Cotton blog series

A hand holding a boll of cotton

I’m starting a cotton blog series. There will be upcoming posts with cotton preparation and spinning, but in this first post I want to air my thoughts about this fiber.

Fast fashion

I try not to buy cotton clothes. If you have seen my videos Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater and Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl you probably realize that I try to live a sustainable life. I have also tried to show this in my latest documentary video I choose to stay on the ground.

Cotton farming is to a large extent governed by the fashion industry. Anyone who has been in a fashion store realizes that the range of clothes is changed at least four times every year. A large part of these clothes are made of cotton. Therefore, cotton takes up an enormous part of the farmland in the world, land that could have been used for food production. Cotton farming also uses vast amounts of water and pesticides. This in turn affects the nearby flora and fauna and, of course, the people working on the farm. Even if there is organic cotton available, it is still grown as a monoculture which will have consequences for the biodiversity in the area.

Spinning cotton

I have never spun cotton before. Cotton farming depends on a warm climate and I doubt that any of the cotton that is sold to spinners has been farmed in Europe, let alone here in Sweden. Buying cotton from another continent and having it flown back to Sweden just for my pleasure has not appealed to me.

Last year I tried growing my own cotton plants. It all went very well at the beginning. I cultivated five plants indoors and placed them outdoors by midsummer when there was no more risk of night frost. I was delighted to see the pretty flowers and I waited eagerly for the magic to happen in the bolls. However, last summer was a cold and wet one. All the bolls fell off, and one by one the plants died. I didn’t try again this year.

A white and pink cotton flower
A cotton flower from my own plant in 2017

This blog series could have ended here.

Instead, this is where it starts.

Just a couple of weeks ago I received a bag of cotton from a fellow spinner. The cotton had been cultivated right here in Stockholm! She told me that I could share the cotton with fellow spinners. I didn’t. Instead I will share my thoughts and reflections of preparing and spinning locally cultivated cotton.

A pile of cotton bolls
Locally cultivated cotton.

So, with all this said, let the cotton blog series begin! In upcoming posts I will publish videos and show you how I prepare cotton for spinning and three different ways to spin cotton.

Spoiler alert: One of the videos will contain a guest starring cat!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

I choose to stay on the ground

Josefin Waltin spinning on a chair on a meadow. Text says I choose to stay on the ground

This is not a spinning video. Rather,  is a craftivism project about climate change. In the video I use spinning as a means to reflect over climate change and my own carbon footprint. This is I choose to stay on the ground.

Reduce, reuse recycle and respect

I try to live my life in a way that is as resourceful as possible. Reduce, reuse, recycle and respect are words that influence everything I do. Bike riding, car pooling, growing our own vegetables, eating less meat, cutting down on plastic etc. These are all things that have become a way of living. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice and I wouldn’t want to go back to the way we lived our lives before.

My husband and I have also decided not to fly. We take the train to visit my family in Austria. Choosing to stay on the ground is an important step we have taken to reduce our family’s carbon footprint.

Spinning and climate change?

Where does spinning fit in and what does it have to do with climate change, you may ask. Well, there are several ways I find that spinning plays a part in my effort to reduce my carbon emissions. First of all, making garments and textiles from wool that I have bought locally and spun myself is an important part of reducing my carbon footprint. This is an important part of my videos, especially the documentary videos like Slow fashion and Slow fashion 2. Spinning your own yarn is in itself sustainable, especially when you use (local) wool that is such a versatile material.

Secondly,  the act of spinning also generates feelings of love, mindfulness and kindness. I try to express this in last year’s documentary video For the love of spinning. I like to think that I spread these feelings in my videos. I get lots of comments from my followers about how the videos have helped them find peace and a sense of grounding.

Thirdly, spinning – or any other craft – lets me reflect on a deeper level over what I do and what I experience while I am crafting. These reflections in turn influence what I do and the decisions I make. To remind me of these reflections I have the yarn, with all the gentle thoughts spun right into it.

A craftivist approach

I’m not telling you all this to be a miss goody two-shoes. Climate change is too important to me to care about the appearance of things. The climate can’t wait, we have to make drastic changes in our daily lives, now.

I choose to stay on the ground combines my concern for climate change with the power of spinning, or crafting in general. I have been investigating craftivism and read an excellent book, How to be a craftivist: The art of gentle protest, by Sarah Corbett. The book is a kind of manifesto for a kind of activism that is beautiful, kind and fair in a world we want to make just that – beautiful, kind and fair.

Josefin Waltin reading a book, How to be a craftiest by Sarah Corbett
Reading up on craftivism on the train through Denmark

I do have quite a large group of followers and I’m taking advantage of that when I’m releasing his video. This means that I use you all for spreading a video that has an urgent message.

A call to action

The video is divided into two parts. The first part is my own experience from a three day train journey through Europe to visit family in Austria. I spin and reflect over climate change and why I choose to stay on the ground. The second part is a call to action. I invite you, the viewer, to take part in this craftivist project. I have chosen five questions about climate change that I would like you to reflect over while you craft in public transportation. I also ask you to share your thoughts (and the video!) under the hashtag #crafterthoughts and #ichoosetostayontheground.

Making the video

The scene is a three day train journey from Stockholm, Sweden to Salzburg, Austria. I shot about 150 small clips from the train and narrowed them down to  fit in a five minute video.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a city square.
Evening spin in Copenhagen, Denmark

The train ride obviously took a lot of time. Frustrating sometimes, yes, but mostly surprisingly pleasant. We sat together for three days, talking, playing games, reading, napping. Some of us were spinning. Just being in each other’s presence brought us closer together on both physical and mental levels. It felt so good to just be together.

There are no actual shots of my husband and children in the video, but if you look closely, you can see clues of their participation. In the beginning for example you can see them on the station with our suitcases. Also, you can see them on a hiking trip when we have arrived in Austria. And, of course, Dan has helped me with some of the video shooting.

Tools I use in the video:

With that said, go and share that video. And happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Article in Spin-off magazine

Josefin Waltin holding up a plaid woven shawl

I have written my first spinning article! It’s in the spring 2018 issue of Spin-off magazine and it’s out now.

Submission

I stumbled upon a call for submissions for the spring 2018 issue in may last year. The theme was spinning for weaving, which was a perfect match for the Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl video I was making at the time. I sketched down a very rough proposal and after a while I got a positive response from the editor!

I wrote an article that I was very proud of, all the while I was making the last work on the shawl and the video. The shawl was finished in the end of June. I didn’t want to wear it since I was planning to take the article photos at our countryside vacation in the end of July. I wanted the shawl to look its best for the photo shoot. My husband took some beautiful photos that very well represented all the hard work I had put into the shawl and the video.

The value of handmade

In September I sent the shawl and some fiber and yarn samples to the Spin-off office as they wanted to take some photos of their own. It was horrifying to send my baby all alone across the pond. A problem arose when I was supposed to estimate the value of the shawl for shipping insurance. How do you set a price on something hand made? The cost of the material was under 10€, but how much is all the work, skill and experience worth? I remembered the video about the Lendbreen tunic, a 1700 year old garment found in a Norwegian melting glacier. The garment was reconstructed with the tools and techniques available at the Iron age. The worth of the garment was estimated to about 37000 €, counting in the hours it took to reconstruct the garment from start to finish and an hourly rate for a modern day crafter. My shawl didn’t take as long to make, but it really made me think of the value of it, especially in the light of the underestimation of the value of hand crafted items today. Finally I wrote 160€ and mailed it. I wouldn’t sell it for that (or at all), but I imagined someone would be willing to buy a similar item for 160€.

Shawlless fall

So, for most of the fall I was without my shawl and it was really scary. The postal service in Sweden hasn’t been working very well lately. I dreaded the thought of the shawl getting lost on the way back to me. In December I did get it back, though, safe and sound. Finally I can start wearing my shawl!

Happy reading!

I hope you like the article, and the video if you haven’t seen it already. And oh, if you are an Outlander fan, there is a connection to the series in the video. I wrote about it in this blog post.

Composer’s mittens

A pair of hands in white nalbinding mittens, holding autumn leaves
Nalbinding mittens for Jens.

I finished another pair of nalbinding mittens.  The yarn is my handspun 3-ply from hand carded rolags of a finewool/Rya mixed breed from Åsebol sheep farm, a leftover yarn from the woven blanket I finished this summer.

Nalbinding is usually a summer project for me. On the rare occasions when I fly, I always bring a nalbinding project, since it is the only craft I know for sure there is no danger of confiscation in the security check. Who could do anything violent with a blunt wooden or bone needle? I have made several pairs of mittens for my family and they have all been very loved through the winters.

This time the recipient was my brother-in-law Jens, as a thank you for arranging and playing the music so beautifully on my second Slow fashion video (he also arranged the music for my first Slow fashion video, and for that I knit him a hat in my handspun yarn). I finished the mittens almost two months ago and I invited Jens to a release party at our house where we watched the video together. Afterwards I waulked the mittens in our kitchen sink for a perfect fit. This morning he texted me and asked if he could pick them up today. It is a cold day and wearing handmade mittens on a day like this would make anyone’s wooly heart beat.

A pair of hands in nalbinding mittens in autumn leaves
Handmade mittens will make anybody’s heart beat.

Happy spinning!

Slow fashion 2 and Outlander

Slow fashion connection to the Outlander series

I recently published my new video, Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl. There is another aspect of this video as well. I saw the Starz TV-series (on Viaplay in Sweden) and read the book series Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and loved them. The short version is: A combat nurse in post-ww2 Scotland is on her second honeymoon with her husband, when she happens to walk through time in a circle of stones to 1743. The long version is 9000 pages so far (and worth every page!).

Series plot

The mid-18th century was before spinning mills as far as I know. Which would mean that every garment in this time was made from yarn that someone had spun by hand. If not, people would not be clothed at all. I don’t think every household had enough space and money to have their own spinning wheel or buy fabric from someone else, a lot of it was probably spun on a spindle, at least in more remote areas as the Highlands. Just the thought of all the work, skill and effort behind one single great kilt or dress makes me speechless.

Textile crafts in the series

There are a few places in Diana Gabaldon’s books that cover spinning, weaving  and dying, which all warmed my heart. Below is also a metaphorical description of the relationship between brother and sister Jamie and Jenny:

“Their shared childhood linked them forever, like the warp and the weft of a single fabric, but the patterns of their weave had been loosened, by absence and suspicion, then by marriage. Ian’s thread had been present in their weaving since the beginning, mine was a new one. How would the tensions pull in this new pattern, one thread against another?” From chapter 27 in Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

In the TV-series, costume designer Terry Dresbach has been extremely true to the time in creating all the amazing costumes. As a lover of all things woolen, I especially loved the parts in Scotland.

A person running with a plaid shawl behind her

My outlander inspired shawl

In the TV-series the heroine Claire is  wearing a plaid shawls when she goes through the stones. She leaves the shawl on the ground beneath the center stone in the 18th century. Later, she comes back to the stones and the shawl is still on the ground, all wrinkled, weathered and forgotten. I wanted to make a similar shawl, from scratch. I spun yarn and wove a plaid shawl in natural colours (I didn’t want to dive into the process of 18th century plant dying in Scotland). The tools I’m using are from my century, but the same kinds of tools were probably used in the 18th century.

Hobby vs real life necessity

This is a dear hobby to me, but during the whole process I kept thinking that this was real life back then and skills that people needed to feed and clothe themselves to stay alive. So in that aspect, it was not slow fashion at all. It was a necessary part of life.

In the video, there are a few parts where I’m flirting with the Outlander theme. If you are familiar with Outlander you will recognize them.

Plaid shawl hanging on washlline, old red house in background
The finished shawl. Photo by Dan Waltin

Slow fashion 2 – tools and designers

These are the tools I used in the video Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl

First of all, the fleeces are from Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers.

Mini combs from Gammeldags

Carders from Kromski

Supported spindle from Neal Brand

Spindle bowl from Malcolm Fielding

Navajo spindle from Roosterick

Spinning wheel from Kromski

Lazy Kate from Kromski

Niddy-Noddy is my own handmade from a maple sapling

Rigid heddle loom and weaving accessories from Ashford

Second hand umbrella swift from Glimåkra

These are the designers, patterns and yarns featured in the video

Tumvantar mittens by Berit Westman, yarn is my handspun

Northmavine Hoody by Kate Davies, yarn from Shetland Woolbrokers

Stevenson Gauntlets by Kate Davies, yarn is my handspun

Stevenson sweater by Kate Davies, yarn is my handspun

Crofthoose hat by Ella Gordon, yarn is my handspun

Color affection shawl by Veera Välimäki, yarn is my handspun

Marin shawl by Ysolda Teague, yarn from Wollmeise

Fileuse sweater by Valérie Miller, yarn is my handspun, see also my first slow fashion-video.

Northmavine hap by Kate Davies, yarn form Shetland woolbrokers

Daisy crescent by Kieran Foley, main colour yarn my handspun, daisies are scraps from handspun and store bought

Ulli dress by Kristin Jelsa, yarn from Magasin duett

Walk along t-shirt from Ankestrick, yarn from Växbo lin

East end top from Alicia Plummer, yarn from Quince & co.

Josefin Waltin sitting outside carding wool
Carding Shetland wool. Photo by Dan Waltin

Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl

Here it is, finally. My second bigger video project Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl.

Slow fashion and the value of a craft

I wanted to make another video on the slow fashion theme. Also, I wanted to show some other aspects of crafting. I have seen people sell handmade items for basically the cost of the material, which is such a shame. There is so much talent, time, effort and experience behind a handmade item. People don’t give it a second thought in a society where we expect to have stuff and we are in turn expected to buy more stuff (that has preferably been shipped three times around the globe). Giant store buildings are popping up like mushrooms because we don’t have any space left for all our stuff. This video is about the value of good craftmanship and all the time, tradition, skill and effort that lie behind it.

Josefin Waltin sitting outside by the spinning wheel. There are garden chairs around her with smartphones attached to them for filming.
In the studio, with garden chairs as camera stands. Photo by Dan Waltin

For the love of spinning

The video is also about the love of spinning. I try to capture the way spinning gives me that meditative feeling, how the motions and the touch of the fibers gives me serenity and a sense of weightlessness.

The leading fleeces

The fiber in the shawl is from two natural colour Shetland fleeces. The warp was spun worsted on a spinning wheel from hand-combed tops and 2-plied. The weft was spun woolen on a Navajo spindle from hand-carded rolags into a singles yarn. The shawl was woven on a 60 cm rigid heddle loom on double width.

Josefin Waltin standing in field with plaid shawl over her arm, sheep in the background.
The finished shawl. Photo by Dan Waltin

For tools and designers, see this post. For a connection to Outlander, look here.

Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater

My biggest film project – so far – is Slow fashion.

The slow video project Slow fashion

It began as an idea of showing the whole process from sheep to sweater. As it happened, I did have a clip from when I was shearing a sheep at a course in small-scale sheep husbandry at Överjärva gård, so I was able to start the project even earlier in the process than I had originally planned. And when I saw Valérie Miller’s Fileuse pattern I just knew it was the right pattern for the project.

Close-up of a knitted sweater with a spinning wheel pattern
The perfect pattern for the project.

The white fleece is from the finewool sheep Pia-Lotta at Överjärva. Hers was actually the very first fleece I bought when I started learning how to spin and I was so happy to learn that I was going to shear her. Pia-Lotta was so calm when I shore her. The sheep just stood there while I was leaning my legs against her. She did pee a lot, and she was actually standing on my foot once while peeing, but it was still definitely worth it.

Josefin Waltin shearing a sheep with hand shearers.
Shearing the finewool sheep Pia-Lotta.

Slow getting slower

There was a minor setback in the production in the spring when I was waiting to get my hands on the second  fleece, a grey fleece from a Jämtland sheep from Vemdalsfjällens alpackor. The sheep Gråan was their only grey sheep and I was very thankful to be able to buy so much of it. But the weather was really wet up there in shearing season, so the owner couldn’t shear the sheep for weeks. That is slow fashion, literally.

The leading fleeces

The two fleeces are quite different. The finewool fleece is springy and fluffy and perfect for carding and long draw spinning. The Jämtland fleece has a really long staple of very fine fibers and ideal for combing and short forward draft. The Jämtland sheep is a quite new Swedish breed, bred to be a domestic alternative to merino wool shipped from the other end of the world.

Video making

The shearing part was shot in a simple sheep shed, but the all the rest of the clips were filmed outdoors. There are so many possibilities when filming outside, and there’s no clutter to consider. Most of the shots were filmed around our home in Stockholm and at Åsebol sheep farm. Some shots are from Austria and the very last piece is from Bressay, Shetland at Shetland wool week. I shot the sheep parts and my family and a few friends patiently filmed all the parts with me in front of the camera, which were quite many. My brother-in-law arranged and played the beautiful piano piece.

One of the hardest parts of filming was the sheep shots at Åsebol. I wanted some closeups and preferably some cuddling shots. But the sheep were not interested at all, as soon as we, very gently, got into the pasture, they went in the other direction. On our last day we cheated and brought the owner with some sheep goodies and they came running and I could eventually leave happy.

Josefin Waltin cuddling with a sheep
Finally some sheep cuddling

Not just another video

I wrote in the beginning of this post that the project began as an idea of showing the whole process. But it ended up being so much more than that. It is a celebration of sustainability, serenity, the slow fashion movement,  and, perhaps most of all, the love of spinning.

How it all began

Josefin Waltin knitting a pastel purple sweater in a garden chair 1985.

I have been knitting since forever. There is actually a picture of me knitting a sweater in my aunt’s summerhouse garden in Austria. I was twelve. After that, I have been knitting in periods. The latest period has lasted over 15 years so far.

In 2011 I was talking about knitting with my friend Anna. She told me that most  of the wool in Sweden is wasted because no one wants it or knows how to take care of it. And I couldn’t have that. I found a weekly class at Överjärva gård in Stockholm and Anna and I started to learn how to spin on a drop spindle. A “beginner” spindle, weighing about 90 g and with a shaft not very unlike a broom handle. I wasn’t very good at it, Anna quickly got a nice and even thread but mine was mostly involuntarily thick-and-thin. But I practised.

After a few weeks I asked if I could try a spinning wheel. I could, and I really enjoyed it. After another few weeks, I dived into heaps of bunched-up Polish weekly magazine pages on the living room floor and delivered my very first spinning wheel, a Kromski Symphony. And we’ve the best of friends ever since.

A few years later, I started visioning a film featuring all the steps from fleece to sweater. While planning the film project, I started thinking about drop spindling again. It would look so good on camera. So I bought a few drop spindles and started practising again, and this time I really enjoyed it. And a video was eventually published, Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater (Swedish title Slow Fashion – från får till tröja).