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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).