Sock yarn

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about blending rya wool and adult mohair to get the characteristics I needed for a sock yarn. Today I will share my adventurous journey of spinning that sock yarn.

When I had achieved the blending result I was after I combed the blend into strong and silky roving. I spun the roving worsted for extra shine and strength. A sock yarn needs to be durable in all directions and I decided to spin a cable yarn.

Cable ply

A cable yarn generally consists of four Z-spun singles. They are then plied into two balanced S-plied 2-plied yarns. After that you S-ply the yarns again with just as much ply as in the first ply. The 2-plies are now very overplied. In the final step you ply the overplied 2-plies Z into a cable yarn that contains all the four singles. The difficulty is to get to that magic cable ply where the fibers align in the direction of the yarn and create one balanced yarn unit.

An even, cable plied, strong and shiny sock…string.

Sock string

The problem was that the beautiful yarn I had created was basically string. There was no softness, no elasticity, no way near what I would wear next to even the roughest skin on the soles of my feet. It had also been quite exhausting to spin. The fibers were fighting me and I needed to keep my fingers quite tensed during the drafting.

A sock string swatch knit on 2 mm needles. The yarn split and resulted in a flat swatch with the texture and flexibility of suede.

Still I knitted a swatch from my sock string. If nothing else, I figured I at least would have the opportunity to learn something. The sock string was dreadful to knit with. It was very dense and a struggle to work around the needles. Also, the needle kept finding its way in between the 2-plies and splitting the yarn, which resulted in a flat (as opposed to rounded) yarn in the swatch. I couldn’t live like this.

So why am I writing about a disatrous sock string and a leathery swatch? Well, I do have a point. I always tell my students that their mistakes are maps of what they have learned. I consider myself just as much a student as my own students and in this string adventure I have learned a lot that I have put to use in my second try. And the leathery swatch is my map.

A second try

Back to square 1. I needed a preparation and spinning technique that would result in a softer yarn without taking the strength away. I still wanted a sock yarn that would last. So I decided to change the preparation technique, the drafting technique and the spinning direction. The spinning technique (a cable plied yarn) and thickness would stay as much as possible the same.

Carding and spinning woolen

This time I teased the blend with combs:

  1. I loaded the combs with the blend with no consideration of which staple end was where.
  2. I teased the wool with the combs like I normally would when combing
  3. I pulled the teased wool right off the combs, perpendicular to the direction of the tines.

The resulting cloud was now teased and the mohair, rya outercoat and rya undercoat well separated. I then carded the teased blend into rolags and spun the singles woolen. All to bring some softness and air into my yarn.

Three stages of fiber preparation of my sock yarn: Blended rya and mohair locks, the teased blend and carded rolags.

Compared to combing for the sock string, carding resulted in far less waste. In the combing process I had to leave a lot of the shortest fibers since they would make the worsted spinning more difficult. In a carded preparation I could keep more of the shortest fibers. They would also add more softness to the resulting yarn.

Carding long fibers

But can you really card fibers this long without disaster? Wouldn’t the long fibers just double around themselves in the rolag and create a tangled mess? Well, they would if they were

alone.

My sock yarn consists of long rya outercoat fibers (left), medium and short rya undercoat fibers (middle) and adult mohair (right). The combination of lengths makes the blend spinnable after carding.

When I card fibers of this length (in this case around 20 cm) I always make sure they are accompanied by shorter fibers. In a combination of short, medium and long fibers the fibers sort of marry each other and create an airy rolag. A dual coat therefore usually works well carding since there are different lengths in the staples. Combining three different lengths of different breeds would also work fine. In my sock yarn I use a dual coat with lengths between 7 and 20 cm and mohair of around 12 cm. The longest fibers will double around the rolag, but I don’t see that as a problem since there are so many other lengths that won’t.

A new direction

Since I had had the experience of splitting yarn I also changed the direction – I

  1. spun the singles S,
  2. 2-plied Z,
  3. plied again Z and
  4. cable plied S.

This yarn was way more comfortable to spin. I could relax my hands and enjoy the spinning, which, to me, is the whole point.

My finished woolen cable plied sock yarn. 18 grams, 36 meters, 2000 m/kg, 16 wpi.

Even though I am fully capable of spinning in both directions when I spin with spindles, I haven’t changed the direction very much on my spinning wheel. Habits are obviously very easy to form. Changing the direction when I spun the singles was a challenge and puzzled me in the beginning, but after a while I got the hang of it. I could be bold and switch the orifice hand and fiber hand too, but I haven’t been that adventurous yet.

I slip

The spinning was far from easy to manage, though. Mohair is extremely slippery. The smallest part of uneven blending could quickly result in a rush through my fingers in lightning speed. I needed to truly feel every millimeter of the wool in my rolag to be able to be constantly prepared for changes in my grip and drafting.

Swatching

The resulting yarn was softer and a lot more pleasing to handle. It didn’t split when I knit my swatch. I am very happy with this lesson. I remember reading about someone who had changed the direction of a cable yarn just because she experienced yarn splitting when she knit. So this was in the back of my head when I spun the sock string. But, obviously, my brain doesn’t realize that until I actually and physically feel it when I spin. Not until I see and feel the result I understand why I had been told not to go that way. And I am thankful for being able to learn and understand through trial and error.

A sock yarn swatch knit on 2.5 mm needles. The yarn stayed together and resulted in a flexible swatch that I definitely can see feet thriving in.

I have plans to dye the yarn in a few different colours. With one kilo of rya/mohair blend I should be able to knit a few pairs of socks.

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.

Blending

I’m not very fond of knitting socks. Yet socks are quite essential. I’m definitely not fond of plastic in sock yarn. Yet a strong fiber is quite practical to prevent holes in the socks. Fortunately, there are other strong fibers than plastic. This is the story of a simple blending process that hopefully will result in durable socks in natural materials.

A small scale sample yarn

On my 2019 wool journey I experimented with a sock yarn where I blended rya lamb’s wool and adult mohair. I ended up with a strong 3-ply sock yarn sample. I started out with 6 + 4 grams of fiber, which did help me find a process and a suitable yarn for socks, but in a very small scale.

Scaling up

On the fleece championships that year I bought a gold medal winning rya fleece and a bag of adult mohair to scale up my experiment to real socks. As usual the fleeces went in the back of the fleece queue, but now they’re next in line. This week I started my sock yarn project.

In my small scale experiment I had used 6 grams of rya and 4 grams of mohair. In my upscaled project I have 650 grams of rya and 400 grams of adult mohair which I somehow needed to blend.

Josefin Waltin sitting with a pile of wool. Locks are flying in the air around her
Willowing wool is a good way to blend wool.

Many people have seen a video where I willow my wool to open up the locks. This method is also perfect for blending two wool qualities or colours. However, I am not willowing my sock blend. I’m not very keen on sitting outdoors in the wind and temperature of November in Stockholm. Also, I’m afraid the willowing may ruin the lock structure in the staples. Since I will be combing the wool I need the staples to maintain their structure so that I can tell the cut end from the tip end. Therefore I needed to find another way of blending my wool.

Uncling

The fleeces had been somewhat compressed in the sofa bed storage and the staples were clinging to one another. So the first step was simply to separate them. Willowing would have been perfect for this task too, but still, not in November. Instead I sat down and started to pick and separate the locks by hand in both fleeces. This gave me the opportunity to look and feel through the fleeces and get to know their characteristics better, literally staple by staple.

The rya fleece was open and airy with long, silky and fine staples. They were also easy to separate from each other. The mohair staples on the other hand were compact in themselves and somewhat reluctant to opening up. The fibers in each staple seemed to cling to each other. The staples were quite easy to separate from each other though, since I had managed to wash a lot of the wax away.

I picked the locks by hand to make the blending of the mohair and rya fleeces easier.

The difference in willingness to separate in the different fleeces is something I need to keep in mind for when I process and spin the wool since it can influence how evenly the wool drafts when I spin. But first things first.

Let’s make Lasagne!

When I had gone through both of the fleeces and separated the staples it was time to start blending them. I did it the simplest way I could think of – I divided the fleeces in 6 piles each. I figured the smaller units of wool I could blend the more even the blend would be.

When I had my 6 + 6 rya and mohair piles I started building a lasagne by layering the piles one by one in a basket – one layer of rya and one layer of mohair until I was out of piles. After that I turned the basket upside down on the floor, dug my hands into the blended pile and whisked the whole arrangement around.

Combing

The final part of the blending was the actual combing. From my thorough lasagne blending technique I knew the two kinds of fiber were reasonably evenly distributed. Therefore I simply grabbed a handful of the blend and started combing. Later I decided to weigh each handful to make sure the rovings would be the same weight. This also eliminated my usual habit of over loading the comb.

8 grams of rya and mohair locks ready to be combed into sweet roving.
8 grams of rya and mohair locks on my medium comb, ready to be turned into sweet roving.

From the hand picking I had learned that the rya and mohair staples were very different. The dual coat rya locks were easy to separate and quite airy while the mohair locks were dense and quite reluctant to let go. With this in mind I made sure to make enough passes to thoroughly separate the fibers. The fleeces have in the blend formed a new togetherness with new characteristics that I need to consider when I work with the preparation and spinning.

I landed in five passes, planking, and then another three passes (you can read more about this combing technique in an earlier post about combing different fiber lengths). After the final three passes I dizzed the roving and got myself a lovely bird’s nest.

A 5 gram rya/mohair bird’s nest.

I am very happy with the result. The fibers are evenly distributed both in and between the rovings. Nothing clings anymore and I can draft easily. I have finished a first test skein and a second improved skein. The spinning process and resulting yarn however, is a matter for another blog post.

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.

Come together

The corona virus has the world in its grip and we all need to do what we can to keep our risk groups safe and make sure the health care workers can do their job. Many initiatives are made and lots of creative solutions are figured out to make us able to come together in new ways.

Spin together apart

Lots of spinners have regular spin meetings where you can share ideas and inspire each other. Many of these have been cancelled due to the restrictions because of the virus. At the same time, I have seen so many initiatives to digital spin meetings across the world. In this I think both regular guild spinners and spinners who haven’t had a spinning guild or meeting in their community have found their way to digital meetings. Perhaps more spinners meet regularly now than before, only from their own living rooms.

A spinning workshop

One such example is the spinning workshop in Hölö, Sweden. They usually meet every Tuesday in an old church school and spin together. Several of them are risk group and the spinning meetings in the church school has taken a break. But the virus doesn’t stop the spinners from having their meetings. Now they meet online instead. The spinners who are in a risk group can come together apart without subjecting themselves to the virus. Others who have a long way to go to come to the church school can save the time it takes to get there and still enjoy the company and the discussions.

Spinning in the news

The new digital spinning workshop made such an impression that Swedish national media reported from the meetings. Here is a lovely clip and an article from Dagens Nyheter, of the largest newspapers in Sweden. They visited Lena and her Dalapäls sheep one Tuesday in lambing season.

The week after the newspaper had visited I joined the digital meeting. As it turned out, reporters from Swedish national television were visiting Lena to make another clip. It was aired in a live show raising money for those who have suffered the most in the corona crisis. You can watch it here. The clip starts at 49:25 (you can see me for about half a second). In the clip Lena tells us that they immediately closed down the meetings when the restrictions came. Now the digital spinning meetings are a success. People who belong to risk groups can safely go to the digital spinning workshops and join their spinning community. Lena tells us that when they go back to meeting in person again they will still bring a computer to open a digital opportunity for those who can’t come.

A digital Q&A

Once a month I host a Q&A for some of my patrons. They can send questions ahead or ask during the Q&A. The sessions have so far been directly in the chat, but in my last Q&A I decided to make it in video.

The first problem was to find a time that suited my patrons and me. Some are in the U.S. and Canada, some in Europe and some in Australia and New Zealand. There was no way I would be able to find a time when all could be present during daytime. So I scheduled two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Seven people from across the globe came to the sessions, one was present at both of them. We had a lovely time together. We could all see and hear each other. This was the first time I have seen some of my most faithful followers. One of them was my very first patron who has supported me for over two years and one was brand new.

Josefin Waltin smilling at the camera. She is wearing knit-in ear phones.
A video Q&A for my patrons.

Seeing each other made it easier to interact. People could ask questions and show what they meant. They could also bring things to discuss. One patron brought some fleece that she wanted to know how to process, another brought a spindle she asked my opinion of.

Another good thing was that I didn’t have to answer all the questions – all of the participants had experiences to share that was very helpful. I think we can develop these sessions to something very rewarding and useful.

The Q&As are for the higher tier patrons only. If you want to become a patron you can check out my Patreon page. Whether you do or not, I hope it inspires you to start or join digital spinning meetings in one way or another.

A course in corona times

In January I published a post about my rya chair pads. I had woven seven chair pads from my handspun stash on my rigid heddle loom.

Seven woven squares with rya knots. They are in different patterns and colours – striped, plain, zebra skin, cow skin and a heart.
Rya chair pads in my handspun yarn (none of them rya yarn).

Shortly after, my friend Lena (above) called me. The spinning workshop has a rya theme this year. They try to learn as much as they can about different aspects of rya. Rya is a Swedish sheep breed, a wool type (not necessarily from the rya breed) and a knotting technique (originally from rya wool type but not necessarily today). Lena wanted me to teach a class for them in the rya technique. The thing is, Lena and several of the members of the spinning workshop are weavers. I don’t consider myself a weaver. I consider myself a beginner at weaving and I don’t deserve the title weaver yet. But Lena argued that it was just because I wasn’t an experienced weaver that I was interesting as a teacher in the technique – you don’t need to know how to weave monk’s belt to make rya knots.

Digital rya knots

As the course date came closer I got increasingly worried about the course. I knew some of the spinners in the group are in risk groups. But since they had such success with the digital spinning meetings cancelling was no option – they wanted me to teach the course digitally.

So, for the past few weeks I have tried to plan a course that I was supposed to teach on site. I had planned to bring my chair pads and show them, and Lena was supposed to help non-weavers set up their warps. I imagined a creative zone with brilliant minds where we would inspire each other to try new ideas. We soon realized that we could still do most of these things in a digital course.

Wonder warps

Lena warped at home and delivered mini looms to the church school for the participants to come and get. I found a way to make a large demo warp that hopefully will help the participants see the technique.

This is how it works:

  • The loom bars at the top and bottom are my actual loom bars from my backstrap loom.
  • The six skeins of handspun yarn are the warp threads. Since they are looped I can actually make sheds.
  • I used a handspun and hand woven band as the weft.
  • The woven scarf is my rya knot.
  • The display is hung on a camera tripod.
A rya demo.
A pretty much hand made rya demo for digital teaching.

I am very proud of this arrangement and hope it will be a useful tool in the course.

A sample band

I also made a sample band to show how you can achieve big variations with small changes. I set up the warp on my backstrap loom and just played and had fun with the knots. For pedagogical reasons I used different colours for different purposes – the warp is brown, the weft white and most of the knots green.

A woven band with rya knots in different arrangements.
A sample band for the digital rya course. All the yarn comes from my handspun stash.

Apart from the rya demo, the rya chair pads and the sample band to show I will also have a Keynote presentation with close-up photos to show the participants.

The course is tomorrow and I hope we will all learn a lot from this experience. If you have been following me for a while you know I make lots of videos and webinars and also online video courses. But this will be the first time I teach live.

Possibilities of video

As a teacher I know how much I can give my students in an on-site course. We can talk face to face, cuddle with yarn, feel structures and pick up non-verbal signals. I can also see from a distance when I need to guide a student. But when the option to an on-site course is no course at all a digital solution is a powerful tool.

The same goes for spinning and guild meetings – we can still meet, just in a different format. And people who wouldn’t have been able to come to a spinning meeting at all suddenly has the opportunity to join one near or far. We are all neighbours online.

In the situation we are in it seems even more important to come together for comfort and a sense of togetherness. We are all in the same boat and we need to navigate it together in a new direction.

Stay safe and happy spinning!


You can follow 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.

Swedish fleece championships 2018

I wrote earlier about the Swedish spinning championships 2018. This post is about the Swedish fleece championships 2018.

A new dawn for Swedish wool?

On the one hand, it is sad that so much of Swedish wool goes to waste. Over 80 % of Swedish wool is wasted (here is a post about what I do with my wool waste). Partly because of the lack of profit for the sheep farmers and because of lack of an infrastructure for a fleece market.

But the knowledge, skills and love put in every single fleece at this event is truly astonishing and I see a strong will to cherish Swedish wool.

The competing fleeces

A table full of fleeces
The fleece table of the Swedish fleece championships 2018. Just look at that black rya at the bottom left!

Around 20 fleeces had entered the championships and with a wide variety of breeds, colours and mixed breeds. A silky rya fleece, black as the night, a fawn Swedish finull with unbelievably long staple, ridiculously soft Jämtland fleeces and so much more.

I spent a long time walking lap after lap around the fleece table just soaking it all in with all my senses (well not really all senses) – smelling the lovely sheep smell, looking at the different colours and structures, listening to the sound of my imaginary spindle spinning all the fleeces into their best yarns. And, above all, feeling the soft, springy, sturdy, silky, squishy, bouncy, creamy and beautiful fleeces with my happy hands.

A table full of fleeces
Jämtland fleeces at the end of the table.

An old friend

The light grey Jämtland in the picture above was ar real favorite for both visitors and jury – it received a silver medal and was sold for 140 € at the auction to two happy spinners who sisterly shared their loot. I have made its acquaintance before, though. The fleece is from the same sheep that provided me with the sweater I knit in my Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater video. The shepherdess Birgitta Ericsson got four awards for her fleeces – two medals, the people’s choice award and the best of all prize.

Finewool frenzies

I have a soft spot for Swedish finewool. The first fleece I ever bought and spun was a finewool fleece. Of course there were quite a few finewool fleeces at the championships.

A white finewool fleece
A beautiful and crimpy Swedish finewool fleece

I really loved the white Finewool fleece above. Long and crispy staples with a silky touch. This fleece got a gold medal. I can get high quality finewool fleeces at home, though, so I concentrated on other breeds at this event. But I can look and drool, can’t I?

A fawn finewool fleece
Finewool with an exceptional staple length

Another finewool fleece and silver medalist I just couldn’t take my eyes (and hands) off was this dreamy fawn one above. Look at that staple length! It must be nearly 15 cm, which is very unusual for this breed.

My precious

I did end up buying two fleeces at the auction. I had my eyes set on a few, but I could only get two home on the train (and into my fleece storage in the sofa bed).  My initial plan was to buy two white fleeces. I find it much easier to see white wool when I spin and I realize that this also goes for my videos and when I am teaching. White wool shows better on screen and will also be easier for my students to see.

The first fleece I bought was a white finull/rya mix breed with long and soft staples. Last year I also bought a finull/rya mix breed at the auction, and it was from the same shepherdess. She knows what she’s doing!

Finally, it was the amazing Åsen/Härjedal mix breed (25%/75%) in colours from chocolatey brown through rose grey to creamy white. The staples were amazing with their matte and sturdy looking cut end and wavy golden tip ends. And look at those sweet lamb curls! Just dreamy. I do realize that this fleece is not white. But can you blame me for wanting this beauty?

Ok, it’s time for a Swedish lesson. “Vill ha” is the translation to want. “Behöver” is the translation to need. Some genius came up with the fusion “villhöver”, which would translate into something like “I want it so much that I think I really, really need it”. I villhöver this fleece. End of story.

I just spent a couple of hours sorting the chocolate creamy fleece and I was constantly amazed by the colours and variations within the fleece and within the staples. The shepherdess didn’t really want to sell it, but she did part with it for me anyway. I hope she thinks I am a worthy spinner for her baby. The sheep’s name is Chanel.

Wool staples of different natural colours arranged in a Sul pattern.
Colour variations in one single fleece

To summarize, I had a few favourites and they all got medals. I guess I have some sort of feeling for what’s in a good fleece.

Spinning class

I was also at the championships as a spinning teacher. For the third year running I taught a class in supported spindle spinning at the championships. I had four eager students, some of whom had taken the class before. Two of them brought their own spindles, which they had bought from me two years ago. It felt good to see some of my first spindles again! The students were very happy with the course and they have all made great progress.

I love teaching. All my classes are for intermediate to advanced spinners and it is such a treat to just geek down in a subject with fellow geeks and really talented spinners. I learn something new every time and collect new pedagogical tools for my tool box. We dive head first into technique and function and my heart explodes with spinning joy.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and I can’t wait for the 2019 championships.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Logo embroidery

Embroidery is not my strongest textile technique. Sometimes, though,  an embroidery just needs to exist, and this was such a time. I needed to do some serious logo embroidery on a wool handling apron.

Josefin Waltin wearing an apron with an embroidered sheep
My wool handling apron with sheep logo. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The logo

You may have noticed my logo, the sheep with the spiral fleece.

A logo with a sheep and the text Josefin Waltin spinner

My retired father used to work as an art director and has made lots of logos and I asked him to make one for me. He presented several different ideas, but I fell for this one. It was finished in March and I am very fond of it.

Looking at it, I realized that it wouldn’t be very difficult to make an embroidery of it. I had the perfect wool for embroidery yarn – a strong and shiny white Rya. You have seen it in the Spinning around the world video I released in June. I spun it on a supported spindle and 2-plied it. In this blog post you can read more about the wool and the spinning.

Dyeing

The first step after spinning was getting the colour right. Dyeing is not my field of expertise, I dye when I need to. I use dyes from Greener Shades. I want to mix the colours myself, but I find it quite challenging. Sometimes I don’t see the colour until it’s all dyed. eventually I did get the colour right, but I dyed very little yarn, so it ended up very dark. On the second try I got it right.

a bit of felted wool and a skein of yarn hanging on a washing line
Newly dyed and dried. Rya embroidery yarn and wet felted undercoat for the head.

Looking at the pictures now, though, I see that it has a bit too little red in it. I will have to live with that.

A small skein of blue yarn on a stone
A pretty skein of Rya embroidery yarn

Logo embroidery

I borrowed an embroidery hoop from my friend Maria (who helped me with my medieval spinning video). My original plan was to use a stem stitch – I thought it would look nice on the moving wool spiral. But the yarn was far too thick for the fine linen on the apron and it just looked like croquet hoops. So I picked it up and started again, this time with a simple backstitch. It didn’t make the yarn any thinner of course, but it was easier to make the curves of the spiral look better.

An embroidery hoop with embroidery in blue yarn
Backstitching away

The face was a bit tricky. Originally, I had planned to fill the face with embroidery, but then my friend Elaine suggested that I use a piece of felted wool instead. And that was av very good idea. The felted piece got a little thick, but I can live with that too.

An embroidered sheep in an embroidery hoop
A finished embroidery

My father suggested beads for the eyes, which was just right.

I love my new apron and I feel like a proud entrepreneur when I wear it.

Close-up of a person wearing an apron with an embroidered sheep
My wool handling apron with logo embroidery. Photo by Dan Waltin

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • 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. You can subscribe or get an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts and post lots of woolliness.

New video: Spinning around the world

Josefin Waltin spinning on a supported spindle

I made a new video: Spinning around the world. Often, you see me sitting on a stone somewhere in a Swedish fairytale forest. In this video I will visit your forests.

The conservatory

The video was shot in the Edvard Anderson conservatory at the Bergius botanical garden in Stockholm, Sweden. Edvard Anderson (b. 1865) donated his fortune to the Bergius Gardens for a conservatory of Mediterranean plants that the people of Stockholm could enjoy all year round. He also wanted a café in the conservatory, selling coffee, soft drinks, chocolates and pastries. The conservatory opened in 1995 and we have had season tickets since then.

Our son was born in 2003 and he was baptized in the entrance pond which is seen at the beginning of the video.

Spinning around the world

The conservatory is built up of seven different climate regions with the main hall dedicated to Mediterranean plants. Six smaller halls contain plants from tropical and sub tropical rain forests, tropical ferns, deserts and the area in south western Australia. I shot short clips in all of the halls, except for the Australia hall – there was nowhere to sit or place my tripod.

In the tropical hall there was also a fiber section with fiber and dye plants – ramie, New Zealand flax, different kinds of cotton, Indigo, Chinese Indigo and paper mulberry.

Chinese Indigo
Chinese Indigo in the fiber section

Lots of cotton wads were hanging from the cotton plants, enticing me with their squishiness. I asked one of the gardeners what they were doing with the cotton. I figured that if they harvested it and didn’t know what to do with it, I could adopt some of it and spin it. The answer was that they didn’t do anything with it – everything was supposed to have its natural cycle. Hence, they let everything fall to the forest floor and contribute to the natural cycle of the forest. Which of course was reasonable and logic – no cotton for me.

A cotton plant with extra-long staple cotton
Extra-long staple cotton

Longwool for embroidery

The wool I chose for this video is a beautiful shiny white lamb rya. Last August I participated in a live spinning competition. The contestants prepared and spun singles from the same wool in front of an audience for 30 minutes on spindles or wheels. The wool was this rya and we all got about 50 grams each of it. Quite generous, since I only combed three bird’s nests and spun two of them in the competition. I had nearly forgot that I had brought the rest of it home.

Two hand-combed tops and some locks of white Rya wool
Pretty bird’s nests of lamb Rya

I am planning to do some embroidery and I figured this Rya would be a perfect candidate for my embroidery yarn. I combed the fiber and made beautiful bird’s nests, almost too pretty to spin.

Long rya is not the easiest fiber to spin on a supported spindle. The fibers are very long and sleek. This means that you have to keep a good distance between the hands to be able to draft. This is not always easy. But, as with all spinning, you have to get to know the fiber before you can spin it to its full potential.

Thank you for all your kind words about my blog and videos. You are my biggest source of inspiration!

Happy spinning!

A skein of white yarn
A finished skein of Rya yarn, spun and 2-plied on a supported spindle. 101 m and 46 g, 2207 m/kg.