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!

Oldies

A woman spinning on a supported spindle.

I have nothing new for you today due to a heavy workload (most of which is still unfinished). Instead I bring you some oldies that I cherish and that inspire me. Perhaps you have seen them before and can see them again in a new light. Perhaps you are a new follower and see them for the first time. In any case: Welcome to a November binge watch!

Willowing wool

Warning: Willowing wool can be hugely entertaining. Do try this at home.

Let’s start with something light – willowing wool. This is how people opened up wool in European medieval times. The technique was also used to blend different qualities of wool and/or colours. It was an actual and important occupation – Wollschläger in German (wool beater).

I didn’t plan to make this video. The idea just came to me one morning and I quickly set the stage on our terrace and started playing. As it turned out, many people watched the video and were inspired by the technique. Many people say it’s my best video. Perhaps because I’m clearly having a lot of fun!

Do try this at home! It is hugely entertaining, especially if you can find a willowing partner.

Spinning in the 14th century

Spinning in the 14th century. Imagine the force and creativity of the collective thoughts of spinning women at the time!

Let’s stay in the historical context for a moment and look at spinning in the 14th century with a simple spindle stick and whorl and a distaff.

The best videos I make are the ones where I interact with someone. There is a connection and a true exchange of ideas, emotions and solutions that move the process forward. In this video where I spin on a medieval style spindle and distaff I got to interact on camera, which gave the video credibility. Not to mention the fun we had making it! My partner in craft is Maria Neijman, weaver, reenactor and authority on historical textiles. She made all the costumes we are wearing in the video and – perhaps most importantly – helped me get dressed for the occasion!

Sitting on that tree trunk, crafting and talking with Maria was a precious moment. Spinning helps me gather my thoughts and think more clearly. Trying my thoughts and reflections out on a friend makes them sharper. Imagine the force and creativity of the collective thoughts of spinning women at the time!

Watch this video to remind yourself – or anyone else for that matter – about the importance spinning, and thereby women’s unpaid work, has had through history. What would have become of us if someone hadn’t realized they could roll plant fibers between their hands to make it stronger? What would the industrial revolution have looked like if it weren’t for Spinning Jenny?

Ply on the fly on a Turkish spindle

Let’s move on – in time and space. We are now in Austria, a couple of summers ago. I went out one morning in July and placed my tripod (well, a garden chair, really) and myself in the middle of a meadow. I dedicated my spinning to the morning air, the mountains and my Austrian heritage.

One evening when there was a concert in the town I brought my Turkish spindle and plied it on the fly by the lake where all the people had gathered. One lady approached me, smiling, and told me how her mother used to spin. She thanked me for bringing out this sweet memory. Crafting in public can generate lots of smiles, memories or just peace of mind.

Plying on the fly is a fun and effective technique. Since it takes up a minimum of space it is a perfect method for spinning on the go – commuting or traveling. It can also be a way to reduce the risk of strain on your body since you alter between spinning and plying.

If you haven’t tried plying on the fly before, why not try now! You can do it on other suspended spindles as well as on a supported spindle. If not, just enjoy the scenery and think of bringing your spindle to see the world. How do you craft in public?

Spinning cotton on an Akha spindle

How do you dance your spindle?

For this video we change location, technique and fiber. Spinning cotton is for me a true art of trust and patience. I need to trust the short fibers enough to cling on to each other and be patient enough to wait for them to do so before I make the draft. Spinning on an Akha spindle also gives the spinning sort of a choreographic dimension – the changing of techniques and direction of the spinning turns the process into a dance between spindle, hands and gaze. The fibers act as the artistic director and the spindle is the choreographer. I’m just the dancer, following the instructions the fiber and spindle give me.

I shot this video at Sätergläntan craft education center when I taught a five-day course in supported spindle spinning. The place bursts with creativity, craft and true inspiration.

Watch this video to find a flow of the movements in your spinning. Just spin for the dance of it without concerning about the resulting yarn. How do you dance your spindle?

For the love of spinning

Watch this video to find your spinning spirit.

The last two videos I want to show you are more about mindset and process than specific spinning tools or techniques.

The first of these is about the essence of my love for spinning. There are so many emotions connected to this simple and foundational craft that give me such joy and peace. In the video I also bring out my inner spinning poet to capture these emotions to the best of my ability. The places we filmed are places that are very dear to me – at home, in a log cabin in Tiveden and in Salzkammergut, Austria.

Watch this video and reflect over why you spin. What is it that makes you want to spin for more than the resulting yarn?

A meditation

Meditate along or just find your spinning mindset.

A video that is sprung out of the previous video is A meditation. I wanted to capture the mental state that spinning gives me and portray how spinning can be – and is for me – similar to meditation. How my thoughts come and go along with the fibers that pass through my fingers. Touching, representing the moment but not lingering.

The video was shot by a 17th century industrial estate with a few gristmills and a working fulling mill.

You can use this video to think about what part spinning plays in your mind. Or, you can meditate to the video. Go to your meditation space – literally or mentally – and spin along with me. How do you meditate your spinning?


These are some of my favourite oldies among my spinning videos. I hope you enjoyed them and my reflections about them. Which one is yours? And why?

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!

Twined knitting

Two pieces of knitting on a pebble beach.

I have a new video for you today! It is a short demonstration of twined knitting. Don’t worry, there is some spinning in the video too. Twined knitting requires a special kind of yarn that is hard to find and therefore perfect to handspin!

Spin-off article and pattern

In the fall 2019 issue of Spin-off Magazine I wrote an article about twist analysis and spinning for twined knitting. The article also includes a brief history of twined knitting in Sweden. On top of that, I made a pattern for twined knitting mittens especially for this issue. It is my very first published pattern! All the beautiful pictures in the article and the pattern description are Dan’s. Go get your copy now!

About twined knitting

The oldest finding of a twined knitting textile dates back to around the mid 16th century to the early 17th century in county Dalarna in Sweden. There are many garments and accessories left in County Dalarna – mittens, socks and jackets. Usually the sleeves only were twined knit while the torso was sewn of vadmal.

A jacket with red knitted sleeves with a black pattern and a green vadmal torso with decorative stitching.
An antique traditional jacket with twined knitted sleeves and a vadmal torso. From the study collection at Sätergläntan.

Two strands for sturdiness

With twined knitting you use two strands of yarn. The passive strand is carried at the back of the project. You knit with the back strand. This means that after one stitch is made the two yarns are twined. Ridges of twined knitting cover the whole wrong side of a knitted section and makes a sturdy material.

Close-up of a person knitting with two strands of yarn. A city in the background.
Twined knitting is done with two strands of yarn. The ruin of Saint Nicolai in the background.

Even though twined knitting is done with fine needles, the twining makes the fabric strong, sturdy and windproof. It will last for generations. The yarn I use is a handspun light fingering weight yarn and I knit with 2 mm needles.

Basic technique

Set-up:

  • Hold the two strands in your right hand. I usually wrap them once around my pinkie for even tensioning.
  • “Steer” the strands with your index and middle fingers between the strands.

Knitting:

  • Insert the right needle in the first stitch of the left needle
  • Pick up the back strand with your index finger
  • Throw it over the needle
  • Make a knit stitch
  • Insert the needle in the next stitch

When I make a pair of something in twined knitting I always knit both at the same time. This way I will make sure I get the same size.

Two pieces of knitting on a pebble beach.
I knit my jacket sleeves with 2 mm needles. The material is still strong and sturdy. On the inside you can see the horizontal twined ridges.

For cast-on, more basic techniques and a mitten pattern, see my article and pattern in the fall 2019 issue of Spin-off Magazine. For more in-depth knowledge about twined knitting there are good books. Mainly in Swedish, but some also in English. Twined knitting by Birgitta Dandanell was the one I started out with. My current favourite, which also covers the beautiful history of the technique and its traditions is Tvåändsstickat by Birgitta Dandanell, Ulla Danielsson and Kerstin Ankert. This book is in Swedish only, but has lots of beautiful pictures of traditions, old garments and how-to descriptions.

Twining and untwining

The two yarn ends typically come from both ends of a center-pull ball. Since the strands are twined they will eventually have to be untwined. You do this by making a half-hitch around the ball and holding it up to untwine itself.

A woman standing by a medieval wall. She is holding up a ball of yarn and a knitting project.
Every now and then I need to untwine the ball of yarn.

A lady on the train

In the beginning of July when I was on the train back home from teaching at Sätergläntan, I was working on my current twined knitting project. When we had almost arrived in Stockholm an elderly lady approached me and asked me if I had been to Sätergläntan. She had seen me knit on the train. The lady had poor eye sight, but she instantly recognized my untwining of the yarn ball as twined knitting. She told me that she used to twine knit all the time when she was younger. I love the effect public crafting has on people – both crafters and the people around them.

Z-ply yarn

Twined knitting is done best with a Z-ply yarn. An S-ply yarn (which is the most common in commercial yarns) will get even more twined and result in a bulkier material. There are only two mills in Sweden that spin Z-ply yarns for twined knitting. As spinners we can make our own Z-ply yarn, though!

A woman spinning on a supported spindle by a window opening in a ruin.
Spinning for twined knitting at Drotten’s ruin.

For this project – a couple of jacket sleeves – I spin Dalapäls wool on a supported spindle. I have flick carded the individual locks and spin them from the back end. This way I get both undercoat and outercoat in the yarn.

Since I spin counter-clockwise I use my left hand as a spinning hand to pull the spindle towards the palm of my hand when I spin. When I ply I change hands so that my right hand is the spindle hand, pulling the spindle. In this blog post you can read more about my thoughts on spinning direction. You can also check out this webinar on spindle ergonomics.

The Z-plied yarn I twine knit with is the yarn I spin in my recent video Catch the light.

Slow

The fine needles and the twining method makes twined knitting a slow technique. I’m in no hurry, though. I also make it even slower by stopping every now and then to feel the sturdy material and enjoying the structure.

A woman sitting on a font, knitting
Knitting by the font in Saint Catherine’s ruin

Considering that a pair of twined knitted mittens lasts for generations, you only need to make one pair where other techniques would require lots of mending or replacement mittens. Twined knitting may even be faster in a lifetime perspective.

Location: The medieval city of Visby

In mid-July, the whole family took a two-day trip to the medieval city of Visby, Gotland. In Medieval times the city was protected from angry farmers with a sturdy city wall and the wall still stands. Inside the city there are around 10 church ruins from the 12th and 13th centuries. The whole city is a world heritage.

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.

These sites are perfect for making beautiful video shots (most of which were made by Dan)! I especially loved knitting in the ruins. The space, acoustics and light were all magic. The grass, flowers and ivy all added a touch of mystery to the scenery.

By the way, you can see a glimpse of our children in the video. Towards the end I stand in an opening in of one of the walls of the ruin of Saint Lars, looking down. The two teenagers walking around below, discovering the passageways of the ruin are my darlings. They are also responsible for the stone skipping by the pebble beach.

Challenge yourself and spin a Z-plied yarn. Perhaps you will have finished a pair of twined knitted mittens by the holidays.

Happy knitting!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

From sheep to shawl

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

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

DIY

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

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

Outlander themed

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

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Sisters in craft

Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.

Last weekend the 2019 wool journey with the wool traveling club took place. Four sisters in craft went to a sheep farm and hired a well renowned Swedish spinning teacher for two days.

The wool traveling club

The wool traveling club started in 2014. I felt a need to meet with other spinners and learn new things. I invited two friends to join me and they in turn invited one friend each. The first wool journey went to Shetland wool week in 2015. It was a wonderful adventure, packed with stories of Shetland’s textile heritage.

Since then we try to go somewhere where we don’t need to go by air.

The wool journey starts on the train.
The wool journey starts on the train.

2016 we visited a spinning mill. 2017 we went to Åsebol sheep farm and hired the talented wool classifier and teacher Kia Gabrielsson who had a one-day workshop in wool knowledge and Māori knitting/Uruahipi. Hiring a spinning teacher just for us is one of the superpowers of the club. We can get a course that is adapted to our skill level and get the best out of the course.

The 2019 wool journey

This year we chose to come back to Åsebol cabin at the sheep farm. It is the same cabin I have rented with my family every year since 2014 and one of my favourite places on Earth. It has everything – sheep, creek and silence.

Knitting by the creek.
Knitting by the creek.

You may recognize the scenery – it plays a part in several of my spinning videos.

A sweet lamb by the creek.
A sweet lamb by the creek.

Blending wool for a specific use

We hired Lena Köster, a well renowned Swedish spinning teacher, master spinner and professional weaver. She teaches at both beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Lena held an advanced course for us in how to blend different wools for a specific use.

Boel is deciding on fiber blends.
Boel is deciding on fiber blends.

Lena talked about how to blend wools to achieve a special quality yarn for a specific purpose. Do I want a strong yarn or a warm yarn? What characteristics do I want in my yarn? Do I want to blend for an aesthetic effect or just function? What do fiber type, length, crimp, or shine do for the finished yarn? What percentage of different fibers will give me the yarn qualitiy I’m looking for?

Lena and Ellinor talk about how to best spin for a twined knitting yarn.
Lena and Ellinor talk about how to best spin for a twined knitting yarn.

This is quite the opposite of what I usually do – I find a wool and want to take advantage of its main characteristics to show them off in a garment or design. Lena’s take starts at the opposite end – she wants to make something and needs to adapt the yarn to the purpose. This is really an interesting perspective that I haven’t worked from before and one that I will learn a lot from.

Boel is spinning warp yarn for tablet weaving from her own Gotland sheep.
Boel is spinning warp yarn for tablet weaving from her own Gotland sheep, brows frowned to accomplish enough twist.

Sock yarn assignment

Lena had made different assignments and we were able to choose one that we wanted to make.

At first I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do, but when Lena said that she had some mohair and Anna wanted to make a sock yarn I decided that I wanted to make sock yarn too. I’m not a big sock knitter. Ironically I usually think it takes way too much time. I have always been of the opinion that I need to buy a sock yarn since a handspun wound break. The problem with store bought sock yarn is that it usually contains plastic. But (adult) mohair is the perfect sock yarn strengthener!

Angora (left) and rya (right) make the perfect sock yarn partners!
Mohair (left) and rya (right) make the perfect sock yarn partners!

Mohair and rya

I blended the mohair with rya wool. Rya has a long and strong outer coat and a soft and warm under coat, the perfect partner for mohair. I blended 60 % rya with 40 % mohair.

I'm spinning sock yarn on my Björn Peck supported spindle.
I’m spinning sock yarn on my Björn Peck supported spindle.

I combed the fibers together, spun with short draw on a supported spindle and 3-plied. Both the mohair and the outer coat of the rya have beautiful shine and the blend will dye beautifully.

Anna blended her mohair with some Dalapäls wool and rya. She spun her yarn on a suspended spindle.

Anna is a master suspended spindler.
Anna is a master suspended spindler.

I spun the yarn a little too thin, I think it is a light fingering yarn. I managed to spin it remarkably even, perhaps due to thorough combing and dizzing.

My very own 3-ply sock yarn in a rya/Angora blend.
My very own 3-ply sock yarn in a rya/mohair blend.

Too strong or too soft?

I was concerned that the yarn might be too dense. But, then again, most sock yarns I have come across usually have a large amount of very soft fibers like Merino or BFL, which aren’t very strong. If my yarn was a little thicker it may also become a little softer.

A sock yarn swatch.
A sock yarn swatch.

I knit a tiny swatch and tried to imagine it as socks. When I asked my wooly friends if they would wear my socks they all agreed they would. I wasn’t convinced, so I tried the same blend, only spun with long draw from hand-carded rolags.

Rolags on a rainy day.
Rolags on a rainy day.

Stripes!

The new version was definitely softer and I was concerned that it may not be strong enough. My solution, though, was to spin both the softer and the stronger version, dye them in different colours and knit striped socks. Heels and toes would be knitted in the stronger yarn. Sock yarn prototype mission accomplished!

Boel shows Lena her finished tablet warp.
Boel proudly shows Lena her finished tablet warp.

We were all happy with our yarn prototypes. I was actually quite exhausted after two whole days of trial, error and analysis. I think I will need a lot of time to process everything I have learned.

Sisters in craft

Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.
Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.

Getting away like this for an extended weekend is such a treat. I treasure the memories of our wool journeys for months afterwards. After a while I start longing for our next wooly adventure together.

Walking and crafting in the spring landscape.
Sisters in craft walking and crafting in the Swedish spring landscape.

The power of collected skills

It is such a bliss to be able to get down to the nitty gritty of crafting – we discuss techniques, fiber, tools and projects at our level. Spinning is a rare craft these days and being able to spend a few days with so talented crafters and friends is truly rewarding. Boel with her never-ending curiosity and humility to any craft. Anna with her thoroughness and knowledge about basically everything. And Ellinor with her How hard can it be?-attitude that can move mountains in a breeze. The rush I get from the members’ collected skills and knowledge is truly empowering.

The power of friendship

The course or main event is just a small part of the greatness of our wool journeys. We make time to talk about the big and small things in life, breathing fresh air. We don’t know each other’s friends and neighbours, we don’t share each other’s daily lives and we can focus on each other with an unbiased perspective. All the while we craft, which, in itself, helps in finding a focus and clarity of mind.

Being in the here and now are vital parts of our time together. We take walks, cook, craft, talk and laugh. For the few days we are together we take a break from our daily lives and find focus in the present. We listen to and support each other in a refreshing way.

For a few days we truly are sisters in craft.

Sisters in craft
Sisters in craft – Josefin, Boel, Ellinor and Anna (the fifth sister Kristin couldn’t make it this time)

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!

Gotland top

The short-rows didn't make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I'm still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin

I have nothing educational to offer you in today’s blog post. Instead I show you my latest finished fluff to stuff project – a Gotland top in my own design and handspun yarn from the Gotland sheep Sounnie.

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

Background

Those of you who have followed my blog the last few months have seen the wool before. It is the freakishly long locks of the Gotland lamb Sounnie that I wrote about in an article in the spring issue of Spin-off magazine and a blog post on Gotland wool a while ago. Some of you also attended the breed study webinar on Gotland wool where I demonstrated how I prepared, spun and used the wool. Those of you who attended the Gotland wool webinar also saw a glimpse of the yoke on the needles in the webinar.

Sounnie, a Gotland top

Gotland wool in general has a lot of shine, strength and drape, ad so did the fleece I had from the Gotland lamb Sounnie. I wanted to honour these main characteristics in both the yarn and the textile. I played with different preparations, spinning and textile techniques until I found a yarn that would give me the shine, strength and drape the fleece had on the sheep.

Design

Just as I did the yarn and the textile, I wanted my Gotland top to signal shine, strength and drape. I chose to knit a fitted raglan yoke and give the top drape below the bust line. I had a vision of sort of an early 19th century empire look – fitted bust, elbow-length sleeves with some flair and a drapey bodice. At the same time I wanted a sporty look to give it a more modern touch, hence the stripes.

The Sounnie top has a longer back piece and elbow-length sleeves with flair. Photo by Dan Waltin
The Sounnie top has a longer back piece and elbow-length sleeves with flair. Photo by Dan Waltin

The finished top didn’t turn out as drapey as I had envisioned (I am a beginner designer and learning knitting maths by trial and error), but I still like the result. And the longer back-piece adds a little drape. The neckline should have been rounder, I do need to practice my short-row neck shaping. Dan commented that the sweater looked a bit medieval, and I do agree. So a sporty empire medieval top with a square neck it is then!

Construction

The Gotland top has a top-down seamless construction. What may look like side seams are actually just a column of P2 to balance the front and the back and to give the side increases something to lean against.

What may look like a side seam is actually a column of P2 to balance the front and the back. Photo by Dan Waltin
What may look like a side seam is actually a column of P2 to balance the front and the back. Photo by Dan Waltin

Neckline, sleeve ends and hemline are knit in garter stitch. I used short row shaping (I now officially love German short rows!) in the hemline for a longer back piece. I love this detail and I managed to get the maths right from the beginning. Yay!

The little flair in the sleeve ends are just increases in one row. I wanted a flair or trumpet effect and not a frill. I tried two different varieties and I think I got the increase to stay on the right end of the thin frill border.

Flair – not frill. Photo by Dan Waltin
Flair – not frill. Photo by Dan Waltin

Challenges

There are lots of challenges on the winding road of beginner designing. But I learn a lot from every detour and every curve of the ride. All the things I learn are knit into the garment and form a map of what I have learned.

Knitting direction

I wanted to knit it bottom-up as it is – in my opinion – a lot easier to calculate the numbers bottom-up than top-down. But I wasn’t sure there would be enough yarn and I didn’t want to run out of yarn at the bustline. Better to have a garment too short at the bottom than at the top, wouldn’t you agree?

Short rows

As I mentioned above, I didn’t get the neckline the way I had envisioned. I do like the one I ended up with, but it does bother me that I didn’t get it rounder. I’ll have to investigate that for my next design. The yarn isn’t really forgiving. It is a 2-ply yarn and they tend to show holes and irregularities more than 3-ply yarns. The w&t short rows in the back neck show, but I’ll have to live with that. The German short rows on the lower back hem look very nice, though.

The short-rows didn't make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I'm still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin
The short-rows didn’t make the neckline as round as I had envisioned. I’m still practicing. Photo by Dan Waltin

Dyeing dilemma

Since I was unsure of how much yarn I would need I only dared to dye one skein for the stripes. And of course there was too little dyed yarn left when I got to the bottom hem. So I dyed a bit more, using the same dye lot, but since I’m not an experienced dyer, the colour didn’t exactly match the original colour. The three bottom rounds have a more yellow tone than the top three in the hemline. But I’m the only one who will see it. If nothing else, it is part of the story of a new design.


When you read this I will be away on the 2019 wool journey with my wool traveling club. I will report about the event in an upcoming post!


Happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • 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!

Record keeping

Record keeping may seem daunting and unappealing. I have always registered my spinning in numbers and tables, but I didn’t see the point of keeping physical record until just a year or two ago. Since I started keeping physical record of my spinning I have learned many things I wouldn’t have learned without sampling and swatching.

Tables, forms and boxes

Actually, I do love record keeping. If there is a form or a table to fill in, I will fill it in, even if I don’t have much to say. On Ravelty I keep track of every fleece I buy and every yarn I spin. All my spindles (lots) and wheels (3) are listed. My organized mind sighs of satisfaction when all the boxes are ticked.

Ravelry is a powerful tool that allows me to register and keep track of pretty much everything about my projects – fiber supplier, fiber content, prep method, spinning method, colour, spinning technique, plies, finishing etc.

Length and weight

Knowing the length and weight of a yarn helps me plan my project. If I am knitting or weaving I can calculate how much yarn I need or how much yarn I have left. With the weight of the fleece and waste I can also make an estimation of how much fiber I will need for a given amount of yarn.

Record keeping on Ravelry.
Record keeping on Ravelry.

Grist

The data I use the most is the grist. Grist is a calculation of length per weight unit – for me that is meters per kilo. I usually spin a whole fleece. Keeping track of the grist of the different skeins helps me achieve an even yarn throughout the whole spinning process. The satisfaction of managing to get the grist even over 10 skeins is unbeatable.

Other tools for consistency

  • The spinning angle is the angle of the spun yarn in relation to the direction of the yarn. Keeping track of the spinning angle helps me make a consistent yarn even if several days pass by between spinning sessions. Usually I also save a spun sample by the wheel to check my spinning against.
  • The ratio of the spinning wheel is a good thing to note. Sometimes it takes a while between spinning sessions and I have forgot which whorl I was using.
  • WPI, wraps per inch is a measurement used in commercial yarns. A given amount of wraps of yarn per inch will lead you to the yarn thickness needed for a specific project. Checking the wpi every now and then will help you keep track of the consistency of the yarn.
Wraps per inch, wpi, is a measurement used in commercial yarn. Knowing the wpi of your yarn will help you decide what pattern fits your yarn.
Wraps per inch, wpi, is a measurement used in commercial yarn. Knowing the wpi of your yarn will help you decide what pattern fits your yarn.

Sampling and swatching

I have kept record on Ravelry since I joined the community back in 2009. The information is useful, but I rarely do anything with the records. It is only recently that I have kept physical records – samples and swatches. This is where the real excitement begins.

Simple stockinette swatch of a handspun yarn from a Norwegian crossbred (NKS) whole-year fleece.
Simple stockinette swatch of a handspun yarn from a Norwegian crossbred (NKS) whole-year fleece.

I wasn’t aware of the superpowers of physical record keeping until just a couple of years ago. Actually, it was when I started writing articles for Spin-off magazine that I realized that I would have to make samples and swatches to be trustworthy as a writer. After my first serious attempt of sampling and swatching (and my first article), a new reality opened before my eyes.

Main characteristics: The superpowers

When I get my hands on a new fleece I feel like I have the world at my feet. I can explore this new acquaintance endlessly, investigating fiber length, strength, consistency, shine, fiber type, loftiness, spring etc. All these characteristics tell me something about the fleece that I can use when I make a yarn. I try to find the essence of the fleece – what are its main characteristics? When I have found these, I envision a yarn with these characteristics as superpowers. I make a plan for the yarn I envision and experiment with preparation and spinning methods.

Gotland wool: Strength, drape and shine

Using my recent Gotland fleece as an example, the main characters were strength, drape and shine. I played with preparation and spinning until I had found the right path to a yarn that signaled these main characteristics. Combing was the method I envisioned to keep the shine in the yarn. After having experimented with a few methods to achieve a smooth combing process that would also give me a sleek and drapey yarn I scaled up the method and prepared and spun the whole fleece that way.

When I keep physical records of a fleece I make samples of a staple, singles, plies, weaving and knitting. Sometimes also a felted woven sample.
When I keep physical records of a fleece I make samples of a staple, singles, plies, weaving and knitting. Sometimes also a felted woven sample.

I needed to try, compare and fail. I needed to see and feel what would work and what wouldn’t. Even if I liked the first or second try I continued to try different methods to be able to tell exactly why it was the winning concept. I carded, combed, flicked and teased. I spun singles, plies, bulky, thin, woolen and worsted. At the swatching stage I wove, knit and felted. By seeing the samples and swatches side by side I was able to distinguish which method that would give me the best of the main characteristics and why.

Gute wool: Strength, lightness and rusticity

With my Gute fleece I saw strength, lightness and rusticity as the main characteristics. I was dealing with a primitive breed and wanted to honour that in the way I presented the finished product. The fleece had three fiber types but I still wanted to keep them together to allow them to boost each other and show the rusticity I was after. I experimented until I had a yarn that gave me the same feeling the fleece had.

Physical record keeping of a Gute fleece.
Physical record keeping of a Gute fleece.

To come to the right path of carding and spinning with long draw I had to take a detour through combing and short forward draw. I needed to see and feel that it wouldn’t give me the yarn I was after and why. By felting a woven swatch – just for fun – I also realized that weaving and felting were the right options for this yarn instead of knitting, which was my original idea.


Trying ideas that I thought would be the right one might prove to be all wrong. Exploring options I wouldn’t think would lead anywhere could be spot on. I need to experiment physically with a fleece, not just theoretically, to find my right way to the superpowers I want to show as the stars of the finished product.

It took me a few swatches to find the right combination for this yarn, but I think this is the one.
It took me a few swatches to find the right cable combination for this yarn, but I think this is the one. It is not blocked, though, it will probably look better after blocking.

Happy spinning!



You can follow me on several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • 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!