Opening up the twist

By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.

Earlier this week I got a question from a follower on Instagram. Shelly asked: How do you avoid overuse injuries to your back, shoulders, wrists and hands since you use all these repetitively and so frequently when spinning/knitting? I see people like you posting constantly and seemingly unaffected by strain. Do you have a special practice to avoid issues when spinning with a drop spindle/Turkish spindle?

I have several replies to this interesting and important question, but my focus will stay on opening up the twist for the sake of this post.

But first, a few shorter replies to Shelly’s question:

  • I am not a monogamous crafter. I have a need to craft and I have lots of projects going on at the same time. When my body reminds me that I have been working in one technique for a long time I take a break and do something else. Preferably this will include a walk or some other way to engage different muscle groups. If I still have a crafting need I may change to some other technique, tool or craft.
  • Instagram posts shows things that have happened. It doesn’t say when it happened or things that happened but were not instagrammed. I love sharing pictures of spinning and other crafts, but it is not what I do all day long. My goal with posting on Instagram is to inspire others to craft and find the joy in the process of making. My wish is that my followers see it as inspiration and not as something that leads to stress for not spinning 24/7. Listen to your body when it tells you to stop.
  • When I spin on spindles I always spin clockwise with my right hand as spindle hand and counter-clockwise with my left hand as spindle hand. With this system the fingers always pull the spindle towards the palm of the hand (as opposed to pushing it away), which is better ergonomically. In all my spindle spinning classes I therefore make my students learn how to spin with both hands. You can read more about pulling and pushing in this blog post or watch this webinar on spindle ergonomics. In the article The Flick that I wrote for PLY magazine’s supported spindle issue I write about pushing and pulling too.
In the article The Flick in PLY magazine's Supported spindle issue I talk about pulling the spindle towards the palm of the hand and how it is better ergonomically than pushing it outward.
In the article The Flick in PLY magazine’s Supported spindle issue I talk about pulling the spindle towards the palm of the hand and how it is better ergonomically than pushing it outward. The thumb and index finger is turning the yarn against the twist direction to open up the twist.

Twist engagement

In the beginning of 2019 I wrote about a theory I call the Twist model. The model focuses on how the presence of twist engages the fibers into the draft and how we can take advantage of this when we spin. With no twist the fibers will pull apart when we pull in each end – nothing stops the fibers when pulled. The fiber is unstable. With a lot of twist nothing happens when we pull in each end – the high twist stops the fibers from moving. The yarn is stable. But there is a point between stable and unstable in which the fibers are semi-stable and will slide past each other without pulling apart. I call this the point of twist engagement (the term Point of twist engagement comes from the Swedish word dragläge which describes the point in a stick shift car where, when both clutch and gas pedals are engaged, the engine is running without moving).

The twist model
The twist model

Working with the point of twist engagement is a way to achieve an even yarn and a smooth spinning with a low strain on the hands, wrists and shoulders of the spinner.

Opening up the twist

When I spin I always work close to the point of twist engagement. In some techniques I keep the twist close to the point of twist engagement as I draft. Not until I have the thickness and evenness I want I add twist to get the final twist angle of the yarn. In others I open up the twist after it has passed the point of twist engagement. By opening up the twist I mean to turn the the yarn between the hands against the spinning direction with my spinning hand. The twist that was too much opens up and allows the fibers to glide past each other.

By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.
By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.

Short draw

When I spin a short draw I open up the twist with my spinning hand to allow the fibers to slide past each other without coming apart.

In the video above I spin on a suspended spindle. At 1:18 you can see how the thumb and index finger of my spindle hand turns the yarn against the spinning direction to open up the twist. This way I ease the motion for my fiber hand – I don’t need to pull. Instead, it is the opening up of the twist that allows my fiber hand to move outwards.

In supported spindle spinning I open up the twist with the thumb and index finger of my spindle hand by turning the yarn against the twist direction. You can see this in the video, beginning at 0:22. Turning the yarn against the spinning direction with my spindle hand – opening up the twist – is what allows my fiber hand to move outward.

To be able to open up the twist between the hands they need to be close enough to each other so that the twist opens up all the way between them. I usually keep my middle finger under the spun yarn. The way the yarn is bent over the finger the twist from the spindle is momentarily prevented from traveling up through the yarn too fast.

The yarn lies over the middle finger of my spinning hand, which prevents the twist from traveling up too fast.
The yarn lies over the middle finger of my spinning hand, which prevents the twist from traveling up too fast.

Longdraw

An example of keeping the twist close to the point of twist engagement is the English longdraw, either on a Navajo spindle, a supported spindle or a spinning wheel.

Spinning wheel

In the video above where I spin English longdraw on a spinning wheel I have a sequence that I repeat:

  • I treadle to build up the twist in the yarn on the bobbin side (yarn pinched to keep the twist from entering the rolag)
  • I make the draft in one smooth motion. At this stage the twist travels up the fibers. As long as I can draft with the fibers still semi-stable I am at the point of twist engagement. If I need to, I can manipulate the yarn slightly with my front hand to open up the twist.
  • When I am happy with the thickness and evenness of the yarn, I treadle some more to add the twist I want for the final yarn.

Navajo style spindle

On the video above where I spin on a Navajo spindle I do the same – I work close to the point of twist engagement. If there is too much twist for the fibers to glide smoothly I manipulate the yarn with just a slight roll with my spindle hand thumb. This opens up the twist just enough for the fibers to slide a little smoother. You can see this at 2:17 in the video. When I feel I have the thickness and evenness of the yarn that I want, I add more twist.

Supported spindle

Spinning an English style longdraw on a supported spindle is not very different from the Navajo spindle. I flick the spindle to build up twist, make the draw. As I make the draw I use the thumb and forefinger of my spinning hand to open up the twist. This allow the fibers to glide more smoothly. You can see this at 1:22 in the video above. When I’m happy with the evenness of the yarn I add more twist and roll on.

Spinning students

When I teach spinning I always talk about opening up the twist. In fact, it is one of the first things I bring up in the class. To me, the point of twist engagement is what explains drafting, be it to a beginner or intermediate spinner.

The students open up the twist when they learn how to spin on a Navajo style spindle.

The students work with opening up the twist and get the theory. Usually, though, I find myself picking at their grip and wonder what I need to understand to get them to ease their grips. During my last five-day course A spindle a day I realized that I need to connect the opening up of the twist (spindle hand) with how to hold the fiber (fiber hand).

A soft grip

When I learn a new practical skill I usually hold on to the tool or material for dear life. It is like I believe holding it harder will somehow make the skill morph itself into my hands through the tool or material. I see the same tight grip in my students’ hands – they compress the fiber and pinch the yarn.

Listen to the wool

The wool knows how it wants to be spun. As spinners we just need to listen to what it has to say. It is like the movement the fibers make when they slide past each other forms a signal with information. We can listen to the fibers through opening up the twist – the fibers can keep sliding past each other and set themselves into the twist. But if we hold the fiber preparation and/or yarn (usually and since both hands tend to want to keep the same firmness) too tightly the fibers won’t be able to move – the signal will die. With a gentle grip of both fiber and yarn the signal is free to move between the spinning hand and the fiber hand. This way the wool communicates with us while it also helps the hands communicate with each other.

No pain in the classroom

As a teacher it is my job to make sure my students can spin without strain and pain. To help them ease the grip of the fiber I ask them to see the prepared fiber as a baby bird. It needs to be held firmly enough to prevent it from taking off but loosely enough not to crush it.

I observe my students in the classroom. By this I try to make sure they spin with as much muscle economy as possible. They are there to spin and to enjoy the process and I need to make sure they can without strain. When the fibers slide past each other the fiber hand doesn’t need to pull. Instead the opening up of the twist by the spinning hand allows the fiber hand to move outwards without force, enough to just keep the yarn stretched.

I hold the rolag in a very gentle grip. Basically the yarn just goes over my thumb and rests in the hand. Photo by Dan Waltin
I hold the rolag in a very gentle grip. Basically the yarn just goes over my thumb and rests in the hand. Photo by Dan Waltin

Drafting or pulling?

If the fibers are not opened up enough between the fiber hand and spinning hand the fiber hand needs to start pulling. And with a pull from the fiber hand comes a counter-pull from the spinning hand and both hands end up using more muscle power than they need. Spinning this way may lead to strained hands, wrists or shoulders.

A grip too firm will reveal itself in other ways too – if there is just a bundled-up mess left in the fiber hand when a top or rolag is almost finished it is a sure sign that it has been held too tightly – the outermost fibers of the preparation have slid with the gripping hand hand to the end of the preparation. A fiber preparation that has been held gently has the same shape at the end as it did in the beginning.

I hold the fiber in a gentle grip to keep its original shape. Through the gentle grip and the opening up of the fibers I put the least strain on my body.

A positive result of opening up the twist is that the resulting yarn will end up much smoother than if it were pinched and pulled. Provided of course that the wool is well and evenly prepared. That, however, is another blog post.

Thank you Shelly for this interesting and important question. I gave you a rather short reply on Instagram. I hope this longer reply makes sense to you.


The fall issue of Spin-Off magazine is out now. In it I have written an article called Sliding hooks and textile heritage where I explore antique Swedish spinning wheels with sliding flyer hooks while at the same time discovering my textile heritage. It is a very personal story and I am very happy with the article. As usual, my husband Dan took the wonderful pictures.

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.

Distaff pins

I used to go the Skansen Outdoor museum every August to process my harvest from my experimental flax patch since I didn’t have any tools. The past few years I have managed to get hold of flax processing tools of my own. In this summer series of short blog posts I have presented my flax processing tools. Previous presentations have been about my hackles, flax break and scutching knives, scutching board and a flax brush. This week I present a bonus: Two distaff pins.

Recently I reconnected with my second cousin Cecilia. We hadn’t seen each other for almost 40 years, but now we are close friends and chat almost every day. Family things tend to come her way and every now and then she shows me forgotten treasures.

A wooden family mystery

A few months ago she sent me a letter with two wooden items carefully wrapped in paper. She had found them together with old photos and letters in a family chest of drawers. The wooden items were signed with my grandfather’s name and therefore she had sent them to me. She thought they might be some sort of letter openers or perhaps book marks.

Wooden items, probably distaff pins, made by my grandfather to his mother and aunt. The message says "Greetings to aunt Hildur from Eje".
My grandfather Georg, Eje, made these as gifts to his mother Berta and her sister Hildur. The message says “Greetings to aunt Hildur from Eje”.

One of them had a name on it, Berta. On the other was written “Greetings to aunt Hildur from Eje”. Eje is short for Georg, my grandfather. Berta was his mother and also Cecilia’s and my great-grandmother. Hildur was Berta’s sister, Georg’s aunt. Georg was born in 1901, so my guess is that he made these around 1910–1915.

Distaff pins

I didn’t think they were letter openers or book marks, though. I believe they are distaff pins (Swedish: Rocksticka). A distaff pin is a thin wooden pin tied to the end of a ribbon that goes around a dressed flax distaff to make sure the flax stays on the distaff. A distaff pin was typically made by a young man as gifts to the girl he had his eyes on. A more elaborately carved distaff pin could be given to a girl in a proposal of marriage.

Elaborate distaff pin from Digitalt museum.
Elaborate distaff pin from Digitalt museum.

Eje’s aunt Hildur was a teacher of textile crafts and a distaff pin would make sense. Cecilia has found a spinning wheel in pictures of Berta’s home. Also, since distaff pins were usually made from boys to girls as a token of their affection it makes perfectly sense for younger school boys to make distaff pins for their mothers, perhaps for Mother’s Day.

Berta’s distaff pin sits happily in my dressed distaff. As my spinning patron she watches over me when I spin.

Regardless of what they were meant to be they were a very sweet gift from a little boy to his mother and aunt. And of course I use them as distaff pins. They do their job wonderfully well.

Who wouldn’t want to spin flax from a distaff dressed like this! The ribbon is tablet woven by me with commercial flax yarn.

When I look at my distaff pins I see Berta, my grandfather Georg (who died before I was born) and my dear friend Cecilia. It has been quite a while since I spun flax. Perhaps I will do it today!

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.

Spindle delivery

Two years ago I contacted the wood turner Björn Peck to ask him if he could make supported spindles for me. Another wood worker had recommended him to me. The first thing Björn said when I emailed him was “I want you to show me how you spin with them. I can’t create a tool for you if I don’t know how you use it”. So he came to our house and I showed him how I spin on supported spindles. He has been making spindles for my courses ever since. Yesterday he came by with another spindle delivery.

Björn Peck, professional wood turner and spindle maker. Photo by Dan Waltin

Finding supported spindles

I have been teaching supported spindle spinning since 2016. For a while I had been very frustrated over the fact that my dedicated students had gone home after the course and ordered spindles from the U.S. or Australia and had had to wait three weeks for their spindles to arrive. In that time they had most probably forgotten all they had learned and practiced in the course.

I had a vision of finding a wood turner in Sweden who could provide me with spindles for my students – both for teaching and for the students to buy after the class. I wanted the students to be able to practice the technique straight after the course, when it was still fresh in their memories.

Finding a wood turner

When I contacted Björn I realized straight away that he was serious and dedicated to his work. He wanted to do this and he wanted to do it good. I explained to him what I wanted the spindle to do. I had taught a few supported spindle spinning classes by then and I knew what my students struggled with and what they needed in a spindle. During that first summer Björn worked on different prototypes and we emailed back and forth. We met a couple of more times so that I could try his new models. It’s a good thing that we live in the same city.

Spindle prototype
One of Björn’s first prototypes

A spindle journey

That fall I taught a class again and for the first time with Björn’s spindles. He had finished them just a couple of days before he brought them to me. They still smelled of fresh varnish.

The first live batch of Björn Peck's supported spindles.
The very first spindle delivery from Björn Peck.

Spindles and pucks were made in local Swedish woods – apple, maple, cherry, birch, bird cherry, laburnum, walnut (not Swedish) and rowan. The bowls matched the wood in the spindles and had a metal indentation for the spindle tip to spin in. All the spindles were sold at the course.

I used Björn’s first batch of supported spindles for my video A meditation. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The students gave feedback about the models so that Björn could improve them. For the next batch Björn made the indentations in the pucks a bit deeper so that the spindle wouldn’t dance out of them.

A few weeks later I taught a five-day course in supported spindle spinning. The students had lots of time to try the spindles and give feedback to Björn. They were very thorough in their investigations and eager to help Björn make the spindles even better.

Spinning students eager to find the best spinning puck indentation in a five-day course in supported spindle spinning in 2018.

Later I also visited Björn in his workshop where he had rebuilt some of his tools to be able to improve the balance of the spindles even further.

Unfinished whorls, but still oh, so lovely.

The balance in his spindles is now flawless. He allows the wood decide the design and adapts his technique to that. If necessary, he puts a metal weight in the whorl for balance. The indentation in the pucks is now made of glass, which makes the spindles spin forever.

My private Björn Peck supported spindle and puck in masur birch. You can see it in action in my video Catch the light.

Navajo style spindles

Many people had asked me to teach Navajo spindle spinning. I really liked the idea, but it would only work if I could get Björn to make Navajo style spindles for me. A friend had brought me two Navajo spindles to Sweden by a friend who had been to the U.S. in business. The company doesn’t ship outside of the U.S. since they couldn’t guarantee that the spindles would arrive undamaged or at all.

I asked Björn and he promised he would try. He warned me that he might not be able to make the shafts straight enough on such long spindles. Despite that, I created a course called A spindle a day, including Navajo spindle spinning and hoped to all my spinning goddesses that Björn would be able to make the spindles.

A person spinning on a large ground-rested spindle.
Björn’s first batch of Navajo style spindles for my course A spindle a day in 2019.

After a lot of research, trial and error, he presented Navajo spindles for the course. I brought them to to the course and they were an immediate success, as was the course.

Spindle delivery

It is course season again at Sätergläntan craft education center and I am teaching the second edition of my course A spindle a day. The course has been sold out for many months, but due to the corona crisis many students have had to cancel their reservations.

Another spindle delivery of Björn Peck spindles in birch, flame birch, masur birch, laburnum, cherry and rowan.

Still, there are enough students in the class to go through with it. The school has adapted the courses and the activities to the social distancing rules of course. I go to Sätergläntan this afternoon to teach this much awaited second edition of A spindle a day. Björn came by yesterday with a lovely spindle delivery – supported spindles, Navajo style spindles and a couple of in-hand spindles.

Navajo style spindles by Björn Peck
Five beautiful Navajo style spindles delivered by Björn Peck. Spindles in ash, pucks in ash and maple.

A proud cooperation

I am so happy and proud of the cooperation I have with Björn. He makes spindles for my courses so that my students can walk home with a high quality spindle made by a professional wood turner in local woods. I listen to my students’ feedback about the spindles and pass it on to Björn, so he can improve them even further. We are both winners in this cooperation. I get happy students who can continue their spinning journey after the class with a professionally made tool. Björn gets his spindles sold to happy customers. There is, however, no money exchanged between us. He does put me first in line though, when I have a course coming up.

When he came to me that first time two years a go I told him that he probably would be able to sell spindles all over the world. He didn’t believe me then. But now he does and his shop sells out in just a few days after he has updated it.

Björn and I look at the details of his latest spindle delivery. Photo by Dan Waltin.

You can buy Björn Peck’s supported spindles here. If there are any left.


More resources:

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.
  • 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.

The knowledge of the hand

“I have a Norwegian crossbred whole-year fleece of excellent quality. Do you want one or two kilos?” The phone call came a year ago from Kia, a wool classifier and the person who has taught me the most about wool. “Well, I really have no room for more wool, but I may be able to squeeze in one kilo” I answered. “Do you want one or two kilos?”, Kia persisted. I realized that she really wanted me to make this fleece justice. What Kia considers a high quality fleece is a high quality fleece, so I replied that I would love two kilos. “Great, I’ll send it straight away!”.

From grease to yes please

So I have two kilos of extra beautiful Norwegian crossbred wool. The staples are around 12 cm and creamy white. More than wavy, less than crimpy.

Raw fleece with greasy and almost solidified tips.
Raw fleece with greasy and almost solidified tips.

When I got the fleece the tips were solidified by greasy lanolin. I imagined the sheep having skipped about in a Norwegian mountain, coastal climate rain pushing the lanolin out into the tips, creating a concentrated paste of grease.

Clean fleece
Clean fleece after a fermented suint bath.

After having admired my new bundle of fluff I soaked it in a fermented suint bath. The grease in the tips disappeared like magic. Apart from the tips the fleece was actually quite clean from the beginning, just the odd seed or piece of grass. I saw no hay or straw so don’t think the sheep had been stabled over the winter.

Two staples of wool, the leftmost white and clean, the rightmost yellow and dirty.
Raw fleece to the right, soaked in fermented suint bath to the left.

The knowledge of the hand

I decided to make this wool a long time spinning project. I got the fleece around the time I started my fascination of Andean spinning and weaving, and I realized the fleece would be perfect for hand teasing and spinning on Andean pushkas. The technique is slow and gives me the opportunity to grasp the knowledge of the hand.

A minimum of tools

All through this project I use a minimum of tools. I tease the wool by hand and spin with a simple hand carved Andean pushka. The method is slow, at least the way I do it.

When I tease the wool I get to know it. I get to know how to tease it to its best advantage, the direction and angle of pulling the fibers apart. I feel the structure of the staples and the individual fibers. When I tease I feel how the fibers stick together and how they separate. I can spot every nepp, tangle and weak fiber. During the teasing phase I get a feeling of how how the wool drafts. My hands learn the length of the fibers and its bounce.

A handful of unprocessed wool, a hand teased top and spindle spun singles.
Three stages – a handful of unprocessed wool, a hand teased top and spindle spun singles.

Time is knowledge

In a project like this the wool goes through my hands many times. One handful of fiber takes between 20 and 30 minutes to hand tease into a top. This is 20 to 30 minutes of opportunity to get to know the fiber, in the preparation phase alone. I open up each staple, arrange the teased wool into a top, draft through the top, double it, draft again and so on until I have a top with decently aligned and fully separated fibers.

Every time my hands interact with the fiber they learn something new about it. The knowledge of the hand is one of my most important tools when I spin.

A suspended spindle with the sea in the background.
With a simple tool you have the opportunity to learn more – through your body and through time. The knowledge of the hand is my most important tool.

You can move lots of mechanics from your body to the tools – processing, speed, tension and twisting of the fiber. In a way it saves you time. But it also takes away time spent with the wool. Time is actually of the essence here – time spent with the wool in all its stages.

A bedtime story

Most of the time I spin this project in bed before I go to sleep. It is a lovely way to end the day. I either tease or spin, let my thoughts come and go and find balance at the end of the day.

A two kilo pile of wool is a lot. To avoid strain from spinning I spin half of it clockwise and half counterclockwise. That way both my hands will learn and get to know the wool and the spinning as spinning hand and as fiber hand.

I spin this wool with a very low twist. The simple reason for this is that that is how I have learned from watching the Andean spinning workshop. The singles for weaving yarns are spun very loosely and given a high ply twist. I haven’t figured out why yet. One reason can be that it is easier to handle the singles when they have a low twist (that is my experience and quite painful lesson).

Spinning with such a low twist requires a slow tool and a slow technique. I don’t think I would have been able to spin with such a low twist on a spinning wheel, or a faster spindle for that matter. And when I spin the low twist singles on the pushka I have time to test the yarn for strength for every stretch of yarn I spin.

A spindle full of plied yarn on a chopping block.
Around 50 grams of plied yarn on a 20 gram spindle

I feel lucky to be able to spend all this time with this wool. There are so many aspects in these evening moments that I am so grateful for. Practicing, learning and finding a peace of mind. When I am done for the night I shake the tiny bits of vegetable matter out of the duvet and go to sleep in balance and at peace. During the night my brain processes what my hands have learned.

Learning by doing

Someone can tell me the dos and don’ts of a craft. I can understand it intellectually. But I won’t truly get it until I feel it – the knowledge of the hand key here.

A recent example is when I took a course in backstrap weaving. The teacher said it was important to use a yarn that wouldn’t stick, preferably cotton. I wanted to learn backstrap weaving to weave with my handspun yarns. I knew some of the yarns I had chosen would be too sticky. But what did too sticky mean? How would it feel? What would too sticky lead to? Where was my stickiness limit?

I tried different yarns in different degrees of stickiness. I learned when it would be too much trouble to manually separate the warp threads for each shed. In some cases I learned that sticky wool would pull fibers out of the yarn, leading to thinning warp threads and eventually breakage. I understood this before, intellectually. But it wasn’t until my hands felt and experienced the effect that I truly understood. The knowledge of the hand teaches me so much more than understanding something I read or hear from someone. My hands need to feel experience and understand the cause and effect.

A skein of creamy white yarn on a flat stone surface.
Slow is my favourite way to quality.

The funny thing is that I can take this knowledge back to my brain again – by writing about this process I can verbalize it and understand it in more depth. So thank you dear readers for encouraging me to write!

Textile plans

I am spinning this yarn into a weaving yarn, half of the skeins z-plied and half s-plied. I plan to dye the skeins in a variety of colours and use in backstrap weaving projects.

One of my first projects will be a case for all the backstrap loom sticks I have carved lately. I suddenly got an urge to carve sticks and couldn’t stop. I carve in maple which is lovely to work with this time of year. The bark comes of and the knife moves through the wood like butter.

Hand carved sticks of different sizes on a pile of wood chips.
Some of the backstrap loom sticks I have been carving lately. Of course they need a backstrap woven case!

It will take a while before I get to that stage, though. I have spun six skeins thus far, around 250 grams. There is a lot of wool left. I will have many hours to deepen the knowledge of the hand.

Five skeins of white yarn and a spindle full of plied yarn.
Six skeins spun, plenty left to learn from.

In the end I did manage to squeeze the two kilo fleece into my fleece storage. I already knew there would be room in my heart for it. A big thank you goes from my heart and my hands to you Kia!


Next weekend I’m going on my annual wool journey with my wool traveling club. A bit more distanced than we are used to, though. I may not find the time to blog, but there will be a new blog post in two weeks, hopefully telling you about the wool journey (which I’ll be getting to by bike this year!).

Stay safe and 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.
  • 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 fleece meditation

“I have a fleece from my young ewe Elin that I think you should have”, said Claudia, a shepherdess of Swedish Gestrike sheep. This happens every now and then. One of the advantages of being known in the spinning world is that shepherdesses trust me with their fleeces and they are curious of what I make of them. In this post I dive deep into the fibers in a fleece meditation.

The ladies and the elements

Claudia and I have met a few times since then but life has happened and the fleece stayed with Claudia. A global crisis came in the way. Eventually and with a little (or a lot) help from a friend Claudia managed to get the fleece to me. Claudia’s friend Kristina – also a spinner – was going to Stockholm where she studies and Claudia asked me if I could meet Kristina outside her school. Of course, I said. The bike ride would do me good.

So, we settled on a Tuesday in the end of April. I imagined a lovely bike ride through town, crisp birch leaves and cherry blossom edging the bike path and the fresh spring air welcoming my face in its midst. As it turned out, it was one of the most dramatic days of spring, weather wise – grinning rain, hail and icy winds had Stockholm in a firm grip, playing with its tousled inhabitants. The birches and the cherry trees were still there of course, but not in the atmosphere I had imagined. Still, a fleece was waiting for me and there wasn’t much I could do.

Embracing the hail as good as I could muster I hopped on the bike and pedaled my way in to town in sheer determination. I met Kristina, chatted for a while and went home with the fleece in the bike bag. An hour and 17 kilometers after I had left home I was back again. A bit cold, a bit wet, but richer in fleece and fresh air.

A raw fleece in dirty black and white.
The raw fleece from the Gestrike ewe Elin forms the beginning of a fleece meditation.

A bath

The fleece of the Gestrike sheep Elin is now in our house, filling the house with the soft smell of sheep and the promise of hours of gentle touch, creative work and new experiences.

Before I put Elin in the washtub I balanced her on the scales. 1,7 kilos, quite a large fleece for a Swedish heritage breed. I assumed some of the weight would wash out with the soaking water.

Soak

I filled the washtub with warm water in the bathroom – it is still a bit too cold to soak wool outdoors. As I gently pressed the sticky fleece down into the tub the water streamed up from underneath, found its path between the fibers, pressing the abruptly awoken dirt out of the staples and into the gushing water, creating reddish brown whirls which slowly shaped echoes of the locks.

A girl should have her privacy in the bath, so I left her in the tub for around fifteen minutes. When I came back I could hardly see her anymore. Gone was the clear water and the brown whirls. All that was left was a luke warm sea the colour of yesterday’s coffee with a few floating islands of wet wool lurking by the surface like frogs waiting for juicy flies. Between the islands were accumulations of soapy foam created by the union of the salty suint and the warm water.

Rinse

I gently squeezed the water out of the heavy water-saturated wool mass and filled the tub with fresh water. I repeated the process three more times, brown whirls fading slightly for each new soak. By the third rinse the water was clear and the wet locks distinctly visible in the tub, black and white staples shining like herrings in a school.

Spin-dry

After another squeeze I moved the shapeless wad into the washing machine to spin-dry it. Fifteen minutes later I opened the drum and was presented a bursting cloud of wool all the way up to the edge. Gone was the pile of sticky staples. Instead I saw before me an airy muchness of creative prospectives, inviting me to explore them.

A clean fleece in black and white.
Elin’s fleece is now clean an a lot lighter.

When I weighed the fleece again I was shocked of the number the pointer stayed at – 1,2 kilos. Gone were 500 grams of lanolin, sweat salts and short bits of fiber. My fleece was freed of half a kilo of gunk that I happily donated to the garden beds as fertilizer. My heart sings of the prospect of a flax harvest invigourated by dirty wool soak.

The fibers

Most of the staples had proud, gently waved outercoat, collected like the straws in a paint brush and air-filled hoopskirt undercoat, ready to embrace anyone who needed their warmth.

Black and white wool staples.
A few members of the Elin dance company.

Outercoat

The fibers are bundled up together to bring protection to the sheep. Some of the strands are long, proud and glistening, aspiring for length to protect the sheep from rain. I close my eyes and imagine the clusters of outercoat almost taking aim at the falling drops, competing about being the team to lead the wet intruder away from the body they have been set to protect.

Separated wool staples.
Dissected staples of Elin’s fleece – a whole staple, outercoat and undercoat.

Undercoat

Other fibers are fine, winding their way through the fiber collective, changing directions unpredictably, forming a billowing multitude of soft warmth to keep the wind and cold at bay. Together with air they fulfill their task with gentle determination.

Kemp

A third kind of fiber can be seen occasionally. Black, brittle and sprawly. This is the kemp, the oddball in the family. The kemp works with the other fibers, keeping the staple upright for additional protection against the elements and allowing more air to enter their fibery togetherness.

A microscope picture of wool fibers.
Strong and straight outercoat, fine and winding undercoat and coarse and brittle kemp, all working together to create the best conditions possible for the sheep.

The fibers look and work differently, yet in cooperation to protect the sheep they once grew on.

A fleece meditation: If I were a sheep

If I think of myself as the sheep the fibers are assigned to protect, how would I arrange them to do the same for me? How would I take advantage of their respective characteristics to create a garment that is for me what the fleece was to the sheep?

A staple of wool.
A fleece meditation.

Look at this picture for a moment. Long and strong outercoat, soft and warm undercoat. That means something. These fibers can be prepared, spun and arranged to their advantage and to give me the best protection. Soft, winding undercoat carefully carded into a pillowy rolag, kemp occasionally peaking out. Long and strong outercoat combed parallel into a bird’s nest.

A combed top and a rolag.
The beginning of the journey to a new textile. Outercoat and undercoat separated and processed.

When I close my eyes and feel a staple of Elin’s carefully selected wool in my hands I sense the different characteristics of the fibers. I envision a woven textile. In my mind I see the strong outercoat fibers as warp and the soft undercoat as weft.

Two shuttles with yarn. One light and airy, one dark and sleek.
Warp and weft. Separated but still together.

A dream of twill

I see twill. Fine singles, winding their way across the fabric. On one side the outercoat dominates – three over, one under – protecting me from the falling rain. The other side soft from the undercoat, keeping me warm and safe, kemp making sure there is room for air. Perhaps the fabric is slightly fulled to protect me even further. The two sides have different superpowers and different colours.

A woven twill sample.
A baby swatch, full of possibilities, waiting to grow into a mature fabric.

Claudia tells me that one of her ewes has a lot less outercoat than the rest of the flock. This sheep prefers to stay protected under a spruce when it rains while the downpour doesn’t bother her sisters. I want to be able to stand in the rain like the sheep, protected from the elements by an ingenious design that has worked for millennia.

A white wool staple with tips pointing in different directions.
The processing of Elin’s fleece could go in many different directions.

Eventhough the fibers in my textile would be disassembled and put together again in just one of many fashions, they would still work together. Their novel composition for a two-legged creature would still serve the same purpose: To keep me protected.

Meanwhile, Elin is generously growing a new fleece that shields her and that can be harvested again.

Stay safe and 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.
  • 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.

Come together

The corona virus has the world in its grip and we all need to do what we can to keep our risk groups safe and make sure the health care workers can do their job. Many initiatives are made and lots of creative solutions are figured out to make us able to come together in new ways.

Spin together apart

Lots of spinners have regular spin meetings where you can share ideas and inspire each other. Many of these have been cancelled due to the restrictions because of the virus. At the same time, I have seen so many initiatives to digital spin meetings across the world. In this I think both regular guild spinners and spinners who haven’t had a spinning guild or meeting in their community have found their way to digital meetings. Perhaps more spinners meet regularly now than before, only from their own living rooms.

A spinning workshop

One such example is the spinning workshop in Hölö, Sweden. They usually meet every Tuesday in an old church school and spin together. Several of them are risk group and the spinning meetings in the church school has taken a break. But the virus doesn’t stop the spinners from having their meetings. Now they meet online instead. The spinners who are in a risk group can come together apart without subjecting themselves to the virus. Others who have a long way to go to come to the church school can save the time it takes to get there and still enjoy the company and the discussions.

Spinning in the news

The new digital spinning workshop made such an impression that Swedish national media reported from the meetings. Here is a lovely clip and an article from Dagens Nyheter, of the largest newspapers in Sweden. They visited Lena and her Dalapäls sheep one Tuesday in lambing season.

The week after the newspaper had visited I joined the digital meeting. As it turned out, reporters from Swedish national television were visiting Lena to make another clip. It was aired in a live show raising money for those who have suffered the most in the corona crisis. You can watch it here. The clip starts at 49:25 (you can see me for about half a second). In the clip Lena tells us that they immediately closed down the meetings when the restrictions came. Now the digital spinning meetings are a success. People who belong to risk groups can safely go to the digital spinning workshops and join their spinning community. Lena tells us that when they go back to meeting in person again they will still bring a computer to open a digital opportunity for those who can’t come.

A digital Q&A

Once a month I host a Q&A for some of my patrons. They can send questions ahead or ask during the Q&A. The sessions have so far been directly in the chat, but in my last Q&A I decided to make it in video.

The first problem was to find a time that suited my patrons and me. Some are in the U.S. and Canada, some in Europe and some in Australia and New Zealand. There was no way I would be able to find a time when all could be present during daytime. So I scheduled two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Seven people from across the globe came to the sessions, one was present at both of them. We had a lovely time together. We could all see and hear each other. This was the first time I have seen some of my most faithful followers. One of them was my very first patron who has supported me for over two years and one was brand new.

Josefin Waltin smilling at the camera. She is wearing knit-in ear phones.
A video Q&A for my patrons.

Seeing each other made it easier to interact. People could ask questions and show what they meant. They could also bring things to discuss. One patron brought some fleece that she wanted to know how to process, another brought a spindle she asked my opinion of.

Another good thing was that I didn’t have to answer all the questions – all of the participants had experiences to share that was very helpful. I think we can develop these sessions to something very rewarding and useful.

The Q&As are for the higher tier patrons only. If you want to become a patron you can check out my Patreon page. Whether you do or not, I hope it inspires you to start or join digital spinning meetings in one way or another.

A course in corona times

In January I published a post about my rya chair pads. I had woven seven chair pads from my handspun stash on my rigid heddle loom.

Seven woven squares with rya knots. They are in different patterns and colours – striped, plain, zebra skin, cow skin and a heart.
Rya chair pads in my handspun yarn (none of them rya yarn).

Shortly after, my friend Lena (above) called me. The spinning workshop has a rya theme this year. They try to learn as much as they can about different aspects of rya. Rya is a Swedish sheep breed, a wool type (not necessarily from the rya breed) and a knotting technique (originally from rya wool type but not necessarily today). Lena wanted me to teach a class for them in the rya technique. The thing is, Lena and several of the members of the spinning workshop are weavers. I don’t consider myself a weaver. I consider myself a beginner at weaving and I don’t deserve the title weaver yet. But Lena argued that it was just because I wasn’t an experienced weaver that I was interesting as a teacher in the technique – you don’t need to know how to weave monk’s belt to make rya knots.

Digital rya knots

As the course date came closer I got increasingly worried about the course. I knew some of the spinners in the group are in risk groups. But since they had such success with the digital spinning meetings cancelling was no option – they wanted me to teach the course digitally.

So, for the past few weeks I have tried to plan a course that I was supposed to teach on site. I had planned to bring my chair pads and show them, and Lena was supposed to help non-weavers set up their warps. I imagined a creative zone with brilliant minds where we would inspire each other to try new ideas. We soon realized that we could still do most of these things in a digital course.

Wonder warps

Lena warped at home and delivered mini looms to the church school for the participants to come and get. I found a way to make a large demo warp that hopefully will help the participants see the technique.

This is how it works:

  • The loom bars at the top and bottom are my actual loom bars from my backstrap loom.
  • The six skeins of handspun yarn are the warp threads. Since they are looped I can actually make sheds.
  • I used a handspun and hand woven band as the weft.
  • The woven scarf is my rya knot.
  • The display is hung on a camera tripod.
A rya demo.
A pretty much hand made rya demo for digital teaching.

I am very proud of this arrangement and hope it will be a useful tool in the course.

A sample band

I also made a sample band to show how you can achieve big variations with small changes. I set up the warp on my backstrap loom and just played and had fun with the knots. For pedagogical reasons I used different colours for different purposes – the warp is brown, the weft white and most of the knots green.

A woven band with rya knots in different arrangements.
A sample band for the digital rya course. All the yarn comes from my handspun stash.

Apart from the rya demo, the rya chair pads and the sample band to show I will also have a Keynote presentation with close-up photos to show the participants.

The course is tomorrow and I hope we will all learn a lot from this experience. If you have been following me for a while you know I make lots of videos and webinars and also online video courses. But this will be the first time I teach live.

Possibilities of video

As a teacher I know how much I can give my students in an on-site course. We can talk face to face, cuddle with yarn, feel structures and pick up non-verbal signals. I can also see from a distance when I need to guide a student. But when the option to an on-site course is no course at all a digital solution is a powerful tool.

The same goes for spinning and guild meetings – we can still meet, just in a different format. And people who wouldn’t have been able to come to a spinning meeting at all suddenly has the opportunity to join one near or far. We are all neighbours online.

In the situation we are in it seems even more important to come together for comfort and a sense of togetherness. We are all in the same boat and we need to navigate it together in a new direction.

Stay safe and 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.
  • 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.

Portrait of a sweater

At the Jämtland wool webinar a couple of weeks ago I showed a sweater made in Jämtland wool and how it had been worn on the elbow after five years. After the webinar I got a request from a follower. She asked me to make some sort of portrait of a sweater and show different stages of its life. I found the idea brilliant and I am happy to meet her request. So here it is – the portrait a sweater.

A woman walking outdoors. She is wearing a grey sweater with white spinning wheels in a stranded knitted yoke.
The spinning wheel sweater straight off the needles in 2015

Everyday and wool festivities

I have worn my sweater for both everyday and festive occasions. As an everyday sweater I have worn it at home and at work. It is a warm sweater that works for a large part of the year.

At work nobody really notices it, to most of my colleagues it is just another knitted sweater. But when I go to wool and spinning events it is definitely a festive sweater – people see the work that has been put into it, they smile heartily at the spinning wheels on the yoke and some recognize it from my videos.

In 2018 I attended the Swedish fleece and spinning championships. That is definitely a festive occasion.

No matter where or when I wear it, it always feels comfortable and safe.

A five year portrait

I started the making of the sweater in 2014 by shearing the Swedish finewool lamb Pia-Lotta. The whole process is well documented and actually the main character of one of my earliest videos Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater (also available in Swedish). In the video I go through all the stages from raw fleece to a finished sweater. For that reason alone this is the perfect sweater to use in a portrait. In this portrait I document the stages of wearing.

I knit the sweater in the Fileuse design by Valérie Miller.

A new spinner

When I made the sweater I had been spinning for two years. Since then I have improved my spinning for another six years. While it is far from my best spinning it is definitely one of my favourite sweaters. And one of my most worn.

Looking at the sweater today I see many things I would have done differently. The grey yarn is unevenly and loosely spun. I think the yarn ranges between light fingering and sport weight. A consistent fingering weight yarn with more twist would fill out the stitches better and give a more finished overall impression.

The yarn is quite thin and unevenly spun at the neckline.

Had I placed the bulkier yarn on the elbows they would probably be less worn now. The white finewool yarn is also a bit unevenly spun. However, it is woolen spun and the uneven parts don’t show as much as they do in the worsted spun grey Jämtland yarn.

I placed the bulkiest skein on the bottom of the sweater. Perhaps it would have worked better on the elbows.

Tales from the elbows

As I wrote in the preamble of this post the sweater is worn at the elbows. I have seen the thinned-out threads for a while and a couple of months ago my daughter told me there was a hole on the right elbow.

I mended it with parallel blanket stitches over a horizontal help thread. That is the only mending technique I have learned.

A darning needle mending a knitted sweater.
A mended underarm on a hoody in a commercial yarn. The sweater has been worn a lot during three years.

I must have been too greedy with the mending since there is a hole on the same elbow again, just underneath the first mending. I should have mended a bigger area.

Portrait of a sweater. A new hole on the right elbow, just underneath the first mending.

I stand at work and use the mouse with my left hand. The right elbow often leans on the table top. I guess that is the reason why my right elbow has thinned out faster than the left. The left elbow is thin, but not worn through.

A thin spot on my left elbow.

Don’t get me wrong – Five years is a long time for a sweater that I have worn so often. I remember finishing the sweater just in time to bring it to Shetland wool week in 2015. In Shetland I bought yarn for a hoodie at Jamieson & Smith and started knitting it, so the hoodie is a bit younger. I have worn these two sweaters equally – the spinning wheel sweater in handspun and the hoodie in commercial yarn. I started mending the hoodie in several places two years ago (see picture above of a sweater with stripes). My first mending of the handspun spinning wheel sweater (which is older) was this year.

A new mending

I used help threads for my new patch.

To mend the new hole I removed the old mending. I figured it would be better to make a bigger mending than to overlap the old one. To find a suitable mending technique I used Kerstin Neumüller’s excellent and methodical book Mend and patch (available of course in Swedish and also German and French). I attached help threads over the hole and followed the knitted pattern with a darning needle threaded with the mending yarn.

A mended elbow hole! I removed the help threads and wove in the ends after I had finished the mending.

The mending technique description calls for a thinner yarn than the original one to avoid a bulky patch. I went the other way and used a bulkier yarn. The elbow is an exposed area and I didn’t want to have to mend a third time. The yarn I used is a handspun Gotland yarn I made for socks. It has two Z-spun threads and one S-spun thread that are plied S for extra strength. I hope it does the trick!

The spinning wheel sweater in 2020, with a mended elbow. The portrait of a sweater has changed.

I decided to make an invisible mending. It blends into the original textile quite well. However, I now understand the beauty of visible mending. With yarn in a contrasting colour you will actually see what you are doing when you mend the hole!

Other signs of wear

I inspected the sweater to look for other signs of wear. I saw a thin spot on the cuff of the right arm. However, I think this part is slightly felted since it is knit in Swedish finewool which felts easily. I don’t think the risk of further damage is alarming. I have it on my watch list but I haven’t done anything to fix it yet.

Close-up of a knitted piece of fabric with a worn-out edge.
A thin spot on the right cuff.

I also looked for pilling and didn’t find much at all. There might have been pilling in the early days and if there was it has all been worn off by now.

All in all I think this sweater has really worn well. I have worn it so many times and it is a wonder that it still looks so nice. I plan to wear it for at least another five years.

Make that sweater

You don’t have to be a master spinner to spin yarn for a whole sweater. There will be uneven parts and flaws. You will be able to look at it later and understand what you would have done differently today. You will also look at your accomplishment with pride. All the flaws you see are seeds to new learning. All the mistakes you see will remind you of what you have learned and how you have used that piece of learning in later projects.

Make that sweater. Embrace the mistakes as gifts of learning and wear your accomplishment with pride. When you see thin patches and holes, mend them and be even more proud. Make your own portrait of a sweater, and many sweaters to come.

Thank you for the inspiration Sissel!

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!

Hemslöjd

I subscribe to the most beautiful crafting magazine, Hemslöjd (Craft). It has thick, almost cardboard-like paper, environmentally friendly print, and comes without plastic or irrelevant ads. The articles make me want to learn how to make baskets big enough to live in with their exquisite photographs and mesmerizing writing. Every time the Hemslöjd magazine comes in our mail box it is a feast and we all try to get it first. It has received numerous prizes for its appealing design and focus on unexpected connections between crafting and important matters in society.

Be still my beating heart

In the beginning of December the editor in chief Malin Vessby emailed me and asked for an interview about different spindle models. The theme of the issue was Wool and a friend had recommended me. I was thrilled. The magazine that takes my heart on crafting adventures over and over again wanted to feature me.

Two days later Malin came to our house. She stayed for two hours, asking me to tell her all about my around 16 different spindle models. Imagine that – two hours of talking about your favourite subject with someone who just listens and is genuinely intrigued!

A woman spinning on a large spindle supported by the floor and resting against her thigh.
I talked about my different spindle models and showed the editor in chief how I use them. I always love bringing out my Navajo spindle. Many people I meet have never seen anything like it. Photo by Sara Mac Key.

Photo shoot

Another few days later the photographer Sara Mac Key came. She spent two hours crawling around on our living room floor, chasing the best angles and spinning action scenes. Spindles were displayed in different arrangements, wool was combed and held into the pale December light and locks were gently fluffed up for the most scrumptious backdrop.

A hand holding a comb with grey wool.
Sara was fascinated with the fluffy wool on the comb. This is Swedish Klövsjö lamb’s wool. Photo by Sara Mac Key.

We spent a third hour on the metro. During the interview I had told Malin about my metro spindle and she wanted Sara to take a photo of me spinning on the metro. This was in mid-December when the sun is up between 9 am and 3 pm. The metro goes over a bridge where the sun shines through at the very top of the bridge. To capture the light we crossed the bridge back and forth a number times to get the best light and angle. We had a lot of fun!

A woman spinning on a suspended spindle on the metro.
We captured the best metro light on the top of the bridge. My house is on the hill right behind my back. Photo by Sara Mac Key.

A clonk in the mailbox

In the beginning of February there was a familiar clonk in the mailbox. The Hemslöjd magazine had come. It was bursting with juicy articles about crafters working with different aspects of wool – knitter, author and knitting author Celia Dackenberg. Weaver and artist Miriam Parkman (on the cover, like a queen). The traditional sock as a true working class hero. The new dawn of the Swedish wool industry with Claudia Dillman and her Gestrike sheep, a wool station in the far north and a young textile engineer with dreams about a Swedish spinning mill for worsted yarn. Täpp Lars Arnesson, fur and leather artist. All such royally talented crafters and artists. And me.

Pull the whorls

The title of the article is “Dra på trissor” (Pull the whorls). This makes absolutely no sense without an explanation. Dra på trissor is an idiomatic expression referring to amazement or astonishment. I’m not sure about what, though.

A hand holding up a magazine page. A picture of a woman arranging hanging spindles in a window like a curtain.
Spinners have had opinions of my spindle curtain, saying they may come to harm by sunlight and temperature changes. But I take the risk, it is so pretty!

Malin managed to capture my relationship with my spindles and spinning, how they give me time to think and understand spinning on a deeper level. She could convey my view on slow as a superpower.

A hand holding up a magazine page with pictures of spindles.
A selection of the spindle models I have in my collection. The queen of them is my Björn Peck supported spindle.

The article also features how I started my cooperation with Björn Peck who makes supported spindles for my classes. I am so proud of this cooperation. Björn is an immensely talented wood worker and such a nice person to work with.

The metro spindle is a lovely little friend to hold in my hand when I need to abandon my bike and commute with public transportation.

After the magazine had been published I contacted the photographer and got access to some of the photos that hadn’t been used in the article. You can see them here in the post.

Some of my different spindle models in a lovely potpourri. I particularly love the shot of the miniature Pushka in the lower left corner. Photo by Sara Mac Key.

You can read the article (as well as other articles) for free in exchange for your email address here. If you haven’t brushed up your Swedish lately you can always pop the text into Google translate.


When you read this I will be busy fondling wool at the annual Kil sheep festival in Värmland in Sweden. I will tell you all about it in an upcoming post!

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!

Trial and error

Last week I published a video where I spin from the cut end of flick carded staples. The reason for this technique was that I wanted to preserve as much as possible of the colours in a multicoloured fleece. I envisioned a sweater with all the colour variations showing. Today I write about why I chose to spin the sweater yarn in a completely different technique. Through trial and error I have learned – once again – that not every spinning technique goes with every textile technique for every fleece.

Error

When I had finished the first two skein of my first colour I started swatching to see how the yarn behaved. The second I started I realized that this was not the yarn for the sweater I had planned. The yarn was way too dense and felt more like rope in the swatch than a cozy yarn.

A skein of variegated brown yarn on a pier.
A beautiful yarn with lovely colours, but far too dense and coarse for the knitted sweater I had had in mind.

I was quite sad about this for a while. After all, I had got a responsibility to make the fleece justice when I bought it from the shepherdess. I put the rest of the fleece back into the sofa bed and picked up another fleece instead.

Trial

So, how would I spin this yarn to make it suitable for knitting and still keep the colour variations within each colour? I realized that there was way more outercoat than I had originally thought, making the first yarn rougher than I had planned. In the past I have spun other yarns with this method, but with a larger propportion of undercoat – in a pair of mittens, half-mitts and sleeves.

With this in mind I played with the idea to remove some of the outercoat. I also realized that I needed to card and spin this yarn woolen to make the yarn as soft as possible.

Soft knitting yarn

I combed the lovely staples with my medium combs and combing station. After two passes I pulled out two handfulls of outercoat and set aside. Then I pulled out the rest of the wool – that was now teased – and carded rolags. I had been afraid that the colour variation would vanish if I changed the preparation method, but the rolags looked lovely with their variegated colour.

A basket of variegated brown rolags.
I managed to keep the colour variation in the hand-carded rolags.

I spun the yarn with low twist and English longdraw, hoping for a soft yarn. Since I had plans for stranded knitting I made the yarn 2-ply. The result was a soft and warm yarn with a lovely variegated colour. There is still some outercoat in the yarn, keeping it together despite the low twist.

A skein of variegated brown yarn on a flat stone surface.
The new yarn is softer and airier than the original skein.

Comparison

The original yarn was too dense and rough and the new yarn is a lot softer and airier. I was afraid that the colour variation would be lost in the new yarn, but it turns out it wasn’t. It is a bit lighter, which is because the outercoat is chocolate brown and I removed a lot of it.

Two skeins of variegated brown yarn on a flat stone surface.
Original yarn to the left and new to the right. The new yarn is considerably softer and airier. The colour variation is less clear but still there.

Strong warp yarn

The outercoat fibers that I had set aside were long and strong – somewhere between 15 and 20 centimeters. I made another two passes in the combing station to really comb the different batches together. To spare myself from the strain of pulling all the fibers off the comb with my hand I used a button to diz through. I rarely use a diz when I comb, but since there was quite a lot of fiber on the combs I decided the diz would be a good idea. It would also ensure an even top to spin from.

Close-up of a hand pulling brown fiber off a wool comb through a button hole.
I’m dizzing the fibers through a button hole straight off the combing station.

I made the loveliest bird’s nests out of my dizzed tops. They look just like giant cinnamon buns, don’t you think?

A basket of hand-combed bird's nests.
Cinnamon bun bird’s nests.

A talented spinner, Kerstin, recently showed me her warp yarn that she had spun on a suspended spindle. With inspiration from Kerstin I decided to spin a warp yarn with a suspended spindle.

A spinning spindle with brown wool yarn. Trees in the background.
Spinning away, outercoat only on a suspended spindle. The second batch of outercoat is a little lighter than the first.

I have brought the spindle to the office during the last couple of weeks and also to the hair dresser’s (who thought I was spinning human hair). Yesterday I finished my first skein of outercoat warp yarn.

A skein of dark brown yarn on a wooden surface.
A spindle-spun outercoat warp yarn is finished!

It is dead strong, I can’t even break the singles! I have finished the first batch and I’m on my second. Hopefully there will be a lovely gradient from the different batches I had sorted the fleece into.

A project for the rejected

I was a little sad for the first yarn I had spun. I didn’t really know what to do with it. It looked sad and lonely and I wanted to give it a project it would shine in. And I found it. I just started an online course in backstrap weaving with Kimerly Hamill. The strong and dense original yarn would be perfect for the first module of the course.

A person weaving a band on a backstrap loom.
My very first backstrap weaving project.

The yarn was very clingy and I was well aware of that when I warped. Kimberly warned about yarn that was clingy, but I needed to feel for myself what worked, what didn’t work and what I could live with. The warp threads do cling together a lot and the weaving hasn’t been carefree and flowing in this project. But it does work and I’m very proud of my first backstrap weaving project.

I do apologize for the ugly plastic heddle string. It came with the loom and I didn’t question it at the time. Someone else did, though. Marie, a weaving teacher inspired me to use my handspun yarn for the heddles, so that’s what I will try for my next module.

The first backstrap project is now finished and I can’t wait for the second module.

A woven band on a wooden terrace floor.
My very first backstrap woven band is finished! 7,5 cm wide, 100 cm long.

Through trial and error I managed to spin a yarn that would fit my original idea. I also spun a promising warp yarn and found use for my dense yarn in a weaving project. Trial and error helped me find solutions and gave me lots of new inspiration and ideas. And as usual, I learned a lot along the way.

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!

2019 in my heart

A woman sitting by a computer. A knitting pattern book on a book stand is on the table. An autumn tree is reflecting in the computer screen.

2019 is almost over and I am looking back at the year with pride and joy. 2019 will bubble in my heart as a year of teaching, learning, designing and webinaring. In this post I share some of my highlights from 2019. This is a long post with lots of opportunities to read more. If you want to you can stay under a blanket and read for days!

Teaching and learning

I have done quite a bit of teaching this year, both online and face-to-face. In March I released an online course in supported spindle spinning. I have also done two course series in supported spindle spinning in Stockholm and one five day course in spindle techniques (A spindle a day) at Sätergläntan craft education center.

A person spinning on a floor-rested spindle
Learning to spin on a Navajo floor-rested spindle. Spindle by Björn Peck.

I love seeing students make progress in their spinning and in their analysis of spinning. To see them understand what they are doing, talk about what they are doing and eventually even explain to others what they are doing and why. It is such a reward for me to see students understand and develop in their skills and to know that I have played a small part in that – I have found a channel to their way of learning.

For everything a student learns I learn something too. At least when it comes to face-to face learning, when I am with the student in the classroom. But also in all the emails I get from spinners in general and from students in my online courses. Every time someone asks a question I learn something new. And I’m so grateful for your questions. It keeps me sharp and I constantly need to reevaluate and develop my teaching and writing.

Writing

There has been lots of writing in 2019 – 54 blog posts including the present. Over 50000 shows in 115 countries in all the continents of the world. The most readers are in the U.S. followed by Sweden, the U.K., Canada, Germany and Australia. This is a lot for such a narrow subject as spinning, and I only cover a small section of the subject. At the same time it shows an interest and a need for knowledge and likeminded people in an ancient and worldwide subject.

Lots of shows on the blog in 2019.

The most read post in 2019 was Calculations with over 4000 shows. In the post I made some calculations of a recently finished sweater. The post was shared numerous times. I think what thrilled people the most was my calculations of the time spent on making the sweater from fleece to a finished sweater (including the design of the sweater) and what it would cost based on an hourly fee for an average typical male craft.

Close-up of a grey sweater with white embroidered flowers
Photo by Dan Waltin

During 2019 I have published two articles and one pattern. In the spring issue of Spin-Off magazine I wrote about sorting a Gute and a Gotland fleece and in the fall issue I wrote about twist analysis and twined knitting and published a pattern of the Heartwarming mitts, a pair of half-mitts in twined or two-end knitting.

Article and pattern in the fall 2019 issue of Spin-Off magazine.

Twist model

One of the posts that I have learned a lot from is the post about the Twist model. The twist model is my way of reflecting over drafting and what we as spinners can do to draft easily and evenly.

The model is based on the extremes of twist: A lot of twist makes the fibers stable and the fibers can’t move. We have a yarn. No twist makes the fibers unstable – if we pull the ends in opposite directions the fibers will fall apart. In the middle stage, between the yarn and the fiber, there is enough twist to make the fibers slide past each other but not enough to make them fall apart – it is semi-stable. I call this the point of twist engagement.

The twist model
The twist model

The twist model is an important part of all my teaching. I teach all my students to open up the twist to find the point of twist engagement and they use the method with great success. I think most spinners open up the twist when they spin, but I haven’t heard anyone talk much about it or seen anything written about it.

Case studies

In the beginning of the year I did a blog series with different topics based on the sorting, preparing, spinning and knitting of a sweater, like a case study. I started by looking at the superpowers of the fleece I was using for the project and from there deciding how best to prepare and spin a yarn that would show those superpowers. In a later post I wrote about consistency and what I did to spin a yarn that was consistent through all the skeins needed for the sweater. I then described my design process from fleece to sweater and how I made decisions about the design with the superpowers of the fleece as my guides. My last post in the series was about calculations (see above).

A sheet of paper with wool, yarn and knitting samples
Selecting the superpowers of a fleece.

Breed studies and webinars

Another field where I have been using case studies is in my breed studies of Swedish sheep breeds – both in blog posts and live webinars. The first breed study was about Gotland wool, followed by Gute wool, Dalapäls wool and Värmland wool. The blog posts and especially the live webinars have been a success and I have had such fun making them. In both blog posts and webinars I have had one or more fleeces of the breed as a case study. I have looked at wool characteristics and showed how I prepare, spin and use the wool. I have also given a brief background of the breed in Sweden.

Spinning on a Navajo spindle on the Värmland webinar.

The webinars have been very popular. Almost 600 people have registered for the webinars so far! I think there is a need for this kind of forum in a community that is so spread over the world.

Making and live-streaming webinars is so much fun! I have done lots of work to prepare – around 10 hours for each webinar. But I have learned so much from them. More importantly, I have been able to be live and unedited with you, my followers and fellow spinners. Eventhough I have been nervous about every webinar I have felt safe in your presence, even if I have only seen your names in the chat window. Your support means so much to me.

Videos

During 2019 I have published 10 videos. Most of them about different spindle techniques, but other topics as well.

Spindle techniques

A person spinning on a supported spindle in backlight
Catch the light. Photo by Dan Waltin
  • About 50 meters from the solstice light spot is our allotment. In July I made a video under our hop arch where I spin from the fold on a Tahkli spindle.
  • In the early summer I got an antique French spindle from a follower and in August I published a video where I spin on my antique French spindle with a distaff. I tried to spin worsted using four fingers on my distaff hand to draft the fibers before they entered the drafting zone.
A woman walking on a country road while spinning
Walking and spinning deepens the senses of both the walking and the spinning. Photo by Dan Waltin
A woman spinning on a ground-resting spindle. She is sitting on a tree trunk in a spring forest.
Dancing the Navajo spindle. Photo by Dan Waltin

Winding, washing, teasing and twining

  • Usually I don’t shoot any videos in the cold part of the year because the lanolin makes drafting nearly impossible. However, in the first video of the year I showed you how I wind a ball with my thumb as a nostepinne. And that doesn’t require drafting.
  • In May I made my outdoor video premiere for the warm season with a video about how I tease the wool with combs before carding. The video also shows how I card rolags.In June I got my hands dirty showing how I soak wool with the fermented suint method. I started the soak in May and kept it until November. The gunky suint water hosted around 15 fleeces that are now clean.
  • We spent a few days in Visby on the island of Gotland in July and in September I published a video where I knit (with hands-on yarn) with the old technique of twined or two-end knitting. We walked into every ruin we could find (and there are a lot of ruins in Visby) to shoot the video, and also managed a few shots on the city wall.
A woman knitting in a ruin. There is no roof in the ruin.
S:t Clement’s ruin was my favorite ruin to knit in.

Designs and patterns

2019 has been my first year of knitwear designing. I have designed and knit five sweaters during the year – Margau Beta, Sounnie, Bianka and another two that you haven’t seen yet.

A woman sitting by a computer. A knitting pattern book on a book stand is on the table. An autumn tree is reflecting in the computer screen.
Pattern making is a long, but rewarding process. Frustrating at times, but I learn a lot.

Some of you may also have seen that I have published my very first pattern – the Heartwarming mitts. I have already seen two pairs finished! The feeling of looking at someone else’s project made from your pattern is so lovely and just that – heartwarming.

Sounnie the Gotland top. Photo by Dan Waltin
Sounnie the Gotland top. Photo by Dan Waltin

Patrons

Just like many other creators I have a Patreon account. Patreon is a membership site for creators. Followers can pledge a monthly fee to their favourite creators. In return they get exclusive content from that creator. Examples of the exclusive content my patrons get are early access to new videos, patron only material, course discount and a patron exclusive video library.

While I do have patrons that pledge every month I need more. I spent lots of time making content in blog posts, videos and webinar. This is free and always will be. But with the pledges from my patrons I am able to get equipment to ease some of the burden off that work and make better content for you. So far I have been able to get a proper studio light for my webinars, a captioning service to let someone else caption my videos and a better microphone for webinars. You can check out my Patreon page here.

A big thank you to all my patrons from the bottom of my heart. You help me keep this ship afloat!

What’s in store for 2020

I have a few plans and hopes for 2020.

  • There will be more webinars in 2020. There are more breeds to cover, I love making the webinars and from the statistics and feedback I have received you seem to enjoy them too.
  • I will release new online courses! I have lots of material for an upcoming course. The topic is still a secret but I think you will like it.
  • Face-to-face courses in Sweden are also planned. A spindle a day will run at Sätergläntan this summer and I have a few more courses in other topics planned that haven’t been published yet.
  • I will keep designing. My idea is to design for the yarn I spin. Some of it for myself and some as published patterns. At least one pattern will be released in 2020, but I can’t tell you anything more about that yet.
  • Articles in spinning magazines are on the way. One in the summer issue of PLY magazine.
  • I will be weaving a lot this year, I want to experiment with fulling and sewing garments from my handspun fulled fabric.
  • My stash busting project will continue. My handspun stash is bursting and I need to make something of the yarn that I have spun. I have just finished two projects and started another two. You will see more of these processes soon.
  • And of course I will continue blogging and making videos.
  • What do you wish for in 2020?

2019 still bubbles in my heart and fills it with pride and joy. I look forward to spinning, blogging, video shooting and live-streaming in 2020. Hope to see you there!

A woman wearing a knitted sweater in shades of grey, from natural white at the neck to dark grey by the hips.
The finished Bianka sweater. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Happy 2020 spinning!

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!