Swedish fleece and spinning championships

This weekend I attended the Swedish fleece and spinning championships at Wålstedts textilverkstad in Dala-Floda. I was there as a visitor, but also as an instructor and a contestant.

Fleece championships

For the fleece championships, sheep owners sent in their best fleeces for judgment. The fleeces were judged by factors as evenness, crimp, fiber thickness, staple length, elasticity’s softness, silkiness etc. There were two basic categories, heritage breeds and crossbred.

Lots of fleeces of different breeds and colours on a big table
Fleeces competing in the Swedish wool championships 2017

Since there were so many fleeces, the jury had made more sub-categories so that the same kind of fleeces competed against each other – Rya, Finweool, Värmland, Crossbred, Gotland/Leicester etc. This competition is a very important part of Swedish wool production. It helps the sheep owners make good choices in breeding when it comes to fleece quality. There was a very high quality in the fleeces and I wanted to dive into all of them.

Wool auction

There were many proud winners and after the prize ceremony the winning fleeces were auctioned. I got my hands on two of my favourite fleeces.

A dark grey fleece
Cuddly Finewool/Rya gold medalist.

The first fleece I bought was a gold medalist in the heritage breed category. It is a beautiful Finewool/Rya ewe mix breed in a beautiful dark grey colour from Boda backe sheep farm. The overall quality the fleece is mainly soft and crimpy Finewool. The softness is very unusual for a ewe, that on top of that was shorn in the spring. The jury’s verdict was: “A very clean, soft and likable spring fleece. Easy to card, airy staple with mostly undercoat. An all-round fleece which is easy to manage and can be used for many purposes.”

A light grey fleece
Yummy Värmland bronze medalist

My second purchase was a bronze medalist in the heritage Värmland category. A wonderfully soft Värmland lamb fleece from Sussanne Sörensen’s flock in Löberöd. The jury’s verdict was “A beautiful fleece with an interesting colour, long undercoat and soft overcoat and a medieval touch”. The undercoat is 14 cm and the overcoat 22 cm.

The event also hosted the Swedish hand spinning championship, in which I got a bronze medal! More about that in an earlier post.

A row of skeins of yarn, all in the same colour combination of blue and dusty rose
Some of the competing yarns in the handspinning championships

I also taught a class in supported spindle spinning, which, as always, was a great experience and I got lots of inspiration from it.

On top of it all, my husband and I got a chance to see some beautiful autumn scenery.

Josefin Waltin sitting on a bench knitting. A river in the background.
Knitting away where Österdal river meets Västerdal river and form the Dal river. Yarn is my handspun from a Grey Trönder fleece.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.

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

The wool traveling club

Since I started spinning, I have taken different spinning classes. But most of them have been on a beginner’s level and there weren’t much to choose from on a more advanced level. And so, the idea of the wool traveling club was born. The idea was to form a club of intermediate to advanced spinners and take courses adapted to the club members’ needs. I invited my spinning friends Anna and Kristin and they in turn invited one spinning friend each. And so, the wool traveling club, Ullreseklubben, was born. The five of us save money individually each month. Once a year we go on a wool journey together.

After having saved the first sum for 18 month, the premiere wool journey went to Shetland wool week. It was an amazing week. While the wool week arrangement with classes, events and wooly mingling was wonderful in every way, the thing that caught me the most was the ever present textile heritage. Every Shetlander knows the textile history of the island, and, especially, the women’s part in providing for the families with spinning, knitting and sheep husbandry.

The Bressay light house, sheep in foreground
Bressay lighthouse, Shetland

The second year we were all a little short on clink, so we went to Anna’s country house and paid a visit to Solkustens spinnverkstad, a local spinning mill.

This year we’re going to Åsebol sheep farm and we’re all very very eager to go.

How it continued

I have told you in previous post about how it all began. This is how it continued.

The last few summers, my family and I have spent a week in the countryside in Austria, hiking and visiting family. Up until then, we had been going by air, but for climate reasons we decided to take the train. My first thought – and I know those of you who are as profoundly nerdy as I am will recognise this – was what craft I would bring on the journey. When flying, I had only brought a nalbinding project. No security check can see any harm in a blunt wooden needle. But 24 hours on trains and stations! The crafting opportunities are almost endless! I had seen Fleegle’s beautiful video where she spins supported, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do. This was in the fall, so there was plenty of time to learn. I bought a spindle from Maine fiber tools and started practising. I usually sat in bed at night just before going to sleep. I badly wanted to learn to master the continuous supported spinning I had seen on the video. And voilá, in February I got it. And I had entered the magical world of supported spinning.

A drop spindle filled with alpaca singles
My first supported spindle, wrapped in sweet alpaca.

But I wouldn’t settle for just knowing how to. I wanted to explore supported spindles, see what was out there and what I liked. So I posted a question on Ravelry. I wrote about my upcoming journey and that I was looking for spindles that would suit my needs. I got some answers, but none that I really could do anything with. Someone told me to go to a fiber festival and try some of the spindle makers there. Well, there may be fiber festivals and supported spindle makers in every bush in the U.S. but there aren’t in Sweden. Then I got a personal message. It was from S in the U.S. She said she was willing to send me a few spindles of different kinds. Truth be told, I was a little suspicious at first. I mean, who would just send expensive spindles across the pond to a stranger? But she did. She told me to look upon it as a random act of kindness, and pay it forward.

The package arrived, and when I opened the beautifully wrapped content, I found no less than eight (8) supported spindles, and over 100 g of BFL/silk fiber. That is a true act of kindness.

Three support spindles with descriptions attached to them
Some of the spindles in the RAK
Five support spindles with descriptions attached to them.
The rest of the support spindles in the RAK

I started thinking about how to pay it forward. I wanted other people to be able to try out different kinds of supported spindles and find one that suited them, just as I had wanted. So, I started the travelling spindle library. I kept some of the spindles for myself and added some of my own and some fiber and sent the package to a spinner I didn’t know but who was active on the Swedish spinning Facebook page. The instructions for the travelling spindle library were simple: Try the spindles for as long as you like. Keep the ones you like, add some if you want to and send the parcel to another spinner. And as far as I know, the travelling spindle library is still travelling around in Sweden, looking for new spindle librarians.

What about the train ride? Well, we did go to Austria by train. And I did spin. It was almost a spiritual feeling when I took out the spindle from my backpack and started spinning in my seat. This was the moment I had been preparing for since november! My son filmed the moment, somewhere between Copenhagen and Hamburg. A Neal Brand spindle from the package (see picture above), and a lap bowl from Kerryspindles. BFL/silk fiber from Vinterverkstan.

This was my first supported spinning video, and there have been many since. These, in turn, have led to inquiries about teaching support spinning classes, and so, I am apparently a support spinning teacher. And on the classes, I start by telling the students this story.