to modern techniques and yarns. You can read more about the Moder Dy pattern in Kate’s blog. This hap is on my waiting list. I just have to spin a little more yarn before I can begin.

In the textile department of my book shelf I have three of her books, Colours of Shetland, The book of haps and Inspired by Islay, and I can recommend them all.

I don’t know what it is about her patterns that is so appealing. Perhaps it it the foundation in traditional techniques that she has adapted to a contemporary context. One example is the Paper dolls sweater pattern, a traditional sweater with a Fair Isle construction but with a more contemporary motif. I knit it a couple of years ago for my daughter. She complained that she always got hand-me-downs. But this one was only for her. Knit in my handspun, of course. Another such example is the Oa sweater. Also a Fair isle pattern, but knit as a modern hoody. It is also on my list and also in need of yarn being spun.

Connecting a pattern to a story is also something that gives a design an extra meaning. Like the Stevenson sweater and Stevenson gauntlets that origin from the story of a famous light house engineer. I knit it in my handspun yarn, but obviously I didn’t check the gauge properly and I had to make lots of adjustments to get a good fit.

Josefin Waltin standing by a tree, wearing knitted gauntlets and a short sleeve sweater
Stevenson sweater and Stevenson gauntlets, by Kate Davies. Yarn is my handspun. White and blue is Jämtland wool, fawn is Shetland wool. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Or perhaps it is just because her designs look so darn good and are so ingeniously smart constructed. The Northmavine hoody is one such design. The clever striping that looks just like blue stripes, but actually contains four different shades of blue and turquoise (you find the same stripes in the Northmavine hap as well). The clever hood construction that is so obvious when you think about it. And the super smart edgings  and finishings that don’t have one single seam. That is an ingenious pattern.

Josefin Waltin wearing a knitted hoody, scarf and hat
Northmavine Hoody, by Kate Davies. Yarn from Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers. Photo by Dan Waltin.

And as you may have seen on several of my videos I wear my Northmavine hoody a lot. I bought the pattern and the yarn in Shetland at Shetland wool week 2015 and I’m longing to go back. Perhaps the hoody takes me a little closer.

The sheep, the chicken, the pig and the lion

There was a spinning competition at the wool fair I visited today.

A row of art yarns in different colours and styles
Competing yarns. Winner 4th from the right, third prize to 5th or 7th from the right, I can’t really tell them apart in this picture
A row of art yarns of different colours and styles.
Another set of competing yarns, mine 4th from the right

I love spinning competitions. The competition today was about spinning a yarn (beforehand and send it in), any kind of yarn, from Swedish sheep and adding a recycled material. Also, you needed to describe what the yarn was intended for. A really nice idea!

One of the reasons why I love spinning contest is that it gives me a chance to widen my horizons. I am forced to think outside my go-to yarn box. And this contest in particular. In the crafts section of my book shelf I have The spinner’s book of yarn designs by Sarah Anderson. I have learned so much by reading it and there is one yarn in particular that I always have wanted to try to spin, but I have never thought of a proper use for it. And now I had my chance. It was the pigtail yarn. You Z-spin two singles, one with more twist that the other. As you ply, you let the overspun single ply back on itself at suitable intervals to make intentional pigtails. You can also add pre-strung beads to the ends of the pigtails.

So, I spun thick singles from hand-carded rolags on my Navajo spindle. The wool was from the finewool sheep Engla from Överjärva gård.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a Navajo spindle. Dandelion field in background.
Spinning singles on a Navajo spindle

At first I was playing with the idea to pre-string the overspun single with washers and add them to the top of each pigtail, but I realized that this would be too difficult. After all, I have never spun an art yarn before. My wool traveling friend Ellinor suggested chicken feathers instead. And I loved the idea.

I had planned to ply the singles on the Navajo spindle, but after a while I came to my senses and used the wheel instead. Plying was a really mad task. The yarn was too heavy and too voluminous and the bobbin wouldn’t pull up the yarn properly (probably because I had the wrong tension). And the pigtails were quite difficult to get right.

Close-up of spinning on a spinning wheel.
Plying intentional pigtails

When the singles were finished, I was left with a bobbin with disastrously stiff phone wire. So, I let the yarn go through the wheel again in the opposite direction to unwind the overply a little. And it worked!

Ellinor sent me a packet of beautiful feathers from her chickens.

Chicken feathers on an orange envelope with chicken stamps.
Chicken feathers with chicken postage stamps

After experimenting with different ways to attach the feathers to the pigtails, I ended up sewing them through the core of the feather and onto the ends of each pigtail and it worked out perfectly. But it took me three weeks to sew them on. At least they won’t fall off!

Close-up of hands attaching feathers to a yarn.
Attaching feathers onto pigtails, one by one

I imagine the yarn being used as knitted-on edge on a collar on a cardigan knit in a bulky white yarn. The feathers will make it look almost like a lion’s mane. Hence the name – The sheep, the chicken, the pig and the lion.

Josefin Waltin with a skein around her neck. The yarn has feathers attached to it.
The sheep, the chicken, the pig, the lion and the spinner

The sheep is the Swedish finewool sheep Engla who provided me with the fiber, the chicken is the previous owner of the feathers, the pig is the model for the pigtails and the lion is the look of the wearer with the yarn in the collar.

So, there were about 27 yarns in the competition.

The contestants had been very creative in their yarns. They had attached fibers from clothes, cassette tape, buttons, silk flowers etc. The winner was a beautiful core spun mohair yarn with hand dyed silk fibers and hand crocheted silk flower buttons. The third prize was wool spun together with human hair, also beautifully done.

And how did I do? Well, I came in second!

The yarns were auctioned for charity. At this moment I don’t know if anyone bought my yarn. But I’d love to see it in a project!