Save the thrums!

A skein of dark grey yarn with knots on it

I have participated in another competition. It is the same as I participated in at a wool fair last year. The competition is called ‘Spin your prettiest yarn’ and the challenge is to spin any kind of yarn from Swedish wool, and ad something recycled. Last year I came in second with my pigtail yarn The sheep, the chicken, the pig and the lion, where the recycled material was chicken feathers. In the 2018 competition, I want to save the thrums. I didn’t win anything, but I had a great time spinning the yarn.

Save the thrums!

In this year’s competition my recycled material is weaving thrums. At least I think that’s what they are called. I’m talking about the last piece of the warp when you cut the weave off the loom. When you cut, there are warp threads left tied to the warp beam that are too short to do anything with. They have a special name in Swedish – effsingar, also meaning something that is cut off (I’ve never heard it being used that way, though). When I have finished a weave on my rigid heddle loom and cut it off, the thrums are about 40 cm long. My heart cries when I cut these handspun pieces of magic off and just leave them (I have never been able to throw them away). But for this project, they will bring some bling to my prettiest yarn.

Making the yarn

I used a beautiful grey fleece of a finewool/rya mix that I had combed. I spun the yarn on a supported spindle and chain plied it in sections, a method called ply on the fly. But before I let the twist into the loop, I inserted  a two inch piece of thrum in the loop. The thrums came from my first and second pillow cases and a blanket.

Plying on the fly on a supported spindle is a focus-demanding business. I actually feel a bit like a spider, handling the spindle, three strands of yarn and the butterflied yarn supply. Ad to that a gazillion 2-inch pieces of thrums to fiddle into the loop of the chain ply and you may agree with me.

Close-up of a person plying on a supported spindle.
Plying on the fly takes focus.

The yarn had to weigh at least 50 grams, so I had to spin 50 grams on one single spindle. It worked, but it was quite tough the last 10 grams.

A spindle full of dark grey yarn.
50 g of yarn on a 23 g spindle (Malcolm Fielding).

After I had finished the spinning, I made a simple knot on each thrum. At this stage, a lot of them wiggled their way out of the loop. I started making knots  at the tie end of the skein and followed the yarn all the way through the skein. I came up with this method after I had shot the clip for the video. Since I had basically the same loop length on every loop, I could easily find where a thrum was missing this way. The knots were a bit slippery since the thrums were naturally warp-straight.

After washing the yarn the knots were a bit more friendly towards their destiny as knots and stayed where I had put them.

A skein of dark grey yarn. It has little coloured knots on it and blue flowers.
A finished yarn with saved thrums

FYI: Strong fibers spun and plied on the fly can generate a mean paper cut.

A knitted swatch of dark grey yarn with coloured knots in it.
Save the thrums swatch.

Happy spinning!

Ply on the fly on a Turkish spindle

A spindle and bowl on a chair on a meadow. Mountains in the background.

When I was in Austria with my family recently I experimented with plying on the fly on a Turkish spindle. I posted a picture on Instagram and asked if anyone wanted me to make a video about it. I got a very nice response from several of you who wanted me to go ahead. So I did. Here is my video where I demonstrate how I ply on the fly on a Turkish spindle.

The Turkish spindle

I spin a lot on suspended spindles in the summer, especially my Turkish models. They are perfect for spinning when walking. They don’t take up much room, neither for transport nor for the actual spinning. But sometimes I find spinning on a suspended spindle a bit tedious, so I wanted to learn how to ply on the fly. I have plied a lot on the fly, but so far only on supported spindles.

Ply on the fly on a Turkish spindle

When you ply on the fly you spin a section first. Then you chain-ply that section before you spin the next section. Plying on the fly is a great technique to get a finished yarn without winding the whole cop off the spindle. Well, you do actually wind it all off, but in smaller and more manageable sections. It gives the spinner variation between spinning and plying and you take advantage of the fact that the single is fresh when you ply it. This means that I always want to finish after a plied section and I don’t leave a spun cop on the shaft.

Spinning

For regular spinning on a Turkish spindle you wind the yarn onto the wings. When you ply on the fly you wind the single onto the shaft instead, just like you would on a regular suspended spindle (or the temporary cop of a supported spindle). Then, after you have plied the single, you wind the plied yarn onto the wings.

 

A person spinning on a spindle with crossed wings
Wind your single around the shaft of the spindle. Turkish spindle  from Jenkins yarn tools (Lark model).

When I started practicing plying on the fly the spindle kept dropping to the ground when I was spinning. I got very frustrated because I couldn’t figure out why. And because I was walking at the time. I couldn’t see any difference from regular Turkish spindle spinning. But then I realized that I wound the yarn on differently. Winding the single around the wings helps securing the yarn. So when I figured this out, I wound the yarn around the shaft for plying on the fly, and then under one of the wings before securing it with a half hitch. And, voilá, no more dropping.

Transferring the single

When you have spun your desired length of single, you transfer it to your fiber hand with the butterflying technique – you pick up the yarn in a figure eight with your thumb and pinkie, until you have no more single. This can be done against your belly. It will be more efficient if you do it against a hard surface (my belly isn’t) like a spinning bowl or a table. If this is your start of the yarn, make a loop. If you have already plied a section, you pick up the loop from its parking place on one of the wings. You now have all the freshly spun single on the thumb and pinkie of your fiber hand.

If you have already plied a section, secure the plied end on the shaft with a half hitch (or through the hook if that is how your spindle is constructed).

Chain plying

  • Pick up the loop with your spindle hand index finger. Do not let go of the loop.
  • Pull your single through the loop with your spindle hand thumb, keeping the index finger in the original loop. Make sure you keep all the strands tense.
  • Pick up the new loop from the spindle hand thumb onto your fiber hand middle finger and pull the loop out. This is done by letting go of one strand of yarn at a time from your butterfly. You now have three strands of yarn. Keep these taut. Keep your index finger in the original loop.
  • When you are happy with the length of the section, you can pull your index finger out of the original loop and let the spindle twist the yarn into balance.
  • Wind the plied yarn onto the wings of the spindle – slow and fancy or fast and efficient, your choice. Make a half hitch on the shaft (or put the yarn in the hook) and start the next chain.

When you are out of singles, secure the loop on one of the wings and start spinning the next section.

A person plying on a Turkish spindle
Keep the strands taut and keep the index finger in the original loop

The location

Since I started plying on the fly in Austria, I decided to make the video there as well. We stayed where we alway stay, at a B&B in the town of Mondsee in Salzkammergut. The B&B is an old convent from the 15th and 16th centuries. The owners also own a big meadow that surrounds the B&B. The town is quite crowded with houses nearly on top of each other, but with the meadow you get a spectacular and clutter free view from the B&B over the basilica and the surrounding mountains. The meadow is the place I chose for this video. I am happy to give you a glimpse of a beautiful spot in Austria.

A person spinning on a spindle on a meadow. Mountains and a town in the background.
Spinning on a meadow in the morning sun, surrounded by mountains and a general Austrian-ness. This place makes my heart sing.

Happy spinning!

Wip series: Finished twined knitting mittens!

Two grey mittens

I have finally finished my twined knitting mittens!

This is the fifth and final post in my wip series of spinning for and knitting a pair of twined knitting mittens. The previous posts are about preparing, spinning, plying and knitting.

A lot of joy

I am very happy with the result. They were a true joy to knit. But, as always, there is a melancholy and a sense of loss when finishing a project. There are so many thoughts in a project. Practical thoughts like the next step in the project, how to avoid mistakes, but also all the thoughts that float around in my mind in the making. Things I hear, think or experience while I make are things that are captured in the thread and, literally, woven in to the fabric. In this sense, the finished item is so much more than a pair of mittens. It is a sparkling weave of skill, experience, memories, thought processes, love and emotions. And I treasure them all in my wooly, twined knitted treasure box.

Even if I miss the process of making, I do get to relive all the emotions and sensations that are a part of the mittens. Every time I wear them.

A lot of time

Twined knitting does take a lot of time to make, but the reward is such a sturdy and strong fabric.  And once I was over the initial novelty of the technique (which isn’t all new to me, but the last time I did twined knitting was in 2010), I found a nice rhythm of knitting, twining and untwisting.

A lot of yarn

I used 2 mm needles, which was perfect for this yarn. As you can see, the fabric is very dense on the surface. When you turn the mitten inside out you can see the beautiful ridges, caused by the twining. These also add to the density of the mittens.

Close-up of a grey mitten turned inside-out.
The inside of the mittens show the beautiful ridges created by the twining of the two working yarns.

When I first read the pattern I was a bit sceptical to the yarn requirements – 60 g per mitten seemed a lot to me. After a while I started worrying about having spun too little yarn! But when I had woven in the last yarn end I did have some yarn left, just enough to make a handful of pin loom squares.

The pattern

I used a basic mitten pattern from Berit Westman’s booklet Tvåändsstickning. She has a lot of examples of charted chain path patterns. For the cuffs I made a simple xo pattern from the book. This doesn’t show very well even after blocking. For the back of the hands I wanted something special, so I made my own pattern. I wanted the mittens to represent all the strong and talented textile workers through history. When I had finished the chart, I realized that it was International women’s day, which was very suitable.

A grey mitten with a venus symbol
A venus symbol. The perfect mitten chart. Photo by Dan Waltin

Felting

I struggled with the thought of felting the mittens for extra strength and durability. I had felted my first two pairs of twined knitting mittens. But already at the spinning stage I got a strong feeling of the wool being really prone to felting. It was quite sticky in all the parts of the process and I handled the yarn very carefully. I feared that if I felted the mittens, there was a strong risk of over felting. Also, since I had worked with the structure and colour of the yarn from the very beginning, I wanted the yarn to be the star of the show.

Evaluation

The colour

I do love the variegated colour of the yarn and it looks beautiful in the mittens. Especially in the pattern parts. The mixture of greys and the light golden brown gives the fabric a lovely depth. I am a sucker for greys!

The ply

As you can see in the pictures of the finished yarn, It was quite loosely spun and plied. This goes hand in hand with the wool, that was almost straight. I did over ply the yarn after it was balanced, to compensate for the unplying made by the twining. I don’t think it would have hurt to over ply a little more than I did.

The fabric

I think this is the most even I have ever knit. I think it is easier to make a more even and tight fabric with twined knitting than with regular knitting, since it is easier to pull the thread after each stitch. Also, I love the mixture of plain twined knitting and the blocks of pattern knitting. The squiggly horizontals are well matched with the straight verticals.

Close-up of a grey twined knitting mitten.
The pattern and the colour variations really make the wool justice.

The feeling

When I was preparing the wool and saw the black guard hairs I was afraid that the mittens would be itchy. But they are not. It is just that silky feeling of the under coat. The guard hairs just add a strength bonus. That’s a well behaved yarn! When I wear the mittens I pet the silky ridged insides with my hands. I feel rich.

The works

All in all, I think these mittens are in the top five of myfavourite hand spun projects and I smile every time I wear them. I feel proud and humbled to have the knowledge and skills to create something like this, like thousands of women (and a few men) have done before me.

What is your favourite hand spun project?

Happy spinning!

A pair of twined knitting mittens hanging from a tree branch.
Spring is coming and it’s a happy mitten day!

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 z-ply skein finished

A skein of grey yarn rolled up into a bundle.

It’s micro snowing today! See the tiny snowflakes in the yarn on the featured image? Anyway, about a week ago the first s-spun single for my twined knitting mittens project was full. Today I present the first finished z-ply skein.

A skein of yarn in shades of grey.
A finished skein of z-plied yarn of Värmland wool. Fingering weight, 148 m, 61 g, 2443 m/kg.

Characteristics

The yarn is totally without bounce, which isn’t surprising, given the wavy, almost straight character of the staples. It is really silky and strong, which is a combination of the soft and silky undercoat and the long and strong outercoat. As you can see in the pictures, there are some guard hairs that are misbehaving, but I don’t see them as a problem. I really like the way the colour variations came out. I’m painting pictures in my head with the knitted fabric as the canvas in endless variations of grey. I think this will make a great yarn for my twined knitting mittens.

Technique

I spun the singles with my left hand as spinning hand. That way I could pull the spindle counter-clockwise. It was a really nice experience and felt light and right.

I used the same spindle for both singles, so each single was transfered onto an empty toilet paper roll when finished. That way I could start plying from the same end as I started spinning. I learned somewhere that the yarn will hold together better that way.

When it came to plying, I switched hands so that I plied clockwise with my right hand as the spinning hand, again pulling the spindle. I didn’t experience any pain in any hand. Well, to tell the truth, I did get a bit sore on the skin of the fingertip of my right index finger from two straight hours of plying, but that was just stupidity, don’t tell anyone.

A spindle full of grey yarn
A very full spindle – 60 grams of yarn on a 24 gram spindle (Malcolm Fielding).

Next step

Since I want to knit both mittens at the same time, I can’t start knitting until the second skein is finished. And I’ve already started spinning the third spindle. It’s a really nice project to work with. I comb a few locks, spin them, comb some more and so on.

Gotta go, I’ve got some more s to spin.

Happy spinning!

Plying in Mongolia

Next in our journey around the spinning world is Mongolia. I found this wonderful clip of a woman singing and plying in a Mongolian yurt.

The spindle and the technique looks similar to the ones in Nepal I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. The spindle is quite long with a top whorl and she starts the spinning by rolling it against her thigh. She looks quite happy and, frankly, so would I, spinning in the coziness of a yurt.

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.

New video: How to start plying on the fly on a supported spindle

A couple of weeks ago I published a video on how to ply on the fly on a supported spindle. I am pleased about how it came out and it was very well received. But there was one thing missing with it, and two viewers were kind enough to point that out for me: I hadn’t shown how to start. And there is a reason fort that: I didn’t know how to, which was very unprofessional of me. I had searched youtube for a video on the technique and found Ioana’s video, but she doesn’t explain that either. So, when I recorded the video I just made an unorganized start and hoped it would be tight enough. I definitely did not put that part in the video.

The problem with two directions

After a few days of analyzing and experimenting I have now come to the conclusion that the easiest and most straightforward way to start to ply on the fly on a supported spindle is to use a leader. I usually don’t use a leader when spinning on a spindle because I want the spinning as “clean” as possible. However, in this case I find it justifiable. When plying on the fly you are working with both singles and plied yarn. This means that  there are sections with fiber spun clockwise and counter-clockwise in the same stretch of yarn. Also, the sections are wound onto the shaft in different directions. So, at the loop, the yarn of different directions wound in different directions meet, which makes the point of the loop a critical one and the loop needs to be properly secured at the loop itself (onto he tip) and at the two yarn ends below (by winding the yarn tightly around the ends). And because of this point being so critical, I choose to use a leader that won’t break when changing directions of the spinning and winding on.

My solution

So, I make a quite long leader, make a slip knot at the middle of the leader and tie one end of leader onto the shaft just above the whorl. I wind the leader counter-clockwise around the shaft until I get to the loop. I secure the loop onto the bottom tip of the shaft. After that I secure both leader ends onto the shaft again, now winding the yarn clockwise, just as I have shown in the first video. After that, I spiral the leader up the shaft, clockwise and start spinning! The video is about 3,5 minutes, but only the first minute shows how I start.

Edit: I just discovered a mistake in the video. At 1:41 text should read: “Transfer slip knot to *index finger* of spinning hand”.

Spindle is from Silly Salmon, bowl from the Skansen pottery and fiber is hand combed from the Swedish finewool sheep Engla from Överjärva gård. Pattern designer for hoody is Kate Davies, yarn from Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers.

Thank you Sandra and Nicole for asking me about how to start plying on the fly on an empty spindle. Your feedback helps me to make better videos.

A Bronze medal in the Swedish hand spinning championships 2017!

Josefin Waltin smiling with a bronze medal and a skein of yarn around her neck
The proud bronze medalist in the Swedish hand spinning championships 2017

I just won the bronze medal in the Swedish hand spinning championships 2017!

It is a competition where the prize is really valuable feedback on all the contestants’ spinning and an opportunity to give yourself a spinning challenge. The Swedish championships have been running for three years now and I have participated in all of them. Every year there have been two different categories – one regular and one advanced – and contestants are welcome to enter one or both of them.

This year I participated in both categories. All the contestants got the same fluff sent home together with instructions and the finished yarn was sent to a jury and the winners were announced at the Swedish spinning and wool championships festival at Wålstedts spinning mill in Dala-Floda. More about the event in a later post.

The rules of the game

The regular category was a 3-ply yarn. We received batts of two different colours with which we were allowed to play with as we liked. Originally I had planned to spin a gradient yarn, but when I got the batts I realized that the colours were too similar to each other to make a good gradient. Yet, they were too different to work with singles spun in the different colours without looking too speckled. So I simply pre-drafted from both of the batts similarly to get both of the colours in each singles.

A support spindle filled with yarn, Carded batts in the background.
Batts and singles for 3-ply competition yarn. Supported spindle and spinning bowl from Malcolm Fielding.

Spinning for the championships

The different batts had slightly different feelings to them, I think one of them was undyed. I don’t spin from batts very often and I’m not very used to spinning fluff without lanolin. I spun the singles with long draw on a supported spindle to get as much air in the yarn as possible, and plied it on my wheel. And it turned out nicely. But not the best yarn I have spun and not my favourite spinning either.

I did not get any prize for this yarn. However, I got some very constructive feedback from the jury. They said that it was evenly spun, but a bit overplied in some areas.

A skein of 3-ply yarn
Finished 3-ply yarn, spun woolen from batts on a supported spindle, plied on a spinning wheel

The advanced category was a cabled yarn, spun with two different colours of fluff from batts. I really like these colours, both individually and together.

Two carded batts, a blue and a dusty rose
Coloured batts for advanced category.

This time I chose to spin three of the singles in one colour and the fourth in the other colour. I dizzed the fiber through my needle gauge to get an even pre-draft. I spun the singles woolen in hope of a soft and airy result.

two hands dizzying fiber through a sheep shaped needle gauge
Dizzing with needle gauge

The spinning required lots of focus, again because the lack of lanolin and my not being used to it.

a cabled yarn in blue and dusty rose
Cabled yarn spun woolen from dizzed batts on a spinning wheel. It got me a bronze medal in the advanced category.

The jury’s verdict was “An attractive combination of the colours in the cabling that gives an exciting speckledness to the knitting.” It was a real challenge spinning it and I’m very proud of my work.

New video: Ply on the fly on a supported spindle

 

My friend Anna is a master drop spindle spinner and she often plies on the fly. Ply on the fly is a technique to spin a yarn on a spindle and ply alternately. You spin a bit, secure the end of the single, and chain-ply the part you just spun. I have never practised it, but it is a smart way to finish a yarn without having the trouble of unwinding the spindle in between. I have seen a few videos on this technique, but only on drop spindles. So today I made a search on plying on the fly on a supported spindle. And I found Ioana’s video. She has a good technique and explains it very well.

The basics are: you spin clockwise and wind onto the temporary cop and butterfly the single onto your fiber hand, just as you would normally do. For plying, you pick up a loop from the bottom of the shaft and chain-ply counter-clockwise. When almost all the butterflied single is plied, you secure the loop at the bottom again and go back to spinning.

I wanted to make my own video, soI went to the allotment with my garden chair/camera stand and started spinning! I put in explaining in text and slow motion sections to show the technique as clearly as possible. However, there are many steps in a short segment of time and you might want to watch it more than once to get the technique. Also, look at Ioana’s video for additional explanation of the method.

Close-up of a person chain-plying on a supported spindle
Ply on the fly on a supported spindle

The spindle is from Malcolm Fielding, bowl is an egg bowl from Gmundner Keramik and fiber is hand-combed from the Swedish finewool sheep Engla at Överjärva gård. Sweater pattern is my own (unpublished) and yarn is from Östergötlands ullspinneri.

Happy spinning!