Dear Fleece

I have been practicing free writing lately and I decided to write this blog post in a flow without overthinking things. It turned into a letter of gratitude to the dear fleece from Iceland I have been working with during the past months.

Dear fleece,

I got you on a lovely October morning. As I opened the parcel that had sailed all the way from Iceland the loveliest smell of lanolin struck my nose like a sweet melody. You had just been shorn off a lamb skipping about in the Icelandic green hills.

I'm listening to my Icelandic wool.
I’m listening to my Icelandic wool.

Lubrication

The lanolin glistened like the Milky Way between your soft fibers. Its presence there to protect the sheep you once grew on, but also serve as a lovely spinning assistant for me as I work with the wool. Moist, flexible lanolin that gives a lightness in the draft and smoothness in the yarn.

A dear fleece on its journey from raw fleece to a softly spun singles yarn.
A dear fleece on its journey from raw fleece to a softly spun singles yarn.

I didn’t even wash you before I started spinning, I wanted the lanolin to be a part of the spinning team – my hands, the spinning wheel and the lanolin all together, listening to the wool to find its best and sweetest yarn. The lanolin works with me to the extent that I hardly need to make any adjustments – my hands just follow the guidance from the lubricated fibers. I am thankful for the lanolin.

Passengers

When I explore a new fleece, part of the adventure is to identify the vegetable matter. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a fleece filled with vegetable matter, but there will always be bits and pieces in the fleece, that have traveled between the fibers from the pastures the sheep has grazed. From you fell no hay, no straw. Just a few pieces of unidentifiable plants and some dark brown granules of what I believe is peat. At least it looks a lot like the granules that have fallen out of the Shetland fleeces I have got from Shetland.

All the yarn from my Icelandic fleece in a basket.
27 skeins of worsted weight singles yarn, 766 g rams and 1597 meters. I started with 1200 grams of raw fleece, which gives a yield of 65%. My usual yield from raw fleece to finished yarn lies around 55 %.

Being reminded of the reality the sheep has lived in gives me a sort of grounding in the life it has had so far. A sheep with this low amount of vegetable matter is in my imagination a sheep with lots of space on green hills, grazing in all weathers, protected by a fleece that has developed through centuries to protect a body in just those circumstances of weather, landscape and climate. I am thankful, yes, thankful, for the passengers on the fleece that remind me of the sheep and its life. They bring me closer to the sheep and its reality.

Connection

I wanted to spin you as gently as I could, with as little preparation and alteration as possible. Just a light teasing and a soft twist in a singles yarn. A soft yarn that would show your stars – the baby soft undercoat cloud and the strong and silky outercoat armouring – in a gentle almost-not-even-yarn kind of yarn. Just a sweet puff of my spinning wand, where the colours and quirks were still visible, alive and fresh in the yarn. Yes, I wanted a yarn spun from you to be alive, vibrant with the air of you, dear Fleece. A connection to the source of your modest splendour.

With my freshly spun yarn, more like raw food than oven baked, I wanted to be able to knit a garment that would be what you, dear Fleece, had been for the sheep. A protection from the weather, streamlined for me just as you were to the grazing fiber source. Close. Safe. Raw. I am thankful for the connection to the source.

Process

Spinning you has been a process. It is of course always a process, but this one has been unique. I have learned so much from you. First and foremost, I have been monogamous with you. With other fleeces I have worked in parallel process, but with you I wanted to keep the freshness of the lanolin and see it fresh all the way through.

Handspun singles yarn of Icelandic wool.
The knitting has begun! Main color in the middle.

I didn’t even pick your staples before I started teasing them. The basket was full of fields of lightly touching staples. Like a flock of sheep, really. Some from the sides, some from the back, the shortest and sweetest from the neck. All connected to the sheep they once served (don’t worry, she will have new staples to protect her). But in this focused process I have been able to be more present, more aware and learn more, deeper. To listen to your sweet whisper, to find what you wanted to become. To find your soul. I am thankful for the process.

Teacher

Second, I have learned how to work with you a my teacher. How to tease your staples as gently as possible and to still be able to create a soft and smooth yarn with your gentle colours still present, each in their own beauty. How to make my grip gentle and trust your guidance in the spinning. To trust that the yarn will be what it will be and that all is as it should be. I even learned to trust my hands enough to change roles – the spinning hand became a fiber hand and the fiber hand a spinning hand. Wasn’t that an adventure? So lovely an adventure that I kept exploring this sweet change of hands. I am thankful for the teacher.

I'm knitting an Icelandic style sweater with my handspun Lopi-style yarn.
Knitting is happening!

So thank you, dear Fleece, for helping me becoming a better spinner. I’m on a knitting journey with the yarn from you now and I promise I will do my very best to make you proud, as a thank you for all your gifts.

In gratitude,

Josefin


Happy spinning!

Resources

For you, dear readers, I have listed some previous post written with this very fleece as an example and exploration:

  • In the post In the grease I go through my processing method for the Icelandic fleece – lightly teasing the raw fleece with a flicker, hand teasing and spinning from the cut ends into a singles yarn that I then back to get a low Lopi-style twist. If you are a patron (or decide to become one) there is a digital postcard video I put together for you where I show you how I prepare and spin this wool into a lopi style yarn like I describe in this post.
  • I explore a spiritual perspective in The gift of Knowledge, inspired by a quote in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s brilliant book Gathering Moss. In this post you can also learn how to make an accordion burrito.
  • A sore thumb make me switch hands to be able to keep spinning without pain. As it turns out, it was a brilliant idea that I learned a lot from.
  • In Hands-on five-day challenge I invite you to just that. Access the challenge for free here.

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.

A sore thumb

This week a journal entry, writer’s block, migraine and a sore thumb led me to bold decisions, new perspectives and beautiful insights.

A sore thumb

I have been spinning my Icelandic fleece quite frequently lately. The other day I felt some soreness in my left thumb. Minuscule, really. A flap of skin was loose on my finger print and I realized that to keep spinning that wool – in the grease, I might add – while the skin was sore and reddened wouldn’t be the best idea. I got a bit sad. After all, I had worked out a process for this wool that worked very well and I had reached a soft flow in my spinning. A migraine restricted most other activities than slow and mindful crafting for the next few days.

Writer’s block

At the same time I was looking for something to write for this week’s blog post. I usually work with a blog post during most days of the week. On Saturday morning I finally publish it. A void crystallizes itself and on some level I miss what I have just written, just as I miss a spinning project when the basket is empty. The process I have been working on and growing in suddenly becomes a product with the press of a button.

Sans a lot

My hands and my mind still need to write, but it does take some effort and recharging to come up with an idea for a new post. So, I was sans spinning and sans blog idea. Also sans capacity to do much else than activities that didn’t require moving my head.

Morning journaling is a treasured moment for me.

I do free write every morning in my dawn journal and exercise my writing muscles daily. The other day I was scribbling away as the day broke, about crafting and creativity. I reflected over how creativity creates more creativity as I am in the moment, calming bouncy ideas that want my attention, making them less elusive and more mellow. How I am in the creating and the creating is in me.

Enter: Idea (with tart tone)

Half an hour or so later an idea knocked gingerly on the inside of my skull, hoping to get out in the air. It said (with a slightly tart tone, I might add): “Why don’t you change hands? Like you always tell your students to do? That way you get to spin without making the sore thumb worse and you will have something to blog about.” Well, that’s a thought. It will also enable me to spin through the migraine and experience what I torment my students with when I ask them to change hands. The idea was just the kind of idea that I had been writing about that same morning, an idea that had matured in my mind through spinning.

This is actually my favourite kind of blog writing process. I spin a bit, get an idea during the spinning process and write it down. As the idea gets clad in linguistic splendour – preferably with sparkles – I understand more and try my new baby reflection at the wheel or spindle. I realize more and need to put that into writing too. The process of theory and practice in spinning is something I treasure.

Changing hands for ergonomics

When it comes to spindles – supported, suspended, floor supported and in-hand – I have no problem changing hands. I always choose the hand that is most effective for the spinning direction I have chosen (read about spinning direction and ergonomics here and watch a free webinar in spindle spinning here). Ever since I realized its implications for spinning I have practiced this and feel rich with the opportunities it gives me.

This summer I practiced changing hands when I spun flax on my spinning wheel with a makeshift parasol stand floor distaff that I placed alternately to the left and right of me for a more ergonomic and balanced working position. All this has been first and foremost to work with my body and avoid strain in hands, arms and shoulders. I have also raved to my students about the benefits of understanding the work of both hands through both hands. But when it comes to my own default wheel spinning I have never seen any ergonomic benefit of changing hands and therefore never practiced it. Until now.

Hand habits

So what do the hands really do? Well, the two hands have two primary tasks in spinning:

  • One hand, the spindle hand or spinning hand in spindle spinning or the front hand or spinning hand in wheel spinning, controls the spinning. This hand is closest to the drafting triangle and the point of twist insertion, where fibers become yarn. This hand is at the center of the action, where the actual spinning occurs.
  • The other hand, the fiber hand in spindle spinning or back hand or fiber hand in wheel spinning, controls the fiber. This hand holds the fiber and makes sure the right amount of fiber feeds along to the spinning hand without holding the fiber too loosely or too tightly.

In my experience most focus is on the spinning hand, the hand that controls the fiber. The fiber hand just follows along and is in my experience not often debated. It is when we change hands that we realize that the fiber hand has an equally important task. So, to a student who says they are verrry right or left handed and couldn’t possibly change hands I say: Deal with it. Or something a lot nicer. My point is, both hands have important tasks that require fine motor movements. Hand dominance has nothing to do with it.

A rocky boat

In changing hands I will rock the boat and sail out on deep waters. But in the end I will get to the other shore. As I fumblingly place the fiber in the left hand and prepare my right hand for spinning for the first time it feels awkward and clumsy. And, frankly, quite intimidating.

My brain knows what should happen, but sort of doesn’t. Come to think of it, it’s like a migraine aura. I have my field of view in front of me but I can’t make out what it is I see. When I get the blurred vision in an aura I try to move my head around to get access to the whole field of view, at least enough to be able to email my boss and call in sick. I find a new perspective, or, rather, perspectives, that allow me to understand the world from my current reality. I need to find clues in my new perspective to understand what my hands need to do with their new roles.

My hands have no clue what to do but sort of do. The knowledge is there, but integrated in the wrong hand. A link is missing and I need to take leadership of the search party. The new roles for my hands is uncomfortable, but that’s ok. Sometimes we need discomfort to understand the comfort. And an understanding of other people in discomfort for that matter.

Frustration

So, despite the discomfort I stick to my plan and move on. My movements are fumbly and my hands unused to the motions and decisions of their new roles. This is where I start doubting myself. How do I not know this? How come my hands feel absolutely outlandish?

This feeling is something I deal a lot with with my students. Most of them are experienced students that get very frustrated at not knowing what to do when presented with a new tool. Experiencing this sensation myself is truly valuable and I’m grateful for the opportunity. And a bit frustrated. Or possibly a lot.

Awakening

As I practice I understand my hands’ new roles better and better. Placing my left hand role in the right hand forces me to have a conversation between my hands via my brain. I need to analyze the motions and challenges of the right hand through my left hand and digest it in my head.

  • The fibers are stuck in the preparation or coming completely loose. How would my regular hand hold and manage the fiber?
  • I’m clenching my fiber hand in my lap. How does it feel with my regular hand?
  • I’m pinching the thumb of my new front hand. What do I need to change to loosen the grip, and without loosing the technique?
  • The yarn gets too bulky or too fine. How do I find that “just right” sensation I always have in my regular hand?
I’m making progress and have finished a dozen skeins of which half are spun with my awkward hands. But they are not so awkward anymore and I can’t tell the difference between the skeins.

Asking questions like these sharpens my senses and my interpretation of the components in the spinning process. I get to discover the spinning again and listen to the wool, through fresh hands. First-hand (pun vert much intended) I get to see how a new drafting hand and a new fiber hand develop, learn and flourish. Though my wobbly hands I get to understand the spinning process more fully, from a wider perspective. I feel very grateful for the experience.

Choosing the challenge

During this whole week I have worked with my fresh hands. My sore thumb has healed. I can go back to my regular hands if I want to. However, I also have the opportunity to change hands whenever I want, work with and through the discomfort. I can choose to keep challenging myself by keeping this new skill alive, feeding my fresh and sharp perspective of spinning and a humble view of the tasks of spinning hand and fiber hand.

A lopi yarn swatch is finished and I can’t wait to start knitting.

Have you tried changing hands with any spinning tool? And have you stayed with it, exercising both hands in both roles? You are welcome to share in the comments.

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.

In the grease

In the PLY magazine Double coated issue Maja Siska wrote an article about spinning a lopi style Icelandic yarn from the lock in the grease. I was intrigued by this and knew I needed to try it myself.

In the article Maja describes how she spins a lopi style yarn from a colour variegated fleece. By spinning from the lock those different colours will come to their right on their own instead of being blended into a medium grayish beige. She also spins the yarn in the grease.

I have read the article numerous times. There were so many things in Maja’s technique that were appealing to me, but most of all the combination. A singles yarn spun from the lock of variegated Icelandic fleece in the grease. What’s not to love?

Close

A lopi style yarn is a singles yarn with little or no twist, usually commercially spun to either be further spun into a plied yarn or used as it is. The yarn still holds together through the combination of long outercoat fibers and fine, warm undercoat fibers. Knitting with a lopi style yarn usually results in a very light but still warm garment. At first I thought a lopi yarn was an ancient tradition in Iceland. It turns out that it is not, it is a product of spinning mills producing yarn for the Icelandic sweaters that originated in the mid 20th century. Thus, the technique in Maja’s article isn’t a traditional way to spin a lopi style yarn. Rather, it is an adaptation to hand spinning from the mill produced pencil roving.

A lopi style yarn. Raw, yet elegant.

Adaptation to hand spinning also offers the opportunity to take advantage of the superpowers of hand spinning. I wanted to stay as close to the original structure of the fleece as possible. A yarn with this very gentle processing and handling gives me goosebumps. I often talk about processing with hand tools as a way to get to know the fleece. When just lightly teasing locks I skip a few steps, but I do get to come close to the wool and its original shape. I wrote a poetic style blog post about this closeness a couple of weeks ago.

Icelandic lamb’s fleece

I have wanted to get acquainted with Icelandic wool for a while now. I had even sought out a fleece supplier. When I read Maja’s article I knew I couldn’t wait anymore. I contacted Hulda at Uppspuni mini mill in Iceland to ask her for a lamb’s fleece.

I was in luck, the lambs were about to be shorn just a week or so later and Hulda promised to pick out a nice fleece for me. Another week or so later the fleece landed on my doorstep, full of icelandic sheepiness. I accidentally asked her to get me part of a darker fleece too. I figured I needed some contrasting colour yarn for a stranded yoke.

Teasing

At first I tried to just hand tease the locks, but despite the lovely openness of the staples I wanted a better separation of the fibers. After some experimenting I landed in lightly opening up of the locks in the direction of the fibers with a flicker and then hand teasing perpendicular to the direction of the fibers. That way I could open the cut end, the tip end and the middle and get the dirt out of the tip ends as well.

I love this opportunity to literally dig my hands into the raw fleece. Nothing has been done with this wool since shearing. By working with this fleece in the grease I have every opportunity in the world to experience it in its very essence, as well as the responsibility to make it justice. Now that’s intriguing!

Spinning from the lock

Spinning from the lock gives me the opportunity to be gentle with the wool and keep the yarn as close to the structure of the fleece on the hoof as possible.

Although I have teased the wool and the fibers seem well separated sideways, they are still quite aligned lengthwise. This makes drafting a challenge and I need to really focus on the fibers coming into the draft and the fibers next in line. My fingers need to listen to the wool to find the length of the fibers and thereby the proper distance between my hands.

Since the fibers are less separated than in a carded or combed preparation I need to work more with my hands to get the fibers reasonably evenly into the twist. I need to make sure an even amount of fiber is going into the twist while at the same time keeping the twist live and close to the point of twist engagement – that point where there is enough twist for the fibers to be able to pass each other without coming apart.

Wheel or spindle?

As you can see from some of the picture I started out spinning this yarn with a suspended spindle. In my vision to handle this yarn as gently and with as few tools as possible I figured a spindle would be the perfect spinning tool. I tried several different weights, but I never seemed to get it right. The yarn got too thin and I didn’t feel that flow that tells me everything is just right. I decided to try the spinning wheel and immediately felt at home. I think the wheel allowed me to work better with both my hands in the drafting.

In the grease

As you can see from some of the pictures I’m spinning by the fireplace. Apart from it being lovely with the warmth and the glowing embers, the heat melts the lanolin, resulting in a heavenly draft. The fibers go through my hands like butter and leave them soft and moisturized in the dry Swedish winter.

I very rarely spin wool with no lanolin, usually I have some lanolin left from gentle washing without detergents. The lanolin lubricates the draft and makes it even and steady. Spinning in the grease, though, is a whole different matter. The lanolin feels truly present in the spinning, like one of the main characters in the spinning drama.

Going backwards

Despite the smooth drafting with the lanolin all soft from the heat of the fireplace, spinning from the lock requires a bit more effort than spinning a prepared rolag or top. Drafting takes longer which results in quite a lot of twist. I tread faster and use my largest whorl (with a ratio of 7.5:1), but still there is far too much twist for my purpose with this yarn. My solution for this is to simply back the yarn once. I spin the bobbin again, but against the twist, removing enough twist to end up with a twist angle of around 20°.

The yarn fluffs up and looks truly inviting as a singles yarn, displaying its whole colour palette, lanolin glistening like tiny stars.

Washing and shocking

To wash my lopi style yarn spun in the grease I do what I normally do with a finished skein: I wash with an organic shampoo in the first water (as hot as my tap can muster, around 55°C), white vinegar in the second and rinse with a third.

Finished skeins of singles lopi style yarn in a lopi style. The skeins are unwashed.

Since the yarn is single there is some energy in it, even if the twist is low. Also, a singles yarn may not be as sturdy as a plied one. So, to ease the energy and to bring some strength to the yarn I full it lightly after the third bath: I dip the yarn in cold water. The temperature difference is enough to push the scales into holding on to each other and stabilize the yarn slightly. After fulling I squeeze the skeins in a towel, whack them against the floor and hang to dry.

I’m very happy with the resulting skeins. They are not completely evenly spun, but as a whole they will produce an even knitted structure. I’m looking forward to seeing the colour variations and the texture in the knitted fabric. I just haven’t had the time to swatch yet.

Thank you Maja for an excellent article. Thank you Hulda for the loveliest fleece.

If you are a patron (or decide to become one) there is a digital postcard video I put together for you where I show you how I prepare and spin this wool into a lopi style yarn like I describe in this post.

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.

Spinning championships 2021

It’s that time of the year again – the Swedish spinning championships. If I remember correctly I have participated in the championships since 2015. I don’t want to miss this opportunity to spin from wool and instructions that I haven’t chosen myself and learn from the experience.

Last year I won the gold medal for my embroidery yarn. This year I didn’t get any medals, but I would still like to share my yarns and techniques with you.

Championship format

In the spinning championships all spinners get the same fiber and the same rules. The spinners get around one month to spin their yarn and submit it. A jury confers and the medalists are revealed a few weeks later. Usually the prize ceremony takes place on the fleece and spinning championships in different locations every year, but this year and 2020 they were both digital.

There were two competitions this year: Värmland wool and flax.

Värmland wool

The assignment for the Värmland wool was to spin a yarn for knitting, 2-ply or more. We got raw Värmland lamb’s wool in two shades.

Colour separation

Since we got two different colours of the Värmland fleece I figured they would want me to do something with the colours. But two seemed too few, so I decided to make three shades out of the two colours. Using combs I teased each colour separately. I blended a third batch of half dark and half light wool into a shade between the two browns. After that I hand carded each colour separately into rolags.

As I went through the wool I realized that the two colours had different qualities. The darker brown was silky soft and the lighter a bit coarser. I should have listened to this and blended the colours for an even quality. But I was so hung up on the colours so I kept going with the separation.

The wool was a bit difficult to work with. There were lots of very short sections, and the combination with basically no crimp made the fibers quite slippery and reluctant to conform in the twist. This was especially true for the light brown staples with coarser fibers.

Also I realized that I may have used the wrong hand cards ( 72 tpi) but with the very fine fibers I probably should have chosen my finer cards (108 tpi) for a more even fiber distribution in the rolags.

I divided the colours into two piles for two singles with the same amount of the three shades. Somehow I hoped that I would be able to card and spin consistently enough to make the singles equal in length and sections. It didn’t really work out the way I had planned, but still looked good.

Consecutive spinning

I spin a lot on my floor supported Navajo style spindles. I choose them when I want to spin woolen yarn on the bulkier side, but also for finer yarns. You gotta love those arm’s length longdraws.

With this project I wanted to practice in something of a consecutive spinning. I don’t know if this is the correct term, though (please let me know if you have the correct term for this technique). I’m referring to a technique where you spin one spindleful of yarn into a roving or sliver with a very light twist. Then you slide the cop off the shaft and spin the yarn again. A bit more, but still not finished. You keep going until you are happy, 3–4 times is not unusual.

As I understand it, many Navajo spinners often use this technique when they spin yarn for Navajo rugs. The technique facilitates an even yarn and goes a bit faster than a double drafting technique.

First round

For this yarn I chose to spin in three rounds. In the first round I just made a long roving with a very light twist, just enough to keep the fiber together. I made sure I was at a point where the fibers could slide past each other without coming apart. This is the point I call the point of twist engagement. This is where I feel the spinning most alive, where I, with just a very light roll with my thumb, can manipulate the twist so that the fibers work with me towards an effortless draft.

Second round

The second round I drafted some more and added some more twist, but still close enough the point of twist engagement to bring me the freedom to work more with my yarn in a third round.

Third round

For the third and final round I drafted a little more and added the final twist before I 2-plied the two singles on my spinning wheel.

The third round became my final round, where I drafted a little more and added the final twist. As it turned out, I had added too much twist in the second round, making drafting in this third round somewhat of a challenge. But, that’s what I like about these championships – I learn a lot along the way.

A soaked and finished Värmland 2-ply yarn spun in rounds on a floor supported spindle and 2-plied on a spinning wheel.

Final touch

I have no problem plying on spindles, but I know I can achieve a consistent plying twist on the spinning wheel. Since I didn’t want to jeopardize things I plied the spindle spun singles on my spinning wheel.

I was very happy with having tried new techniques and having learned so much from this project. I wasn’t very happy with the yarn, though. But one nice thing with the Spinning championships is that every contestant gets access to the jury’s assessment and learn what they can develop their skills. I’m looking forward to reading it when it comes.

Flax

For the other competition we got industrially prepared line flax. I bought the same brand of line flax a few years ago and I had worked with it all summer, so I knew its challenges. The assignment was to spin a yarn with two or more plies. The purpose with the yarn was knitting. I was very startled by this since all literature on flax preparation and spinning is aimed at weaving yarns. I literally had no clue to how I could adapt my spinning to a knitting yarn.

As I prepared for this post I realized that I hadn’t taken any photos of the flax preparation steps. Therefore most of the photos are from a different flax spinning project. So the fiber is different but the techniques the same.

Rehackling, brushing and dressing

The flax was very dense. Therefore I rehackled it with two different hackles. I knew from before that this flax had lots of different lengths, so I also knew that a lot of shorter fibers would be removed in the rehackling.

After that I brushed it with my lovely flax brush to bring it some extra shine and to remove the last short bits. I lost almost 50 percent of the weight in these steps, but ended up with the longest fibers in my preparation. And I saved the removed fibers for a later tow yarn.

Dressing the distaff

I dressed the distaff the only way I know how to – in a fan shape. This takes a lot of time, but I imagine all ways of distaff dressing take time. The fibers need to be well separated and easily catch on to each other in a consistent way. You can see how I create my fan and dress my distaff in this video.

I used the fan technique to arrange the flax before dressing the distaff (image from a different flax project)

Spinning and skeining

I wet spun the yarn (counter-clockwise) to make it strong and shiny. I tried to give it a little less twist than I would for a weaving yarn. This was the only thing I could think of to adapt the yarn for knitting.

I wet spun the flax counter-clockwise on my spinning wheel (image from a different flax project).

I used my niddy-noddy to wind a skein after having plied my yarn. The yarn went through a bowl of water to avoid fraying, and then through a niks. A niks is an Estonian tool for tensioning the yarn when skeining, but without breaking skin. I made mine from a willow stick. You can see a lovely video about the niks here.

Scouring

This summer has been my summer of flax spinning (more on that in an upcoming post). I think I have spun around 500 grams of flax yarn. But I haven’t dared to scour it. To be able to submit my championships yarn I would have to, though.

I read a couple of flax books, but most of them had scouring methods that involved a whole home chemistry lab or ingredients that aren’t readily available. So I asked around online and finally bought soda ash. It seemed like a chemistry lab on its own, but I managed to use it without any injuries. I boiled the skein in two one hour baths with soda ash and soap and they turned out light and soft.

My finished contribution to the 2021 Swedish spinning championships.

I’m very happy with my flax yarn and especially about all that I have learned from spinning it. I will continue my flax journey next summer. Perhaps I will even dare to spin my homegrown flax too.

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.

In the morning

My favourite time of day is in the morning. The air feels better in the morning – I’m the first one to inhale it. My thoughts are new and fresh, my mind clearer and I find peace. Sometimes I giggle to myself thinking what a treat it is to have discovered this wonderful time of day that very few people seem to know about. In this blog post I spin some precious Gute wool and sing my ode to the morning and its gifts to me.

My space in the morning

I get up at 5:45 a.m. on week days to be able to work when I know work at my best. On weekends I get up at 7 a.m. to have those precious morning hours to myself. Since I work from home since March for pandemic reasons I don’t bike to work anymore, which I truly miss. Instead I have the luxury of being able to take morning swims every day (I have 300 meters to the lake). I can highly recommend it – the combination of energy refill and mindfulness after a morning swim is indescribable.

A morning swim gives me energy and peace of mind.
A morning swim gives me energy and peace of mind. It is 8 a.m. and 6 degrees Celsius in the air, 12 in the water. I swim if the water isn’t too wild and stay in for around 3 minutes.

I’s like the morning offers a unique dimension – the air is fresh to breathe, my thoughts are sprouting and the world is beautiful in all its abundance and complexity. I get access to a morning elixir that expires every day after those precious early hours. The next morning the elixir is there again, available for me to absorb. I’m at platform 9 3/4 and receive a free shot of creativity, clarity and mindfulness. I’m just surprised that other people haven’t found out this superpower charged secret yet. But, then again, in the evening I turn into a pumpkin again – after 8 p.m. my mind turns to goo and I’m not usable for anything. There may be a similar elixir in the evening that I don’t have access to while others do.

Gute in the morning

I love sitting at my spinning wheel in the morning. The room faces east and has large windows in the east and south. The rising sun fills the room with peace and lightness and the view over the lake is spectacular. When I spin the sun warms my back and gives the yarn a special morning sparkle.

The rising sun fills our living room with peace and lightness.

These past few mornings I have spent some quantity time with a Gute fleece. I have had it for over a year now and for some reason I have been reluctant to spin it. Lots of other spinning projects have cut in line and the Gute fleece has humbly taken a step back to wait for its turn. When I finally decided to give the Gute fleece my full attention I was very happy I made that decision.

A fleece of contrasts

Gute wool has it all – the softest cashmere-like undercoat, long and strong outercoat and brittle and quirky kemp fibers. All in different lengths and colours. Together the fiber types make a yarn that is strong and light, robust and squishy. So many contradicting characteristics get along in one single skein.

Gute wool from one individual. The sheep has long and strong overcoat, fine undercoat and kemp over the whole body, but to varying degrees.
Gute wool from one individual. The sheep has long and strong overcoat, fine undercoat and kemp over the whole body, but to varying degrees.

The kemp fibers help keeping the staples open. This make the staples very light and airy. They are easy to tease and open up like blossoms.

The slowness of Gute wool

One of the superpowers of Gute wool comes to life when I process and spin it. There is a slowness in the drafting that I find unique to this breed, at least in my short experience of it. It is like I enter a parallel drafting zone with this fiber – the fibers pass each other with a slowness that can be comparable to syrup. You know that viscous feeling where you need to wait nicely for the syrup to find its way out of the bottle before you can do anything with it.

The way I need to work the flicker and the cards slowly under the fiber’s command is truly fascinating. I can’t rush this fiber, it has a mind of its own. It is not against me, it is on the contrary very cooperative and easy to work with once it has, with strong determination, set the speed of the process.

Gute – a wool like the morning

The slowness helps me understand what is happening in the draft, how the fibers align in the semi-yarn and in the end surrender to the power of the twist. Perhaps it is the different lengths and qualities of the fibers that gives this wool such a special mindset – I never know what to expect and I need to reevaluate the drafting properties for every draft, despite the fact that I have blended the wool properly. Come to think of it, it is with Gute fleece almost like the morning – a parallel space where the conditions change and new rules apply.

Spinning Gute wool is like the morning – a parallel space where new rules apply.

I love working with a wool that challenges me and forces me to think and make decisions in all the steps of the process. I can’t take the draft for granted and I need to stay alert all the way.

Every time I change from spinning to teasing, from teasing to carding or from carding to spinning I make new realizations. I get a deeper understanding of the fibers, how they work together and how to listen to the wool adapt my movements under their command.

Spinning in the morning

Coming back to the theme of this blog post, the morning is my best chance of understanding this wool more deeply. When my mind is alert and my hands eager to learn I can listen to the wool and make it shine. Sitting in the morning sun, inhaling the unused air and the shot of morning elixir gives me the spark, inspiration and peace to understand and learn.

Five finished skeins of Gute yarn. Carded and spun woolen with English longdraw.

There is still fleece in the bottom of the basket and enough for one or two more skeins. When the basket is empty I will have brand new skeins to make a textile with. The empty basket also means that the fleece I have spent so much time with and learned so much from is gone. It’s like finishing a good book and missing being a part of it. Luckily, wool grows out again and there are always new fleeces to learn from.

Creative space

The morning is the time when I feel the most grounded, inspired and creative. It is when I find my spinning mojo, my best ideas and the mental space to write blog posts. After my morning swim my mind wants and needs to be creative – spin in the pale morning sun and let my synapses connect slowly and mindfully or reflect more purposefully in a blog post. My creative space allows me to be more openminded and curious in the morning.

It’s 8 a.m. as I write the last rows of this blog post. I’m going down to the lake now for my morning swim. After that I still have a lot of morning left to enjoy.

When are you the most creative?


And, oh, last week I promised you a photo of me wearing my spinning championships gold medal and a silly grin on my face once I got the medal and the yarn back. Well, I got yarn, medal and diploma in the mail this week and, as promised, here are pictures of me with a silly grin on my face, happy as a lamb.

Happy spinning!

My contribution to the embroidery category of the Swedish spinning championships 2020 got me a gold medal.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 on a great wheel

I have a new video for you today: Spinning on a great wheel. The video was shot at the manor hall at Vallby outdoor museum in Västerås, Sweden in the end of July. My friend Cecilia and I had the loveliest time with the wheel at the 18th century manor hall. We got so wrapped up in spinning and video angles that we totally forgot to take photos. All the photos from the shooting in this blog post are saved frames from the video.

I have been longing to even touch a great wheel for a long time. Due to the size of the great wheels there aren’t many left in Sweden. Luckily, there is one at Vallby outdoor museum not so far from my home in Stockholm.

I made this video in two versions. The first one is in spoken English. It has closed captions in English and Swedish.

The second version is in spoken Swedish, also with closed captions in English and Swedish. I usually don’t make multiple versions or multiple captions, but I made the spoken Swedish version as a thank you to the museum for letting us work and play in their manor hall.

Getting access

My friend Cecilia volunteers as a reenactor at Vallby outdoor museum from time to time. Through this cooperation she has connections with the curators at the museum. She also knows the buildings and the artifacts in the museum collections. During her work at the museum she had seen and admired the beautiful great wheel in the manor hall.

A reenactor at Vallby outdoor museum.
Cecilia volunteers as a reenactor at Vallby outdoor museum from time to time. Photo published with permission from the photographer, Åsa Lindberg at Bellman & Jag AB

Cecilia asked the curators if we could come to the museum and spin on the great wheel and make a video. Since she is used to dressing in period costume when she volunteers she also asked if we could borrow costumes for the event. They agreed and we were over the moon!

The manor hall

The manor hall at Vallby outdoor museum was finished in 1807 in the copper works in Hallstahammar. It was donated to the museum and moved there in 1928.

A red wooden manor hall.
The manor hall at Vallby outdoor museum, built in 1702 at Hallstahammar copper works and moved to the museum in 1928. The red pigment in the paint comes from copper.

There are lots of exciting rooms and chambers in the manor hall. The great wheel is in the dining room, from which you get sneak peaks of the surrounding rooms in the video. We shot the carding scene in the entrance hall.

The building is obviously old and a challenge to protect from wind and weather. To keep the moist out of the house there is a dehumidifier that is turned on automatically. You can hear the dehumidifier as a buzzing sound in the video.

Period costume

We spent a day at the museum in the end of July. Before we went to the manor hall we picked out the costumes in the costume store and transformed into 18th century sisters (Cecilia and I are actually second cousins). In the video we are wearing a simple chemise and on top of that a skirt and a bodice. An apron of course, a neckerchief and the humiliating cap. And, oh, I made sure we got ourselves secret pockets underneath the skirts too. You can’t have too many pockets! The clothes would have been worn by both ladies and maids at the manor hall.

Two women dressed in period clothing from the 18th century. They are sitting on a couch with a basket between them.
Cecilia and I are wearing period clothing from the 18th century, from the same time as the manor hall. Look at me all decadent with my tousled neckerchief!

Shooting

Being in such a beautiful setting made the experience even more special than it already was. The broad floor tiles, the magnificent tapestries and the air of the rooms was mesmerizing. And, of course the costumes added an extra dimension.

The great wheel was standing in a corner in the dining room of the manor hall, which was the perfect spot – the positioning in the natural light from several windows was just perfect. I had brought minimal equipment on the train, just my phone camera and two tripods.

Usually there are lots of visitors at the museum. The entrance is free and visitors can visit all the buildings. During the pandemic there have been restrictions – visitors are allowed to walk around outdoors but not in the buildings. This meant that Cecilia and I had the manor hall to ourselves and could concentrate on spinning and shooting the video. A few visitors peeked through the windows when they saw what they thought was staff in the building and some knocked on the door, but we kept on working.

Wool prep

Spinning on a great wheel requires high quality fiber preparation. Since the spinning is done with one hand there is no room for fixing bumps or thin parts. The fiber needs to be very evenly carded to keep a steady rhythm in the spinning.

For this shoot we used the undercoat from the Klövsjö sheep Frida. You can see her outercoat as the green stripes in the Frida Chanel bag. When I separated the undercoat from the outercoat I was left with a fluff of teased undercoat that I carded at home. We also carded more during the shoot. It was a lovely wool to work with all the way through.

The Klövsjö sheep Frida provided her undercoat fibers for our spinning on the great wheel. The basket is a traditional saigkorg from Gotland – a basket made of hand carved juniper and pine to store carded wool in.

Great wheels

Great wheels were originally used to spin short fibers like cotton in India and China. This type of wheel was the first mechanized spinning tool after the hand spindle. It was probably invented as a faster way to spin. The great wheel is believed to have become common among peasants in northern Europe in the late 13th century. It was a popular tool in Sweden in the 18th and 19th centuries for spinning cotton and wool.

Details of the great wheel. The circular wooden piece is the tension knob that we realized we needed to use more often.

Other names are muckle wheel, long wheel and walking wheel in English speaking countries. In Sweden the great wheel is called långrock (long wheel) but also fabriksrock (factory wheel), bomullsrock (cotton wheel) and dukrock (cloth wheel). A common use for the yarn spun on a great wheel was weft yarn for the textile manufacturers (vantmakerier) in Sweden. Cecilia has tried to find out more about the great wheel we used, but she has found none.

The great wheel was a lovely acquaintance. We had some problems with her, though. There seemed to be a part missing – some sort of disc to stop the spun wool from coming into the leather loop that holds the spindle. We tried different solutions to varying results.

We also experienced that the spindle started sliding after a while (you can see this in some parts of the video). After a while we realized that there was a simple solution to this problem – we just needed to adjust the tension of the drive band more often.

Spinning on a great wheel

To prepare for the very special moment with the great wheel I watched Norman Kennedy spin on a great wheel in the video Spin flax and cotton: Traditional techniques with Norman Kennedy from Long thread media. You can get a glimpse of his technique in this promo video. I actually walked the steps in my living room to practice while at the same time pretending I was turning the wheel, drafting the fiber and changing the angle of the yarn. It was actually quite fun!

There are lots of cooperating sequences to keep track of when spinning on a great wheel – fiber, steps, wheel and angles.

Spinning on a great wheel is the same principle as spinning on a supported spindle or a floor supported Navajo style spindle. You build up twist in the rolag, make the draft at a narrow angle from the tip of the spindle, add twist and change the angle to roll the yarn onto the spindle. To that comes the walking. Spinning on a great wheel requires a lot of focus.

Spinning by colour

I have played with colours to sort things out in a simple description of the not-so-simple step sequence, changing of angles and direction of the wheel.

  1. To start with a new rolag I place the end of the spun yarn on top of the rolag and let the twist catch the fiber when I start spinning.
  2. I hold the rolag with my left hand at a 45 degree angle from the direction of the spindle.
  3. I set the wheel in motion clockwise with my right hand.
  4. While I take three steps back to lengthen the yarn I allow more fiber into the twist.
  5. When there is enough twist in the yarn I turn the wheel counter-clockwise for a short section. At the same time I change the angle of the thread to a 90 degree angle from the direction of the spindle and walk one step to the right.
  6. I turn the wheel clockwise again, walk two steps forward and let the spun yarn roll onto the spindle. After that I change the angle of the yarn again and start over from 2 (or 1 if I am pout of fiber).
Spinning on a great wheel is a slow juggle with steps, angles, wheel and fiber supply.

Dancing the great wheel

Spinning on a great wheel is an experience. There is a flow and a rhythm that is truly fascinating. As a spinner I need to trust the wool to do its job. If I have carded the wool evenly and listen to the wool as I draft, a long draw of almost two meters is actually possible.

When I hold the rolag gently I will be able to feel how the twist enters the fibers and how the fibers join into the twist. There is a constant communication between the fiber and my hand: The fiber tells the hand

  • when the twist enters the fiber
  • how long the fibers are
  • how quickly the fibers catch each other
  • the amount of fiber that is fed to the twist
  • how thick the yarn is.

The hand listens carefully and adapts to the information. With the adaptation the fiber sends new information that my hand will interpret again. Through listening to the wool the hand learns what works and what doesn’t. And some things did work. I produced a lovely skein!

The result of the day at Vallby is this lovely skein of singles yarn. I think I will keep it this way and use it as weft, just as most great wheel spun yarn was back in the days.

After three hours with the great wheel Cecilia and I were blissfully happy, yet exhausted like wrung out rags. It’s a wonder I got home on the train.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 from the cut end

In this video I show you how I spin a multicoloured fleece from the cut end of flicked staples to preserve as much as possible of the colour variation. In a previous post you can read about how I divided the fleece into four piles of different colour combinations. I shot the video in late July when we rented a log cabin at a sheep farm in Tiveden in Sweden.

Preserving colours

The wool comes from a Swedish Åsen/Härjedal cross that won a bronze medal at the 2018 Swedish fleece championships. The name of the sheep is Chanel. This fleece is multicoloured over the fleece and over each staple. Shades of chocolate brown, silver, honey and natural white are scattered over the fleece. If I blended it all together it would result in a homogenous oatmeal colour. I wanted to preserve as much as possible of the colour variations. In this first yarn I have picked one of the colourways to play with.

A person holding locks of wool. The quite straight staples are rose grey at the cut end and cocolatey brown in the tip end. The tips end with a curl.
Lovely locks almost too pretty to spin. But I take on the challenge!

Since I had already sorted the wool in four piles of different colour variations I would get four different types of colour variegation. My vision was to design and knit a sweater that would celebrate these colour variations.

I decided to flick card and spin each staple separately from the cut end. That way I would be able to show as much as possible of the colour variation over the staple. The colour variation over the staple comes from different colours in undercoat and outercoat. In this colour variation the outer coat fibers are chocolatey brown and the undercoat silver white. In others the outercoat fibers are darker still or more honey coloured and the undercoat white or grey.

Close-up of a hand holding fiber. Fine and light undercoat and long and shiny outercoat. The undercoat is silver white and the outercoat chocolatey brown.
Dividing the staple in outercoat and undercoat gives you a chance to examine the properties of each fiber type.

The outercoat is really shiny and strong while the undercoat is very fine and almost silky. Without access to measuring the fibers I can tell that there is quite a big difference in diameter between the two fiber types.

Flick carding

To protect my clothes from the flick card I place a leather patch underneath the staple. I hold the cut end in a steady grip and card the tip end. If you card a lot of staples this way it might be a good idea to keep the card stationary and pull the staple towards you. It will be easier on your arms to pull the staple towards you than to move the card hand outwards. This is the same as the principle of pushing and pulling for spindle spinning.

Close-up of a person carding a wool staple. A leather patch is underneath the wool. One hand is holding the staple at the far cut end while the other hand is holding the card that is carding the tip end.
When I card the tip end I keep a steady grip on the cut end.

When the tip end is all carded I flick the staple and hold it in the tip end. You need to hold the staple closer to the middle here, otherwise the shorter undercoat will end up in the flick card. When the staple is carded I start spinning.

Close-up of a person carding a wool staple. A leather patch is underneath the wool. One hand is holding the staple at the middle  while the other hand is holding the card that is carding the cut end.
For carding the cut end I need to grip the staple closer to the cut end to avoid catching all the undercoat in the card.

From the cut end

To catch both the long outercoat and the shorter undercoat I spin from the cut end of my flicked staples. For each draft I make sure I catch both fiber types with my spinning hand.

Fibers that have been flick carded like this are still quite dense and may be a challenge to draft. It is easy to pinch rather than guide with the spinning hand. To ease the strain on the hand I allow the fibers to draft more easily by opening up the twist. I do so by rolling my spinning hand thumb against the twist.

Close-up of a person spinning yarn. You only see the hands holding the fiber.
I roll my spinning hand thumb against the twist to open up the twist and allow for an easier draft.

If necessary I also twist my fiber hand against the twist. This too helps opening up the twist for an easier draft. As I said, the fibers are dense in this kind of preparation. They are also a bit clingy and you need to work and focus to achieve a smooth and even yarn. Since there are lots of elements in this spinning technique I spin with quite a low ratio.

Plying

I wanted to 3-ply this yarn. My problem was that my lazy Kate only accommodated two bobbins. Furthermore, I only had three bobbins. I needed to find my inner McGyver and make the 3-ply yarn happen.

The bobbin was my smallest problem. Remember this is a sheep farm. Naturally the owner has a spinning wheel. I borrowed a bobbin from her wheel, which is an antique. With a very small bobbin compared to my modern ones.

A Mikado lazy Kate

I made a station for my third bobbin with the help of a barbecue stick and two giant outdoor Mikado sticks (you play it with your feet, by the way). I jammed the barbecue stick into the ground outside the cabin and placed the Mikado sticks underneath the third bobbin to lift it off the grass.

Two bobbins on a lazy Kate on a lawn. A third bobbin on the grass next to the others. The third bobbin is secured in the ground with a barbecue stick and the bobbin is resting on two larger wooden sticks. An antique bobbin below the three bobbins. Yarn goes from the three bobbins to the antique bobbin.
A station for a third bobbin next to a lazy Kate that only accommodates two bobbins. All you need is a lawn, a barbecue stick and two giant Mikado sticks!

With this avant garde lazy Kate solution I could transfer my three singles to the antique bobbin.

Carrots to the rescue

I just about managed to fit the 20+20+20 grams of singles onto the antique bobbin. Now I needed a lazy Kate for the antique bobbin – the hole was too small for my Kate. Since the rain was pouring down this was not the time for a barbecue and Mikado stick Kate on the lawn. I needed to solve this problem indoors.

The logs of the cabin are just the way logs are – full of cracks. I jammed another barbecue stick into one of the cracks and slid the antique bobbin onto it.

A spinning wheel plying. In the background an antique bobbin secured on a log cabin wall with a barbecue stick and a carrot as a stop at the end.
Plying with an antique bobbin, a barbecue stick, a carrot and a log cabin. Easy peasy.

Then I realized that the bobbin would slide off the barbecue stick if it didn’t have some sort of stop. I found one in the fridge – I decorated the end of the stick with a potato-like carrot.

Close-up of an antique bobbin on a barbecue stick jammed into a log cabin wall. The bobbin is stopped at the end of a roundish carrot.
Barbecue stick-carrot-log cabin wall plying mechanics.

My idea worked like a charm and I could ply my yarn to the sound of the pouring rain! You can see a short video demonstration of the plying process on my Facebook and Instagram pages.

I was really happy with my ad-hoc solutions. And the yarn. It got the colour variations I was looking for.

A 3-ply skein of yarn in variegated browns and greys.
A 3-ply yarn spun from the cut end of flicked staples, 53 grams, 68 meters.

Location

Lake Unden is just one kilometer from the cabin and we often take evening walks to the lake when we are there. I decided that the pier would be the perfect location for a video with my traveling wheel. So I took the spinning wheel in its bag over one shoulder, tripod over the other and foldable stool, well I took that too. One kilometer proved to be quite far with large and bulky bags. But what wouldn’t you do for the sake of art?

A woman sitting on a pier by a lake. A spinning wheel in front of her. She is wearing a knitted sweater with spinning wheels.
Enjoying the silence by the lake.

It was a lovely evening with only the sound of the lake and the sea gulls. The wooden boards of the pier were warm under my feet and the lake so soothing. I didn’t want to leave. But eventually I did. And we’re coming back this summer!

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!

Rescue operation

Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.

Last week I released a video where I tried to learn Andean spinning. Towards the end of the video I showed some clips of how the yarn got all tangled and we needed to shoot the scene again. Several followers commented on this and said that they especially liked this part. So, for this week’s post I will take you along on a rescue operation of a spinning project gone south. I did manage to take pictures during the operation. They are of poor quality, but they do their job in showing you what happened.

A pattern request

In February I was asked to write an article and pattern description for Spin-Off magazine. The deadline was short and I needed to spin a yarn, knit a pair of mittens, analyze and write the article and the pattern description. The pattern was in twined knitting, which is quite time consuming.

An open magazine showing an article with pictures of a Pinner and a pair of mittens.
Article and pattern in Spin-Off magazine.

Spinning gone south

I was quite stressed out by this and started spinning immediately. I asked a spinning friend who has made several twined knitting project how she prefered her Z-plied yarn. She said that she liked it with a high twist so that the yarn would be nice and round. A higher twist makes the patterns in twined knitting stand out more, she added. So I started spinning with a lot more twist than I usually do.

But for some reason, my fiber didn’t want to be spun with high twist. Perhaps the fibers were too long, combined with the low (or non-existing) crimp. Perhaps I didn’t understand how to adjust tension and intake. The yarn turned into phone cord with curls all over.

I was a bit bothered by this, but hoped that my problem would solve itself when I plied the yarn.

It didn’t.

Yarn with uneven and curly parts.
This is not publication worthy yarn. The twist is too high and has started to build up phone cord curls all over. It needs a rescue operation.

My assignment for the magazine hovered in my head and I realized that I needed to take some serious action. I decided to implement a rescue operation and respin the yarn.

Rescue operation

The problem was in the singles, but I had already plied the yarn. Therefore I needed to unply the yarn, ease the twist in the singles and reply.

Unply, ease and reply.

This is how I did it:

Unply

I put the bobbin with the plied yarn on the flyer and treadled the same amount of treadles as in the plying process, only against the plying direction. After having unplied a section of yarn I rolled each singles section onto a separate bobbin. If there was still ply left, I shifted the bobbins to undo the rest of the plies.

Close-up of a person spinning on a spinning wheel. She is holding two bobbins of singles in her lap. The singles are attached to a plied yarn on the flyer.
To unply the yarn I turn the wheel against the plying direction and store the singles on separate bobbins in my lap.

This process took around an hour and a half for each skein. I had two. It also took some blood, sweat and tears. I had lots. When the yarn was fully unplied I wound the singles onto my niddy-noddy to make skeins.

Overtwisted singles.
Back to the over twisted singles.

I then soaked the skeins of singles overnight.

A soaking skein of singles yarn. The yarn is heavily over twisted and plies back on itself.
Poor little over twisted single needs a bath.

Ease

To ease some of the twist I rolled the singles onto bobbins again and ran them through the spinning wheel against the spinning direction until the curls had let go.

A bobbin of singles yarn. The yarn looks mangled.
Singles with eased twist.

The singles looked a bit tousled and shocked, but who can blame them? They had been through a gruesome ordeal.

Reply

The final step of the rescue operation was to reply the singles into a balanced 2-ply yarn. This went quite smoothly. I made a skein and soaked overnight. The operation was successful and the patient recovered.

There were a few curls left after the operation. I see them as a reminder not to spin under pressure. The yarn had less twist than I had wished for in the beginning, but it was free of phone cord curls and well behaved, which was more important.

Patient released, lesson learned

I got it all done on schedule. I made my analysis, knit the mittens, wrote the pattern and article and submitted the night before deadline.

The name of the article was Twist analysis.

The irony.

Lesson learned:

  • Listen to your friends.
  • Listen to the wool.
  • If friends and wool contradict each other: Think. And listen to your gut feeling.
  • Don’t spin under pressure.
  • If spinning under pressure, you are less likely to think or pay attention to any gut feeling.
  • Don’t spin under pressure. Really.
Two hands wearing mittens, and holding some wild flowers by the sea.
Finished Heartwarming mitts knit with mended handspun yarn. Photo by Dan Waltin

You can buy the Spin-off issue with the article and pattern here. You can also check out the pattern on Ravelry.

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!

From sheep to shawl

Next in line in my walk down memory lane is another Slow fashion video: Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl. Just like the first Slow fashion video it is a labour of love.

In this video I wanted to focus more on the details and I wanted to make a woven garment in my own design.

DIY

I also wanted people to be able to use the video as a guide to make a similar garment themselves. The idea came from a children’s book. When the kids were small we read about Castor the beaver (Bruno or Harvey in English). The story was about Castor making something – growing a plant, baking bread, making a toolbox, sewing an apron and mending a flat tyre. While they are sweet little children’s books, they are at the same time instructions to how to do it yourself. Our daughter made an apron for her brother for his 10th birthday using Castor’s instructions. She was then 7,5 and could barely reach the sewing machine pedal. Dan had to help her with the steering. I think she made a small toolbox for herself when she was even younger.

Even if my video doesn’t show the exact instructions from sheep to shawl it is a direction and guide to the different steps in the process. I hope the video is an inspiration too.

Outlander themed

When I made the video I was very much into the Outlander book and tv series. First and foremost for the abundance of wool garment and other beautiful crafts. Just imagine the time and skills needed to make one single great kilt! In the video I flirt a little with the outlander theme – the plaid shawl, the final scene (featuring our daughter) and the musical theme (arranged and performed by Dan’s talented brother Jens).

There are a few paragraphs in a few of the books where the characters spin and I do hope they decide to include those sections in the upcoming seasons in the tv series.

A woman on a meadow is holding up a plaid shawl in light and dark grey. She is wearing a shirt with a sheep on it.
The finished Sassenach shawl. Photo by Dan Waltin

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!

Process

Handspun yarn from Gotland wool

I am a process spinner and I spin because I love the process of spinning. The rhythm, the motions, the feeling of the fiber in my hands and the crafting bubble I enter when I spin – all of these aspects are part of my love of spinning. I do spin for the project too, but I don’t make shortcuts to get faster to the project. In this post I will try to break down the process and investigate what it is that makes me feel so good when I spin.

For some cimematic inspiration connected to the theme of this post, watch my video For the love of spinning.

Rhythm

There is a rhythm in spinning, regardless of what tool I am using. I treadle with my feet, feed the yarn into the orifice and move my hands. Or I set a spindle in motion, draft the fiber and roll the yarn onto the shaft. You can see the rhythm in the preparation too – loading combs or cards, processing the fiber and arranging the fiber in spinnable chunks. From the first step to the last and back again. There is a rhythm and a predictability – if everything goes as it should, I know what is coming next.

I find a sort of security in the rhythm. I can focus on the steps in the process and and be here and now. Stress stays outside of the bubble and allows me to breathe and think more freely.

I have been under a lot of pressure lately with course launch, article and pattern deadlines and new courses to prepare for. But through this I have had one spinning project that was just for me. There was no deadline or pressure with that particular fleece and I made room for spinning for a little while every day. It helped me find peace when in the crafting bubble and balance when outside of it.

The rhythm of spinning helps me find the here and now
The rhythm of spinning helps me find the here and now

Dance

Sometimes I see spinning as a dance. The fibers and tools are the dancers and I am the choreographer (the fiber is also the artistic director). My hands follow each other, back and forth, towards and away from each other, leaving the fiber in a new shape. Fiber hand drafting the fiber for the spinning hand. Spinning hand introducing twist to the fiber and smoothing the newborn yarn, guiding it onto the bobbin or shaft. My eyes follow my hands, watching the fiber, assessing the result and planning the next step.

The combs or cards follow each other, allowing the length of the fiber to gently dictate the choreography. I make dramatic moves for combing long locks and gentle motions, gently caressing the fibers for carding short fibers. I listen to the music of my tools for guidance in the rhythm.

The moves in the dance are linear and simultaneous, gentle and bold, planned and spontaneous. Often in basic step but every now and then a new figure is introduced.

The dance works with the rhythm and helps me find my pace. I get lost in the moment while at the same time focusing deeply on my work.

Spinning on a supported spindle takes and makes focus. Photo by Dan Waltin
The rhythm and dance of spinning helps me find focus. Photo by Dan Waltin

Sometimes I feel disconnected from the spinning. Something is out of step and I can’t find my way in the spinning. Then I look for the dance and find it. I am the choreographer again and the steps fall into place.

How do you dance your spinning?

Memory

When I spin (or knit or weave or nalbind or… well, you get the picture), I spin the context into the yarn. If I listen to a podcast when I spin I can hear its echo the next time I spin that yarn. If I knit at a fika break at work I remember the conversations the next time I pick up the knitting. Spinning on the train can save the view from the landscape in the yarn. The sensation of the crafting enhances the auditive or visual memory of what happen when I craft.

If I have been happy, sad or emotional when spinning, my feelings are gently stored in a protective shield of wool. It feels safe, like my yarn protects my most secret thoughts and emotions. I can look at the yarn and reconnect with particular moments and contexts.

A collection of finished yarns from a fleece allows me to remember and cherish all the things going on in my life when it was created. Good things, bad, happy and sad. They are all there and part of me.

Handspun yarn from Gotland wool
I could tell you that this is Gotland wool spun worsted from hand combed top, but it is so much more than that. Countless emotions, memories and places have been gently spun into the yarn.

Creativity

Spinning is a creative activity. I need to be creative. My whole being needs to express itself creatively. When I spin I feel more balanced, I can ground myself and be at peace. When I am in the creative bubble all the white noise around me fizzles out and allows me to see the world more clearly.

I can also use spinning to ignite creative thinking. Sometimes I may be struggling to find words for a blog post or an article. I stop what I am doing and start spinning instead. After a while of spinning the doors to my creative thinking open and I can take a fresh creative breath again. The connection between the brain hemispheres is strengthened and I can think more efficiently.

Touch

One of my favourite parts of the spinning process is feeling the wool in my hands. The notion that every single fiber has gone through my fingers hundreds of times through sorting, picking, washing, preparing, spinning, plying and knitting warms my heart.

Touching wool gives me a sense of security. It will do me no harm. I will receive the gift of warmth, safety and kindness. It is like I was meant to feel the wool. I think we as humans need to feel natural materials.

Oxytocin

Recently I read a book about love, Kärlek. The author and therapist Eva Sanner writes about touch as an important part of a relationship. Touch releases the hormone oxytocin, which makes us calm and content. It has importance for bonding between partners and between mother and child during nursing. The release of oxytocin also strengthens our immune system.

Go cuddle your sheep, it is good for your immune system. Photo by Anna Herting.

One of the most effective ways to release oxytocin is through massage. When pace and pressure are right, it can give a lot of pleasure for both the giver and receiver of massage.

A spinning hormone?

The book also mentions the release of oxytocin when we pet our pets. Scientific studies show that people with pets have better health than people living alone and that oxytocin can very well be the cause of that. The author writes that we have lots of oxytocin receptors in our hands. When we stroke our pets we take pleasure in it, just like the masseur. At the same time our immune system is strengthened.

This made me stop and think. If oxytocin is released when we stroke our pets, could spinning also lead to the release of oxytocin? The warm wool – not on the hoof anymore but more often than not smelling faintly of sheep – goes through our hands in all the steps of the process. During spinning we handle the wool between our fingertips, one of the most sensitive parts of our bodies. Is the release of oxytocin during spinning part of the feeling of serenity when we spin?

I got so excited about this thought that I emailed the author. I described the spinning process and asked her if she thought that oxytocin was released when we spin. She replied after just a couple of hours and said that it was a very interesting concept. She thought it was very possible that oxytocin could be released during spinning.

Spinning Shetland wool on a spinning wheel
Can spinning wool actually be good for our immune system?

My next thought was, comparing to pace and pressure in massage, is the pace and pressure in the spinning when it feels the best the moment when the most oxytocin is released? Do we have a personal spinning pace that is the most beneficial for us?

The thought of oxytocin as a spinning hormone and beneficial for our immune system gives me goosebumps. And a warm and wooly heart.

Do share your thoughts about this!

Happy spinning indeed!


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.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course!
  • 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. 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!