Using singles

The other week I asked you on my Facebook page and Instagram for inspiration for upcoming blog posts. I got lots of brilliant ideas. One of you asked me to write about spinning and using singles that will remain singles, what to be watching for and whether I spin singles differently depending on the end use.

Singles yarns have a beautiful simplicity to them. What you see is what you get – nothing is hidden between plies, all you see is meter upon meter of wool softly spun like cake icing straight out of a tube. A stitch knit with singles yarn is usually clear and well defined. With singles it is possible to work with colours in a way that isn’t possible with plied yarns. If I want my yarn to change colours I just attach a new colour to my yarn. I don’t need to do anything extra to achieve this, like chain-plying or trying to match colours from two singles as I ply.

Spinning singles

I have spun lots of singles yarns on my floor supported Navajo style spindles. The techniques is slow, something I enjoy. At the same time it is fast – I don’t put very much twist in my singles and when I am done there is no plying step.

I love spinning singles on my floor supported Navajo style spindles. I get a good overview of the yarn and my hands cooperate to spin as consistently as possible.

Traditionally, Navajo weavers spin singles for weaving Navajo rugs. Whenever I want to spin a singles yarn, and especially if I want to spin a bulkier yarn than my default fingering weight, I turn to my Navajo style floor supported spindles. From my position behind the spindle I have a good overview over an arm’s length of yarn at a time and my hands cooperate through the tension in the yarn to achieve a yarn that is as consistent as possible.

Using singles

So far I have used these singles as weft yarns in weaving projects – a curtain, pillowcases and a shawl, all spun on floor spindles. Weaving with singles works out very well. They help creating a light and warm fabric.

Lately, though, I have used singles in knitting projects too. I have written quite a lot of posts about my project with Icelandic wool where I have spun a low-twist singles Lopi-style and lightly fulled yarn and knit an Icelandic-style sweater.

However, singles yarns have energy in them and there is always a risk of a biased fabric when you use singles for knitting. There are ways to reduce this risk, though:

  • A low twist will reduce the risk of biasing. It will however increase the risk of breakage and pilling.
  • Fulling singles will stabilize them. They will be stronger, less prone to pilling and less likely to create a biased fabric. A fulled singles yarn will also be less prone to splitting during knitting.
  • A balanced knitting stitch will reduce the risk of bias. Rib, broken rib, moss stitch or garter stitch are examples of patterns that are balanced.
  • Knitting with two singles spun in different directions is also a way to avoid bias in the knitted fabric.

Cecilia’s bosom friend

As it happens, I have a brand new pattern in the Spring 2022 issue of Spin-Off magazine, where I am using singles. The pattern is for a bosom friend or Hjärtevärmare (heart warmer). The knitting technique is tuck stitches, beautifully and elaborately explored and described by Nancy Marchant in her book Tuck stitches – sophistication in hand knitting.

In the pattern I work in different ways to take advantage of the benefits of singles and to reduce some of the risks associated with singles. In fact, In the pattern I use all the suggestions in the bullet list above.

Low twist

One of the reasons I love spinning singles on a floor supported Navajo style spindle is that I can control speed and twist on a whole different level than I would on a spinning wheel. I am the captain of the twist ship. Through the connection of the yarn between my spinning hand and fiber hand I have full control of the twist – everything that happens in the yarn transmits to my hands and they have the opportunity to respond with appropriate action. For every arm’s length of yarn I spin I check the twist by slacking the yarn. Fine-tuning is just a twitch of my fingers away and at a speed where I am in control.

Low twist singles for Cecilia’s bosom friend.

Fulling

Even if the twist in my singles is low, there is still undoubtedly twist, which means energy, which means a risk of a biased fabric. By this I mean that the singles yarn won’t stay still if you leave it – it will squirm and move because it is not balanced like a yarn that has been plied into balance – two singles spun in one direction and then plied with the same amount of twist in the other direction.

My solution for balancing the singles is to full them lightly. I dip them alternately in hot and cold water until I see that they tighten up a little. The result is a balanced yarn that is a bit more durable and presents a nice roundedness. The yarn also doesn’t split when I knit with it.

The strands in the right skein are still free to move while the strands in the left skein have started to catch on to each other.
The strands in the right skein are still free to move while the strands in the left skein have started to catch on to each other.

The yarns for the shawl was my first try at fulling singles and I haven’t experimented with the technique before, so this is just the way I chose. I am sure there are other methods for this too. You can read more about the process of fulling these yarns in this blog post.

Balanced knitting stitch

This is a very fun part that you can play a lot with. A stockinette fabric consists of one stitch only. If you knit a square in garter stitch the edges will roll. Other stitches, like garter stitch, moss stitch and ribbing has a combination of knit and purl stitches, either over the row (like ribbing), between rows (like garter stitch) or both (like moss stitch). A square knit in any of these structures will not roll in the edges. By balancing the structure like this you will get a fabric with a reduced risk of bias caused by an energized singles yarn.

I chose a broken rib stitch for Cecilia’s bosom friend to avoid bias. The edging, ties and tassels are knit with a 2-ply yarn.

In Nancy Marchant’s book Tuck stitches she sorts her stitch dictionary (or stitchionary as she describes it) of tuck stitches into stockinette, ribbed, broken rib and semi-ribbed fabrics. I wanted a fabric that wouldn’t bias but also not be as elastic as a ribbed structure, so I chose a pattern that was categorized as a broken rib to base my design on.

Knitting with two singles spun in different directions

All patterns in Tuck stitches are based on a two-colour design. As I was thinking about this and worrying about bias I realized that I could spin the different colours in different directions. This too would prevent biasing. If you have been with me for a while you know I am an advocate for switching hands, and this is what I did – I spun one colour clockwise with my right hand as spinning hand and the other colour counter-clockwise with my left hand as spinning hand.

The two colours and directions look lovely in their simple singleness and the tuck stitch pattern.

More about the pattern

The shawl is fully reversible with different and equally lovely structures on the “right” and “wrong” sides. The grey yarn comes from a sheep with different shades of grey. I have taken advantage of this and spun the grey yarn in sections of different shades.

Cecilia’s bosom friend.

I love how the singles yarns get full exposure in the pattern. Nothing is hidden, any thick or thin spots get as much attention as the even parts. A whole shawl is held together with just single strands of yarn. Isn’t that a beautiful thought to rest your mind in?

I’m using singles only for my Cecilia’s bosom friend pattern. Screen shot from the pattern page on Ravelry.

Before I created the sharp version of Cecilia’s bosom friend I made a prototype that I gave to my friend Cecilia. Will you be knitting a bosom friend for yourself or a loved one?

Get the Cecilia’s bosom friend pattern and read more about the story behind it in the spring 2022 issue of Spin-Off magazine!

And oh, if you have been curious about the secret project that led to the blog post A pattern process back in September, I can now ease your suspension: The Cecilia’s bosom friend shawl pattern.

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
  • 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.

Full circle

I have finished a project! A lovely Icelandic-style yoke sweater that has been on my wish list for a few years now. I have knit it with my handspun singles lopi-style yarn. An Icelandic sheep sweater shorn in October on an Icelandic pasture, spun from November to February and knit in February into a sweater for me with a round yoke. A full circle from fleece to sweater.

I have been working with the Icelandic lamb’s fleece for this sweater since November, a lot more monogamous than I usually do. Since I decided to spin the wool in the grease I didn’t want to let it sit longer than necessary, so I made an exception for it in my fleece queue.

27 skeins of Icelandic singles yarn.

Telja pattern

The pattern I chose is Telja by Jennifer Steingass. I wanted an Icelandic style pattern that was designed for a lopi-style yarn in a yarn weight I could manage to spin as a singles yarn. I figured that my lopi-style yarn would stand the best chance of resembling the stranded colourwork if the original pattern was designed for a similar yarn.

Shifting shades

The light grey, lighter grey, white and dyed blues come from one Icelandic lamb. I also bought 200 grams of fleece from a dark grey lamb for some contrast in the colourwork. I used the light grey (in the middle of the picture below) as the main colour. As it turned out, the contrast between the light grey and the dark grey was too small, so I needed a solution that would show the pattern despite this challenge.

These skeins come from one and the same fleece. The middle skein is the overall shade of grey of the fleece. This is also the shade that I have dyed in two blue tones.

Some parts of the fleece were lighter, almost white, and I decided to spin these parts separately into a white yarn. In the sweater I used the white yarn as main colour just before, during and just after a colourwork section, making the light grey ex-main colour a contrast colour over the colourwork sections. I tried to make a gradient from the light grey to the white with a couple of skeins that were sort of a light light grey.

Will there be enough white yarn left to finish the neckline?

I was a bit nervous about the white yarn, though, I wasn’t sure I had enough of it. When I bound off the last stitch of the collar I realized that it was enough, I even had a meter or so left. At least just enough to tie the leftover skeins of the remaining other colours into a bundle.

I dye with my little eye

Last summer I read about the Bengala mud dye colours in Handwoven magazine. I got a bit obsessed by the earthy tones and decided to buy some and try. A few pinkish tones, orange and yellow, plus indigo that would work with the other colours. I hadn’t found a good project to experiment with, until now. I wanted two shades of the same colour and decided on the indigo.

I have said it before and I say it again: Dyeing is not one of my superpowers. The shades got a bit too close to each other and somehow they both dry bleed. But I still love the result. And I’m very happy that I dyed on the light grey, it gives such a beautiful depth in the colour.

I will continue experimenting with these colours in upcoming projects. I’m sure I will learn a lot.

A teared watercolour painting

I had some thoughts about the shades and colours in the beginning, but as soon as the stranded pattern started to unravel I just loved the effect. It looks a bit smudged, almost like a tie-dye or watercolour art painted with drops of rain or tears.

The pattern falls from the yoke like a watercolour painting. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I wanted the yarn to be as simple and ras aw as possible. With that comes a sweater with that same raw expression. As I knit round and round the pattern runs down from my hands and land comfortably in an organized structure. On the wrong side the soft floats emerge like gentle waves on a summer lake.

Using handspun yarn in a project where the gauge is crucial for the fit is a challenge. Even more so with a singles yarn. I realized that the sleeves (which I knit before the body) got a bit tight at the cuffs with the stranded colourwork. No, I can’t tell you that, it’s too embarrassing.

I got a bit nervous about the colourwork sections over the hips and yoke, though. I tried the sweater on after the hip section and it worked. I was so scared of the yoke riding up that I didn’t try the sweater on until mid-colourwork, and to my great relief it fit perfectly. I do have to remove my glasses when I put the sweater on and off since the neckline is an I-cord bind-off with no elasticity, but I can take that.

A joyous knit

The yarn was truly lovely to knit with and it gave a soft and kind structure, lightweight and simple. I was a bit worried about the risk of bias since the yarn is single (eventhough I have shocked it to full it slightly). Therefore I added faux side and underarm seams using a column of purls.

I have been wearing the sweater a lot lately. It’s both comfortable and comforting to wear and I feel rich and fortunate to have the skills to make myself a warming and protecting shell.

Full circle. The sweater is finished and I’m spinning away on my next project on a department meeting at the home office.

So, now I have around 750 meters left of the yarn. Most of it in the light grey colour. I may dye some of it and use it in another project. I liked the Shaina top by Yumiko Alexander. With some modifications and additions I think I can make it work.

Resources

I have written a few earlier post about this fleece from different perspectives:

  • In Close I write a poetic style ode to the fleece.
  • In the grease covers the main part of the processing and spinning of the yarn – spinning a low-twist singles yarn from the cut end of teased locks in the grease.
  • In The gift of knowledge I look at a spinning from a spiritual perspective using this fleece as an example. It also shows how I make accordion burritos of the teased wool for easier spinning.
  • A sore thumb forced me to switch hands and a new world opened in front of me, right there in my hands. It also resulted in the free five-day challenge Hands-on that you are welcome to join.
  • In Dear Fleece I give thanks to the fleece for teaching me so much and move on from spinning to knitting.

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
  • 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.

Spinning flax on a spindle

A spindle and distaff

This is the third post in my series about flax. I wrote the earlier posts about flax processing as a whole, and about this year’s harvest. I don’t have a lot of experience spinning flax, but I’m eager to learn. And I made a video. This time the video is about spinning flax on a spindle. The video also includes how I dress a distaff. Spinning flax on a spindle is a wonderful time to really get to know the fiber and the spinning technique. Also, I’m a bit smitten by Norman Kennedy when he demonstrates spinning flax on an in-hand spindle.

Tools

I use a medieval style in-hand (grasped) spindle with a spiral notch and whorl (in featured image). I bought them from NiddyNoddyUK and I asked Neil to make a spiral notch turning counter-clockwise. The outermost layer of flax fiber is slightly turned counter-clockwise.  Hence, most flax is spun counter-clockwise. This gave me a chance to practice my in-hand spinning with my left hand. If you want to know more about my thoughts on spinning direction I made a blog series about this earlier, check here, here and here.

The distaffs are my own hand carved from our lime tree avenue. I made one belt distaff and one floor distaff. In our terrace lounge furniture there is a very convenient hole in the lid, which fits the floor distaff perfectly.

Dressing the distaff

I have tried to read up on how to dress a distaff. there are many traditions in this, and I picked one that appealed to me. In the video I use a strick of hand processed Belgian flax.

A stick of flax
A beautiful strick of Belgian flax

I tied a ribbon around the root end of the bundle and tied the ends around my waist. I then carefully criss-crossed the bundle several times in very thin layers in an arch on the table in front of me. In this way, the fibers are well separated and always has another fiber to catch on to.

Josefin Waltin preparing to dress a distaff. The flax is spread out in an arch on the table in front of her.
Preparing to dress the distaff. The fibers are criss-crossed in thin layers and they all have fiber friends to hold on to.

When I had finished making the arch, I rolled the flax around the belt distaff and tied with the ends of the ribbon. I should have used a longer ribbon, though.

The flax on the floor distaff in the video is machine processed, also from Belgium I think. Bought at Växbo lin. I dressed the floor distaff the same way as I did the waist distaff.

Spinning flax

I wet spin my flax. The fiber has sort of a gluey substance that is activated in water. This makes a smoother spin. It also helps balancing the yarn. But you have to make sure to add the water at the right place – at the point of twist. Too low and nothing happens, the yarn just looks wet spun but when it dries the fibers go their own way. Too high and you will have trouble with unspun fibers clogged together. I put some flax seeds in my water to get some of that flax seed gel in the spinning.

A person spinning flax on a spindle
Add the water just at the point of twist

Flax fibers are very long and I can keep quite a long spinning triangle. This can be a bit fiddly sometimes, when the drafting triangle gets longer than my arms can reach comfortably.

Because of the length of the fibers, I don’t need very much twist. When I spin wool on an in-hand spindle I usually use a short suspension. I don’t need that when I spin flax. Keeping the spindle in my hand all the time gives me control over the spinning and I can put my focus where I need it the most: On the drafting zone. I need to make sure that there is just the right amount of fiber in the drafting zone.

Josefin Waltin drafting flax fiber from a distaff.
Drafting away, always keeping a close eye on the drafting triangle.

Flax isn’t as forgiving as wool when it comes to lumps, you can’t untwist and redraft. But I still do untwist. Right at the moment where I draft, I untwist slightly to make a smoother draft. This comes in handy especially after I have removed my spinning hand from the yarn to wet my fingers.

A word about climate change

In the shot when I spin leaning against a tree, you can see the yellowed grass behind me. This is not because it is autumn – the video was shot in July, a time when the grass is usually fresh and green. The summer of 2018 was extremely hot and dry. Over 30°C for weeks and almost no rain in large parts of the country. Harvests were ruined and cattle owners had to slaughter their animals because there were no pastures left. We had over 70 forest fires and had to get fire fighters from continental Europe to be able manage them. Talk about climate change.

Josefin Waltin spinning flax with a spindle and distaff. Yellow grass in the background
Spinning in front of the yellowed grass from an extremely hot and dry summer.

Ergonomics

There are a few things you need to think about to be kind to your body. We don’t need to strain our muscles, we want to be able to spin as much and as healthy as possible, don’t we?

Try to keep your spindle close to your body. This way you don’t need to lift your arms more than necessary. Use your body as support! I rest my spinning hand against my belly or hip when I spin.

Aim towards a straight spinning hand wrist. Bending the wrist too much can lead to strained muscles. Adapt your grip to get the most comfortable hand position. In the video you can see me using two different grips on the spindle. Before I started editing the video, I didn’t realize that I was using two different grips. I noticed it when I was adding the captions and figured I had changed grips to get more comfortable.

The first grip is when my hands are close to each other, i.e. when the hand of my spinning  arm is perpendicular to my body or pointing slightly upwards. In this grip I hold the spindle between my thumb, index finger and third finger. The other fingers are supporting the grip. Thumb on the inner side of the spindle and the rest of the fingers on the outer side. I roll the spindle between my thumb, index finger and third finger. I would not use this grip when my hand below a 90 degree angle, since it forces my wrist to bend.

Josefin Waltin spinning flax with a spindle and distaff. Text says "Grip 1: Roll the spindle between index finger and thumb. Support with other fingers."
Grip 1, which I wasn’t even aware of that I was using before I watched the video.

The second grip is one I can use for all my hand positions, but if I have started with the first grip I change to the second when my arm is below a perpendicular angle. I put my fourth finger on the inner side of the spindle to support it. I do the rolling mostly with my index finger in this grip. This is my preferred grip, but it is still nice to be able to change between two different grips during the spinning.

Close-up of a person spinning flax on a spindle. Text says: "Grip 2: Hold the spindle between your third finger and thumb. Supporting with your fourth finger and rolling with your index finger."
Grip 2 is the grip I use most of the time.

Spinning towards  the end of the summer

It takes time to spin flax on a spindle and I’m far from done with the flax I dressed the distaff with. I will keep spinning until the summer is over and it’s not comfortable spin outdoors anymore.

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. This is a very welcome contribution to the time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. 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.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Engla – a fleece of many uses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Bronze medal in the Swedish hand spinning championships 2017!

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

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

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

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

The rules of the game

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

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

Spinning for the championships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bedtime shawl

An arm holding up a sheer woven shawl in natural colours.
The bedtime shawl

When I started practising supported spinning, I was using what was left of three fleeces of beautiful alpaca I had bought from  Österlen alpacka a few years ago. I was spinning in bed just before I went to sleep. It was calming, like meditation and I cherished those bedtime spinning moments. I was spinning to learn, so I didn’t have a project planned for the yarn, but after a while I envisioned a sheer woven shawl. A bit like those fancy wide cashmere shawls. My mother-in-law was going through chemo at the time and she is always cold so I wanted to make it for her.

A support spindle full of yarn.
Singles from the baby alpaca Miracle

After about six months of bedtime spinning I started weaving on my rigid heddle loom. And it was hell. I am a new weaver and I am advising all weavers, regardless of experience, never to weave in alpaca. It’s a very slippery fiber. And especially prone to breaking with a super thin singles weft. Or perhaps the advise is not to weave with a super thin singles weft.

A rigid heddle loom warped with thin yarn
At the beginning of the alpaca hell

But I did learn a lot along the way. And that’s the beauty of creating, isn’t it? For every mistake you make you learn something new to add to your experience bank and bring into future projects. And at the end of the warp it turned out beautifully, smooth as silk.

A sheer woven shawl folded over a park bench
The finished alpaca shawl