Engla – a fleece of many uses

Last autumn, when I made a video at Överjärva gård, I happened to buy another fleece. I didn’t mean to, but I saw it in the wool shop and I immediately realized that it needed me. It was half a fleece from the Swedish finewool sheep Engla.

A raw fleece of crimpy finewool
Engla, a newly shorn fleece

When I sorted the fleece, I decided to divide it into different piles according to the quality of the wool. I ended up with three piles – the very short and fine (neck) staples, the medium length staples and the longer staples.

White crimpy wool on the left, carded rolags on the right
The shortest staples were carded

The fleece was a joy to work with – it was clean, easy to sort, wonderful to comb and card and dreamy to spin. I do love Swedish finewool. I can honestly say it has been one of my very favourite fleeces.

Hand holding up a staple of crimpy wool. Boxes of wool to the left.
Medium staples with lots of crimp

I bought 800 g of fleece and ended up with a total of about 440 g of yarn.

Hands holding up long and crimpy wool. Boxes of wool in the background.
The longest staples were combed

So, I carded the fine neck staples and spun them with long draw on a supported spindle and made a 3-ply yarn out of the singles and I was very happy with the result. A light, airy and even yarn with lots of bounce. I also made a video about the plying.

A skein of handspun white yarn in backlight.
3-ply yarn carded and spun with long draw on a supported spindle. 57 g, 203 m, 3581 m/kg

I carded the medium staples as well and spun them with long draw on a Navajo spindle. One of the yarns I made was a prize winner – The sheep, the chicken, the pig and the lion. I also spun several skeins of singles on a Navajo spindle.

Closeup of skeins of yarn in backlight
Thick singles spun with long draw on a Navajo spindle, and will probably be used as weft yarn. 434 m, 212 g with an average of 2000 m/kg.

I combed the longest staples and spun them with short draw on a supported spindle. I experimented with chain-plying “on the fly” and made two videos about it, a detailed video about how to ply-on-the-fly on a supported spindle and another one where I show how I start from an empty spindle with the ply-on-the-fly method.

A skein of handspun white yarn in a clog
Medium length staples combed and plied on the fly on a supported spindle.

I feel very fortunate as a hand spinner to be able to sort my fleeces to make different kinds of yarns, whether it is according to colour, structure or length. It can result in really unique yarns. And I learn so much from it.

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!

Swedish finewool (finull)

Close-up of crimpy wool.
Yummy Swedish finewool (scoured) from Solkustens spinnverkstad

The first ever fleece I bought was from the Swedish finewool sheep Pia-Lotta at Överjärva gård. She was a lamb back then and it was the wool I learned to spin with. I have managed to get hold of her fleece twice more (the last time I shore her myself). Finewool has become my house fiber. It is the fiber I feel most comfortable spinning and my hearts jumps a beat whenever I get my hands on finewool fluff.

At the wool traveling club‘s wool journey 2016 I bought some really yummy finewool at Solkustens spinnverkstad and a couple of days ago I started preparing it for spinning. I know it is a year later, but that’s my fleece queue at the moment – one year from purchase to process if I keep the queue order.

A good finewool fleece is really crimpy with superfine fibers. It is moderate in lanolin and usually only needs scouring in cold water before processing. It is wonderfully soft, silky to the touch and a very good candidate for carding for a warm and airy woolen yarn. The ends can be a bit brittle and break in the preparation. Therefore it’s a good idea to make sure that doesn’t happen, to avoid nepps and noils in your yarn. I flick card the tip ends of every staple. Any brittle tips stay in the flick card instead of in the yarn.

A hand with crimpy wool in it. Wool in the background.
Crimly staples of finewool

I have spun my first yarn in this fiber from hand-carded rolags on my spinning wheel and I love the result.

Close-up of a skein of white handspun yarn.
Fingering weight finewool yarn spun with long draw from hand-carded rolags, 3-ply, 48 g, 113 m

I also plan to make a 3-ply yarn spun on a Navajo spindle. When I spun this yarn on the wheel, I realized that I have learned so much about long draw from spinning on a Navajo spindle. I wouldn’t have been able to spin singles this consistent if I hadn’t practiced long draw as much as I have on the Navajo spindle. At that insight, my heart skips a beat again.

Happy spinning!

Back in town

I just came home from vacations out of town. First we had a wonderful week in Austria, hiking and seeing my relatives. We flew to Vienna and then took the train to Salzburg. So, when it came to craft planning I didn’t want anything in my hand luggage that any security staff could take away from me. My standard in-flight craft is nalbinding. A blunt wooden needle (or, in this case, bone) and yarn. It doesn’t take much space either. And my loved ones are always in need of warm and wind-proof mittens. These particular mittens will be for my brother-in-law. They were also a perfect companion for hiking.

Close-up of a nalbinding project. Mountains in the background.
Nalbinding at Postalm, Austria. Bone needle from Birka. Yarn is my handspun 3-ply from finewool/rya crossed sheep from Åsebol sheep farm.

We had to stay overnight in Vienna, so I could rearrange my luggage and have access to both spindles and knitting projects for the train ride. And I do love spinning on the train.

Hands spinning on a support spindle on the train.
Spinning on the train between Vienna and Salzburg. Spindle from Neal Brand, spinning disk from John Rizzi. Fluff is merino/tussah silk from Vinterverkstan.

Lots of knitting was done also at the B&B we stayed at. I couldn’t not knit the 2017 Shetland wool week pattern, even though I’m not coming this year either.

Close-up of stranded knitting. Mountains in the background.
Knitting the Bousta beanie by Gudrun Johnston, the 2017 Shetland wool week pattern. Yarn is my handspun from Shetland fleece from Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers (greens) and Jämtland sheep (grey).

And, oh, I also found the house spinning wheel at the B&B! A little beauty that had been used for both flax and wool spinning by the owner’s mother in the early 1900’s.

An old spinning wheel.
A pretty spinning wheel, next to a flax distaff.

The second vacation was in a log cabin in Tiveden in Sweden at the Åsebol sheep farm. They have finewool, Texel and Rya sheep.

Two Rya sheep, one dark grey and one white.
Beautiful Rya sheep.

We came by car and I brought a lot more crafting stuff on this trip. The car was quite full. I had a basket of carders and combs between my feet on the floor. But it was worth it, this farm is one of my favourite places on earth.

A person nalbinding by a creek.
Nalbinding away by the creek.

We did some hiking there as well, and I brought the nalbinding.

Close-up of a nalbinding project by a lake.
Nalbinding again.

We spent a lot of time at the farm, just enjoying the silence and the occasional Baah. And i did a lot of spinning. I brought five spindles plus carders and wool combs and enjoyed them all.

A Turkish spindle with a country road in the background.
Spinning Finewool on a Jenkins Finch.

At the end of the week, I had spun quite a lot.

Several skeins and full spindles.
Wool production at Åsebol sheep farm: Dark grey singles (on Roosterick Navajo spindle and leftmost toilet roll), five skeins of thick singles finewool yarn spun on Navajo spindle (and all of the fluff for it combed and carded on the log cabin  porch), Shetland singles on drop spindle from Bosworth (I am planning to Navajo-ply it), Finewool on Jenkins Turkish spindle, merino/tussah silk on supported spindle from Malcolm Fielding, nalbinding mittens and some secret stuff on the rest of the toilet rolls. Photo by Dan Waltin

Two more weeks of vacation at home. And there will be spinning!

The Blanka pillowcase

Close-up of a weave on a rigid heddle loom.
Weaving the Blanka pillowcase

On the Swedish wool championships of 2016 I managed to win the auction of one of the silver medal fleeces, a Dalapäls fleece from Solaengel’s lamb Blanka. I asked a bit about how to best prepare it and I ended up dividing the fleece into two categories – one for the longer staples with undercoat softness and overcoat lengths and one for a bit shorter staples. I spun the first category straight from the staple on a supported spindle into a strong 2-ply yarn. The second category I carded and spun as a soft, thick singles yarn on my Navajo spindle. I envisioned a woven pillowcase with the strong 2-ply as warp and the soft and thick singles as the weft.

I dyed the warp into a blueish green and the weft a bit lighter. After dying, I warped my rigid heddle loom double with closed selvedges. When I warped, I noticed that the yarn had started to felt in the dyeing process and was very clingy. And that clinginess continued all through the weaving. Beating was a struggle, for every change of sheds and rolling back of the weave I had to manually separate each warp thread. Lots of warp threads snapped (as did I) and  as I got closer to the end of the warp, the twin thread of the broken threads also got loose.

I did finish the pillowcase and I spent over 2 hours weaving in broken warp threads. I added a zipper and was unreasonably proud of my very own Blanka pillowcase.

A hand woven pillowcase

All of these problems might make a person give up and throw the whole project away. Had it been a knitting project I might have frogged it. But I had felt every fiber of this yarn in my hands and I knew the yarn by heart and I never thought of giving up. I just needed to find solutions to the bigger problems and have patience with the smaller ones. And I have learned so much from this project. I am a new weaver and learning by doing has been the headlines all through my new weaving career. And for every fault I see I know how that fault came about and what I learned from it. And I bring this knowledge into the next project.

A hand woven pillowcase. Lake in the background.

When I dyed for this project I had some Shetland in the dye as well and I will make another pillowcase (a non-Blanka pillowcase). The yarn is sleeker and hopefully the weaving will be easier.

Close-up of a hand woven pillow case

Until then, I will cuddle with my pretty pillow.

A hand woven pillowcase in the fern

Navajo plying on a Navajo spindle

I made a new video today! I wanted to explore plying on a Navajo spindle, and I thought Navajo plying would be very fitting. This is my first attempt at Navajo plying on a Navajo spindle and I’m sure it could be done more efficiently. But I found a nice location and the weather was nice, so…

Navajo plying, or chain plying, is when you make a 3-ply yarn out of a singles thread. The technique is the same as in chain crochet. This is a convenient way to ply if you only have one thread or if you want to make colour variations without ending up with a speckled yarn. More on Navajo plying here.

Navajo spindle is from Roosterick, Fluff is hand carded rolags from Engla the Finewool sheep from Överjärva gård. T-shirt is the Walk along from Ankestrick and yarn is from Växbo lin.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. Happy spinning!

A Navajo spindle leaning against a mossy stone. Purple flowers in the foreground.

Plying on a Navajo spindle

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I generally don’t ply on a spindle. It takes too much time and effort. I usually ply on my wheel. But I need to try it. Today, I had three singles spun on supported spindles and I wanted to try to ply them on my Navajo spindle. And I wanted to film something while the cherry trees were still in blossom.

When spinning on a Navajo spindle I roll the shaft towards me on my right leg. So, naturally, when plying I roll the shaft away from me on my right leg. It would work just as well rolling towards me on my left leg.

In the video I keep my spindles in a shoe box. Usually I wind the singles together on a bobble before plying. Or toilet rolls or tennis balls, do it in any fashion you prefer. When plying directly from the spindles I keep my fingers between the singles to keep them in order. When drawing out the singles I smooth them out with my thumb, feeling after bumps and places where a single has plied back on itself. I roll the shaft until I see that the yarn is balanced, and roll it on to the temporary cop. Every now and then I transfer the yarn from the temporary cop down to the permanent cop. It was very convenient to use the oak stump for that.

Well, plying yarn this thin on a Navajo spindle was tedious, I have to say, and there was no time difference from plying on a supported spindle. The positive thing was, as it usually is when it comes to spindles, that I can get a close look on my work and avoid the singles plying back on themselves. There is rarely time for that when plying on the wheel. I may ply on a Navajo spindle again, but with less yarn.

A skein of handspun white yarn in backlight
Result: 203 m, 58 g of fingering weight 3-ply yarn, 3581 m/kg.

Fiber is hand-carded rollags from the finewool sheep Engla from Överjärva gård. Supported spindles from Malcolm Fielding (outer) and Neal Brand (middle) and Navajo spindle from Roosterick. Shawl pattern is Beth Kling‘s Henslowe, Tussah tweed yarn from BC garn.

Happy spinning!

Spinning on a Navajo spindle – drafting

In a previous post I talked about drafting on a Navajo spindle. I made a new video on Navajo spinning today, focusing on drafting.

So, as I described in the earlier post, I roll the shaft, keeping my fiber hand still until the fiber catches the twist. Then I draw in sections, hopefully ending up with a semi-thread of even thickness. Then I draw some more until I reach my target thickness, roll on to the shaft and repeat for the next section. I added a slow motion closeup to show the details.

Filming Navajo spindling is not easy, there are details I want to focus on, but the spinning has lots of parts at quite long distances from each other. I hope the video still makes sense. It was quite cold out when I filmed and the wool was fussy. I could literally hear the wool fat stiffen as I drafted and I had to be very careful not to snap the yarn. Also, the colour of the fiber makes it a little hard to see, but I hope you can see enough. The next fiber I Navajo spin will be white, I promise.

Spindle is from Roosterick. The fiber is hand-carded from a Shetland sheep fleece, purchased at Jameson & Smith Shetland Woolbrokers. Shawl pattern is  the Daisy crescent by Kieran Foley. MC yarn is my handspun and the daisies are various scraps, both storebought and handspun.

Happy spinning!

The Navajo spindle

In september I bought an Interweave video showing different kinds of supported spindles. Among these was a Navajo spindle. I hadn’t paid Navajo spindles much attention before, but after seeing the video I suddenly felt I needed one. And in late november I finally received a beautiful Navajo spindle from Roosterick.

A full Navajo spindle leaning against a rock
My sweet Navajo spindle

The beauty of the Navajo spindle

Spinning on a Navajo spindle is really lovely. The long draw can get amazingly long and is very satisfying. As any other spinning, it’s very soothing. The sound of the point spinning against the bowl, the rhythmic motion of the hands and the feeling of warm wool. Also, it is a spindle technique that involves the whole body. I do like the small movements when flicking a supported spindle, but it is a nice contrast with the long rolling movements and the extension of the other arm away from the body. I decided to learn with the right hand as my spinning hand, the opposite of my preferences regarding other spindles and the wheel. That way I will hopefully avoid muscular strain and give my brain an extra challenge.

How to spin on a Navajo spindle

When spinning on an Navajo spindle you use a long draw. The spinning hand rolls the shaft and the fiber hand controls the fiber, but none of the hands is on the thread (unless for evening out a bump). I roll the shaft several times without moving the fiber hand. When I see that the fiber (still fluffy and unspun) is beginning to catch the twist, I move the fiber hand outwards, letting the fiber catch the twist as my hand moves further out from the body. That gives me a semi-thread (or proto-yarn using Fleegle’s terms in her book about supported spinning) of even thickness. From this stage I can decide what thickness I want. If I want a thick thread I put in some more twist (double drafting) without moving my fiber hand. If I want a thinner thread I move my fiber hand outwards and roll some more. When my arm doesn’t get any longer, I butterfly the thread onto my fiber hand and double draft it in sections. I’ll try to make a video that shows this part more clearly, however, you can see it a bit in the video, starting at 38 seconds.

So, while you can play with any thickness you like,  the Navajo spindle is a perfect tool for practicing spinning thick yarns. Especially thick singles, since you can get quite a low twist yarn with the Navajo spindle. This is a challenge for me, since my go-to thickness is quite thin, but suddenly I really enjoy making fat singles!

The importance of fiber preparation

The fact that you  use a long draw also makes fiber preparation very important. The fiber needs to be carded, preferably by hand. Any nepps or noils will impair the result. Hence, I have practiced – and improved – hand carding in the last few months and the difference between good and not-so-good carding is really evident in the spinning and the finished yarn.

While making my first video on Navajo spindle spinning in December, it became very clear to me that wool grease, just like any other fat, stiffens in the cold. Hence, the yarn broke time and time again. And the beautiful process of learning goes on and on.

Spindle from Roosterick. Fiber is hand combed from Shetland sheep. Hat is Ella Gordon‘s Crofthoose hat, shawl is Kate DaviesNorthmavine hap.

Happy spinning!