Gestrike wool

One of the ten Swedish conservation sheep breeds is Gestrike sheep. Today’s blog post and an upcoming breed study webinar are all about Gestrike wool. This is my tenth breed study. Previous breed studies have been about Gotland wool, Gute wool, Dalapäls wool, Värmland wool, Jämtland wool, finull wool, rya wool, Klövsjö wool (blog post only) and Åsen wool.

This Saturday, October 23rd at 5 pm CET I will host a free live breed study webinar on Swedish Gestrike wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

The webinar has already taken place

Gestrike sheep

Like all the other Swedish conservation/heritage breeds, the Gestrike sheep is named after the region where it was (re-)found and established as a unique breed. So, Gestrike sheep were found in just a few flocks in villages in County Gästrikland in the 1990’s. The flocks had been grazing in the area for many generations.

According to the statistics from the Swedish sheep breeders’ association there were 173 breeding ewes in 25 flocks in 2020. The ewes way around 45 kg and the rams 60–70 kg. They can be white, grey, black, brown or spotted. Some lighten with age. The wool is predominantly of rya type – about 50/50 of outercoat and undercoat.

Gestrike sheep on shearing day. The sheep with the blackest face just left of the center is Elsa, described below.

Gestrike sheep are very good at grazing in tight vegetation and therefore perfect for forest grazing. They can get very affectionate and cuddly.

Gestrike wool characteristics

As a heritage/conservation breed, the breeding standards don’t allow crossing with other breeds or breeding for specific characteristics, including the fleece. So, as with the rest of the conservation breeds the fleece from Gestrike sheep is quite heterogenous.

My experience of Gestrike wool is mainly from three individuals – Elin, Elsa and Gunvor from Claudia Dillmann’s flock. Claudia has been a member of the board of the Swedish sheep breeders’ association for some years, with a responsibility for wool and skin.

Gestrike wool can have very soft and airy undercoat and long, strong and shiny outercoat. Some have a little kemp. Some can have. rougher mane fibers. Lamb’s wool is finer than wool from older individuals. This together with the many colours and the possibility of wool lightening with age gives a spinner an enormous spectrum of spinning possibilities – soft knitting yarn, strong warp yarn, fine, bulky and a broad palette of colours.

The characteristics I choose to focus on when I spin Gestrike wool are:

  • Rusticity. Gestrike wool is rustic. Still, not necessarily coarse. I would consider it a medium wool with no fuss. What you see is what you get with Gestrike wool. Triangular or conical shaped staples with outercoat and undercoat fibers. Rustic, straight and straightforward.
  • Lightness. Despite staples of up to 25 centimeters the Gestrike fleeces I have encountered have never felt heavy. On the contrary, they have a lightness to them that is very appealing. The undercoat is very airily distributed around the outercoat fibers and keep the sheep warm and cozy.
  • Versatility. With the different fiber types, a wide spectrum of colour possibilities and different wool qualities in sheep of different ages there are few things you can’t do with Gestrike wool.


The first time I met Gestrike wool was in the shape of Elin. My friend Claudia Dillmann who has a small flock of Gestrike sheep wanted me to get to know the breed she loved. So on a rainy day I hopped on my bike and collected Elin’s fleece.

Elin’s fleece is of mainly rya type wool (50/50 or 40/60 of outerocat to undercoat) but leaning towards vadmal wool (mostly undercoat and a little outercoat). Her undercoat is very fine and outercoat strong and with an overall light feeling. I can see some but not many kemp fibers in this fleece.

Fine undercoat fibers, coarser outercoat fibers and quirky kemp fibers in Gestrike wool.
Fine undercoat fibers, coarser outercoat fibers and quirky kemp fibers in Gestrike wool.

I have demonstrated Elin’s fleece in the free webinar The hand spinner’s advantage and also on the 2021 Kil sheep fest.


One night about six months ago a baby idea woke me up, pinching me to get my attention. The baby idea said to me, with great conviction: “Make a longitudinal study of the fleeces of one single sheep!”. What’s a spinner to do? I contacted Claudia and asked her if I could adopt the shearings of one of her sheep. Claudia thought it was a great idea and offered me Gunvor, a lamb born in May 2020. I happily accepted Gunvor and got her first (October 2020) and later second fleece (April 2021).

The undercoat of Gunvor’s lamb’s fleece is almost as soft as on Elin’s fleece. It has some white kemp that falls out quite easily. The wool is very easy to work with. Some of the black staples are very long, around 25 centimeters, and the black wool seems slightly finer than the white wool. The black wool also has less kemp.

The second shearing is a bit coarser than the lamb’s fleece and a bit lighter – it seems like Gunvor’s spots are fading with age, which will be interesting to observe.


Elsa is my newest Gestrike fleece, shorn in early October this year. She is also a member of Claudia’s flock of Gestrike sheep. She also happens to be Elin’s daughter. Grey in different nuances and all the staple types represented, from mainly outercoat staples to mainly undercoat staples. The main wool type is rya type wool, though, with a 50/50 undercoat to outercoat ratio. The fleece has no kemp.

To learn about the four wool types in Swedish sheep breeds, read this blog post.

Gestrike wool for sale!

Claudia had her sheep shorn only last week (more about the shearing day in an upcoming post) and she has fleeces for sale! Eight Gestrike fleeces and two Värmland fleeces. They are remarkably clean and of high quality. Crotch and belly wool has been removed and also poopy bits and visible vegetable matter.

The fleeces come as they are, raw. The lanolin content in the Swedish landrace and heritage breed is quite low and they can be washed in water only.

Again, all the four Gestrike fleeces I have come from Claudia’s flock and I have seen all the shorn fleeces she is selling now. I would buy them all if I had the time and the space.

If you want to buy a fleece from Claudia’s flock you can email her: claudia (at) saxensorter dot se

The sale of the fleeces brings in money to keep the sheep happy and fed during the winter.

Preparing in general

With a wool in so many different colours, staple types and hands it is easy to see how Gestrike wool can have a very wide variety of preparation, and spinning techniques. Add to this the age spectrum where fleece from an older individual can be coarser (and stronger) and lighter in colour than a the one from a younger individual. Considering all these aspects there are numerous ways to dissect a Gestrike fleece:

  • fiber type (undercoat or outercoat)
  • staple type (ratio of undercoat to outercoat in the staples)
  • staple length
  • fiber fineness
  • different colours and shades of the same colour.

This makes wool from a breed like Gestrike sheep very versatile. With a flock of Gestrike sheep the sheep farmer has material from coarse rugs to the finest lace shawls in all the natural colours.

The Gestrike wool I have experienced is quite light and open. Preparing it is a true joy. It melts like butter in both combs and cards. My heart sings through processing. The fleeces from Claudia’s sheep has very little vegetable matter.

Preparing in particular

I have plans for all of the Gestrike fleeces in my stash.

  • I have started to card rolags from Gunvor’s lamb’s fleece (after teasing with combs). To take advantage of her spots I have sorted the colours in heaps of white, black and mixed.
  • The second shearing from Gunvor’s fleece will probably also be carded and sorted by colour.
  • I am planning to separate undercoat from outercoat on Elin’s fleece. I will then card the undercoat and comb the outercoat.
  • My plan for Elsa’s fleece is to divide it by staple type. I think I can get enough of each staple type to get four very different qualities. If there is enough I may also sub-sort by fiber fineness and/or staple length. I will probably card the heaps with more undercoat and comb the ones with more outercoat.

So, between the four fleeces I have I have plans to sort them in up to five different ways.


As you can imagine, with fleece from a breed with so many options for dissecting and preparing, there are equally many ways to spin. Here are my plans for the fleeces I have.

  • I’m spinning a super bulky 2-ply yarn from Gunvor’s lamb’s fleece in black and white. I have spun bulky woolen singles from hand carded rolags on a floor supported spindle and plied it on a spinning wheel. You can read more about the spinning process for this yarn here.
  • Gunvor’s second shearing will be part of a rya rug project as pile yarn (you can read about a previous rya chair pad project here). A low twist, high ply and lightly fulled 2-ply yarn that will stand the abrasion in a rya rug.
  • With Elin’s fleece I’m planning to spin a worsted spun singles warp yarn and a woolen spun singles weft yarn for weaving and fulling.
  • Elsa’s fleece has so many options and I’m planning to spin lots of different yarns from the preparations of the heaps of different staple types.


With the wide variety of staple types available in Gestrike wool it is easy to understand that you can use the yarn for a wide variety of projects – warp and weft for woven fabric, rugs, socks, mittens, sweaters, shawls and more. The undercoat fibers from a soft lamb’s fleece would definitely be a candidate for next to skin garments.

I am slowly knitting up the legs of my Moroccan snow shoveling pants. I run out of yarn quite quickly since it’s so bulky and the 5.5 mm needles aren’t really silky smooth knitting, but the fabric is just wonderful in my hands. Bulky, warm and safe with a soft smell of lanolin.

Live webinar!

This Saturday, October 23rd at 5 pm CET (world clock here) I will host a live breed study webinar about Swedish Gestrike 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 Gestrike wool. I will use Gestrike wool during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I prepare and spin the wool.

The webinar has already taken place.

Even if you think you will never come across Gestrike wool in particular 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.

You can register even if you can’t make it to the live event. I will send the replay link to everyone who registers for the webinar. Remember, the only way to get access to the webinar (live or replay) is to register.

Happy spinning!

You can find 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.

Sheep festival

This past weekend I attended the sheep festival in Kil in Värmland, Sweden. It is an annual event that attracts thousands of visitors. This was the 14th festival. The aim of the festival is to spread knowledge, inspire and facilitate networking with the four legs of the sheep as a foundation – wool, skin, meat and the sheep as a landscape manager.

The sheep organization

The first festival was held in the local industry building in Kil in 2006, but after a few years it had to move to a larger venue. It has since then been held at a local school when the children had their annual sports holiday in the end of February. The festival has grown from just a few hundred visitors the first year to somewhere around 10000 from all over Sweden in 2020. The town of Kil has 12000 inhabitants.

Everyone in Kil is involved in the festival and the preparations run through the whole year. The most significant symbol of the festival is the “tussris” – a bundle of twigs with wads of coloured wool. Every sports team in town is assembling wad twig bundles to decorate the town and the festival. The Red Cross is in charge of the wardrobe, other organizations are handling the entry fee, other volunteers are helping out as hostesses, serving coffee, cooking, serving, building, promoting, housing and literally breathing the festival. In addition to all the volunteers, several families opened their homes to traveling visitors. I stayed with a lovely family who moved out of their bedrooms to accommodate me and three other festival visitors for three nights.

Here is a short clip from the Swedish news from the sheep festival. You can see me and my embroidered backpack around 13 seconds into the clip.

The Golden Ram award

Every year The Golden Ram is awarded someone who is active in some aspect of the sheep. This year the prize was awarded to Fia Söderberg who is the founder of the Swedish wool agency – a digital marketplace where you can buy and sell Swedish wool. She is also the founder and host of the Swedish wool podcast (in Swedish).

Two women standing on a stage. They are holding up a certificate and a cheque. A sheep on a screen behind them.
Fia Söderberg receiving the Golden Ram award and 10000 Swedish Kronor ($1106/970 €).

While spinning, I listened to Fia’s acceptance speech about how the Swedish wool agency came about. From a frustration over wasted Swedish wool to a flourishing wool market where crafters and sheep owners meet in the name of wool in just a few years. That is quite an achievement and the festival organization couldn’t have picked a more worthy person to receive the award.

Activities on the festival

Around 150 vendors come for the festival, selling yarn, wool, meat, skins, tools for crafting, hand made items and much, much more. Visitors can also take classes, workshops, watch shows and demos and listen to talks about different aspects of sheep and products from sheep.

Braids of coloured wool yarn in a scale from green to pink.
Wool embroidery yarn in every colour.

I didn’t take many photos, but if I had, they still wouldn’t have made the festival justice. But if you wish, you can imagine pictures of yarn, wool, sheep, skins and textiles here.

A knit wizard

I came to the festival with Sara Wolf, who also goes by the alias A knit Wizard, and her husband. Sara is a writer who is working on a book called Knit (spin) Sweden and I assist her with some of the spinning parts. They flew from Boston, landed in Stockholm, rented a car and picked me up on the way. It was lovely to finally meet her. We have had so many conversations about Swedish wool via email and now we could continue that conversation in person. You can read Sara’s blog post about the sheep festival here.

Sara gave me a present that took my breath away. A Turkish spindle. A real Turkish spindle she bought from an antique dealer when she lived in Turkey. It was made around the end of the 19th century.

An antique Turkish spindle with crossing wings. One wing slides into the other through a rectangular hole. The spindle is ornamented with carved patterns.
My new old Turkish spindle is a beauty.

When I look at the Turkey page in the spindle typology it looks very much like the spindles called Kirman – crossed wings with a short shaft. I need to make myself a shaft for this pearl. It looks just like my modern Jenkins spindles, only a wee bit heavier – this one weighs 93 grams!

An antique Turkish spindle with crossing wings. One wing slides into the other through a rectangular hole. The spindle is ornamented with carved patterns.
I wonder how many people have spun on this spindle.

Sara had a talk at the festival where she discussed her findings and conclusions about the history of knitting in Sweden. She also described how and why she was looking for Swedish wool. It was a very interesting speech and I became even more proud of being a part of her book.


Eventhough there is a lot of wool to fondle and a beautiful focus on all the aspects of how sheep are so useful to us and to nature, one of the most rewarding things about these kinds of events is meeting people. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much an introvert who takes care not to go to fairs and events with lots of people, but meeting and talking to people one on one gives me so much.

The first person I ran into was the shepherdess Birgitta. Her Härjedal/Åsen crossbred gave me the multicoloured fleece I am currently working on. I had brought a couple of skeins to show her what I had done. After all, I had got Birgitta’s trust to buy the fleece because I would be able to make the fleece justice in a way that no spinning mill would. She was truly happy to see the skeins and cuddle with them.

I met Kari, another lovely shepherdess who is a crafter herself. She won eight medals in the 2019 fleece championships for her Rya, Gotland, Finull, Leicester and landrace crossbred fleeces. She pays close attention to the fleece quality when she decides which animals to pair up for breeding and she obviously gets successful results. I always try to connect with shepherdesses whose fleece buy at the championships auction. For me it is important to show them how I continue with spinning what they have started with the care of their sheep.

A person who has been very important to me when learning about wool is Kia. She has worked for many years as a wool classifier in Norway and she is the one I turn to with wool questions. Every now and then I text her with a wool conundrum and she can always give me a good reply and teach me new things. We haven’t met many times, but we made up for it in Kil as we sat for three hours just talking and having a lovely time in the quiet vendor’s lounge. I bought a loupe from her and I will write more about that in an upcoming post.

A microscope image of wool fibers
Swedish Svärdsjö wool under the microscope.

I also met lots of other friends of wool. Some who I had met before on other wool events and some who introduced themselves to me and told me how they appreciated my work. Encounters like these always warm my heart. It gives me a feeling of connection and context in this very small world of wool and spinning and lots of inspiration and empowerment to continue my work.

Fleece market

The last day of our visit was the day of the fleece market, and naturally I wanted to grab a good fleece or two. I ended up with four. Fortunately I had brought some vacuum bags for easier transport.

Sara had talked about how she was amazed by Rya wool. I got inspired by that so two half fleeces came home with me, one white and one in grey tones. I bought them from Kari as I knew she would provide really high quality fleeces.

A pile of shiny wool in white, grey and black.
Washed rya locks in all the greys.

I also found a shepherdess who had the loveliest traditional style Värmland fleeces. After all, we were in the county of Värmland so it would only natural to buy a Värmland fleece. I got two extremely soft fleeces – one in shades of grey and one in rosy brown tones. The ewes were four and six years old and I couldn’t believe how soft they were.

A row of shiny locks in different staple types from white to dark grey.
Unwashed staples from the Värmland ewe Rutan, born in 2014. She has all shades of grey and many different staple types.

My last fleece was a lovely Åsen fleece in a very light grey with some black tips. Soft, airy and shiny. I had bought fleece from this shepherdess before and I knew I would get good quality from her.

Staples of white wool with black tips.
Unwashed locks from Åsen lamb with fluffy white undercoat and black outercoat.

All fleeces have now been washed. It is too cold outside for a fermented suint bath, so I have just washed them in warm water with three rinses, no chemicals added.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend with lots of new inspiration and ideas buzzing in my head. It did take a lot of energy, though, and this past week I have been very tired. When you read this post I have shut out the world and gone to a mini yoga retreat. Over and out.

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.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Sisters in craft

Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.

Last weekend the 2019 wool journey with the wool traveling club took place. Four sisters in craft went to a sheep farm and hired a well renowned Swedish spinning teacher for two days.

The wool traveling club

The wool traveling club started in 2014. I felt a need to meet with other spinners and learn new things. I invited two friends to join me and they in turn invited one friend each. The first wool journey went to Shetland wool week in 2015. It was a wonderful adventure, packed with stories of Shetland’s textile heritage.

Since then we try to go somewhere where we don’t need to go by air.

The wool journey starts on the train.
The wool journey starts on the train.

2016 we visited a spinning mill. 2017 we went to Åsebol sheep farm and hired the talented wool classifier and teacher Kia Gabrielsson who had a one-day workshop in wool knowledge and Māori knitting/Uruahipi. Hiring a spinning teacher just for us is one of the superpowers of the club. We can get a course that is adapted to our skill level and get the best out of the course.

The 2019 wool journey

This year we chose to come back to Åsebol cabin at the sheep farm. It is the same cabin I have rented with my family every year since 2014 and one of my favourite places on Earth. It has everything – sheep, creek and silence.

Knitting by the creek.
Knitting by the creek.

You may recognize the scenery – it plays a part in several of my spinning videos.

A sweet lamb by the creek.
A sweet lamb by the creek.

Blending wool for a specific use

We hired Lena Köster, a well renowned Swedish spinning teacher, master spinner and professional weaver. She teaches at both beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Lena held an advanced course for us in how to blend different wools for a specific use.

Boel is deciding on fiber blends.
Boel is deciding on fiber blends.

Lena talked about how to blend wools to achieve a special quality yarn for a specific purpose. Do I want a strong yarn or a warm yarn? What characteristics do I want in my yarn? Do I want to blend for an aesthetic effect or just function? What do fiber type, length, crimp, or shine do for the finished yarn? What percentage of different fibers will give me the yarn qualitiy I’m looking for?

Lena and Ellinor talk about how to best spin for a twined knitting yarn.
Lena and Ellinor talk about how to best spin for a twined knitting yarn.

This is quite the opposite of what I usually do – I find a wool and want to take advantage of its main characteristics to show them off in a garment or design. Lena’s take starts at the opposite end – she wants to make something and needs to adapt the yarn to the purpose. This is really an interesting perspective that I haven’t worked from before and one that I will learn a lot from.

Boel is spinning warp yarn for tablet weaving from her own Gotland sheep.
Boel is spinning warp yarn for tablet weaving from her own Gotland sheep, brows frowned to accomplish enough twist.

Sock yarn assignment

Lena had made different assignments and we were able to choose one that we wanted to make.

At first I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do, but when Lena said that she had some mohair and Anna wanted to make a sock yarn I decided that I wanted to make sock yarn too. I’m not a big sock knitter. Ironically I usually think it takes way too much time. I have always been of the opinion that I need to buy a sock yarn since a handspun wound break. The problem with store bought sock yarn is that it usually contains plastic. But (adult) mohair is the perfect sock yarn strengthener!

Angora (left) and rya (right) make the perfect sock yarn partners!
Mohair (left) and rya (right) make the perfect sock yarn partners!

Mohair and rya

I blended the mohair with rya wool. Rya has a long and strong outer coat and a soft and warm under coat, the perfect partner for mohair. I blended 60 % rya with 40 % mohair.

I'm spinning sock yarn on my Björn Peck supported spindle.
I’m spinning sock yarn on my Björn Peck supported spindle.

I combed the fibers together, spun with short draw on a supported spindle and 3-plied. Both the mohair and the outer coat of the rya have beautiful shine and the blend will dye beautifully.

Anna blended her mohair with some Dalapäls wool and rya. She spun her yarn on a suspended spindle.

Anna is a master suspended spindler.
Anna is a master suspended spindler.

I spun the yarn a little too thin, I think it is a light fingering yarn. I managed to spin it remarkably even, perhaps due to thorough combing and dizzing.

My very own 3-ply sock yarn in a rya/Angora blend.
My very own 3-ply sock yarn in a rya/mohair blend.

Too strong or too soft?

I was concerned that the yarn might be too dense. But, then again, most sock yarns I have come across usually have a large amount of very soft fibers like Merino or BFL, which aren’t very strong. If my yarn was a little thicker it may also become a little softer.

A sock yarn swatch.
A sock yarn swatch.

I knit a tiny swatch and tried to imagine it as socks. When I asked my wooly friends if they would wear my socks they all agreed they would. I wasn’t convinced, so I tried the same blend, only spun with long draw from hand-carded rolags.

Rolags on a rainy day.
Rolags on a rainy day.


The new version was definitely softer and I was concerned that it may not be strong enough. My solution, though, was to spin both the softer and the stronger version, dye them in different colours and knit striped socks. Heels and toes would be knitted in the stronger yarn. Sock yarn prototype mission accomplished!

Boel shows Lena her finished tablet warp.
Boel proudly shows Lena her finished tablet warp.

We were all happy with our yarn prototypes. I was actually quite exhausted after two whole days of trial, error and analysis. I think I will need a lot of time to process everything I have learned.

Sisters in craft

Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.
Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.

Getting away like this for an extended weekend is such a treat. I treasure the memories of our wool journeys for months afterwards. After a while I start longing for our next wooly adventure together.

Walking and crafting in the spring landscape.
Sisters in craft walking and crafting in the Swedish spring landscape.

The power of collected skills

It is such a bliss to be able to get down to the nitty gritty of crafting – we discuss techniques, fiber, tools and projects at our level. Spinning is a rare craft these days and being able to spend a few days with so talented crafters and friends is truly rewarding. Boel with her never-ending curiosity and humility to any craft. Anna with her thoroughness and knowledge about basically everything. And Ellinor with her How hard can it be?-attitude that can move mountains in a breeze. The rush I get from the members’ collected skills and knowledge is truly empowering.

The power of friendship

The course or main event is just a small part of the greatness of our wool journeys. We make time to talk about the big and small things in life, breathing fresh air. We don’t know each other’s friends and neighbours, we don’t share each other’s daily lives and we can focus on each other with an unbiased perspective. All the while we craft, which, in itself, helps in finding a focus and clarity of mind.

Being in the here and now are vital parts of our time together. We take walks, cook, craft, talk and laugh. For the few days we are together we take a break from our daily lives and find focus in the present. We listen to and support each other in a refreshing way.

For a few days we truly are sisters in craft.

Sisters in craft
Sisters in craft – Josefin, Boel, Ellinor and Anna (the fifth sister Kristin couldn’t make it this time)

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.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Överjärva farm

A red farm building.

The farm

One of my favourite sheep hang-outs is Överjärva farm just outside Stockholm. There has been a farm at Överjärva for centuries. In the beginning of the 20th century it was the biggest farm in the parish. Today it’s a city farm with sheep, horses, chickens and organic farming.

A red wooden house with black doors. A sign post in the front.
Businesses around Överjärva farm

Kulturlandskaparna is the organization that looks after the sheep and works to maintain the farm and the biodiversity in the area. This is where I first learned how to spin, where I bought my first fleece (and a few more after that) and I took a course in small-scale sheep farming.

The shepherdess

The Patron and head sheeprdess of Överjärva is Ulla. She knows all the sheep by name. If you present a fleece to her she can name the sheep just by smelling it. She is passionate about the sheep and the landscape management. She passes on the knowledge about the importance of sheep by teaching young and old as much as she can about sheep and why we need them.

Ewes and lambs
Ewes and new lambs hanging out at the farm. Photo by Anna Herting.

At the farm, Ulla teaches kids to be helper shepherds and shepherdesses. For the moment there are only helper shepherdesses, and around 10–15 years old. They learn how to take care of the sheep and are a big help at the farm. It is also evident that the helper shepherdesses grow when they learn about how to take responsibility for the sheep.

With the sheep in the pasture

People come to the farm all year round to see the sheep. They are very used to humans and most of them love to be cuddled. During the lambing period in the spring they get privacy, though, but in the end of April it was the first day visitors were allowed to go in to the pasture and cuddle with ewes and lambs. Of course I was there.

Lambs and sheep
The lambs are curious about the two-legged sheep with funny-looking fleeces.

The big sheep walk

Moving the sheep

When the lambs are big enough and the grass has grown a bit after the winter, it is time to move the sheep and their lambs to their summer pastures. This is done on the great sheep walk in late May. Visitors are invited to take part in the move and walk all the sheep families through the neighbourhood to the fresh grass in the new pasture. Of course I was there to take part in the big sheep move.

Organizing the walk

The sheep walk is a whole machinery. The sheep families are moved from the farm pasture one at a time and assigned to a human family, and they all stay around the farm until every sheep is out. Anna, her family and I were in charge of the Swedish finewool sheep Anemone (you have seen her before, in this video) and her lambs Tim, Linus and Vilda.

Josefin Waltin walking with a black and white sheep in a leash.
Walking with Anemone and her lambs. Anemone is a Swedish finewool sheep and very friendly. Photo by Anna Herting

The sheep are a bit wild and difficult to handle at the beginning of the walk, but after a while they settle down. Since the walk goes through traffic, the sheep need to be led in in leashes. One human family family taking the responsibility for one sheep family. The sheep family must be held together with the ewe just in front of her lambs and you are not allowed to pass another sheep family. There can’t be a gap in the long row of sheep families. The herd strives to be together, and if there is a gap they will start to run to cover the gap. This can have chaotic consequences in a traffic environment.

One of the most difficult tasks on the sheep walk is to keep the sheep in the middle of the lane. If they go too far to either side, they will get close to the grass and all the work with keeping the sheep orderly is wasted.

Ulla, the head shepherdess, doesn’t walk with the sheep. She goes ahead in the car and organizes things at the pasture. Instead, the helper shepherdesses are in charge of the walk. And the y do it with great skill and pride. They watch all the families along the lines and make sure everything is in order, that the ewes is just in front of her lambs, that there is no gap in the lane and are always ready to give a hand when needed. The smaller children are in charge of stopping the traffic. When a car comes on the same road or when the caravan crosses a street, the kids stand broad-legged with their arms out to the sides to stop the cars and protect the caravan. They take their task very seriously.

Dancing in the streets

It is almost like a choreographed dance to keep all the sheep in the right place in relation to their families, other families and the road. But it is a dance I am happy to entertain the audience with. And there is an audience – all along the walk are happy citizens watching with their cameras ready. For some people watching the event is something they are looking forward to all spring. It certainly is for me as a participant.

Snack time

Half-way through the walk the whole caravan stops at a big castle park for a mid-walk snack. This is vital if the sheep are going to arrive to the new pasture without sheep chaos. The walk is about 5 km, mostly on asphalt and straining for them. With a grazing break they will get enough energy to walk the last bit without trying to escape to the grass every chance they get.

Summer pastures

After about 5 km and perhaps an hour’s walk, we are finally at the summer pastures. From this moment, everything goes very fast. When all the sheep are in the pasture, they go wild. At the same time, they have to be freed from their leash collars. When that is done, the whole event is over. But for the sheep, a whole summer of grazing awaits.


I made a video of the visitors in the pasture and the great sheep walk. In the photo above you can see how I have attached my phone camera with a gorilla pod wrung around my bag strap.

I published the video and blog post yesterday, but I had to unpost it due to copyright violations. I had chosen an old folk tune for the video, Hårgalåten, performed by a well known Swedish key harpist Åsa Jinder. Due to the copyright violation the video wouldn’t be able to be viewed in some countries, one of them being the U.S. So I removed the video and replaced the tune with a song by Josh Woodward, from the free music archive.


Flicking tips

A ball of wool

After a discussion in a Facebook spinning group about solidified grease in the tips of a fleece, I decided to do a mini study of different ways to prepare a fleece for spinning. I have a fleece of my own that is wonderfully clean but has tips with solidified grease.

The fleece

On the last wool journey with my wool traveling club, I bought a beautiful NKS fleece. NKS stands for Norsk kvit sau: Norwegian white sheep. This is basically what crossbreds are called in Norway. The fleece I chose had a full year’s growth.

In Sweden most sheep are shorn twice a year, which naturally makes the fleece shorter. This means that the fleece shorn in the early spring is of worse quality (since all the nutrients go straight to the lamb) and usually has more vegetable matter (because the sheep have spent much of the winter indoors). The fleece shorn in the autumn has better quality (since the sheep has no lamb to nourish) and less vegetable matter (since the sheep are out grazing). So: Twice a year gives a better but shorter autumn fleece. Once a year gives a longer fleece but can be more mixed in quality.

Lanoliny tips

The fleece was wonderfully clean and shiny with staples of around 12 cm. The tips, though, were greasy. I think that the Norwegian rain had pushed all the lanolin out into the tips. I washed the fleece straight away by soaking it in rain water. It wasn’t until recently (one year after I bought the fleece) that I started processing, and by then the greasy tips had solidified.

Experiment: Flicked vs unflicked tips

I wanted to make an experiment and compare different preparation methods. First, I prepared the way I usually do with a fleece I want to comb: Loading the combs with the cut ends on the tines and combing three passes, then pulling the wool off the comb in one long top.

Combing this way was a struggle. It took a lot of muscle power to get the combs through the wool. And after three passes it was not nearly in a condition I could approve (I always do an uneven number of passes so that I pull the wool off the combs from the cut ends). So, I did five passes. Pulling the wool off the comb was also difficult, the wool was still uneven with bits of solidified gunk left. I picked as much of it out, but there was still stuff left when I spun the top, which of course interrupted my spinning flow.

When you play the videos, a captions symbol appears to the left of the settings symbol. Click or unclick the captions, depending on your preferences.

This was not a pleasant combing experience. So, I tried a different way. I flicked the solidified grease ends before combing. Combing the staples with the tip ends flick carded was a whole different experience.

A lot of gunk was left in the flicker and the floor was sprayed with gunk powder.

A floor dirty with wool waste.
Powdered gunk and gunky flicker waste.

The combing was easy and pleasant after flick carding the tips and I was perfectly happy after my usual three passes. Pulling the wool off the combs was also nice and smooth and the spinning was uninterrupted and yummy.

A skein of white handspun yarn.
A finished skein of fingering weight 2-ply NKS wool, spun with short draw from hand combed tops on a spinning wheel. 194 m, 70 g, 2766 m/kg.

I spun the skein above with both of the preparation techniques. Mostly the flicked version, though, since I only combed a couple of bird’s nests with the tips unflicked. I also knitted a swatch with the finished yarn.

A knitted swatch
A knitted swatch, 25 stitches and 39 rows in 10×10 cm

Other ways to use a flick card

This was one example where flick carding the tips made a big difference for the preparation and spinning experience. I also use my flick card for several other purposes:

  • To remove brittle tips. If I have a fleece with fine fibers and brittle tips I can use the flick card on the tip ends. The brittle tips will end up in the card instead of the yarn (as nepps).
  • To flick both ends of a staple. Sometimes I want to spin from the lock. A flick card is a good tool to separate the fibers in individual staples and spin staple by staple.
  • To tease staples before carding. This might take time, but will give a good result. Fibers that are too short, brittle or dirty will stay in the flick card and the good stuff will go to carding.

Do you use your flick card for other purposes?

Tech stuff

In these videos I have played with both narration and captions. As you may know, I want to shoot my videos outside if possible. But the area around our house is quite noisy. In the background on the other side of the lake you can see the most intense motorway in Sweden, and it makes a lot of noise. Also, we live close to a city airport and the planes fly just above our house, it’s almost like we can tickle the planes on the bellies if we stretch enough. This is why I wanted to try to narrate the clips. And I think it worked out.

In a previous video where I tested my makeshift studio, I added equally makeshift captions. Since then, my editing software has upgraded with a function for closed captioning. Yay! I think they work too.

Please let me know if there is anything of the technical stuff I can improve.

Wool sorting

Two hands pulling a staple of white wool

I love wool sorting. Standing outside feeling through each staple of a beautiful fleece. The sensation in my hands when I touch the fiber – warm, rich and airy. The smell of the sheep. A few clues to where the sheep has been – lots of peat in Shetland fleeces and leaves, pines or moss in Swedish fleeces, or a bit of nylon string from fences or silage.

When I sort wool, I try to read the fleece. My mind goes to where the sheep might have been and done. It also goes to how the fleece is different on different parts of the body and how I can prepare and spin these sections differently to make the most out of the versatility of the wool. In some places long and sleek staples that part easily, in some places short, crimpy and fluffy. In yet other places a bit coarser but still promising. I am quite fascinated by the difference between fleeces of the same breed and within one individual.

Every time I sort a fleece I learn something new, about the breed, about how I can try new methods or combinations to make a yarn the way the fiber wants to be handled. I can make more subtle observations each time I stick my hands into a new fleece. At that moment I feel empowered by the wool and all that it gives me.

A crimpy fleece
A Mooskit Shetland fleece from Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers

Shetland wool

I got wool today! Three bags full, actually. Two beautiful Shetland fleeces, one Moorit (brown) and one Eskit (dark grey).

Close-up of a brown Shetland fleece
Shetland Moorit.

Previous Shetland fleeces

I have bought a few Shetland fleeces and I love all of them dearly. I bought the first ones when my wool traveling club attended Shetland wool week 2015. I got to enter the wonderful treasure room for hand spinners at Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers. A room in the basement filled with dreamy fleeces, handpicked for handspinners. I ended up buying one white and one Flecket (patches of black, grey and white). This Christmas I bought another two – one Shaela (light grey) and one Yuglet (dark grey). More about them in a later post.

About the Shetland sheep

The Shetland sheep is an old sheep breed and they are traditionally rooing their wool. The sheep sheds its wool at a certain time of year when the fibers thin and the new wool starts to grow underneath. This has advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that the fiber closes at the weak spot, which makes a garment more resistant to cold and wet weather. Another advantage is that the yarn is smoother, since the ends are thinned out instead of cut off.

A disadvantage is that there is a lot of waste, and sometimes a risk of nepps and noils in the finished yarn. If the fibers don’t break or isn’t pulled off and if the sheep isn’t sheared at the rooing moment, there will be a weak spot where the rooing occurs while the new fiber starts to grow. So, on the fleeces I bought at Christmas (about six months after the rooing) the part between cut end and rooing spot was quite long, about 4–6 cm. These parts were either wasted or used for carding.

When to get the best fleece

I wanted to get my next fleeces with as little outgrowth as possible. The rooing usually occurs in June as far as I know. I read in a post in the Shetland woolbrokers’ blog that Jan is busy with incoming wool from July, so I gathered that the shearing starts about then. So I e-mailed them in July and asked them to get me the best fleeces they could find. I wanted two solid-colour fleeces and the colour really didn’t matter (not black and not white, though), the important thing was the quality. And today I picked them up from the post office. The woman at the post office looked rather suspiciously at my three bursting bags, smelling faintly of sheep. I must have looked rather funny on my bike with one bag in my bike bag, one strapped on to the bike rack and one dangling from the handlebar.

Just yum

The fleeces are really wonderful. Soft like butter, superfine fibers, strong and resilient. They are also amazingly clean. I’m used to Swedish fleeces, where even the cleanest ones have some vegetable matter in them, either from silage, weeds or needles. Once I actually found a whole chestnut in a fleece!

The Moorit fleece (picture above) is super soft (lamb, I think) with staples about 12 cm. The ends are bleached, which is common on brown fleeces. This means that the finished  yarn also might be bleached, which I will put under consideration when choosing projects for it.

Close-up of a dark grey Shetland fleece
Shetland Eskit.

The Eskit fleece (lamb) is just as soft and clean. The staples are longer, up to 15 cm. There might be an outgrowth though, you can see the change of quality in the bottom 3 cm of the staple. Hopefully the fibers break at the rooing point when I comb it and the cut end parts stay in the combs.

I have divided both the fleeces in two parts, one part with the finest, softest fibers from the neck and the sides and one with the still very soft but not softest fibers. This way I can adapt my yarns to different projects.

My spinning plans

I will comb the fleeces and spin with short forward draw. My go-to yarn is 2-ply fingering weight, But I think I will also stash up on some 3-ply sport with these fleeces, I have lots of queueing knitting projects requiring sport weight yarn. The shorter lengths left in the combs will be carded and spun with long draw. I do love to spin these carded rolags into singles on my Navajo spindle and use as weft. More on how I prepare fleeces in an earlier post on combing and carding.

Gotta go now. I have fleeces to cuddle.

Please correct me if I’m wrong about the properties or terminology of Shetland wool.

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!

Spinning with the sheep in the pasture

In October 2016 I made a video in the pasture at Överjärva gård. Anna helped me with filming and we both had trouble moving our fingers due to the cold. Sheepwise, we didn’t know quite what to expect. But two very friendly and curious ewes kept us company all through the filming. Anemone the multicoloured finewool lamb and Susanne the Gotland sheep. It was so comforting to have them there. Their calmness, the warm breaths and their constant nose poking on the spindle. Later, Anna was lucky enough to get her hands on Anemone’s lamb fleece.

The fiber I was spinning was from a prize winner, the Dalapäls ewe lamb Blanka. She (well, her owner actually) won a silver medal in the Swedish fleece championships of 2016 and I bought the fleece at the auction that followed. Spindle and cup from Malcolm Fielding.

A person spinning on a support spindle. Two sheep are investigating the spindle
Two very curious and friendly sheep

Wool journey 2017

A flock of sheep in the pasture. The sun is shining on them.
Happy sheep at Åsebol sheep farm

I just came home from the Wool traveling club‘s 2017 Wool journey. We have had such a wonderful time – Anna, Ellinor, Boel and I. Kristin couldn’t make it this time.

We went to Åsebol sheep farm, one of my favourite places on earth. During our stay we mostly sat by the creek, spinning and knitting. We also sat on the back porch, knitting and spinning. Sometimes we sat in the front porch. Spinning and knitting. Every now and then we went for a walk to see the sheep. Sometimes spinning.

Five toilet rolls filled with white yarn.
Rule number one on Wool journeys: Do not throw away empty toilet paper rolls! They are needed as bobbins.

We also had three classes. On the first day I taught a class in supported spinning. My students were fast learners and I think they enjoyed the class. We also hired Kia Gabrielsson from Ullsörvis to teach two classes. Kia is Sweden’s only wool classifier and works at a wool station in Gol, Norway.

Wool knowledge

Wool knowledge is essential to a spinner. With knowledge of wool characteristics the spinner will know what to look for in a fleece to match the quality and the purpose of the yarn. Kia unloaded tons of fleeces from her van and provided us with a wool protocol on which to note characteristics of the wool – strength, shine, elasticity, crimp etc.

A person filling out a form above a white fleece.
Protocol for wool assessment

We looked at several fleeces and filled in a wool protocol for each fleece. They were all wonderful fleeces and very different from each other. As a spinner I have endless opportunities to choose a fleece – or parts of a fleece – to suit my preferences, whether I want to make a sheer shawl, a warm sweater, a sturdy rug or something else. As a final exam, we each got to fill in a protocol of a fleece from the sheep farm.

Hands in a white fleece. The sun is shining.
So many wonderful fleeces

Uruahipi or Māori knitting

Kia’s second class was in Māori knitting, or Uruahipi. It is a very basic kind of knitting with minimal processing, which makes a very soft and airy fabric with a life of its own. You start by drafting straight off the staples to get kind of a rough sliver. The next step is to roll the sliver on your lap to make an even roll. After that you knit. This is usually an activity you do together – with the fleece in the middle you draft and roll for each other. Kia told us stories of how the Māori used to knit like this in the 60’s. She worked in New Zealand in the 80’s and saw lots of Uruahipi knitwear and asked around to find out more about the technique.  She fell in love with it and, lucky for us, she brought it back to Sweden. It also turned out that the technique has been used in other parts of the world.

Kia Gabrielsson holding hand teased wool
Kia drafting for Māori knitting

With the fleece warming our toes and the drafted sliver criss-crossing between us I felt very connected to it all – the wool, the stories and, above all, to Kia and my wool traveling friends.

People sitting in a ring with hand teased lengths of wool going across them. A fleece on the floor in the middle.
Entangled in Uruahipi and Kia’s stories

If you know anything more about Māori knitting or Uruahipi (I think it’s also sometimes called Kiwicraft), please let me know! There is also a Swedish Facebook group for Uruahipi.

Close-up of a project knit with unspun yarn
Uruahipi swatch

After four days of wooly adventures the 2017 wool journey came to an end. We went home and I think we all cherish the memories and long for our next wool journey in 2018.

Josefin Waltin cuddling with a sheep. Dandelions and farm houses in the background.
Lots of sheep cuddling. Photo by Anna Herting